Ogle Models announced they were asked to create two unique phones and base chargers for British Telecom (BT) by design firm Alloy.

The models required intricate detailing for the buttons and integrated lighting for the base charger, which have never before been seen on the market.

Industrial Designer at Alloy Matt Harris said: “After paying a visit to Ogle, we were impressed by the range of equipment, the breadth of materials and processes they were able to perform and replicate. It was a pleasure to work with Ogle.

“The determination of the team to deliver exactly what we wanted, and the openness to try new or different processes, is what sets them apart from others.”

The finished version of the revamped BT DECT cordless telephone range needed to reflect the premium nature of the products for potential buyers.

In order to create the highest quality of parts needed for the project, Ogle used the Stereolithography (SLA) process which is so accurate it can meet measurements as small as ±0.1 mm per 100 mm.

To produce the brush metal effect, which was required for phones, Ogle also had to experiment with different techniques.

Mr Harris added: “The fine-spun finish turned out to be quite difficult to replicate on the model, but the team at Ogle tried several approaches until they found the one that most accurately matched our reference sample. They even ordered additional tools for this part to achieve the best finish.”

The base units for the phones had to incorporate a blue LED light to deliver a glow to the base of the phone.

To avoid spots of light, the model making team at Ogle created a reflective funnel to sit within the base unit to deliver an even distribution of light. The team then applied the battery pack, switch and mock USB sockets.

Dave Bennion, Marketing and Sales Director at Ogle, said: “It was a huge honour to work with the guys at Alloy on models for BT’s premium phone range. Being such a high quality product we knew we needed to deliver a superior surface finish. Dean Lear our Project Manager, was key to getting this detail right.

“As the handsets would be part of the high-end DECT range, there were several processes and material finishes required that had not previously been used on the phones and required patience and accuracy, which we believe eventually paid off.”

Use of the X1000 3D printer from German RepRap has enabled TAKATA PlasTec GmbH to now considerably reduce development costs and time for prototype production. The samples have to be made quickly and inexpensively so that the customer can then use them for concept examinations. These are used to create equipment and supports for production simply and quickly. “The costs for the external value added are reduced and it is now possible to create parts which were previously unjustifiable due to the prohibitively high costs involved,” reports Kevin Rogers, manager of Application Engineering at TAKATA PlasTec GmbH.

The particular challenge when printing large components is the optimum print preparation. Run times can be kept to a minimum here by the skillful arrangement and positioning of the parts in the build envelope in order to thus improve the quality of the print result. “The X1000 is the first printer that is optimized for industrial use and covers the dimensions required for TAKATA components. Our many years of experience in the field of 3D printing has certainly helped here and we are pleased that TAKATA has chosen our X1000,” explains Florian Bautz, CEO of German RepRap GmbH.

TAKATA PlasTec GmbH is a development and series supplier for interior and exterior plastic systems in the automotive sector and serves customers like Daimler AG, SCANIA, DAF. This includes door panels, interior and exterior trims  for trucks or plastic housing sections for consumer electrical equipment. Thanks to the 3D printer, sample parts can be created during development in order to implement installation trials or concept tests in-house or at the customer.

For more information, visit: www.germanreprap.com

Published in German RepRap

When Sibelloptics co-founder Steve Vetorino and his team required a robust, lightweight enclosure for a key feature of their Windimager® LIDAR wind measurement system capable of withstanding extreme temperatures anywhere on earth, they turned to Axis Prototypes, a company specializing in 3d printing and rapid prototyping. Comprising one of four main subsystems of the LIDAR (a remote sensing technology for measuring wind speed and direction by illuminating particles in the air with a laser and analyzing the reflected light), the hemispherical scanner for which the parts were printed, outputs a low-power, omnidirectional infrared laser beam consisting of a series of amplified pulses. Data regarding the frequency and range of the returning light (Doppler shift) is obtained by the system’s detectors and sophisticated software. Ultimately, highly detailed maps are created showing wind speed and direction at various distances. The field-tested Windimager® boasts a range of 10 km and can continuously monitor winds in a volume of atmosphere consisting of more than 2 trillion cubic meters.

Designed to protect the mirrors, motors, and slip-rings of the scanner, the parts were printed in Nylon using SLA technology and consist of a 24-inch diameter dome and a 9-inch diameter cowling. The parts were then primed and painted for aesthetics.

Due to the size and geometric intricacies of the parts, Steve conceded that the only way to produce them cost-effectively and to spec was through additive manufacturing:  “Given the large size and internal features of the printed scanner enclosure parts, I know of no other means to create them other than through 3d printing.”

After a year in operation and being subjected to temperatures ranging from -17°F to +100°F at Sibelloptics’ testing facility in Berthoud, Colorado, the parts have met if not exceeded the client’s expectations.  Steve commented that, “The 3D printed nylon dome and cowling have survived without a scratch, chip or dent. Without a doubt, the Dome and Cowling have exceeded our greatest expectations; their durability and resilience are truly remarkable! These features coupled with their light weight, great appearance, and cost effectiveness are why we will continue to use 3d printing technology for all future systems.”

Based in Montreal, Canada, Axis Prototypes provides 3d printing and rapid prototyping services to support low-cost, low-volume manufacturing operations across numerous markets, including aerospace, aeronautics, automotive, sporting and consumer goods, dental and medical, architecture, and telecommunications. Axis Prototypes operates production grade 3d printers to produce conceptual and functional prototypes from various polymer and metallic materials based on additive manufacturing technologies such SLA, DMLS, SLS, and FDM. Axis is a distributor of 3D SLA printers from Prodways, a leading 3d printer manufacturer in Europe. For more information, visit www.axisproto.com

Established in 2011, Sibelloptics of Boulder, Colorado provides robust remote sensing platforms that serve a variety of industries. Their staff has more than 100 years combined experience in developing state-of-the-art Lidar transceivers, telescopes, high energy lasers, and long range chemical detection sensors. Their first Windimager, delivered in February of 2014, was built for NASA to study aircraft wake turbulence.  Their second system was recently installed on the island of Aruba to predict winds approaching a wind farm power installation. For more information, visit www.sibelloptics.com

Published in Axis Prototypes

Stratasys announced that UK start-up company, Nipi Smart Cooler, has created a one-of-a-kind ‘smart’ cooler using 3D printing. Employed throughout product development, Stratasys’ technology has enabled Nipi to realize a functional prototype 75% faster than using traditional manufacturing methods. Aimed at the consumer market, the company has already surpassed its crowdfunding goal, and was recently backed by an Asian investor in order to accelerate the product to market.

Competing to be the world’s most diverse, multi-purpose cooler, Nipi is a solar-panel-powered cooler offering ice retention of up to six days and is packed with a host of features including a charging hub, internal and external LED lighting, a safe deposit, cup holders and chopping board. According to Luke Guttery, Product Design Lead at Nipi Smart Cooler, 3D printing was crucial in quickly converting Nipi from a concept into a working product. 

“It’s amazing how quickly we could go from an idea on a piece of paper to a fully-functional prototype that we could test outdoors,” he says. “Without 3D printing, this simply would not have been achievable in the given timeframe. In just a few days we had already produced the main body in UV resistant materials to test the solar panels in the sun, and large-scale over-molded wheels with rigid interiors and rubber treads. Using this technology, we were able to develop a final working prototype in a just under a week, whereas with traditional manufacturing it would be closer to a month.

“For start-ups like us, I cannot overemphasize how important it is to quickly get to a stage where you can feasibly say whether your idea could be a viable product. Having access to this technology gives us the ability to make that decision faster than ever before,” adds Guttery.

In order to realize the initial concept designs as a 100% working prototype, Nipi turned to UK 3D printing service provider, 3D Print Bureau. Using both Stratasys’ FDM and PolyJet 3D printing solutions, the company produced a number of fully-functional parts during the development of Nipi to eliminate problematic design issues, before committing to final manufacturing.

With outdoor enthusiasts its core target audience, prototyping the main body of the smart cooler required a material that could endure the continued exposure to sunlight. Using Stratasys’ superior UV and heat resistant ASA thermoplastic material, 3D Print Bureau was able to produce a working prototype that could support the solar panel testing required in multiple outdoor environments. This enabled the Nipi team to make the design iterations required to ensure its fit-for-purpose for customers.

Stratasys multi-material 3D printing was used to produce over- molded parts, such as the handles and large tires that required accurate combinations of rigid and rubber-like materials. With the ability to 3D print these multi-material parts in a single build, as well as the capability to mix materials on-the-fly to create new material properties, 3D Print Bureau was able to quickly produce several variations in different levels of hardness for the Nipi team to test.

“Utilizing the best of each of Stratasys’ 3D printing technologies was integral to getting a fully-functional, test-worthy prototype to the Nipi team,” says Gary Miller, Managing Director of 3D Print Bureau. “With the ASA material, we were able to develop a fade-resistant prototype specifically designed for outdoor use. Using multi-material 3D printing, we could accurately validate the pull of the handle and its weight-bearing ability, as well as defining the exact tread of the tires required before moving to final production. In fact, the ability to over-mold using 3D printing was integral as it helped us determine the shape, thickness and style of the tread you see on Nipi today.”

Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys EMEA, concludes: “For many start-ups with great ideas, limited capital to supplement costly and time-consuming traditional manufacturing is often the reason some innovations fail to reach the marketplace. 3D printing grants product designers the means to quickly and cost-effectively determine whether their idea can function and perform as intended, and Nipi is the perfect example.”

Published in Stratasys

3D printers are becoming increasingly common. Architects, technicians, designers and inventors all make use of this technique to create the most beautiful and complex shapes in the blink of an eye. But not only professionals spend their time printing in three dimensions. A growing amount of consumers buy 3D printers or visit ‘FabLabs’ where these printers are publically accessible.

There are websites with countless 3D designs available for download so people can easily print other people’s vase, toy car or iPhone case. But wouldn’t it be more fun to create your own designs? Most definitely, yet designing and printing your own objects requires specific knowledge of complex 3D design programs. Rick Companje, founder of Doodle3D also ran into this problem.

A Media technology graduate and co-founder of Globe4D and FabLab Amersfoort, Rick is at the frontier of many new technologies. In this Dutch Fabrication Laboratory he spends his time lasercutting, CNC milling and working with other digitally driven tools. Though his results with the 3D printer were limited by his little experience with 3D design software.

For this reason Rick started developing Doodle3D, a very simple sketching tool with which anyone can bring their hand-drawn drawings come to life with a 3D printer, but without having the steep learning curve of 3D CAD programs.

It works like this; you make a drawing on a tablet, smartphone or computer, connect the Doodle3D WiFi Box to the 3D printer, and with the press of a button your drawing is sent to the printer. The printer builds, layer for layer, the 3D model out of heated plastic, which immediatly cools and solidifies into a rigid 3D shape. The beauty of it is that your Doodle will be completely unique! But you can do more with Doodle3D. A simple starting shape – like a circle – can be extruded, turned, twisted and bent into a spatial 3D object. This way your flat 2D drawing becomes an interesting 3D object with very few actions.

In order to finish the development of Doodle3D and share it with the world the Doodle3D team is launching a campaign on kickstarter. By pledging for the Doodle3D project backers can receive one of our WiFi Boxes, or a different reward and support the development of this project. The raised money will be used by the team to facilitate Doodle3D’s compatibility with every mainstream OS and every 3D printer, and of course make the rewards a reality! Accessible 3D printing for everyone!

For more information, visit: www.doodle3d.com

Published in Doodle3d

Global athletic leader New Balance is proud to announce a significant advancement in the use of 3D printing to customize high performance products for athletes.   Utilizing a proprietary process, the brand is able to produce spike plates customized to the individual needs and desires of their elite athletes.   At the New Balance Games in January 2013, Team New Balance athlete, Jack Bolas, became the first ever track athlete to compete in customized, 3D printed plates.

New Balance has developed a proprietary process for utilizing a runner's individual biomechanical data to create hyper-customized spike plates designed to improve performance.  The process requires race simulation biomechanical data which the New Balance Sports Research Lab collects using a force plate, in-shoe sensors and a motion capture system.   Advanced algorithms and software are then applied to translate this data into custom 3D printed spike designs.

For the production of the custom plates, New Balance uses selective laser sintering (SLS) to convert powder materials into solid cross-sections, layer by layer using a laser.  SLS printing enables the customization process by allowing for complex designs that could not be achieved through traditional manufacturing methods.  Additionally, SLS printing greatly accelerates the turnaround time from design to functional part.

"Utilizing our Team New Balance Athletes to develop the customization process was extremely helpful", says Sean Murphy, New Balance's Senior Manager of Innovation and Engineering.   "We are impressed with their precise ability to identify and speak to the differences in the custom options provided.  They are acutely aware of what is happening in their shoes".

NB Athletes involved in the development of this process included: 2008 and 2012 US Olympic Athlete and current 1500m World Champion gold medalist Jenny Barringer Simpson, 2012 US Olympic Athlete Kim Conley, 2012 Great Britain Olympic Athlete Barbara Parker and 4 time All-American runner in the 800m, 1500m and the Mile Jack Bolas. These athletes provided key feedback in order to develop spike plates that spoke to each individual athlete's personal preference, biomechanics and specific race needs.

In addition to printing semi-rigid parts like spike plates for track runners, New Balance is working on softer SLS printed components that mimic the cushioning properties of foam midsoles.  This initiative will be critical to bringing the customization process to a broader audience of athletes .   

"With 3D printing we are able to pursue performance customization at a new level to help our elite NB athletes and eventually all athletes. We believe this is the future of performance footwear and we are excited to bring this to consumers," says New Balance President and CEO Robert DeMartini. "As the only major athletic brand to manufacture shoes in the U.S., we are proud to invest in American workers.    Developing our printing capabilities could ultimately help us further invest in the American worker by adding highly technical positions to our already skilled labor force in Massachusetts and Maine."

New Balance, headquartered in Boston, MA has the following mission: Demonstrating responsible leadership, we build global brands that athletes are proud to wear, associates are proud to create and communities are proud to host. New Balance is currently the only athletic shoe company that manufactures footwear in the U.S. with 25% of our U.S. footwear shipments produced at five New England facilities. The company also operates a manufacturing facility in Flimby, U.K. New Balance employs more than 4000 associates around the globe, and in 2012 reported worldwide sales of $2.4 billion.

For more information, visit: www.newbalance.com

Published in New Balance

Star Prototype has helped turn an innovative idea for a unisex travel razor into a commercial product for the discerning traveller by delivering the key elements of Cormia Design’s new Pocket Razor.

Designed by Mario Cormier, the owner of Canada-based Cormia Design, the Pocket Razor is TSA approved meaning it is ideal for men and women on the go, and can also be used on an everyday basis. It is manufactured in high quality aluminium, comes with a cover and keychain and accepts all popular twin blade cartridges.
Cormier said: “Since I started shaving back in 1980 I’ve experimented with virtually every kind of razor imaginable, but never found the perfect travel one. So with the intention of developing a solution that ticked the boxes the others failed to satisfy I set about creating the Pocket Razor.”

“Of course the job of taking these designs and developing a working product out of them is a huge challenge, and I couldn’t have picked a better partner than Star Prototype.

“They were a great company to do business with. Their service was always fast and efficient and the quality of both their work and communication was excellent. I’m certainly looking forward to working with them again.”

Star’s brief was to develop the tooling and parts for the Pocket Razor. A job that included producing a cover made of Aluminium 6063, which was created using extrusion processing. The team also developed 15 samples of the different cover finishes available so that Cormia was able to select the right option for them. The chosen satin finish was then cleaned and coated in order to protect its surface and prevent oxidisation. Star also made the razor by die casting with ADC12.

Prior to delivery, all 500 parts developed by Star were put through a rigorous inspection process to ensure everything was the correct shape, the right material and that it passed the Faro test.

Gordon Styles, managing director of Star Prototype, said: “While we pride ourselves on the speed of our service, we will never allow the quality of our work to suffer as a result of trying to complete a project in the quickest possible time.”

“Everything we do undergoes a full inspection prior to delivery. We check everything from size, shape and finish to the exact content of the metallic material used and only when everything has passed every test do we allow the product to leave our factory.”

For more information, visit: www.cormia.ca or www.star-prototype.com

Published in Star Prototype

Worldwide, 1.3 billion people lack electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. More than an inconvenience, this means working and learning all but stop when the sun goes down. Reading, washing and sewing require burning expensive fuel for light. News that could travel via radio, phone or Internet never reaches these regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, the least electrified part of the world, 70 percent of people live in the dark. Other unwired regions include parts of rural Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

In these same regions, where infrastructure is sparse, one form of transportation stands out as efficient, simple and cheap: the bicycle. Bikes are popular in developing countries, and anywhere bike wheels are turning — from farm to village, from home to school and back — they’re creating rotational energy.

That fact made gears turn in the mind of mechanical engineer and high school teacher Chris Bond. Why not harvest this rotational energy, just like those 1950s bike generators that let cyclists power their own bike lights?

Bond acted, founding Designs for Hope, a nonprofit of three engineers (Bond plus an electrical engineer and a civil engineer). The group set out to design an inexpensive, durable device that would hold a generator on a bike, harvest its power and condition the electricity to feed a battery. They began making prototypes on a Dimension 3D Printer.

To succeed, the bike generator needs the same qualities that make the bike itself so popular: affordability, simplicity and durability. “There are no parts around the corner for a battery holder in Uganda. So we have to be prepared to produce something extremely durable,” Bond says. “That is the life of an engineer. Reducing cost and maintaining quality.”

The initial design had some flaws. “As we were printing out our first idea, holding it and putting it next to a bicycle, I thought, ‘Um, this isn’t going to work!’” Bond said. Tweak after tweak in Bond’s basement, the team kept improving the generator and testing it on a bike. The design now stabilized in its fifth iteration, Designs for Hope has worked with missionary networks to place eight 3D-printed test units in the field.

One recipient is a Uganda orphanage whose only power comes from a small solar-panel system. Orphanage workers commute seven to ten kilometers daily by bike. Once at work, they charge their cell phones from the solar panels, gobbling up limited power. Bond hopes his device alleviates this problem.

“The beautiful thing is, they’re using their bikes anyway,” he says. “It’s a free energy.” Beyond cell phones, which are in high demand in developing countries, Bond says the device’s battery can power many small electronics that don’t require high resistance. As he rattles off the possibilities, he reveals his genuine desire to use his engineering skills to improve lives. Kids can do their chores by electric light at night, freeing daytime hours to attend school. Radios can carry vital news to politically unstable regions. Entrepreneurialism could spring up on a micro scale as energy becomes available for hair clippers and evening handiwork. Firewood can be reserved for heat, no longer burned for light. This in turn means cleaner, safer indoor environments and reduced strain on natural resources.

Bond wants to bring more engineers to his team, and says the bike generator is just the first of many products he hopes to develop with the goal of bettering impoverished lives. “People always say, ‘Become an engineer so you can make lots of money,’” Bond says. “I say become an engineer and you can change the world.”

For more information, visit: www.designsforhope.org

Published in Stratasys

DARPA’s Advanced Wide FOV Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation (AWARE) program is currently developing a gigapixel camera. As part of the program, DARPA successfully tested cameras with 1.4 and 0.96 gigapixel resolution at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC. The gigapixel cameras combine 100-150 small cameras with a spherical objective lens. Local aberration correction and focus in the small cameras enable extremely high resolution shots with smaller system volume and less distortion than traditional wide field lens systems. The DARPA effort hopes to produce resolution up to 10 and 50 gigapixels—much higher resolution than the human eye can see. Analogous to a parallel-processor supercomputer, the AWARE camera design uses parallel multi-scale micro cameras to form a wide field panoramic image.

The AWARE program is developing new approaches and advanced capabilities in imaging to support a variety of Department of Defense missions.

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/MTO/Programs/Advanced_Wide_FOV_Architectures_for_Image_Reconstruction_and_Exploitation_%28AWARE%29.aspx

Published in DARPA

When it comes to new product development, the importance of the prototype simply cannot be underestimated. Gordon Styles, the Middlesbrough-born owner of Chinese firm, Star Prototype talks to Prototype Today about the processes that put the product in the hands of the designers before it goes into production – including one that transforms Polycarbonates in the blinking of an eye.

“The delivery of a prototype is one of the key stages in the development of virtually any new product. After months, sometimes years, of work it’s the moment the designer finally gets the product – or at least a very close approximation of it – in their hands. Giving them the chance to fully test it and iron out any design flaws prior to production.

Therefore, the aim for companies like ourselves is to deliver a prototype that is as close to the production specification as possible. In fact, any major deviation from the intended end product can be counterproductive, both in terms of the product design process and for the prototyping company involved.

As you’d expect the rapid prototyping market is extremely competitive, with the smallest things making the difference between wining and losing a contract. Whether this be the speed with which the prototype can be delivered or the manner in which it is polished.

What makes the industry particularly complicated is that the prototype needed can be for virtually anything. For example, in recent months we’ve delivered prototypes for a modular penknife with 18 different functions, a device that stops bar tables wobbling, a hand-held hard skin remover and even a woman’s shoe.

What this all means in practice is that the successful rapid prototyping company tends to be the one with the most strings to its bow, meaning it has the flexibility to deliver the best solution every time. This is an approach that I used successfully with Styles Rapid Prototyping in the UK in the 1990s and adopted again when I came to China to set up Star Prototype in 2005.

Our service currently covers everything from Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) through to CNC machining.

SLA and SLS tend to be used for the delivery of fast one-off prototypes. SLA uses a laser that converts a liquid photopolymer into a solid plastic layer by layer. Each layer is different and a 3D model is built up on a perforated plate in the bath of photopolymer. SLS is another laminated manufacturing process, the main difference being that it uses a much higher power laser to sinter plastic powder together to form a 3D prototype.  

Meanwhile, CNC machining enables us to use the actual production material of the product as opposed to delivering a prototype in an SL or SLS simulant. Using aluminiums, copper based materials, and even hardened tool-steel, we use heat-shrink cutter holders for our high-speed spindles to ensure cutting accuracy, and also have a portable FARO Laser Scanning Arm that can be positioned next to the machine to inspect 3D parts prior to them being removed from it.

These processes, plus polyurethane casting, tend to be used as standard by most leading rapid prototyping companies. Meaning the key differentiating factors are often found in the detail – and one particularly interesting example is the use of vapour polishing.

This highly dangerous process, which requires the use of toxic Weld-On 4 gas, dates back to World War 2, when it was developed specifically to make Spitfire cockpit canopies clear again after repairs. Today, it is most frequently used by technicians seeking to quickly repair damage to Polycarbonates.

The process works by heating the solvent to 43 degrees Celsius and allowing the resultant gas, which is only in contact with the surface for one or two seconds, to flow over the surface of the Polycarbonate. When it hits the surface it melts it at a molecular level and turns it clear. This happens instantly and is, without any exaggeration, the closest thing to magic you are ever likely to see in the rapid prototyping industry.

What is particularly interesting about the whole process is that it doesn’t actually change the general surface finish. In fact, if the material had milling marks prior to being vapour polished, then they will still be evident afterwards, but the material will be clear. In fact, you can even turn a hacksaw finish clear with vapour polishing.

One drawback is that Weld-On 4 gas is extremely toxic and so vapour polishing must be carried out in a strictly controlled environment with active carbon masks being absolutely essential. The dangers of the process are such that when we carry it out we always have a team of four involved. One person manages the Weldon kettle, one does the painting, one is continually inspecting, and another is outside the room, also wearing a mask, watching in case of an accident. The sealed room fills from the floor up with gas and after the vapour polishing is finalised the room is fully ventilated with extraction fans, which scrub the gas through active carbon filters.

One of the most recent projects where we opted to use vapour polishing was the development of a prototype for a finger vein biometric door access solution. The pads on the keypad needed to be made out of a polycarbonate. At first PMMA was considered, but this would have required a lot of manual sanding and the parts were too small for this to be realistic. Additionally, and despite Weldon 4 being a PMMA Acrylic solvent that is used widely for bonding/melting pieces of PMMA together, it is not recommended to use it to vapour polish PMMA as it may craze the surface.

Instead the decision was made to make the parts from PC and vapour polish them. The end result of which was a clear demonstration of the value of the process. The parts were far clearer than they would have been had we persisted with PMMA and manual polishing and they were finalised in a fraction of the time.

Interestingly, despite its formative Spitfire roots, vapour polishing is not a process that is currently readily available in the UK. Instead those wishing to reap its benefits have to look further afield – with a number of companies here in China, as well as USA, German and France offering it.

In my opinion the benefits of vapour polishing far outweigh its dangers and it will be interesting to see how quickly this attitude becomes the prevalent one in the UK. If it doesn’t happen quickly then I do feel the rapid prototyping industry will leave those operating in these regions behind.”

Star Prototype is a full service rapid prototyping company based in the Guangdong Province of China.

For more information, visit: www.star-prototype-china.com

Published in Star Prototype

During natural or man-made disasters, the U.S. armed forces’ rapidly deployable airlift, sealift, communication, and medical evacuation and care capabilities can supplement lead relief agencies in providing aid to victims. The Department of Defense’s 2012 strategic guidance document includes humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as one of the missions for 21st Century defense.

DARPA’s Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (TEMP) program has completed the design of innovative technologies to transform commercial container ships into self-contained floating supply bases during disaster relief operations, without needing port infrastructure. The program envisions a container ship anchoring offshore of a disaster area, and the ship’s crew delivering supplies ashore using DARPA-developed, modular on-board cranes and air- and sea-delivery vehicles.

“To allow military ships and aircraft to focus on unique military missions they alone can fulfill, it makes sense to develop technologies to leverage standard commercial container ships, used around the world daily, as a surge capacity for extended humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” said Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager.

DARPA recently completed the first phase of the program, which developed four key modular systems, all of which are transportable using standard 20-foot or 40-foot commercial shipping containers. The elements include:

  • Core support modules—container-sized units that provide electrical power, berthing, water and other life-support requirements for an augmented crew aboard the container ship.
  • Motion-stabilized cranes—modular on-board cranes to allow transfer of cargo containers at sea from the ship deck over the side and onto a sea-delivery vehicle.
  • Sea-delivery vehicles—Captive Air Amphibious Transporters (CAAT) have air-filled pontoons on a tank tread-like design, enabling them to carry containers over water and directly onto shore.
  • Parafoil unmanned air-delivery system—a low-cost, propeller-driven air vehicle that uses a parachute for lift and carries urgent supplies from the container ship to stricken areas on shore.

While DARPA’s investment in demonstrating the technology has completed, the information obtained should reduce risk for efforts of the military Services or other government organizations with a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission.

For more information, visit: www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/Tactically_Expandable_Maritime_Platform_%28TEMP%29.aspx

Published in DARPA

The Quadshot is a remote-controlled aircraft combining the stability and control of a helicopter with the speed and maneuverability of an airplane. The creative minds behind the innovative technology just won a Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

Using four independent motors, The Quadshot takes off vertically and hovers like a helicopter, enabling it to pitch and roll in all directions. But at the press of a button it adjusts orientation and zooms forward like an airplane – capable of high speeds and dazzling aerobatics.

“There’s really nothing quite like the Quadshot,” says mechanical engineer Jeff Gibboney. “No other RC aircraft can take off straight up, hover and fly like a docile trainer and then transform into an aerobatics plane simply by flipping a switch.”

The Quadshot uses gyroscopes, accelerometers, and microprocessors – originally developed for smart phones – to run software that makes flight extremely intuitive. Additionally, both the onboard electronics and software are open-source, allowing users to modify the aircraft and its flight capabilities, adding to the appeal for both hobbyists and researchers alike. The Quadshot can be purchased fully assembled and ready to fly, or ordered in one of three packages that encourage software and build customization. Mounting a camera, additional sensors or flight instruments are just a few of the seemingly endless possibilities.

“The Quadshot is the very definition of a cool idea,” says Proto Labs founder and CTO Larry Lukis. “It’s obviously going to be a blast to operate for hobbyists everywhere, and with the open-source elements that are certain to be embraced by that community, the research implications are fascinating.”

Gibboney and his design team learned of the Cool Idea! program while researching injection molding. “I’d already connected with Proto Labs to learn about injection molding properties,” says Jeff. “They have extremely helpful customer service and engineers that provide expert advice over the phone. The first parts we received were perfect and shipped to us incredibly quickly.”

In terms of how winning the Cool Idea! Award has impacted their production process, Jeff adds, “It’s been amazing. Having our parts covered by Proto Labs has freed up capital to dedicate to other areas as we prepare for our product launch. Plus, being part of the small but highly talented group of designers and engineers that can call themselves Cool Idea! winners is a tremendous honor.”

Cool Idea! is an award program offered by Proto Labs that gives product designers the opportunity to bring innovative products to life. In 2012, Proto Labs expanded the program’s reach to include the European Union, and is now offering up to $250,000 of prototyping and short-run production services.

For more information, visit: www.thequadshot.com or www.protolabs.com/coolidea

Published in Proto Labs

Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADSK) has named Sunkist Research and Technical Services (Sunkist Research) — a division of international fruit supplier Sunkist — as the Autodesk Inventor of the Month for March. Sunkist Research engineers earned the recognition for the company’s use of Autodesk Product Design Suite software to develop a flat fruit-packing machine that doubles hourly throughput.

Existing flat fruit packing machines pack a single layer of fruit into a box during each cycle. The key breakthrough of the new flat fruit packing machine is that it can feed a layer of fruit into two boxes at once. Instead of processing 200 boxes of fruit per hour, the machine can potentially process 400 boxes per hour.

In the citrus industry, “flat fruit” refers to oval citrus products such as lemons, tangerines or fruit with a large button at the top like Minneolas. Oval fruits do not roll on a conveyor belt as uniformly as round fruit, such as oranges, and are more challenging to efficiently process and package.

“The Autodesk Product Design Suite — and specifically Autodesk Inventor software — have both been invaluable tools and big parts of our success in developing solutions that help maintain our lead in the citrus industry," said Alex Paradiang, director of engineering, Sunkist Research. "Autodesk software helps us display our engineering talents to our customers and shows them that we are constantly innovating on their behalf."

Digital Concept Becomes a Reality

Working with Autodesk Gold Partner KETIV Technologies, Sunkist Research efficiently transitioned from PTC Pro/ENGINEER software to Autodesk Product Design Suite. Sunkist Research garnered support to develop their new packing machine by using Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Showcase software to create renderings and animations that demonstrated proof of concept to partners and customers.

Autodesk Inventor was at the core of the design and engineering process, enabling Sunkist Research to create a digital prototype of the new flat fruit packing machine. In addition to easily checking for interferences, Inventor provided finite element analysis (FEA) tools to help determine the appropriate metal thickness for hours of continuous use.

Sunkist Research also relied on Autodesk Vault product data management software to reuse common parts, incorporate existing components into new assemblies and better collaborate both within and outside of the project team — speeding development time.

“Consumers care a great deal about how their food gets from farm to table, and Sunkist’s R&D team has shown they continuously seek ways to innovate in speeding the delivery of fresh citrus from the orchards to supermarkets and more,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Design, Lifecycle and Simulation at Autodesk. “By using Autodesk software to create a digital workflow, Sunkist Research and Technical Services can design, visualize and simulate its citrus packing solutions more rapidly and cost-effectively.”

For 50 years, Sunkist Research and Technical Services has provided automated solutions for the citrus industry. Sunkist Research and Technical Services is a division of Sunkist, a leading international supplier of fresh fruit, and the oldest operating citrus cooperative in America.

For more information, visit: mosaic.autodesk.com or www.sunkistresearch.com

Published in Autodesk

NASA and General Motors are jointly developing a robotic glove that astronauts and autoworkers can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries.

The Human Grasp Assist device, known internally in both organizations as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from NASA and GM's Robonaut 2 – or R2 – project, which launched the first humanoid robot into space in 2011. R2 is a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

When engineers, researchers and scientists from GM and NASA began collaborating on R2 in 2007, one of the design requirements was for the robot to operate tools designed for humans, alongside astronauts in outer space and factory workers on Earth. The team achieved an unprecedented level of hand dexterity on R2 by using leading-edge sensors, actuators and tendons comparable to the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand.

Research shows that continuously gripping a tool can cause fatigue in hand muscles within a few minutes, but initial testing of the Robo-Glove indicates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably.

For example, an astronaut working in a pressurized suit outside the space station or an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15 to 20 pounds of force to hold a tool during an operation but with the robotic glove they might need to apply only five to 10 pounds of force.

"The prototype glove offers my spacesuit team a promising opportunity to explore new ideas, and challenges our traditional thinking of what extravehicular activity hand dexterity could be," said Trish Petete, division chief, Crew and Thermal Systems Division, NASA's Johnson Space Center.

And there are promising applications on the ground, as well.

"When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an autoworker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions," said Dana Komin, GM's manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution. "In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury."

Inspired by the finger actuation system of R2, actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors, similar to the sensors that give R2 its sense of touch, are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to detect when the user is grasping a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released.

NASA and GM have submitted 46 patent applications for R2, including 21 for R2's hand and four for the Robo-Glove alone.

The first prototype of the glove was completed in March 2011 with a second generation arriving three months later. The fabric for the glove was produced by Oceaneering Space Systems, the same company that provided R2's "skin."

The current prototypes weigh about 2 pounds and include the control electronics, actuators and a small display for programming and diagnostics. An off-the-shelf lithium-ion power-tool battery with a belt-clip is used to power the system. A third-generation prototype that will use repackaged components to reduce the size and weight of the system is nearing completion.

For more information, visit: www.nasa.gov/robonaut

Published in NASA

The Office of Naval Research (ONR)’s Electromagnetic (EM) Railgun program will take an important step forward in the coming weeks when the first industry railgun prototype launcher is tested at a facility in Dahlgren, Va., officials said Feb. 6.

“This is the next step toward a future tactical system that will be placed on board a ship some day,” said Roger Ellis, program manager of EM Railgun.

The EM Railgun launcher is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph.

With its increased velocity and extended range, the EM Railgun will give Sailors a multi-mission capability, allowing them to conduct precise naval surface fire support, or land strikes; cruise missile and ballistic missile defense; and surface warfare to deter enemy vessels. Navy planners are targeting a 50- to 100-nautical mile initial capability with expansion up to 220 nautical miles.

The EM Railgun program, part of ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, previously relied upon government laboratory-based launchers for testing and advancing railgun technology. The first industry-built launcher, a 32-megajoule prototype demonstrator made by BAE Systems, arrived at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Jan. 30. One megajoule of energy is equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 miles per hour.

“This industry prototype represents a step beyond our previous successful demonstrations of the laboratory launcher,” Ellis said.

The prototype demonstrator incorporates advanced composites and improved barrel life performance resulting from development efforts on the laboratory systems located at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and NSWC-Dahlgren. The EM Railgun laboratory demonstrator based at NSWC-Dahlgren fired a world record setting 33-megajoule shot in December 2010.

The industry demonstrator will begin test firing this month as the EM Railgun program prepares for delivery of a second prototype launcher built by General Atomics.

In the meantime, the Navy is pushing ahead with the next phase of the EM Railgun program to develop automatic projectile loading systems and thermal management systems to facilitate increased firing rates of the weapon.

“The next phase of the development effort is to demonstrate the ability to operate at a firing rate of significant military utility,” Ellis said.

ONR recently awarded $10 million contracts through Naval Sea Systems Command to Raytheon Corp., BAE Systems and General Atomics to develop a pulsed power system for launching projectiles in rapid succession. These new contracts kick off a five-year effort to achieve a firing rate of six to 10 rounds per minute.

BAE Systems and General Atomics also are commencing concept development work on the next-generation prototype EM Railgun capable of the desired firing rate.

For more information, visit: www.navsea.navy.mil

Published in Navy

In December, MIT announced the launch of an online learning initiative called “MITx.” Starting this week, interested learners can now enroll for free in the initiative’s prototype course — 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics.

Students can sign up for the course at mitx.mit.edu. The course will officially begin on March 5 and run through June 8.

Modeled after MIT’s 6.002 — an introductory course for undergraduate students in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) — 6.002x will introduce engineering in the context of the lumped circuit abstraction, helping students make the transition from physics to the fields of electrical engineering and computer science. It will be taught by Anant Agarwal, EECS professor and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL); Chris Terman, CSAIL co-director; EECS Professor Gerald Sussman; and CSAIL Research Scientist Piotr Mitros.

“We are very excited to begin MITx with this prototype class,” says MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif. “We will use this prototype course to optimize the tools we have built by soliciting and acting on feedback from learners.”

To access the course, registered students will log in at mitx.mit.edu, where they will find a course schedule, an e-textbook for the course, and a discussion board. Each week, students will watch video lectures and demonstrations, work with practice exercises, complete homework assignments, and participate in an online interactive lab specifically designed to replicate its real-world counterpart. Students will also take exams and be able to check their grades as they progress in the course. Overall, students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours each week on the course.

“We invite you to join us for this pilot course of MITx,” Agarwal says. “The 6.002x team of professors and teaching assistants is excited to work with you on the discussion forum, and we look forward to your feedback to improve the learning experience.”

At the end of the prototype course, students who demonstrate their mastery will be able to receive a certificate of completion for free. In future MITx courses, students who complete the mastery requirement on MITx will be able to receive the credential for a modest fee.

Further courses are expected to become available beginning in the fall.

This article covers my concept and design process for creating a sound-hole guard for my acoustic guitar. The idea was to protect my guitar from damage and wear after long and repeated use of a pick while strumming.

Some time ago I decided to replace the pick guard on my vintage Guild acoustic guitar. I play it all the time, and it holds a lot of sentimental value for me. It was my very first guitar. I purchased it new back in 1982 in Northern California. After nearly 30 years of use, some minor maintenance and repairs were in order, including replacing the original pick guard. I removed the old pick guard, cut out a new pattern matching the old guard (using new acrylic plastic) and applied the new one on to my guitar. That’s when I decided something needed to be done in order to prevent any further damage to the lower portion of the sound-hole. I noticed over many years using a pick while that this area had eroded away considerably. Bare wood from the soundboard was now exposed and continuing to grow in length downward from the sound-hole edges. Depending on the guitar manufacturer, there is usually a gap between the edge of the sound-hole and the beginning of the pick guard, which runs concentric to the sound hole. Regardless, the edge of the sound-hole and soundboard on acoustic guitars are exposed and unprotected from damage, something where even moderate use can have long-term affects.

My initial concept was to develop a flat pattern that could be laid onto the soundboard with an overlapping piece that bent around to the back of the sound-hole. The development piece would have to have a pressure sensitive adhesive in order to adhere in place. I used a .020 thick piece of Mylar for the original pattern, but soon afterward came up with another concept that would act as a more permanent and stronger solution. That fix turned out amazingly well and is still on my guitar.

I designed a flat pattern out of .125 thick piece of polycarbonate, heat formed it around a fixture that duplicated the sound-hole/soundboard dimensions. This design acts as a clip that fits over the lower half of the sound-hole. I attached the prototype piece onto my guitar with some silicon rubber adhesive in order for it to stay in place. Although this prototype proved to prevent any further damage to the area, I felt I needed to refine the design by reducing the wall thickness (the prototype appeared to be too bulky) and to simplify the fit by eliminating the use of an adhesive.

Then I picked up a seat of SolidWorks so I could properly build and design 3D solid models. This was something I had been putting off and had wanted to do for quite a while. My guitar project prompted me to take some action. After familiarizing myself with the software, I decided to tackle the sound-hole guard project. My first design incorporated negative draft on the two walls to act as a clip to squeeze onto the soundboard. I also designed three concentric ridge features on the inner wall to act as teeth to bite onto the soundboard, preventing movement and eliminating the need for the adhesive.

After converting to my first .stl file, I was ready to shop for a prototype service that would build the part. I was a little disappointed in discovering the pricing structures I was looking at, as my part did not seem very intricate or big. Searching further, I found ZoomRP who’s pricing seemed reasonable. Plus they offered very fast turn-around times, and their on-line quoting system was convenient and almost immediate, within seconds after submitting the .stl file. I decided to go with the Poly Jet HD Blue process, which advertised the highest resolution, highest accuracy, and was specific to smaller prototypes.

When I received my first part, I was completely impressed by the accuracy and quality of the surface finish and to the details of the very small teeth on the inner wall. My part would allow me to test for fit and function on my guitar. The only problem I experienced was an interference issue, which I overlooked in the design process. The inside edge of the outer wall of the part was catching on the edge of the pick guard. This prevented it to seat properly. The dimension of the outer wall of the part was too close to the location of the edge of the pick guard. So I went back to solving this issue on SolidWorks.

I also felt it necessary to play around with wall thickness and draft. Thickness of .100 still seemed too thick and the fit also seemed too tight on the guitar. I did extend the front wall to fit over the pick guard and added a small radius extending the entire inner edge.

A couple of designs later I was finally able to fine tune all design concerns including the right amount of draft, wall thickness, overall length, and front wall length, (final part: pic-4, front view and back view). I now feel very comfortable that this piece will fit and offer protection on all acoustic guitars that have round sound-holes.

I now have a provisional patent, and plan to go forward with obtaining a final patent. I am sure my sound-hole guard product will catch on and appeal to all levels of musicians who can appreciate the need to protect their investment, whether sentimental or financial.

For information, visit: www.Strumhard.com or www.ZoomRP.com

Published in ZoomRP

ARKTOS Developments Ltd. (ADL) —the designer and manufacturer of a remarkable amphibious vehicle known as the ARKTOS Craft—is using simulation software from Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) to prepare its products to operate in some of the world’s most environmentally demanding locations.

“Using Autodesk Simulation software helped ARKTOS to accurately predict product performance on a nearly limitless vehicle,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vice president, Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk. “The extreme environments our customers are successfully analyzing are a testament to how accurately Autodesk Simulation technology can simulate real world performance.”

Originally designed as an amphibious evacuation craft for Arctic offshore oil facilities, the ARKTOS Craft can move from frigid -50°C (-122°F) temperatures, through burning flames, and back again, as in the case of evacuating a burning oil rig. Additionally, the ARKTOS Craft can easily navigate ice-rubble fields, ice ridges and open water—and can even climb up or down vertical steps—making the ARKTOS Craft a highly capable exploration craft for a variety of extreme climates.

Valmont West Coast Engineering (Valmont), which provides finite element analysis (FEA) services to ADL, was responsible for predicting vehicle performance in these severe environments: “We used Autodesk Simulation technology to predict critical stresses for the ARKTOS at extreme temperatures and loading conditions,” said Ioan Giosan, Ph.D., P.Eng at Valmont. “After finding an optimal design using FEA methods, we relied on physical testing and field use to validate the accuracy of our results.”

Digitally Optimizing Performance

The key to the ARKTOS Craft’s mobility is an articulated arm between the vessel’s two main compartments. As the Craft climbs up onto an ice shelf from the water, the hydraulics in that arm help push the front unit of the Craft up out of the water so that the special track spikes can grab the ice.

Using the multiphysics capabilities of Autodesk Simulation, Valmont was able to show ADL engineers how thermal stress caused by temperature extremes would combine with mechanical stress within the articulated arm between the units. Additionally, since the arm would see repeated compressive and tensile loading, Valmont also analyzed fatigue life using the Autodesk Simulation multiphysics tools.

“We continue to modify the original ARKTOS Craft design for each of our new customer’s unique needs,” said Bruce Seligman, president at ADL. “Autodesk software makes it easy for us to design new attachments for the craft, and then simulate how those modifications will affect performance. Sharing early concepts and engineering analysis results with stakeholders digitally is a critical part of our development workflow today and is all powered by Autodesk software.”

Headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, ARKTOS Developments Ltd. is the manufacturing body for the high mobility amphibious Craft known by the registered trademark of ARKTOS. ARKTOS Craft units are currently operating in Alaska, China, and the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan.

For more information, visit: www.arktoscraft.com

Published in Autodesk

Working under the open sky – it sounds enticing, but it’s seldom really a practical option. Now, a dynamic luminous ceiling brings the sky into office spaces by creating the effect of passing clouds. This kind of lighting generates a pleasant working environment.

As the wind swiftly blows clouds across the sky, the light is in a constant state of change. The feeling of spaciousness and freedom we experience outdoors is exactly what researchers from the Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO replicate indoors: a luminous ceiling that extends across the entire room simulates lighting conditions which resemble those produced by passing clouds – conveying the impression that you are sitting outdoors.

The innovative luminous ceiling, which was developed by the Fraunhofer researchers in close collaboration with their partners at LEiDs GmbH, consists of 50cm by 50cm tiles. “Each tile comprises an LED board with 288 light emitting diodes (LEDs),” states Dr. Matthias Bues, head of department at the IAO. “The board is mounted on the ceiling. A diffuser film in matt white is attached approximately 30cm beneath the LEDs and ensures that the individual points of light are not perceived as such. This diffuser film creates homogenous lighting that illuminates the room throughout.” The researchers use a combination of red, blue, green and white LEDs in order to produce the full light spectrum. This combination makes it possible to generate more than 16 million hues. What’s more, the white LEDs are more energy efficient than the colored lights, which keeps the energy costs to a minimum.

The main focus in developing the virtual sky was to simulate natural lighting conditions on a cloudy day. To achieve this goal, the researchers carefully examined natural light to find out how – and how quickly – the light spectrum changes when clouds move across the sky. “The LEDs allow us to simulate these dynamic changes in lighting in a way that is not directly obvious to the naked eye. Otherwise the lighting might distract people from their work. But it does need to fluctuate enough to promote concentration and heighten alertness,” says Bues. The results of a preliminary study indicate that users find this dynamic lighting to be extremely pleasant. The study involved ten volunteers who carried out their daily work over the course of four days under these lighting conditions with a lighting surface of 30cm by 60cm. Throughout the first day, the lighting remained static. On the second day, it fluctuated gently, and on the third day the fluctuations were rapid. On the fourth day, the participants could choose which type of lighting they wanted, and 80 percent opted for the fast, dynamic lighting.

A prototype of this virtual sky has now been developed that contains a total of 34,560 LEDs spanning an area of 34 square meters. At full power, the “sky” lights up with an intensity of more than 3,000 lux, but 500 to 1,000 lux is sufficient to create a comfortable level of lighting.

From March 6 -10, 2012 at the CeBIT trade fair in Hannover, the researchers will be exhibiting a 2.8m by 2.8m virtual sky at the joint Fraunhofer booth in Hall 9, Booth E 02. Initial inquiries regarding the new lighting have already come in, mainly for use in conference rooms. The virtual sky currently costs approximately 1,000 euros per square meter, but this price will come down, since the more units are produced, the more cost-effective each luminous ceiling will be.

For more information, visit: www.fraunhofer.de or www.cebit.de

Published in Fraunhofer

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