Special Coverage


Researchers Mass-Manufacture Using Compostable Material

Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects — from cell phones to food containers and toys — using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. The process also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees or competition with the food supply.The Wyss Institute team developed its bioplastic from chitosan, a form of chitin, which is a powerful player in the world of natural polymers and the second most abundant organic material on Earth. Using traditional casting or injection molding manufacturing techniques, the researchers process the material so that it can be used to fabricate large, 3D objects with complex shapes. This advance validates the potential of using bioinspired plastics for applications that require large-scale manufacturing. The next challenge is for the team to continue to refine their chitosan fabrication methods so that they can take them out of the laboratory, and move them into a commercial manufacturing facility with an industrial partner.SourceAlso: Read other Manufacturing & Prototyping articles.

Posted in: News


How Lean Manufacturing Adds Value to PCB Production

In an earlier paper, we established the importance of Design for Manufacturing (DFM) in today’s PCB manufacturing environment. PCBs designed using those techniques typically experience reduced failure rates, cost less to manufacture, and minimize waste during production.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, White Papers


Proposed Device Harvests Energy from Earth's Infrared Emissions

Physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) envision a device that would harvest energy from Earth’s infrared emissions into outer space.The research team is proposing something akin to a photovoltaic solar panel. Instead of capturing incoming visible light, however, the device would generate electric power by releasing infrared light.To show the range of possibilities, the group suggests two different kinds of emissive energy harvesters: one that is analogous to a solar thermal power generator, and one that is analogous to a photovoltaic cell. Both would run in reverse.The first type of device would consist of a “hot” plate at the temperature of the Earth and air, with a “cold” plate on top of it. The cold plate, facing upward, would be made of a highly emissive material that cools by very efficiently radiating heat to the sky. Based on measurements of infrared emissions in Lamont, Oklahoma (as a case study), the researchers calculate that the heat difference between the plates could generate a few watts per square meter, day and night.SourceAlso: Learn about the TIRS thermal infrared sensor.

Posted in: News


Will Wearable Computing Improve Your Workouts?

A new technology called Moov wants to be your own personal trainer. A wearable fitness gadget, Moov analyzes an exerciser's form, offering real-time suggestions on how to improve workouts. The small, plastic disc attaches to a specfic body part that a wearer wants to analyze during a work: A runner can place the device in his or her shoe, for example, or a cardio-boxer can fit the technology on his or her wrist. By pairing with an app, the Moov tracks movement and body position to provide instant feedback and details about one's progress.

Posted in: Question of the Week


Demystifying Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy techniques date back to Isaac Newton’s first studies of light and today provide researchers with a better understanding of what happens at the atomic and molecular level when matter interacts with light. Advances in electro-optics, high-speed array detectors, inexpensive optical fibers and powerful computers have spurred the growth of miniature spectroscopy. This miniaturization has increasingly made optical spectroscopy the sensing technique of choice for many real-world applications.

Posted in: Features, Photonics, Articles


System-on-Module for Pre-Packaged Convenience

Increasing design complexity, coupled with compressed time to market, has been an engineering reality for some time. A system-on-module (SOM) addresses both of these real engineering issues. An engineer who chooses to use a SOM trades a very complex, chip-down circuit design for a much simpler SOM connector interface.

Posted in: Features, Articles


Novel Hemispherical Dynamic Camera for EVAs

A novel optical design for imaging systems is able to achieve an ultra-wide field of view (UW-FOV) of up to 208°. The design uses an integrated optical design (IOD). The UW-FOV optics design reduces the wasted pixels by 49% when compared against the baseline fisheye lens. The IOD approach results in a design with superior optical performance and minimal distortion.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Imaging, Briefs