SOLIDWORKS add-in for Xometry turbocharges part outsourcing
The Xometry Add-In for SOLIDWORKS v4.0 is a powerful tool that integrates directly with Xometry's Instant Quoting Engine, allowing engineers to simultaneously design parts and weigh considerations of cost and lead time in a single CAD environment. Machine learning algorithms give you an instant price by analyzing the part's geometry and factor in manufacturing requirements such as the process, material, features, finish, and inspection type. Then, the add-in provides lead time, cost, and manufacturability (DFM) feedback in seconds. Includes CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal, urethane castings, and other manufacturing methods.
Springs made of high-performance, engineered plastic
Lee Spring's LeeP plastic composite compression springs molded from Ultem resins provide critical advantages over traditional metal alloy springs. They feature high strength-to-weight ratio, no magnetic interference, high corrosion resistance, and dielectric insulation for non-conductive applications. They are stocked in a variety of standard sizes, each available in a "rainbow" of strengths formulated from different Ultem resins. They were designed to meet a wide range of spring applications where non-corroding, non-metallic, inert materials are preferred.
Direct interface for cobots and CNC machines launched
Manufacturers struggling to get CNC machines to communicate directly with their collaborative robot now have a solution: VersaBuilt's CNC Communication URCap is a simple yet powerful interface for machine-tending applications with Universal Robots. Launching at Universal Robots' booth 4605 at the ATX West show this week in Anaheim, the URCap allows a UR cobot to easily execute any machining program stored on the CNC directly through the cobot's own teach pendant.
Top Tech Tip: Bearing insulation prevents electrical current damage
Bearing damage can occur when electrical currents use the rolling contact as a conducting path. Insulated bearings prevent premature bearing failures eventually caused by stray electrical currents. But insulation properties must remain stable regardless of environmental conditions, in particular when bearings are stored, handled, and operated in humid climates. SKF dives deep into this issue.
Read the full article.
5-Star Product: Carbon composite bellows springs for lightweighting and more
The Carbon Composite Bellows Spring (CCBS) from MW Industries is a system of carbon fiber elements that combine to work as a high-performance, lightweight, and design-flexible compression spring meant to replace conventional coil springs or metallic Belleville disc springs. It offers value through unique dynamic characteristics and unparalleled in-the-field design flexibility. A functional spring is made from several individual elements, paired in sets and joined to make a stack. The spring rate of the stack is determined by the number of elements, the base rate of each element, and their series or parallel orientation in the stack. Applications include motorsports, aerospace, outdoor recreation, general industry, and high-performance activities.
Click here to learn more.
Photo etching thin titanium components
Tech-Etch specializes in the photo chemical etching of titanium. Because of its low weight, strength, and corrosion resistance, titanium is used in everything from jet engines to eyeglass frames. And because titanium is inert and completely biocompatible, it is also used in many medical implantation applications, as well as anode and cathode battery current collectors and telemetry antennas found in implanted medical devices.
Get the Tech-Etch Precision Engineered Parts capabilities brochure (no registration required).
First Industry 4.0-ready vacuum lifter
Piab's piLIFT SMART represents a paradigm shift for the industry: It's the market's first Industry 4.0-ready vacuum lifter. Sensing and monitoring movements and responding quickly to user intentions, the user-friendly vacuum lifter will lift and weigh loads simultaneously and collect and log data, making process statistics and analyses immediately accessible to the user through a web platform log-in. Every aspect of this unit has been designed with ergonomics and natural movements in mind. It also boasts a reduced power consumption of 76 percent!
Smart Sensor checks condition of bearings
ABB has launched the ABB Ability Smart Sensor for Dodge mounted bearings, part of the ABB Ability Digital Powertrain, that enables "health checks" for bearings. The smart sensor technology provides an early indicator of any potential problems by assessing the condition of bearings from vibration and temperature information. Eighty percent of bearing failures are lubrication related, and a bearing "running hot" can indicate that proper lubrication procedures are not in place. Monitoring a bearing's vibration can also indicate potential system problems. Prevent downtime on applications such as bulk material-handling conveyors as well as applications in the food-and-beverage and air-handling sectors.
How to download SOLIDWORKS weldment profiles -- gratis
For those of you who have used Weldments for frame design and extrusions in SOLID-WORKS, you're probably aware of how easy they are to work with and create. However, you may not be aware that there are literally thousands of profiles that you can download for free directly in the software. John Hall from TriMech runs through what you need to know.
Read the TriMech blog.
SPIROL offers pre-stacked disc springs
SPIROL traditionally supplied Disc Springs solely in bulk packaging, and it was the customer's responsibility to stack the Disc Springs into the prescribed configurations. Those days are gone. SPIROL now offers pre-stacked Disc Springs (greased or ungreased) in custom configurations packaged in shrink wrap with a perforated tab for ease of insertion into the application. The pre-stacked Discs are delivered intact to the assembly line, where the operator simply has to place the stack into the assembly and remove the shrink wrap. Applications include braking systems, pipe supports, pick-off spindles in CNC screw machines, and much more.
Cool Tools: World's darkest spray paint
A whole range of products can now take advantage of the world's blackest coating, Vantablack, thanks to the development of a new spray version called Vantablack S-VIS. It is easily applied at large scale to virtually any surface. Vantablack's carbon nanotube matrix structure absorbs virtually all (99.8 percent) incident light, enabling precision optical systems to be optimized. The material's developer, UK-based Surrey NanoSystems, has mimicked the performance of its original Vantablack with this new version that can be sprayed onto objects, rather than deposited using a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process.
Click here to learn more.
New e-chain features injection-molded contact points to reduce energy-line failure due to freezing
In order to prevent freezing of an energy supply, for example on inclined lifts, the motion plastics specialist igus has developed a new e-chain called "ice-chain." With injection-molded raised contact points, the chance of freezing is significantly reduced along with the costs of downtime and maintenance. This solution can be used in applications down to -40 F. The ice-chain is also available as a complete system equipped with pre-harnessed cables that can be quickly installed and connected.
When should you 3D print jigs and fixtures?
Jigs and fixtures are typically machined, but industrial 3D printing can often be used as a complement or alternative to machining. Designing irregular or complex shapes? Need smaller-than-usual tooling? Building components that are difficult or impossible to machine? If so, additive manufacturing is probably a good fit for your jigs, fixtures, and other tooling needs.
Read the Protolabs design tip.
End-of-arm vacuum tool for cobots
Piab is proud to introduce piCOBOT, a cleverly equipped end-of-arm (EOAT) vacuum tool designed specifically for the cobot market. Featuring the company's signature vacuum technology, piCOBOT offers industry-certified plug-and-play extensions to the latest collaborative robots, so called cobots. Offered as a development kit, piCOBOT comprises a vacuum pump unit, a gripper unit, and two suction cups. The standard kit includes four different sets of suction cup models suitable for a variety of tasks, but customers can also choose freely from the company's extensive range of suction cups for more tailored solutions.
Xometry launches die casting, stamping, extrusion manufacturing services
Xometry has launched a new service through which customers can request quotes for Die Casting, Stamping, and Extrusion work from their network of qualified partners. It's all part of the company's plan to become your one-stop shop for on-demand manufacturing. Xometry's ever-expanding partner network already includes over 2,500 shops in the United States.
Learn more. Xometry has been called "the Uber of manufacturing."
Sun-soaking device turns water into superheated steam
The high-temperature steam might be used in remote regions to cook, clean, or sterilize medical equipment.
MIT engineers have built a device that soaks up enough heat from the sun to boil water and produce "superheated" steam hotter than 100 degrees Celsius, without any expensive optics.
On a sunny day, the structure can passively pump out steam hot enough to sterilize medical equipment, as well as to use in cooking and cleaning. The steam may also supply heat to industrial processes, or it could be collected and condensed to produce desalinated, distilled drinking water.
The outdoor experiment on the MIT roof. Steam-generating device is mounted over a basin of water, placed on a small table, and partially surrounded by a simple, transparent solar concentrator. Researchers measured the temperature of the steam produced over the course of the test day, Oct. 21, 2017. [Credit: Courtesy of the researchers, Thomas Cooper et al.]
The researchers previously developed a sponge-like structure that floated in a container of water and turned the water it absorbed into steam. But a big concern was that contaminants in the water caused the structure to degrade over time. The new device is designed to be suspended over the water to avoid any possible contamination.
The suspended device is about the size and thickness of a small digital tablet or e-reader, and it is structured like a sandwich: The top layer is made from a material that efficiently absorbs the sun's heat, while the bottom layer efficiently emits that heat to the water below. Once the water reaches the boiling point (100 C), it releases steam that rises back up into the device, where it is funneled through the middle layer -- a foam-like material that further heats the steam above the boiling point, before it's pumped out through a single tube.
"It's a completely passive system -- you just leave it outside to absorb sunlight," says Thomas Cooper, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at York University, who led the work as a postdoc at MIT. "You could scale this up to something that could be used in remote climates to generate enough drinking water for a family, or sterilize equipment for one operating room."
The team's results are detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications. The study includes researchers from the lab of Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering at MIT.
A clever combination
In 2014, Chen's group reported the first demonstration of a simple, solar-driven steam generator, in the form of a graphite-covered carbon foam that floats on water. This structure absorbs and localizes the sun's heat to the water's surface (the heat would otherwise penetrate down through the water). Since then, his group and others have looked to improve the efficiency of the design with materials of varying solar-absorbing properties. But almost every device has been designed to float directly on water, and they have all run into the problem of contamination, as their surfaces come into contact with salt and other impurities in water.
The team decided to design a device that instead is suspended above water. The device is structured to absorb short-wavelength solar energy, which in turn heats up the device, causing it to reradiate this heat, in the form of longer-wavelength infrared radiation, to the water below. Interestingly, the researchers note that infrared wavelengths are more readily absorbed by water, versus solar wavelengths, which would simply pass right through.
For the device's top layer, they chose a metal ceramic composite that is a highly efficient solar absorber. They coated the structure's bottom layer with a material that easily and efficiently emits infared heat. Between these two materials, they sandwiched a layer of reticulated carbon foam -- essentially, a sponge-like material studded with winding tunnels and pores, which retains the sun's incoming heat and can further heat up the steam rising back up through the foam. The researchers also attached a small outlet tube to one end of the foam, through which all the steam can exit and be easily collected.
Finally, they placed the device over a basin of water and surrounded the entire setup with a polymer enclosure to prevent heat from escaping.
"It's this clever engineering of different materials and how they're arranged that allows us to achieve reasonably high efficiencies with this noncontact arrangement," Cooper says.
Full steam ahead
The researchers first tested the structure by running experiments in the lab using a solar simulator that mimics the characteristics of natural sunlight at varying, controlled intensities. They found that the structure was able to heat a small basin of water to the boiling point and produce superheated steam, at 122 C, under conditions that simulated the sunlight produced on a clear, sunny day. When the researchers increased this solar intensity by 1.7 times, they found the device produced even hotter steam, at 144 C.
On Oct. 21, 2017, they tested the device on the roof of MIT's Building 1 for the first time, under ambient conditions. The day was clear and bright, and to increase the sun's intensity further, the researchers constructed a simple solar concentrator -- a curved mirror that helps to collect and redirect more sunlight onto the device, thus raising the incoming solar flux, similar to the way a magnifying glass can be used to concentrate a sun's beam to heat up a patch of pavement.
With this added shielding, the structure produced steam in excess of 146 C over the course of 3.5 hours. In subsequent experiments, the team was able to produce steam from sea water, without contaminating the surface of the device with salt crystals. In another set of experiments, they were also able to collect and condense the steam in a flask to produce pure, distilled water.
Chen says that, in addition to overcoming the challenges of contamination, the device's design enables steam to be collected at a single point, in a concentrated stream, whereas previous designs produced a more dilute spray.
"This design really solves the fouling problem and the steam collection problem," Chen says. "Now we're looking to make this more efficient and improve the system. There are different opportunities, and we're looking at what are the best options to pursue."
Published January 2019
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