Melissa Barnes: Welcome to Engineering Update, brought to you by Mouser Electronics, the electronic components distributor with the widest selection of the newest products. I’m Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor of ECN.
In this week’s headlines:
New Movies In An Old Format
Pinoccio As A Wireless, Gossiping Microcontroller
Another Possible Replacement For Silicon
Robots Inspecting Powerlines
A Pen That’s Just As Mighty As The Printer in Creating 3D objects
Jeff Reinke: 3D printers have been around for a while, but a recent Kickstarter project promises to make the technology more accessible. Doodle3D is a pen that takes 2D sketches to a whole new level. By simply drawing onto a computer, tablet, or smartphone, the images are transferred to a 3D printer that produces a real life version of your sketches or random scribbling.
Through the Doodle3D software, the user first sketches onto a main pane, where they can either keep the original image or use the sculpting pane to manipulate it. After that a 3D printer builds the object layer by layer.
Melissa: The Doodle3D also comes with a Wi-Fi box that is compatible with most 3D printers and connects to any wireless network. Although the software used by many 3D printers is geared towards the tech-savvy, the founders of Doodle3D sought to create a program that could be easily understood by a wider range of users. So their software can be accessed without complicated installation and is compatible with any device.
So far, the Doodle 3D is being met with great enthusiasm and on its way to being successfully funded.
Jeff: A new kind of digital movie player called the Bioscope is striving to inspire users to alter their movie-watching activities in a historic way.
The Biscope is housed within a 3D-printed plastic case, similar to those used by analog film. The camera uses a micro LCD display for the viewfinder, which the user looks through to watch the movie. A modified Raspberry Pi is being utilized as the operating system, with the overall design borrowed from an old Fisher Price toy.
Melissa: A USB connection provides the video source, with the user looking through the viewfinder while rotating a hand-crank. The reel can be wound forward or backward at any speed.
Since originally creating the camera for Rotterdam’s V2 Institute, the developer has gone on to win the W Hotels Designers of the Future Award. Hopefully the same nostalgic approach isn’t taken for the next generation of mobile phones
Jeff: A new networking controller called Pinoccio is providing functionality that allows for connecting virtually any device to the internet and linking it throughout the home. The Pinoccio can be wirelessly synched with other devices through low-power radio or mesh networking. This mesh networking capability allows multiple devices to relay information through a single Pinoccio, which is equipped with a Wi-Fi shield to help extend battery-life. In other words, this Pinoccio has no strings.
Melissa: The Pinoccio is compatible with Arduino open source platforms, uses longer-lasting lithium-polymer batteries and comes with a standard temperature sensor. However, it can also be used with additional external sensors.
Along with its efficiency and small size, the Pinoccio comes with access to a web server and API, allowing a multitude of devices to send and receive messages from web applications. The Pinoccio is now available for purchase, as it has recently seen funding success on the crowd-sourcing site, Indiegogo. As of this filming there is no word on the possible ramifications of less than honest communication between two devices.
Jeff: Chemists at Ohio State University have recently created a substance known as germanane, which could give graphene a run for its money in the advancement of semiconducting materials. Like graphene, the germanane material consists of one-atom-thick sheets, but these are derived from geranium.
The new superconducting material has been shown to conduct electrons ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium. This means that if it is used in microchips, it could withstand a significantly higher load than other materials. Another important aspect of this material is its’ chemical stability, as opposed to silicon. It resists oxidization from air and water, and it is even more successful in absorbing and emitting light, which promises significant advancements for the future of solar cell technology.
Stories like this bring some perspective into the harsh realities of electronic engineering. Silicon used to be a star. It burst on to the scene with unmatched capabilities and single-handedly carried microchip development for decades. Its’ reach and impact … unmatched. Now its replacements are lining up to shoot this champion of industry down. Every material under the sun wants a piece at that sweet, sweet semiconductor business. It reminds me of another icon … another champion … another one for whom the bell toll went unanswered -
Melissa: Although scientists created germanane many years ago, until now they have been unable to produce it in large enough quantities to conduct studies into its validity as a viable semiconductor. In order to produce it in mass quantities, OSU researchers inserted calcium atoms between layers of germanium. The calcium was later dissolved in water, leaving empty chemical bonds, which were then linked with hydrogen, ultimately producing more stable layers. The team plans on furthering their investigation into the full possibilities of the germanane through further strengthening its properties.
Jeff: A new robot called the SkySweeper could help make power line repairs safer and more affordable. A prototype was recently unveiled by its designers from the University of California’s Coordinated Robotics Lab. The SkySweeper is made of simple, off-the-shelf electronics and its plastic parts are produced from a 3D printer.
Typically, workers who inspect power lines must perform their tasks using complex and expensive means, oftentimes having to shut down entire lines, perform elaborate safety maneuvers, and even employ helicopters. Basically, the coolest parts of any Mission Impossible movie.
Melissa: The SkySweeper closely resembles a tiny cable car with a V-shaped design and motor-driven elbow in the middle. From the elbow, multiple arms with clamping hands are able inch along the cables. Its makers are currently at work improving SkySweeper’s maneuverability through increasing its strength to swing end over end in order to swing past cable support points.
Though the SkySweeper is currently powered by a standard lithium ion battery, it will soon be equipped with induction coils so that it can draw power from the very line it walks.
That wraps up this week’s report. I’m Melissa Barnes, and this has been your Engineering Update!