Articles

Is It Time to Try Direct Digital Manufacturing?

Over the past 20 years, additive manufacturing technology has migrated from use in rapid prototyping to a full-fledged manufacturing solution, which is referred to as “direct digital manufacturing” (or rapid manufacturing). Increasingly, companies are applying it to manufacturing applications, and with each success, they prove that it is a viable alternative. While the general concept of additive manufacturing is the same as when it was introduced 20 years ago, the change is in its intended use — production, not just prototyping. So while the concept has been around for a while, in the minds of many, direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is a new and difficult concept to understand.

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NASA Awards 2009 Software of the Year

The NASA World Wind Java computer program developed at Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, CA, has won NASA’s 2009 Software of the Year award. Software engineers at Ames created the NASA World Wind Java Software Development Kit and Web Mapping Services Server. Patrick Hogan leads the NASA World Wind team, which includes Pat Moran, Tom Gaskins, Paul Collins, Lado Garakanidze, Randolph Kim, Patrick Murris, Jay Parsons, Chris Maxwell, and Rick Brownrigg.

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Advancements in Full-Motion Video for Military UAS Surveillance Applications

As warfare moves into a new era, military strategists tool up with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones to provide the visual surveillance the new combat environment requires. In urban warfare, where counterinsurgency and counterterrorist missions typically occur, troops rely on the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) forces for persistent air surveillance, precision air strikes, and swift airlift support. ISR forces are able to sweep wide areas, detect activity, stare at key places for hours and days at a time, and complete a targeting cycle in minutes.

Posted in: Imaging, Articles

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Imaging Technology Enables 3D Monitoring for Surveillance and Missile Defense

A new imaging technology can quickly give users accurate three-dimensional depictions of objects being tracked, whether they are incoming missiles or the faces of suspects in a crowd. The technology, being developed by Visidyne of Burlington, MA, has numerous applications beyond missile defense. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) originally funded the company through a 2003 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract.

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Calibrating Photovoltaic Cells

The basic function of a photovoltaic cell is to convert input — sunlight energy expressed in irradiance (W/m2) — into output — useable electrical power — with as little loss as possible. To quantify the ability of the system to accomplish this conversion, one can simply compare the output to the input by forming a ratio of the two. This ratio, expressed in percentages, is known as the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the device and it is a key parameter of electrical performance. Since the PCE is used to compare the performance of photovoltaic devices, it is critical that accurate estimates be made for the PCE. The estimate is dependent on knowing, with a high degree of accuracy, the actual conditions, including irradiance and cell temperature, under which the parameter is measured.

Posted in: Articles, Features, ptb catchall, Photonics

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Performing Accurate Multi-Paction Measurements

Multi-paction effects can impact microwave components in high-power satellite communications (sat-com) systems. The nonlinear break-down-voltage phenomenon occurs in high-vacuum environments above a certain threshold voltage, and can degrade the performance of RF and microwave components or, in extreme cases, damage the components or the system. Although multi-paction effects are often difficult to predict and measure, properly equipped test systems with dedicated software can accurately identify microwave components that may multi-pact, effectively screening them to avoid damage in a deep-space application.

Posted in: Test & Measurement, Articles

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Controlling Robotics Precisely With Haptic Technology

Robots are capable of very precise motion, but must be guided with precision in order to fulfill their potential. Consider the task of guiding a robotic surgeon’s arm to suture a wound or insert a catheter. A human surgeon, with all his or her knowledge and experience, is required to practice where to probe, cut, or sew before he or she can develop the necessary skills to make a clean suture with the right degree of tension at the right depth or an incision of the right depth. In contrast, a robotic surgeon’s arm can move more consistently and accurately than that of the best human surgeon.

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