Sandia’s Solar Glitter Moves Closer to Market with New…

Sandia’s Solar Glitter Moves Closer to Market with New…

Apr 28, 2017

“Sandia’s Solar Glitter Moves Closer to Market with New Licensing Agreement” Featured on Design-2-Part Magazine ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —An Albuquerque company founded by a Sandia National Laboratories scientist-turned-entrepreneur has received a license for a “home-grown” technology that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used. The licensing agreement between mPower Technology Inc. and Sandia was signed Jan. 23. The agreement covers microsystems enabled photovoltaics (MEPV), according to a press release from Sandia. “This is an important milestone,” said Murat Okandan, founder and chief executive officer of mPower, in the press release. “It is an extremely exciting time in the solar industry with the upcoming critical, rapid change in the worldwide energy infrastructure. A lot of things are coming together and we’re excited to be part of it.” MEPV uses micro-design and micro-fabrication techniques to make miniature solar cells, also known as “solar glitter.” Dragon SCALEs are small, lightweight, flexible solar cells that fit into and power devices or sensors of any shape or size, including wearable ones. The high-efficiency cells can be integrated into satellites and drones, biomedical and consumer electronics, and can be folded like paper for easy transport. Dragon SCALEs also make possible new shapes and materials and faster, cheaper installation of solar energy systems on buildings, said Okandan. The product offers higher voltage, greater reliability, and lower energy costs than standard silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells, he added. “The key limitation to silicon is that if you bend and flex it, it will crack and shatter,” Okandan said. “Our technology makes it virtually unbreakable, while keeping all the benefits of high efficiency, high reliability silicon PV. It allows us to integrate PV in ways that weren’t possible before, such as in flexible materials, and deploy it faster in lighter-weight, larger-area modules.” Okandan said standard silicon PV operates with low voltage and high current at the cell and module level, which requires more silver or copper and adds cost. MEPV allows high-voltage and low-current configurations with less metal in the system and meshes well with integrated power electronics. “These are basic benefits that apply fundamentally to large-scale solar deployment,” Okandan said. “And the same technology provides key advantages in satellites, drones, and portable...

Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room…

Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room…

Apr 21, 2017

“Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room for meaningful work instead” By TL Andrews, Quartz Unencumbered by the prospect of re-election, outgoing presidents tend to use their final speeches to candidly warn against threats they believe to be metastasizing in society. For example, George Washington spoke of the ills of hyper-partisanship and excessive debt. Dwight Eisenhower denounced the waxing power of the “military industrial complex.” President Barack Obama singled out an economic peril in his otherwise doggedly hopeful final address in Chicago: “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” he said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.” Obama articulated a fear felt by many around the world: That all our jobs will eventually be done by robots. Research backs this fear: One study found that automation will threaten at least 47% of jobs in America and up to 85% in the rest of the world. But a number of economists are beginning to argue that this view of automation excludes a lot of the story. Putting automation in context To simply argue that automation is going to gobble up jobs ignores the potential for productivity gains. The Business Harvard Review found that the IT revolution led to 0.6% labor productivity growth and 1% of overall growth in Europe, the US, and Japan between 1995 and 2005. “It all hinges on demand,” says Jim Bessen, professor of economics at Boston University. If the productivity gains are enough to significantly boost demand, then job growth may be the result. This is especially true when new technologies create jobs that simply did not exist before, such as social-media managers. In those cases, any jobs created will make a net contribution to the labor market. Though automation will cost some jobs, it will also create many others. A case in point is the rollout of ATMs in the US. Introduced in the 1970s, the number of ATMs increased from 100,000 to 400,000 between 1995 and 2010. Running an ATM is cheaper than paying a teller’s salary, so as ATMs became more numerous relative to tellers, the overall cost of each bank branch came down. As it became cheaper to operate a...

Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization…

Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization…

Apr 11, 2017

“Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization of athletic shoes” By Norbert Sparrow, Plastics Today German sportswear giant adidas (Herzogenaurach) brought 3D printing’s promise of mass customization one step closer to the local mall today with the introduction of its Futurecraft 4D athletic shoe line, which features a midsole manufactured using a process called Digital Light Synthesis. Developed by Silicon Valley startup Carbon (Redwood City, CA), the technology differs from conventional 3D printing in that it grows objects from a pool of resin rather than creating them layer by layer. The partnership with Carbon allows Adidas “to overcome many of [the] difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mold, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production,” reports Reuters. Three hundred pairs of Futurecraft 4D shoes have been released for friends and family, and Adidas reportedly expects to sell 5000 pairs of the shoes this year, ramping up to 100,000 next year. Adidas used its extensive library of running data to shape functional zones into a midsole design crafted through Digital Light Synthesis, explains Carbon. “Unlike any traditional manufacturing technology, Digital Light Synthesis allows adidas to precisely address the needs of each athlete in regards to movement, cushioning, stability and comfort with one single component. Carbon’s unique programmable resin platform offers unparalleled performance with respect to material durability and elastomeric responsiveness,” said the company. Initially, adidas plans to produce batches of shoes customized for specific sports and cities, but the ultimate goal is to allow customers to be measured and tested in store for a perfectly fitted shoe that takes into account the user’s gait, weight and athletic pursuit, reports Reuters. Adidas describes the envisioned experience in this way on its website: “Imagine walking into an adidas store, running briefly on a treadmill and instantly getting a 3D-printed running shoe. Creating a flexible, fully breathable carbon copy of the athlete’s own footprint, matching exact contours and pressure points, it will set the athlete up for the best running experience. Linked with existing data sourcing and foot-scan technologies, it opens unique opportunities for immediate in-store fittings.” Not about to be left in the dust, Nike is also exploring the...

$64 Million Digital Factory Is Said to Herald the…

$64 Million Digital Factory Is Said to Herald the…

Feb 20, 2017

“$64 Million Digital Factory Is Said to Herald the Future of Manufacturing” By Design-2-Part Magazine Faurecia’s Columbus, Indiana-based emissions control technologies plant represents company’s digital transformation. AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—The automotive supplier Faurecia recently unveiled a $64 million state-of-the-art, data-driven manufacturing facility in Columbus, Indiana, that  will employ 450 people. Columbus South, a 400,000 square-foot facility, will produce a new, high-tech emissions control product for the commercial vehicle industry. “This facility represents our entry into Industry 4.0, a revolutionary concept incorporating connectivity, automation, data processing, and hardware to advance the manufacturing industry,” said Mike Galarno, plant manager of Columbus South, in a press release. “We are proud to be the first plant to incorporate many of these leading technologies under one roof to create efficient systems and an innovative working experience for employees.” With this facility, Faurecia is driving forward the company’s digital transformation by ushering in technologies that are at the forefront of modern-day manufacturing. “Manufacturing is sometimes stereotyped as dirty and requiring few skills,” said Dave DeGraaf, president of Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies North America, in the release. “Columbus South contributes to the shifting landscape of the industry to one that is modern, clean, and technologically advanced, and aimed at attracting a new generation of employees with different and advanced skillsets.” The Columbus South facility’s digital environment will feature a variety of new technologies, systems, and processes that reflect the improvements of Industry 4.0, including quality through laser scanning and early detection of variation; self-learning autonomous intelligent vehicles (AIVs) to transport component parts to the assembly line; continuous data collection, which enables employees to predict and prevent equipment failures; a completely paperless environment that keeps employees connected and informed with real time information; and an open-concept design and digital screens, laptops, and smartphones to encourage collaboration. In addition to these advancements, Columbus South will also have a combination of collaborative robots, or “cobots,” automated robotic vehicles, and visual communication techniques designed to foster real-time collaboration and communication. Collectively, Columbus South is expected to analyze terabytes of data daily, requiring a full-time, on-site mathematician to continually mine data, cull insights, and forecast an issue before it occurs. “Columbus South isn’t only about the product...

How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the…

How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the…

Feb 15, 2017

“How the Development of Self-Driving Cars Is Steering the Supply Chain in New Directions” By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine  Jim McBride, senior technical leader for autonomous vehicles at Ford Motor Company, points to a pair of vehicles prominent in 1960s science fiction—George Jetson’s car and the Batmobile—as evidence that the idea of self-driving cars has been around for a long time. “We just never had the wherewithal to actually do [anything about] it,” he told D2P in a phone interview. That began to change in 2001, when the U.S. government decided it wanted to automate vehicles as a way of protecting the lives of military personnel on the battlefield. Three years later, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the first DARPA Grand Challenge, a prize competition for autonomous vehicles, along a 150-mile route in the Mojave Desert. The series of challenges, the most recent of which took place in 2013 as the FANG (Fast Adaptable Next Generation Ground) Challenge, was open to the public to speed up the process of developing and building self-driving vehicles. “We (Ford) participated in what was called the DARPA Grand Challenges because we thought if we looked at some of the new sensing and computing and algorithms that were becoming feasible, that we could probably translate those into making production automobiles not only more convenient, but safer,” said McBride. “Safety was absolutely the number one motivating factor. And once we did the Challenges and figured out that making a car self-driving was possible given the new wave of technology, all these secondary applications became obvious, like mobility for elderly or disabled people, or reducing urban congestion, or improving fuel economy. But it was always motivated by ‘What can we do to make cars safer?’” Bobby Hambrick, CEO of AutonomouStuff, a supplier of systems, equipment, components, and services for the autonomous vehicles market, echoed McBride’s sentiments, saying that the biggest single factor driving the development of autonomous vehicle technology is the need to reduce the number of traffic accidents and fatalities. “Thirty thousand people a year are dying, just in the United States alone,” Hambrick said in a phone interview. “That’s the equivalent of a 747 crashing every...