You just designed the perfect circuit board but don’t have the cash to fund its manufacture. Seeed Studio, an “open hardware” company in Shenzhen, China, helps tinkerers move their concepts onto the assembly line. Inventors can submit an electronics schematic to Seeed for review; a community of inventors and customers then improves the design with feedback. If interest is high, Seeed builds the device, sells it online, and shares its profits with the inventor.
A technique inspired by pop-up books could enable quicker production of tiny robots and other electrical devices, according to Harvard engineers. Usually, building a micro aerial vehicle — or any other robot — requires a painstaking assembly process, with each little wing or sensor folded and machined just so. Now it can come together in a single fold.
By Matthew Yglesias
Posted 01.06.2012 at 3:08 pm 16 Comments
The U.S. spent some $400 billion on research and development last year, well over twice the amount invested by China, its next closest rival. But as the U.S. rolls back research budgets in 2012, China will take another approach: When its current leaders step down next fall, their replacements will oversee a major increase in science spending.
Last week, I visited Solingen, Germany's "city of blades," where knives, swords, and the like have been made for centuries. In between sipping beers and munching wursts, I paid a visit to the factory of Zwilling J.A. Henckels, at their kind invitation, to peer at the semi-roboticized lines where they produce their knives.
We frequently hear about the ways 3-D printing will change the manufacturing industry, allowing greater precision and lower costs in anything from airplane parts to custom chocolates. Now GE is starting a lab at its research headquarters designed to turn 3-D printing into a manufacturing mainstay, using it to make medical equipment and more.
Engineers at Ohio State University have created the first stand-alone, stationary lens that can create microscopic 3-D images. Up until now, 3-D microscopes needed multiple lenses or movable cameras to capture all sides of an object. With this lens, viewers can capture nine different angles of a microscopic object at once.
It was disconcerting last month when industry officials reported that China had halted shipments of rare earth elements to Japan. Now, if reports in the New York Times are true, it seems the secret embargo has widened to include the U.S. and Europe. Anonymous officials claim that Chinese customs officials quietly imposed the export restrictions on Monday morning, just hours after a top Chinese trade official denounced U.S. trade actions.
Ask a GM employee, any barstool economist, or your dad, and they'll all likely tell you the same thing: American manufacturing ain't what she used to be. But who will think us out of this economic box we've trapped ourselves in? DARPA, of course. DARPA's director told the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that by replicating the successful model that the semiconductor industry is built upon, other manufacturing sectors can experience similar booms as well.
More than 80,000 chemicals are used or produced in the U.S., and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed restrictions or bans on just five. But the agency signaled its intent at the end of last year to possibly add restrictions to four chemicals that are widely used in making products such as toys, household items and medical equipment, according to Scientific American.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.