First came micromachines--engines about the size of a grain of sand. Now there are microtransmissions. Fabricated by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, they remarkably augment the power of the tiny engines. Looking through a microscope one would see a spindly, one-millimeter-thick Allen wrench passed over a microtransmission. The sight resembles the huge alien space ship that darkened and then covered New York in the movie "Independence Day." Despite its size, a microtransmission can increase the power of its microengine by a factor of 3 million, theoretically generating enough force to move a one-lb object, says researchers Steve Rodgers and Jeff Sniegowski. The microtransmissions operate on the same principle that allows a multigear bicycle to be pedaled up a steep hill more easily than a single-speed bike: No more input force is used, but a the force is applied over a shorter portion of the wheel's turn. The 3 million:1 Sandia microtransmission comprises six identical transmission systems, each with two dual-level gears. The two gears, crafted one atop the other, operate at ratios of 3:1 and 4:1, which together form a 12:1 gear reduction ratio. A coupling gear allows more gear sets to be added in modules. E-mail Paul McWhorter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.