Intelligent Work Floor Automation Robots

OMRON Corp. has replaced the Lynx line of industrial robots with the new Mobile Robot LD Series, a year after acquiring Adept Technology Inc. The combined Japanese-American company, OMRON Adept Technologies (OAT), is leveraging their combined skills to focus on integrating manufacturing floor automation solutions with human workers in a harmonious way. The new LD Series of Autonomous Intelligent vehicles (AIVs), released on January 20 in 33 countries, aims to achieve this by improving on many aspects of the previous line of mobile robots, with better usability, reliability, quality control and support.

The mobile robots navigate around factory floors using the physical features of the facility, and do not require additional guidance tracks or installations for regular use. Up to 100 robots can be managed via a single controller. The onboard AI can sense and navigate around people, vehicles and other obstacles, and through doors, using a built-in laser scanner. Additionally, an optional High Accuracy Positioning System allows for well-defined repeatability, using magnetic tape and a sensor. The robots’ physical capacity stays the same, with different models supporting maximum loads of 60 – 130kg (132 – 287 lbs.) and a maximum speed of 1.8 m/s (4 mph).


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Self-Healing Material Inspired by ‘Wolverine’

Self-healing material. Source: UCR.eduTechnologies once only found in the realm of science fiction are now a reality. Inspired by comic-book hero, Wolverine, a team of scientists has developed the first ionic conductor: a material which allows ions to flow through which is also self-healing, physically elastic and transparent. There are many potential uses, including self-healing robots, artificial muscles, improved batteries and biosensors and even transparent loudspeakers.

“Creating a material with all these properties has been a puzzle for years,” said Chao Wang, an adjunct assistant professor of chemistry at University of California, Riverside, who is one of the authors of the paper. “We did that and now are just beginning to explore the applications.”


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Changing Metal’s Properties with Heat

It’s possible to change most of metal’s properties through heat. Electrical conductivity, magnetic charge, and even the physical structure of metal itself can be altered by controlled heating and cooling. This allows metal to be tailored to diverse, specific industry uses. Examples include heating metals to increase their electrical resistance, heating and cooling alloys in specific ways to increase or decrease the hardness, and bringing magnetic metals to the Curie temperature to eradicate their magnetism. Heat treatments fall into four separate categories: Annealing to soften metals and increase conductivity; Normalizing to create uniform composition; Hardening to improve durability; and Tempering to reduce the brittleness caused by hardening.


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New Year Brings Substantial Improvements to 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

3D printing and Additive Manufacturing (AM) will benefit from finer-tuned, higher-quality parts in 2017, thanks to increased efforts to define standards and guidelines combined with advancements in the plastics and metals used for fabrication.

A 3D-printed fuel intake runner fabricated from Solvay's KetaSpire PEEK instead of the typical aluminum uses 10% glass fill. (Source: Solvay)

A 3D-printed fuel intake runner fabricated from Solvay’s KetaSpire PEEK instead of the typical aluminum uses 10% glass fill. Source: Solvay

On the standards front, Senvol is has started to maintain and offer the public a database of indexes for AM material characterization which is supplier-independent. This will eliminate the need for smaller manufacturers to duplicate existing research of materials conducted by other industries and make it easier for companies to enter AM production.

Metals printer and printing material sales are increasing at a robust rate as the production of end-production parts grows. Alcoa is among the manufacturers who have increased capacity to produce powdered metals for 3D printing at their tech center in Pittsburgh, PA. Carnegie Mellon’s NextManufacturing Center for Additive Manufacturing is now employing synchrotron-based x-ray microtomography to better inspect and improve 3d printed titanium components.

The most used materials for AM in 2015 were photopolymers and photoplastics, but this number is declining as ceramics, metals and other materials increase in popularity. Evonik and BASF are leveraging HP’s Open Platform program, to create new 3D printed parts and products, while Solvay is developing polymer-based materials to replace metal parts.

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Source Code to Get to the Moon

The Apollo Guidance Computer (Image source: Grabert at German Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Did you know that only about 2MB of code was needed to land on the Moon? In Design News Magazine, Managing Editor Chris Wiltz describes the historic code, which is now available to the public domain via GitHub. It’s a document with unexpected personality, commented out with topical references to the Watts riots and quotes for Shakespeare.

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(Image: The Apollo Guidance Computer. Source: Grabert at German Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA Pushes Toward Electric Flight by 2018

The X-57, NASA’s latest experimental aircraft, is a small passenger plane with electric motors powered by lithium-ion battery cells. It’s based on the Tecnam P2006T, a four-seat plane made in Italy. NASA has replaced the original wing and twin engines with an array of fourteen propellers across a custom-designed wing. The motors at each wingtip provides 60 kW each, for cruising at altitude, while a dozen smaller 11 kW motors placed along the length of the wing are employed for takeoff and landing. The electric motors are powered by an array of 18,650 COTS battery cells. Sean Clarke, NASA co-principal investigator, explained, “We don’t have access to any fancy space technologies. It’s the same battery technology the automotive industry is using.”

NASA's experimental X-57 electric plane
Photo: NASA

NASA’s schedule for the X-57 is to begin test flights in early 2018. With the constant progress in battery energy density, NASA’s engineers foresee aviation manufacturers integrating the technology within ten years. They see the X-57 as an opportunity to test ideas, including hybrid electric/liquid fuel power, controlling peak power output, and new chassis designs. Clarke said, “This is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and rethink some of the old assumptions.”

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