3D Printing Revolutionizing Variety of Industries

By: Marie McCarthy

If you Google “3D printing”, a slew of news articles will appear with the latest headlines announcing which gadgets have been created using this revolutionary new technology. 3D printing allows novice users, designers, and engineers to prototype, design and build their ideas directly.

From dental aligners to entire houses, many industries are cutting out the middle man and creating real products from 3D printers.

Vancouver based Casca makes shoes, and they’re developing technology that can print customized insoles on the spot. Currently, the brand asks customers to use their phone app to scan their foot. The app analyzes 20,000 data points and converts that information into a perfectly fitted insole. Someday, their CEO hopes to have a brick and mortar store that will be a one stop shop where users can have their foot scanned and the shoe printed instantly. Right now, it takes 4 hours to print.

In Denmark, one company wants to be a zero-waste fashion house by relying on 3D printing technology. Their goal is to print parkas upon each order, so they keep no inventory and have no waste, either.

3D printing also has incredible application potential in the healthcare sector. It is being tested to print organs, medical parts, and even dental ware. Scans from someone’s mouth can be used to formulate a retainer that can re-align and straighten their teeth.

Whatever the application, today’s engineers need to have a grasp and understanding of 3D printing as it becomes more prevalent and useful in society. With their technical perspective, engineers will be able to best manipulate and mold the future of the tool.

To continue your education, visit https://www.engineeringcredits.com/

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Analysis of Candidate Waveforms for 5G Cellular Systems

By: Sara Chauvette

This paper is available for 1 PDH credit towards your PE license

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Massachusetts Gas Disaster

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

On September 18th, 2018, in the Merrimack Valley in Northeastern Massachusetts, work crews for the Columbia Gas Company were in the final stages of replacing cast iron pipes (that date back to the early 1900's) with a new set of plastic gas-distribution pipes. What those workers didn't realize was that they needed to not only switch out the pipes but to also switch the sensors. To regulate the pressure in this old school system, control system sensors were placed inside the pipes and the data was then sent back to the regulators. By cutting off the valve the control system saw pressure falling in the old pipes, so it opened up the regulator. In mere moments the natural gas supply lines pressure soared thus making pilot lights into blow torches and stove gas burners into towering infernos.

One person lost their life, dozens were injured and over a hundred structures were damaged. Through the evening emergency crews responded to approximately 80 fires. Gas services were shut off to 8,600 customers, to avoid igniting any lingering gas, which of course caused an evacuation and a state of emergency was declared.

Columbia gas took over the locally owned gas company but moved the monitoring system to Ohio. This move was probably done to save money, money which should have been spent on a corresponding control system to allow Ohio monitors to shut off regulators and valves remotely. Presumably, this company has completed this type of work before, so you would hope that the technicians and definitely the supervisor would realize that by not changing the sensors at the same time as the pipes, disaster could strike. Every technician can't know enough to design an entire system, that's what engineers are for, but techs and supervisors should know the basic technology they are working on.

Since the disaster in September, many Columbia Gas customers are still without gas. The company's deadline was in November but has recently been pushed to December 16th. It's safe to say Columbia Gas will be paying for this mistake for a very long time, unfortunately so will the residents of Northeastern Massachusetts.


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Creating a New Generation of Solar Cells

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

For the last few decades, manufacturers have used silicon solar panels for “Green” energy. These panels are relied upon because the material used was the most efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. The current goal in research has been to develop solar power capable of higher efficiency and better practical usage possibilities. To accomplish this, engineers have been researching Organic Solar Cells. While silicone panels produce typically between 5-27% converted sunlight, organics will produce between 15-18%. Here lies the problem. With the large difference in rates, what makes organic solar cells the preferred method for solar panels?

Organic solar cells are considerably more cost effective. Organic photovoltaics can cut the total solar energy system cost significantly. Organic photovoltaics at 15% efficiency over 20 years would produce electricity at 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. In 2018 the national average is 13.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Creating the Organic solar cells is also less costly than traditional silicon panels. Silicon panels are thick, rigid panels that require extensive installation. The Carbon Organic panels can be built cheaply in rolls of material that are much more flexible.

New materials, design, and processes have a fabrication yield of 95%. That means nearly all devices are created without shorting out which cuts production costs considerably. The organic photovoltaics can be made of compounds that are dissolved in ink, this allows them to be printed on thin rolls of plastic. The Organic cells can then bend or curve around structures. Flexible, printed solar cells have a wide range of possibilities. They could work indoors and can be built into windows. They offer huge potential for many industries since they are lightweight, and can be used on the roofs of cars, in clothing, even built into the screen of your cell phone so it charges while you are out and about.

The industry hopes to develop worldwide applications within the next five years. Soon you will have solar powered camping gear, smart wearables, and even solar-powered cell phones. The future of solar power looks bright.


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Thermogalvanic Effect: Harnessing Waste Heat

By: Kaylee Verhoeven

The discovery of fire was a turning point in human history, it offered portable warmth, light, protection, and a new way of preparing food. It was also one of mankind’s most successful attempts to harness energy. Because energy is almost always lost in the harvesting phase, researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness this wasted energy.

Researchers at MIT and Stanford have found a new way to transform waste heat into electricity. Electricity is considered high-grade energy because it can be converted into other forms of energy for use and storage without significant losses. Thermal energy is low-grade energy, which means that attempts to transform heat back into other forms of energy is costly and inefficient. Most of the time, thermal energy is written off as waste heat and released into the environment. Converting low-grade energy back into high-grade energy is an uphill battle, but there are new thermoelectric products that could be our best bet. Efficient and low-cost thermal energy-harvesting systems are needed to utilize the tremendous low-grade heat sources.

The new technology uses available materials and could be used to recycle the large amounts of wasted heat generated in industrial processes and electric power plants. The new system allows waste heat to raise the temperature of a battery, and thanks to the thermogalvanic effect, the battery can now be charged at a lower voltage than would normally be required. The battery is then cooled down, and because the charging voltage is lower at high temperatures than at low temperatures, once it has cooled the battery can deliver more electricity than what was used to charge it. That extra energy, of course, does not just appear from nowhere: it comes from the heat that was added to the system.

Imagine the potential of thermoelectric-powered devices, Engineers are working diligently to find the most cost-effective approach and I don’t know about you but just the possibility of charging a cell phone by using body heat is something to look forward to!


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