Features

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

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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

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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

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Connex500™

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

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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

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Z-RAM

The New SOI-Based Memory Technology In the electronics industry today there are two commonly used high-speed memory types: static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM). Traditionally, SRAM embedded memory has been the designer’s choice for fast memory, but since a typical SRAM bitcell is comprised of six transistors, that benefit comes at the expense of cost and silicon area. Embedded DRAM (eDRAM), whose smaller bitcell is comprised of a single transistor and single capacitor, offers a much lower cost option, but has higher latency and is typically used further from the processor. While DRAM is fundamental to electronic systems, it does have its limit — namely, its inability to scale to accommodate the migration to smaller, and therefore more advanced, process geometries. This limitation is further complicated by the fact that new application areas for memory are fast appearing, fueled by the popularity of digital home appliances and next-generation mobile devices, the digital convergence of electronic goods and telecommunications, and ever evolving media content.

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Designing Configurable Air Transport Racks

High-powered embedded computing equipment utilizing the Air Transport Rack (ATR) form factor is playing an ever-larger role in extreme, mission-critical applications in air, land, and sea environments. This compact, rugged, and light form factor has been around for nearly 70 years. Its small size meets the tight space constraints of the current generation of military grade equipment, and its flexibility, coupled with the proliferation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, allows ATR-based systems to meet cost and upgradeability goals for both legacy and emerging systems.

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