There is no doubt that the aviation industry is a major contributor to global CO2 emissions, and the amount of fuel needed to fly modern planes is staggering. Some aerospace engineers believe that the solution to this climate issue is to move toward electric planes, but doing so presents many challenges including weight and battery capacity. Recently, one Dutch startup believes that it has the solution, and has raised $3.6 million to prototype its all-electric aircraft. What challenges do electric planes face, how many passengers can fit in this prototype, and are electric planes the future?
Top Stories This Week
Hardware Business News
China reopens automotive industry after COVID lockdowns
Recently, China has been under multiple lockdowns to prevent the additional spreading of the COVID-19 virus, and this has seen manufacturing grind to a halt in major provinces. Not only has this prevented large portions of Chinese manufacturing, but it has also had a larger effect on supply chains around the world. Now that the lockdowns are being lifted, manufacturers in the automotive industry can now expect production to normalize. What challenges does COVID present, how long were lockdowns around in China, and how can manufacturers better prepare for future pandemics?
Formlabs unveils new Dental Academy targeting 3D printing at dentistry
Going to the dentist isn’t fun, but the high prices of custom-fitted retainers and implants can leave many out of pocket, or out of teeth. The need for specialists to take moulds, customize teeth shapes, and manufacture fittings are just some of the factors that make dental implants so expensive. Recognizing this challenge, Formlabs, a major manufacturer of 3D printers and software, has recently announced their latest Dental Academy with the aim of teaching dentists how to use additive manufacturing techniques. What challenges do custom fittings present, how can 3D printing help reduce the cost of dentistry, and how else could 3D printers benefit the medical industry?
Meta demonstrates ultra-realistic VR display
When it comes to social media, no company has a better understanding than Facebook. Despite being less than 20 years old, Facebook has dominated the social media industry so much that it invests billions into developing new technologies to find ways of connecting people. Now that Facebook is devoted to developing the metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg recently demonstrated the company’s latest ultra-realistic VR prototypes with the goal of creating a simulation so real that it is indistinguishable from reality. How does social media generate revenue, how does Meta aim to use the new VR system, and what implications does such hardware present?
Hardware Engineering News
Engineers at Helsinki University create smart jumpsuits for babies
Ensuring proper development in children is one of the top priorities of parents, and many will often go to extreme lengths to try and improve their academic and physical abilities. At the same time, many also live in constant fear of something going wrong, and attaching bulky devices to a child is not entirely practical. Recently, engineers have developed a wearable smart jumpsuit that can track movement which will help give researchers insight into neurological development. What challenges do babies face when developing, how did the engineers create the jumpsuit, and how will the suit help researchers?
Oxbotica uses simulations to train and test autonomous cars
One major challenge faced with autonomous cars is the need for real-world training as no amount of test courses can ever prepare an autonomous vehicle for unexpected events. However, as autonomous cars are powered by a digital system, it is possible to present the vehicle with a simulated world whereby unpredictable events can occur (random pedestrians, trees falling etc.). Recognizing this possibility, UK autonomous car developer Oxbotica is testing their platforms in simulated environments that try to present their AI with unusual events. What challenges do autonomous vehicles face, what does Oxbotica do, and will experience from simulations ever replace real-world experience?
Open-source plastic recycler turns old plastic into 3D printing filament
Plastic waste is a major issue for both the environment and human health (microplastics are now being found in human blood), which is why recycling is becoming increasingly important. But instead of sending recycling materials straight to a recycler, it may be advantageous if materials could be recycled and repurposed at home. Recently, open-source hardware developer Reiten released an open-source PET bottle recycler that is able to turn used plastic bottles into new 3D printing filament. Who is Reiten, how could home recycling machines and 3D printing help combat waste, and could manufacturing come to the home?
Hardware R&D News
Researchers demonstrate how flexible 4-bit and 8-bit CPUS are optimized for low footprint designs
Semiconductor technology has come unbelievably far since the development of the first transistor. Machines that used to take up entire floors of buildings can now be integrated into a space the size of a grain of rice and use a fraction of the power. Even though the cheapest microcontrollers now have 32-bit capabilities, researchers recently reported the advantages of 4-bit and 8-bit processors in the flexible microcontroller field. What challenges do flexible electronics present, why are lower bit counts easier, and what can they be used for?
MIT Researchers create artificial muscles with electroluminescent properties
Traditionally, robotics have been reliant on large motors for motion and while this provides decent torque and ease of programmability, it also makes robotic systems slow and unresponsive (this is easily spotted when comparing a bipedal robot to a human). Motor systems are also unsuitable when trying to miniaturize robots as practical motors can only be made so small. Recently, researchers from MIT have created artificial muscles that were able to demonstrate flight in a small robot, and also possessed electroluminescent properties ideal for tracking and communication. How are motors challenging for robotics, what did the researchers develop, and could mimicking biology be the best way to produce robots?
Open-Source Hardware News
OpenHW Group announces latest RISC-V-based MCU development kit
RISC-V is set to become the next major CPU architecture thanks to its open-source nature, and manufacturers around the world are rushing to develop RISC-V compatible processors. Recognising the power of RISC-V , OpenHW Group recently announced their RISC-V MCU development platform at Embedded World 2022 integrating IoT capabilities, GPIO, and improved connectivity. How does RISC-V differ to other architectures, what else did OpenHW Group announce, and could RISC-V overtake ARM in the processor market?
New AI tool demonstrates the benefits of open-source
AI is quickly becoming a crucial technology thanks to its extraordinary ability to recognize patterns and detect anomalies. However, there are many who have concerns regarding the ethical use of AI, its inability to explain its conclusions, and the often closed-source nature of such AI. Recently, an article published at engineering.com looks at these concerns regarding AI, and how open-source AI could help bring trust in such systems while also demonstrating a new inspector tool called ENSAM that is designed to visualize large datasets.