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Top Industry News and Trends for the Coming Year: Our Predictions for 2015

Health and Wellness at the Office was our 2014 Story of the Year. Now it’s time for us to go out on limb and predict the top industry news and trends for 2015.

We picked a few industry sectors — ones that are well represented by Formaspace furniture customers — and polished our crystal ball. Let’s look toward to the future and see if we can predict what will happen next.

 

We look at our top predictions for 2015. Image from NASA showing extent of ‘Space Junk’ surrounding our planet.

We look at our top predictions for 2015. Image from NASA showing extent of ‘Space Junk’ surrounding our planet.

 

 

Aerospace and Outer Space: Predictions for 2015

First up is Aerospace. As we wrote recently in our article Outer Space is Back In: Enthusiasm for Space Exploration on the Rise, the intrepid little probe Philae sent to land on Comet 67P has electrified interest in space exploration in a way we haven’t seen since the NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars.

 

Philae Landing Site. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Philae Landing Site. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

We’re still reading through the papers being presented at the plenary sessions of the American Geophysical Union Conference taking place right now in San Francisco. Among the many reports being released, this one is particularly interesting: the water isotope found on Comet 67P doesn’t match up with what’s found on earth. This mismatch may indicate that if the water found on Comet 67P is typical of other comets, then comets probably were not the source of water on earth.

 

2015 is Shaping Up to be a Banner Year in Space Exploration

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which is racing toward a rendezvous with Pluto, just woke up from its 18th planned slumber since it was launched in early 2006. The approach to Pluto begins in mid-January 2015 and it reaches its closest approach on July 14, 2015. The European Space Agency (ESA) will also be very busy in 2015. They plan to launch the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, which will study gravitational waves by looking for “ripples in space time”.

ESA will also launch the ADM-Aeolus wind monitoring satellite in an effort to improve weather prediction on earth. There will be other space launches by private industry; we will touch on these below in the section Competitions, Crowd Funding and DIY. As we’ve mentioned before, NASA has announced its interest in pursuing mineral mining on asteroids and on the moon. They have entered into contracts with Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources.

 

So What’s Our Prediction for 2015?

We predict that a collision between an important satellite or spacecraft will occur during 2015. The collision may be from natural sources, but it’s increasingly likely that man-made space junk will be the root cause. We feel that once there is a space accident caused by such a collision, efforts will galvanize to recognize the problem of space junk and efforts to focus on Space Cleanup will begin. Our runner-up prediction is that Geo-Engineering of our atmosphere and outer space will become a commonly understood term, particularly in the context of space cleanup as well as engineering solutions to address global warming and climate change.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Space Cleanup

  • Runner-Up: Geo-Engineering

 

Energy Markets and Climate Policy: Predictions for 2015

We certainly didn’t see the drop in oil prices during the final quarter of 2014 coming, so this makes us even more leery about making predictions for energy markets and climate policy for 2015. But we do know following this month’s Climate Summit in Lima, Peru, there will be a major climate meeting in Paris next year: the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. It’s scheduled for the end of November through mid-December 2015.

The objective is to create a legally binding, universal agreement on climate change that serves as the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. When we look at future trends, energy conservation continues to advance through technology. European governments in particular are investing heavily in retrofitting residential housing to be more energy efficient. We are very intrigued by this article about the Dutch government practically bribing residents with brand-new IKEA kitchens in exchange for allowing them to install heavy duty insulation in their homes.

Our top prediction for 2015 is that Zero Emissions will become a widely understood concept in the coming year. And if the concept of Zero Emissions takes off, we may see its successor “Negative Emissions” come into widespread usage. What would we mean by negative emissions? This of course could apply to an electric car that also cleans the air as it runs, effectively reducing atmospheric emissions whenever it’s driven.

Sadly, we think the runner-up story really should be the top story for climate policy in 2015. We’re speaking about the continued widespread extinction of wildlife, particularly amphibians. Hopefully we will take greater action to prevent this but so far it has not become a top headline.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Zero Emissions

  • Runner-Up: Mass Extinction of Amphibians

 

Competitions, Crowdfunding, and DIY: Predictions for 2015

The do-it-yourself (DIY) trend will continue strongly in 2015, spurred by many high dollar prize competitions and crowd funding efforts. Google in particular has latched on to the competition bandwagon by funding numerous prize competitions, including its Lunar X Space Race, a $20 million race to put a robot rover on the moon. Do-It-Yourselfers can also build their own tiny space satellite and launch it in the space. The importance of 3-D printing, which we covered extensively in the past, continues to grow in importance. The UK’s Royal Mail recently announced that they will begin to offer their own 3-D printing services, so mail customers can order 3-D parts which the royal mail will print and then deliver.

 

Arduino single-board microcontroller, part of the open source hardware movement. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Arduino single-board microcontroller, part of the open source hardware movement. Image courtesy Wikimedia

 

Our top prediction for 2015? We think that the clever, collaboratively designed Arduino circuit board will finally get the respect it deserves as a key springboard for the do-it-yourself maker movement. It’s been a core technology in creating the first generation 3D Printers and its role is as important as the IBM PC.

We predict that Google will be the runner-up winner. Between its space competitions to put cameras in low Earth orbit and its efforts to improve balloon technology as a platform for providing Internet services to remote areas across the globe, such as unserviced areas of Africa, will capture the public’s attention in 2015.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Arduino Gets Respect

  • Runner-Up: Look up in the Sky, It’s Google!

 

Laboratory Discoveries: Predictions for 2015

Among potential laboratory discoveries, a cure for malaria would be among the top medical discoveries of all time. While the fear of the Ebola virus and other pandemic threats capture the news headlines, malaria was responsible for an estimated 207 million illnesses and 627,000 deaths in 2012 alone, according to be World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2013.

 

Formaspace-Ebola-Virus-colorized-TEM

Ebola Virus. Image courtesy CDC

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been instrumental in funding research to reduce the impact of the disease and eventually find a cure. The recent announcement that there has been a 50% reduction in malaria is welcome news.

But the story that caught our attention was a report of the potential systemic cure for malaria by a compound that destroys the parasite itself. If this proves to be an effective treatment for malaria, this would be the top laboratory discovery story in 2015. We’re also confident to predict that one or more of the seven different approaches to curing or preventing the Ebola virus will show promise in 2015.

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Preventative Cure for Malaria

  • Runner-Up: Effective Ebola Vaccine

 

Furniture Industry: Predictions for 2015

Closer to home in the furniture industry, we have taken note that flatpack furniture sales are up worldwide in 2014. You may recall that during our review of the Neocon contract furniture show held in Chicago earlier this year, we identified some of the constraints facing today’s generation of furniture designers and that the need to design furniture to fit in a flatpack was now a primary consideration for many projects.

 

Formaspace-Materials-Handling-Allied-Electronics-2

 

What is Our Top Prediction for 2015?

We predict there is some Formaspace furniture in your future. Our technical furniture is designed for your research laboratory, healthcare facility, assembly line, distribution center, educational facility, or even a high-tech home workshop in your garage or industrial style kitchen in your home. All our furniture is made of the finest materials, manufactured in Austin, with steel sourced here in the USA. We back up the quality of our products with the longest guarantee in the industry: a full 12 years, even if you use it continuously with three work shifts.

 

  • Top Prediction for 2015: Formaspace in Your Future

  • Runner-Up: Flat Pack Furniture

 

 

Formaspace Wants to Help You Pursue Your Goals in Science, Engineering, and Manufacturing

Formaspace is here to help. Join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.

Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of stock, semi-custom and custom-made computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services. Our American-made technical furniture solutions are flexible, reconfigurable and long-lasting.

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Outer Space is Back In: Enthusiasm for Space Exploration on the Rise

Philae, the intrepid probe that landed on Comet 67P, has electrified the public in a way that we haven’t seen since the NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars.

Renewed enthusiasm for space exploration couldn’t come at a better time for the American aerospace industry. We find ourselves in the middle of a transition from the government managed Space Shuttle-era to a brave new world of rocket launchers and spacecraft designed, built — and sometimes entirely funded — by private enterprise.

 

Formaspace-Rosetta-Philae-Lander-Comet-67B

Rosetta Philae Lander Comet

 

Transition from Sovereign Funded to Private Enterprise Space Travel Has Been Rocky

It’s probably fair to say the transition has not gone as smoothly or as rapidly as one would’ve hoped. At a time when international relations with the Russian Federation are sinking to frigid cold war levels, NASA is still dependent upon the Russians for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). At the end of October, the launch of an unmanned rocket by a NASA private contractor, Orbital Space Corp., exploded just seconds after liftoff from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The lost 4,883 pound payload included scientific experiments from schools as well as food and supplies for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

As it turns out, the core of the Antares rocket which exploded is based on a late 1960s Russian rocket. And we don’t just mean the design dates back nearly 50 years, we mean the rocket parts are literally vintage USSR productions from the 1960s. And purely private spaceflight suffered a blow later that same week as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up in midair during a test flight high over the Mojave Desert, killing one pilot. Despite Sir Richard Branson‘s enthusiasm, it’s unclear how many well-heeled enthusiasts will pop for a $250,000 trip into space to experience just a few minutes of weightlessness.

 

Who are the Space Pioneers of Tomorrow?

Given the setbacks of October, the success of the Rosetta and its Philae comet probe couldn’t come a moment too soon, as these are critical years for recruiting new young engineers into the field. But since we now live in a world where game apps like MineCraft, WarCraft and StarCraft top the charts, can actual spacecraft ever capture the attention of today’s digital generation? It’s a critical question as the very last of the old-school engineers retire in droves — and it’s uncertain if the talented minds of the new digital generation — just now entering university or starting their career paths — will pursue aerospace as a career with a similar enthusiasm and dedication.

 

Poster Child for a New Wave of Space Explorers

13-year-old Alyssa Carson from Baton Rouge, Louisiana may be the exception that proves the rule. With a passion that belies her young years, Carson has attended NASA Space Camps and has plotted out a career path, which she hopes will take her to Mars. Sensing a good PR story, NASA is fully on-board with their young protégé, whom they have given the call sign “Blueberry”. You can learn more about Carson by watching this short film by the BBC.

 

Alyssa Carson, image by Uproxx

Alyssa Carson, image by Uproxx

 

Philae Makes the Scene, Well Played and Well Marketed

Our spirits soared at the ambitious and improbable ten yearlong chase of Comet 67B across the solar system. Intercepting the comet itself is an astounding feat, but then to deploy the small Philae lander onto the surface really makes science-fiction come true. As we know now, there were problems with the landing of Philae. It bounced many kilometers back in the space at least twice before coming to rest on its side in the shadow of a crater, which blocked the rays of the sun for all but an hour of the day. But we really have to acknowledge what an accomplishment it was to get the lander onto the surface of Comet 67B at all. With the comet’s very weak gravity, Philae weighed the equivalent of a single sheet of paper! Now replay the landing in your mind and try to imagine landing a single sheet of paper onto the surface of a moving comet — it’s not that easy!

Fortunately, it looks like many of Philae’s scientific experiments were conducted using the main battery supply before the electricity supply on board ran out. Without enough sun to recharge the batteries, the probe went into a deep sleep. There’s still hope that as the comet comes closer to the sun, the sun’s rays might once again power up the solar collectors and allow Philae to wake up again. The European Space Agency (ESA) has teased us with some preliminary scientific observations. The first is the surface of Comet 67B is much harder than anticipated. As it turns out, the bounced landing (which precluded shooting harpoons to anchor Philae to the comet’s surface) may have been a blessing in disguise.

It’s quite possible that the harpoons would not have been able to penetrate the hard surface — and launching them might have resulted in sending Philae far out into space once and for all! Aside from an unfortunate incident caused by a racy shirt worn by one of the European scientists, the web team at ESA has conducted a pitch perfect media campaign around the Rosetta comet exploration project. The Philae lander’s Twitter account is a great example, with its gentle humor:

 

Gentle humor of @philae2014 Twitter account acknowledges the lander has run out of solar power.

Gentle humor of @philae2014 Twitter account acknowledges the lander has run out of solar power.

 

ESA’s Rosetta blog has also created a media firestorm with the tantalizing announcement that Philae may have detected organic compounds on Comet 67B. What does this mean exactly? We think it could mean that Philae’s COSAC detector discovered (or “sniffed”) some carbon ring-based molecules, presumably outgassing from the comet’s surface. Many news articles published today have extrapolated this to mean that organic life forms have been found — this is not supported by the information released by ESA to date.

 

When are We Going to Know Something More Concrete?

It looks like we’re going to have to wait until the the upcoming American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco! That’s when and where the European Space Agency plans to do their first in-depth debriefing on the mission. Mark your calendars for Dec 15-19, 2014. We will certainly follow up on this story as it develops. We will also look at NASA’s upcoming rendezvous with Pluto in January, a crowd-funded Lunar exploration mission organized in the UK, as well as the late-breaking news that Airbus will become a contractor working with NASA as part of a greater cooperation between the European Space Agency and NASA. We’re also interested in cleaning up space junk as well as the story behind a curious Russian spacecraft which has Western military experts concerned.

 

Space: The Final Frontier. Formaspace Can Help.

roche's sample processing laboratory furniture

Modular Sample Processing Laboratory

We’re proud to have NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin among our aerospace customers. Why not join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, Ford, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.

Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of stock, semi-custom and custom-made computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services.    

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