Home | Feed aggregator | Categories | Industrial Design News

Industrial Design News

When an Architect Starts Designing Cakes

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-09-18 16:34

Dinara Kasko is a former architect who became interested in patisserie. Putting her 3D skills to use, Kasko began designing cakes with unlikely shapes--"I like sharp, straight lines," she writes--and using a 3D printer to create cakes molds to realize her visions.

Eventually she ditched architecture altogether, and now spends her time creating these:

You can buy molds of Kasko's designs here.

Design Job: Lynk Is Looking for an ID Intern Who Enjoys Creating Organized & Efficient Living Spaces

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-09-18 16:34

Do you enjoy creating organized and efficient living spaces? Can you visualize inventive ideas before putting pen to paper? Do you enjoy using 3D visualization tools while perfecting your ideas into great new products? If these are intriguing questions, we would like to hear from you. We are looking for

View the full design job here

Will Master & Dynamic's $300 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds Give Apple a Run for Their Money?

Core 77 - Tue, 2018-09-18 16:34

Today, audio company Master & Dynamic announced their contribution to the expanding wireless Bluetooth earphone sector—the MW07 True Wireless Earphones

The MW07s are currently available in four colorways (Tortoiseshell, Grey Terrazzo, Steel Blue and Matte Black) and are accompanied by a stainless steel charging case. The MW07's exterior is made from handcrafted acetate, a material most well-known for its use in luxury eyewear, and the charging case is made from stainless steal. PVD-coated stainless steel is used for both the acoustic enclosures housing dynamic 10mm beryllium drivers and the control buttons on each earphone.

We're particularly excited about two main features of the MW07s. One being the sensors that detect in-ear placement, so music is both played and paused when the earbuds are placed in and taken out of the ear, and the other is the detachable silicone "fit wing". The "fit wing" is the ear insert part of the earbuds, and it comes in two different sizes, along with five ear tip sizes, making the fit customizable. 

We haven't tested these out yet (we will update this article if we have the chance to try them out), but based on form factor and the "fit wing", the MW07s seem more stable than AirPods. I for one always prefer a secure fit in the ear rather than the loosely fitting Apple headphones and AirPods. Maybe it's the shape of my ears, but AirPods always slip out, making me paranoid to do anything but walk with them in. The opportunity to customize the MW07s is a feature that, even on its own, gives Apple a run for their money. 

The inconspicuous earbuds provide up to 14 hours of listening. They hold 3.5 hours of battery life when fully charged, and the charging case holds an additional 10.5 hours of listening time. The case is easily fully charged in around 30 minutes.

When it comes to actual audio quality, MW07s are almost like next-level AirPods. So as long as you're willing to break your all-Apple streak and cough up a little extra dough, these seem like a worthwhile upgrade. The MW07 True Wireless Earphones are now available for $299 here.

What are your thoughts on MW07's features and design? do they address problems you've been having with your wireless Bluetooth earbuds? Let us know in the comments section below.

Connector System Handles the Heat of EV Charging

Design News - Tue, 2018-09-18 05:00

A new smaller, thermally efficient terminal connector system enables electric vehicles to handle the high-power loads of charging while potentially reducing the size, weight, and cost of on-board cabling. The HC-Stak system uses a unique, scalable connector design to reduce size and weight by 20% to 30%, while simultaneously managing the heat associated with high-current, DC fast-charging.

An HC-Stak connector (at top) is 20 to 30 percent smaller than conventional terminal connections (bottom). (Image source: Design News)  

“When you deal with that much power, everything typically gets bigger,” Jeremy Patterson, director of engineering for hybrid and electric mobility solutions at TE Connectivity, told Design News at last week’s Battery Show. “But this simple design gives us the ability to handle the space and the heat quite a bit better.”

The new design, which is already being employed on the Tesla Model 3 electric car, could be significant because it enables vehicle engineers to use aluminum cabling. Aluminum is drawing interest among EV makers because it’s lighter and less costly than copper. Some have hesitated to use it, however, because it doesn’t manage heat as well as copper.

The HC-Stak could change that because it more effectively manages the heat that would otherwise be transmitted into the aluminum cable. It accomplishes that through the use of a relatively simple, fork-style contact that contains more copper than conventional terminal connections. The additional copper enables it to dissipate the heat of high-current loads without the need to eat up more space and add more weight inside the vehicle. Moreover, the system is scalable; It can use more forks to boost its current-carrying capability.

“The design gives us more parallel paths, more copper, and therefore better thermal management within the connector,” Patterson told us.

The company’s product line includes two HC-Stak connectors. The HC-Stak 25 offers 257A continuous at 85°C and can be used for electric vehicle motors and battery packs. The HC-Stak 35 is rated at 400A continuous and can be employed in DC fast-charge applications.


TE Connectivity engineers believe the new technology will have broad appeal inside and outside the auto industry. They foresee it being used on board vehicles for inverters, motors, batteries, heaters, and air conditioner connections. They also see it being used in aerospace, defense, and stationary grid storage.

The biggest application, however, will be electric and hybrid vehicles, Patterson said. “EVs are all about size and weight,” he told us. “This gives engineers the flexibility to use whatever kind of cabling they want.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to register today!

5G Is Finally Coming to American Homes

Design News - Tue, 2018-09-18 05:00
A 5G small cell deployed by Verizon in a neighborhood in Indianapolis. (Image source: Verizon)

If there was one takeaway from Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) 2018, it's that companies are very excited about 5G...very excited. Carriers like Sprint and Verizon are ready to provide the connections, while suppliers like Ericsson and Nokia are ready to roll out small cell hardware for broadcasting 5G signals. There's a legislative push happening. And companies of all sizes, ranging from automakers to small AI startups, are ready to leverage the enhanced speeds and low latency promised by 5G.

But the question for most consumers here in the states has always been: When are we finally going to get to try it for ourselves?

During a keynote presentation at MCWA, Ronan Dunne, group president of Verizon Wireless, surprised everyone in attendance when he announced that, starting October 1, Verizon will be rolling out the first 5G home network in the United States. It will begin with rollouts in select areas of Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Houston, and Sacramento. As of this month, potential customers can check the Verizon website to see if they're eligible for service.

Verizon put several of its 5G Home products on display for demonstration at Mobile World Congress Americas, including its indoor and outdoor routers. (Image source: Design News)

A Verizon representative told Design News that the new service, Verizon 5G Home, will offer download speeds from 300 Mbps to up to 1 Gbps (at burst speeds). Current Verizon Wireless customers will have access to the service at a price of $50 per month for the first three months. Non-Verizon customers will have to pay $70 per month. Verizon has also promised no annual contract and that there will be no “throttling”—the controversial lowering of data speeds during peak usage hours or for customers with heavy data use.

A single small cell installed in a neighborhood can provide coverage for multiple homes. From there, customers will have two options for a 5G router: an indoor or outdoor version, depending on their needs and type of dwelling. Because the 5G signal does bounce fairly easily, the routers do not require a line of sight with the 5G small cell radio or with devices around the home. The routers are supplied by Samsung, which earlier this year unveiled a line of 5G products including radios and routers, as well as enterprise level products—ASIC-based 5G modems and millimeter-wave RFICs.

During his keynote, Dunne said that Verizon targeted home deployments because they will allow consumers to truly understand and experience 5G in a way that they might not get to in commercial applications. He was also quite evangelical about 5G, calling it an “enabler” and a job creator. "[5G] will enable artificial intelligence, deep, deep analytics, [and] the ability to have ubiquitous connectivity,” he told the audience.

He likened the rise of 5G to the Italian Renaissance. Dunne also touted the usual rhetoric, with which anyone familiar with the artificial intelligence vs. jobs debate will be all too familiar. 5G means better, faster AI and robotics, which means being able to automate even more mundane and repetitive workforce tasks. In theory, this will create new types of jobs and open up possibilities for humans to take on more creative and rewarding tasks.


The Race is On

While Verizon is the first to market in the US, other carriers are not too far behind. During MWCA 2018, AT&T announced a planned rollout for mobile 5G sometime later this year in Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, San Antonio, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, and Waco, Texas. The carrier said it has plans for 2019 rollouts in Las Vegas, LA, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose, though no specific dates have been given. AT&T also has plans to conduct trials of 5G in homes in pilot programs in Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and South Bend, Ind.

T-Mobile is still waiting on approvals for a planned merger with Sprint to go through. But the company has inked a $3.5 billion deal with Ericsson, under which Ericsson will supply 5G radio hardware and software for T-Mobile's networks. Prior to this, T-Mobile closed a similar equipment deal with Nokia. The company plans to begin its 5G rollout in 2019, which could see an aggressive push if the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is allowed to happen.

But Not So Fast

If anyone noticed that Verizon's promised 5G speed of 300 Mbps is just as fast as what's offered by most fiber-based Internet today, they would be correct. Verizon's own Fios service offers download speeds ranging from 100 to 500 Mpbs with up to 940 Mpbs if customers upgrade to a “gigabit connection.” Average consumers who just want to check the Internet and watch Netflix and YouTube without any annoying buffering issues will probably wonder what the big deal is.

5G's potential is expected to peak somewhere in the 10 to 20 Gbps range. Later equipment updates will probably bring in-home 5G up to the level that speed manufacturers and carriers have been promising. Tests from Ericsson have clocked 5G download speeds at up to 3.6 Gbps. Qualcomm's internal tests with its modems have yielded speeds up to 4.29 Gpbs. And back in 2014, Samsung conducted tests that reached speeds as high as 7.5 Gbps.

Analysts are speculating that home-based (or fixed) 5G won't really take off without a killer app. Verizon's 5G Home services likely come packaged with Apple TV 4K for this very reason. Perhaps once device makers start rolling out 5G-enabled smart home products, gaming systems, or VR/AR devices, the needle will move more on the consumer end.

There's also the question of access. It's understandable that 5G Home is only coming to select cities at first. But it's unclear just what areas in those cities will have early access to 5G. One would hope that Verizon and other carriers are making the technology available in a variety of areas, and not just the most affluent regions. This is something Dunne addressed in his keynote: “We need to make sure we create the conditions, work with civil societies, governments, and local authorities. Democratizing access to 5G is an essential ingredient in that…It’s about ensuring all boats rise on a 5G tide.” A look at the installation sites once they are completed in October should reveal just how democratic Verizon's initial rollout will be.

Verizon seems excited to get 5G into consumers' hands in whatever ways possible and as quickly as possible—hence the fixed/home rollout ahead of mobile. But what Verizon and other carriers understand is that the real game changer will be mobile 5G. Verizon hasn't announced any concrete plans for a rollout here, but said that 5G Home customers will be the first with the option to sign up. It's looking like AT&T will be the first to push out mobile 5G in the US, but time will tell how consumers respond. Mobile or otherwise, the best bet for consumers and enterprises will probably be to wait until 5G reaches more of its full potential before jumping on the (millimeter) wave.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth,  two-day educational program  designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter.  Click here to submit your registration inquiry today  

Additive Manufacturing Can Reduce Part Counts Significantly

Design News - Tue, 2018-09-18 04:00

Designing a complex product (or assembly) always presents challenges. Creating a design that requires as few parts as possible—while retaining full functionality—can be even more of a challenge. In general terms, reducing the number of components in an assembly contributes to a better manufacturing process—an imperative for all manufacturing. However, performing part count reduction exercises while using traditional processes only takes you so far in parts-count reduction.

Shown is the difference between traditionally manufactured products and single part products created using additive. (Image source: 3D Systems)

The addition of additive manufacturing into the production mix enables a step change in part count reduction while delivering multiple business benefits that are not often evident from the beginning. However, maximizing the effect requires a change in the thought process for design and an understanding of additive manufacturing. Manufacturers are successfully working toward this goal—often with the assistance of 3D printing experts.

Transformational Productivity with Additive

Under traditional processes, an assembly may need multiple design engineers—often spread around the world, maybe in different organizations, and possibly working on multiple CAD platforms. Manufacturing of the parts may require multiple sources with multiple datasets being used. Inspection of the parts and assembly will be frequent, and maintenance of the finished assemblies can require multiple repair sources and a lot of parts in bins or on back order.

Bringing additive into the mix enables the same assembly to often be produced as a single, monolithic part—both in metal and plastic. It also simplifies the entire design and supply chain by having single design, production, manufacturing, inspection, and maintenance sources.

Changing the Bottom-Line Numbers

With a successful design, you have a single, functional part being produced—meaning one digital CAD file, with significantly fewer design engineers involved. Manufacturing now only has a single source, with one data source and far fewer points of failure both in the supply chain and part quality. There is now a single inspection source, significantly improved tolerances, and virtually no tolerance stacking. Maintenance is transformed through having one repair source and immediate access to parts. If there is any delay for a 3D printed part, the back order should be a matter of a few days, not weeks or months.


Part count reduction using additive delivers a part far faster, with optimized weight and also designed for true functionality. A single, integrated part can deliver vastly improved performance through integrated features, which are not possible with traditional manufacturing techniques. There are also fewer points of failure and, if designed correctly, massively improved mean time between replacement or major overhaul. In addition, your supply chain has just transformed from, say, 50 suppliers to just a few, combined with lowered labor cost associated with assembly work. Your parts lists, BOMs, and PLM data also are simplified.

Improving the Top-Line Revenue

While all of the factors above can transform your bottom line costs, part count reduction using additive manufacturing can also transform your top line revenues. For example, with a better part that meets customers’ needs more quickly, you now have a faster product time-to-market and resulting profit. The more agile supply chain means you can repair and maintain products more easily, keeping customers happy and inviting repeat business.

Whenever I engage with customers on this topic, I am quickly able to see that light bulb moment once we have worked through a few examples. Industrial designers and engineers almost need to discard the old ideas of, “How would I do this in sheet metal?” and start to imagine, “What would the perfect part look like?” More often, with the traditional shackles removed, part count reduction is a natural, organic process. With additive manufacturing, you can, for example, include integrated conformal cooling channels or hydraulic delivery lines. Other features, which are there only because of traditional manufacturing requirements, can be removed.

Thinking Additive as a Solution

The original assembly of 20 parts on the top, with the 3D printed single, monolithic burner on the below. (Image source: 3D Systems)

Let’s take a look at a quartz burner system for a European light bulb manufacturer. The original assembly weldment shown below had 20 parts, was tricky to assemble, and had a lifecycle of about 6 months. Our team in Belgium worked with the customer to create a single monolithic part that is 3D printed in Ni718 materials on our 3D printers. And the results really sell themselves:

  • Part count reduction – 20:1
  • Production time reduced by 75%
  • 50% reduction in material volume
  • 60% more cost effective
  • 3X improvement in mean time between failure (MTBF)

The 3-time improvement in lifetime for this part is through a combination of the material volume reduction, the conformal cooling channels that are less than 1 mm away from the burning gas, and the use of the Inconel material for heat resistance.

Part count reduction is enabled through plastic additive too, and the same approaches come into play. This vacuum-formed duct required 16 parts plus adhesive to assemble prior to 3D printing in plastic. By combining the parts into a single part, the customer could produce the part consistently with reduced labor requirements and no tooling. This eliminated risks of assembly error and created a better, lighter product.

The image on the left is an example of the number of parts required in traditional manufacturing. The example on the right involved one part. (Image source: 3D Systems)

The motorsports exhaust we recently researched with a customer is another great example. On the left side of the image below, you’ll see the 20 or so sheet metal parts used to assemble the exhaust, including numerous hydroformed components—each of which required individual tooling and a long time to assemble.  On the right, you’ll see the single, monolithic part printed in XHP-Ti on our metal 3D printers.

Another 3D printed in just 23 hours compared to the weeks it usually takes to produce the assembly conventionally. Design time was reduced from 6 weeks down to 6 days with a single CAD data file. Assembly errors are removed and assembly checks are reduced to one inspection. No fixtures are required for welding and, with a typical wall thickness of 0.5 mm, it is approximately 25% lighter than the original fabricated exhaust.

It is fair to say that almost any manufacturing operation can benefit from adopting part count reduction using additive manufacturing. All it takes is your CAD system and a design engineer saying, “What if?”

Colin Blain is a principal advanced applications engineer for 3D Systems with a specialty in design for additive manufacture. While he is based in the UK, he is part of the global group of application engineering teams at 3D Systems.


Pacific Design & Manufacturing  , North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, will be back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 5-7, 2019! Don’t miss your chance to connect and share your expertise with industry peers during this can't-miss event.   Click here to pre-register for the event today!


Why Jaguar's Designers Are Adding Googly Eyes to Autonomous Vehicles

Core 77 - Mon, 2018-09-17 16:33

For a pedestrian, "It's second-nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road," says Pete Bennett, Jaguar Land Rover's Future Mobility Research Manager. So understandably, even if you've got the light, you may be hesitant to cross the road if you see that a waiting car has no driver behind the wheel at all. That's why JLR's designers have added the following feature to a series of test vehicles at a facility in Coventry:

"The intelligent pods [are] run autonomously on a fabricated street scene in Coventry, while the behaviour of pedestrians is analysed as they wait to cross the road. The 'eyes' have been devised by a team of advanced engineers, working in Jaguar Land Rover's Future Mobility division. The pods seek out the pedestrian - appearing to 'look' directly at them - signalling to road users that it has identified them, and intends to take avoiding action."

I think the next step should be to sign a licensing deal with Pixar.

"None of us will run you over."

Jimmy DiResta Shop Tips: How to Accelerate Hot Glue Hardening, a Garbage Can UX Hack, a Quick Way to Organize Tape & More

Core 77 - Mon, 2018-09-17 16:33

Jimmy DiResta is Shop Master on Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman's "Making It" competition show, and here he shows you why: The longtime shop veteran offers up a long list of his signature shop tips to make everyday tasks easier. Included are a trick for accelerating the hardening process for hot glue, the proper way to use spray mount, a UX hack for your garbage can, a quick way to organize tape and more.

Volvo's Crazy-Looking Vera: A Driverless--and Passengerless--Vehicle for Transporting Goods

Core 77 - Mon, 2018-09-17 16:33

We're used to seeing autonomous car concepts, and even autonomous trucks. But Volvo is the first to break free from the incumbency of the form factors with Vera, their forthcoming driverless vehicle that looks pretty radically different from what came before:

"Vera is an autonomous, electric vehicle that can operate with significantly less exhaust emissions and low noise levels. It is controlled and monitored via a cloud-based service, and has the potential to make transportation safer, cleaner and more efficient."

The idea is that a fleet of these would "optimise transport in highly-repetitive, short distance flows with large volumes of goods, such as ports, factory areas and logistical mega centres, where it offers better delivery precision and flexibility."

So for now, at least, it appears this is not intended to replace long-haul truckers. But when that step is eventually taken, whether by Volvo, Tesla or another company, there are going to be a lot of people out of work. Who should address that issue? Volvo? The government? The people that are going to be out of work themselves?

Why You Should Attend the 2018 Core77 Conference "Now What? Launching and Growing Your Creative Business"

Core 77 - Mon, 2018-09-17 16:33

If you haven't secured your ticket to our 2018 conference, Now What? Launching & Growing Your Creative Business, yet or would like to learn about why this event is so special, look no further than this list of reasons why attending will be well worth your while:

It's Focused

This year, we decided to narrow down our conference theme to just one specific topic. It's a mysterious topic for most designers—one that isn't taught in design school and is often kept away from the ears of professional designers. You guessed it: business. Through a series of talks and workshops, you'll hear from other successful creative professionals on how, exactly, they got to where they are and what tools, tricks and techniques they use to get ahead. In addition to designers who have been there, done that, professionals working in the realms of PR, editorial and VC funding will give insights into what they search for in new design companies.

Now What? will be head at A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.You Won't Fall Asleep

Who here hates boring conferences? Same! We're tired of falling asleep during presentations (true story) and leaving conferences in a daze of confusion and monetary regret. So, with 'Now What?' we're taking a stand. Our mission this time around is to provide you with exciting content that will leave you feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to take a new approach to launching or growing your design business.


The topics will energize you around this much.An All-Star Roster of Speakers and Workshop LeadersSome (but not all) of our extra-business savvy presenters this year. 

Check out our full list of presenters here.

It Will Be Honest

The only thing we dread more than a boring conference is an uninformative one. When preparing for 'Now What?', we gave our presenters this brief: Cut the PR talking points, be honest about your experiences and provide clear, tangible advice based on lessons you've learned from starting your own design business. We worked closely with each presenter to discover a topic best fit for them to ensure valuable insights for you. Topics include manufacturing in China, best practices for design firms, the do's and don'ts of Kickstarter, how to own and maintain your design identity and more.

Business Doesn't Have to Be a Drag

As designers, we tend to focus on only design, which hinders us when we decide to branch out on our own, making the business side of things dreadful. Our goal with this conference is to turn "Now What?", an often daunting question asked during times of uncertainty, into an opportunity to explore and gain confidence.


A conference isn't a conference without a passionate audience. You may not be passionate about business (yet), but we're guessing most of you are passionate about an idea worth starting a business for. No matter what stage of the process you're in, 'Now What?' will bring together a super-engaged community with one collective mission in mind: to learn how to launch and grow your own business. You'll interact with likeminded individuals and walk away with valuable connections that will help you get to where you need to be.

Sound like your cup of tea? Purchase your ticket to Now What? Launching and Growing Your Creative Business We look forward to spending the day with you!

Using Bacteria to Convert Light to Energy

Design News - Mon, 2018-09-17 04:00

Solar cells are a good way to harvest alternative energy for electricity. But most conventional cells still have trouble converting solar energy when the skies are overcast. Researchers have of course been trying to overcome this problem. In a recent effort out of the University of British Columbia (UBC), for example, a team has used bacteria to convert light to energy to help cells generate electricity even when the sun isn’t shining. UBC’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering developed the cell, which is called a “biogenic” cell because it’s made from natural materials.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that converts light to energy. The cells they developed—called biogenic—can produce solar energy even when the sun isn’t shining. (Image source: Flickr/LillyAndersen)

Solar cells are the part of the solar panel that converts sunlight into an electrical current. Researchers have been experimenting with various materials to develop cells that are more eco-friendly and can work in places known for a lack of sunlight—something with which researchers in British Columbia are familiar, said Vikramaditya Yadav, a professor in UBC’s department of chemical and biological engineering, who led the project.

“Our solution to a uniquely B.C. problem is a significant step toward making solar energy more economical,” he said in a UBC news release. Previous efforts to build biogenic solar cells have focused on extracting the natural dye that bacteria use for photosynthesis, Yadav noted. However, this process is costly and complex, uses toxic solvents, and can cause the dye to degrade. To solve this problem, Yadav and his team devised a solution to leave the dye in the bacteria.

Specifically, they genetically engineered E. coli to produce large amounts of lycopene. Lycopene is found in fruits—namely, tomato and watermelon, giving them their color. It has been found to be effective at harvesting light for conversion to energy, researchers said.

The team coated the bacteria with a mineral that could act as a semiconductor and applied the mixture to a glass surface. In this system, the coated glass acts as an anode at one end of the cell, generating current density of 0.686 milliamps per square centimeter. This is an improvement on comparable solutions developed to date, which achieved 0.362 milliamps per square centimeter, Yadav said in the UBC release.

“We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell,” he said. “These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.” 


Moreover, the system worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light, researchers said. The team published a paper about its work in the journal Small. The researchers see their innovation as a step forward toward broader adoption of solar panels in places where overcast skies are more common than sunny ones, such as British Columbia and northern Europe.

There are both advantages and challenges to the process developed by the team, Yadav acknowledged. One advantage is cost savings, making dye production about one-tenth of what it would be otherwise. A challenge, however, is to find a process that doesn’t kill the bacteria, Yadav said. If this could be done, the dye could be produced indefinitely.

In addition to solar panels, the process the team devised also could be used to develop biogenic materials for mining, deep-sea exploration, and other low-light environments.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Pacific Design & Manufacturing, North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, will be back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 5-7, 2019! Don’t miss your chance to connect and share your expertise with industry peers during this can't-miss event. Click here to pre-register for the event today!


Startup Proposes Novel Electrolyte for Lead-Acid Batteries

Design News - Mon, 2018-09-17 03:00

A Michigan-based startup wants to breathe life into the venerable lead-acid battery by offering a less toxic, drop-in replacement for the sulfuric acid electrolyte that has been a staple for more than a century.

Tydrolyte sees its new electrolyte serving in applications ranging from stop-start auto batteries to forklifts and golf carts. “The main difference is that batteries with sulfuric acid tend to degrade fairly rapidly,” Paul Bundschuh, CEO of Tydrolyte, told Design News at the recent Battery Show. “Whereas, batteries with our material tend to degrade much more slowly.”

The new electrolyte chemistry is also reported to have lower charge resistance, enabling it to charge more quickly. And it’s less reactive with plants and animals. At the company’s booth at the show, Bundschuh demonstrated the liquid’s low toxicity by splashing some on his face and placing it on his tongue. That low toxicity would serve as a safety benefit in manufacturing facilities where lead-acid batteries are made, Bundschuh said.

At The Battery Show, Tydrolyte representatives demonstrated a new electrolyte with a pH similar to that of sulfuric acid (approximately 1.0). The company’s chief executive also splashed the liquid on his face to show its low toxicity. (Image source: Design News)  

Tydrolyte declined to detail the chemistry of the new material at this point, saying only that it is novel and that a patent is pending. The company said only that the material has a pH similar to that of sulfuric acid (between 0 and 1) and uses sulfates to react with lead and lead dioxide plates in a manner similar to that of common lead-acid batteries.

If suppliers adopt the startup’s new technology, it would represent a major departure for the battery industry. Lead-acid batteries, invented in 1859, have used sulfuric acid as an electrolyte throughput much of their history.

To be sure, industry reaction to the new chemistry is an unknown. But Tydrolyte executives are optimistic. Independent test engineers from Electric Applications, Inc. showed that batteries using the new electrolyte had similar capacity and cold-cranking amps numbers as those employing sulfuric acid with similar specific gravity. The tests also showed less water loss, better pulse charge acceptance, higher charging efficiency, and longer life at high operating temperatures. The life factor could translate to longer cycle life, calendar life, or shelf life, Bundschuh said.


If successful, the new technology could offer a shot of innovation for a very large market. Although lead-acid’s use is largely taken for granted, it’s still a $36 billion market that accounts for about 80% of the industry on a capacity basis.

“There’s a lot of life left in the lead-acid battery,” Bundschuh said. “It’s not talked about much in the media because it’s mature. But it’s still the dominant player out there and there’s a lot of room left for innovation.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to register today!

Design Job: Help Make Cleaning up More Satisfying as a Senior Industrial Designer for Bissel

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-09-16 15:46

A Senior Industrial Designer is an independent thought leader and self-managed contributor within the Consumer Design team. They engage in project team discussions with autonomy and are empowered to make decisions on products on the behalf of the category design leader. They are deeply familiar with BISSELL's Global Product Development

View the full design job here

Burning Man 2018 Time Lapse

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-09-16 15:46

So you wanted to go to Burning Man this year, but didn't feel like being dehydrated and stoned out of your gourd? Then you missed some magnificent structures, statues, kinetic sculptures, LED light shows, et cetera. But luckily for you, a chap named Mark Day shot them and edited the footage into a quick, easily-digestible two-minute chunk:

Thanks to Day for letting us see all of that without even having to vomit mushrooms!

Tools & Craft #106: Which Glue is Better - Epoxy, Yellow Wood Glue, or Liquid Hide Glue?

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-09-16 15:46

Glue is the most common fastener used in woodworking and it seems that selecting the right glue for the job is typically done by using whatever bottle of glue you have hanging around and without really figuring out which glue is best.

Certain characteristics of glue such as open time are pretty well documented so what we were interested in testing is how the glue holds after it dries. It's a simple question - once the glue dries will the glued joint be strong enough to hold its position or must some other mechanical method of fastener also be used?

We looked at three kinds of commonly used glues: Two-part epoxy, yellow wood glue (in this case Elmer's wood glue), and liquid hide glue (Old Brown - (we also love hot hide glue but we wanted for comparison an out of the bottle solution).

To test this characteristic of glue we needed a type of joint where joint members, even when pinned down, shift position all the time.

Members of Congress seemed perfect for the test.

We took three politicians of various affiliations - our technicians did not think political party mattered because politicians shift positions all the time. Using each glue in turn we glued down each politician to their chair in the House of Representatives.

We left the politicians alone for the duration of the test. At the end of the test (one session) we examined our results.

Epoxy - The representative was still seated and had not shifted his position.

Elmer's Wood Glue - The representative was disqualified when it was discovered that he had no positions on anything and voted on strict donor lines.

Old Brown Liquid Hide Glue - The representative was solidly attached but under the heat of public scrutiny the glue softened and the representative was able to shift position. Fortunately one characteristic of hide glue is that it's reversible and a lobbyist was able to bring the representative back to his original position with little effort.

Conclusion: Epoxy is the way to go if you have the votes going in. Otherwise use hide glue.


This "Tools & Craft" section is provided courtesy of Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, the Brooklyn-based catalog retailer of everything from hand tools to Festool; check out their online shop here. Joel also founded Gramercy Tools, the award-winning boutique manufacturer of hand tools made the old-fashioned way: Built to work and built to last.

Part 2 of Design & Materials Problem, How to Make Non-Slippery Outdoor Stairs: Clever Reader Solutions

Core 77 - Sun, 2018-09-16 15:46

Core77 may not be the biggest design blog in the world, but I believe we have the best readership of well-informed, practicing designers and/or folks who are savvy about the built environment through direct experience. So it's no surprise that we got some great reader feedback and recommendations on Part 1 of How to Make Non-Slippery Outdoor Stairs.

Reader Frederick Fasola wrote:"If you are looking for an 'agricultural' (quick/cheap/effective) method, you can wrap the treads in chicken wire. This is very durable and very cheap if you have large expanses of decking. And if you don't mind the rustic look close up it's virtually invisible from any distance."

Here's an example from YouTube:

Reader Ben Johnson wrote:"Here's what we use for non-slip stairs in a food manufacturing plant, where the surfaces are perpetually wet (and not just wet, often wet with cleaning agents that makes things slipperier."They also make nosings to put at the front of an existing tread - our main entry stairway is porcelain tile with SlipNot nosings mortared in."

SlipNot offers four variants: Plate Stair Treads, Grating Stair Treads, Perforated Metal Stair Treads and Expanded Metal Stair treads.

Responding to this photo we posted of someone having DIY'ed a rubber strip into their stair tread......reader Jason Campbell wrote: "I would replace the rubber strip option with these:"

That's a silicone flexible heater strip, for keeping pipes and tubes warm. The strips are 1.5mm thick and are both flame retardant and moisture-proof.

An anonymous reader wrote:"There is a reason teak has been used for years on boats. Wood in general is a nonslip surface it is [sic] when the stairs do not have the correct rise/run, are freshly oiled, covered in moss/algae or other issue that they become slippery.""Also take into account that if you are going to be shoveling snow off said steps, anything short of the expanded steel to let the snow through when stepped on, is likely going to be damaged and/or make the ice start and stick much more easily than just plain wood."Reader Stephen Hill wrote:"The correct clear polymer beads can also be mixed into a polyurethane or other clear finish to add grip without detracting from your (possibly) unpainted, natural stairs."Also, for painted surfaces there is a ground walnut shell powder that can be added for even better (read more irregular) grip and texture - plus it's a great up-cycled/natural product."

An example of the polymer beads Hill is referring to is Seal-Krete's Clear Grip non-slip grip additive.

An example of the ground walnut shells is Duckback's anti-skid additive.

Reader Mrten Boi wrote:"I concur with Stephen, there exists filler material for paint that provides grip. Think fine plastic sawdust. I'd think sand is too hard, damages the paint too much if it comes loose. "I've used the plastic filler dust on my (admittedly indoor) stairs and it works great."

Thanks to all of the readers who sounded off! I'll investigate several of these options, and will provide a future update on which one I went with, how much it cost to install and most importantly, how effective it is here on the farm.

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

Design News - Fri, 2018-09-14 09:47

Chinese electric car and battery manufacturers are aggressively teaming with raw material suppliers to keep future costs in check. Some experts at this week’s Battery Show suggested that those efforts could give them a leg up on automakers in the US and Europe.

“China is definitely ahead because they have the manufacturing capacity and because they have the raw materials controlled,” said Jose Lazuen, an electric vehicle and supply chain analyst for Roskill, a market research company. “This is something the European and North American OEMs haven’t done. They don’t have the capacity and they don’t have the raw materials controlled.”

Analyst Jose Lazuen of Roskill told Battery Show attendees that European and North American OEMs are falling behind Chinese competitors, who are securing contracts with raw material suppliers. (Image source: Design News)  

Lazuen cited a number of Chinese OEMs and suppliers, including BYD Auto Co. Ltd., CATL Ltd., OptimumNano Energy Co. Ltd., Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd., and Beijing Easpring Technology Co., Ltd. He noted that all have formed partnerships with miners around the world to better control the acquisition of lithium, cobalt, and nickel. Lazuen added that he saw “absolutely no North American or European OEMs present in the deals with miners.”

China’s business relationships are so aggressive, he said, 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. As a result, it would be difficult for automakers to bring the pack costs of batteries below the $150/kWh level, experts said.

Not a Major Concern?

To be sure, however, not all of the speakers at the show believed that the situation is so dire for European and US-based electric car makers. Raw material costs are cyclical, they said, and could just as easily fall as rise. “We’re not worried about short term trends and speculations,” noted Ted Miller, senior manager for energy storage research at Ford Motor Co. “We’re more concerned about the timing to bring mining and processing operations online.” He said that lithium is not seen as a potential problem because it is fairly abundant, but acknowledged that the limited reserves of cobalt could be a concern. Miller added, however, that the US Department of Energy is working with automakers and battery manufacturers on technologies that would enable the elimination of cobalt from battery cathodes.

Asad Farid, associate director of Berenberg Bank, agreed that there was no need for US and European automakers to panic at this point. “I do understand their concerns,” he said. “But when you look at the supply side for lithium and cobalt, I don’t think they should be worried. Prices are already correcting; Cobalt is down by 20% just in the last three months.”


Either way, China will continue to strike deals with miners, experts said. Electric cars and batteries have become a central issue of national business policy in China, and the country expects sales to soar—starting inside its own borders. As a result, leaders there want to eliminate any uncertainties regarding raw materials.

“They see this as a business opportunity,” Lazuen said. “China wants to become the world leader in transport electrification.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to register today!

A Rainbow of Colors with New 3D-Printing Method

Design News - Fri, 2018-09-14 04:00

Researchers in Spain have found a way to 3D print all the colors of the rainbow more efficiently and with better results than current technologies.

A team of engineers from the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology’s Institute of Photonic Sciences has used selective laser sintering (SLS) printers to achieve their results. Essentially, they added compounds called photosensitizers to the polymer powders used in the process to reduce energy requirements and improve the effectiveness of the printing.

This method solves some current challenges in 3D printing multiple colors, which can be done today using various methods that are either slow, result in poor mechanical properties, or both, Alexander Powell, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Photonic Sciences, told Design News.

The current methods are good “for making pretty models, but not so good for making multiple copies of a functional part,” he told us. “What is difficult, and is currently lacking, is a method for printing robust parts, in beautiful bright colors, at high speeds.” What the team has done to achieve this is to find “a material that allows fast printing of reliable parts, while retaining complete control over the coloration of these prints,” Powell said.

This brightly colored dragon was produced by a powder-sintering 3D-printing process, which was developed by researchers in Spain using gold nanorods as photosensitizers. (Image source: American Chemical Society)

Powder sintering is a process in which a bed of polymer powder is illuminated via an infrared light source, which heats the powder and selectively melts or sinters the powder particles together to form a 2D layer of an object. To build the 3D shape, more powder is added. The process repeats until the desired shape is formed.

Absorbent Materials

To speed up printing, researchers add highly absorbent materials to the powder. They heat and melt much faster when they are illuminated, Powell said. Typically, though, these materials “tend to be very black, so while you can now make very strong parts very quickly, the color scale is limited to black or gray,” he said.

To solve this problem, researchers have designed gold nanorods that absorb very strongly in the invisible, infrared part of the spectrum, but hardly at all in the visible part. The rods were coated with silica and then mixed with polyamide powders to print 3D objects.

“When you shine an infrared light on it, it still heats up a lot—more than enough to melt the powder particles to form a 3D object,” he explained. “But it does not affect the color of your material or your print. Therefore, the part is left white and you can easily add colored inks or dyes during the printing process to control the color of the object as it is printed.” Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Nano Letters. Gerasimos Konstantatos and Romain Quidant at the Institute of Photonic Sciences led the research.


The process is highly scalable and uses materials that are cost effective for large-scale production, Powell stated. However, though there are “no major roadblocks” to scaling the technology, he said that it will require some work to get the particle production up to the high volumes needed and to integrate these particles with industrial printers. “This will enable the fast printing of usable parts with complete control over the aesthetic properties—something that has not been achieved previously,” Powell said.  He said commercialization of the process also would be a key win for all researchers interested in these types of technologies.

“This is an important step for the scientific community also, as while there has been great interest in resonant nanoparticles for a couple of decades now, only a handful of applications have achieved a commercial breakthrough,” Powell said. The researchers already have filed several patent applications related to the new technology. They plan to continue their work by teaming with partners to integrate it into a larger-scale 3D printing set-up as they eye future commercialization.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Pacific Design & Manufacturing, North America’s premier conference that connects you with thousands of professionals across the advanced design & manufacturing spectrum, will be back at the Anaheim Convention Center February 5-7, 2019! Don’t miss your chance to connect and share your expertise with industry peers during this can't-miss event. Click here to pre-register for the event today!


The Vital Role of Lithium Ion Batteries in the Medical Device Market

Design News - Thu, 2018-09-13 05:00

Lithium ion batteries come in all sizes. Some of the tiniest are used in the medical field to power bioengineering devices. Often, these devices are implanted within the body to help monitor and maintain health.

Dr. Marissa Caldwell is a battery research and technology scientist at Medtronic. Caldwell was a panelist in a session on “Batteries for Medical and Personal Electronic Devices” during The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan this week. Design News caught up with Dr. Caldwell after the session to find out more about the use of lithium ion batteries in medical devices.

Caldwell describes her day job as “identifying and developing new battery chemistries and new battery designs for products that might come out in five to ten years.” Medtronic, which is one of the world’s largest medical device companies, has its operational headquarters and does much of its research and development in Fridley, Minnesota. It is one of the few companies in the medical device industry that builds its own batteries for use in some of its cardiac and neurostimulation devices.

Medical device maker Medtronic is unique in that it builds its own batteries. (Image source: Medtronic)

All Lithium Ion

“All of Medtronic’s rechargeable batteries are lithium ion—we’ve been doing this since 2004,” said Caldwell during her presentation. The recharging of implanted batteries is all inductive. The recharge system is sent home with the patient and is worn over the area where the device is implanted. It recharges right through the skin.

“What do we think about when we are designing batteries?” Caldwell asked rhetorically. “For us, reliability is one of the first things that comes to mind. It really means looking at reliability from all of the different facets, including what the requirements are from the device level and circuit level to how can we anticipate people using this device. What are the different recharge modalities? What are the possible failure modes that could happen? And all of this then gets wrapped up into the testing and modeling and designing. Most batteries that we design to be implantable are designed very conservatively. In order to build in this reliability, we do give up a lot of margins for, say, energy density. We will not be the most energy-dense cell on the market. But we will last longer and be more reliable,” she explained.


Meeting regulatory requirements is also a huge part of medical device battery development. In addition to transportation and all of the other different issues that batteries themselves are required to meet, there are different medical-specific requirements from different medical working groups and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Much of the paperwork involved goes into proving that the batteries that are going into medical devices will actually perform in the manner claimed. According to Caldwell, “It’s really hard to make a battery that’s going to last a long time, and it’s even harder to prove that it is going to last a long time.”


One of the big driving forces in the electric vehicle battery market is the elimination of expensive cobalt from the battery chemistry. This is not necessarily the case for medical batteries. “We’re not as cost sensitive to cobalt as most people, so we don’t have as big a driver to get to cobalt-free. The drive to nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and cobalt-free materials is not as relevant to us. Getting to fast-charge graphite and higher energy density, higher voltages—those are all things that we are very interested in,” said Caldwell.

That is not to imply that new technologies, such as solid state electrolytes, aren’t being actively researched. “The more we can design in safety, it’s always on our radar. Solid state electrolytes are something we are keeping a close eye on, but we are still kind of gauging its maturity. Power is a problem still for most of the solid electrolytes—and manufacturability. So if you look at, say, some of the oxides and the garnet materials and harder inorganics, how are we going to manufacture it—especially in our really little batteries? For some of the things, like polymers and soft materials, what is the tradeoff versus safety?”

Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has masters degrees in Materials Engineering and Environmental Education and a doctorate degree in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in aerodynamics. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.

Today's Insights. Tomorrow's Technologies.
ESC returns to Minneapolis, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2018, with a fresh, in-depth, two-day educational program designed specifically for the needs of today's embedded systems professionals. With four comprehensive tracks, new technical tutorials, and a host of top engineering talent on stage, you'll get the specialized training you need to create competitive embedded products. Get hands-on in the classroom and speak directly to the engineers and developers who can help you work faster, cheaper, and smarter. Click here to register today!