Special Coverage


3D Printer Heads to International Space Station

The first 3D printer is soon to fly into Earth orbit, finding a home aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The size of a small microwave, the unit is called Portal. The hardware serves as a testbed for evaluating how well 3D printing and the microgravity of space combine. The soon-to-fly 3D printer can churn out plastic objects within a span of 15 minutes to an hour.The technology works by extruding heated plastic, and then builds successive layers to make a three-dimensional object. In essence, the test on the ISS might well lead to establishing a “machine shop” in space. The 3D printer experiment is being done under the tech directorate's Game Changing Development Program, a NASA thrust that seeks to identify and rapidly mature innovative/high impact capabilities and technologies for infusion in a broad array of future NASA missions.According to the team, manufacturing assets in space, as opposed to launching them from Earth, will accelerate and broaden space development while providing unprecedented access for people on Earth to use in-space capabilities. SourceAlso: Learn about Ammonia Leak Detection on the ISS.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Plastics, Test & Measurement, Aerospace, News


Researchers Equip Robot with Novel Tactile Sensor

Researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port.The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed by the lab of Edward Adelson, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Vision Science at MIT, and first described in 2009. The new sensor isn’t as sensitive as the original GelSight sensor, which could resolve details on the micrometer scale. But it’s smaller — small enough to fit on a robot’s gripper — and its processing algorithm is faster, so it can give the robot feedback in real time.A GelSight sensor — both the original and the new, robot-mounted version — consists of a slab of transparent, synthetic rubber coated on one side with a metallic paint. The rubber conforms to any object it’s pressed against, and the metallic paint evens out the light-reflective properties of diverse materials, making it much easier to make precise optical measurements.In the new device, the gel is mounted in a cubic plastic housing, with just the paint-covered face exposed. The four walls of the cube adjacent to the sensor face are translucent, and each conducts a different color of light — red, green, blue, or white — emitted by light-emitting diodes at the opposite end of the cube. When the gel is deformed, light bounces off of the metallic paint and is captured by a camera mounted on the same cube face as the diodes.From the different intensities of the different-colored light, the algorithms developed by Adelson’s team can infer the three-dimensional structure of ridges or depressions of the surface against which the sensor is pressed. Source Read other Sensors tech briefs.

Posted in: Photonics, Optics, Materials, Motion Control, Sensors, Lighting, LEDs, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News


September Executive Outlook - Funding the Medtech Pipeline

This edition is sponsored by Renishaw and KMC Systems. SPONSOR MESSAGE New miniature encoder is the building block of motion systems Renishaw launches ATOM™ — an innovative non-contact optical linear and rotary incremental encoder system that combines miniaturization with leading-edge dirt immunity, signal stability, and reliability. ATOM is the world's first miniature encoder to use filtering optics. The same advanced technology is found in Renishaw's proven TONiC(TM) incremental encoder. Learn more >> Funding the Medtech Pipeline Recent reports offer scant hope of improved funding support for medtech entrepreneurs Steve Halasey, Contributing Editor Among medical device and diagnostics companies, deals and dollars are rarely so plentiful that they can support more than a single strong market trend. As a result, investment flows in one area have a tendency to overpower alternatives, making it hard for investors to learn about or get interested in approaches that buck the trend. There's little room for a minority report.

Posted in: News, MDB


Coming Soon - Accurate Finite Element Simulation of Conductors and Coils

Simulation of electromagnetic systems relies on the accurate and efficient representation of electrical conductors and coils. This Webinar reviews the ways conductors and conducting materials can be represented using the industry leading Opera Simulation Software Suite from Cobham. The methods explored include various bulk approximations useful for multi-turn windings and explicit methods for including current redistribution due to proximity, geometry and skin effects. The methods are demonstrated using a variety of examples from the fields of accelerator physics, medical physics and power systems design as well as validation examples from a variety of sources.

Posted in: Upcoming Webinars


Design Engineer's Guide to Circuit Protection for Critical Applications

Send a text message. Check the appointment calendar on your smartphone. Use the on-board GPS in your car to find your next destination. Flip the switch to turn on your outdoor LED lighting. Don’t think these devices are critical applications? Try living without them. In our daily lives, we’re increasingly dependent upon electronics technologies. Failure is not an option. Whether you develop consumer electronics, LED lighting or automotive electronics, proper circuit protection helps ensure operational reliability and longevity for critical applications.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars


Shape Sensing Using Multi-core Optical Fibers with Distributed Fiber Bragg Gratings

Fiber optic sensors are being used for sensing everything from chemicals, to pressure, to structural loads, and temperature. Recently, multi-core optical fiber has enabled a new type of fiber optic measurement known as fiber optic shape sensing. While bonded fiber optic strain gages can be used to track shape changes of fairly rigid structures, their use in highly flexible structures such as inflatable vehicles or morphing flaps is limited due to the impracticality of bonding to such mediums. Multi-core fibers can sense structural shape changes and do not require bonding. A multi-core fiber optic cable embedded with distributed low-reflectivity Fiber Bragg Gratings can be interrogated using an Optical Frequency Domain Reflectometry system in order to measure local bending along the entire length of the fiber, which enables a position measurement of the multi-core fiber in three dimensions. Such fibers are being investigated for uses beyond aerospace, including undersea towed instrument position tracking, tether monitoring in tethered satellites, underground drill position tracking, and surgical catheter path monitoring. In this Webinar, the process of transitioning distributed strain measurements of multi-core fiber into a three-dimensional shape determination of the fiber is explained and the methods for including twisting and stretching measurements of the multi-core fiber into the solutions will be detailed. In addition to showing actual results, simulation methods relevant to the technique will be covered.

Posted in: On-Demand Webinars


Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Our lead story in today's INSIDER revealed engineers' attempts to power an electric car with removable, rechargeable battery modules. The potentially game-changing technology, however, faces challenges. The modules weigh 20 to 30 pounds, and no infrastructure currently exists for users to lease or purchase the rechargeable devices, for example. The engineers, however, say that they expect the battery technology to mature and shrink in size, and that exchange stations could easily be gradually deployed. What do you think? Are rechargeable battery modules viable?

Posted in: Question of the Week