As multiple researchers continue their efforts to make micro-robotic flying insects, Harvard's Robert Wood has made strides in self-assembling systems with the robobee above. Inspired by his child's pop-up books, Wood's device starts flat on a scaffold. More than 100 hinges enable the 3D structure to "pop up" into the robot seen here. This is only one of the Origami-like approaches that researchers at Harvard, MIT, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaig, and elsewhere are using to create small, complex objects at scale, from drug delivery systems to solar cells. Science News surveys the field. "Into the Fold"
"Stress Relief: Improving Structural Strength of 3-D Printable Objects," a paper presented at SIGGRAPH 2012 from Purdue University's Bedrich Benes demonstrated an automated system for predicting when 3D models would produce structural weaknesses if they were fed to 3D printers, and to automatically modify the models to make them more hardy.
Findings were detailed in a paper presented during the SIGGRAPH 2012 conference in August. Former Purdue doctoral student Ondrej Stava created the software application, which automatically strengthens objects either by increasing the thickness of key structural elements or by adding struts. The tool also uses a third option, reducing the stress on structural elements by hollowing out overweight elements.
"We not only make the objects structurally better, but we also make them much more inexpensive," Mech said. "We have demonstrated a weight and cost savings of 80 percent."
The new tool automatically identifies "grip positions" where a person is likely to grasp the object. A "lightweight structural analysis solver" analyzes the object using a mesh-based simulation. It requires less computing power than traditional finite-element modeling tools, which are used in high-precision work such as designing jet engine turbine blades.
New Tool Gives Structural Strength to 3-D Printed Works
This 2010 video demonstrates the wonderful and intriguing behavior exhibited by water when it is dripped on paper that is coated with "superhydrophobic" aerogel powder. The water forms tiny marbles and races around like it's on a griddle. This looks like it would be a lot of fun to try in person, possibly with some small people in attendance.
Water droplets on a superhydrophobic surface
A joint Disney Research and CMU team have produced a demo showing gesture controls on a variety of everyday, non-computer objects. The system, called Touché, uses capacitive coupling to infer things about what your hands are doing. It can determine which utensil you're eating your food with, or how you're grasping a doorknob, or even whether you're touching one finger to another or clasping your hands together. It's a pretty exciting demo, and the user interface possibilities are certainly provocative. Here's some commentary from Wired UK's Mark Brown:
Some of the proof-of-concept applications in the lab include a smart doorknob that knows whether it has been grasped, touched, or pinched; a chair that dims the lights when you recline into it; a table that knows if you're resting one hand, two hands, or your elbows on it; and a tablet that can be pinched from back to front to open an on-screen menu.
The technology can also be shoved in wristbands, so you can make sign-language-style gestures to control the phone in your pocket—two fingers on your palm to change a song, say, or a clap to stop the music. It can also go in liquids, to detect when fingers and hands are submerged in water.
"In our laboratory experiments, Touché demonstrated recognition rates approaching 100 percent," claims Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. "That suggests it could immediately be used to create new and exciting ways for people to interact with objects and the world at large."
Disney researchers put gesture recognition in door knobs, chairs, fish tanks
In this short video, Richard from ABEbooks describes the distinctive smell of old books ("a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla, with an underlying mustiness") caused by hundreds of volatile compounds released during the slow oxidization of the paper, glues and inks.
Why Do Old Books Smell?
Aerogel.org is devoted to making open versions of aerogel, the super-strong, super-light new material. They provide recipes for several sorts of aerogel, testing protocols, and projects you can undertake with your homebrew miracle substances.
Propylene oxide is a known carcinogen (exposure can cause cancer), and epichlorohydrin is probably too. If you plan on doing this procedure, take the proper precautions to prevent your exposure to the vapors of these substances by using a fume hood in lab, if possible, or at the very least a fitted respirator (gas mask) with the right organics cartridges and a well-ventilated space, on top of the usual splash goggles, gloves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes.
Look under Explore > Information About Chemicals to see where you can find health and safety information about these and other chemicals.
If you can’t use these substances safely, don’t use them until you can!
Aerogel.org » Make
(Image: A silica aerogel puck Rayleigh scatters light from a laser pointer like smoke.)
A new material developed by scientists at UC Irvine is described as the "world's lightest material," so light it can perch atop a dandelion clock without disturbing the seeds. The material is documented in the Nov 18 Science.
The new material redefines the limits of lightweight materials because of its unique “micro-lattice” cellular architecture. The researchers were able to make a material that consists of 99.99 percent air by designing the 0.01 percent solid at the nanometer, micron and millimeter scales. “The trick is to fabricate a lattice of interconnected hollow tubes with a wall thickness 1,000 times thinner than a human hair,” said lead author Dr. Tobias Schaedler of HRL.
The material’s architecture allows unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50 percent strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption.
Multidisciplinary team of researchers develop world’s lightest material
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
(Image: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC)
We've been in the market for a new surface for our kitchen's eating area (a wide shelf that's set into a wide space knocked through into the sitting room serviced by four tall stools) for a year now. We've looked at tiles, synthetic stone, real stone, polymers, concrete, and lots of other stuff, but we knew we'd discovered our material when we happened on the Çurface exhibition at a coffee fair in east London. Çurface is the brainchild of two British makers who've figured out how to make a durable, beautiful, malleable material out of melted plastic coffee cups and compressed coffee-grounds.
Our Çurface cost £141 including delivery and installation -- that was the minimum price for a 1m x 2m sheet (bigger than we needed it, but Adam from Çurface was happy to cut it to size and finish the edges). We've had it for two months now, and at this point, I'm prepared to pronounce it delightful. It looks great: the solid material minimizes the occasional small scratch or scuff, and it cleans very easily with normal spray-cleaners (when he installed it, Adam explained that we could treat it as a polymer and use Turtle Wax or similar for a high gloss, or treat it as a compressed fiber and seal it with Danish Oil). The manufacturer makes lots of different shapes to order -- the demo we saw included lots of fancy curved chairs and such, all cast from a single piece. The manufacturer also advertises it as suitable for flooring, though I think it might be a little slippery.
It smelled great when we installed it, a faint, earthy coffee smell that faded over the course of a week or so. Now it's just the kitchen table, and we love it. It was half the price of the synthetic rock we'd looked at, it's made of recycled coffee waste, and it looks great. What more could we ask for (apart from a less orthographically unwieldy name)?