With all of the manufacturing and tooling capabilities, are 3D printers becoming a service-based commodity with all the reticent encumbrances associated with this connotation? Is the technology and its associated materials still advancing at a rapid pace? What are the different capabilities, limitations and applications of the current iterations of 3D printing equipment materials and technologies?
Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope of the pheromone plume, and then head upwind. Can understanding such insect behavior be useful for robotics research?
In a leap for robot development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs, making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.
What if handheld tools know what needs to be done and were even able to guide and help inexperienced users to complete jobs that require skill? Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol have developed and started studying a novel concept in robotics: intelligent handheld robots.
Today’s industrial robots are remarkably efficient, as long as they’re in a controlled environment where everything is exactly where they expect it to be. But put them in an unfamiliar setting, where they have to think for themselves, and their efficiency plummets. And the difficulty of on-the-fly motion planning increases exponentially with the number of robots involved.
Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.
Graphene is a material with a host of potential applications, including in flexible light sources, solar panels that could be integrated into windows and membranes to desalinate and purify water. But all these possible uses face the same big hurdle: the need for a scalable and cost-effective method for continuous manufacturing of graphene films.
Ever since single-layer graphene burst onto the science scene in 2004, the possibilities for the promising material have seemed nearly endless. With its high electrical conductivity, ability to store energy, and ultra-strong and lightweight structure, graphene has potential for many applications in electronics, energy, the environment and even medicine.
Mollusks got it right. They have soft innards, but their complex exteriors are engineered to protect them in harsh conditions. Engineers at the Indian Institute of Science and Rice Univ. are beginning to understand why. By modeling the average mollusk’s mobile habitat, they are learning how shells stand up to extraordinary pressures at the bottom of the sea.
Researchers from Swinburne Univ. of Technology and the Univ. of Science and Technology of China have developed a low-cost technique that holds promise for a range of scientific and technological applications. They have combined laser printing and capillary force to build complex, self-assembling microstructures using a technique called laser printing capillary-assisted self-assembly (LPCS).
One of the barriers to using graphene at a commercial scale could be overcome using a method demonstrated by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Graphene, a material stronger and stiffer than carbon fiber, has enormous commercial potential but has been impractical to employ on a large scale, with researchers limited to using small flakes of the material.
Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have developed an inexpensive way to manufacture extraordinarily thin polymer strings commonly known as nanofibers. These polymers can be made from natural materials like proteins or from human-made substances to make plastic, rubber or fiber, including biodegradable materials.
Using a smart tablet and a red beam of light, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a system that allows people to control a fleet of robots with the swipe of a finger. A person taps the tablet to control where the beam of light appears on a floor. The swarm robots then roll toward the illumination, constantly communicating with each other and deciding how to evenly cover the lit area.
Robotic dogs are likely to replace the real thing in households worldwide in as little as a decade, as our infatuation with technology grows and more people migrate to high-density city living. University of Melbourne animal welfare researcher Dr. Jean-Loup Rault says the prospect of robopets and virtual pets is not as far-fetched as we may think.
By combining 3-D holographic lithography and 2-D photolithography, researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a high-performance 3-D microbattery suitable for large-scale on-chip integration with microelectronic devices.
Researchers have demonstrated a new process for the expanded use of lightweight aluminum in cars and trucks at the speed, scale, quality and consistency required by the auto industry. The process reduces production time and costs while yielding strong and lightweight parts, for example delivering a car door that is 62% lighter and 25% cheaper than that produced with today's manufacturing methods.
To make cars as safe as possible, we crash them into walls to pinpoint weaknesses and better protect people who use them. That’s the idea behind a series of experiments conducted by a Univ. of Washington engineering team who hacked a next-generation teleoperated surgical robot to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.
An international team of researchers has created tiny, complex scaffolds that mimic the intricate network of collagen fibers that form the human eardrum. It is hoped the scaffolds can be used to replace eardrums when they become severely damaged, reducing the need for patients to have their own tissue used in reconstruction surgery.
Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the Univ. of Illinois. Microspheres, tiny spheres as small as a red blood cell, have shown promise as agents for targeted drug delivery to tissues, as contrast agents for medical imaging and in industrial applications.
For the last decade, scientists have deployed increasingly capable underwater robots to map and monitor pockets of the ocean to track the health of fisheries, and survey marine habitats and species. In general, such robots are effective at carrying out low-level tasks, specifically assigned to them by human engineers, a tedious and time-consuming process for the engineers.
The drop-on-demand inkjet printing is a promising approach allowing patterning of materials with negligible materials waste; hence, significant reduction of raw materials cost can be achieved. Furthermore, inkjet printing can be easily adapted to a roll-to-roll process, which is suitable for large scale production.
For decades, robots have advanced the efficiency of human activity. Typically, however, robots are formed from bulky, stiff materials and require connections to external power sources; these features limit their dexterity and mobility. But what if a new material would allow for development of a "soft robot" that could reconfigure its own shape and move using its own internally generated power?
Most people are naturally adept at reading facial expressions to tell what others are feeling. Now scientists have developed ultra-sensitive, wearable sensors that can do the same thing. Their technology, reported in the ACS Nano, could help robot developers make their machines more human.
In a rolling, outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, researchers at Oregon State University last week successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of a two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future.
Riding in a helicopter or airplane can be a noisy experience for passengers. But researchers from North Carolina State University and MIT have developed a membrane that can be incorporated into aircraft to drastically reduce the low-frequency noise that penetrates the cabin.