Reliable 3D Printing With Ceramic Slurry

3D printing is at its most accessible (and most affordable) when printing in various plastics or resin. Printers of this sort are available for less than the cost of plenty of common power tools. Printing in materials other than plastic, though, can be a bit more involved. There are printers now for various metals and even concrete, but these can be orders of magnitude more expensive than their plastic cousins. And then there are materials which haven’t really materialized into a viable 3D printing system. Ceramic is one of those, and while there are some printers that can print in ceramic, this latest printer makes some excellent strides in the technology.

Existing technology for printing in ceramic uses a type of ceramic slurry as the print medium, and then curing it with ultraviolet light to solidify the material. The problem with ultraviolet light is that it doesn’t penetrate particularly far into the slurry, only meaningfully curing the outside portions. This can lead to problems, especially around support structures, with the viability of the prints. The key improvement that the team at Jiangnan University made was using near-infrared light to cure the prints instead, allowing the energy to penetrate much further into the material for better curing. This also greatly reduces or eliminates the need for supports in the print.

The paper about the method is available in full at Nature, documenting all of the details surrounding this new system. It may be a while until this method is available to a wider audience, though. If you can get by with a print material that’s a little less exotic, it’s not too hard to get a metal 3D printer, as long as you are familiar with a bit of electrochemistry.

The First Search Engines, Built By Librarians

Before the Internet became the advertisement generator we know and love today, interspersed with interesting information here and there, it was originally a network of computers largely among various universities. This was even before the world-wide web and HTML which means that the people using these proto-networks, mostly researchers and other academics, had to build things we might take for granted from the ground up. One of those was one of the first search engines, built by the librarians who were cataloging all of the research in their universities, and using their relatively primitive computer networks to store and retrieve all of this information.

This search engine was called SUPARS, the Syracuse University Psychological Abstracts Retrieval Service. It was originally built for psychology research papers, and perhaps unsurprisingly the psychologists at the university also used this new system as the basis for understanding how humans would interact with computers. This was the 1970s after all, and most people had never used a computer, so documenting how they used search engine led to some important breakthroughs in the way we think about the best ways of designing systems like these.

The search engine was technically revolutionary for the time as well. It was among the first to allow text to be searched within documents and saved previous searches for users and researchers to access and learn from. The experiment was driven by the need to support researchers in a future where reference librarians would need assistance dealing with more and more information in their libraries, and it highlighted the challenges of vocabulary control in free-text searching.

The visionaries behind SUPARS recognized the changing landscape of research and designed for the future that would rely on networked computer systems. Their contributions expanded the understanding of how technology could shape human communication and effectiveness, and while they might not have imagined the world we are currently in, they certainly paved the way for the advances that led to its widespread adoption even outside a university setting. There were some false starts along that path, though.

Enormous Metal Sculpture Becomes An Antenna

Those who have worked with high voltage know well enough that anything can be a conductor at high enough voltages. Similarly, amateur radio operators will jump at any chance to turn a random object into an antenna. Flag poles, gutters, and even streams of water can be turned into radiating elements for a transmitter, but the members of this amateur radio club were thinking a little bit bigger when they hooked up their transmitter to this giant sculpture.

For those who haven’t been to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in upstate New York, the enormous metal behemoth is not a subtle piece of artwork and sits right at the entrance to the university. It’s over 70 feet tall and made out of bronze and steel, a dream for any amateur radio operator. With the university’s permission and some help to ensure everyone’s safety during the operation, the group attached a feedline to the sculpture with a magnet, while the shield wire was attached to a ground rod nearby. A Yaesu FT-991 running on only 5 watts and transmitting in the 20-meter band was able to make contacts throughout much of the eastern United States with this setup.

This project actually started as an in-joke within the radio club, as reported by Reddit user [bbbbbthatsfivebees] who is a member. Eventually the joke became reality, as the sculpture is almost a perfect antenna for certain ham bands. Others in the comments noted that they might have better luck with lower frequency bands such as the 40-meter band or possibly the 60-meter band, due to the height of the structure. And, for those who are still wondering if you really can use a stream of water to transmit radio waves, it is indeed possible.

Illuminating Origami Is Just Around The Corner

Pop-up greeting cards are about to get a whole lot more interesting. Researchers at Seoul National University in Korea have created glowing 3D objects with a series of prototypes that fold thin QLED (Quantum Dot LED) sheets like origami. They used a CO2 laser to etch “fold lines” in the QLED so the sheets could be formed into 3D shapes. The bends are actually rounded, but at 5μm they appear to be sharp corners and the panels continue to illuminate across the fold lines for at least 500 folds. Some glow in solid colors, while others use smaller addressable areas to create animated matrix displays of patterns and letterforms. See the short video after the break, read the Physics World article or to see all the prototypes and dig into details of the full research paper in Nature (freed from the paywall by SharedIt).

We’re not sure how soon this technique can be duplicated in our home labs, but we can’t wait to fold up our own 3D lights and matrices. Until then, check out some glowing origami you can make right now from [Charlyn Gonda] at Remoticon 2020 and earlier that year and this amazing origami lamp.

Continue reading “Illuminating Origami Is Just Around The Corner”

My Major Is Gaming…

Times have changed. You can now take a university class in writing games. In fact, YOU can now take a university class about writing games because [Dave Churchill] of Memorial University has put all 22 of his lectures up for your enjoyment. [Dr. Churchill] isn’t planning on releasing the assignment files, but you can still get a lot from watching the videos. Apparently, the classes were also live streamed on Twitch.

The games build on SFML so the resulting games can be portable. The library abstracts input, graphics, sound, and networking.

Continue reading “My Major Is Gaming…”

Grab A Stanford Computer Science Education

There are two reasons to go to school: learn about something and to get a coveted piece of paper that helps you get jobs, or at least, job interviews. With so many schools putting material online, you can do the first part without spending much money as long as you don’t expect the school to help you or grant you that piece of paper. Stanford has a huge computer science department and [Rui Ma] cataloged over 150 computer science classes available online in some form from the University. Just the thing to while away time during the quarantine.

Apparently, [Rui] grabbed the 2020 course catalog to find on-campus classes and found the companion website for each class, organizing them for our benefit. The list doesn’t include the actual online class offerings, which you can find directly from Stanford, although there is another list for that.

Continue reading “Grab A Stanford Computer Science Education”

Quadcopter With Stereo Vision

Flying a quadcopter or other drone can be pretty exciting, especially when using the video signal to do the flying. It’s almost like a real-life video game or flight simulator in a way, except the aircraft is physically real. To bring this experience even closer to the reality of flying, [Kevin] implemented stereo vision on his quadcopter which also adds an impressive amount of functionality to his drone.

While he doesn’t use this particular setup for drone racing or virtual reality, there are some other interesting things that [Kevin] is able to do with it. The cameras, both ESP32 camera modules, can make use of their combined stereo vision capability to determine distances to objects. By leveraging cloud computing services from Amazon to offload some of the processing demands, the quadcopter is able to recognize faces and keep the drone flying at a fixed distance from that face without needing power-hungry computing onboard.

There are a lot of other abilities that this drone unlocks by offloading its resource-hungry tasks to the cloud. It can be flown by using a smartphone or tablet, and has its own web client where its user can observe the facial recognition being performed. Presumably it wouldn’t be too difficult to use this drone for other tasks where having stereoscopic vision is a requirement.

Thanks to [Ilya Mikhelson], a professor at Northwestern University, for this tip about a student’s project.