Digital Prototyping Drives Auto Makers to Build Faster and More Efficiently
Jul28

Digital Prototyping Drives Auto Makers to Build Faster and More Efficiently

For decades, vehicle manufacturers have used prototypes as a way to test and refine new models before putting them into full scale production. However, those test cars are an expensive part of the development process, with each taking as much as $1 million to create. Advances in digital simulation have motivated many manufacturers to take a closer look at a faster and less expensive way to evaluate new models. Jaguar Land Rover recently began mass production of the Jaguar XE, which was designed and developed without using any prototypes during aerodynamic testing—the first mainstream model to do so. The company wants to eliminate all physical prototypes from the process by 2020. Greater processing power has allowed more widespread use of computer-aided engineering in vehicle manufacturing, as computer simulations have increasingly replaced the physical testing process that is typically expensive, time consuming, and often inaccurate. Annually, car manufacturers spend about $10 billion on prototype construction. According to Exa, the software company that worked with Jeep Land Rover on the XE, General Motors constructed 170 prototypes during testing for its latest version of the Chevrolet Malibu. Manufacturers could reduce the amount spent on prototype testing by a third with the use of simulation technology. In addition to seeing the three-dimensional renderings of an initial design, engineers can take the vehicle around a virtual test track and place it in other situations such as a parking lot. Approximately 80 percent of problems found during physical testing can be eliminated through simulation. Car makers are under pressure to reduce cost in the manufacturing process as well as meet demands for reduced emissions, and to add innovative connected technologies, as well as autonomous driving features. Another advantage of digital prototyping is that the technology is expected to bring down the car industry’s snail-pace development process, that can take as long as four years, and keep up with rapid prototyping by new rivals such as Google, Tesla, and Apple. Not all vehicle manufacturers will immediately turn to virtual prototyping, as the technique is expected to meet resistance from engineers. Many purists feel that one cannot properly judge a vehicle’s performance until it can be physically seen. German manufacturer Daimler continues to pour huge amounts of money into wind tunnel testing its cars. Some automotive designers, such as Chrysler LLC,  are combining simulation technologies with clay models to satisfy the need to see a prototype in its physical form before committing to the design. Manufacturers must also prove that they have crash-tested at least 10 cars to satisfy safety requirements. The new digital design trend seems to be inevitable. As the technology advances, more manufacturers will...

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Save Your Computer Data With Raspberry Pi and a Mason Jar
Jul14

Save Your Computer Data With Raspberry Pi and a Mason Jar

When one thinks of a mason jar it is typically in the context of a Pinterest project, or a glass container filled to the rim with sweet, sticky raspberry jam. Some of us in the digital age have found a new and far less messy use for mason jars. Technically it still involves raspberries— not the delicious bright red berry, but the Raspberry Pi minicomputer. The Raspberry Pi has been touted by some as the worlds smallest computer. While this may not technically be correct it is easily one of the smallest, most accessible computers for do-it-yourself computer enthusiasts. This minicomputer innovation has allowed users to put computing power into increasingly smaller devices at a relatively low price point. Building a mason jar data storage center using Raspberry Pi is an easy and fun project to get in touch with your inner geek. Essentially, the end product is a Raspberry Pi, housed inside a mason jar, that is running BitTorrent Sync to keep files in sync between your devices. BitTorrent Sync works in a similar fashion to Dropbox, and the Raspberry Pi-compatible version is aptly named Raspberry Preserve. The developers chose to use BT Sync, which is free to use, due to the decentralized nature of the BT network, as well as to keep the price of the project as low as possible. The Pi can also be attached to optional LEDs which will blink or remain lit to signify when data is being transferred. BitTorrent Sync is a software program that functions much like a peer-to-peer network, except the peers are the various devices you would find in your home: cell phone, laptop, desktop and in some case, television set. Once the Raspberry Pi jar is complete, it is able to store any files that are wirelessly shared with it. Simply move your family vacation pictures to a synced folder on your device and it will be synced to the hosted node of the Pi. From there, it can be accessed on any device you choose. The Raspberry Pi data preservation device is a DIY project that digital enthusiasts are sure to love. It’s also a great reminder that there is still room for creative innovation in the modern...

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3D-Printed Electronics Are the Future
Jul09

3D-Printed Electronics Are the Future

Imagine printing a solar cell in a matter of minutes. Some business owners may think it sounds like something out of a science fiction story, but 3D printing is developing with ever-expanding capabilities including the possibility for 3D-printed electronics. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but researchers are hard at work developing ways for printers to create nanotech components from synthetics. These so-called organic electronics rely on highly conductive materials that break the production mold. A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and Technische Universität München (TUM) in Munich have been working to identify and improve upon the electrical properties of synthetic films. The TUM team recently reported that razor-thin polymer electrodes can be created on 3D printers using enhanced synthetic films. Researchers in California can be thanked for these enhanced films. The team at Lawrence Berkeley used X-ray radiation to alter the molecular structure of freshly printed synthetic layers and worked in conjunction with the TUM researchers to determine how different post-printing processes affected the films. The international team plans to publish their results in Advanced Materials, an industry trade journal. These new printing technologies are exciting, but more research is on the horizon. Making organic electronics is incredibly complex. The process will need to be closely observed and understood so that custom applications are possible in the future. Researchers are also working to perfect techniques to create the various layers in electronic components using only one process. This will increase convenience for manufacturers and will allow the large-scale use of 3D printing to create designer electronics. There’s a great deal at stake here for businesses. Projected future markets for these technologies include solar cells, RFID tags, touch screens, glowing films and flexible displays. With future projects in development, such as wallpaper made of OLEDs, it is not surprising that organic electronics are expected to make a big impact on the consumer market thanks to this incredible range of applications. Of course, the ability to print designer electronics on a 3D printer also significantly increases prototyping and bespoke design capabilities for small businesses. Instead of blowing their research and development budgets on electronics manufacturing, businesses will be able to print components in house for immediate testing. It may seem a distant dream now, but the enthusiasm of researchers in California and Munich indicates that printed electronics are closer than many might...

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What is Prototyping?
Aug20

What is Prototyping?

Prototyping is an integral step in successful product development and commercialization.  There are several prototyping methods and practices to consider; understanding the options before making any decisions will help you to minimize cost and reduce time-to-market.

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