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Articles from 2016 In July


Was Microsoft Built on Stolen Goods?

Prior to the launch of the first IBM PC in August 1981, Microsoft had already established itself as the largest producer of computer language compilers and interpreters for the personal computer market. Starting with Microsoft BASIC (which first appeared as Altair BASIC in 1975), the folks at Microsoft quickly branched out into other languages like Microsoft FORTRAN and Microsoft COBOL.

Meanwhile, by the late 1970s, the leading vendor of operating systems for personal computers was Digital Research Inc. (DRI) with its CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers). In 1980, IBM decided to use MS-DOS from Microsoft as the operating system for its PCs, as opposed to CP/M from Digital Research, and controversy has reigned ever since.

I don't want to go too much into the details here. Suffice it to say that Bill Gates originally advised IBM to talk to DRI. However, when the folks from IBM arrived, DRI's CEO, Gary Kildall, was "missing in action." IBM eventually told Bill they wanted him to supply the operating system, so Bill went to Seattle Computer Products (SCP), where -- over a four-month period in early 1980 -- 24-year-old Tim Paterson had written QDOS (for Quick and Dirty Operating System). Microsoft bought the rights to QDOS, which subsequently evolved into MS-DOS. (If you wish to know more, a great book replete with nitty-gritty tidbits of trivia and nuggets of knowledge is Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry -- and Made Himself the Richest Man in America by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews.)

Ever since that time, there have been rumors that Microsoft essentially copied CP/M and that the credit, and the money, should really have gone to Gary Kildall and DRI. But how can this be proved one way or the other?

Was QDOS copied from CP/M?
(Source: Max Maxfield)

Well, my chum Bob Zeidman is famous in the field of software forensics. In fact, it's fair to say he "wrote the book," by which I am of course referring to The Software IP Detective's Handbook: Measurement, Comparison, and Infringement Detection. Did you see the 2010 biographical drama film The Social Network about the founding of Facebook? In one scene, Mark Zuckerberg's character holds up a sheaf of paper and tells the Winklevoss twins, "I did not steal your code." In real life, that sheaf of paper was Bob's report. (Bob was also an expert witness in the Texas Instruments vs. Samsung Electronics case that resulted in an award of over $1 billion to his client.)

Bob Zeidman
(Source: Carrie Zeidman)

As an aside, there's a funny story here. The reason Mark Zuckerberg's lawyer came to Bob in the first place is that Bob had created a suite of tools for analyzing software (both source code and binary executables) to detect copyright infringement. Bob was instructed to examine every scrap of code he could lay his hands on. At that time, this was the largest software forensics task with which Bob had been faced. The only problem was that he'd never heard of Facebook. That evening, when he returned home, he said to his wife, Carrie, "I only hope this company has enough money to pay me for my time."

But we digress ... The reason I'm waffling on about all of this here is that Microsoft recently donated the previously unavailable source code for MS-DOS to the Computer History Museum in California. Furthermore, a more complete version of the CP/M source code has been uncovered.


ESC Minn logoEmbedded Software at Work. Get the details on battery management, compiler optimization, re-usable HAL, ins and outs of Open Source, safety critical system software, cybersecurity concerns and more in the Embedded Sardware Design & Verification track at the Embedded Systems Conference, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Using these newly available sources, Bob has performed an in-depth analysis. On Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Vintage Computer Festival at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Bob will first present the history of Gary Kildall and Bill Gates, of DRI and Microsoft, and of CP/M and MS-DOS. At this time, Bob will also announce his new findings regarding whether Microsoft copied CP/M to create MS-DOS.

  • What: Was Microsoft built from stolen goods? A forensic analysis of DOS and CP/M.
  • Who: Bob Zeidman, Software Forensic Scientist.
  • When: Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, at 10 a.m. (Pacific).
  • Where: Vintage Computer Festival, Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, Calif., 94043.
  • Tickets: Available at the door or online.

I just got off the phone with Bob (said Max, smugly). My hair is currently standing on end and I have shivers going up and down my spine (said Max, tantalizingly). I can’t tell you what Bob said (said Max, frustratingly). What I can tell you is that, if you live anywhere in the vicinity of Mountain View, Calif., I know where you should be headed on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 (said Max, knowingly).

This article originally appeared on embedd.com.

Was Microsoft Built on Stolen Goods?

Was Microsoft Built on Stolen Goods?

Prior to the launch of the first IBM PC in August 1981, Microsoft had already established itself as the largest producer of computer language compilers and interpreters for the personal computer market. Starting with Microsoft BASIC (which first appeared as Altair BASIC in 1975), the folks at Microsoft quickly branched out into other languages like Microsoft FORTRAN and Microsoft COBOL.

Meanwhile, by the late 1970s, the leading vendor of operating systems for personal computers was Digital Research Inc. (DRI) with its CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers). In 1980, IBM decided to use MS-DOS from Microsoft as the operating system for its PCs, as opposed to CP/M from Digital Research, and controversy has reigned ever since.

I don't want to go too much into the details here. Suffice it to say that Bill Gates originally advised IBM to talk to DRI. However, when the folks from IBM arrived, DRI's CEO, Gary Kildall, was "missing in action." IBM eventually told Bill they wanted him to supply the operating system, so Bill went to Seattle Computer Products (SCP), where -- over a four-month period in early 1980 -- 24-year-old Tim Paterson had written QDOS (for Quick and Dirty Operating System). Microsoft bought the rights to QDOS, which subsequently evolved into MS-DOS. (If you wish to know more, a great book replete with nitty-gritty tidbits of trivia and nuggets of knowledge is Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry -- and Made Himself the Richest Man in America by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews.)

Ever since that time, there have been rumors that Microsoft essentially copied CP/M and that the credit, and the money, should really have gone to Gary Kildall and DRI. But how can this be proved one way or the other?

Well, my chum Bob Zeidman is famous in the field of software forensics. In fact, it's fair to say he "wrote the book," by which I am of course referring to The Software IP Detective's Handbook: Measurement, Comparison, and Infringement Detection. Did you see the 2010 biographical drama film The Social Network about the founding of Facebook? In one scene, Mark Zuckerberg's character holds up a sheaf of paper and tells the Winklevoss twins, "I did not steal your code." In real life, that sheaf of paper was Bob's report. (Bob was also an expert witness in the Texas Instruments vs. Samsung Electronics case that resulted in an award of over $1 billion to his client.)

As an aside, there's a funny story here. The reason Mark Zuckerberg's lawyer came to Bob in the first place is that Bob had created a suite of tools for analyzing software (both source code and binary executables) to detect copyright infringement. Bob was instructed to examine every scrap of code he could lay his hands on. At that time, this was the largest software forensics task with which Bob had been faced. The only problem was that he'd never heard of Facebook. That evening, when he returned home, he said to his wife, Carrie, "I only hope this company has enough money to pay me for my time."

But we digress ... The reason I'm waffling on about all of this here is that Microsoft recently donated the previously unavailable source code for MS-DOS to the Computer History Museum in California. Furthermore, a more complete version of the CP/M source code has been uncovered.


ESC Minn logoEmbedded Software at Work. Get the details on battery management, compiler optimization, re-usable HAL, ins and outs of Open Source, safety critical system software, cybersecurity concerns and more in the Embedded Sardware Design & Verification track at the Embedded Systems Conference, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Using these newly available sources, Bob has performed an in-depth analysis. On Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Vintage Computer Festival at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Bob will first present the history of Gary Kildall and Bill Gates, of DRI and Microsoft, and of CP/M and MS-DOS. At this time, Bob will also announce his new findings regarding whether Microsoft copied CP/M to create MS-DOS.

  • What: Was Microsoft built from stolen goods? A forensic analysis of DOS and CP/M.
  • Who: Bob Zeidman, Software Forensic Scientist.
  • When: Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, at 10 a.m. (Pacific).
  • Where: Vintage Computer Festival, Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, Calif., 94043.
  • Tickets: Available at the door or online.

I just got off the phone with Bob (said Max, smugly). My hair is currently standing on end and I have shivers going up and down my spine (said Max, tantalizingly). I can't tell you what Bob said (said Max, frustratingly). What I can tell you is that, if you live anywhere in the vicinity of Mountain View, Calif., I know where you should be headed on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 (said Max, knowingly).

This article originally appeared on embedd.com.

Startup Otto Demos the Feasibility of Self-Driving Trucks

A San Francisco startup called Otto recently came out of stealth mode and released a dramatic video (see it below) demonstrating its successful test of a technology for self-driving trucks. The video shows an 18-wheeler cruising along a major highway at full speed, with no one in the driver seat. An occupant sits back in the sleeper compartment, jotting on a notepad and glancing occasionally out the windscreen.

Otto was founded in January 2016 by a team of innovators experienced with autonomous cars, robotics, mapping technologies, and related systems. Otto employees previously worked at firms like Google, Apple, and Tesla.

“To start with, we will have driverless trucks probably in greater numbers than driverless cars,” said Joyce L. Gioia, a futurist and president of strategy firm The Herman Group, speaking with Design News. “Think about it,” she said. “There’s a shortage of truck drivers, and many of them are baby-boomers, who will be retiring soon.” Gioia’s firm studies workforce trends, so her comments stressed the benefits of vehicle automation for employers. “If trucking companies can avoid having to pay salaries and overtime and benefits, they’re going to do it. The driverless technology has already been used very successfully for buses. For commercial applications, it’s not an expensive technology.”

Otto’s initial product is a self-driving kit for long-haul trucks, at an estimated cost of $30,000. The firm is now testing its kit on five Volvo VNL 780 trucks on highways in California, Arizona, and Nevada. After an initial testing phase, the company plans to move into several major US trucking routes.

The company says its technology includes a set of sensors, vehicle hardware, and self-driving software. The sensors, consisting of camera, radar, and lasers, sit on top of the truck, giving them “an elevated vantage point of the highway.” Running on an onboard computer, the software makes real-time driving decisions based on sensor input. The technology allows the driver “to play more of a supervisory role,” according to company materials.

An autonomous vehicle control system relies on a deliberative architecture capable of constructing an internal map of the vehicle’s surroundings, fed by GPS, sensor, and computer vision data. The onboard computer generates a path plan, which it continually updates based on its interpretation of stationary and moving objects in its environment. It keeps the vehicle on the optimal path by controlling the vehicle’s steering, brakes, and throttle via actuators.

Automaker Daimler AG, which owns the Freightliner trucking business, has also developed an autonomous truck, called the Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The Inspiration is licensed to operate in Nevada, where Freightliner received the first license in the US for operation of an autonomous commercial vehicle on an open public highway. Daimler has successfully demonstrated its Inspiration vehicles on the road both independently and in “platoon” formation, with multiple self-driving trucks traveling together, connected wirelessly.


ATX Minn logoYour Data. Get It. Protect It. Practical information on embedding sensors in 3DP, automation & inventory control, big data as a diagnostic tool, cloud storage and security risks, and more in the Industry 4.0: Smart Strategies for Data Collection and Protection track at Automation Technology, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Besides Daimler, Navigant Research identifies Audi, BMW, GM, and Ford as leaders among OEMs actively pursuing autonomous vehicle strategies. “Autonomous driving has been a long-term goal for the automotive industry for decades,” said Navigant analyst David Alexander, in a company announcement. “While fully automated vehicles that operate themselves with no driver present are still a decade away from volume manufacturing, the incremental systems necessary as a foundation for the related technology are expected to make their way into production during the next five years or so.”

Self-driving vehicle technologies like those of Otto and Daimler fit into the “Level 3” category of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) policy on automated vehicles. Level 3 vehicles are capable of “limited self-driving automation,” says the agency, which means the driver is able “to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions, and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control.”

Automation Levels 1 and 2 involve partial automation and driver assistance in such areas as steering, braking, and cruise control. Ultimately, a Level 4 autonomous vehicle would be able to perform “all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip,” according to the NHTSA, with the driver providing only “destination or navigation input.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed an alternative six-level classification system for driving automation.

Industry statistics referenced by Otto put the US trucking market at $700 billion, with $31 billion of goods transported by truck every day. The US trucking fleet stands at more than 2.5 million combination trucks, with nearly 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers employed. The American Trucking Association says the industry suffers from a shortage of 47,500 drivers.

Otto’s literature highlights the company’s emphasis on road safety, and for good reason. In 2014, combination trucks were involved in 211,474 crashes, accounting for 2,839 fatalities, of whom 84% were not occupants of the trucks. Combination trucks accounted for 5.6% of miles driven in the US, but an outsized 9.5% of highway fatalities.

“The trucking companies that embrace this technology first are going to be the ones to benefit from it the most,” Gioia, told us. “It’s effective technology, and we know it works. It’s going to save them a ton of money in terms of their staff and their employee population, not to mention that the turnover in that industry is really high, and it’s costing some of the big trucking companies billions of dollars just to replace their valuable employees.”

[images via Otto; video via YouTube]

Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.

Update: A previous version of this article stated that Otto is testing its kit on three Volvo VNL 780 trucks in Calfornia. The company is now testing five total trucks in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Startup Otto Demos the Feasibility of Self-Driving Trucks

Startup Otto Demos the Feasibility of Self-Driving Trucks

A San Francisco startup called Otto recently came out of stealth mode and released a dramatic video (see it below) demonstrating its successful test of a technology for self-driving trucks. The video shows an 18-wheeler cruising along a major highway at full speed, with no one in the driver seat. An occupant sits back in the sleeper compartment, jotting on a notepad and glancing occasionally out the windscreen.

Otto was founded in January 2016 by a team of innovators experienced with autonomous cars, robotics, mapping technologies, and related systems. Otto employees previously worked at firms like Google, Apple, and Tesla.

"To start with, we will have driverless trucks probably in greater numbers than driverless cars," said Joyce L. Gioia, a futurist and president of strategy firm The Herman Group, speaking with Design News. "Think about it," she said. "There's a shortage of truck drivers, and many of them are baby-boomers, who will be retiring soon." Gioia's firm studies workforce trends, so her comments stressed the benefits of vehicle automation for employers. "If trucking companies can avoid having to pay salaries and overtime and benefits, they're going to do it. The driverless technology has already been used very successfully for buses. For commercial applications, it's not an expensive technology."

Otto's initial product is a self-driving kit for long-haul trucks, at an estimated cost of $30,000. The firm is now testing its kit on five Volvo VNL 780 trucks on highways in California, Arizona, and Nevada. After an initial testing phase, the company plans to move into several major US trucking routes.

The company says its technology includes a set of sensors, vehicle hardware, and self-driving software. The sensors, consisting of camera, radar, and lasers, sit on top of the truck, giving them "an elevated vantage point of the highway." Running on an onboard computer, the software makes real-time driving decisions based on sensor input. The technology allows the driver "to play more of a supervisory role," according to company materials.

An autonomous vehicle control system relies on a deliberative architecture capable of constructing an internal map of the vehicle's surroundings, fed by GPS, sensor, and computer vision data. The onboard computer generates a path plan, which it continually updates based on its interpretation of stationary and moving objects in its environment. It keeps the vehicle on the optimal path by controlling the vehicle's steering, brakes, and throttle via actuators.

Automaker Daimler AG, which owns the Freightliner trucking business, has also developed an autonomous truck, called the Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The Inspiration is licensed to operate in Nevada, where Freightliner received the first license in the US for operation of an autonomous commercial vehicle on an open public highway. Daimler has successfully demonstrated its Inspiration vehicles on the road both independently and in "platoon" formation, with multiple self-driving trucks traveling together, connected wirelessly.


ATX Minn logoYour Data. Get It. Protect It. Practical information on embedding sensors in 3DP, automation & inventory control, big data as a diagnostic tool, cloud storage and security risks, and more in the Industry 4.0: Smart Strategies for Data Collection and Protection track at Automation Technology, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Besides Daimler, Navigant Research identifies Audi, BMW, GM, and Ford as leaders among OEMs actively pursuing autonomous vehicle strategies. "Autonomous driving has been a long-term goal for the automotive industry for decades," said Navigant analyst David Alexander, in a company announcement. "While fully automated vehicles that operate themselves with no driver present are still a decade away from volume manufacturing, the incremental systems necessary as a foundation for the related technology are expected to make their way into production during the next five years or so."

Self-driving vehicle technologies like those of Otto and Daimler fit into the "Level 3" category of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) policy on automated vehicles. Level 3 vehicles are capable of "limited self-driving automation," says the agency, which means the driver is able "to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions, and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control."

Automation Levels 1 and 2 involve partial automation and driver assistance in such areas as steering, braking, and cruise control. Ultimately, a Level 4 autonomous vehicle would be able to perform "all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip," according to the NHTSA, with the driver providing only "destination or navigation input."

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed an alternative six-level classification system for driving automation.

Industry statistics referenced by Otto put the US trucking market at $700 billion, with $31 billion of goods transported by truck every day. The US trucking fleet stands at more than 2.5 million combination trucks, with nearly 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers employed. The American Trucking Association says the industry suffers from a shortage of 47,500 drivers.

Otto's literature highlights the company's emphasis on road safety, and for good reason. In 2014, combination trucks were involved in 211,474 crashes, accounting for 2,839 fatalities, of whom 84% were not occupants of the trucks. Combination trucks accounted for 5.6% of miles driven in the US, but an outsized 9.5% of highway fatalities.

"The trucking companies that embrace this technology first are going to be the ones to benefit from it the most," Gioia, told us. "It's effective technology, and we know it works. It's going to save them a ton of money in terms of their staff and their employee population, not to mention that the turnover in that industry is really high, and it's costing some of the big trucking companies billions of dollars just to replace their valuable employees."

[images via Otto; video via YouTube]

Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.

Update: A previous version of this article stated that Otto is testing its kit on three Volvo VNL 780 trucks in Calfornia. The company is now testing five total trucks in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Graphene Used in Simple, Cheap Process to Make Dirty Water Potable

Graphene oxide has become a miracle material of sorts for a wide range of applications, particularly in energy-harvesting applications, additive manufacturing, and to make other materials stronger and more durable. Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have also found another use for the versatile graphene -- to turn dirty water into water suitable for drinking.

The team is using graphene oxide sheets in combination with bacteria-produced cellulose to form a bi-layered biofoam. This biofoam, which is light and inexpensive to make, purifies and desalinates the water for drinking.

Researchers, including Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, aims for the technology to be applied in places where there is a lot of sunlight but a dearth of clean drinking water, such as India.

"We hope that for countries where there is ample sunlight, such as India, you'll be able to take some dirty water, evaporate it using our material, and collect fresh water," he said.

An artist's rendering of nanoparticle biofoam developed by engineers at Washington University in St. Louis.
(Source: Washington University)

Singamanemi said the process is simple. A bi-layered structure with light-absorbing graphene oxide-filled nanocellulose at the top and pristine nanocellulose at the bottom is suspended in water, allowing the water to reach the top surface where evaporation happens.

"Light radiates on top of it, and it converts into heat because of the graphene oxide -- but the heat dissipation to the bulk water underneath is minimized by the pristine nanocellulose layer,” he said. “You don't want to waste the heat; you want to confine the heat to the top layer where the evaporation is actually happening."

The cellulose at the bottom of the bi-layered biofoam acts like a sponge, to draw the water up to the graphene oxide for rapid evaporation, he said. Someone can then collect the resulting fresh water from the top of the sheet.

Researchers also came up with a novel way to form the bi-layered biofoam, which is similar to how an oyster makes a pearl, Singamaneni said. The bacteria forms layers of nanocellulose fibers in which the graphene oxide flakes get embedded.

"The graphene oxide becomes embedded as the bacteria produces the cellulose,” he said. “At a certain point along the process, we stop, remove the medium with the graphene oxide, and reintroduce fresh medium. That produces the next layer of our foam. The interface is very strong; mechanically, it is quite robust."

Singamaneni and his team published a paper about their work in the journal, Advanced Materials.

The benefits of the technology, aside from the obvious creation of fresh water, include the relatively abundance and inexpensive nature of the materials used in the process, Singamaneni said.

Cellulose is easy to produce on a “massive scale,” Singamaneni said, and graphene oxide is extremely inexpensive. “People can produce tons, truly tons, of it,” he said. “Both materials going into this are highly scalable. So one can imagine making huge sheets of the biofoam."

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Graphene Used in Simple, Cheap Process to Make Dirty Water Potable

Graphene Used in Simple, Cheap Process to Make Dirty Water Potable

Graphene oxide has become a miracle material of sorts for a wide range of applications, particularly in energy-harvesting applications, additive manufacturing, and to make other materials stronger and more durable. Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have also found another use for the versatile graphene -- to turn dirty water into water suitable for drinking.

The team is using graphene oxide sheets in combination with bacteria-produced cellulose to form a bi-layered biofoam. This biofoam, which is light and inexpensive to make, purifies and desalinates the water for drinking.

Researchers, including Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, aims for the technology to be applied in places where there is a lot of sunlight but a dearth of clean drinking water, such as India.

"We hope that for countries where there is ample sunlight, such as India, you'll be able to take some dirty water, evaporate it using our material, and collect fresh water," he said.

Singamanemi said the process is simple. A bi-layered structure with light-absorbing graphene oxide-filled nanocellulose at the top and pristine nanocellulose at the bottom is suspended in water, allowing the water to reach the top surface where evaporation happens.

"Light radiates on top of it, and it converts into heat because of the graphene oxide -- but the heat dissipation to the bulk water underneath is minimized by the pristine nanocellulose layer," he said. "You don't want to waste the heat; you want to confine the heat to the top layer where the evaporation is actually happening."

The cellulose at the bottom of the bi-layered biofoam acts like a sponge, to draw the water up to the graphene oxide for rapid evaporation, he said. Someone can then collect the resulting fresh water from the top of the sheet.

Researchers also came up with a novel way to form the bi-layered biofoam, which is similar to how an oyster makes a pearl, Singamaneni said. The bacteria forms layers of nanocellulose fibers in which the graphene oxide flakes get embedded.

"The graphene oxide becomes embedded as the bacteria produces the cellulose," he said. "At a certain point along the process, we stop, remove the medium with the graphene oxide, and reintroduce fresh medium. That produces the next layer of our foam. The interface is very strong; mechanically, it is quite robust."

Singamaneni and his team published a paper about their work in the journal, Advanced Materials.

The benefits of the technology, aside from the obvious creation of fresh water, include the relatively abundance and inexpensive nature of the materials used in the process, Singamaneni said.

Cellulose is easy to produce on a "massive scale," Singamaneni said, and graphene oxide is extremely inexpensive. "People can produce tons, truly tons, of it," he said. "Both materials going into this are highly scalable. So one can imagine making huge sheets of the biofoam."

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

A New Test Instrument From NI Boosts Bandwidth

A New Test Instrument From NI Boosts Bandwidth

A new 1-GHz vector signal transceiver promises to offer expanded test capabilities for engineers involved in applications ranging from automotive and aerospace to semiconductors and defense.

Known as National Instruments' PXIe-5840 module , the new product distinguishes itself by offering five times as much bandwidth as its predecessor. "The engineers who care most about this are the engineers who need bandwidth -- automotive radar customers and semiconductor customers," David Hall, principal product marketing manager For National Instruments RF and Wireless group, told Design News.

Hall said the new product will be shown at the NIWeek 2016 show and conference, taking place in Austin, TX, next week.

The platform-based PXIe-5840 is actually the second generation of the technology. It combines a 6.5-GHz RF vector signal generator, a 6.5-GHz vector signal analyzer, user-programmable FPGA, and high-speed serial and parallel interfaces. It also fits in a two-slot PXI Express module. Like its predecessor introduced in 2012, the PXIe-5840 is essentially a software-based instrument rather than a conventional test box. Engineers can program its FPGAs in National Instruments' LabVIEW visual programming environment.

The company added that the PXIe-5840, which costs in the $65,000 to $75,000 price range, offers a significant cost benefit over conventional collection of discrete instruments. "Without it, you'd have to spend $250,000 to get the same performance," Hall said.

In addition to targeting semiconductor and automotive manufacturing, National Instruments is aiming at test engineers working on Internet of Things products, 5G wireless design, and radar prototyping. The company said it is already teaming with a wide variety of customers, including Audi AG, which is using it to test automotive radar systems on autonomous vehicles.

"We already have customers who are using it in ways we never expected," Hall said.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 32 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

A New Test Instrument From NI Boosts Bandwidth

Known as National Instruments’ PXIe-5840 module , the new product distinguishes itself by offering five times as much bandwidth as its predecessor. “The engineers who care most about this are the engineers who need bandwidth -- automotive radar customers and semiconductor customers,” David Hall, principal product marketing manager For National Instruments RF and Wireless group, told Design News.

Hall said the new product will be shown at the NIWeek 2016 show and conference, taking place in Austin, TX, next week.

National Instruments’ new PXIe-5840 offers five times the bandwidth of its predecessor.
(Source: National Instruments)

The platform-based PXIe-5840 is actually the second generation of the technology. It combines a 6.5-GHz RF vector signal generator, a 6.5-GHz vector signal analyzer, user-programmable FPGA, and high-speed serial and parallel interfaces. It also fits in a two-slot PXI Express module. Like its predecessor introduced in 2012, the PXIe-5840 is essentially a software-based instrument rather than a conventional test box. Engineers can program its FPGAs in National Instruments’ LabVIEW visual programming environment.

The company added that the PXIe-5840, which costs in the $65,000 to $75,000 price range, offers a significant cost benefit over conventional collection of discrete instruments. “Without it, you’d have to spend $250,000 to get the same performance,” Hall said.

In addition to targeting semiconductor and automotive manufacturing, National Instruments is aiming at test engineers working on Internet of Things products, 5G wireless design, and radar prototyping. The company said it is already teaming with a wide variety of customers, including Audi AG, which is using it to test automotive radar systems on autonomous vehicles.

”We already have customers who are using it in ways we never expected,” Hall said.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 32 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

3D Printing Structural Foams with Multiple Materials

An ongoing theme we've been covering at Design News is additive manufacturing's ability to create new materials or improve existing ones, as well as make prototypes and end-products. Sometimes, these new or improved materials can't be produced any other way. Now, researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have devised a new method for designing strong, lightweight metals and plastics.

The new approach consists of designing "architected foam" structures that can be fabricated using 3D printing from a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics, and composites. The electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties of components can also be optimized using the design method. Aimed at automotive and aerospace systems, which can benefit from materials that are strong, lightweight, and conductive, the foams are also applicable to energy, water, and medical structures that require highly conductive or porous materials. Water and energy are core research areas of the Institute, which is dedicated to providing real-world solutions to sustainability issues.


Masdar Institute's Rashid Abu Al-Rub demonstrates how his computer model can re-architect metals, plastics, ceramics, and composites to create light, strong cellular materials with optimized electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties. Here, an aircraft armrest is made lighter with his "architected foams" method. These structures are very organized looking, with many regular rows of the same repeated shapes.
(Source: Tahra Al Hammadi, Masdar Institute News)

"The key to the foams' strength and light weight is in their internal geometry, or what we refer to as internal architecture," said team leader Rashid Abu Al-Rub, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the United Arab Emirates-based Masdar Institute. Al-Rub has developed a computer model that can generate thousands of different cellular materials, with varying combinations of different properties.

He stressed, though, that these aren't really new materials. Instead, "we are re-architecting a given material, such as steel or plastic, by manipulating its internal geometry so that we can deliver the desired properties -- whether stiffness, electrical conductivity, or porosity -- to the material," he said. Once a combination is selected and designed in the model, the foam can then be 3D printed. The cellular structures can be used as independent materials, or can be designed as a continuous reinforcement to improve the properties of solid materials.


Structures designed for 3D printing that have been optimized for strength and light weight typically have more complex, organic shapes, like this 3D-printed aluminum satellite antenna support. It was designed and built by RUAG, partnering with Altair for optimization software and EOS for 3D printing. The finished part is more rigid and weighs half as much as the previous one made via traditional manufacturing.
(Source: RUAG)

The architected foams achieve their strength from the open geometry of their internal structure, which consists of more than 90% air. These structures are very organized looking, with many regular rows of the same repeated shapes. This contrasts with the more typical organic, complex shapes that often arise in designs for 3D printing, especially when those designs have been optimized for strength and light weight.

The new method could be used, for example, to control a structure's porosity. This can, in turn, control the flow of a liquid or gas in a component, improving efficiency in wastewater treatment systems, seawater desalination processes, and catalytic converters. The foams can also be 3D printed at extremely small scales, including nanoscale dimensions.

Al-Rub said his computer model could turn materials design on its head. "Currently, people design materials based on a material's existing chemistry, structure, and its corresponding properties," he said. "Our vision for material design instead looks first at the desired properties you are targeting in a material for a product application and then applies our proprietary design methods to optimize the structure and its internal geometry so that it will give you those desired properties." The team is working with several companies to obtain proof-of-concept funding for commercialization of the model.


ESC Minn logo3D Printing's Brave New World. Ann Thryft will lead a panel discussion on one of the hottest topics in manufacturing: 3D printing. Come hear "3D Printing: The Brave New World of Manufacturing" at the Embedded Systems Conference, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 28 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

3D Printing Structural Foams with Multiple Materials

3D Printing Structural Foams with Multiple Materials

An ongoing theme we've been covering at Design News is additive manufacturing's ability to create new materials or improve existing ones, as well as make prototypes and end-products. Sometimes, these new or improved materials can't be produced any other way. Now, researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have devised a new method for designing strong, lightweight metals and plastics.

The new approach consists of designing "architected foam" structures that can be fabricated using 3D printing from a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics, and composites. The electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties of components can also be optimized using the design method. Aimed at automotive and aerospace systems, which can benefit from materials that are strong, lightweight, and conductive, the foams are also applicable to energy, water, and medical structures that require highly conductive or porous materials. Water and energy are core research areas of the Institute, which is dedicated to providing real-world solutions to sustainability issues.

"The key to the foams' strength and light weight is in their internal geometry, or what we refer to as internal architecture," said team leader Rashid Abu Al-Rub, associate professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the United Arab Emirates-based Masdar Institute. Al-Rub has developed a computer model that can generate thousands of different cellular materials, with varying combinations of different properties.

He stressed, though, that these aren't really new materials. Instead, "we are re-architecting a given material, such as steel or plastic, by manipulating its internal geometry so that we can deliver the desired properties -- whether stiffness, electrical conductivity, or porosity -- to the material," he said. Once a combination is selected and designed in the model, the foam can then be 3D printed. The cellular structures can be used as independent materials, or can be designed as a continuous reinforcement to improve the properties of solid materials.

The architected foams achieve their strength from the open geometry of their internal structure, which consists of more than 90% air. These structures are very organized looking, with many regular rows of the same repeated shapes. This contrasts with the more typical organic, complex shapes that often arise in designs for 3D printing, especially when those designs have been optimized for strength and light weight.

The new method could be used, for example, to control a structure's porosity. This can, in turn, control the flow of a liquid or gas in a component, improving efficiency in wastewater treatment systems, seawater desalination processes, and catalytic converters. The foams can also be 3D printed at extremely small scales, including nanoscale dimensions.

Al-Rub said his computer model could turn materials design on its head. "Currently, people design materials based on a material's existing chemistry, structure, and its corresponding properties," he said. "Our vision for material design instead looks first at the desired properties you are targeting in a material for a product application and then applies our proprietary design methods to optimize the structure and its internal geometry so that it will give you those desired properties." The team is working with several companies to obtain proof-of-concept funding for commercialization of the model.


ESC Minn logo3D Printing's Brave New World. Ann Thryft will lead a panel discussion on one of the hottest topics in manufacturing: 3D printing. Come hear "3D Printing: The Brave New World of Manufacturing" at the Embedded Systems Conference, Sept. 21-22, 2016 in Minneapolis. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.


Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 28 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.