Manufacturing & Prototyping

3D-Printing Aerial Robot Mimics Tiny Bird

Scientists from Imperial College London have developed a 3D-printing Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV) that mimics the way that swiftlets build their nests.The MAV is a quad-copter, with four blades that enable it to fly and hover. The vehicle, made from off-the-shelf components, carries in its underbelly two chemicals that create polyurethane foam when mixed, and a printing module to deliver the foam. The foam can then be used to build simple structures or repair components.The texture of the polymer exuded from the 3D printer can also be used to create ’grippers,‘ which stick onto and transport objects to different locations. The MAV could therefore pick up and remove bombs, or dispose of hazardous materials without exposing humans to danger. The next step for the team is to enable the vehicle to fly autonomously in any environment. The scientists plan to incorporate high-speed cameras and sensors on board the MAV, which will act like a satellite navigation system for tracking and controlling of the flight trajectory.SourceAlso: Learn more about NASA's Robonaut 2.

Posted in: Imaging, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Rapid Prototyping & Tooling, Materials, Plastics, Sensors, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News

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Researchers Use Sun to Produce Solar-Energy Materials

In a recent advance in solar energy, researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce solar energy materials.This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun a “one-stop shop” that produces both the materials for solar devices and the energy to power them.The work is based on the use of a “continuous flow” microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. In this process, simulated sunlight is focused on the solar microreactor to rapidly heat it, while allowing precise control of temperature to aid the quality of the finished product. The light in these experiments was produced artificially, but the process could be done with direct sunlight, and at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.SourceAlso: Read other Materials tech briefs.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Materials, Solar Power, Renewable Energy, Energy, Nanotechnology, News

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Wireless Device Senses Chemical Vapors

A research team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has developed a small electronic sensing device that can alert users wirelessly to the presence of chemical vapors in the atmosphere. The technology, which could be manufactured using familiar aerosol-jet printing techniques, is aimed at myriad applications in military, commercial, environmental, and healthcare areas.The current design integrates nanotechnology and radio-frequency identification (RFID) capabilities into a small working prototype. An array of sensors uses carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials to detect specific chemicals, while an RFID integrated circuit informs users about the presence and concentrations of those vapors at a safe distance wirelessly.Because it is based on programmable digital technology, the RFID component can provide greater security, reliability and range – and much smaller size – than earlier sensor designs based on non-programmable analog technology. The present GTRI prototype is 10 centimeters square, but further designs are expected to squeeze a multiple-sensor array and an RFID chip into a one-millimeter-square device printable on paper or on flexible, durable substrates such as liquid crystal polymer.SourceAlso: Learn about Extended-Range Passive RFID and Sensor Tags.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Electronic Components, Electronics, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Sensors, Detectors, Medical, Communications, Wireless, RF & Microwave Electronics, Semiconductors & ICs, Nanotechnology, Defense, News

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Web Tool Analyzes Solar Cell Materials

An online tool developed by MIT researchers called “Impurities to Efficiency” - or I2E - allows companies or researchers exploring alternative manufacturing strategies to plug in descriptions of their planned materials and processing steps. After about one minute of simulation, I2E gives an indication of exactly how efficient the resulting solar cell would be in converting sunlight to electricity.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Materials, Software, Simulation Software, Solar Power, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, News, Videos

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Design Competition for Portable Solar Power

Today, Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (Thornton, CO) - a developer of lightweight, flexible, thin-film photovoltaic modules - has announced the selection of seven teams that will begin designing prototypes for the Ascent Solar Innovative Design Competition.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Solar Power, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Energy, News, GDM

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