CAD Tools: Usability versus Capabilities

CAD software has come a long way in terms of ease of use, interoperability, speed, and capabilities. But there is still a long way to go. We spoke to executives at leading CAD software companies to find out what’s most important to their users, and what the next revolution in CAD software will be.

Posted in: Articles


Electrostatic Detection System Prevents Injuries and Damage During Spacecraft Assembly

Remote Voltage Sensor Quasar Federal Systems San Diego, CA 858-228-3386 www.quasarusa.com Electrostatic charges impact the safety of both workers and spacecraft, and have been recognized as one of the main problems at the NASA spacecraft assembly facilities. Prevention currently depends on time-consuming, handheld electric-field devices scanning each individual worker’s clothing. Quasar Federal Systems has developed a new electrostatic detection system with support from NASA and the University of California Berkeley’s Space Science Laboratory.

Posted in: Application Briefs


Low-Power FPGAs Aboard NASA’s Mission to Mars to Study Climate History

RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) Actel Mountain View, CA 650-318-4200 www.actel.com Actel’s RTAX-S field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) are aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission to Mars, which launched this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission will study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian Arctic. Included in the spacecraft is a Meterological Station (MET) provided by the Canadian Space Agency, which will acquire, process, and transmit temperature and pressure data to scientists back on Earth. MDA, a provider of robotic space systems, led construction of the MET instrument and incorporated Actel’s one-million-gate RTAX1000SCQ352 device into the instrument subsystem.

Posted in: Application Briefs



Objet Geometries, Billerica, MA, has introduced the Connex500™ multimaterial 3D printer based on the company’s PolyJet Matrix™ technology, which provides simultaneous jetting of multiple model materials. The system enables the printing of parts and assemblies made of multiple materials in a single build, and fabricates Digital Materials™ on the fly, enabling the creation of composite materials that have preset combinations of mechanical properties. The printer prints parts with specific Shore A values, a scale used to indicate material hardness in soft, flexible materials. It produces prototypes of products that use over-molding in the manufacturing process, and fabricates translucent models that aid in medical applications by showing nerves, tumors, and other areas of interest. Three printing modes are available: DM mode operates at 12 mm per hour in 30-micron layers; HQ mode builds parts at 12 mm per hour in 16-micron layers; and the HS mode runs at 20 mm per hour in 30-micron layers. Build volume is 500 × 400 × 200 mm.

Posted in: Products


Dr. John Mather, Chief Scientist for the Science Mission Directorate

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC Using NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite to measure microwaves and infrared light that originated with the formation of the universe, Dr. John C. Mather helped verify the validity of the Big Bang theory. Recently named to head up the Office of the Chief Scientist for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, Dr. Mather was a co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Posted in: Who's Who


Combining Multimode Emissions from Broad Area Laser Diodes into Single-Mode Spots without Feedback

Broad-area laser diodes are the most efficient coherent light sources and are widely used today. The extraordinary efficiency, modulation easiness, availability to virtually any wavelength and compactness are the principle drives stimulating the development of light sources based on laser diodes. However, due to fundamental limitations of laser diode gain medium, the emission from laser diodes has a major drawback — the emission is not spatially coherent. In other words laser diode light is often seen as a light bulb emission that cannot be focused in a diffraction limited spot of λ/2 or easily transmitted as a narrow beam. Despite the fact that kilowatts of multimode power can be easily extracted from a laser diode array, the resulting single-lobe single-element power from a laser diode is always limited by a value of several watts. Many applications are waiting for a spatially coherent laser diode source offering power from 1 to 100W. The potential substitution of YAG and fiber lasers by a compact, direct single- mode laser diode source would bring significant advancements in a number of applications such as LIDAR/LADAR (Light Intensity Detection and Ranging/Light Amplification Detection and Ranging) systems; high-bit-rate, long-haul free space communication systems; industrial processing applications; and many more.

Posted in: Articles, Features, ptb catchall, Photonics


Design of a Field-Mapped Beam Homogenizer

Light beam homogenizer designs used for decades are largely based upon lenticular lens arrays that date back to the 1940s and 1950s. A more recent design is from the late 1980s that comprises a pair of crossed-cylindrical lenticular lens structures coupled with a condensing lens. The 1980s design has 10 optical surfaces which represents a significant source of optical loss, long beam path (typically ~ 1.5 meters) and high cost from having so many optical elements. Further, this design requires careful and precise alignment of the light beam in relation to the optics comprising the homogenizer, in particular angular rotation of the lenslets and their positioning in the X-Y plane of the optical axis. These designs are unable to produce a homogenized ring illumination, which is useful for ablating polymer insulation from metal bonding pads in microelectronic fabrication of multichip modules and memory chips.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Applications, ptb catchall, Photonics


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