All-electric race car made possible with electron beam metal 3D printing

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Supported by Innovate UK, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) works to speed up industrial growth in the UK by creating and embedding future skills and developing and proving manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing. The latter is specifically what the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM), part of the MTC, focuses on, and its DRAMA research project spent the last three years setting up a stronger AM supply chain for aerospace. But the NCAM also supports automotive and motorsports AM applications: a perfect example of this can be found in the recent work its Coventry team has done to help Oxford Brookes Racing (OBR), the Oxford Brookes University‘s formula student racing team, reach its 2020 all-electric goal.

OBR is one of the top UK formula student racing (FSUK) teams, and has worked with the MTC on a number of projects before. So the team knew that its NCAM would be the perfect partner to help them take things to the next level.

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This extremely slippery VR treadmill could be your next home gym

The Virtuix Omni One is supposed to ship next year

Virtual reality startup Virtuix is building a VR treadmill for your home. The Omni One is an elaborate full-body controller that lets you physically run, jump, and crouch in place. Following an earlier business- and arcade-focused device, it’s supposed to ship in mid-2021 for $1,995, and Virtuix is announcing the product with a crowdfunding investment campaign.

The crowdfunded Virtuix Omni started development in 2013. It’s not a traditional treadmill — it’s a low-friction platform that’s used with special low-friction shows or shoe covers and a harness. (You may remember the overall VR treadmill concept from Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.) As an Omni One prototype video demonstrates, the device basically holds you in place while your feet slide across the platform, and that movement gets translated into a VR environment. We’ve tried earlier iterations of the Omni, and it’s an awkward yet fascinating experience.

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We are approaching the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history

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We are approaching the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history

 In the next 10 years, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors—information, energy, food, transportation, and materials—that underpin our global economy. We need to make sure the disruption benefits everyone.

Suppose we told you that solutions to the world’s most intractable problems are possible in the next decade. Poverty. Inequality. Climate change. You’d probably say impossible, preposterous, unthinkable. We’ve heard that about our predictions before. But we have been proven right.

Now, we are predicting the fastest, deepest, most consequential technological disruption in history and with it, a moment civilization has never encountered before. In the next 10 years, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors—information, energy, food, transportation, and materials—that underpin our global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. Costs will fall by 10 times or more, while production processes become an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient, using 90% fewer natural resources and producing 10 times to 100 times less waste.

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UK ambulance services are testing a rescue jet suit

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Gravity Industries’ suit could quickly get a medic to a remote casualty site.

The “Iron Man” jet suit we first saw back in 2017 might be less crazy than we first thought. Inventor Richard Browning and his company Gravity Industries have demonstrated that it may be a viable option to quickly get medical help to victims in remote areas. Working with the UK’s Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), Browning flew to a simulated casualty on a remote mountainous site in just 90 seconds, a fraction of the time it would take to walk there.

The sooner a paramedic can get to a victim, the sooner they can stabilize them and call for a helicopter or other support. “We think this technology could enable our team to reach some patients much quicker than ever before,” said GNAAS director of operations Andy Mawson. “In many cases this would ease the patient’s suffering. In some cases, it would save their lives.”

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Amazon One lets you pay with your palm

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Amazon wants its palm recognition technology in stores, stadiums, and office buildings

Amazon is unveiling its own palm recognition technology today that will be used initially to turn your hand into a personal credit card inside the company’s physical retail stores. Amazon One uses the palm of your hand to identify you, using a combination of surface-area details like lines and ridges, alongside vein patterns to create a “palm signature.”

At first, this palm signature will be used in Amazon’s own Go stores in Seattle, and the company also plans to add Amazon One to other Amazon stores in the coming months. Amazon One usage will eventually extend beyond just palm-based payments. “We believe Amazon One has broad applicability beyond our retail stores, so we also plan to offer the service to third parties like retailers, stadiums, and office buildings so that more people can benefit from this ease and convenience in more places,” says Dilip Kumar, vice president of Amazon’s physical retail business.

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Thin and ultra-fast photodetector sees the full spectrum

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Artist’s impression of the photodetector device created by RMIT University researchers.

 Researchers have developed the world’s first photodetector that can see all shades of light, in a prototype device that radically shrinks one of the most fundamental elements of modern technology.

Photodetectors work by converting information carried by light into an electrical signal and are used in a wide range of technologies, from gaming consoles to fibre optic communication, medical imaging and motion detectors. Currently photodetectors are unable to sense more than one color in the one device.

This means they have remained bigger and slower than other technologies, like the silicon chip, that they integrate with.

The new hyper-efficient broadband photodetector developed by researchers at RMIT University is at least 1,000 times thinner than the smallest commercially available photodetector device.

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Harvard scientists invented a material that ‘remembers’ its shape

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Still trying to wrap my head around this one, to be honest.

Scientists at Harvard are claiming they’ve invented a new “wool-like” fabric that changes shape and, if I’m being completely honest, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. First off, how the hell can a fabric have a memory and, secondly, what does that even mean?

A post on Harvard’s website uses hair as a metaphor in an attempt to clarify. If you straighten your hair — and your hair gets wet in the rain — it eventually goes back to its original shape, whether that’s curly or wavy or whatever.

Apparently that’s because hair has “shape memory”.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created a fibrous material that does much the same thing. The hope? This new material could be used in clothes to help reduce waste in the fashion industry. The example the Harvard article uses: a one-size all fits t-shirt that could automatically shrink or expand to fit to a person’s specific measurements. Or how about self-fitting bras or underwear?

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New silicone 3D printing opens up applications for robotics, medicine, wearables

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The fabrication of soft devices is evolving further, with the completion of recent research performed by US scientists. With the results published in “3D printable tough silicone double networks,” the authors explain how soft materials can be fabricated with micron resolution for complex systems like robotics, as well as new types of wearables.

Soft materials are produced industrially for many applications, with soft matter deployed for shock absorption, conformal requirements, energy recapture and robotics, where devices must be able to deform. Cross-linked materials like silicone rubbers (more formally known as poly(dimethylsiloxanes)) are popular for use due to strong mechanical properties, and temperature and chemical resistance. Most methods for using such materials with traditional techniques like injection molding are extremely limited though, and only suitable for creating basic geometries.

Previous research has shown success with liquid silicone rubber material for 3D printing ink, yielding more complex shapes. Challenges have been noted, however, in terms of structures being printed with overhangs, as well as those with a “high aspect ratio structure,” due to lack of stability like “slumping” before curing. Other experimental techniques have resulted in a lack of resolution, inferior mechanical properties, or slower printing speed.

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This tiny robot tank could one day help doctors explore your intestine

With a bulky, armored appearance, heavy duty treads for gripping, and a claw arm on the front, the Endoculus robot vehicle looks like it belongs on the battlefield. In fact, it’s just 3 cm wide, 2.3 cm tall, and designed for an entirely different kind of inhospitable environment: Your intestine.

“[This] robotic capsule endoscope, Endoculus, is a tethered robot designed for colonoscopy applications,” Mark Rentschler, a mechanical engineering professor in the Advanced Medical Technologies Laboratory at the University of Colorado, told Digital Trends. “The goals are twofold: design a platform for a robot endoscope in the gastrointestinal tract, and enable autonomous capabilities to assist physicians with disease diagnosis and treatment during these procedures.”

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Army of a million microscopic robots created to explore on tiny scale

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Artist’s rendition of an array of microscopic robots

 A troop of a million walking robots could enable scientific exploration at a microscopic level.

Researchers have developed microscopic robots before, but they weren’t able to move by themselves, says Marc Miskin at the University of Pennsylvania. That is partly because of a lack of micrometre-scale actuators – components required for movement, such as the bending of a robot’s legs.

Miskin and his colleagues overcame this by developing a new type of actuator made of an extremely thin layer of platinum. Each robot uses four of these tiny actuators as legs, connected to solar cells on its back that enable the legs to bend in response to laser light and propel their square metallic bodies forwards.

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RoBeetle is a tiny robot that uses methanol for fuel

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RoBeetle is a tiny robot that uses methanol for fuel

One of the biggest challenges facing researchers who are working on small robots is how to power them. The problem is that most batteries add significantly to the weight and take up lots of space inside small robots, making them impractical. Scientists have come up with a robot called the RoBeetle that doesn’t use a battery, instead relying on liquid methanol for power.

The body of the RoBeetle is a fuel tank filled with methanol. It has four legs with the rear legs fixed and the front legs attached to a transmission. The transmission is connected to a leaf spring-tensioned in a way that pulls the legs backwards. Its design allows the robot to stand upright when still.

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