Now that Andrea Rossi has seemingly “defied known physics,” his encore will be to tackle the more mundane task of producing 1 million units sometime in the near future. As Mr. Rossi’s plan is to have the domestic, or home, units, available by the Fall of this year, one would reasonably expect production to begin in relatively short order. All this is accordingly to statements Rossi has recently made recently, both to Sterling Allan of PESN (link) and in an interview with James Martinez of the Internet radio show Cash Flow posted recently on Cold Fusion Now (audio link).
Accordingly to an e-mail posted on PESN, Rossi stated “We will start in Autumn the sale of the domestic E-Cat. We are organizing the production of 1 million pcs, to make a price enough low to allow to anybody to buy it….” In the Cash Flow interview, Mr. Rossi states that he expects the U.S. price to be between $1000 and $1500. This is a significant reduction from earlier reports that the price would be approximately $5000. Also of interest, in that same interview, Mr. Rossi reports that he is currently in talks with a major U.S. retailer to be a distributor of the home e-Cat, stating: “We are in talks with Home Depot for the diffusion.”
Rossi acknowledges the challenges that are inherent in ramping up wide-scale industrial production: “This is the very difficult thing we are working upon. Until now, we have worked to make the technology, now we have to make the production technology. But we are very advanced in this, we have very important partners that are working with us…Up until now, we have been able to do all we said that we would have done and I hope now it will be so also for this.”
I think everyone who hopes for cheap, abundant energy shares Mr. Rossi’s hopes that he will be able to successfully industrialize the production of this important technology. However, the enormity of said task cannot be minimized, trivialized or taken for granted in any way. Make no mistake about it, this is a huge undertaking. It would be so for a well-established company in terms of a new product. The fact that Rossi is seemingly starting from scratch magnifies any difficulties that even would be the norm.
To highlight these difficulties, one needs to look no further than one of Mr. Rossi’s past forays into large-scale manufacture of new and unique technology. This episode is a somewhat controversial regarding Mr. Rossi’s past business dealings. His critics and naysayers have used this episode as evidence that Mr. Rossi is “not on the level” and to cast doubt on his current claims. In doing so, they often grossly misrepresent events of past dealings and widely exaggerate his shortcomings. I will briefly recount the episode here not only to clear up gross distortions about the episode but also to highlight the issues already discussed, namely the difficulties of taking a technology from prototype to mass production. I would encourage all interested parties to review the document, found here, for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
Back in 2000 Mr. Rossi developed thermoelectric devices under contract with the United States Department of Defense. As this report details, Mr. Rossi’s prototype devices did work as he claimed and were independently verified providing an 20% efficiency, whereas the DoD requirement was only 15%. However, problems arose with large-scale manufacture of the devices and of the 27 TE’s delivered, only 8 worked at all and those only produced 1 watt. It is not clear from my reading of the report what 1 watt was in terms of percent efficiency but it was definitely far below what was required by the DoD (15%) and what Rossi’s prototype has previously been verified to work at (20%).
The reasons for this failure to live up to even minimum required standards are discussed in the report and were numerous. Per the report, some of these reasons were:
* Many TE Devices were damaged during overseas shipping because they were transported using only light cardboard boxes with minimal bubble wrap protection. The LTI (Leonardo Technologies, Inc.) subcontractors were immediately notified of this problem, and this issue will be addressed in the future.
* “Overnight” deliveries to Italy typically require a week or more to reach their destination due to customs.
* Communication to the Italian subcontractor was difficult at best. E-mail communications were slow and language misunderstandings caused delays throughout the initial project efforts while troubleshooting the malfunctioning of the TE Devices. All possible efforts should be made to work with companies familiar with engineering and business practices of the United States.
* Testing TE Devices and wafer materials is a science of its own. Measuring the internal resistance of a TE Device or a single wafer pair proved challenging. (The multimeter applied a current through the TE materials, inducing the Peltier effect, which caused errors in measurements).
* During the initial stages of the Application Study, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack occurred. The subsequent response in National Security measures made accessing necessary information difficult. This caused significantly more face-to-face interviews and travel, which had not been originally foreseen.
So, as one can see, there was not one reason why manufacture of the production TE device was problematic. The issues were multiple and simply illustrate the complexity of the process. Other problems included in the report encompass poor workmanship by subcontractors, poorly planned production methods and difficulties “scaling up” the technology in terms of the size of the devices. Also mentioned was the fact that Mr. Rossi’s laboratory burned to the ground between the time of prototype testing and full-scale manufacturing and there is really no accounting of what important information was lost as a result of this unfortunate event.
Yet, despite the identification of problems and a clear admission that the end product did not meet the required standards, the DoD remained optimistic about the potential of the technology and no implications of wrong-doing on the part of Mr. Rossi was even suggested.
I recently watched a special on CNBC entitled “Dreamliner: Inside the World’s Most Anticipated Airplane.” It was a documentary detailing Boeing’s difficulties in developing and manufacturing its new, state of the art aircraft, the 787. Although aircraft are not new technology and Boeing is a very well-established manufacturer, the 787 employed some very revolutionary features both in terms of aircraft design and manufacture. These difficulties proved a major challenge for Boeing that resulted in significant delays in terms of time and significantly higher expenses than had been anticipated. The challenges were so great, that it is felt by many that if Boeing had failed to meet these challenges they may have well gone bankrupt. Now obviously the complexity of an e-Cat of any size does not match the complexity of an aircraft, but the difficulties that Boeing experienced in getting the 787 to mass production stage does highlight the difficulties that any company, even an established one, can have with rolling out a new product and new technology.
The lesson that should be taken from this is don’t be surprised if the domestic units are not ready by the Fall of this year or it takes more time than anticipated to manufacture 1 million units. But, more importantly, if delays do ensue it is not a reason to believe that the e-Cat was/is a hoax , as I am sure that critics will assert at the first sign of delays. And no matter how optimistic you are about the feasibility and reality of LENR technology, do not needlessly delay replacing your water heater or boiler next winter. Delays and the like are not only likely, they should be expected.
As Rossi said, up until now he has been able to do what he has said he was going to do, as evidenced by the October 28, 2011 demonstration of his 1MW plant. It may not have been the robust, conclusive demonstration of the technology that many people had hoped for but it certainly defied the months long “bet” by his critics and opponents that there would be some last-second delay or excuse to put off such a demonstration.
Rossi spoke in the Summer of 2011 about arranging a “dense source of outsourcing,” so do not assume that he has just begun making these arrangements. His contract with National Instruments came as a great surprise to even his supporters and this arrangement had been in the works for 6 months, so it may well be that he has ALREADY contracted with other well-known companies to help with mass production of the e-Cat. I would watch for further evidence and news that Mr. Rossi has partnered with a large, well-established manufacturing company to assist him with large-scale production of both his domestic and commercial e-Cat units. Such news would certainly bode well for the future of Mr. Rossi’s invention.
For the latest news and updates see Headlines/Chatterings.
Short URL for this page: http://wp.me/p1SDhJ-Ns