Thirty years have passed since 3-D printers first appeared, but only recently have they hinted at a new era of manufacturing. The first working 3-D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. This early device, based on stereolithography, gave way to the first truly practical 3-D printing, or “3DP”, technology patented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993.
For nearly a century, electrophoretic deposition (EPD) has been used as a method of coating material by depositing particles of various substances onto the surfaces of various manufactured items. Since its earliest use, EPD has been used to deposit a wide range of materials onto surfaces. This process works well, but is limited. EPD can only deposit material across the entire surface and not in specific, predetermined locations, until now.
Inspired by the framework structure of bones and the shell structure of bees’ honeycombs, researchers in Germany have developed microstructured lightweight construction materials of extremely high stability. Although its density is below that of water, the material’s stability relative to its weight exceeds that of massive materials, such as high-performance steel or aluminum. It was created using 3-D laser writing.
For the past 100 years, the way your fridge preserved your food has been rooted in technology dating back to the mid-1800s, but that is about to change. GE researchers are developing a new magnetic refrigeration method that uses no refrigerants or compressors and is 20% more efficient than what is used today.
Researchers at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees.
An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s x-ray laser has revealed the first atomic-scale details of a new technique that could point the way to faster data storage in smartphones, laptops and other devices. Researchers used pulses of specially tuned light to change the magnetic properties of a material with potential for data storage.
Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, Univ. of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.
Using an inexpensive 3-D printer, biomedical engineers have developed a custom-fitted, implantable device with embedded sensors that could transform treatment and prediction of cardiac disorders. An international team has created a 3-D elastic membrane made of a soft, flexible, silicon material that is precisely shaped to match the heart’s epicardium, or the outer layer of the wall of the heart.
Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have developed a new approach toward sustainable manufacturing that begins on the factory floor and tries to encompass the totality of manufacturing issues, including economic, environmental and social impacts. This approach, they say, builds on previous approaches that considered various facets of sustainability in a more individual manner.
Photonic devices are typically built using customized methods that make them difficult and expensive to manufacture. But at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition next month, two new devices, a modulator and a tunable filter, are being presented that are not only as energy-efficient as some of the best devices around, but were built using standard CMOS process technology.
A team of researchers has demonstrated a new type of holographic memory device that could provide unprecedented data storage capacity and data processing capabilities in electronic devices. The new type of memory device uses spin waves, a collective oscillation of spins in magnetic materials, instead of the optical beams.
A new bioprinting method developed at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. creates intricately patterned 3-D tissue constructs with multiple types of cells and tiny blood vessels. The work represents a major step toward a longstanding goal of tissue engineers: creating human tissue constructs realistic enough to test drug safety and effectiveness.
The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years. For the Navy, it's not so much about the whiz-bang technology as it is about the economics of such armaments. Both costs pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out.
European scientists from both academia and industry have begun an ambitious new research project focused on an alternative approach to extend Moore's Law. The research project, coordinated IBM Research in Zurich and called COMPOSE³, is based on the use of new materials to replace today's silicon, and on taking an innovative design approach where transistors are stacked vertically, known as 3-D stacking.
Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, offers a compelling alternative to more traditional manufacturing approaches at NASA, where the need for highly customized spacecraft and instrument components is quite high. The agency has recently launched a number of formal programs to prototype new 3-D printed components, including rocket engine injectors, and 3-D printers for use in space.
Exposed on a vertical face, rock climbers rely on their instincts and experience just as much as their equipment for survival. Depending on the climb, an assortment of gear is used for a successful ascension to the top—carabineers, cams, harnesses, specialized climbing shoes. Different styles of footwear are used for finessing cracks, balancing on small toeholds or smearing sloping slabs, the choice depends on individual preference.
Local Motors Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed a new partnership to develop and deliver technology to produce the world’s first production 3-D printed vehicle. The CRADA between Local Motors and ORNL will explore making vehicle construction more efficient, including lower production time, costs and part count, coupled with higher standards of control, safety, aesthetics and mechanical flexibility.
A new catalytic converter developed in the U.K. could cut fuel consumption and manufacturing costs significantly. Tests suggest that the new prototype, which uses up to 80% less rare metal than a conventional converter, could reduce fuel consumption in a standard vehicle by up to 3%. Metals such as platinum now account for 60 to 70% of the cost of the component.
Soil scientists at Abertay Univ. are using 3-D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet. In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Prof.Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.
Superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) are incredibly sensitive magnetic flux sensors which have been limited in their applications because of thermal challenges at ultralow temperatures. Researchers in the U.K. have succeeded in overcoming this difficulty by introducing a new type of nanoscale SQUID based on optimized proximity effect bilayers.
Researchers have shown how to increase the efficiency of thin-film solar cells, a technology that could bring low-cost solar energy. The approach uses 3-D photonic crystals to absorb more sunlight than conventional thin-film cells. The synthetic crystals possess a structure called an inverse opal to make use of and enhance properties found in the gemstones to reflect, diffract and bend incoming sunlight.
Researchers in Texas have designed a micro-windmill that generates wind energy and may become an innovative solution to cell phone batteries constantly in need of recharging. A single grain of rice could hold about 10 of these tiny windmills, and hundreds of them could be embedded in a sleeve for a cell phone.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found an easy way to modify the molecular structure of a polymer commonly used in solar cells. Their modification can increase solar cell efficiency by more than 30%. Polymer-based solar cells have two domains, consisting of an electron acceptor and an electron donor material.
A team of researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has demonstrated a micro-sized robotic torsional muscle/motor made from vanadium dioxide that for its size is a thousand times more powerful than a human muscle. It is able to catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself over a distance five times its length within just 60 milliseconds.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have developed a new method for the active degradation of organic pollutants in solution by using swimming microengines. These tiny “engines” are made from platinum and iron and are highly efficient in removing organic pollutants from water using hydrogen peroxide.