What's New on Tech Briefs: Brickmaking on Mars a 'Smashing' Success

With support from Congress and the President, NASA aims to send a manned mission to Mars by 2040. Establishing a human presence on the Red Planet, however, will require permanent shelters.

And lugging a pile of bricks on the nine-month, 35-million-mile trip is out of the question.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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A New Material for Mars Habitats? Mars Itself

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a compaction technique that may someday be used to turn Mars soil into building blocks for the Red Planet. The scientists' new method of applying pressure offers construction possibilities as NASA plans manned Mars missions in the upcoming decades.

Posted in: News, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials
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What's New on TechBriefs.com: 3D Printing's Next Frontier

In 1983, when Chuck Hull was spending nights and weekends building the first 3D printer, he couldn’t have imagined that someone would eventually use the apparatus to build a toaster from ashes.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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How 3D Printing Began, Layer by Layer

In 1983, Chuck Hull worked for a small California-based company that used ultraviolet light to turn liquid polymers into hardened, or cured, coatings. Inside the firm’s lab on his nights and weekends, Hull found a way to make UV-curable materials the basis for his Stereolithography Apparatus, patented the following year.

Tech Briefs spoke with Hull about the future of his invention, the 3D printer.

Posted in: News, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling
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The 3D Printing Landscape: Then and Now

Frequently used as a design validation and prototyping tool in its early days, the 3D printer now supports a much wider range of applications, from shape-conforming electronics to the creation of printed living tissue. Tech Briefs spoke with industry expert Terry Wohlers about 3D printing's emerging possibilities.

Posted in: News, News, News, Aerospace, Consumer Product Manufacturing, Custom & Contract Manufacturing, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Implants & Prosthetics
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Researchers Sculpt Optical Micro-Structures

Materials scientists at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering used a new framework to grow sophisticated optical micro-components, including trumpet-shaped assemblages that operate as waveguides.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Optical Components, Optics
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Unified Approach Improves the Accuracy of Five-Axis Machine Tools

Ph.D. students Jennifer Creamer and Le Ma work in Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Precision Motion Control Laboratory. (Credit: Missouri S&T)

Five-axis machine tools are computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machines that can move, cut, or mill a part on five different axes at the same time. Because of inherent geometric errors, manufacturers must make adjustments when calibrating these machines. Several different approaches exist to help compensate for the errors, but none of them provides a complete picture. Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology set out to find a way to eliminate that piecemeal approach and develop a new way to capture complicated geometric errors and automatically generate compensation tables.

Posted in: News, Industrial Controls & Automation, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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Researchers Spin Artificial Spider Silk

Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has, step by step, developed a way of "spinning" artificial spider silk.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping
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New Fabrication Technique Creates More Efficient Plastic Solar Cells

Schematic of a sequentially cast ternary (SeCaT) solar cell. (Peter and Ryan Allen)

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new strategy for fabricating more efficient plastic solar cells. The work has implications for developing solar cells with a wider absorption range and increased efficiency.

Posted in: News, Solar Power, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Manufacturing processes
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Technique Could Lower Costs of Making Bioplastics and Biofuel

Ulrica Edlund, professor of polymer technology.

While abundant in nature, cellulose is difficult and expensive to find in pure or high-quality form. A Swedish research team has developed an efficient, accurate, and non-destructive way to detect the occurrence and purity of cellulose. The technique can be applied in mixtures of biopolymers as well.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Biofuels, Biomaterials, Plastics
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