3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee
Sep29

3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee

Honey adds flavor to our foods and, more importantly, keeps our global ecology strong. As bees move from plant to plant collecting nectar for honey production, they do the important work of cross-pollination, which keeps 90% of the world’s plants and 30% of its crops alive. However, when you go to the grocery store and pull off the cheapest bottle of honey you can find, you probably aren’t taking advantage of all that honey has to offer. Oftentimes, this honey has been heated and pasteurized and therefore does not have the enzymes and compounds that make local, raw honey so nutritious. In fact, the latter can help treat dandruff, provide energy, and even build immunity to some seasonal allergies. Risks of Traditional Honey-Harvesting Methods Unfortunately, harvesting honey from a beehive isn’t the easiest job in the world. The average honeybee hive contains 20,000–30,000 bees that, even after being sedated, will usually do anything they can to protect their honey. Beekeeping suits help, sure, but there’s always the possibility that the bees will find an opening (or just skip that step and sting the keeper through his or her suit). A bigger issue with traditional methods of honey harvesting is that the process inevitably kills bees and is hugely disruptive to the colony. To get to the honey, keepers usually have to leaf-blow bees off of the combs, cut the combs off the bee box, and spin honey off the combs with an extractor. At the end of this messy process, even the most careful keepers inevitably kill more bees than necessary. An Innovative 3D-Printed Beehive Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father-and-son team in Australia, have been working for more than a decade on methods to harvest local honey more easily and economically. They wanted to develop a way to increase production, decrease colony disruption, and mass-produce pure honey for a wider audience. Enter Flow. Using a 3D printer, the Andersons create frames using plastic that is both BPA-free (BPA is a chemical often used in making plastics. It can have a negative effect on brain function, especially in children and pregnant women). Flow’s plastic is also made of food-grade material, meaning it is free of toxins and not at risk for acquiring toxins. The New Honeybee Hive Design Flow is modeled after traditional bee boxes but with a few brilliant alterations. It has thousands of almost-complete honeycomb cells, which the bees seal with wax and then fill with honey. Much like a regular hive, the end result is a series of columns of honey-filled pockets. However, the columns in Flow are connected to a handle on the outside of the...

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3D Printed Hands Become an Affordable Solution for Amputees
Sep23

3D Printed Hands Become an Affordable Solution for Amputees

  In many fantasy and sci-fi narratives, there’s a point where reality is pushed aside and a fantastical future is introduced. Often, this turn happens when the only way to solve the problem at hand is to utilize some amazing, futuristic technology. The 3D printing of medical device prototypes is, in a lot of ways, similar—when we encounter a problem, we can now think up and print out a solution. The only difference between our Star Trek-y fantasies and the 3D printing of medical devices is, of course, that 3D printing solutions are are a reality. Affordable 3D-Printed Hands for Amputees Using computer graphics of existing hands, Open Bionics hopes to make affordable, 3D-printed hands available for purchase in the next decade or so. The company’s ambition comes in part from their comprehensive understanding of how brain signals activate body parts. By utilizing specific materials in their printing, the company is able to create customizable, 3D-printed hands. The hands are completely functional. Similar to regular body parts, robotic hands are controlled via electrodes connecting them to a person’s brain. When we reach out to, say, pick up a cup, our brains automatically send electrical signals that tell our wrists to rotate, our fingers to splay open, and our hands to wrap around the cup. Robotic technology can now artificially recreate that bridge. As reported by The Mary Sue, it is now even possible to connect the electrodes in robotic arms to allow their users to actually feel what they’re touching. There are nearly 2 million people in the United States living and adapting to life as amputees. Open Bionics is determined to improve their quality of life by streamlining the bionic 3D-hand-printing process to be effective, precise, and economically viable. 3D Printing for Everyone In the early stages of 3D printing, a printed body part could cost someone hundreds of thousands of dollars. As 3D prototype printing is integrated with a wider range of materials (like advanced polymers and living tissue), it will be more plausible to mass-produce 3D-printed hands of all sizes, shapes, and designs. A new printed hand could someday be as affordable as a pair of designer shoes. Overcoming the Socio-Tech Gap Obviously, 3D printing has our attention. However, it is still a relatively new endeavor, and the majority of the public doesn’t know too much about it. We also recognize the trust gap, too—even though the technology is surely improving, a lot of us have a hard time believing 3D printing is as capable as it promises to be. Open Bionics believes that they’ll be able to create these fully functional 3D-printed hands in about...

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Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy
Sep17

Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy

  As the human population swells and we continue to look for places to live, work, and shop, agricultural land is becoming harder and harder to find. A Barcelona-based company believes it has developed a solution to the world’s shrinking supply of farmland. Forward Thinking Architecture has developed what they call “Smart Floating Farms,” which are three-level agricultural barges that provide additional farmland . . . on the water. Environmental Advantages of Floating Farms Although the company is still planning out the logistics of their floating farms, the proposed design addresses many issues facing today’s farmers. First of all, the farms would preserve arable land. In 2012, only 10.8% of the planet qualified as “arable,” but there are over 372,000 miles of coastline that would be perfect for floating farms. These floating platforms would allow for more universal access to organic food, and, by being mostly self-sufficient and easily sustainable, would be good for the environment, too. The farms would also be modular, making it possible for several of them to be grouped together to provide a centralized food bank for densely populated areas of the world. Smart Floating Farm Design The default size for the farms is 656’ x 1,150’. The middle level of each unit would be farmable, creating about 750,000 square feet of farmland (that’s over 13 football fields!). The bottom level of each farm would be utilized for fish farms and the top level would contain solar panels and skylights to deliver natural light to the plants below. The facilities could include water access points, storage centers, wave barriers, and desalination plants. With automated hydroponics and microclimate control, floating farms would offer consistent, regulated environments for the plants (similar to freight farms). To increase energy production, floating farms could incorporate wind turbines and wave-energy conversion units. Economic Benefits of Aquaculture and Hydroponic Farming Because the plants would be grown hydroponically (without soil), there would be no need for natural precipitation, pesticides, or soil itself. The gardens are stackable, too, so they could be placed on top of one another to save space. The designers believe floating farms could someday operate with very little human assistance, but early floating farms are already providing jobs and sustenance for thousands of people around the world. Using the “Internet of Things,” sensors could be placed throughout the farms to keep each facility running efficiently. The farms would also provide data on the types of foods local people are seeking. The company says that one farm could yield over eight tons of vegetables and almost two tons of fish each year. With that rate of production, the cost of building...

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Innovative Self-Powered LED Bike Lights with the Xbat and the Revolight
Sep11

Innovative Self-Powered LED Bike Lights with the Xbat and the Revolight

Creativity and necessity inspire ingenuity and innovation. For years, many bicyclists have used dynamo self-powered LED lighting systems, but the technology could definitely use an upgrade. Many dynamo devices create noticeable drag on the bicycle wheels, are too heavy, and contribute to the wear and tear of tires. Cyclists have started to turn away from dynamo LEDs, opting for an unimpeded ride over the safety of a well-lit bicycle. Now, though, it’s becoming possible to have both. The Xbat Changes Everything Taiwanese company Sr. Eco (short for Sunrising Eco-Friendly Technology) has released their Xbat line of LED bike lighting, a name intended to emphasize that the product “eXcludes batteries.” The Xbat is self-powered like the dynamo devices, but doesn’t rely on friction to generate its energy; it instead uses dynamic induction to power its LEDs. Dynamic induction begins with pairs of magnets that have been attached to the bike’s tires. As the tires spin, the magnets pass by each other, generating energy with help from the conductive rim of the bicycle wheel. The energy triggers the hub generator (see below), which then uses the energy to power the LED lighting. Silent, Lightweight Safety The Xbat “hub” is the light itself, mounted with a lightweight generator and weighing only sixteen grams. While traditional self-powered LEDs can flicker or dim as the bicycle slows or stops, some Xbat models have a built-in capacitor that keeps the lights on for up to three minutes after the wheels stop spinning. This is a fantastic safety- and security feature that gives all the perks of wireless, battery-operated LED systems without requiring riders to change batteries. The dynamic induction technology has acute sensitivity, initiating the light almost immediately after the wheels begin to spin. It operates silently (another huge perk) and combines human power, environmental friendliness, and the perks of never having to switch off a light. The Future of LEDs The Revolights prototype, funded in part by a pair of Kickstarter campaigns and an equity investment on ABC’s Shark Tank, is perhaps the next generation of LED safety for cyclists. It is a lightweight, friction-free system offering 360° lighting. With safety as its goal, the Revolights prototype increases bike visibility from the side with LED light strips attached to the rims of the wheels. The Revolights LED system is a legal headlight that illuminates paths and signs. It also has a brake light that automatically brightens and dims as the bike changes speed. One of the most fascinating aspects of this invention is that the fork-mounted magnet and the accelerometer provide data to the LEDs so that they illuminate only when oriented at the front...

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LiFi and the VLC: An IoT Revolution
Sep09

LiFi and the VLC: An IoT Revolution

The long-awaited “Internet of Things” (IoT) may be one step closer to becoming a reality, all due to one unlikely source . . . light fixtures. Developments in LED lighting technology are making “LiFi” a brilliant and potentially industry-changing alternative to WiFi. Using the VLC to Communicate So what is LiFi anyways? LiFi is a technology that uses the visible light spectrum (VLC) to transmit data. It is similar to WiFi, but while WiFi uses radio bands to communicate its signal, LiFi relies on LED lighting. The LEDs can emit quick bursts of photons invisible to the human eye but capable of carrying data from the sender to the receiver (i.e., straight from the lights to your electronic device). Advantages of LiFi Technology If you’ve ever used public WiFi before, you know what it’s like to be on an overcrowded server: It’s molasses-slow, your pictures don’t load, and you can’t watch more than six seconds of, well, anything, before your phone freezes. LiFi addresses this problem by transmitting its signal via the light spectrum, which is 10,000 times larger than the radio frequency spectrum. With LiFi, even the busiest public spaces can become active, high-speed hotspots (and you can dive as deep into the Internet as you’re willing to go). Another advantage of LiFi is its security: The LiFi connection can only be accessed by users whose devices are in sight of the light emitting the signal. No longer will your neighbors be able to steal your WiFi; no longer will you have to deal with crawling download speeds. If they’re not in the light, they’re not on your Internet. LiFi is just starting to become viable for everyday use. For example, cars with LED headlights may soon be able to send and receive data to enable car-to-car communication about roadway hazards, etc. The cars would also send and receive data from other LED devices on the street grid (such as traffic lights and street lights) to create an entire network of active, fully connected devices. The “Internet of Things” Awaits The LiFi revolution may bring us one step closer to what entrepreneur Kevin Ashton called the Internet of Things. The term, which we mentioned earlier, refers to a network of everyday objects embedded with the hardware and software necessary to exchange data with each other. At its early beginnings, access to the Internet was limited to computers and workstations directly connected to local area or dial-up networks. Presently, we can access the Internet from personal devices such as mobile phones and smartwatches using WiFi networks; the LiFi revolution could take everything one giant step forward. Everyday objects outfitted with LEDs...

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