Green Line Solutions News

Wireless Charging

Thomas Topp - Saturday, June 10, 2017

Most technology users are all too familiar with the problem of having to charge mobile devices on a nearly daily basis, whether scrambling to reach an outlet before a phone dies or searching in vain for the right charger.  Some tech companies are attempting to resolve all these problems with the promise of wireless charging.

 

While some devices on the market today claim to be capable of charging wirelessly, this is somewhat of a misnomer. This method, known as the Qi inductive standard, is one of two main wireless charging standards in use today involving power mats and was pioneered by the Wireless Power Consortium. These power mats still need to be plugged in though and  sometimes phone cases can interfere with method. As Stephen Rizzone, CEO of Energous, puts it “If you have to drop your mobile device… onto a charging surface then it’s really no longer mobile.”

 

Energous and other companies like Ossia and uBeam are seeking “uncoupled” power solutions. Hatem Zeine, founder of Ossia explains: “The way we look at this is that wireless power should be like Wi-Fi. You go into your home, your phone will charge in your pocket, you don’t need to place it somewhere or orient it somewhere or even know where the power transmitter is.” uBeam is addressing this issue by transmitting targeted power through inaudible high frequency ultrasonic technology.

 

Unfortunately, while each company (and others not mentioned) is making strides, their technologies and prototypes are incompatible with one another, slowing down overall progress. Additionally, their individual aims are different and are being developed for disparate corners of the market.

 

A room with truly wireless charging does exist; it’s a prototypical 16-by-16-foot room in which the walls, ceiling and floors are aluminum panels and a copper pole with capacitors transferred power to almost any location in the room. The prototype was developed by Disney Research and was able to charge phones, toys and lamps, though it isn’t being further explored for commercial use. Alanson Sample, an Associate Lab Director with Disney Research, said “The real tradeoff here in some ways is the amount of deliverable power you can get to a device versus how safe it is…and how much mobile freedom you get.”

 

One issue is that the transmitter in any of these methods must be strong enough to charge devices, ideally without direct contact or line-of-sight, but not interfere with other electronics. Most importantly though, the wireless energy must be safe and approved by the US Federal Communications Commission.

 

Researchers and visionaries are attempting to expand this technology beyond a single room to whole houses, or even cities. All sorts of mobile devices, such as hearing aids, electric scooters and even cars may be continuously charged wirelessly; if the technology proves possible, infrastructures like street lamps, traffic lights and trolleys may all become independent of physical electric connections.


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Bioprinting

Thomas Topp - Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kinko’s Can’t Print This:

The Adaptation of ALM for Bioprinting  


The previous article discussed advancements in additive layer manufacturing (ALM, more commonly known as 3D printing), resulting in the creation of entire architectural structures. Understandably, this development had many 3D-printer-enthusiasts excited, due to the scale of the project and the attraction of a more mainstream audience; yet perhaps the most life-altering application for this technology is the use of ALM to produce bones, organic tissues and cartilage in a process known as bioprinting.

These body parts are produced in a manner similar to all 3D printed objects, except the medium used is known as a bio-ink and must be “printed” in a more mild manner and at cooler temperatures to preserve the integrity of bioactive molecules and macroproteins, and ensure compatibility with living cells. The bioink is similar to hydrogels used in other ALM processes, but is often derived from algae or gelatin as opposed to plastic or synthetic polymers; however, biodegradable plastics are often used in the initial printing phase to help maintain structural integrity.

By using biomaterials, scientists reduce the risk of the implant being rejected by the host and are able to forgo designing and producing a complex piece of machinery in lieu of a functioning organ or limb. The process is able to produce soft tissue and muscle, but also cartilage and bone, allowing patients to receive everything from lab-grown ears and vaginas, to jaw bones, noses and windpipes.

Beyond saving lives via transplant, scientists are also using printed tissues to test the efficacy and safety of various drugs. An article posted by The Economist in January of this year explains, “it will please animal-rights activists, as it should cut down on the number of animal trials. It will please drug companies, too, since the tissue being tested is human, so the results obtained should be more reliable than ones from tests on other species.”

Currently, transplants require a donor, either one who is living (as is common for a kidney) or a victim of accident (as for a heart), and there are millions of people waiting for such an opportunity. Yet even when such a patient gets lucky, there is the possibility of the tissue or organ being rejected by the host’s body; however, because the bioprinted object will be made using the patient’s own pluripotent stem cells, the rejection rate of such transplants should be virtually zero.

Bioprinting will allow patients to receive brand-new body parts made from their own DNA, as with organs, or parts designed to fit their exact body shape, as with a jaw bone or vertebrae.


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3D Printing

Thomas Topp - Sunday, April 16, 2017

Although household 3D printers are a relatively new fad, the process, which was originally called Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), developed during the 1980’s. During this time, the main use of ALM was “Rapid Prototyping,” which allowed manufacturers to create representative models quickly and inexpensively out of plastic polymers.

For those unaware of the process, ALM creates a solid object by stacking layers, slice by slice, from the bottom-up. By creating objects this way, the layers can be very complex which allows ALM to produce moving parts, like hinges and wheels. Modern machines are capable of printing one object from several materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, and even chocolate!

There are several methods for manufacturing products by ALM; the most common for home printers is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), which produces an object by extruding melted material that immediately hardens after leaving the nozzle. On an industrial level, a common method is Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a single mass.

In the early 2000’s, Loughborough University, UK, began a project to create the first printed building. Rupert Soar formed the Freeform Construction Group to explore how existing technologies could be expanded to large scale construction. In 2005, the group secured funding to build a machine that would use components like concrete pumping, spray concrete, and gantry systems to print an entire structure.

In 2014, Chinese company WinSun took this technology a step further by printing the first multi-story building (five levels and 11,840 square foot), complete with decorative elements inside and out, at Suzhou Industrial Park. The machine was developed by Ma Yihe, who has more than a decade of experience in designing 3D Printing Arrays, and is 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide, and 132 feet long.

“The machine uses a mixture of ground construction and industrial waste, such as glass and tailings, around a base of quick-drying cement mixed with a special hardening agent,” CNET reports. The parts are produced in large pieces at WinSun's facility and the structure was “then assembled on-site, complete with steel reinforcements and insulation in order to comply with official building standards.”

By using this technology, construction waste can be reduced by more than a third, while production time and labor costs can be decreased by almost three quarters. Using recycled materials also eliminates the need for quarried stone, which is better for the bottom-line and for the environment.


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