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Articles from 2014 In September


3D-Printed Limbs Turn Kids into Superheroes

The so-called “Cyborg Beast” is one of e-NABLE’s most popular designs and was developed by Jorge Zuniga and his research group at Creighton University. It features textured fingertips for improved grip, Chicago screw joints, protected cable routing throug

Enabling the Future is designing prosthetic appendages modeled more like superhero arms and hands than your average static artificial limbs. And they're doing it through a website and grassroots movement inspired by two men's design and creation in 2012 of a metal prosthetic for a child in South Africa.

Back then, American prop maker Ivan Owen and South African carpenter Richard Van As designed and printed a mechanical hand for a boy named Liam, Jen Owen, Ivan's wife and communications director for the Enabling the Future, told Design News.

In January 2013, Makerbot heard of their design and donated two 3D printers to the pair. By the end of the month, they released the files for the device as open source so anyone who needed it could use it.

Click on the image below to see some of these "superhero" prosthetics.

Though the two men have parted ways professionally, that one act helped establish Enabling the Future, which has grown to more than 1,500 members who are creating and designing 3D-printed prosthetic e-NABLE devices for kids in need around the world, Jen Owen said.

The group formed in 2013 when Jon Schull, a professor at RIT, saw a YouTube video of Owen and Van As' work and noticed that people commenting on the video offered the use of their own 3D printers to develop more hands for kids. "Jon realized that there was huge potential in this and created an online map and suggested that anyone interested in making hands, too, should put their names on the map so that people who needed a 3D-printed hand could find them and get parts made," Jen Owen told us.

That group now maintains a website, social-media pages, and an interactive map that pairs children that needs hands with Enabling the Future partners. "Originally, the map was about getting people with 3D printers to create the original design, but it quickly turned into research and development teams who took the original that Ivan and Richard had created and shared and turned it into about 10 new designs so far," Jen Owen explained to Design News. "Every day we find someone that has changed and modified the design a little further or done something completely new."

She said it's been "amazing" to watch how one idea for one person has gone viral across the world through the use of the Internet and other media. "At first it was about 70 or so people who listed themselves on the map who were willing to print that original hand design," she told us. "A year and a half later we have a Google+ group with over 1,800 people -- which is growing by about 50 too 100 or more a day lately -- who have volunteered their time and talents to helping make free 3D-printed hands for children and adults in need."

To date, there are about 10 different versions and designs of prosthetic hands. The hand designs are more playful than usual, well suited for children who need prosthetics but may not be able to afford them. "Until now there really wasn't much available for children because they grow too fast and commercial prosthetic devices are in the thousands of dollars," Jen Owen told us. "So when your child is outgrowing a device two to three times a year, you can imagine the impossible cost for a majority of parents and families."

3D printing allows the group to create devices that cost about $50 in materials for kids and when they outgrow them, the file size can be increased and printed again.

To be fitted with a prosthetic, parents can contact the group via an intake form on which they provide measurements and photographs that can be sent to the volunteer that's offered to print the parts or create the device, Jen Owen said. "Every hand has to be custom made and sized appropriately but that is easily done with 3D printing, as you simply type in the percentage of size needed and the machine prints it out," she told us. "Some children are in need of more customization to accommodate for different hand shapes or for those that have functional thumbs."

The group is currently working on body-powered designs for kids who don't have a functional wrist required to power the hand designs that are currently available. "We have some prototypes and we are very close to releasing a completed arm design," Jen Owen said.

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3D-Printed Limbs Turn Kids into Superheroes

3D-Printed Limbs Turn Kids into Superheroes

Enabling the Future is designing prosthetic appendages modeled more like superhero arms and hands than your average static artificial limbs. And they're doing it through a website and grassroots movement inspired by two men's design and creation in 2012 of a metal prosthetic for a child in South Africa.

Back then, American prop maker Ivan Owen and South African carpenter Richard Van As designed and printed a mechanical hand for a boy named Liam, Jen Owen, Ivan's wife and communications director for the Enabling the Future, told Design News.

In January 2013, Makerbot heard of their design and donated two 3D printers to the pair. By the end of the month, they released the files for the device as open source so anyone who needed it could use it.

Click on the image below to see some of these "superhero" prosthetics.

Though the two men have parted ways professionally, that one act helped establish Enabling the Future, which has grown to more than 1,500 members who are creating and designing 3D-printed prosthetic e-NABLE devices for kids in need around the world, Jen Owen said.

The group formed in 2013 when Jon Schull, a professor at RIT, saw a YouTube video of Owen and Van As' work and noticed that people commenting on the video offered the use of their own 3D printers to develop more hands for kids. "Jon realized that there was huge potential in this and created an online map and suggested that anyone interested in making hands, too, should put their names on the map so that people who needed a 3D-printed hand could find them and get parts made," Jen Owen told us.

That group now maintains a website, social-media pages, and an interactive map that pairs children that needs hands with Enabling the Future partners. "Originally, the map was about getting people with 3D printers to create the original design, but it quickly turned into research and development teams who took the original that Ivan and Richard had created and shared and turned it into about 10 new designs so far," Jen Owen explained to Design News. "Every day we find someone that has changed and modified the design a little further or done something completely new."

She said it's been "amazing" to watch how one idea for one person has gone viral across the world through the use of the Internet and other media. "At first it was about 70 or so people who listed themselves on the map who were willing to print that original hand design," she told us. "A year and a half later we have a Google+ group with over 1,800 people -- which is growing by about 50 too 100 or more a day lately -- who have volunteered their time and talents to helping make free 3D-printed hands for children and adults in need."

To date, there are about 10 different versions and designs of prosthetic hands. The hand designs are more playful than usual, well suited for children who need prosthetics but may not be able to afford them. "Until now there really wasn't much available for children because they grow too fast and commercial prosthetic devices are in the thousands of dollars," Jen Owen told us. "So when your child is outgrowing a device two to three times a year, you can imagine the impossible cost for a majority of parents and families."

3D printing allows the group to create devices that cost about $50 in materials for kids and when they outgrow them, the file size can be increased and printed again.

To be fitted with a prosthetic, parents can contact the group via an intake form on which they provide measurements and photographs that can be sent to the volunteer that's offered to print the parts or create the device, Jen Owen said. "Every hand has to be custom made and sized appropriately but that is easily done with 3D printing, as you simply type in the percentage of size needed and the machine prints it out," she told us. "Some children are in need of more customization to accommodate for different hand shapes or for those that have functional thumbs."

The group is currently working on body-powered designs for kids who don't have a functional wrist required to power the hand designs that are currently available. "We have some prototypes and we are very close to releasing a completed arm design," Jen Owen said.

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Security Is Going Down to the Device

Security Is Going Down to the Device

In order to keep an enterprise truly safe from hackers, cyber security has to go all the way down to the device level. Icon Labs is making the point that security has to be built into device components. Alan Grau, founder and president of Icon Labs, argues that design engineers cannot trust that the appliance or network designer, manufacturer, or network manager will be able to provide strong cyber defense.

A large enterprise network has many attack vectors to exploit. If devices are protected, they will be safe even if the big network is breeched. Currently, devices using Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) are invisible to the enterprise's management system. But they are visible to hackers. Icon is working to turn that around; making the device visible to the management system and invisible to the hacker.

Icon provides a suite of security solutions for OEMs that build embedded devices. The Floodgate product family provides intrusion detection and intrusion prevention capabilities that are designed specifically for use in embedded and RTOS-based devices. The products support management system integration for remote management and situational awareness. Icon also provides solutions to harden the device, secure communication channels, and block DOS attacks.

One way to protect the device is to give it the capability to alert management when it's getting hacked. "We started to worry about situational awareness. It wasn't there on embedded devices," Grau told us. "If you have an embedded device and there's an attack against that device, nobody is going to know about it. It doesn't have the intelligence to know something is going on, and it can't report back to the management station that something weird is going on."

The idea for security embedded devices was spawned from a customer problem. "We had a customer with a specific denial of service problem. They had a bug that caused a packet flood. It was easier for them to have us write a device protector than to fix the bug," said Grau. "When we fixed the bug, we realized we had a good framework for creating an embedded firewall. We started adding capability around that, and we added more pieces as we went."

The concept behind protecting embedded devices is to take the security principles behind individual devices and apply them to embedded products. "A lot of what we're trying to do is expand what people are trying to do to protect their desktops and then extend it to embedded devices," said Grau.

Awareness of the importance of security has skyrocketed in recent years as headlines report intrusions almost daily. "Four or five years ago people thought, 'This is an embedded device. Why do I need all this security?' Now they're beginning to recognize they need this," said Grau. "Device makers are building devices that go into pharmaceutical plants and all sorts of control networks -- factories, oil, and gas. And even though they're running high security, they realize that if there is a bus attack and they don't have a firewall, they could be vulnerable."

While Icon has developed firewalls for new embedded devices, they have also come up with a solution for devices that are already deployed without protection. "We have a hardware product for legacy equipment. Some equipment has been around for 10 or 15 years, and its vulnerable," said Grau. "With this hardware device, you can take our software and add it as a bump in the wire, a firewall. It's a small footprint that can protect a small enclave of devices."

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Harting's 3D MID Technology

Harting's 3D MID Technology

Senior Technical Editor Chuck Murray gets the skinny on Harting Inc.'s 3D MID (Molded Interconnect Device) technology, which allows users to create a three-dimensional circuit board out of molded plastic, from Greg Whiteside, the company's business development manager.

India's Mangalyaan Probe Reaches Mars

India's Mangalyaan Probe Reaches Mars

Three days after NASA's MAVEN probe reached Mars, India's Mangalyaan probe went into orbit around the red planet. India's first interplanetary mission, and the first successful Mars probe launched by an Asian nation, has a total project cost of nearly $600 million less than MAVEN's.

This important milestone in space history was reached on September 24, 2014. In November 2013, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)'s Mangalyaan probe was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on the island of Sriharikota, in the coastal state of Andhra Pradesh.

The decision to send an Indian space probe to Mars had its genesis after India's successful Chandrayaan moon mission in 2009, which discovered the first evidence of water on the moon. After an initial study period, the project was officially approved by the Indian government in 2012. The probe, also called the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), was completed and ready for launch in fewer than 600 days. By contrast, building and testing NASA's MAVEN probe took nearly three times as long.

Not only is India the first Asian nation to reach Mars, it's also the first nation in the world to get there on its first try. The Soviet Union launched the world's first Mars mission in 1960, but didn't successfully reach the red planet until its 10th attempt, more than a decade later. The United States got a somewhat later start, but had better luck: the first US Mars mission -- Mariner 3, launched November 5, 1964 -- was a failure. However, Mariner 4, launched three weeks later, was a success, sending back the first images of the Martian surface.

Mars has always been a difficult target. Forty-five missions have been sent: 20 from the US, 19 from Russia and the former Soviet Union, two from the European Union, and one each from Japan, China, and India. Of those, only 19 have been successful. With Mangalyaan, India appears to have broken the so-called "Mars curse."

Mangalyaan carries five scientific instruments. The Mars Color Camera (MCC) will provide high-quality images of the planet, as well as its moons, Phobos and Deimos. The Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS) will measure the temperature and emissivity of the planet's surface as it varies from day to night, making it possible to identify minerals and soil types. The Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (MENCA) is a mass spectrometer, which can identify chemical compounds in the planet's outer atmosphere. The Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP) will measure the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen, which will help to explain how Mars has lost its water over time.

The Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) is intended to help answer one of the biggest mysteries about the red planet. In 2004, NASA's Mars Express Orbiter detected trace amounts of methane in the Martian atmosphere, a measurement that was verified by multiple ground-based stations. However, the Curiosity rover failed at finding any methane when it arrived in 2012. If there really is methane on Mars, scientists will need to explain where it is coming from. Some think it might be released as a result of geological activity, while others think it might form as a result of photochemical reactions in the atmosphere. A tiny minority of scientists even think that it could be a sign of life on Mars. Mangalyaan's methane sensor may help to resolve this enigma.

The ISRO has an annual budget of about $1.1 billion, which is about three weeks' worth of NASA's budget. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fond of pointing out that Mangalyaan's budget of $74 million was less than the approximately $100 million budget of the space-themed Sandra Bullock movie, Gravity.

What's next for the ISRO? The agency has plans for a second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, scheduled to launch in late 2016 or early 2017. Chandrayaan-2 will include a solar-powered robotic rover. ISRO officials have hinted at a second Mars mission, but so far, there has been no official announcement.

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Siemens Furthers STEM Initiative in NC

Siemens Furthers STEM Initiative in NC

Siemens PLM Software will make a $32 million in-kind software grant to Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in North Carolina for its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Division. CPCC will use the software to enhance existing courses and develop new engineering courses.

The software will also be used in an apprenticeship program with Siemens, building on the current partnership between the two organizations. By enabling students to learn and train on the same PLM software used in global manufacturing, Siemens and CPCC are helping North Carolina students gain skills necessary to meet the needs of US manufacturing. "The resurgence in the American manufacturing industry, driven by an ongoing software revolution, has created a critical demand for qualified technology-trained professionals in manufacturing," Chuck Grindstaff, president and CEO of Siemens PLM Software, said in a statement on the school's website. "By partnering with Siemens, CPCC will help ensure its students have the training in advanced manufacturing technologies they need in a highly competitive job market."

More than 120 businesses throughout North Carolina use Siemens PLM software, including employers such as Hendrick Motorsports, Norfolk Southern, Joe Gibbs Racing, Textron, and Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery. "Manufacturing is one of the most sophisticated, highly skilled, and innovative areas of business today because software has radically transformed the industry. We need to let students, parents, and administrators know what these jobs look like and what students need to learn in order to get them," Eric Spiegel, president and CEO, Siemens USA, said in the statement.

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Video: Interactive, Arcade-Style Sandbox

Video: Interactive, Arcade-Style Sandbox

Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) are a passion of mine. I am forever looking for a better way to use the PC that's faster than the old keyboard and mouse. Capacitive touch screens showed me much is possible. Kinect, Leap Motion, and a few others tried, but failed to replace the standard. Sega has something that, I think, has potential.

Ah, remember those lovely outings to the park, where you got to play in the sandbox and pretend that your mound of sand was a castle with a moat and alligators? Well, those days are long gone in Japan. Sega has created a new arcade-style sand box that uses projector mapping and height sensors to project landscapes, colors, and figures onto the sand.

The arcade-style sandbox uses height sensors to gauge fluctuations in the surface of the sand. Then, it uses 3D mapping software to project a topographic landscape onto the sand that corresponds with what the player is making. For instance, if someone is building a mound, then it will 3D project a little snow cap on the top of the mountain, while little holes in the sand become lakes, and other level parts become grassy meadows. There are many settings on the sandbox that allow the player to change the season, which changes the type of 3D landscape that will be projected. The sandbox can also project fish swimming in the lakes, and can project bugs, or any related figures, to make the experience more real.

Additionally, the sandbox can detect human movement, so if a user tries to touch a bug, the bug will react and move.

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Malfunctioning Fridge Causes Meltdown

Malfunctioning Fridge Causes Meltdown

I worked for consulting engineers who analyzed accidents from fires, floods, explosions, and auto accidents. Suspect culprit devices ended up in our lab, where we carried out forensic engineering on what was left in order to determine the root cause of what happened.

A large refrigerator had caught fire and created $250,000 of smoke damage to artwork. The insurance company wanted to know the cause before settling the claim. The senior electrical engineer said that we'd inherited a bit of a shambles, since there were bits missing and other things that didn't seem to belong (holding up two wires with burned off insulation and partially melted terminals).

At the time, the terminals were vaguely familiar to me. We read up on manufacturer's manuals to familiarize ourselves with the devices to figure out cause and effect of the damage. It suddenly struck me where I'd seen the melted terminal parts. They were parts of a microswitch. Back in Scotland, I worked for Honeywell in its microswitch and meter division troubleshooting production, and among the detail parts were terminals for microswitches. I add this because "connections" plays a significant part in troubleshooting.

I went along to the senior electrical engineer's office, with the burnt out wires, and told him the melted ends were microswitch terminals. We promptly went out to the lab, rummaged around in the other door recesses, and out of the ashes found the other microswitch. Now the events began to fit together.

A nurse had opened the lefthand refrigerator door to get baby formula. Later, she smelled smoke, saw black smoke pouring up the stairwell across the artwork, and called the fire brigade. Our report suggested that the microswitch internals collapsed when the nurse closed the door, short circuiting the terminals; the insulation started to smolder and, although it was fireproof, created enough smoke and soot to do the damage.

The short-circuited microswitch didn't draw enough current to trigger the circuit breaker, and the continuing smoldering condition did all the damage.

A ground fault indicator (GFI) somewhere in the circuitry might safeguard against a recurrence.

Tell us your experience in solving a knotty engineering problem. Send stories to Jennifer Campbell for Sherlock Ohms.

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Conference Supports & Highlights Women in Engineering

Conference Supports & Highlights Women in Engineering

Though there are some extremely influential female engineers in the field today, women are still a minority compared to their male counterparts, and they continue to need support to bring more equality into the engineering space.

An organization that's been encouraging them since 1950 is the Society of Women Engineers, which will host its annual conference Oct. 23-25 in Los Angeles, Calif.

About 7,000 female engineers and organizations interested in fostering diversity are expected to attend the conference for three days of networking, education, and professional development, Kelly Janowski, PR and social media manager for SWE, told Design News. The conference also promotes STEM events and education for girls to help inspire them to enter the engineering field.

"Our organization exists because the world needs more engineers, and more of them should be women," said Janowski. "Depending on the source and the way (the term) engineer is defined, the number of women in engineering is somewhere between 11% and 14%, a disparity we need to work together to address."

This year's theme is a Global Exchange for Change, which is focusing on the international element of this year's meeting, Janowski told us.

The conference is a forum for female engineers and their proponents to meet and to attend more than 280 education sessions. The sessions are categorized into tracks according to topic, including Career and Life Transitions, Academics and Graduate Studies, Career Enhancement Series, and Careers in Government and Military, among others.

The conference also features the world's largest job fair for women, the WE14 Career Fair, with more than 250 organizations exhibiting, said Janowski. One of those companies is a recently added sponsor of the event, GoDaddy, a company with women in one-third of its top leadership positions, including GoDaddy CTO Elissa Murphy.

The WE14 Career Fair also fosters STEM interests, hosting an event featuring an expo for the public, training for parents and educators, and a hands-on workshop that shows girls the creativity of engineering, Janowski said.

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Battery-Free Power in Ant-Sized Chip

Battery-Free Power in Ant-Sized Chip

As technology continues to shrink and automate the world around us, two major challenges are inescapable: finding a sufficient power source, and procuring the aforementioned power source at a reasonable cost.

Recently, Arbabian, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, developed a battery-free chip the size of ant that he maintains will cost only a few cents to make. The device is so energy efficient that it gathers power from the electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna, allowing it to power itself as it operates.

Here the full scoop: Battery-Free Chip Could Power Your Devices