This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have
Oct19

This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have

We’ve heard some people actually like football season for the football, but we’ll be honest—we’re here for the tailgating, the picnics, the burgers, the wings, the nachos, the beers . . . all stuffed into our favorite (and biggest) coolers. Our coolers have it pretty rough. They get beat up, kicked around, left in the sun, used as kicking posts for your angry brother and resting stations for Uncle John’s bigger-than-average behind. Their task of keeping our beers cold for more than a couple hours sometimes seems impossible, and we usually end up bobbing for cans in a pool of lukewarm water that used to be ice. But fear not, thirsty comrades: There is hope in solar-powered coolers. Keeping Your Drinks (and That Klondike Bar You Hid for Later) Ice-Cold The solar-powered coolers invented by nipi can rest on hot pavement, the lawn, or underneath Uncle John on the hottest of days while maintaining a Coors-friendly “Cold as the Rockies” internal temperature. In fact, the nipi can keep ice cold for an astonishing six days. Bring on the overtime. The Brilliant Design and Concept of the Solar-Powered Cooler We’ve gotten used to a high-tech world and demanding high-tech solutions. By utilizing 3D printing, nipi’s solar-powered cooler stands with the best. The cooler’s main body, rigid tires, treads, and handles are all 3D printed using sturdy materials. Additionally, the cooler uses photovoltaic solar panels that can generate six watts of power and store that power in two 14,000-mAh lithium batteries. This technology enables the cooler to keep its contents cold, power its innovative lighting system, and charge electronic devices. Its solar panels are customizable, too, so users can have up to three panels on each cooler. With three panels, it is possible to fully charge a cell phone in about twenty minutes. But Wait . . . There’s More (and You Can Afford It) In addition to its four USB ports, self-draining cup holders, cutting board, and internal and external LED lights, the nipi cooler also features a waterproof storage area perfect for guarding anything you want to keep safe and dry. The initial Kickstarter campaign for nipi made the coolers available for $160. Compare this cost to a YETI Tundra 110 cooler, which holds the same number of beers (about 65), but sells for a staggering $499.99. New Launch Date Unfortunately, nipi announced in September that they’ve decided to cancel their campaign and launch an improved model next year. You can still follow their progress on social media. Do you have any suggestions for the new and improved cooler? Write them in the comments section beneath our...

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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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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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Are 3D Printed Cars the Future of the Auto Industry?
Sep03

Are 3D Printed Cars the Future of the Auto Industry?

  3D printing technology has been available since the 1980s, but only recently have we seen it applied at an industrial capacity. In the past few years, 3D printing—sometimes called additive manufacturing or 3DP—has been used to construct apparel, medical devices, and even buildings. Now, the automotive industry has started to use the process to create 3D cars. 3DP vs. the Assembly Line: Racing for Pink Slips Henry Ford’s moving assembly line, implemented in 1913, revolutionized the industry and simplified mass production. However, over a hundred years later, the process for manufacturing automobiles remains largely unchanged. The now-dated system is expensive, requires extensive labor, and wastes an enormous amount of energy—even when building the “greenest” vehicles. This may all come to change very soon. A 3D printer, which is essentially a sophisticated industrial robot, manufactures an object from a digital file. The object is created by successively layering material until the entire object is created. 3D printing can be done with metals, plastics, and composite materials. The automobile industry has used 3D printing primarily for prototyping, so while there are a number of prototypes out there, they’re still mostly just ideas. Now though, some companies are using 3D printing to produce cars that are actually ready for a mass market. Swedish manufacturer Koenigsegg has produced a run of 300 high-performance vehicles with parts manufactured through 3D printing. 3D Printing and the Radical Reshaping of the Auto Industry Free from the assembly line, 3D printing promises to drive the future of automobiles and automated manufacturing facilities. Cars of the future will look different, obviously, but the real differences that 3D printed cars will offer include: Greater customization (e.g., built-in legroom for a taller car owner, orthopedic cushions for a driver with back problems, or a wider driver’s seat for a heavier driver.) Streamlined production (e.g., no excess scrap metal or material, fewer steps between concept and production, and less total material needed per vehicle.) Weight and safety (e.g., 3D printed cars are built with solid exteriors but honeycomb-lattice interiors, which increases safety and makes them lighter than today’s vehicles.) Energy efficiency (i.e., 3D printing saves significantly more energy than traditional manufacturing.) Car Manufacturing: A Numbers Game 3D printing may eventually level the automotive playing field to allow a new wave of companies to compete with larger manufacturers. The up-and-coming printing company, Divergent Microfactories, claims that their plants can produce up to 10,000 vehicles a year (compare to the 460,338 vehicles produced at Ford’s top-producing factory in 2011); small companies’ production capacities and competitive edge will increase as their technology improves. So, what do you think? Would you buy a 3D printed...

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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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