No Captain, No Crew
If you have ever taken a cruise ship vacation, you will
have noticed that ocean liners carry an extensive crew. If, for
example, you are one of the 3,835 travelers aboard Royal
Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, there will be 1,185 ship's
hands to serve food and drinks, lead you in recreational
activities, and treat whatever norovirus-related gastroenteritis
you develop. Cargo ships are a different story.
A typical container ship will carry a crew of only about
two dozen. Still, even the most lowly seaman draws
somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 per day, and the
captain could make $150,000 for a six month stint, so crew
wages are a significant cost to the shipping magnates.
However, the Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean development team
( www.rolls-royce.com/marine) has ambitions to put that to an end someday with some totally
unmanned seagoing behemoths. As mused by Oskar Levander, VP of innovation, engineering, and
technology, "A growing number of vessels are already equipped with cameras that can see at night
and through fog and snow, and have systems to transmit large volumes of data. Given that the
technology is in place, is now the time to move some operations ashore? Is it better to have a crew
of 20 sailing in a gale in the North Sea, or say five in a control room on shore?"
It may be a little unnerving to think of upwards of 300,000 tons coming at you with no one at
the helm, but it could happen.
Rolls-Royce's conception of a future drone cargo ship.
8 SERVO 05.2014
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Doc, Print Me a Liver
It's fairly well known that the field of tissue
engineering has already produced some interesting
results, including lab-grown cartilage, artificial skin,
and other replacements for human parts. It's also no
secret that 3D printers are finding an ever-wider
range of applications. Two concepts are now being
combined by researchers at Brigham and Women's
Hospital ( www.brighamandwomens.org) and
Carnegie Mellon University ( www.cmu.edu). The key
is a new micro-robotic technique to assemble the
components of complex materials, which is the
essence of tissue engineering and 3D printing. The
approach "uses untethered magnetic micro-robotic
coding for precise construction of individual cell-encapsulating hydrogels (such as cell blocks). The
micro-robot — which is remotely controlled by magnetic fields — can move one hydrogel at a
time to build structures. This is critical in tissue engineering, as human tissue architecture is
complex, with different types of cells at various levels and locations."
According to researcher Savas Tasoglu, "Compared with earlier techniques, this technology enables
true control over bottom-up tissue engineering." I may be overly optimistic, but it sounds like we can all
cancel our plans to swear off alcohol, as off-the-shelf livers should be available soon.
3D printing of