Articles

How a Supercomputing Innovation Accelerated a Business

Larry Lukis Founder and CTO Proto Labs, Inc. Maple Plain, MN Proto Labs is a quick-response custom manufacturer that provides design engineers with prototypes of plastic parts faster than anyone in the world. Our Protomold division produces prototypes (and short run production parts) by injection molding, and our First Cut Prototype division produces prototypes by CNC machining plastic stock.

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Protecting AC Motors From Destructive Shaft Currents

The use of variable-frequency drives (VFDs) to control AC motors has increased dramatically in recent years. In addition to low operating cost and high performance, they save energy. Today, the challenge facing system designers and engineers is to minimize damage to AC motors from shaft current.

Posted in: Features, Motion Control, Articles

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Getting on the Right Motion Bus

As modern machines have become more advanced, the complexity involved in motion control has escalated. Today, servos have replaced cams and gears on machines and multiple axis of synchronized motion control have become commonplace. Distributed motion control requires busses able to handle rigid jitter and timing demands including:

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Integrated Motor Control Meets Aviation Needs

The trend in aircraft design is toward more efficient brushless DC motors. A integrated motor drive module for brushless DC motors from International Rectifier (El Segundo, CA) reduces the effort of programming the motor control and simplifies certification. Because the device is configured for sensorless field oriented control, the elimination of Hall sensors improves reliability while reducing component count. It enables the aircraft to achieve greater fuel economy and lower maintenance costs.

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Fiber Optic Communications Systems

Communications and, more recently telecommunications, are needs deeply engrained in human history. These needs have significantly evolved over time enabling today’s content-rich (text, music, images and video, etc), real-time and multi-location exchanges through electrical, optical or, more broadly, electromagnetic signals conveyed by different media. Among the more versatile is optical fiber.

Posted in: Features, ptb catchall, Photonics, Articles

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NASA-Inspired Shape-Sensing Fibers Enable Minimally Invasive Surgery

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) is a new class of surgical procedures in which the operation is performed with surgical instruments inserted through small incisions in the body. In contrast to open surgery, in which the organ or tissue is exposed through large incisions in the body, MIS procedures generally allow for faster recovery time, less pain and trauma, reduced risk of infection, and shorter hospital stays.

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Designing COTS Computers for Harsh Environments

The need for commercial off the shelf (COTS) single board computer (SBC) products continues to grow as higher processing, smaller footprints and lower power requirements become more critical. For design engineers in medical, military, industrial, aeronautics and other fields, the desire for reduced size and heat also parallels an additional requirement for fanless operation. In this environment, engineers are constantly faced with the challenge of trading off various aspects of functionality to stay within a particular form factor. Finding COTS products that have all the desired characteristics and are also rated to perform in extreme harsh environments creates an additional challenge. However, there are a number of industrial grade SBC manufacturers who have been successful in designing and manufacturing COTS products specifically for use in harsh environments.

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