Thursday, 2 July 2015

Airbus have Plans to Experiment with 
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Jet Engine 

With the airline industry's commitment to halve 2005 CO2 emission levels by 2050 Airbus and others to accelerate the development of alternative jet fuels, Airbus is now getting behind a project to examine the potential for using hydrogen fuel cells on commercial airliners – not to power the jet engines, but to replace the Auxiliary Power Units (APUs).
Located in the tapered tail cone section of the rear fuselage in commercial jet aircraft, APUs
are small gas turbine engines responsible for generating on-board electrical power and heat when the aircraft is on the ground, as well as providing power to start the main engines.
With the goal of realizing emission-free and low-noise operation when the aircraft is on the ground, Airbus has teamed with South Africa's National Aerospace Centre to jointly fund research to examine the potential for hydrogen fuel cells to replace APUs.
The three-year research project will be conducted by Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Systems Competence Centre at its research facility located at the University of the Western Cape in Capetown.
In addition to cutting emissions and noise on the ground, the use of fuel cells would also offer numerous other benefits. Being lighter than an APU, and with the potential to also replace heavy batteries, they would reduce the weight of the aircraft and therefore also the amount of fuel burned and emissions produced by the aircraft while in the air.
Additionally, with fuel cells producing water as a byproduct, they would allow the aircraft to generate its own water supply. And with fuel cells having no moving parts, they would be easier and cheaper to maintain than fossil-fuel powered APUs.
With all their potential benefits, it's not surprising that this isn't the first time that Airbus has dipped its toes in the hydrogen fuel cell waters. The company has already performed test flights with fuel cells used to power individual power systems and tested a fuel cell-powered nose wheel that allows autonomous and emission-free taxiing.
"Although fuel cell technology for land vehicles has rapidly matured," says HySA Systems Director, Professor Bruno G. Pollet, "the new research with Airbus and the National Aerospace Centre is aimed at gaining an understanding of how hydrogen fuel cells could perform over an aircraft’s service life while subjected to the harsh and rapidly changing climatic and environmental regimes that commercial jetliners operate in."

Hydrogen-powered aircraft - or CRYOPLANE - is an airplane that uses hydrogen as a power-source. 

Hydrogen can jet engine can be used to power a fuel cell to generate electricity to power a propeller.

Unlike normal aircraft, which use wings for storing fuel, hydrogen aircraft are usually designed with the liquid hydrogen fuel carried inside the fuselage, in order to minimize surface-area and reduce boil-off.
Robots will over the next decade become as ubiquitous  as the smartphone
But you probably wont be able to see most of them, or even consider them to be a Robot

You may have heard the term 'Exponential Technologies (xT)?'

If you haven't it is technology the improves in terms of price-performance faster and faster. And exponential trend improvement curve starts out flat, but suddenly at the knee point takes off like a rocket.

Some say when a technology becomes digital it compounds in performance improvement. But that is not the whole story.

What drives exponential technology is 'Interconnections; or Connectivity'

Synergy comes about as the by-product of growing, interconnecting networks. Which of course we are experiencing today in every quarter of our lives. This is driven by the increase in the number of nodes, or here Robots in a network. As the number of nodes in a system increases in a linear fashion; so the increase in the number interconnection possibilities goes up in an exponential mode!

Here is an equation that begins to show the logic behind exponential growth in networks:

Pn=Na(Na -1)/2

Where Pn equals the potential total network and where Na is the number of nodes or agents. As the number of nodes accumulate linearly, the number of interconnection possibilities goes up geometrically. 

For example, take 4 nodes added in series: 1+1+1+1=4. You get a linear sum of 4.

Only, if you interconnect each node to each other, you begin to see a nonlinear synergy: 4a(4a-1)/2=6. As the number of nodes go up in linear series, a surprising number of interconnections possibilities emerge.

10a(10a-1)/2 = 45 connections possibilities.
100a(100a -1)/2 = 4,950
1000a(1000a-1)/2 = 299,500
10000a(10000a-1)/2 = 49,995,000
100000a(100000a-1)/2 = 4,999,950,000

Interconnect 1 million nodes, and: 1,000,000a(1,000,000a-1)/2 = ~4.9911. One-million nodes would add up to over 499 billion interconnections.

The Laws of the Speed of Technological Innovation.

Moore’s Law, Nielson’s Law, Kurzweil’s Accelerating Returns Law, are enabled by the underlying mechanics of the space of innovation possibilities: Pn=Na(Na -1)/2.

To be brief, Moore’s Law; describes the constant that the number of potential transistors doubles every 18 months within the same geometric space until the scale begin to hit the weird world of the quantum space (10-19 mm).

Nielsen’s Law says that the amounts of packaged bytes that can be sent down a line will double every 18 months.

Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Increasing Returns; says that technological evolution will accelerate by an exponent over time.

Harris’s Law of Increasing Diversity (me); says that technological and biological diversity expands in proportion to the number of potential interconnections. The richer the source of interconnections, the higher potential for innovation, the richer the potential for yet more nodes, and so on and so on.

Yet all of these laws are empowered by Pn=Na(Na -1)/2.

As Robots become interconnected via the Internet, they will form complex ecologies of Robots. As that happens, the number of Robots, along with price-performance, will grow and improve exponentially, whilst at the same time shrink toward the invisible.

Read at your leisure, this interesting article by By Matt Kwong: 'The Dawn of the Invisible Robot: Minuscule machines with big-data capabilities at the heart of the smart tech' revolution.' 

Matt is freelance journalist who writes about technology, science, and has written a fascinating and well-researched look at robotics in the Internet of Things:

'Bill Gates, the architect of the PC revolution, made a bold declaration not long ago forecasting another disruptive technology. “A Robot in Every Home,” his 2006 op-ed for Scientific American, described the kind of future in which bionic nurses care for the bedridden, wireless automatons do the yard work and service robots tidy up the household à la Rosie, the Jetsons’ humanoid maid. But in an age of WiFi and the ever-diminishing scale of microchips, personal automation doesn’t have to look like a robot with a feather duster.

It may not, in fact, look like anything at all.

“It could become invisible,” said John Horn, president of RACO Wireless, a company specialising in M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. “You’ll be able to embed this connectivity into just about anything in our lives. We’re seeing thousands of products communicating in real time, with modules so small they can fit on dog collars or wrist watches.”'

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Shape of Things to Come: 
Robot Folding Washing (yes-yes!)

Next Future:Terrifying Technology Will Blow Your Mind Video

This video of a pannel discusion on the future of  technology 
is well worth a look.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Coming Age of Flying Cars

The flying car is coming. This is being enabled by the intersection of three converging technologies: high energy density batteries, autonomous navigation powered by differential GPS; and lightweight, high strength lightweight materials.

Under the wings of the XPRIZE Foundation; a multimillion dollar Transporter XPRIZE is being developed to inspire progress in this arena.

Various designs are under way with vertical takeoff, vertical landing capability. 

Something you can step into and shout, 'Take me to Brighton Beach Basketball Court.'

One example is Zee Aero, funded by Google. This flying car can take off and land vertically using a plethora of small electric motors turning four-bladed propellers and is narrow enough to fit into a standard shopping center parking space.

Another design, E-Volo’s Volocopter, is an electric two-passenger, 18-rotor vehicle.

The Moller Skycar is a personal vertical take-off and landing aircraft, invented by Moller, who has been attempting to develop such vehicles for fifty years.

The M400 Skycar, transports four people. It is described as a car since it is aimed at being a popular means of transport for anyone who can drive, incorporating automated flight controls, with the driver only inputting direction and speed require.

AeroMobil transforms in seconds from an automobile to an airplane that perfectly makes use of existing infrastructure created for automobiles and planes  for  real door-to-door travel. 

It fits into any standard parking space, uses regular gasoline, and can be used in road traffic just like any other car. As a plane it can use any airport in the world, but can also take off and land using any grass strip or paved surface just a few hundred meters long. 

It has been in regular flight-testing program in real flight conditions since October 2014 and is predominantly built from advanced composite materials. That includes its body shell, wings, and wheels. It also contains all the main features, such as avionics equipment, autopilot and an advanced parachute deployment system.

AeroMobil also implements a number of other advanced technologies, such as a variable angle of attack of the wings that significantly shortens the take-off requirements, and sturdy suspension that enables it to take-off and land even at relatively rough terrain. 

See AeroMobil video!

(Adapted from Peter Diamandis' blog).

 HENDO Hoverboard

It's finally here: The Back to the Future Hoverboard (well nearly)!!

Firstly, for it to work you'll need the floor to be made of metal, so unless you can convince your local council to replace all its pavements, you won't be flying anywhere.

Then there's the price.

The Hendo Hoverboard will set you back $10,000 (£6,000), so it's clearly a rich boy's toy.

But with this invention now working for real, maybe the Back to the Future concept is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Hoverboards are something we’ve all wanted for so long.

This neat piece of tech was the star of a recent video uploaded to YouTube by Hendo Hover. 

The hoverboard was built by Greg and Jill Henderson and is now looking to raise $250,000 on Kickstarter, where they’ve managed to raise over $21,000 so far.
The board is powered by four different hover engines that emit a series of magnetic fields underneath the board, allowing it to hover above the surface.

As above, the Hendo Hoverboard requires a certain kind of steel surface in order to work, so the Hendo team will also be creating a pop-up skate-park kits specifically for Hendo owners.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

              Back to the Future      

     Lexus’s Prototype Hoverboard

A casually attired lone figure rides into view on a skateboard. Dismounting with all the grace of a Russian ballerina, the individual saunters over to a waiting Hoverboard. 

'There’s no such thing as impossible, 'superimposes the ostentatious quote from Lexus Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi on the promo video trailer. 'It’s just a matter of figuring out how.'
So has the luxury car brand Lexus actually figured out how? 
It seems 2015 is the year of the hoverboard. 

Last month, IFLScience reported on Canadian inventor and engineer Catalin Alexandru Duru, who broke the world record for hoverboard flight distance on open water.

Keen "Back To The Future" fans will also have noticed that 2015 is the year Marty McFly famously rides his hoverboard in the second movie of the comic sci-fi fran.

Lexus’s hoverboard creation, however, appears to be much sleeker in design than Duru’s invention and more impressive than Marty's stolen vehicle of choice. Yet it's almost too impressive, if you’ve got your cynical "could-this-be-true" CGI hat on.
According to Lexus, research and development for the hoverboard has been in the works for about 18 months, during which time they have been working with a few unnamed professional skateboarders.

Embedded into the levitating board are liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets, which means the hoverboard can only be used on surfaces with a metal veneer. In case you’re skeptical of the hoverboard shown in the video, Lexus has confirmed that there is metal inlayed into the surface of the skatepark.

If the hoverboard shown isn’t real, it still looks very stylish. But if it is (and maybe I'm over-optimistic in hoping it is), we may have to wait for more information and release dates before the hoverboard becomes commercially available. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Manufacturing Renaissance: 
Instant Production (Part-I)


Phil Dickenson.
Professor of Advanced Manufacturing,
Loughborough University.
Reaction to my concept of my
Instant Production Technology visioneering
and what it entails,
at a seminal TCT conference.

An earth shuddering rebirth of the means to production is rapidly moving towards a tipping point. 

A Manufacturing Renaissance that will be more profound than all the industrial epochs since organised production begun in ancient Mesopotamia 5 millennia ago.

By its zenith, this maker renaissance will influence more than marginal productivity. It is beginning to transform how and where things are made; a new synthesis that is profoundly and positively impacting on the potential of Design, Engineering, Medicine and Architectural Construction; the Arts, Crafts and Musical potential is being extended. It will even impact on the retail experience to an extent that will ultimately be unrecognisable, enabling the creation of on-the-spot production of goods and services that by even the most recent standards will amaze the most ardent of sceptics. And considering the potential utility of the these instant fabricating utensils, one marvels at potential market value, the kinds of inspiring new job creation and creative advantage they give in the context of increasing global competition.

The Gadget of Gadgets!

I am sure that back in the original Renaissance – and through the many productive eras akin to the construction of the Pyramids, ancient city of Roman, the Medieval Machine, the Enlightenment, the Dutch Golden Age and the Industrial Revolution – that there must have been an Engineer of sorts that gasped for a device that would make him a mock-up or a model of what was rattling around in his head. I sometimes wonder whether the great de Vinci himself mussed with such an idea.

And then in 1991, out of the blue, there it was: a machine that did precisely just that. A device that literally printed out solid 3D prototype models from computer drafts! And that is where it started. The beginning of a new industrial age, based on a technology that quite literally manufactures objects that designers and engineers can hold, prod, test and blow-up in the lab. An amazing machine that is not simply another gadget; but the gadget of gadgets. A devise that gives endless durable geometric possibilities to deliberate, improve and eventually decide upon.

And from those yearling days almost three decades ago, much has developed; giant leaps in innovation to a point today where the technology is beginning to print out quite sophisticated, quite complicated, quite technologically demanding finished end-products, in one hit! How this has panned out is quite an interesting story in itself. But where is it going next? A world that is hanging with bated breath for the next big breakthrough in a new Manufacturing Renaissance.

Time Compression Technology (TCT): 2025+ Vision.

In late 2006, I had the privilege of delivering the closing address at the ‘Time Compression Technology: Rapid Manufacturing Conference.’ The convention is known to be Europe’s most innovative exposé of the world of a Design Productivity (DP) and Rapid Manufacturing (RM). The paper I presented was entitled ‘Instant Production Technology and the New Industrial Revolution!’

I stated - to paraphrase - that manufacturing was at the beginning of a transformation. I said that making stuff will not only become more local to demand, but eventually ubiquitous in the home, the school, the hospital and other private and public places. That, enterprises that created and made custom designs would flourish. That manufacturing services would emerge on the local high street. That inexpensive Three-Dimensional-Printing (3DP) machine sales would tip from a few thousand units a year and begin to rise toward 100s of thousands of units. Showing trends that rapid manufacturing technologies would blossom into a multibillion dollar GigaIndustry up towards and beyond 2010+.

Then I began to look out further to the year 2015+ ‘Zap: The Emergence of Instant Production Technology (IPT).’ That RM yield in terms of cycle-time, precision, resolution, complexity, material performance and component variety will reach a critical point where, quite literally RM will begin to rise toward ‘Instant Production Technology.’ That the first integrated top-down multiplicative production systems appear, purchased by high-end manufacturers and specialist users, enabling engineers to design and test fully functional prototypes in extremely quick cycles: hours instead of days; days in place of months. That integrated components that precisely merge from one material to another specified substraight in a controlled manner, start to emerge. That means electromechano components – say a toroidal choke with integrated yoke – is produced in one hit, becomes viable for the first time. Investment in multiplicative processes, hence, burgeons.

I went on to year 2020+: ‘Hocuspocus: Top-Down Hybrid IPT on an Industrial Scale.’ I said that if the likes Hewlett Packard (in 2006 HP had no RM tech on the market: but do now) have their way, by 2020+ completely assembled consumer durables and other sundry items – that’s roller-skates, electronic calculators, TV and games controllers, and eventually all basic consumer gadgets and gizmos (including the packaging) – will be designed, manufactured and assembled through so-called hybrid top-down IPT, just like magic.

Commercialisation of Top-Down Hybrid IPT systems consisting of microelectromechanical assembly systems incorporating a suite of ultra-refined, super-tolerance and uniquely novel rapid manufacturing technologies by today‘s standards (2006) begins. I said ‘expect to see seminal hybrid IPT integrating microlasers (sub-micron cut/etch), microminture transfer systems, miniature x-ray lithography, hybrid/smart fusion materials, and automated microscopy inspection.’

Then I really began to look far out: 2025+: ‘Just Add Water TVs: At Home with Bottom-Up IPT.’ Consumer nanofactories, such as countertop synthesisers and matter printers will begin to revolutionise the way household objects are acquired. HDTVs and eventually all domestic size consumer gadgets are manufactured near or at home. By using artificial innovation tools the range of products will no longer be limited by the imagination. Products will be world-shattering by today's (2006 again) standards. The capability to pack a hypercomputer in all and sundry will spring forth artefacts of mind-blowing extent. Remarkably simplex cybernetic devices and cobots will be produced quickly and efficiently.

The end-price of such revolutionary merchandise will no longer be a consequence of the physical artefact itself. The cost and scale of magnitude, style, elegance, smartness and complexity will no longer be relevant in a consumers purchase decision. Value will be a consequence of the information that it took to synthesize the gadget. Pay-for-bite will be the main deciding factor, and that will in the main be a consequence of the value of the intellectual property.

At the industrial level, high performance product design, development and verification will still be costly; but once designed; units can be manufactured in quantity – that’s fully functioning Electrical Auto Engines, Hydrogen Jet Turbines, and advanced Pharmaceuticals all for pennies per pound.

Where Next?

And that was projected-out in 2006, and I would still say today, quiet a daring set of forecasts and scenarios considering! So how well did I do? Based on what I maintained, how far has all this come? What is happening today? And considering the evidence (below) is what I forecasted still on track towards and beyond 2020+ and 2025+?

From an analyst’s point of view, sitting on the side-lines, forecasting technological trend lines 10-to-20 years hence is somewhat of a passive role. The analyst is merely there to gather the empirical data and plot the trend (e.g.; the UN’s forecast for world population by 2030). But put yourself in my position. I am gaining insight, knowledge and unheard information that the passive analyst just does not get to hear or see. In fact, I recall Rachel Park, former editor of TCT Magazine espousing that they (TCT) just do not get to hear about the info I was giving up!

So, be on guard, as other commentator’s forecasts that you may hear at the time of this reading, might just be a tad conservative compared to what I am about to show! There are both emerging and potential GigaMarkets of untold value here.

But first, let us begin to look at the technologies, their capabilities, their outputs and then their wizard like potential. And once again, where did all this begin?
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-II):
The Rapid Manufacturing (RM) Industry is Born!

If it were possible to tag one man with firing up the RM revolution; it would have to be the bold and innovative Charles ‘Chuck’ Hall. Chuck qualifies, because in 1986 he patented the much acclaimed workhorse Stereolithography (SLA); the original RM archetype. The system was first introduced in 1991, what was back then deemed as a Buck Roger’s toy and re-selling at a whooping five-hundred-thousand dollars!

But toy it was not! The breakthrough device was the first system ever to produce physical 3D models by so-called additive processes. The SLA machine used beams of ultraviolet laser light on curable liquid photopolymer resins, in turn using cross-linking to create a solid, layer-by-layer. After the pattern has been traced, the SLA's elevator platform descends by a distance equal to the thickness of a single layer (typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm); then, a blade sweeps across the section of the platform; re-coating it with fresh material. On this new liquid surface, the subsequent layer pattern is traced, joining the previous layer. A complete additive 3D component is formed. After being built, parts are immersed in a chemical bath in order to be cleaned of excess resin and are subsequently cured in an ultraviolet oven.

Industry Key Technologies and Practitioners

The legacy from the original SLA ferment has been frenetic. As a large number of distinct RM platform innovations have emerged over the last two decades: Fused Deposition Modeling; Laminated Object Manufacturing; Selective Laser Sintering; Laminated Engineering Net Shaping and Electron Beam Melting are some of the bigger themes.

An abundance of RM Enterprises have formed and grown in and around this new industry: 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS, Z-Corporation, Materialise, Arcam, Shapeways, Optomec, ExOne, Fab@Home, MakerBot, ReaLizer, RepRap, Shapeways, Digital Forming, MGX, Ultimaker, Builder, Witbox, Leapfrog, Felix and more on the horizon!

I will come to several of these firms and their technologies below. However, an in-depth analysis of each company is beyond the scope of this book. I would suggest Googling each firm for a deeper look.

Rapid Additive Prototype Manufacturing.

Quantum physicists oft pose that the Universe has not merely three-dimensions, plus one other we call time; but eleven! When one tries to think of a multidimensional Universe, it tends (or at least for me) to boggle the mind. That we can at least see three of the dimensions (up, down, and sideways)  and experience the fourth (the alarm clock going off in the morning). But Q-physicists are adamant that the other 7 dimensions are very tiny and folded-up inside each other in a kind of complicated origami space-field. Mind boggling! But what does that have to do with RM?

Over that last two decades the range of materials available for RM has burgeoned from the original low-resolution homogeneous photopolymer to a broad array of performance heterogeneous materials athwart of co-polymers, metal alloys, fine grained ceramics and hybrid composites.

Objects Connex 3D by Stratasys, for example, is a printing system that has the capacity to fabricate so-called Digital Materials that give predetermined mechanical properties and parameters which emulate the final manufactured product intended material performance.

Two discrete materials, picked from 17 primary materials can fuse in 136 potential combinational universes [(17(17-1)/2=136]. A Connex part can be printed with 14 material multidimensional combinations in one 3D printing procedure (my 11 dimension Universe metaphor – now I get it!). The material can simulate elastomeric behaviours ranging from Shore hardness 27-to-95, ridged, tough to engineering grade ABS.

This begins to illustrate the new technical capability for such RM technology. A mere 10 years ago, this would have been quite impossible.

Express Metal Fabrication: Integral Parts without Expensive Tooling.

As a young design engineer I used to tease the toolmakers I worked with when making design modifications. There is an age old problem where if a component feature, like an aperture or diahole had to be increased; then the core inside the mould tool had to be increase in size as well. And that invariably meant the core had to be replaced with a larger hub, increasing time and capital costs. ‘When are you going to invent a metal on-tool,’ I would moan. But that was back in the 1990s.

Now comes a host of ‘metal-on’ RM equipment. One being Arcam EBM® Electron Beam Melting, which builds up metal powder layer-by-layer, fully dense metal components, which is melted by a powerful electron beam. Each layer is melted to the exact geometry defined by a CAD model.

This is a new paradigm for industrial manufacture as metal is added instead of removed, as in the case in traditional machining. EBM allows for the building of parts with very complex geometries without tooling and fixtures; and without producing any waste material. Good for reducing capital costs, good for the environment.

EBM provides enormous benefits for the entire production value-chain. Geometrical design scope is freed as envisioned, doing away with traditional manufacturing constraints (undercuts, drafts, secondary surface finishes, time and cost consuming assembly), translating to extremely light-weight designs, reduced part count, and improved integrity without expensive casting or forging stock.

Revolutionary Physical Geometric Capabilities.

Rapid Manufacturing systems are giving new life to spaces and shapes once only relegated to the imagination. Real components are being made that were thought quite impossible geometrically 10 years ago. You may have seen 2D pictures of the inverse-impossible loop that folds itself up inside itself? Now, 3D Systems are printing out seemingly impossible convoluted geometric pattern. I think M.C Escher would be dumbfounded. New, strange and counterintuitive geometry is now being explored in physical reality.

By simulating nature’s organic structured lattice, convoluted organic forms are facilitating designs that are lighter and have more efficient structures which have significant strength to wait ratio  improvement (Now you know why nature’s humble Bumble Bee can fly, when it is not suppose too!).

3DP Optical Systems.

Recent developments in 3DP technology have enabled the fabrication of high resolution transparent plastics with similar optical properties to Plexiglas. One-off 3DP optical elements can be designed and fabricated literally within minutes than conventional mould manufacturing; greatly in-creasing accessibility and reducing end-to-end production  time. 

Lighting products such a focusable spotlights, photometry systems such photometric measurement or high precision telescopic lens are beginning to me made on the spot for pennies with no tooling capital investment costs.

Protos, a custom eyewear venture established in San Francisco, produce sunglasses via 3DP. Protos aim for striking designs, cost prohibitive through conventional manufacturing methods. Finding a pair of rays that fit and looks kool is, for many Californian types, a niggling problem, often ending in a compromise on the customer’s part. The design strategy is to tailor a fit based on an individual’s facial measurements uses advanced manufacturing such as selective laser sintering, 3D scanning and parametric 3D modelling to develop and manufacture customizable products that would not exist by other means.

Multifunctional Inks and Multifunctional Deposition Heads.

The next leap-on in the RM world is Multifunctional Inks and Multifunctional Deposition Heads‘Functional’ at its entry level means parameters like tough, inert or transparent (above). It can also mean insulating (dielectric), semiconducting and conducting. However, where this process gets interesting is the creation of Multifunctional Materials! Otherwise known as smart or dynamic materials; multifunctional materials have specific active behaviours and properties. In turn, such n-materials are made from multifunctional inks which enable the manufacture of complex active components with three-dimensional gradients and differentiated structures; say from sliver-to-plastic-to-ceramic-to-carbon, et al.  Resulting in paradoxical differentiated fine-grain isotropic multimaterial structures.

IFAM is a German R&D led materials manufacturer, developing integrated 3DP techniques that utilise multifunctional-inks to produce gradient materials with local phases (differentiated composition), giving customized and integrated component functions. 3D printing of discrete electrical components such resistors and diodes; while some headway has been achieved with active electrical components such as simple integrated circuits.

Clearly, such smart enabling inks need a way of being deposited: hence, multiplicative deposition heads. These enable multiplicative processes, not just additive processes. One of the most disruptive technologies here is the so-called 3D inkjet-multihead. The multihead is one of the prime enabling technologies for geometrically complex, differentiated gradients and active multifunctional materials. The goal of multihead deposition is to be print layer by layer, at the sub-micron level, without any post processing.

Together, multifunctional-inks and multihead-deposition means a major milestone for RM technology: to print out complete functional components and assemblies in one hit. For example, the notion of printing out a working television remote controller may seem outlandish, but a team of engineers at the University of California are developing multiplicative inkjet heads that does just that. Instead of fabricating a plastic housing and then arduously populating it with components, circuit boards, and connectors, a complete and fully assembled functional device is printed in one hit.

Commodity devices such as handheld touches, radios, mobile phones or pocket calculators will emerge as fully working systems, in one hit. A television remote controller printed as a single continuous multifunctional assembly would contain the buttons, a polymer-based infrared emitter and polymer-based electronics, as well as the light-emitting device. Clearly the way artefact are made are about to go through radical transformation.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-III)
Integrative RM Trends: Hybrid ‘Top-Down’ Direct Digital Manufacturing.

Hence world firsts are abound in this industry. Hybrid electronic circuitry and mechanical structures are beginning to be successfully three dimensionally printed (3DP). Smart Wing is part of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with multifunctional integrated electronics printed within the wing assembly. The prototype is a Hyperinnovation between Aerostructures Research Group.

The Optomec Aerosol Jet System is used to print a conformal sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing was 3DP with the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process. The electrical and sensor designs were provided by Aurora Flight Sciences, a supplier of UAVs. Using direct hybrid digital manufacturing techniques gives the capability to print multifunctional electronic systems into complex-shaped structures using additive RM. This enables rapid customisation UAVs, potentially closer to the field, when and where needed.

Multifunctional 3DP benefits are manifold; enabling lighter-weight mechanical structures with corresponding 3DP electronic circuits, freeing-up additional space for payload with much less material. This ground-breaking project is a vanguard paving the way to the radical transform in product design and development. In turn, giving a true sea change in integrated manufacture-production-assembly across high-end technology industries. Hence, streamlining future efficiencies and innovative capabilities within aerospace, automotive systems, medical equipment, commercial and consumer electronics, by requiring fewer materials and steps to bring a product to market.

One hybrid ‘top-down’ pioneering piece of kit is The Replicator, a robotic RM system made by Cybaman Technologies, a British firm. The Replicator is an automated computer controlled system which employs both subtractive and additive processes to produce components. Developed specifically for high-speed machining of 3D metal components, it presents each facet of a workpiece, to the cutting tool in an automatic sequence. Tool-paths are generated using hyperMill CAD/CAM software and then converted into machine movement with the Cybaman postprocessor. 

The Replicator can be supplied with a Laser Powder Deposition heads for building-up additative metal parts directly from a CAD model. Then, using the optional non-contact scanning systems, parts can be imported into the CAD for subsequent replication within the system. The Replicator workstation houses a 6-Axes PC Based CNC Software. A positioning system comprising 3-Axes Articulated Robotic Manipulator and a Hi-Speed Machining Spindle mounted on 3-Linear-Axes; enabling complete 3D machining of functional components in a single set up.

And this is where it really gets going: a Dutch R&D enterprise known as TNO is exploring new hybrid RM techniques by integrating innovative arrays of multiple 3D deposition heads dispensing ceramics, metals or plastics onto multiple platforms travelling around a carousel in a continuous loop.

Imagine a large toy train with plinths mounted on top of each carriage, going around a long ovoid track. As each plinth goes by each deposition head station, a complete multimaterial products is made-up layer-by-layer (pens, shoes, eye-glasses, artist sculptures, play toys, etc).

This prototype represents a model for RM futures. With further development, in terms of deposition resolution, closer coupling of jets-head, finer and broader range of materials, it is paves the way for another kind of integrated manufacturing-production-assembly line. The goal is to integrate jetting and printing of viscous materials, patterning of photo-sensitive materials, stereolithography, RM metal and polymer structures, laser printing and structuring, thin-film deposition and patterning. And that just scratches the surface.

Now scale all this up to a size where it is possible to 3DP domestic refrigerators, food mixers, car parts, garden tools. And all this is on the way: Take LEPUS a fast digital light processing technology for the 3D printing of hearing aids; or Fast-ALD a spatial atomic layer deposition (ALD) technology for high-speed deposition of functional materials on rigid substrates such as passivation layers in crystalline solar cells, printed electronics, OLED, flexible displays and LED. Consequently Hybrid ‘Top-Down’ Direct Digital Manufacturing is about to tip, offering massive GigaMarket opportunities for the would-be innovator.
Manufacturing Renaissance: 
Ubiquitous Instant Production (Part-IV)
Meso Engineering: Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS).

‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kit!’ Begins a flippant metaphor of the miniature world of Microelectromechanical Systems or MEMS. A land of tiny machines so small you simply cannot see them with your bear eyes.

Imagine, if you will, peering at the common Dust Mite through a microscope. As you peer you see that the mite has one of its hairy-forelegs stood on the periphery of an even tinnier mechanical gear-wheel! Pan-out a little and view a playground of mechanical systems: intermeshing cantilevers and locks, pistons and wheels, cams and spinning gears resembling swings and round-abouts; with rack and pinions thrusting back and forth all at incredible speeds!

All this – believe it or not – describes the world of Meso-Scale engineering and is yet another promising advanced RM GigaMarket.

Meso-scale – which is not much talked about outside scientific or engineering laboratories – stands for the size range between micro (0.001mm) and nano (0.000,000,1mm); which is probably not much help for lay-reader. But believe it or not at that scale there is a lot of room. MEMS technology is a world of the very small: tiny functioning sub-assemblies and cute looking little components with dimensions much smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

Of course, you are going to ask ‘Way?’ What fuss and for what? Well to begin with, such assemblies are designed to sense and interact and feedback with the outside macro-world. Assemblies such as guidance systems, giro-servers, motion detectors, thermal meters, shutters, motors and servos that detect sub-microscopic dynamic ranges of sound, light, movement and vibration, whilst mechanically and electrically manipulating control systems across the nano-to-Meso-to-micro-scale and up!

Application examples include, accelerometers and motion detectors that are fitted in iPads for dynamic gamming modes, tri-axial accelerometer performance monitoring on snowboards competing in Olympic halfpipe contests, ultrasensitive hearing aid diaphragm mounting, retina injection contact lens mechanisms, 1000-thousandth of second lens shutter speed, and other Mission Impossible gadgets I cannot tell you about!

One of the most common materials employed is silicon; attractive in a wide variety of MEMS applications. It is an almost perfect Hookean material, meaning that when it is flexed there is virtually no hysteresis, hence almost no energy dissipation. This gives highly repeatable motion, suffers very little fatigue and can have service lifetimes in the range of trillions of cycles without breaking.

Medical science is benefiting enormously. Polymer-MEMS devices, for example, are widely used in cutting-edge surgery pathology. Constructed by submicron injection mouldings, embossing and stereolithography for application in microfluid devices such as disposable blood testing cartridges.

MEMS applications and the MEMS RM equipment itself, is a massively burgeoning industry as I write, that as high-end gadgets and tools shrink towards the invisible, is set to be pervasive and unstoppable GigaMarket.
Manufacturing Renaissance: Ubiquitous Instant Production
An Explosion in RM Applications.


I starkly recall putting together the above paper on the future of RM back in mid-2000s and thinking that this rather arcane, somewhat drab engineering lead industry, needed a dose of adrenalin. The picture I got back then from the RM media was one of a grey clouded outlook on the future (my perception of course).


No surprise then, that my seminar at TCT2006 was met will some glee, at last someone with a daring view. And so it continues. It is exciting to say that RM technology is the spark of lightening that is igniting a Manufacturing Renaissance. There are reports in the RM media almost every day of some amazing RM technology innovation or musing RM application. Right now there are remarkable examples of applications that begin to show the potential. Here is just small sample.


3DP apparel has been shown at Paris Fashion Week catwalk in. Designer Iris van Herpen, known for the her work with Björk on her ‘Biophilia’ album cover, presented her Haute Couture show ‘Voltage,’ featuring 2 3DP ensembles. Voltage also includes a dress designed in collaboration with architect Julia Koerner and printed by Materialise.

Orthodontics increasingly exploits fabricated dental prosthetics. The cost of lab work has become a major factor in dental restoration planning and therapy. So the speed of digital dentistry is not on a differentiator, it reduces the treatment end-price to the customer whilst improving quality. Simply put 3DP fabrication of functional and aesthetic impression for treatment cases that may have suffered chronic disease or physical damage. One example here is Compass3D, a leading provider of high definition scanning systems that puts together 3D image models of the inner-mouth. The system sends a model to, say, Stratasys additive Fused Deposition Modelling machine, feed in the appropriate materials and presto, a super-precision dental impression at rocket speed!

And by the way, would you like to print-out your new home? Yes, you read me right. 3DP your families new abode! Take a look at the work of the Industrial and Systems Engineering school at the University of Southern California, and this is now beginning to happen. Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, has been working on such a system for last 15 years which does precisely that.

He calls the practice Contour Crafting. The aim of the technology, is to achieve  faster, more cost effective process, while using less energy than conventional building methods. It builds whatever model you configure in a CAD system, offering unparalleled design flexibility. The layered fabrication technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole structures as well as sub-components.

Using this process, a single house or a colony of houses, each possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run. Embedded in each house is all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning. The potential applications of this technology are far reaching including, but not limited to, applications in emergencies (earth quakes, tsunamis, forest fires), low-income (rural areas in emerging nations, housing shortage in develop countries), and commercial housing in difficult to build topography (rocky mountains, deserts, small plots in dense inner cities).

A Japanese firm, Fasotec is experiment-ing with MRI scans and 3DP models of six-to-nine month stage foetuses. From a medical standpoint, the replicant can lend a hand in predicting potential difficulties in the gestation and birthing process. Eager parents can now also show family and friends what their baby will look like before delivery. The 90mm solid model is encased in a transparent block in the shape of the mother's body. The service costs around $1000 and can come a miniature version that could be a nice adornment around the neck.

Omote, yet another Japanese firm, have produced a 3DP photo-booth. Sit in the cubicle and your likeness will be scanned then 3DP into a figurine you can take home.  You simply stand still and in position for about 15 minutes while a scanner records a full-body image. This data is modified for finer detail before the 3D colour-print is created. As yet detail is limited as gleaming jewellery and accessories are ruled out, hoop earrings, fluffy sweaters, chiffon, stripes, glasses and bags. Avoid pulling adventurous or dynamic poses on account of needing to remain stationary for 15 minutes. Single, double or group portraits in a number of different sizes, from about 8 inches high. All for around 21,000 yen.


Clearly, the space of possibilities for business innovation is being blown wide open by this technology. As Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University makes clear, ‘If you can build something, people get excited about making things. Then they go and set up companies!