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Pursuit of Carbon Free Future

Nobody knows the future but a few data points give hints of the USA moving to an expensive "carbon-free" future.  Removing Coal, Petroleum and Natural Gas as well as transitioning gasoline to power internal over the the electric grid could cost in the general vicinity of $37 Trillion.   

Data Sources ,Assumptions, and Calculation Spreadsheet

Things are Changing in the USA

How should businesses respond to recent events? 

Recent events have been alarming and will cause future gyrations in our lives. An optimist would believe cooler heads will prevail. There are things politicians say, things the media says, and things that politicians do (executive orders, policies, and laws). This blog is about the later.

The debate on how much stimulus is too much or too little as presented in the mainstream media has been based on either emotional arguments or by persons with seemingly an extreme bias. In an effort to better understand, we should consider our history. The graph below shows changes in the M2 (one measure of money supply) and CPI inflation.

Everyone should invoke critical thinking to draw their own conclusions. Take a moment and do that before reading on.

So here are some observations and other facts-

There are some parallels between WWII and Covid 19

• WWII resulted in ~405,000 deaths for USA forces and Covid 19 has a similar death toll (but is still rising and new estimates are at 500,000)

• WWII and Covid 19 are the only periods when the money supply grew by more than 15% when viewed on an annual basis

• History tells us that the M2 growth exceeding 15% was followed by inflation approaching 20% but we don’t know what inflation will follow the 25% growth in M2 over the last months.

The 1970-1980s were interesting economic times

• The money supply grew by more than 5% most years and by more than 10% many years

• Inflation was rampant 5-15% most years. Nixon invoked price freeze phase 1 through 4 lasting ~1000 days and de-coupled the US dollar from the gold standard. Maybe much more socialist than actual policies being implemented as a response to Covid 19?

Another set of parallels

• The 2000 “dot.com” meltdown during President Clinton and 2008 “housing bubble/ financial crisis” under the 2nd Bush regime were both in the last year of a President’s term. 2001 and 2009 noted on the graph were partly a result of the incoming President’s policies.

• Managing growth of M2 to ~10% or under also helps to manage inflation under 5%. Had we learned this from the 1970s/ 1980s that M2 growth in excess of 10% resulted in a lot of pain for Americans, or maybe it was just a coincidence? Kagen first introduced the theory that money supply and inflation were linked in 1956. Monetarist Theory was popular in the 1980s but doesn’t hold in every case since then.

Other factors that can control inflation (most in play after 2000)

• Reduced energy expense due to increased domestic supply

• Reduction in prices of consumer and industrial goods as a result of globalization and production in low-cost countries

• Technology allows for lowers costs through higher productivity/ functionality

Unchartered Territory

• This is the first time the money supply has increased by 25% (at least since the transistor and integrated circuit was invented).

• Recent energy policies could signal the end of low-cost energy and polymer feedstocks.

• Political tensions could ease or grow more tense and reduce the amount of low cost goods entering the country

• Technology’s innovations can still increase productivity but technology also contributes to inflationary pressures more than any other time in our history.

  • o We are now studying the role of technology in the election, capital insurgence, divided America, etc. None of these will help control inflation
  • o The best programmers work on Wall Street and make money by macro trading on micro trends. This also does not control inflation and probably promotes inflation.

What should we do?

• Write your elected representatives and let them know your concerns

• Wait and see what happens, if it isn’t going in the right direction, increase letters and calls to our elected officials

• Position yourself to profit from inflation. Although nobody can know the future, we have never had double digit M2 growth without it being followed by double digit inflation. Watch for deflationary pressure (nothing is appearing on the radar screen). Maybe this is the subject of another blog.

• Unfortunately, growth in petrochemicals is likely to be stunted by unfriendly policies. Killing the Keystone pipeline is the first indication that inexpensive raw materials for polymers are going away.

• Shift business focus to other growth areas- first targets to investigate

  • o Construction (generally good in the local geography)
  • o Alternate energy and Electric Vehicles
  • o Increased use of Additive Manufacturing (3D printing)

How can Kaltech help?

We have a proven track record of increasing profits in many industries.  We have cut costs, reduced energy, optimized performance, improved reliability and all of these can offset inflationary pressures.  If you own mechanical - electrical equipment, that is not running at 100%, we offer cost effective assistance. 

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IoT, Reliability, Safety

Let us know what you want to know about

January 15, 2017

Heat Exchangers, Titanium and other exotic alloys, Fabrication, 6 sigma, retrofitting damaged equipment, anything else? corrosion protection via cladding

IoT for Safety and Reliability- Part 2

December 7, 2017

The data in this graph is from the same data set used in Part1 (above) but it has been sorted and compiled with statistical methods, compared to estimated water usage, and constant pump output. The blue dots are the expected data and the brown line represents the actual water level. It’s not an exact match and minor variations can be tolerated. Extended variation or trends in variation can be used to detect leaks (safety, reliability) or deteriorating pump output(reliability).


Water distribution systems are expected to be reliable but are not viewed as creating hazardous situations for residence. Think about data from an industrial setting where out of normal variations have been used to foresee a failure and allow controlled shutdown prior to toxic or explosive chemicals being released.

  

Using thermal imaging for maintenance has become popular. Scans have been used to locate leaks, loose electrical connections, hot spots on bearings, bypassing on heat exchangers, and many other uses. Investment of a FLIR or other equipment has yielded great advances in reliability. I am not suggesting that we throw away our thermal imaging but we should acknowledge that it takes time to travel and visit each piece of equipment. So, many times the thermal imaging equipment comes out in reactive mode, after we sense something has happened which is too late to avoid potential catastrophes. For the most critical equipment, it makes more sense to be proactive and have all data. Once the data is available, temperature upsets, plugging, pressure swings, imminent leaks, and a host of other chronic issue can all be mitigated before they cause any issues.


The prize of improved safety and reliability is out there. Economics and the rate of business change has us all doing more with less. The cost of sensors, data storage, wireless networks is going down and if we are willing to put in the effort, we can reap substantial benefits in both human safety and plant reliability which leads to increased profitability.

Internet of Things for Safety and Reliability- Part 1

December 7, 2017

The phrase Internet of Things (IoT) has various meanings but it is exciting to contemplate the possibility of using IoT and its ability to improve the performance of industrial equipment. This will result in improved safety, reliability and profitability. Read on as we step through the issues with too much data and propose some steps to move us forward.   With the advent of inexpensive sensors and ubiquitous wireless networks, the economics of costs and economic benefits as well as reduced risk are pushing towards collecting more data.  Too few sensors might not yield results and too many sensors can lead to an overabundance of data that at first seems meaningless. Take a look at some real-world data in the graph from a public utility water system with multiple elevated storage tanks.    The author prefers temperature data as it seems too play a part before or during equipment failures.  Unfortunately, non-disclosure agreements prevent a blog post on those successes.  So, back to the tank data indicating  some tanks are increasing while others have decreasing volume. The data in this graph might fit the overwhelming description and seem most likely useless for decision making. Fitting equipment with sensors and collecting data is the easy part. Reviewing that data and making sense of it requires some deep thought and continuous learning. With modern software, data sets can be sliced and diced many times according to determine correlations and probabilities. Once a theoretical basis is established, it can be compared in real time to see if it matches new raw data. Calibration is an important step and can further build confidence in the system. Eventually, alarms can be established to alert of variations that can be used to schedule maintenance or inspections. Sudden changes or sharp contrast can also be used to alert operators of an imminent failure and steps can be taken to prevent a loss of containment, especially important for toxic and explosive products.

Re-inventing an Engineer with AM (a.k.a. 3D printing)

June 6, 2019

Reflection on Societal and Individual progress

Societal Reflection- People have been creators of both simple and fantastically complex items with the intent of fulfilling some need or solving some problem. Long before STEM/STEAM education, the archaeological record shows that ancient people used science, created, and invented.

Some milestones in science, technology and engineering:

  • 28000 years ago, until the start of recorded history- Archaeological finds of human bones, tools, pots, baskets
  • 9000 years ago, evidence that maize production in Mexico is consistently increased year over year
  • 3000 years ago, Babylonian medical handbook
  • 2000 years ago, the first mechanical engineer creates the water clock and seismometer
  • 500 years ago, Galileo lives and is viewed by some as the father of modern science
  • 300 years ago, an inefficient steam engine pumps water from a coal mine, the first machine

Individual Reflection- As I reflect, compare, and contrast my career with science throughout human history, it strikes me that the list of fantastic inventions in the last 300 years is limitless (autos, airplanes, space stations, computers, medical technology, etc.). Technological advances now come so fast I pose the hypothesis: building on Moore’s Law, technological advances in the last ~7 years equals the 100 prior years. (assume 2^x=100, then X=6.64).

Upon further reflection, some of the most fascinating progress came during the time of the Apollo missions. Slide rules were the engineer’s best friend and science fiction Start Trek included communicators, tricorders, lasers, photons, and replicators. Less than a lifetime later, communicators and tricorders went from science fiction to smart phones, Lasers are in common use, and replicators are the precursor to 3D printers. The days of punching out a Fortran program onto a deck of cards for compiling and loading into a Vax 11/780 mainframe computer are long gone.

Perhaps the most fantastic thing to this author is the coming of age of Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. In the 1960s, we saw fictional “replicators” on the TV show Star Trek to create food, parts, clothes from a verbal command. In the 1970s the 3D printing idea was created in the real world, since that time we read more about slow progress and many issued to be researched and resolved. Lately, the technology is coming of age and we are reading about the successes and repeatable processes that can be used to make many more reliable products. The best engineers are always willing to reinvent themselves to capture the value of the latest technology.

The need for an individual engineer to re-invent

 My latest re-invention of self was to sign up for the MIT online course “Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production.” One of the first assignments made a tremendous impact on my attitude. That particular article explained that AM could provide mechanical parts with isotropic properties equivalent in every way to traditional fabrication or machining with various grades of 300 stainless steel.

That was a magical moment, coming to the realization that 3D printing was here to stay and I needed to be part of the new wave. By choice, all previous skepticism was cast aside and I was committing 100%.

The early stages of getting the new me involved- Since earning the MIT certificate, two weeks ago, I have been approached by several clients where AM offers huge advantages over traditional methods, both in cost and time.

The topic of this writing came from a project where I was asked for input for a few simple components on a potential new invention to optimize water treatment processes. The request was to create a particular shape for a water cup. I could envision some elaborate instrumentation and control logic that would come later but this would all be speculation. My assignment was to create the cup and a holder.

The result was a unique shape for a water cup which can be printed (i.e. produced via AM without wasting any material) from clear polycarbonate plastic.

The “old school” approach #1- One traditional approach for creating this part would have been to procure a chunk of polycarbonate and then machine a void to create the cup. The basic process is to remove or subtract the material we don’t want. Much of the material we purchased will end up on the machine shop floor and the total cost for this approach would be several hundred dollars.

The “old school” approach #2- Alternately, if we wanted many of these parts, it would be possible to invest in the tooling required to create this part with injection molding, extrusion, or vacuum forming. The cost for the first cup produced would be many thousands of dollars because we have already invested in the required mold and other tooling before creating the first piece. This first piece or prototype would cost in excess of $10k. however, there is an advantage if producing many thousands of the same or similar parts. A good example of this would be the popular Lego sets that produce 10’s of millions of standard blocks with a per piece cost of pennies.

It is also noted that the ability to mass produce multiple duplicates of this cup has other disadvantages. This piece with high depth to width ratio would require assembly of three pieces, the back (support plate), the left, and right sides of the cup. The most cost-effective method would involve an assembly step where these three relatively flat pieces would be assembled and joined with adhesives or other plastic welding techniques.

The Innovative Approach- The graph above indicates the economic benefits of small production runs of a unique plastic product. Additive Manufacturing offers the following benefits:

  • The first single piece can be produced for ~$100
  • Additional pieces are a similar or lower cost,
  • The design model, can go directly to the AM shop as a single computer file for loading into the AM production machine
  • A completed product ready for use will come out of the 3D printer. There will be no seams which means no assembly labor, no adhesives, and higher quality (less likely to develop a leak)

So, here I am getting further involved in the AM economy and satisfying my human need to create and invent with engineering.

Where do we go from here? - One end of the scale, the big players GE, Boeing and many others will increase budgets and grow their departments and we will all read about their continued successes with AM. How about us on the other end of the scale? I am but one semi-retired engineer willing to work on any project. I have knowledge and an eager, can-do attitude. How do I work with smaller players that can also benefit from AM?

Where could I use your help?

  • Is there some marketing guru that can help me grow this business?
  • Does any owner of a 3D printing system want to team up with me?
  • Do any industries want to evaluate 3D printing via consultancy as opposed to starting a new department with new hires and a big budget?

Any and all thoughts, critiques, suggestions are welcome.


FYI, stay tuned for a future update after I do a little more research into a patentable idea for AM


What is your experience with equipment procurement from offshore fabricators and manufacturers?

Q1 2020

2020 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first time one of my projects procured corrosion resistant alloy from China. 


The first exchanger had 300 austenitic stainless steel for the shell and tubes. The second exchanger had titanium tubes and titanium lined heads (channels) for the process fluid and a carbon steel shell for the steam side. The fabrication required some complex and technical steps including explosion cladding of titanium onto carbon steel. Expanding Titanium tubes in carbon steel is also quite complicated if you want consistently reliable tube- to- tubesheet joints.


We spent extensive time thinking about all the ways the project could fail by delivering inferior equipment. The following steps helped us build success:

• The right specifications

• Bidding only to Pre-qualified vendors

• Mock-up samples of critical pieces

• An extensive inspection and test plan with hold and witness points

• Appropriate supervision and oversight


In the end, we were quite successful. The projects were delivered 35% under budget with offshore procurement and both vessels remain in service 10 year later without any downtime or major repairs.


What is your experience with equipment procurement from offshore fabricators and manufacturers?

Q1 2020

2020 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first time one of my projects procured corrosion resistant alloy from China. 


The first exchanger had 300 austenitic stainless steel for the shell and tubes. The second exchanger had titanium tubes and titanium lined heads (channels) for the process fluid and a carbon steel shell for the steam side. The fabrication required some complex and technical steps including explosion cladding of titanium onto carbon steel. Expanding Titanium tubes in carbon steel is also quite complicated if you want consistently reliable tube- to- tubesheet joints.


We spent extensive time thinking about all the ways the project could fail by delivering inferior equipment. The following steps helped us build success:

• The right specifications

• Bidding only to Pre-qualified vendors

• Mock-up samples of critical pieces

• An extensive inspection and test plan with hold and witness points

• Appropriate supervision and oversight


In the end, we were quite successful. The projects were delivered 35% under budget with offshore procurement and both vessels remain in service 10 year later without any downtime or major repairs.


What is your experience with equipment procurement from offshore fabricators and manufacturers?

Q1 2020

2020 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first time one of my projects procured corrosion resistant alloy from China. 


The first exchanger had 300 austenitic stainless steel for the shell and tubes. The second exchanger had titanium tubes and titanium lined heads (channels) for the process fluid and a carbon steel shell for the steam side. The fabrication required some complex and technical steps including explosion cladding of titanium onto carbon steel. Expanding Titanium tubes in carbon steel is also quite complicated if you want consistently reliable tube- to- tubesheet joints.


We spent extensive time thinking about all the ways the project could fail by delivering inferior equipment. The following steps helped us build success:

• The right specifications

• Bidding only to Pre-qualified vendors

• Mock-up samples of critical pieces

• An extensive inspection and test plan with hold and witness points

• Appropriate supervision and oversight


In the end, we were quite successful. The projects were delivered 35% under budget with offshore procurement and both vessels remain in service 10 year later without any downtime or major repairs.