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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3D Printer to Construct Steel Foot Bridge in Amsterdam
Jul22

3D Printer to Construct Steel Foot Bridge in Amsterdam

MX3D, a Dutch research and development organization, is working in partnership with several companies including Autodesk, and Lenovo, to make their ambitious 3D printing project a reality. The combined talents of these firms will attempt to construct a pedestrian bridge across a canal in Amsterdam using 3D printing technology. The engineers at MX3D have worked to create robotic printers that will be capable of executing the job autonomously. The robotic printers’ six-axis arms have welders on each tip that will essentially “draw” the steel structure from each side of the canal. 3D robotic printers use various types of metals, such as aluminum, bronze, copper, or steel for construction. The printers create the structures in the air without the need of traditional support structures, such as scaffolding because the builds are sequential and can be constructed in any direction. The MX3D printing technology will differ from current 3D printing technologies in the sense that it prints “outside the box.” Currently, 3D printed objects are limited by the size of the printing space. Large objects are printed piece by piece and assembled later. By utilizing this new six-axis robotic approach, neither design nor function will be hampered or confined to a square box. The robotic application will take 3D printing to a whole new level of design, and the potential for the MX3D application is limitless as it enables 3D printers to produce practical, life-size constructs. Engineers expect that construction will begin by 2017. There were a some growing pains during the developmental stage of the printers. MX3D engineers have dealt with the printers generating “worm-like” globs, welding machine explosions, clogged nozzles, and the robot got disoriented. Multiple testing sessions finally produced an operational robotic printer that was able to create the structures. The bridge structure is designed by Autodesk project engineers and will employ a proprietary software program. It will synchronize with the technical development of the bridge, giving due consideration to the bridge’s location. The completed bridge will be 24 feet in length, made of a steel composite created at the University of Delft, and will have a superior tensile strength. It will also be functional and is expected to handle normal foot traffic. MX3D envisions a time in the not too distant future when advances in future technology will foster the development of robotic concrete printers too, in the hopes that the 3D printing of significant structures such as buildings will be possible....

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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 Printing and the Cloud Level the Playing Field for Small Business
Jun18

3D Printing and the Cloud Level the Playing Field for Small Business

The small business is on the rise thanks to unexpected help from technological advancements like 3D printing and cloud computing benefits. 3D printing is helping some business owners grow and expand their products thanks to the innovative and quick design process supplied by these technologies. While many small businesses thrive in relationships with contract manufacturing partners, the 3D printing cloud offers a viable in-house alternative. An innovator can mock up a prototype and have it printed in a short amount of time. They are then able to test it on the market to see if it solves anyone’s problems. A product that can be created without having to worry if an order will be correct is a godsend for many business owners who lack the capital for a larger factory order. Instead, they can custom make and modify orders as they come. This keeps costs low and orders well in line for business. All they need to do is front the cost for the software and 3D printing machine—which is worth the investment if their business takes off. This keeps them competitive with bigger companies without worrying about cost ratio and markups. All they need is a viable product, a great website, and some solid marketing to really give the an edge in their specific market. Basic 3D printing for businesses does not cost much if they plan on using the printer to create high volume products over a long period of time. It is surely better than relying on a factory in Asia to make subpar products that may never get sold. A 3D printer gives small businesses the ability to create their products when a customer orders the specific product. They can also create different prototypes of the product to best determine the ideal shape, size and style of the specified item. 3D printing will change the face of how a small business works for the better. However, this would not be possible if it were not for cloud computing. The cloud is also an important aspect of small businesses because it allows them to use 3D printing without using large amounts of data on their server. Their intellectual property is protected online, and the cloud computing benefits keep their server from being overloaded with material. A specific cloud for 3D printing can hold all the information they need such as the prototype creation or the prototype design. This is a must for small companies that need the technology without the upkeep to do...

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WIN-911 Alarm Notification Software Adds Layer of Protection to SCADA Systems
Mar25

WIN-911 Alarm Notification Software Adds Layer of Protection to SCADA Systems

In the past, monitoring the safety systems of any facility was a challenge. Personnel in charge had to be highly trained to know exactly what every light and sound meant. In many cases, they also had to be present at the control panel at all times to respond to an emergency in a timely manner. But, what if an alarm system could simply call the right people for help, telling them exactly what was wrong? WIN-911 Software does precisely that, improving performance of safety and maintenance personnel in facilities around the globe in the process. The software utilizes parameters already set in place by existing system control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. The program essentially acts as an efficient middleman, quickly translating messages from the warning system into messages that are easily accessed and understood. Founded in Houston in 1974 in response to growing demand in the field of process control automation, WIN-911 is the recognized industry leader in alarm notification software. Used in more than 10,000 facilities spread across 65 countries around the globe, company representatives say that adding their software to any monitoring system can reduce personnel costs, raw material waste, energy costs, and machine maintenance costs. From manufacturing and automated production to preservation efforts that protect local ecosystems, WIN-911 can be integrated into virtually any number of preventative systems. For nearly all alarm systems, the task of informing a response team of the exact nature and location of a problem takes quite a bit of precious time. What sets WIN-911 apart is its intelligent decision matrix that is able to prioritize and relay accurate information about every alarm. Graded responses are provided based on the issue, and early warnings provide an opportunity to solve an issue before it becomes an expensive – or dangerous – problem. The biggest advantage WIN-911 software has is it’s ability to interface with mobile devices and contact available personnel wherever they may be. The pager and lexicon system, which sends workers an alert on a pager that they must then translate using a lexicon, has now been made obsolete by the Mobile-911 system. WIN-911 will send prioritized voice messages to assigned personnel describing the nature and location of any generated alarm, eliminating guess work and improving response times. WIN-911 is revolutionizing alarm notification alerts in every industry imaginable. Patrolmen, caregivers and maintenance workers no longer need to spend countless hours staring at a computer screen waiting for the next potential emergency. They can receive alerts from anywhere and respond immediately. The roster of those using the company’s alarm notification software includes Charter Communications, Cliffs Natural Resources, Bank of America, and Archer...

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Hospital Robot Saves Lives, Does the Laundry
Feb17

Hospital Robot Saves Lives, Does the Laundry

Wired Magazine writer Matt Simon recently visited the brand-new Mission Bay wing at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. The purpose was to see how well a fleet of servant robots were operating within this setting. The experience was both interesting and personally unnerving. What They Are Mr. Simon’s first encounter with one of the robots left him underwhelmed. The machines, known as Tugs, are plain, white rectangular objects approximately four feet in height and come in two basic configurations. One version, designed for transporting food and linens, has a narrower profile and features a rear chassis on which containers can be placed. The other type is used to deliver medications and carries its own bins. Tugs use laser vision and over two dozen ultrasound and infrared sensors for depth perception and steering clear of obstacles, all while moving at a leisurely pace. What They Do Designed to aid human workers rather than supplant them, Tugs bring meals, towels, sheets, and medicines to stations and rooms. They also take dirty linens, waste, and empty trays to where they can be processed. The robots cover approximately 12 miles each day using only their detection devices, Wi-Fi, and internal charts as guides. Tugs are not limited to set paths and can interact with humans and signal their presence with both beeping sounds and human voices of either a calming male or female or, alternatively, a boisterous Australian-accented male. How People React Before putting the robots to work, hospital staff were trained in how to deal with them. The basic rule is to view their physical presence like that of an elderly relative. Mr. Simon observed some employees saw them as adorable while others were subtly frightened. Overall, the attitude is positive enough for workers to provide them with affectionate names like “Tuggy McFresh” or “Wall-E” along with various names of fruit. Matt’s own feelings leaned in a more negative direction since it occurred to him that these machines can only get smarter over time and they are not fixed to a set path. He also mentioned jealousy because they’re not stymied by any sense of...

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