Engineers in some circles have questioned the life expectancy of shape memory alloys (SMAs), which undergo a solid-state phase change when cooled and return to their original shape when heated. The flap over it may be unjustified. After seeing an article on SMAs in the 04.21.03 issue of Design News, astute reader Victor Rossi brought to our attention a demonstration that's been operating in the lobby of Dynalloy, a manufacturer of Flexinol® SMAs, since 1985. The butterfly, an early prototype of ones sold in stores, has been flapping its SMA-powered wings 6 million times a year for 18 years. Dynalloy President and Founder Wayne Brown says that the company is so confident of Flexinol's performance that it offers a one-year warranty on the butterfly, no questions asked. Of the 50,000 butterflies purchased each year, customers return only about 1%. "We perform a kind of equivalent of an Alien Autopsy to determine what went wrong, and even send the owner an official autopsy report," he says. "The SMA is never the culprit. It's almost always a circuit failure, or the dog ate it."
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
In 2003, the world contained just over 500 million Internet-connected devices. By 2010, this figure had risen to 12.5 billion connected objects, almost six devices per individual with access to the Internet. Now, as we move into 2015, the number of connected 'things' is expected to reach 25 billion, ultimately edging toward 50 billion by the end of the decade.
NASA engineer Brian Trease studied abroad in Japan as a high school student and used to fold fast-food wrappers into cranes using origami techniques he learned in library books. Inspired by this, he began to imagine that origami could be applied to building spacecraft components, particularly solar panels that could one day send solar power from space to be used on earth.
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