Acomputational design tool can turn a flat sheet of plastic or metal into a complex 3D shape. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland, say the tool enables designers to fully and creatively exploit an unusual quality of certain materials – the ability to expand uniformly in two dimensions. A rubber band, by contrast, contracts in one dimension while being stretched in another.
“We’re taking a flat piece of material and giving it the tendency, or even the desire, to bend into a certain 3D shape,” states Keenan Crane, assistant professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon.
In this case, the researchers were making hexagonal cuts into flexible, but not normally stretchable plastic and metal sheets to give them the ability to expand uniformly, up to a point. But the design tool could be useful for a variety of synthetic materials, known as auxetic materials that share the distinctive quality.
The ability to design complex objects from auxetic materials could have a variety of applications in biomechanics, consumer goods, and architecture, says Mark Pauly, professor of computer and communications sciences at EPFL.
Origami-style folding techniques already have helped produce devices such as cardiac stents, which must be maneuvered into the narrowed artery of a heart patient and then expanded to hold the artery open, and solar arrays that unfold after being launched into space. Auxetic materials could be used in similar ways, while also exploiting their additional capabilities.
For instance, bendable sheets can readily form single-curved surfaces, such as cylinders, but auxetic materials can also approximate double-curved surfaces, such as spheres, using only flat pieces.
“Artists and designers have played around with these materials, but ultimately they have been limited by the things they could fashion by hand,” Crane notes. “We wanted to see what you could do if you got computation involved.”
In particular, they worked with Mina Konakovi, a Ph.D. student at EPFL, to use conformal geometry to map the surfaces of auxetic materials. Just as auxetic sheets expand uniformly in two dimensions, conformal geometry studies maps between spaces where lengths uniformly shrink and expand. A key challenge in connecting the two is addressing the harsh, physical reality that real materials can only expand so much, she adds.
Metal and plastic sheets, altered with cuts to lend them auxetic qualities, are convenient materials to explore how to create these complex designs, Crane says. In this study, a series of hexagonal slits were cut into the sheets to create triangular elements that were able to rotate relative to their neighbors, allowing them to expand uniformly.
Based on a 3D digital model, the computational tool can determine the pattern of slits necessary to make the sheet conform to the desired shape. This pattern can then be transferred to a laser cutter to begin the fabrication process. The researchers used this process to make a woman’s high-heel shoe, a sculpture, a woman’s fashion top, a lampshade, and face masks.
For now, determining just how to bend the laser-cut sheet to achieve the 3D shape is a little tricky, Crane acknowledges. To form a mask, for instance, the perforated sheet was placed over a cast of the face and pressed into position. The ultimate solution, not addressed in this early study, would be to use materials that would automatically pop into position.
The National Science Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation sponsored this research.
Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Sciences
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
3D print head adapter for CNCs
Hurco’s vertical machining center can transform WinMax part programs to a 3D printed rapid prototype directly on a CNC machine. The 3D print head, which extrudes plastic PLA filament, is a portable accessory powered and controlled by spindle rotation, so there are no wires to install, and it can easily be moved to other Hurco machining centers within a shop.
Supporting the 3D print head adapter is an updated release of Hurco’s WinMax software that lets users develop complex 3D shapes quickly with conversational programming. Once programmed, users select the WinMax 3D Print option to start the build process on their Hurco CNC machines. Alternatively, the model can be sent to a commercial 3D printer.
Hurco Companies Inc.
Annealing, ablating laser
The A-10, a 10W laser marking system, is the newest addition in a line of diode-pumped solid state (DPSS) Nd:YVO4 1,064nm laser marking systems. Expanding upon the technology and components from the current U-series, the A-10 application-focused laser has a specially tuned beam to uniformly distribute energy for optimal annealing and ablating. The A-10 is strong enough to create fast, high-contrast marks on plastics and metals, yet delicate enough to prevent melting or etching on surfaces prone to bacterial contamination.
RMI Laser LLC
Compact burnishing tools
Swiss ID burnishing tools by Elliott Tool Technologies are for accurate sizing, low micro-finishing, and surface hardening of ID holes down to 4mm. With the tool body completely inside the tool block, the 5918 series features an adjustment knob protruding from the rear of the tool shank, allowing the burnishing tool size to be adjusted for diameter without removal from the tool block. Improving surface irregularities and tool marks, the tool produces optimum surface finishes of 4Ra to 8Ra in a single pass. This eliminates secondary processes such as grinding, honing, and polishing by automating those processes in the primary CNC machine, saving set-up, processing time, and labor costs while enhancing machinery utilization and shop floor productivity.
Monaghan Tooling Group
Multitasking turning center
The Nakamura-Tome NTRX-300 features a built-in load/unload automation system and advanced operator recognition software.
The turning center features true opposing twin spindles; an 8" A2-6 25hp or a 10" A2-8 30hp. The machine also features a 25hp tool spindle with 12,000rpm, and full 5-axis capabilities, with a Fanuc 31i A5 control and offers a large machining area for application versatility. The NTRX-300 can machine a 10" square on the face of a part, with no C-axis rotation required due to X-axis capability of 5" (125mm) below center travel and a Y-axis capability of 10" (250mm). With a 104ft2 (9.66m2) footprint and weighing 37,480 lb. (17,000kg) for rigidity, the NTRX-300 is available in two models: 8" (203mm) chucks with 2.5" (63.5mm) bar capacity or 10" (250mm) chucks with 3.15" (80mm) bar capacity. Also available is the NTRX-300L with a longer Z-axis.
Methods Machine Tools Inc.
Compressed air system alternative
Jet-Kleen Limited Blow-Off System, an economical alternative to compressed air systems, provides safe and effective removal of residues. The Jet-Kleen Limited uses a blower-driven system to deliver a high volume of air at 1.9psi, providing clean air at low noise levels. Standard features found on the original Jet-Kleen, such as the wall-mount bracket, swivel disconnect, and chip guard, are available as options with the Jet-Kleen Limited, allowing users to select features necessary for their operations.
Specialized Safety Products (SSP)
It looks like a small piece of transparent film with tiny engravings on it and is flexible enough to be bent into a tube. Yet, this piece of smart plastic demonstrates excellent data storage and processing performance. This invention, developed by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), brings researchers a step closer toward making flexible, wearable electronics a reality.
The technological advancement is achieved in collaboration with researchers from Yonsei University, Ghent University, and Singapore’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering. The research team has successfully embedded a powerful magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic material, and this malleable memory chip will be a critical component for the design and development of flexible and lightweight devices. Such devices have great potential in applications such as automotive, healthcare electronics, industrial motor control and robotics, industrial power and energy management, as well as military and avionics systems.
Enabler for flexible electronics
Flexible magnetic memory devices have attracted a lot of attention as they are the fundamental component required for data storage and processing in wearable electronics and biomedical devices, which require functions such as wireless communication, information storage, and code processing. Although a substantial amount of research has been conducted on different types of memory chips and materials, challenges still exist in fabricating high performance memory chips on soft substrates that are flexible, without sacrificing performance.
To address the current technological challenges, the research team, led by Associate Prof. Yang Hyunsoo of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Engineering, developed the technique that implants a high-performance magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic surface.
Operating on magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM), the device uses a magnesium oxide (MgO)-based magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) to store data. MRAM outperforms conventional random access memory (RAM) computer chips in many aspects, including the ability to retain data after a power supply is cut off, high processing speed, and low power consumption.
The research team first grew the MgO-based MTJ on a silicon surface, and then etched away the underlying silicon. Using a transfer printing approach, the team implanted the magnetic memory chip on a flexible plastic surface made of polyethylene terephthalate while controlling the amount of strain caused by placing the memory chip on the plastic surface.
“Our experiments showed that our device’s tunneling magnetoresistance could reach up to 300% – it’s like a car having extraordinary levels of horsepower. We have also managed to achieve improved abruptness of switching. With all these enhanced features, the flexible magnetic chip is able to transfer data faster,” Hyunsoo says. “Flexible electronics will become the norm in the near future, and all new electronic components should be compatible with flexible electronics. We are the first team to fabricate magnetic memory on a flexible surface, and this significant milestone gives us the impetus to further enhance the performance of flexible memory devices and contribute towards the flexible electronics revolution.”
National University of Singapore
The Landis-Bryant RU2 Fuel MGMT grinder incorporates a modular, multi-surface grinder with extended flexibility to grind most complex components. Designed for challenging requirements, it employs a dual-slide arrangement in the Z-axis that can accommodate up to six grinding spindles.
Multi-slide possibilities in the X- and Z-axis offer multiple work heads, wheel heads, and dressing systems to customize the machine for a range of processes. Its granite epoxy bed includes a thermal stability system to monitor the temperature and, together with the optional adaptive thermal compensation, provides consistent stability. A stiff hydrostatic round-bar guideway system enables precise location of all axes for dimensional and geometric accuracy – ensured by high-resolution Heidenhain glass scales and Fanuc linear motors.
The modular design enables flexibility and allows customers to choose from multiple sizes, a range of machine configurations of work spindles, grinding spindles, dressing spindles, slides, tooling and fixtures, and the ability to handle parts up to 14" (350mm) in diameter and 7" (177mm) in length. RU2 grinders can be configured as chucker, shoe centerless, and center-type systems.
The Flex-Hone for chamfer blending is a line of specialty flex-hones designed to blend and radius sharp edges and remove micro-burrs on chamfered holes, eliminating stress risers caused by chamfering. The flexible tools are designed to polish and radius the intersection of the chamfer and flange face as well as the inner corners and hole. Increased flexibility allows the tool to pass through thin web sections and polish the chamfer on the back side as well. The Flex-Hone tool eliminates hand finishing operations, producing consistent finishes.
Available in a variety of grit sizes and abrasive types, it is suitable for finishing titanium, Inconel, super CVM, and nickel-based stainless steel alloys.
Brush Research Mfg. Co. Inc.
Robotic-CNC machine integration platform
The Sinumerik Integrate Run MyRobot/EasyConnect on the Sinumerik 828D family can connect different types of robots designed by different manufacturers with CNC machines. This enables cost-effective setup of automated cells, including serial machines, even with different types of CNCs using the same standard interface. Additional automated cell setup features include simple optimization of work processes on machine tools, mobile condition monitoring, and remote maintenance.
Automated work processes cover all aspects of machine tools – from preparatory work to accessing necessary information and data at the machine – and efficient machine operation up to using mobile terminal equipment for visualizing machine conditions. Machine operators can access the factory network and inspect contract documents at the user interface. The technology also includes an application for prep work on a PC.
Sinumerik Integrate Access MyMachine provides remote diagnostics functionality. The basic Access MyMachine/P2P application facilitates the exchange of data with connected machines from a Windows PC. Sinumerik Integrate Access MyMachine/Ethernet (ASP) provides a quick overview of the machine history in addition to machine access. The Sinumerik CNC permits the uploading and downloading of machine data, files, trip recorders, and configurable PLC traces. Text message or email notifications in cases of unusual machine conditions are also possible. ASP allows cost-efficient monitoring of fault states and comprehensive integration of in-house service and maintenance processes.