UpFront

3D Printer Creates First Object in Space

The International Space Station’s 3D printer has manufactured the first 3D printed object in space, paving the way to future long-term space expeditions. NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, commander aboard the ISS, installed the printer and conducted the first calibration test print. The first printed part was a faceplate of the extruder’s casing. This demonstrated that the printer can make replacement parts for itself.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Articles, UpFront

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Heat-Conducting Plastic Blend Developed

The spaghetti-like internal structure of most plastics makes it hard for them to cast away heat, but a University of Michigan (U-M) research team has made a plastic blend that does so 10 times better than its conventional counterparts. Because plastics restrict the flow of heat, their use is limited in technologies like computers, smartphones, cars, or airplanes — places that could benefit from their properties, but where heat dissipation is important.

Posted in: Plastics, Articles, UpFront

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NASA Harvests and 3D Prints Parts for New Aircraft

A team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA is prototyping and redesigning aircraft using 3D printed parts.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Aviation, UpFront

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Imaging System Helps View Elusive Veins

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is researching the use of imaging technology to visualize blood donors’ veins. The vein visualization devices are portable, and project an image of the veins onto the skin’s surface using non-invasive, near-infrared technology. The Blood Service is aiming to find out if this procedure reduces anxiety, improves donation comfort, and makes donors more likely to donate again.

Posted in: Visualization Software, Imaging, UpFront

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Mars Rover Technology Adapted to Detect Gas Leaks

In collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that it is testing state-of-the-art technology adapted from NASA’s Mars rover program. Originally designed to find methane on the Red Planet, this laser-based technology is lightweight and has superior sensitivity to methane, a major component of natural gas. The technology applied on Earth helps guide PG&E crews using a tablet interface to identify possible leak locations, fast-tracking their ability to repair gas leaks.

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Autonomous Vehicles Could Improve Traffic Flow

Autonomous vehicles are getting closer to making their debut on our roads, which is leading researchers to think about how they can assist with traffic flow and fuel consumption. Temple University, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, is researching traffic-flow modeling and how synchronizing autonomous vehicles can enable them to communicate and share information. In order to operate safely, these vehicles have to collect large quantities of data about the environment around them. That data, such as traffic density and flow velocity, could be communicated from one vehicle to another, causing the vehicles to react in a way that alters the flow of traffic.

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NASA’s Space Station Fix-It for Satellites

NASA’s fix-it investigation on the International Space Station (ISS), the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), has moved one step closer to its 2.0 update with the delivery of new RRM hardware. The RRM module, affixed to an exterior ISS platform since 2011, now awaits the robotic transfer of two new task boards and a borescope inspection tool that will equip RRM for a new round of satellite-servicing demonstrations.

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