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New Algorithms Enable Self-Assembling, Printable Robots

In two new papers, MIT researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed three-dimensional configurations.One paper describes a system that takes a digital specification of a 3-D shape — such as a computer-aided design, or CAD, file — and generates the 2-D patterns that would enable a piece of plastic to reproduce it through self-folding.The other paper explains how to build electrical components from self-folding laser-cut materials. The researchers present designs for resistors, inductors, and capacitors, as well as sensors and actuators — the electromechanical “muscles” that enable robots’ movements.“We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device,” said Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.SourceAlso: Learn about Self-Assembling, Flexible, Pre-Ceramic Composite Preforms.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Sensors, Software, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Mathematical/Scientific Software, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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New Rotary Sensor Keeps Conveyor Belts Running Smoothly

Rotary sensors can help determine the position of a moveable body in relation to an axis. They are essential to the smooth running of car engines in the automotive industry, for example. In factories, goods and products are transported from one processing station to the next via conveyor belt. For the transfer from one belt to the next to run smoothly, it must take place precisely at a specific position, which means knowing the relative position of objects on the conveyor belts as they move towards each other. This can be determined from the angle of rotation, which refers to the position of a moveable body to an axis.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Photonics, Optics, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Industrial Controls & Automation, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, News

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3D-Printing Aerial Robot Mimics Tiny Bird

Scientists from Imperial College London have developed a 3D-printing Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) that mimics the way that swiftlets build their nests.The MAV is a quad-copter, with four blades that enable it to fly and hover. The vehicle, made from off-the-shelf components, carries in its underbelly two chemicals that create polyurethane foam when mixed, and a printing module to deliver the foam. The foam can then be used to build simple structures or repair components.The texture of the polymer exuded from the 3D printer can also be used to create ’grippers,‘ which stick onto and transport objects to different locations. The MAV could therefore pick up and remove bombs, or dispose of hazardous materials without exposing humans to danger. The next step for the team is to enable the vehicle to fly autonomously in any environment. The scientists plan to incorporate high-speed cameras and sensors on board the MAV, which will act like a satellite navigation system for tracking and controlling of the flight trajectory.SourceAlso: Learn more about NASA's Robonaut 2.

Posted in: Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Plastics, Sensors, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News

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Tailored 3D Fiber Architecture to Improve CVI Processing

Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama An improvement has been made to the infiltration of 3D woven and 3D braided preforms that will lead to the manufacture of CMC (ceramic matrix composite) and C–C (carbon-carbon) composites based on 3D fiber architectures that have low residual porosity and smaller void sizes. Tailoring the fiber architectures by the use of several combinations of larger and smaller warp, fill, and z yarns formed pathways into the thickness of the fabrics to improve fluid flow through the preform during CVI (chemical vapor infiltration) processing.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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3D Microwave Print Head System for Melting Materials

This approach has applications in industry where solid materials need to be melted. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California There is a need to develop an efficient method for processing lunar regolith in support of future missions to colonize the Moon. A system for heating lunar regolith (“moon soil”) using microwaves for processing has been developed. It relies on an enhanced heating effect based on a large temperature gradient forming when a sample of lunar regolith under microwave radiation emits heat from its surface rapidly as the core is melting. Once the core melts, the sample absorbs microwave energy more readily. This molten lunar regolith would then exit the sample tube, and the lunar regolith could then be introduced into molds for forming a desired structure or building block.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs

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Novel Chemistry for Deposition of MgF2 Thin Films

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California Magnesium fluoride (MgF2) thin films are useful for many different optics applications. In particular, they are useful for ultraviolet anti-reflective and protective coatings. However, in the far UV, one needs a very small, controllable amount of material to get the best optical performance. That is difficult to achieve with conventional methods. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is an ideal UV-compatible thin-film deposition technique due to its ability to deposit uniform, pin-hole free films with angstrom-level thickness control. Therefore, it is an ideal technique to use to deposit protective thin films in the 2-nm thickness range. However, conventional ALD-MgF2 reactions are very unpredictable due to the low reactivity and volatility of the precursors.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Briefs, TSP

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Recruit Or Retain Report

In our recent Perfect Fit Survey, Aerotek found that the majority of hiring managers are happy with their last hire and many remain optimistic about finding the right candidate. However, results published in the January 2013 issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics showed the average time to fill a position rose to 23 days in December 2012 compared to a low of 15.4 days in July 2009. The rhetoric of a historic skills gap has painted a negative picture of job seekers, but is there more to the story?

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, White Papers

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