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Engineering better machines and buildings by understanding mechanics of materials

May 6, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is working to fill gaps in the fundamental understanding of materials science through an ambitious long-term, multidisciplinary project called Predicting Performance Margins (PPM). Since 2010, PPM has been helping to identify how material variability affects performance margins for engineering components. The goal, says Sandia experts, is a science-based foundation for materials design and analysis.

World’s smallest magazine cover

April 25, 2014 1:47 pm | Videos | Comments

IBM scientists have developed a new tool inspired by hieroglyphics. The core of the technology is a tiny, heatable silicon tip with a sharp apex 100,000 times smaller than a sharpened pencil. Working like a 3-D printer it “chisels” away material by local evaporation. They have used this invention to make a magazine cover for National Geographic that is just 11 by 14 micrometers in size.

Cancer researchers to create live tumors with 3-D printer

April 25, 2014 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Using a mixture of cervical cancer cells and a hydrogel substance that resembles an ointment balm, Drexel Univ.’s Wei Sun can print out a tumor model that can be used for studying their growth and response to treatment. This living model will give cancer researchers a better look at how tumors behave and a more accurate measure of how they respond to treatment.

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Nanoreporters tell ‘sour’ oil from ‘sweet’

April 21, 2014 8:38 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour, R&D’s 2013 Scientist of the Year.  

3-D Printing: A New Manufacturing Staple

April 15, 2014 9:24 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Stratasys, Ltd. | Articles | Comments

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.

Scale model World War II craft takes flight with fuel from the sea

April 7, 2014 6:06 pm | News | Comments

Navy researchers have recently demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled P-51 fighter replica fueled by a new gas-to-liquid process that uses seawater as carbon feedstock. The fuel is made using an innovative and proprietary electrolytic cation exchange module that separates gases from water at 92% efficiency. Catalysis converts the gases to liquid hydrocarbons.

Wire inspection: As fast as a world-class sprinter

April 7, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Pipes, rails, and wires are typically manufactured at high speeds, which makes in-line inspection efforts difficult. This is because micro-defects take time to detect, even with machine vision technology. A new optical inspection system developed in Germany reviews the workpieces at 10 m per second, as fast as an Olympic sprinter, and finds defects in real time that can be as narrow as a single hair.

Big data keeps complex production running smoothly

March 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Industrial plants must function effectively. Remedying production downtimes and breakdowns is an expensive and time consuming business. That is why companies collect data to evaluate how their facilities are doing. At the Hannover Messe Digital Factory, held April 7-11, researchers in Germany will show how operators can analyze these huge amounts of data and use it as an early warning system when problems threaten.

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Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.

Algae may be a potential source of biofuels, biochemicals even in cool climate

March 20, 2014 12:22 pm | News | Comments

They need warmth to grow, but algae don’t necessarily need light. Experts in Finland, where warmer weather is rare, say it makes sense to link algae cultivation to industrial operations where residual heat is available to heat algae cultivation ponds or reactors. Recent research there shows that such an approach could be profitably implemented.

Amsterdam canal house built with 3-D printer

March 14, 2014 9:58 am | by Toby Sterling, Associated Press | News | Comments

Hundreds of years after wealthy merchants began building the tall, narrow brick houses that have come to define Amsterdam's skyline, Dutch architects are updating the process for the 21st century: fabricating pieces of a canal house out of plastic with a giant 3-D printer and slotting them together like oversized Lego blocks.

GE introduces a new technology for home refrigeration

March 14, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

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.

Imec achieves record 8.4% efficiency in fullerene-free organic solar cells

March 11, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Organic solar cells are a compelling thin-film photovoltaic technology in part because of their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Belgium-based chipmaker imec has set a new conversion efficiency record of 8.4% for this type of cell by developing fullerene-free acceptor materials and a new multilayer semiconductor device structure.

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Programmable material: Sheet metal that never rattles

March 5, 2014 4:52 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have succeeded in producing a prototype of a vibration-damping material that could change the world of mechanics. The material of the future is not only able to damp vibrations completely; it can also specifically conduct certain frequencies further.

Nanoparticle networks' design enhanced by theory

February 26, 2014 5:22 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Cornell Univ. researchers have recently led what is probably the most comprehensive study to date of block copolymer nanoparticle self-assembly processes. The work is important, because using polymers to self-assemble inorganic nanoparticles into porous structures could revolutionize electronics.

New record set for data-transfer speeds

February 25, 2014 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at IBM have set a new record for data transmission over a multimode optical fiber, a type of cable that is typically used to connect nearby computers within a single building or on a campus. The data was sent at a rate of 64 Gb/s over a cable 57-m long using a type of laser called a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser. This rate is 2.5 times faster than the capabilities of today's typical commercial technology.

A step closer to the photonic future

February 20, 2014 3:01 am | News | Comments

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 stretchable highway for light

February 20, 2014 2:53 am | News | Comments

A team of Belgian researchers have made what may be the first optical circuit that uses interconnections that are not only bendable, but also stretchable. These new interconnections, made of a rubbery transparent material called PDMS, guide light along their path even when stretched up to 30% and when bent around an object the diameter of a human finger.

3-D-stacked hybrid SRAM cell to be built by European scientists

February 7, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

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.

NASA boards the 3-D manufacturing train

February 6, 2014 1:01 pm | by Lori Keesey, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

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.

Finding: Graphene ribbons are highly conductive at room temperature

February 6, 2014 12:40 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers from France and the United States have devised an entirely new way to synthesize graphene ribbons with defined, regular edges, allowing electrons to flow freely through the material. Demonstrating this phenomenon at room temperature, the material was shown to permit electron flow up to 200 times faster than through silicon.

The Laser-Sintering Effect

February 6, 2014 10:41 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

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.

Stratasys introduces world’s first color multi-material 3-D printer

January 28, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

Stratasys, a manufacturer of 3-D printers and materials for personal use, prototyping and production, has announced the launch of the ground-breaking Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3-D Printer, the first and only 3-D printer to combine colors with a variety of photopolymer 3-D printed materials.

Flexible, transparent conductor brings foldable TVs closer to reality

January 28, 2014 11:35 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Houston researchers have developed a new stretchable and transparent electrical conductor, bringing the potential for a fully foldable cell phone or a flat-screen television that can be folded and carried under your arm closer to reality.  The researchers report that their gold nanomesh electrodes, produced by the novel grain boundary lithography, increase resistance only slightly, even at a strain of 160%.

Researcher develops energy-dense sugar battery

January 21, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar, using a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar. While other sugar batteries have been developed, this one has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.

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