Tag Archives: Electronics

Updates from Autodesk

3D Printed Wireless Earbuds Help Enhance Hearing and Reduce Stigma Around Traditional Hearing Aids

Autodesk – Manchester Metropolitan University graduate Elen Parry, a current Industrial Digitalization masters student at the university and an International Autodesk Student Ambassador for the UK, is focused on using “Human-Centered Design methods” to reduce exclusion against people. Her current project is a 3D printed wireless earbud concept, aimed at helping people with hearing disabilities fight the stigma around traditional hearing aids, while enhancing their hearing at the same time.

Parry’s HeX earbuds, which were chosen by the Design Council’s CEO Sarah Weir as the top pick for this year’s ‘New Designers’ event, are audio headphones that can also be used as an advanced hearing device. The concept calls for the use of an advanced chip, which would receive and process sound signals and be able to differentiate and control what you actually want to hear and normal background noise. Users could decrease or increase the volume of their environment, which could help extend their ability to hear while at the same time protecting them against hearing loss.

Thanks to technology like 3D printing and connected manufacturing systems, it’s now possible to produce devices like hearing aids and earbuds, and combined products like HeX, on a large scale. more>

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Air Gaps Key to Next-Gen Nanochips

By Kenny Walter – A new type of transistor—which uses air gaps to eliminate the need for semiconductors—could help scientists produce more efficient nanochips.

RMIT University researchers have engineered a new type of transistor that send electrons through narrow air gaps where they can travel unimpeded, rather than sending electrical currents through silicon.

“Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat,” lead author and PhD candidate in RMIT’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group Shruti Nirantar said in a statement.

“Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat.”

While the power of computer chips has doubled about every two years for decades, recently the progress has stalled as engineers struggle to make smaller transistor parts.

However, the researchers believe the new device is a promising way to create nano electronics that respond to the limitations of silicon-based electronics. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Finally, a Robust Fuel Cell that Runs on Methane at Practical Temperatures
By Ben Brumfield – Fuel cells have not been particularly known for their practicality and affordability, but that may have just changed. There’s a new cell that runs on cheap fuel at temperatures comparable to automobile engines and which slashes materials costs.

Though the cell is in the lab, it has high potential to someday electrically power homes and perhaps cars, say the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology who led its development. In a new study in the journal Nature Energy the researchers detailed how they reimagined the entire fuel cell with the help of a newly invented fuel catalyst.

The catalyst has dispensed with high-priced hydrogen fuel by making its own out of cheap, readily available methane. And improvements throughout the cell cooled the seething operating temperatures that are customary in methane fuel cells dramatically, a striking engineering accomplishment. more>

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LiDAR Has Applications Beyond Automotive

By Charles Murray – Merlin Friesen, founder of embedded systems developer Golden Gate Research Inc., says that LiDAR is evolving faster than most engineers realize, thanks to the hard work of dozens of startups that foresee a practical future for the technology. “There’s really been an explosion of companies building LiDAR,” Friesen told Design News.

“It’s hard to keep track. There are 70 or 80 companies now. Just in the last six months, we’re seeing new names.”

Friesen’s message might come as a surprise to engineers who follow the auto industry and who understand how costly LiDAR systems can be. But, he said, self-driving cars are a demanding application that call for features that may not be needed in industrial robots and drones. Rotating LiDAR units, for example, are the norm in autonomous car applications, but are unnecessary for many industrial applications. Similarly, industrial units may not need GPS systems, accelerometers, or gyroscopes.

Friesen added that the new, smaller LiDAR units have also made in-roads into other mobile applications. His company has incorporated LiDAR sensors weighing a few hundred grams in drones for mapping.

In essence, the end goal for such applications is not much different than automotive, he said. “It’s very similar in that you’re looking for obstacles, calculating the distance to the obstacles, and then trying to move your device,” he told us. more>

NXP Rolls Out Radar Development Platform

By Charles Murray – A new reference platform promises to speed the development time of automotive radar devices for adaptive cruise control, automated braking, and automated steering.

NXP Semiconductors N.V., maker of the new platform, says that it provides engineers with a more direct path to production than any previous product.

“They can kickstart their development activities and accelerate the time it takes to develop a product that can be deployed into production vehicles,” Colin Cureton, senior director of product management for ADAS at NXP Semiconductors, told Design News.

NXP is timing the product rollout for a huge anticipated increase in the use of automotive radar systems. Today, radar is employed in automated braking systems that detect pedestrians and cyclists in front of and behind vehicles, as well as in automated emergency steering, cross-traffic detection, and child detection.

In the near future, many vehicles are expected to deploy radar on the front and rear, as well as on all four corners. NXP predicts that overall use of automotive radar will jump from 24 million units shipped worldwide in 2016 to 168 million units in 2025—a seven-fold increase. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Looking Back in Time to Watch for a Different Kind of Black Hole
By John Toon – Black holes form when stars die, allowing the matter in them to collapse into an extremely dense object from which not even light can escape. Astronomers theorize that massive black holes could also form at the birth of a galaxy, but so far nobody has been able to look far enough back in time to observe the conditions creating these direct collapse black holes (DCBH).

The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2021, might be able look far enough back into the early Universe to see a galaxy hosting a nascent massive black hole. Now, a simulation done by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology has suggested what astronomers should look for if they search the skies for a DCBH in its early stages.

DCBH formation would be initiated by the collapse of a large cloud of gas during the early formation of a galaxy, said John H. Wise, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Physics and the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics. But before astronomers could hope to catch this formation, they would have to know what to look for in the spectra that the telescope could detect, which is principally infrared.

Black holes take about a million years to form, a blip in galactic time. In the DCBH simulation, that first step involves gas collapsing into a supermassive star as much as 100,000 times more massive than our sun. The star then undergoes gravitational instability and collapses into itself to form a massive black hole. Radiation from the black hole then triggers the formation of stars over period of about 500,000 years, the simulation suggested. more>

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Could China’s Raw Materials Strategy Leave US Automakers Behind?

By Charles Murray – China’s business relationships are so aggressive, said Jose Lazuen, an electric vehicle and supply chain analyst for Roskill, that it’s almost “too late” for automakers in other regions of the world to catch up now.

“The North American and European companies are not at the same level as the Chinese OEMs,” Lazuen stated. “They’ll face problems if raw material costs increase at some point.”

Chinese suppliers at the show said they view relationships with miners as a necessity, given the volatile and unpredictable nature of the market. “The only way you’re going to (get control) is to have a mindset to get ahead of the game by buying rights to those minerals to keep the prices down,” noted Robert Galyen, chief technology officer of CATL, a China-based company that is now the biggest battery manufacturer in the world.

The question of future metal costs is a growing concern, experts said this week, because lithium, cobalt, and nickel will continue to play key roles in future electric car batteries. One speaker at the show noted that the price of cobalt rose 130% last year, while lithium climbed by 50% and nickel was up 28%.

If those increases continue, raw material costs could negate any economies of scale that might otherwise be gained through increases in production volume. more>

Updates from Siemens

Digital Enterprise Industry Solutions for Automotive OEMs
Siemens – Automotive OEMs are remaking themselves in an era of digital disruptions across the industry. Product complexity, technological change, and increasing competition places pressure on OEMs to innovate faster. Leading automakers are increasingly using systems engineering processes that span the domains of mechanical, electrical and software functions to realize the innovation needed for next-gen cars.

Siemens PLM Software solutions are built on open standards to allow for seamless integration across disciplines. This gives automakers the flexibility to digitalize product development, enabling everyone to access a car’s digital twin. more>

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Neuroscientists Team with Engineers to Explore how the Brain Controls Movement
By Carol Clark – Scientists have made remarkable advances into recording the electrical activity that the nervous system uses to control complex skills, leading to insights into how the nervous system directs an animal’s behavior.

“We can record the electrical activity of a single neuron, and large groups of neurons, as animals learn and perform skilled behaviors,” says Samuel Sober, an associate professor of biology at Emory University who studies the brain and nervous system. “What’s missing,” he adds, “is the technology to precisely record the electrical signals of the muscles that ultimately control that movement.”

The Sober lab is now developing that technology through a collaboration with the lab of Muhannad Bakir, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The technology will be used to help understand the neural control of many different skilled behaviors to potentially gain insights into neurological disorders that affect motor control.

“By combining expertise in the life sciences at Emory with the engineering expertise of Georgia Tech, we are able to enter new scientific territory,” Bakir says. “The ultimate goal is to make discoveries that improve the quality of life of people.” more>

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Updates from Siemens

Closed Loop Quality Management for Electronics
Siemens – Optimize and simplify business processes by standardizing and unifying quality related processes and workflows throughout your entire organization.

Quality planning begins during the engineering and design process of your product, and continuous with quality control during the manufacturing of the product.

With the collection of quality data from design and production you are able to initiate the problem solving process and improve your product and your manufacturing processes continuously and sustainably.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle describes the four phases of the continuous improvement process (CIP) and is the basis for the Siemens PLM quality philosophy. more>

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