Are Smartphones the Building Blocks of Industry 4.0?
Smartphones were a revolution for workplace distractions, but they can also be tools for productivity. I recently attended the IBM Watson IoT Exchange event in Orlando, the AI giant’s annual conference for its Watson solutions, bringing together users and developers of multiple IBM IoT products including Maximo enterprise asset management (EAM). As I attended the keynotes and workshops of the Maximo stream, I noticed a trend: several of the featured monitoring, analytics and asset management solutions required or recommended the use of a consumer electronic device, such as a smartphone, consumer tablet or augmented reality headset. A few of the users I spoke to at the event had reservations about utilizing consumer electronics in the industrial environment. For example, over lunch, one engineer working for a large firm on a military base explained to me that no matter what security features are implemented, there’s just no way he’d ever be able to bring smartphones onto the base to give to maintenance technicians. In a demo of an acoustic monitoring solution, several participants asked about hardware options—such as industrial microphones and ruggedized industrial PCs—citing concerns about the durability of consumer smartphones in the factory environment. Given the risks and the manufacturers’ tendency to be wary of new tech, why are ideas like bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies seemingly gaining traction in industrial enterprises? And why are industrial software solutions providers like IBM, PTC and others recommending the use of these devices? IBM Watson IoT on the Factory Floor Engineering.com spoke with Stephan Biller, VP and Chief Innovation Officer at IBM Watson IoT, about using consumer devices in industrial environments. He highlighted the price-performance tradeoff of consumer vs. industrial devices. “Many of our customers want iOS devices or Android devices because they have them already,” said Biller. “These devices are getting better by the day [because] the consumer technology train goes much faster than the industrial technology train. So, you're getting much better capabilities from a consumer device.” One of the main concerns with using consumer devices in a factory comes from their fragility. However, Biller calls this a basic cost-benefit decision: “Maybe five years ago people would say, ‘no way I'm going to have an iPad in my factory, it's going to break.’ Okay. So, you're going to buy an industrial device that's ten times as expensive so that it won’t break? How many iPads are breaking? One out of a hundred?” Counterpoint: Industrial Sensors Should Be Used for Industrial Sensing Douglas Andrea is CEO of Andrea Electronics, which specializes in digital array microphones and other industrial sensors. These represent the alternatives to strapping an iPhone to a piece of equipment. Andrea also attended the IoT Exchange conference, and was quick to hand a business card to any engineer with doubts about the utility of consumer tech in the factory. “The IoT market is emerging quickly now, and it’s becoming a reality for large manufacturers or utility plants to start considering monitoring their equipment with IoT sensor devices,” Andrea said. “But there are not a lot of custom sensors out there for industrial IoT. So, that’s why [companies like IBM] are using these devices for proof of concept. They're using smartphones and tablets as makeshift sensors. However, this is obviously very expensive, and companies don't want workers to walk away with these phones because the workers think that they can just take them home and use them for their personal use.” According to Andrea, consumer devices are useful for these short-lived proof-of-concept tests or trials, but they aren’t the ideal long-term monitoring solution. “Industrial customers want a low cost solution that gets the data from the machine to the cloud and the dashboard to monitor these things,” he said. “They need quite a few sensors; hundreds, maybe, depending on the size of the operation, or thousands. And if you want to put numerous sensors on one machine, it's just cost prohibitive to making them go out and buy consumer cell phones and strap them on. And it's also the form factor—it’s clumsy. It's not designed for that. So, new forms of low-cost sensors that have the proper form factor for attaching to machinery need to be developed now as the segment emerges.” Of course, you can do more with a smartphone than collect data. Besides sensor or equipment monitoring solutions, smartphones and tablets also have communication and information access applications that could aid maintenance workers in the field. “That's different,” said Andrea. “I think these field applications make a lot of sense. They can have a tablet device for larger screen. They can also use tools such as augmented reality headsets. So, I think that's going to also develop into more specialized equipment. “I think right now the smartphone and tablet make sense and work pretty well for a maintenance person using tools such as AI feedback, virtual manuals and instructions to service equipment, getting the most updated information in real-time. However, I think you'll see these devices being sold in the future in high-end and ruggedized versions.” Smartphones in Factories Consumer smartphones are communication devices that include several built-in sensors. When an application requires a communication device, they’re great. When the application requires a sensor device, the smartphone is being used for something other than what it was originally designed for, which may not be optimal. Stephan Biller’s cost-benefit argument is a good one: consumer devices are simple and easy to use, and they may be the best option for some customers. For those users looking for a more specialized sensor device, industrial microphones are an option. “It's exciting for Andrea as a microphone company and an OEM supplier to see acoustic monitoring as part of the sensors for IoT applications,” said Andrea. “Acoustic analytics is becoming a potential dominant feedback source for AI tools and for speech applications. So, I'm very excited about the growth of applications for microphones in industry.” ENGINEERING.COM
Security Surveillance Robot
Ensuring the safety of a protected area often involves periodically changing video surveillance positioning. The S5s solar powered autonomous mobile robot effectively meets this challenge. Along with a panoramic video surveillance system, this mobile robot comes equipped with solar panels that recharge its built-in batteries. The electric power generated by the solar panels is sufficient to power a video surveillance system round-the-clock and to transmit videos via WiFi. Solar Powered Surveillance System In areas with many sunny days, the solar panels can sufficiently replenish energy spent by the robot’s moving around. To ensure long autonomous operation without recharging from an external source, the S5s is equipped with an intelligent system that forecasts energy expenditure and the rate at which electric power is replenished. Depending on the intensity of solar radiation during the day, the system calculates the distance that the robot is able to cover without its batteries becoming depleted. The S5s’ solar panels are installed on a rotating mechanism allowing them to track the sun as it moves across the sky and thereby obtain the maximum power possible from the sun. The Solar Powered Security Surveillance Robot is produced in two variants. The solar panels in one variant are twice the size of those in the other variant, resulting in twice the electric power generated. The robot variant with a smaller square footage of panels is designed for video surveillance where positioning rarely changes or for work at low latitudes. Video Surveillance Robot in Agriculture Some areas need to be placed under video surveillance for a short time only, and therefore equipping them with stationary CCTV systems is not viable. Such challenges often arise in agricultural settings. For example, the fields might only need to be placed under video surveillance when the crops are reaching maturity. Surveillance of pastures is advantageous only while cattle are roaming around them. In addition, pastures, fields, and hills that are optimal for surveillance do not, in most cases, have a power supply. For the agricultural sector, mobile video surveillance using the Solar Powered Security Surveillance Robot is much more efficient than setting up stationary surveillance systems. Mobile robots do not require establishing expensive infrastructure, putting up poles, or laying down cable. Conveniently, robot delivery is followed by setting up position specifications to include operational shift times. Additionally, the robots equipped with solar panels will properly perform their functions without any human intervention, while periodic automated robot relocation will create additional difficulties for potential intruders. Farm and Ranch Security Solutions Videos captured from a remotely located area on a ranch or farm can be useful for incident investigations. The security robots designed for agricultural applications have a video archiving mode, allowing the user to access records when needed without having to constantly monitor camera images. The built-in DVR specifications provide for storing video archive from all the cameras for up to a month. The solar tracking system installed in the mobile robots ensures full autonomy, allowing for prolonged use on a farm or ranch. The solar powered robot cannot constantly patrol a farm or ranch, but it is capable of stationary video surveillance without interruptions occurring from charging batteries, unlike robots that can only be charged from stationary chargers. The Solar Powered Security Surveillance Robot does not waste time moving to an external charger and spending several more hours on charging; it carries out video surveillance without interruption. Wireless Video Surveillance The autonomous security robot is equipped with a panoramic video surveillance system consisting of six cameras for all-round observation and a PTZ camera to track motion at a large distance. The images from all cameras are transmitted over WiFi to a Central Monitoring Station or a security officer’s laptop. The video surveillance system has a built-in DVR with a motion-detection feature. In automatic mode, the video surveillance system uses a 360-degree camera to look for sources of movement. In manual mode, the robot’s operators can control the camera at their own discretion. The security patrol robot performs remote video surveillance using WiFi wireless data transfer technology. When using the built-in omnidirectional antennae, the data transfer distance between the robots and the base station may reach up to more than half a mile. To transmit video at a distance of several miles, it is necessary to use a directional antenna on the receiving side in the Central Monitor Station. In the presence of obstacles between the robot and the monitor station, such as buildings or heavy vehicles, using an additional robot to relay the signal is feasible. Conditions for using the security surveillance robot entail equipping it with high-capacity batteries. Such batteries are considerably heavy, which makes it inefficient to use this type of robot for video surveillance where optimum observation positions change frequently. Our security patrol robot with its lightweight, high-capacity batteries was created to meet the challenges associated with patrolling restricted areas, as it moves along its patrol route while consuming less energy. Another security guard robot is equipped with a long-range acoustic device to physically prevent intrusion into a secured premise. This type of non-lethal weapon is capable of creating unbearable conditions for those who are trying to commit unlawful acts. SMP ROBOTICS
The Future of Elder Care is Service Robots
With massive improvements in healthcare and lifestyle in the last century, people are living longer. While longevity is an important achievement of modern-day, it does present challenges in terms of caring for an increasingly elderly population. The issue of elder care is one of supply and demand. As the elder population increases in numbers, the number of caregivers is not correspondingly increasing. Japan predicts a shortage of 1 million caregivers by the year 2025. And the United States predicts that the percentage of people aged 65 and older is expected to increase to roughly 26% of the population by 2050. The relative lack of people able to care for the elderly is what keeps the costs of elderly care so high and creates a burden on family and caregivers. One solution to this supply and demand issue is the development and adoption of elder care robots. The Role of Robots in Elderly Care Using medical robots for elderly care will vastly reduce the current astronomical cost of elderly care. Additionally, it will pick up the slack in terms of the number of caregivers available as the ratio of elderly to nonelderly people shifts. Medical robots are a growing industry. According to the International Federation of Robotics World Robotics 2018 Service Robots report, medical robot sales increased 73% in 2017 over 2016, accounting for 2.7% of all professional service robot sales. There are numerous ways that medical robotics can help the elderly: *Robots can perform small tasks like fetching food and water. *Some elder care robots handle social and emotional needs by providing entertainment through games, helping remind them of events and appointments, and providing social engagement. *Other eldercare robots take a more direct, muscular approach and use powerful hydraulics to help provide mobility and transportation support to seniors. Robots and Dementia Care Given the large number of people who either have dementia or care for somebody with dementia, the need for robotic support for these caregivers is critical. One specific application of robotics to dementia care is in the treatment of a phenomenon called “sundowners syndrome,” a poorly understood issue in which dementia patients quickly become more agitated and anxious as late afternoon transitions to evening. Pet-style robots can help mitigate the effects of sundowner’s syndrome, as well as provide generally-improved mood to patients suffering from dementia. As medical robotics technology continues to grow and develop, the applications of robots in homes and senior care facilities to improve the quality of life for seniors and their caregivers will only continue to expand. RIA
Covariant Uses Simple Robot and Gigantic Neural Net to Automate Warehouse Picking
In 2017, the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and OpenAI created Embodied Intelligence to address one of the challenges of robotics: teaching robots what to pick and how to grasp it outside of structured parameters. Two years later, the company has renamed itself Covariant and has seen its system reliably work in a German warehouse for four months. “From the very beginning, our vision was to ultimately work on very general robotic manipulation tasks,” said Pieter Abbeel, cofounder of Covariant. “The way automation’s going to expand is going to be robots that are capable of seeing what’s around them, adapting to what’s around them and learning things on the fly.” The company spent nearly a year speaking with various companies in different sectors about how smarter robots could impact their businesses. It quickly became clear that manufacturing and logistics were in high demand, especially enhanced automation for tasks that typically require human workers such as picking. The main hurdle has been the limitations of robotic pickers to pick only specific parts or that shifting to robotics requires a costly investment and that it is nearly impossible to train the robots on every individual part at a plant. Covariant’s solution uses simple hardware—including a standard industrial arm, suction gripper and 2D camera system—but combines it with a massive neural network. “We can’t have specialized networks,” Abbeel explained. “It has to be a single network able to handle any kind of SKU, any kind of picking station. In terms of being able to understand what’s happening and what’s the right thing to do, that’s all unified. We call it Covariant Brain, and it’s obviously not a human brain, but it’s the same notion that a single neural network can do it all.” The key component of Covariant’s success has been its approach in using artificial intelligence (AI). Unlike traditional methods where robots are taught a specific task, Covariant’s robots learn general abilities. The robots’ ability to master general skills, such as 3D perception, real-time motion planning and an object’s physical affordances, makes it easier for them to adapt to different tasks by breaking them down to determine the steps required to complete the task. “Our system generalizes to items it’s never seen before. Being able to look at a scene and understand how to interact with individual items in a tote, including items it’s never seen before—humans can do this, and that’s essentially generalized intelligence,” Abbeel said. “This generalized understanding of what’s in a bin is really key to success. That’s the difference between a traditional system where you would catalog everything ahead of time and try to recognize everything in the catalog, versus fast-moving warehouses where you have many SKUs and they’re always changing.” Like with any new technology, success and failure rates are vital. In the four months the system has been in use at the German plant, the company said its robot has gone from being able to pick around 15 percent to 95 percent of its product range. The robot has learned to pick and sort more than 10,000 items with more than 99 percent accuracy. ENGINEERING.COM
3D Printing To The Rescue: Innovation During Crisis By Automotive Companies
In his blog series, Aswin Mannepalli highlighted how automotive companies have been protecting their employees, financially guarding their companies, and using their manufacturing expertise and partnering to help save lives. In this blog, I want to dive down into the inspiring and innovative stories of automotive companies using additive manufacturing (3D printing) to help address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Benefits of 3D printing That 3D printing has helped companies respond to the shortage of PPE during this crisis has not been a big surprise. 3D printing has been gaining momentum throughout the automotive industry for some time, helping those industries streamline their supply chains and reduce inventory, especially spare parts. It makes sense that when parts are produced onsite, by eliminating waiting for them to be manufactured and shipped it reduces the time for repair without increasing inventory. This means significant cost savings and reduces the capital tied up in inventory. 3D printing has also helped companies reduce the cost of prototyping, as it becomes both feasible and cost-effective to produce more complex components in a very short time frame. In today’s ever-changing world, reducing the time from concept to prototype to production is key, and this crisis has highlighted that fact. From a sustainability perspective, 3D printing also reduces waste in manufacturing; unlike milling from a block, only the material needed is “added” or used. Another positive of 3D is that open source files created using computer-aided design (CAD) tools can be shared widely and produced using 3D printers available around the world. How 3D printing is helping during the crisis All these advantages of 3D printing mean that this innovative technology is ideally situated to help during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are some great stories of automotive companies using their deep history of innovation, collaboration, and technological expertise in design, manufacturing, and 3D printing to help.In the United Kingdom, Jaguar Land Rover is collaborating with the UK’s National Health Service to design and produce a reusable visor in its prototype build operation and 3D printing facilities that is validated and approved for use. The company also plans to make the open CAD design files available to other additive manufacturers so that more visors can be printed. Lamborghini’s production plants in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, an area that is severely impacted by coronavirus, collaborated with the University of Bologna to 3D print protective medical shields that are approved for medical use. And more recently, the company announced support for the Siare Engineering Internation Group to create a breathing simulator that can evaluate a ventilator’s performance. In just two weeks, a simulator was designed, produced, and validated using 3D printing. Skoda, a Volkswagen Group brand, is also using its in-house 3D printing equipment to produce reusable respirators in collaboration with the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics at the Czech Technical University. The respirator houses a replaceable filter, so the mask part can be reused and sterilized. This is another case where the design has been made available for free. Volkswagen is also collaborating with Airbus and the “Mobility goes additive” 3D printing network to produce face shield holders using its 3D printing facilities in Europe. In the United States, Ford is helping address the crisis in several ways. One is by using its in-house 3D printing capacity to produce components for PPE, including face shields. Simultaneously, it is collaborating with GE and 3M to help scale up production capabilities for medical equipment and necessary supplies. Looking forward As we move out of this crisis, what role will 3D printing take? This unprecedented supply chain disruption rolled across the globe and severally impacted manufacturers everywhere. But uncertain and fluctuating supply and demand are set to continue throughout the recovery, which could last many months and will still include transportation delays and border closures. Manufacturers will need to think through their supply chain and manufacturing processes for product components. It could be a good time for them to reassess designs for some components, potentially rethinking or redesigning existing parts to use additive manufacturing. In addition, the need for personalization and the ability to manufacture single lot sizes might be more important than ever, as demand could be sporadic as it rebuilds. Smaller lot sizes could be another area where there is more potential to use 3D printing to provide personalization within the manufacturing processes. The role of 3D printing in the global supply chain will continue to evolve and expand after this crisis is over. DIGITALIST
A Crack Sensor for Assessing Drug Toxicity
Pharmaceuticals is a big business globally, although there are pockets of the world where more profit is made than others. Economics aside, how a drug interacts within its surroundings is a vital consideration for many modern-day therapies and pharmaceuticals. Despite all the research out there, there is still a need to find more effective methods of determining what effects different drugs have on the heart of a patient; but achieving this is not as easy as other organs. Over the years, scientists from both academic and industrial sectors have come up with a number of ways to assess drug toxicity on the heart. The main, and most promising, way is by analysing how the contractile force of cardiomyocytes – that is, the cells involved with muscular contraction in the heart – changes in the presence of a drug. Many different biosensing platforms have been trialled, with many more being conceived at a fundamental level. One platform which has emerged at the beginning of this year is a specialist crack sensor which uses a cantilever arm to directly measure the contractile force of the cardiomyocytes. Concept of the highly durable crack sensor working in culture media. What are Crack Sensors used for? Crack sensors are not often seen in the medical space, although there have been some developments in the last few years into different strain-based sensors for biological applications. Crack sensors are traditionally found in the construction, civil engineering and aerospace industries to detect structural movement, but like anything, applications expand. Regardless of the application, crack sensors are a type of displacement sensor which measures positional changes of the subject it is measuring. While different types often have slightly different working mechanisms, the general principles remain the same. Development of a New Crack Sensor The sensor which has been developed by Dong-Wong Lee et al is a combination of a cantilever and a crack sensor. The researchers have taken silicone rubber and fabricated it into a geometry that enables a section to be loaded on top of a glass layer, while a small arm extension was left outside of the main part of the device. This extension is the cantilever, but the whole layer being made of the same material enables it to be responsive. The surface of the silicone was patterned with a platinum layer and gold electrodes were attached to the platinum to create a complete device. The cantilever had built-in ‘cracks’ that could expand and contract with an applied force. One of the key features of the sensor which enabled it to be used in a biological setting lay in its coating. The sensor (but not the cantilever) was coated with a thin layer of the polymer, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). Because the sensor was encapsulated within a ‘polymer shell’, the durability and usability was vastly improved (over non-coated prototypes), meaning that it can be used in harsh biological environments (such as cell culture mediums) for long time periods without becoming damaged. Working Principle of the Crack Sensor All sensors have different properties, and many are fabricated with the intended application in mind. The working principles of this sensor are quite specific, with patterned sections on the silicone surface being responsible for aligning the cells on top of the cantilever. When the cells induce a compressional force change, it causes the cracks within the rubber and platinum on the cantilever to open. These changes are detected because gold electrodes are coupled to the platinum material, linking it to an external circuit involving transistors. The sensor’s resistance is changed as a function of the induced strain from the cells, enabling any changes to be recorded. The sensor was found to have a gauge factor of 9 x 106 at 1% strain. Applying the Crack Sensor to Drug Trials This sensor is not a device which will be in direct contact with the heart, nor will it be directly used on a patient themselves. That would be too invasive for a cytotoxicity study. This sensor is a device that could be used at the pre-clinical and clinical stage trials of drug trials when scientists are trying to work out whether the drugs will induce any negative effects to a patient, before the drug becomes approved. Instead of direct patient use, it is a device that will be submerged into cell culture mediums which contain the cardiomyocyte heart cells, and the sensor can be used in these in-vitro studies to determine the effects that a drug is likely to have on the heart before it is used commercially. When trialling the sensor, they tested its efficiency and workability by testing the sensor on cardiomyocyte cells in the presence of verapamil, quinidine, and isoproterenol – all of which are known cardiovascular drugs – to stimulate a response. The sensor has shown promise with it being able to measure the force of cardiomyocytes for 26 days and in this time measured the equivalent of at least 5 million heartbeats across both aqueous and cultured mediums. Overall, for measuring the drug-induced force on cardiomyocytes, the sensor has a high sensitivity, a good reproducibility, and long-term stability, but a bit more work is needed on the cantilever design to ensure that cells are always present on it during analysis. Wider Implications While there are specific results within this study on some drugs, should research into these types of sensor continue, the wider implication is that they could become an effective pre-clinical and clinical analysis tool for determining how different drugs could affect the heart. This could help to produce more accurate clinical results when applying for drug approvals; and it also offers a way of seeing if any changes need to be made at the initial drug development stage to make the drug safer. On the other hand, such tools could offer a way of better characterising already established drugs to obtain more in-depth analyses regarding any potential side-effects (or at least to see if the results coincide with the current optical methods used to provide more conclusive evidence). While it is all purely academic at this stage, the potential for commercial development is there. ELECTROPAGES
Can Hydrogen Metal Exist?
Hydrogen is abundant in the universe. It can be found - in one form or another - anywhere you care to point a telescope. Here on Earth, it can be found easily enough but not in its natural state. It is, rather inconveniently, bonded to other things. Like oxygen. This makes it expensive to produce but no less useful. Indeed it has been speculated that hydrogen may hold the key to a future of clean, sustainable energy. Although compared to the fusion it’s difficult to see how. Regardless, one such use for hydrogen has long been theorised but never successfully tested. Synthesising hydrogen metal. Much theorised, hydrogen metal is believed to be the scientific equivalent of panacea. With supposed limitless applications, the ability to produce hydrogen metal in meaningful amounts could change the world. If it exists it could open up entirely new avenues in electronics, science, space travel, energy production and more. But the key word there is if. What is Hydrogen Metal? According to much of the scientific community, hydrogen metal is hypothetical. Many theorise that at the heart of gas giants, like Jupiter, the laws of physics dramatically alter. The extreme pressure at the heart of these planets causes hydrogen gas to compress to the point of becoming metal. The problem is that it has been - up to now - almost impossible to prove. Largely because simulating the pressures at the heart of a gas giant is very difficult. Not least of all because we can only make an educated guess as to what those conditions are like. Much in the same way that we think Jupiter has a rocky core, we can’t yet be certain. However, according to the rules of quantum confinement hydrogen metal should exist. Specifically, if electrons are restricted enough in motion, the band gap closure will take place. For the last 80 years, attempts have been made to create hydrogen metal. At present, the only way to compress hydrogen atoms is with something called a diamond anvil. Which sounds like something straight out of a comic book. Diamond anvils can compress small, sub-millimetre, sized materials to extreme pressures. Usually around 100-200 gigapascals but it can achieve pressures of up to 770 gigapascals. Schematics of the core of a diamond anvil cell. Credit: Diamond Anvil Cell - Tobias1984 (via Wikipedia) Or 7.7 million atmospheres. Or 7.7 millions times that of our own atmosphere. A team of French scientists are now claiming to have successfully created this much sought after substance. They believe they have observed phase transition at close to 425 gigapascals of pressure. Although the news has been met with some scepticism, many believe the breakthrough is genuine. The team from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission believe that the breakthrough was made possible by the shape of the diamonds used in the anvil. By using toroid-shaped diamonds they were able to push the anvil past 400 gigapascals. Using a spectrometer of their own design the team were able to determine that at 425 gigapascals the hydrogen was absorbing all the infrared radiation. This indicated that they had successfully closed the band gap, proving hydrogen metal could and did exist. What can Hydrogen Metal be used for? According to the experts, hydrogen metal has near limitless applications. Fairly obviously, scientists can use the material to study what the conditions are like within a gas giant. Without the time, expense and hassle of building and launching a probe. It also opens the doors to high energy physics research. Something that hasn’t been possible up to now without a super collider. So it makes science cheaper too. Granted, synthesising hydrogen metal isn’t cheap but it’s cheaper than building super colliders under mountain ranges. A notable application is rocket fuel. Due to The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation, getting a rocket into space is both complicated and expensive. The equation works a little something like this: Because Earth’s gravity is quite significant, most of the rockets we launch into space are mostly carrying fuel. Therefore you need fuel to launch that fuel in addition to the weight of the craft. But then you need extra fuel to compensate for that fuel. Continue ad nauseam. Hydrogen metal rocket fuel would be four times more efficient than traditional fuel, correcting that equation. Also, because hydrogen is abundant in space, there’s nothing to suggest we couldn’t synthesise fuel literally on the fly. Rockets would become cheaper too as they could only need one stage, instead of two. They could also carry bigger payloads meaning more involved missions. But the really exciting thing is hydrogen metal serves as a superconductor at room temperature. It conducts electricity without resistance and is also meta-stable. This means it is able to retain solidity when it returns to normal pressure. More significantly than that, the fact that there is no resistance means there is no loss of power. As much as 15% of energy is lost through transmission so by replacing traditional wiring with hydrogen metal, power plants could power cities far more efficiently than they do now. Solar and nuclear power plants could be built in the remotest parts of the world without losing a watt of power. Plus, because balancing the power would be so much easier, the entire grid could be interconnected without a loss. All of which should - in theory - make energy prices lower. On a global scale, hydrogen metal could spark yet another leap forward in the electronics revolution. Due to the lack of electrical resistance, the metal can make computers more powerful. And supercomputers could become mind bogglingly fast. And that’s not even taking into account what it would mean for quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Having a highly stable superconductor would be incredibly useful. For all it’s many applications, hydrogen metal requires significant testing to determine whether or not it will decay when brought back up to room temperature. If so then the next step is to figure out how to stop that from happening. Once stable the next challenge is how do we produce it in quantities bigger than a millimetre? And how to do that cost effectively. If this can’t be achieved then the innovation will be consigned to the scrap heap of history along with so many other promising ideas. ELECTROPAGES
Factors That Must Be Considered in The Pipe
Here there are quite a lot of factors worth being noted, such as geometrical, material features of formed tubes and the quality of the finished parts related to the density allocation or dimension accuracy. These features are crucial for the successful process, and each of the mentioned components needs processing in various phases. Thus, the major factors being considered in the tube hydroforming system are as the follows: Tube and deformability Frictional lubrication Pre-form and pre-bend operations Equipment Cycling duration and productiveness. The following article relates to tubes, their deformability, pre-form, pre-bend operations as well as equipment. Pipe and Deformability Feed pipe quality determines the success of the hydroforming technology. Stuff characteristics (material contexture, welding types, yielding force, the maximum extensile strength, extension and flow properties) and the tube dimensional features (diameters and thicknesses) should be specified in accordance with the demands of the finished parts and should be retained and monitored carefully while manufacturing. To gain realistic data on the tube material characteristics a testing operation similar to the hydroforming technology can be realized. Here is a draft extension test sample conducted at the State University of Ohio. Fig.. 1In the test the tube tips are locked and the tube becomes free to expand through the hydraulic inner pressure. In Fig. 2 some types of 304 stainless steels are bulged at various levels of pressure. (Figure 2) In the given sample a piece of SAE 1008 steel is exposed to formation under the pressure of 2.654 PSI (18.3 MPa). The levels of pressures and the utmost bulging diameters are calculated under various grades of pressure in case of a certain pipe and thickness. The following information along with the suitable software foresees the tube material flowing strength as an equation and a function, which is possible to use in the finite element method (FEM) process to imitate a pipe hydroforming operation. Pre-form and Pre-bend Operations The hydroformed start pipe shape may be either direct, or pre-bent and pre-shaped. It depends on how complex the finished part should be. (Fig.3) In certain cases some parts of the piece get pressed while the mold closes and standardized to the mold surface complete dimension. Fig. 3 To gain accomplished plastic deformity all along the piece and meanwhile reduce the back spring, the pipe perimeter has to be a bit less compared to the mold geometries in every charter. The tension in the curved pipe has an effect on the pipe deformity and dilution in the hydroform process, as well as defines the allocation of thickness and force along the finished piece (this should be noted while designing to ensure the required features for the formed parts prior to assembling). Manufacturers should refrain from exceeding wrinkles in the pressed part of curve pipes not to achieve hydroformed parts with no wrinkles Manufacturers should as well consider the pipe dilution, occurring when it gets extended, to discover whether the pipe is of proper thickness to meet the needs of hydroformed parts. One more thing, orienting the welded part of the tube is essential to make it appear in a neutral area and prevent it from being affected by pressure during deforming procedure. Equipment The hydraulic press key function lays in opening and closing the mold to provide clamp loading in the formation process, eliminating elastic deformity as well as mold disconnection. Axle strength cylinders and pressure amplifiers also take an immediate part in the following process. Nowadays a hydraulic press is used to ensure larger clamp force in this process. Yet, the hydraulic press commonly requires larger capital investments. Certain research work is currently being carried out to come up with equipment of lower costs, which will open and close molds through several stages, meanwhile providing sufficient clamp loads. One design bears a top mold ram driving half upwards and downwards through a little cylinder. When the ram comes to the base central location and the mold closes, the both distance blocks get pushed amongst the ram and pressing frame through the pneumatic or hydraulic cylinder. Next, some short-stroke cylinders push the gaskets and the bottom half part of the mold eliminating the clearance between mold halves. Such design makes it possible to gate fast, however, demands less force for closing, clamping or opening the molds. Conclusion An innovative process has been developed over the last 5 years by researching hydraulic formation of tube fittings in industries, which is suitable for mass production. Still, in comparison with the traditional stamp operation, pipe hydroformation appears to be newer and there is some lack of ample knowledge on tooling as well as designing the process. The full comprehension of computer software will support engineers in developing dependable controlling models for axle feed, inner pressures and timing to contribute deformability of hydroforming stuff. As tube hydroformation involves considerably higher pressures, testing with soft molds is impossible. Molds have to be out of steel possessing some hardness as well as coat specifications, and modification requires high costs. The less the trial and error process, the more is the pipe hydroformation potential. It is accessible through computer modelling, which supports to gain more detailed and clear insight of interactions among each process parameter. Any prediction (thickness allocation, inner pressure, clamp forces, frictions, rebounding) offered by computer modeling helps to identify any possible form defect or crack in the design process and enables designers to better or correct mold designs prior to mold hardening. HARSLE BLOG
Formlabs Client Demonstrates Immense Production Flexibility Using 3D Printing
One (or more) of Formlabs’ clients has been saved from catastrophe during the COVID-19 crisis in a way that demonstrates the incredible power of 3D printing. Formlabs, as long-time readers will recall, is one of the leading manufacturers of desktop SLA 3D printers, using resin to print high-resolution objects on demand. One of the largest client groups for Formlabs is the dental industry, who use their equipment and materials to produce casting, dentures, surgical guides, aligner models and many more functional appliances. 3D printing is particularly useful for these products as they need to be personalized, and such one-off production is easily handled by a 3D printer. Dental is one of the prime industries being addressed by 3D printing, simply because it is incredibly efficient. Several companies, including Formlabs, have built a strong focus on the dental industry, providing different types of support services. COVID-19 Effect On Dental Industry The use of 3D printing in dental applications has been growing strongly, but in spring 2020, something happened. That was COVID-19, and its effect on the dental industry has been near catastrophic. The problem is that dental procedures, even routine procedures, are highly likely to generate aerosols containing the virus from affected patients. As a result, dental offices have been shut down almost everywhere. In our area at least, emergency dental services have been available. But I asked a dentist friend to explain how this works and they told me they really aren’t doing services — they’re merely prescribing painkillers and few actual dental services are being performed. That pattern is likely being echoed in dental offices across the globe, and this means there is a dramatic, if not total, stoppage of dental appliance production. That means there’s little dental 3D printing taking place, and consequently fewer dental 3D printers being purchased. Not good news for dental labs nor Formlabs. Formlabs COVID-19 Reaction Formlabs reacted to the crisis in a very innovative and positive way. They sought to bring their skills and resources to address the crisis and they shifted focus. They transformed their array of Formlabs 3D printers towards COVID-19 production. They selected a design for a 3D printable test swab, which is required in massive volumes. Formlabs was able to adapt their internal printer farm to produce almost 1M test swabs each week in record time. Their project, among several others in the 3D print community, proved to the world that 3D printing technology is indeed able to handle very short-term production to notable unit levels. This is something that is now known by the public and should change the fate of 3D printing technology forever. Dental Industry COVID-19 Reaction To those operating dental laboratories the crisis is devastating, as they’ve had to endure almost total shutdowns. However, something rather interesting occurred to at least one Formlabs client. ROE Dental Lab took a cue from Formlabs’ lead and performed a similar transformation. Formlabs explains: “ROE Dental has now retooled to manufacture PPE and medical supplies, including 15,000 nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs a day. These swabs are vital for collecting samples for COVID-19 testing. The lab has already managed to bring back 175 staff and have been personally thanked by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for supporting the fight against the pandemic.” While the result for ROE Dental has clearly been positive, there’s something incredibly powerful going on here. A company that happened to operate a farm of 3D printers was literally able to completely repurpose their production in only a couple of weeks! This would be entirely impossible for traditional manufacturing operations, which in some cases have still not caught up to COVID-19 required levels. The implication is that anyone using 3D printers at scale has a powerful ability to shift gears and adapt at a rate never seen before in industry. 3D printers can not only provide fast turnaround, but they can also provide a massive degree of flexibility and risk mitigation for a company choosing to use them. FABBALOO
MIT Engineers Developed the First 3D Printed Brain Implants
Recent developments in 3D Printing have given ground to a wide range of ground-breaking processes that are expected to widen the scope of possibilities in several industries. In this regard, Conductive 3D Printing, a technique that allows printing complex electronic features with electronically conductive materials, is poised to advance IoT and robotics. But what other fields can benefit from this technology? Professor of mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering Xuanhe Zhao, from MIT, has made the first hydrogel-based conductive neural implants using 3D Printing. These flexible polymer electrodes could offer viable alternatives to metal-based implants for alleviating symptoms of various diseases such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy. The challenges of brain implants The most widespread types of implants used are electrodes based on metal and other hard materials. But, it doesn’t always go smoothly since some of them are designed to be embedded for long periods of time to monitor the brain’s activity. This organ is indeed fragile, and the immune system is easily triggered by foreign bodies entering the brain. Hence, placing neurological devices can cause inflammation from the glial cells the body generates. These scarring tissues wrap around the devices and may in turn completely deny them from working. Other undesired effects can also be encountered as the brain tissue tends to move within the skull, sometimes causing big implants to slip from the cells they target. These issues have led scientists to focus on less cumbersome systems, designed with brain-friendly materials. 3D Printed neurological devices In their search for a material best suited to the brain’s characteristics, Xuanhe Zhao’s team established that the bioelectronic and flexible properties of conducting polymers made them a top-notch solution for brain implants. As also stated in their research paper, the cost and resolution limitations of the mainstream processes these polymers rely on prompted the team to look for alternatives. In that sense, 3D Printing turned out to be a fit thanks to its ability to fabricate flexible micro-scale structures. In order to adapt conductive polymers to 3D printable materials, the research team transformed the liquid polymer solutions into a viscous ink. To achieve this process, the polymers were frozen to remove water so that only nanofibres would remain. After being dried, these elements that allow electrical charges to flow were mixed with an organic solvent. Once a suitable concentration balance was found, the team obtained an electronically conductive hydrogel suitable for 3D printers. The research team then demonstrated the success of this polymer by implanting an electrode they made in the brain of a mouse. Credit: MIT Other than avoiding the build-up of scar tissue, using hydrogel-based implants is expected to achieve better results than standard ones. Unlike metal implants, polymeric ones can carry electric signals in the form of ions, similar to the way neurons do. On the other hand, making neurological devices using 3D printing will be far more cost and time-efficient than metal implants, which involve costly processes and materials. SCULPTEO
The Most Promising 3D Printed Organs Projects (2020 Update)
We talk a lot about medical applications of 3D printing, but how far are we actually? The year 2020 is getting closer and it seems like the medical world will be shaken up with tests and research on 3D printed human organs. Which projects are the most promising? Let’s find out! Medical 3D printing: how does it work? Additive Manufacturing applied in the medical field is called bio 3D printing or simply bioprinting technology. Instead of plastics or metal, it uses natural materials, hence the ‘’bio’’ part in naming. Biomaterials or engineering tissue is produced layer by layer in order to create a 3-dimensional model. There are different methods of manufacturing the layers, some use nozzles, like most popular 3D printing technology FDM, other use liquid and solidify it with UV light, just the way resin 3D printing works. What are the benefits of 3D printed organs? Additive Manufacturing is especially interesting for medical applications. First of all, it gives bioengineers absolutely new materials. Now they can literally build with natural materials, something impossible to achieve with any other technology. Many impressive researches led to labgrown organs, but thanks to 3D printing, we will be able to actually design a perfect replica of the patient’s organ and then manufacture it! Using biomaterials, especially from the patient himself, means no more risk of rejecting the 3D printed human organs. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Using the patient’s tissue means the DNA of new organ would perfectly match the patients, therefore the rejection risk would be totally eliminated. Of course, we’re also facing another problem: organ shortage. Bioprinting technology could also fix this issue. The future of medicine and 3D printing techniques is no more waiting for transplant lists and organ donations wouldn’t be needed at all! It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Another benefit of 3D printing is mobility. In the future, every hospital will hopefully own 3D printers, so new organs could be produced locally. But not only that, these 3D printers should be small enough to transport into rural areas or places affected by natural disasters. There, new 3D printed organs and structures, such as bones or skin could be made without wasting precious time on transporting the patients. Additionally, bio 3D printed structures can be used for drug and cosmetic testing, as they can react like humans. Personalized medicine is another benefit of medical 3D printing, this would mean no more risky treatments such as chemo for cancer patients. The medicine could be tested on 3D printed organs build-out of the patient’s tissue. Last but not least, Additive Manufacturing is also widely used for educational purposes and to produce models before the surgery. This allows the future and current doctors to prepare themselves for work with real patients. Emerging 3D printed organs projects The biggest challenge of 3D printing organs: vessels What keeps the organs working are blood vessels and they are the hardest to reproduce. Blood vessels are a complicated network and complex, at the same time need to be flexible to pump the blood and keep their tissue functions. The issue of 3D printing a functional vascular network is called vascularization. A team from Rice University in Texas might have found the solutions with.. Food dye! The researchers developed a 3D bioprinter using Projection Stereolithography technology. An HD image of a sliced into layers organ is projected onto a soft hydrogel which solidifies thanks to blue light. The key here is to replicate details of the vascular network. Scientists found the answer in food coloring: yellow no. 5. It is non-toxic, as it’s used in the food industry, and can absorb blue light allowing the hydrogel to solidify at very thin layers. Thanks to this innovative solution the researchers were able to 3D print a small lung! Will we 3D print hearts soon? Recent developments have been very promising for 3D printing hearts in the near future. One of them includes building support for delicate biomaterial. The scientist from Carnegie Mellon University came up with FRESH technology: Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels. This method allows replicating complex structures that resemble components of a human heart, valves, and small blood vessels. Thanks to the support, the 3D printed human organ is stable during the printing process and can achieve desired properties, which is crucial. Another project, this time from the Tel Aviv University is not about the support system, but about the 3D printed heart itself. More precisely, the biomaterial used for the 3D printing process. The researchers were actually able to manufacture a small heart with chambers, blood vessels, and human cells! Professor Tal Dvir points out: ‘People have managed to 3D print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels. Our results demonstrate the potential of our approach for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.” Bionic pancreas: the future arrived Earlier this year Foundation of Research and Science Development in Poland published their cutting-edge technology to combine pancreatic islets from animals with bio-inks to support the 3D printed cells in order to produce a 3D printed bionic pancreas. This is especially important for people with diabetes. Dr. Wszoła, the leading scientist of this project commented ‘’The goal of the project is to create a functional pancreas. One that can be transplanted without major problems.’’ He also added that ‘’No one has yet founded a solid organ with full vascularisation”. Thanks to a new approach to 3D printing the scientists were able to produce tiny vessels. And although the pancreas wouldn’t be able to fully substitute the organ yet, this revolutionary development proves that we’re just a few steps away from fully functional 3D printed human organs. Liver: is 3D printing the solution? Spoiler alert: YES! And it might happen as soon as next year! Unbelievable? It is true though, Organovo, bio 3D printing company from San Diego already tested their functional tissue of 3D printed liver patches in mice which were very promising. The test proved that the 3D printed human liver tissue was stable and performed well tissue functions until the patient was able to receive liver transplants. It might not be a 3D printed liver yet, but it can extend a patient’s time until an organ is available, which is already a huge success. Human trials are planned for 2020. Until then, this tissue engineering development is also used for drug testing and research. Additive Manufacturing for better vision: the 3D printed cornea 3D printed organs can’t surprise us enough. One that might not come to our mind at first is cornea, the first protective layer on our eyes which light comes through. Many people suffer from blindness because of a disease or scratching of the cornea. This is the filed of study for a team of scientists from Newcastle University. They had two main challenges to overcome: the shape of the cornea and the biomaterial needed to produce one. After studying the eyes of volunteers with a special camera, they developed a curved surface that supports the bio-ink. Biomaterial used to 3D print a lens was a mixture of stem cells, alginate and collaged. Thanks to bioprinting technology they were able to produce a brand new cornea in less than 10 minutes! However, at the moment this project is at the proof of concept stage, thanks to 3D printing the researchers were already able to produce a 3D printed human organ that can potentially revolutionize the medical industry. And what about bones? We talked a lot about soft tissue and hydrogels. But not everything in our body needs to be so flexible. Bones must be strong to support us. A team from the University of Glasgow took on that project using 3D printing.They developed a new technology called nanokicking. It allowed them to produce 3D samples of mineralized bone structure. First steam cells were taken from human donors, then, thanks to Additive Manufacturing, the human cells were turned into 3D bone grafts! This innovative solution was used for the first time in history. This technology was already tested. A dog, who was facing a leg amputation, was given new 3D printed bones. The next step is to prepare the 3D printed grafts for implantation, possibly already in 2020. As you can see the upcoming year of 2020 might be the year of 3D printed human organs revolution. Additive Manufacturing truly has the power to change the face of the medical industry. Starting with educational models, to 3D printed vessels, hearts, livers or bones, doctors and scientists are using a new approach to 3D printing to save millions of lives. SCULPTEO
Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel: Available for Your Next 3D Printing Projects!
Ultrafuse Stainless Steel 316L is now available on our online 3D printing service for your next 3D printing orders! If you are looking for a cost-effective metal manufacturing solution to create your metal projects, this BASF Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel might be the perfect choice. What is Ultrafuse 316L? Ultrafuse Stainless Steel 316L is a new industrial-grade metal filament for professional uses. Created by BASF, this new Ultrafuse 316L filament is composed of 90% stainless steel and 10% polymer binder. This material is 3D printed using Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM technology. Ultrafuse 316L is one of the most affordable materials for metal 3D printing. It also offers impressive mechanical properties and low cost of production. Why should you start using Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel?Metal 3D printing is becoming a really interesting metal production technique for various industries, such as automotive, aerospace, and many more. Why? Implementing metal 3D printing is actually offering new opportunities to companies in terms of design and flexibility. Metal parts are resistant, and materials such as Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel can be used for mechanical purposes, and for objects where toughness and resistance are required. One of the things limiting the adoption of metal 3D printing is often the price, but some affordable options are starting to be available, as we can see with the Ultrafuse 316L Stainless Steel. Ultrafuse 316L is especially interesting for demanding industries such as medical, automotive, or aerospace. What kind of parts can be printed using Ultrafuse 316L? It can be used for functional prototypes, mechanical parts, but also pipes, pumps, and valves for chemicals, gas, and oils. Additionally, you can also 3D print non-magnetizable parts or parts for tooling and mold inlays with near-surface cooling. Regarding the size of the parts you can print with this material, extensive testing and experience have shown that parts with a bounding box of 60 x 60 x 60 mm have the highest success rate and is suggested. The minimum wall thickness is 1 mm. What are the benefits of Ultrafuse 316L?The main benefit of Ultrafuse 316L is cost-effectiveness. It’s a great material to produce competitive, but fully functional end-parts. As the parts are 3D printed, you might also save lot of time over traditional manufacturing techniques, especially when it comes to low-volume production. 3D printing with Ultrafuse 316L will also give you new design freedom. That applies especially to making your parts lighter. How? Thanks to honeycomb structures, for example. With this filament, you can fill your objects with those structures or even hollow it resulting in less material usage which is cheaper and produces lighter parts. Another benefit of Ultrafuse 316L is its high corrosion resistance! If you are looking for a really resistant metal material, Ultrafuse 316L might perfectly fit your needs. Are you ready to give Ultrafuse 316L a try? Upload your 3D model on our online 3D printing service and get your instant quote for free. Do you have any other questions about this Ultrafuse 316L metal material? Don’t hesitate to contact our sales team, our experts are here to help make the most of 3D printing technology. SCULPTEO