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Articles from 2014 In March


Teardown: Inside the HTC One (M8)

<p>For its second act, the HTC One brings some impressive props. The lengthy list of hardware includes:</p> <ul><li>Quad-core, 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (red) <li>2 GB RAM (orange) <li>5-inch 1,080p display with dual front-facing spea

Spring has sprung and HTC has hatched a new One.

Join us as we, thanks to the folks at ifixit, take a closer look at this season's newest sprout, the HTC One (M8). After all, it's their job to weed out the irreparable, and the best way to do that is through destruction -- er, precise analysis.

Click on the HTC One (M8) below to start the slideshow.

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Teardown: Inside the HTC One (M8)

Teardown: Inside the HTC One (M8)

Spring has sprung and HTC has hatched a new One.

Join us as we, thanks to the folks at ifixit, take a closer look at this season's newest sprout, the HTC One (M8). After all, it's their job to weed out the irreparable, and the best way to do that is through destruction -- er, precise analysis.

Click on the HTC One (M8) below to start the slideshow.

Related posts:

Helium-Filled Wind Turbine Harvests High-Altitude Energy

Helium-Filled Wind Turbine Harvests High-Altitude Energy

We've told you about unconventional wind turbines that can be situated between buildings or float offshore in the ocean. Now a company spun off from Massachusetts Institute of Technology research has designed a helium-filled wind turbine that floats 1,000 feet in the air to harvest high-altitude wind energy, which can provide a significant amount of electricity.

Altaeros Energies was founded in 2010 at MIT by then graduate students Ben Glass and Adam Rein with the goal to offer the first commercial turbine capable of harnessing high-altitude wind at a low cost, Ryan Holy, Altaeros' business development manager, told Design News.

After MIT, Glass went on to an internship at SpaceX, where he gained experience designing an array of turbines and leveraged his interest in aerospace technology and wind harvesting technology to begin developing what he eventually called the buoyant airborne turbine (BAT). Now, Glass, Rein, and other MIT and Harvard graduates, as Altaeros, are set to test one of the four BAT prototypes they've designed and built over the next 18 months in Alaska.

The goal of the test -- in which the turbine is expected to generate 30 kW of power -- is to allow the company to monitor the product's power output, reliability, environmental impact, and maintenance needs, Holy told us. Engineers also want to see how it withstands environmental and atmospheric conditions. Once this demonstration concludes and any changes or modifications that need to be made are done to the system, Altaeros plans to commercialize BAT, he said.

BAT looks not unlike a dirigible or parade float, except it's shaped like a typical turbine and with blades coming out of its sides. The turbine uses a helium-inflatable shell to lift itself to 2,000 feet, where it can harness stronger and more consistent winds, Holy told us. "Wind speed increases with altitude above ground level and power density increases with a cubic factor of wind speed; a doubling of wind speed roughly equates to an eight-fold increase in power density," he said. "The turbine itself is similar to all wind turbines, using three blades and a horizontal-axis position. Electricity generated from the floating turbine is transmitted through a conductive tether to its mobile ground station, then on to the customer," Holy said.

In fact, BAT is held in place above the ground with multiple tethers that connect to this station after a system of automated winches lift it into the sky, Holy said. The winches also bring it back to earth once it is no longer in use.

Once BAT is in the air, it can be remotely monitored without need for a day-to-day operations crew. However, if the weather is extreme enough potentially to damage the turbine, it will autonomously dock, Holy told us. The system also requires periodic maintenance and inspection.

Some of the benefits of BAT, including its ability to generate energy at a low cost as well as be deployed rapidly -- in as little as 24 hours -- make it a good fit for rural and remote communities that don't have easy access to the electricity grid, Holy said. These locations include islands, as well as off-grid industries. Disaster-relief and military installations also benefit from the use of BAT, he added.

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Laser Cutting Technique Could Improve Fuel Injection

Laser Cutting Technique Could Improve Fuel Injection

A new laser could make it easier and faster to cut precise spray holes in fuel injectors, ultimately helping automakers to boost the fuel economy of their engines.

Known as R-Drill, the solution employs a femtosecond (1 x 10 to 15 seconds) laser pulse that prevents the hole surface from being damaged during the machining process. Because the resulting spray hole is smoother, the fuel injector provides better atomization of the fuel spray, which in turn creates more efficient combustion in the engine's cylinders. Engineers from Raydiance, maker of the R-Drill, estimate that it could boost the fuel efficiency of engines by as much as 20% to 30%.

"It comes down to the fundamental physics of how laser pulses interact with a material," Michael Mielke, chief scientist for Raydiance, told Design News. "When you're operating a femtosecond laser, you're operating at a speed that's too fast for thermal diffusion coefficient of the material."

Mielke said that heat typically diffuses in metals within a few picoseconds (10 to 12 seconds). Therefore, by operating lasers in the femtosecond range, there's not enough time for thermal damage to occur. Raydiance claims that because its technique creates a smoother surface than other machining processes -- such as nanosecond lasers, electrical discharge machining (EDM), and mechanical drilling -- no post-processing is required to clean the surface. As a result, the new technique eliminates a step from the manufacturing process.

More important, the method is said to produce better part-to-part consistency of the fuel injector's spray holes. The holes, which measure between 100 mum and 400 mum in diameter, must typically meet tolerances of approximately half a micron for optimal performance.

"We consider the main value to be the ability to produce a part that matches the original design," Mielke told us. "When you do that, you can achieve the overall engine performance that engine designers expect."

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Report: Biofuels in Transition to Next-Gen Feedstocks Will Slow Growth

Report: Biofuels in Transition to Next-Gen Feedstocks Will Slow Growth

The good news about the biofuels industry is that it's about to make the transition to next-generation, non-food-based feedstocks. The bad news is, this transition will slow capacity growth by a lot. But notice that means growth slows, not that capacity itself declines.

The news comes from a new report from Lux Research, "Emerging Feedstocks and Fuels Spark Biofuel Capacity Expansion Through 2017." It says that, between 2013 and 2017, the industry's growth rate will slow to 3.2% from the historically high growth rate of 19.6% it's enjoyed since 2005. In terms of quantity, that means it will grow from 53.2 billion gallons per year (BGY) in 2013 to 60.4 BGY in 2017.

New, higher-yielding fuels include renewable diesel, as well as butanol. As we told you recently, renewable diesel is chemically different from biodiesel. Along with butanol, it can offer higher blend ratios than first-generation food-based ethanol and vegetable oil-based biofuels like biodiesel. That's one reason for the transition to second-generation feedstocks like cellulosic biomass and waste oils. Another reason for the transition is to avoid the problems associated with first-generation feedstocks that are based either on food crops or on non-food crops that compete for water or land use with food crops.

Those second-generation feedstocks aren't mature yet, but they will be able to help realize long-term expansion in biofuels capacity, said Andrew Soare, lead author of the report and a senior analyst with Lux Research, in a press release. "Next-generation feedstocks like waste oils and cellulosic biomass are not tied up in the food supply and could unlock significant economic advantages, assuming novel conversions commercialize," he said.

Soare and other Lux Research analysts built a database of more than 1,700 biofuel production facilities in 82 countries, including capacity data through 2017. This made several things clear, including the nearly 20% growth rate. The data also revealed that ethanol represented 65.9% of global biofuel capacity in 2013, but will only rise to 66.0% in 2017. First-generation biodiesel added up to slightly less than half that amount at 17.1 BGY, and will reach 18.6 BGY in 2017. Of total global ethanol production today, 81.9% is based on corn and soy feedstocks, while 62.1% of biodiesel is based on rapeseed, palm, and soy feedstocks.

Predicting what will happen with next-generation biofuels based on novel feedstocks is more of a challenge. New renewable diesel, butanol, biojet, and biocrude, along with other fuels, constitute 1.9% of global biofuel capacity. The analysts concluded that they will grow at a much faster rate than first-generation fuels, at an annual growth rate of 18.7% from now through 2017, raising capacity share to 3.3%.

Renewable diesel will lead the fuels pack, while next-generation feedstock capacity growth will be dominated by cellulosic biomass and waste oils. Renewable diesel from waste will become a key biofuel process. Producers of butanol and biocrude will have a minor effect on overall biofuel capacity. Producers of cellulosic ethanol have announced a capacity of 782 millions of gallons per year (MGY), but in the study analysts said they actually expect only 384 MGY to be made.

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Force-Controlled Finishing Adds Human Touch

Force-Controlled Finishing Adds Human Touch

Many dimension-driven manufacturing processes require force-controlled blending or finishing operations. These operations are normally performed by human operators because the human touch provides the compliance that is essential for these operations but is lacking in rigid position-based machine tools. But these manual finishing operations are usually strenuous, repetitive, and prone to injury, so manufacturers are looking into automating them with compliant end-of-arm robotic tooling that can hold a tool with a constant pressure against the workpiece.

Compliant robotic tooling usually requires a motor to drive a deburring, grinding, or polishing tool. It is essential to minimize the weight of the end-of-arm tooling in order to provide the quick dynamic robotic response needed to achieve high productivity and quality. PushCorp Inc. further increased the performance of their servo-driven, end-of-arm tooling product lines by using new Kollmorgen liquid-cooled frameless servomotors that deliver up to 5-HP in a package about the size of a can of soup. This high level of power density enables building tooling that can deliver the performance demanded by industrial users to improve operator safety, productivity, and quality.

Force-compliant finishing
Parts are typically brought to a net dimensional shape by machining, casting, forging, molding, and similar manufacturing processes. These parts often meet specifications but require additional processing to achieve the required surface finish. Tool marks and scallops need to be removed from machined parts. Parts produced by injection molding, casting, and forging require the removal of flashing, gates, and parting lines. These finishing operations require a force-controlled process, a type of compliance not offered by rigid, position-based machine tools, so they are nearly always performed by operators holding power-driven tooling and using the human touch to provide just the right amount of force.

But the weight of the tooling and the need to maneuver into nooks and crannies to fully finish the part makes these operations very difficult for a human operator. For example, a supplier of cast aluminum automotive wheels previously had several hundred workers manually polishing the wheels using power sanders. The company experienced worker injuries, high turnover, low productivity, high training costs, and quality issues.

The leading solution to automate these operations uses the robot arm for positioning and motion control and the end-of-arm tooling to provide the compliance needed for automated surface finishing. Mounting the force control device to the robot wrist requires special consideration due to the changing axis of compliance. The weight of tooling, media, and carriage always acts in a vertical direction downward while the compliance axis of motion, on the other hand, continuously changes as the robot moves through space.

The actuator force must be increased or reduced depending on the direction in which gravitational force is acting relative to the compliance axis. Active force control uses a standalone controller to manage a closed-loop system and correct for any errors based on input from a load cell that continuously monitors the applied force. An accelerometer tracks the orientation angle of the compliance axis of compliance so that corrections can be made for the effects of gravity.

Power-dense motor designs
PushCorp is a leader in the field of developing custom force-compliant, end-of-arm tooling for a wide range of blending and finishing applications. This tooling demands very power-dense motor designs because the performance of the robot depends on the size and weight of the end-of-arm tooling. The systems use frameless direct-drive rotary systems comprised of a separate rotor and stator without bearings, housings, or feedback devices. These components are intended as a kit to be designed into and become a direct part of the company's tools. The system operates as a closed-loop servo with the load cell and accelerometer designed into the tooling. An electronic drive amplifier runs the motor and manages the feedback device.

Slideshow: Bioplastics Concept Car Runs on Biofuel

The student-designed Biofore concept car, which premiered at the Geneva International Motor Show, contains many components made of two different bioplastics. It is powered by biodiesel. <br /> (Source: UPM)

Plastics have been a big deal in automotive lightweighting for quite a while. Now they are in car engines. Recycled plastics and other sustainable materials are gaining ground in cars, too, following the lead of big automakers such as Ford, but bioplastics haven't moved very fast in that arena -- until now.

The Biofore Concept Car, using biomaterials from Finnish manufacturer UPM, premiered at the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this month. Many of the components in a car that are usually made of petroleum-based polymers or composites have been replaced in the Biofore by two different bioplastics: UPM Formi, a cellulose fiber biocomposite, and UPM Grada, a thermoformable plywood-like material.

The car is not just a demo. The Biofore was created to be a street-legal city vehicle. Over the last four years, automotive engineering and industrial design students at the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences designed, manufactured, and tested the car. It weighs about 150 kg less than a car of the same dimensions, and its 1.2-liter low-emission diesel engine runs on UPM's wood-based biodiesel fuel, BioVerno.

UPM says in a press release that its materials are made from renewable, recyclable raw wood materials that come from responsibly managed forests. Most of the car's components can be recycled. The thermoformable Grada wood material is molded using reduced amounts of heat and pressure. It's used in the car's door panels, passenger compartment floor, display panel cover, and center console. You can download a fact sheet and a carbon footprint profile here.

The company's Formi cellulose biocomposite is designed for use in injection molding, extrusion, and thermoforming. It's made of renewable fibers and plastic. It's used in the car's door panels, interior panels, side skirts, dashboard, and front mask. Up to 50% of the raw material used in Formi is renewable. You can download data sheets, guides and other documents here.

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Gadget Freak Review: Wearable Device Reduces Migraines; LED Outlet Replacement

Gadget Freak Review: Wearable Device Reduces Migraines; LED Outlet Replacement

This Gadget Freak review first looks at a wearable device that uses an adhesive electrode and headband to help reduce migraines and could help migraine suffers take less medication. Then we will look at a plug-and-play outlet cover that replaces traditional night lights.

This week's vintage Gadget Freak shows off 15-year-old Gadget Freak John Duffy's powerful LED flashlight.

Wearable device reduces migraines

Frequent migraine suffers could be in for some relief with Cefaly, a tiara-like device worn on your forehead to help reduce the frequency of migraines. Its creators say regular use has been shown to reduce migraine episodes and medication use.

The device works with an electrode to give off precise micro-impulses to stimulate the endings of the trigeminal nerve, which is typically involved in most headaches and migraines. Stimulating the nerve achieves a sedative effect, and regular sedation helps reduce the amount of migraines.

To use Cefaly, you place the adhesive electrode on the horizontal line that connects your eyebrows. Then you place the device around the electrode so it connects. Once in place, you turn it on with a button and can adjust the intensity. During the 20-minute session, you can relax or carry on with your regular activity.

Clinical studies have been carried out since 2008, Cefaly Technology says, and 81% of regular users (those who "use the device according to medical recommendations") have been satisfied with the results. Regular users have reduced their medication use by 75%, and the frequency of their migraines is down 77%.

Due to federal law, Cefaly can be purchased only by a physician or on the order of a physician. The first devices will be shipped in April and are already sold out online. The device costs $295, and a three pack of multiuse electrodes costs $25. Each electrode can be used up to 20 times.

LED outlet replacement

The SnapRays Guidelight is a plug-and-play solution to replace standard plug-in night lights and hardwired guide lights. Designed to look like and replace the standard outlet cover plate, the device installs over a standard electrical outlet and does not require any wires or batteries.

The patented Power Extractors found on the backside of the Guidelight "slide into the electrical box and around the outlet receptacle making contact with the sides of the outlet," the company says on its Kickstarter page. This technology "enables the device to extract power without having to hardwire, plug into, or occupy an outlet."

LEDs illuminate through the bottom and keep the outlets clear for use. A light sensor can turn the LEDs on and off automatically. The company says the device will cost less than 10 cents a year to power.

The Kickstarter campign has well surpassed its original $12,000 goal; backers have pledged more than $400,000 with about a week to go. A pledge of $12 will get you one Guidelight, which is expected to ship in April or May.

Vintage Gadget Freak: Super LED flashlight hits 3,000 lumens

John Duffy, our youngest ever Gadget Freak at 15, has put together a powerful LED flashlight. He calls the LED a major advance over Edison's incandescent lighting. "Nowadays we have LEDs that are significantly more powerful and efficient, and they run on low-voltage DC."

Duffy's super LED flashlight runs at almost 30 W and 3,000 lumens. By comparison, bright xenon car headlights reach about 1,000 lumens. He says you have to be careful building and using this gadget, because it is powerful enough to blind someone if used up close. He used welding glasses while constructing it.

Do you have a Gadget Freak project you would like the world to see? Send a brief description of your gadget and a photo to Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Muskett.

The editors of Design News have handpicked your favorite Gadget Freak cases from over the years, bringing them together in a dynamic digital edition, complete with videos, which you can view here.

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Teen Invents Artificial Arm Controlled by Bluetooth-Powered Brain Waves

Teen Invents Artificial Arm Controlled by Bluetooth-Powered Brain Waves

Some of the most innovative inventions these days are coming from the minds of babes. We told you last year about the teen in Canada who invented a flashlight powered by the human hand. Now another teen inventor is getting some well deserved attention for an even more ambitious project -- an artificial arm that can be controlled by Bluetooth-powered brainwaves.

The invention is the work of 15-year-old high-school sophomore Shiva Nathan, and he was inspired to design the prosthetic, called the Arduino Prosthesis, when his cousin in India lost both of her arms in an explosion.

"Originally I was designing a video game [with a Mindwave Mobile headset, a component of the arm], but around that time I learned about a relative of mine who lost both of her arms in an incident," he told Design News. "I was reading about the prosthetics she had, and they were very expensive and not that good. I realized I could build something better than that and decided to."

Nathan abandoned the video game idea (which he later revisited and built) and set out to build the Arduino Prosthesis, an upper-extremity prosthetic arm with a microcontroller than can measure brainwaves registered by an electroencephalogram (EEG) in the headset, which a user wears secured to his or her head with a headband.

The Mindwave Mobile headset is a fairly inexpensive off-the-shelf EEG device that acts as a brain control interface (BCI) when connected to an Arduino microcontroller. The third key component is the servos in the arm and wrist of the prosthetic itself, which can be from 12 to 18 inches long.

Basically, the headset can recognize two mental states of the person wearing it -- attention and meditation -- and converts those into numerical values that it sends to the microcontroller to move the arm via its servos based on threshold values set by Nathan. "There are two different values for attention and meditation," he explained. The values are set between zero to 100, and if a person's brain waves supersede those values the microcontroller will move the prosthetic. "If attention exceeds 30, the prosthetic's fingers will flex. If meditation exceeds 50, the elbow will rotate."

These are the only movements the prosthetic has so far, but he is working on other models for individual finger control and wrist movement.

Nathan entered the prosthetic in two contests: the 2013 National microMedic Contest, held last year and hosted and sponsored by the US Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, and Parallax Inc.; and the 2014 Bluetooth Breakthrough Awards held in January of this year. He won awards in both for a total of $10,000 in products and prize money.

Nathan said he has not yet been approached by a company to commercialize his prosthetic, but he does have his own, open-source plans for doing so once he achieves more advanced movements with it. "I am going to offer the schematics and programs online for free so anyone can built it themselves, but also offer prebuilt models," he said, following a popular pricing model in the open-source community that the Arduino microcontroller in the prosthetic also uses. Nathan said he could not in good conscience leave the open-source community out of the project, since he used open-source components and ideas to build the prosthesis.

Nathan's use of his prize money also shows his community spirit. He will use some of the money to help open a center to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in his hometown. The remaining prize money will go to build more models of the Arduino Prosthesis, as well as toward his fund to attend college, where he plans to study engineering, computer science, and neurology -- not necessarily together nor in that order, he said.

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Best-Practices for Level Measurement Device Selection

Best-Practices for Level Measurement Device Selection

In the chemical processing industry, a significant percentage of measurement devices are not correctly matched to their application. This leads to decreased quality and consistency in their operation.

Often the source of this problem is the assumption that one level measurement sensor is suitable for multiple applications. A float sensor may adequately serve its purpose in a completely liquid environment. However, when particles or suspended solids are introduced to the scenario, the circumstances change, and the sensor's accuracy is compromised.

To maintain a high level of output quality in any chemical processing facility, the proper level measurement devices should be selected for each individual application. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Based on the application, several factors must be considered to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of a level measurement device. These factors include the design conditions, the specific media to which the sensor will be exposed, how the information gathered from the device must be transmitted, and what additional accessories are needed to complete the operation. Tank size affects some sensors more than others, but it is not the only contributing factor when it comes to selecting the appropriate sensor and instrumentation.

The first order of business when selecting the proper level measurement device is to narrow down the application for which it will be used. In other words, what will the sensor's job be? It could be as simple as a visual readout or as complex as a multi-stage automated response system. The complexity and versatility required of a sensor can be easily determined by considering this question first.

Secondly, one must determine the conditions of the application, otherwise known as design conditions, which are vital in choosing the correct option. Questions to ask at this stage include:

  • To what material(s) will the sensor be exposed?
  • Are solids or liquids being measured?
  • Where and how will the level sensor be placed -- internally or externally?
  • To what temperatures and pressures will the sensor be exposed?
  • What is the material's density?
  • Does the operation require multiple sensors?
  • Does the sensor need to comply with any specific design codes?
  • What is the liquid's boiling or flash point?
  • What level of precision is desired in the measurement?
  • Is there steam present?
  • What is the tank's size?