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Cold Sintering Process Saves Energy, Material

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media

Researchers at Penn State University (University Park, PA) have devised a novel method for sintering, a widely used manufacturing process for powdered materials. The new process, which uses much less time and energy than current approaches, could have global implications on manufacturing and energy savings and pave the way for new discoveries.

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Clive Randall (left), Penn State professor of materials science and engineering and director of Penn State’s Materials Research Institute, shows students materials made with a new cold sintering process. Image courtesy Penn State University

The Penn State cold sintering process created by a team led by Clive Randall, professor of materials science and engineering and director of Penn State’s Materials Research Institute, is a new take on sintering, a process through which powder-form materials are densified—or compressed—using heat and pressure. Sintering is used in manufacturing a wide variety of materials, including glass, metals, bricks and plastics.

Randall’s approach uses liquid to complete the sintering process at times and temperatures that are a fraction of current methods. Because the process is completed in minutes instead of hours, time and energy savings could result in huge productivity and cost gains for the manufacturing sector and could lead to far fewer greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing.

“What we’re doing is using a liquid in a dissolution process. It then works by an evaporation process,” Randall said. “That’s been done before but usually with phases that aren’t transient. What’s really important about this process is that this liquid is there and then it’s gone, and in the process of being there and gone, it’s capturing all the exchange and diffusional and growth processes that you need to drive the sintering.”

Since traditional sintering occurs over many hours at temperatures at about 1000˚ C and cold sintering takes place at temperatures from room temperature to 200˚ C, the process has opened the door for manufacturing materials that can’t sustain the higher temperatures of traditional sintering.

“The ability to incorporate new materials into that whole process and make new types of functionality and then finally to have a system where it’s basically densified in 20 minutes means that your through-put and your manufacturing yields could go up enormously,” Randall said. “This is great for manufacturing, it’s great for energy savings, it’s great for the environment and it’s now permitting new intellectual endeavors in making materials.”
This approach was described in a recent paper, entitled “Cold Sintering Process of Composites: Bridging the Processing Temperature Gap of Ceramic and Polymer Materials,” by Randall and his coauthors published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. For more information, see an abstract at http://tinyurl.com/ya65e5x7.

Innovation Hub Awards Promising Transportation Tech Programs

The University of Michigan’s (Ann Arbor, MI) Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) statewide Innovation Hub program has awarded seven advanced transportation technology projects. A number of projects are aimed at advanced technology in the manufacturing industry for the future.

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Will Horner and Chae Woo Lim, both undergraduate students on the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, work on the brakes for Novum, the team’s 14th solar car and entry into the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Horner and Lim are both studying mechanical engineering. Photo courtesy Evan Dougherty/Assistant Multimedia Editor, University of Michigan, College of Engineering

Seven technologies demonstrating high potential to help solve transportation issues are receiving a total of $600,000 in funding from the MTRAC program to continue their advancement into the commercial market. Five technologies will receive a $100,000 grant while two will receive $50,000, with the opportunity to unlock the remaining $50,000, after certain milestones are reached throughout the year.

“These teams have made the connection between their research and future transportation systems, and are working hard to get their technology to market,” said newly appointed U-M MTRAC Program Director Eric Petersen. “Investing in projects and people will help the state retain leadership in the transportation industry as vehicles become electrified and as autonomous systems are proposed for moving people and goods.

Projects receiving $100,000 in funding include:

  • High-Frequency RADAR for Automotive Autonomous Applications (U-M): A sub-millimeter-wave radar system with superior detection resolutions, wide-scanning range and minimal size, weight and power consumption.
  • High-Performance Coatings for Engine Cylinder Bores (Michigan State University): A process to deposit diamond-like coatings onto the inner surface of cylinder bores to reduce friction and resultant fuel consumption.
  • Multi-Material 3D Printing (U-M): A method which integrates electrical assemblies into components through micro-additive manufacturing.
  • Variable Coupling Wireless Power Transfer System (U-M): A wireless power transfer system that achieves high efficiency at a wide range of positions and distances between transmitter and receiver.
  • Your Own Planner (U-M): An optimal travel planning search engine producing lower costs at minimal effort for given constraints and preferences.

Projects receiving $50,000 in funding include:

  • Enhanced Object Recognition LIDARs for Robotics (U-M): A system to complement the distance ranging of LIDARs with fast and accurate object recognition, which will enable LIDAR point clouds to be efficiently translated into object semantics.
  • Sensor Fusion and Cognitive Computing Solution for Autonomous Driving (U-M): A reduced computing power system that converts raw sensor inputs into highly compressed “cues” to enhance the accuracy of real-time decision making tasks such as trajectory prediction and multi-object tracking.

Since 2012, U-M has been running the MTRAC Advanced Transportation program. Over the course of five years, the program received 47 project proposals, funding 17 of them generating a total of nearly $8 million in follow-on funding.

U-M is one of four universities with an MTRAC program, joining Michigan State University, Michigan Technical University, and Wayne State University. Each university focuses on a different industry, including agriculture biology, advanced applied materials, life sciences, advanced transportation and biomedical.

Due to the program’s success, U-M was designated a statewide innovation hub for advanced transportation projects in February 2017. The Advanced Transportation Innovation Hub is part of a statewide initiative, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)’s Entrepreneur and Innovation initiative, funding translational research and accelerating the creation and transfer of new technologies from institutions of higher education, hospital systems and nonprofit research centers. Technologies can be from research settings to practical real-world applications. The U-M Innovation Hub is run jointly with the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) and the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT).

“Having this many projects qualify for funding is an incredible sign that the program is working and an excellent representation of the type of intellectual talent we have in our universities across the state,” said Denise Graves, University Relations Director at MEDC. “Being able to move transportation technologies from research to market is essential in growing Michigan’s economy. Combining our state’s brainpower with resources like MTRAC is a great example of providing commercial focus to research projects that can be translated into real world products.”

In collaboration with the host universities, supported by the Michigan Strategic Fund and managed by the MEDC Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative, MTRAC programs to-date have funded 138 projects, helped develop 19 startup companies, created 61 jobs, secured $76.4 million in follow-on funding, and licensed technology to 12 industry partners. Funding for the U-M Innovation Hub projects begins August 1, 2017 and runs through July 31, 2018.

The statewide U-M MTRAC Innovation Hub Transportation program will accept new applications beginning in January 2018.

Drone Maker Launches New Crowdfunding Stock Offer

Duke Robotics Inc. (Gulf Breeze, FL), developer of advanced robotic systems technology, announced that it’s offering of up to $15 Million of common stock has been qualified by the SEC under Tier II of Regulation A+, available to the public for as little as $450.

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The Duke Robotics unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) armed drone is said to be capable of firing small arms with proprietary stabilization technology to control recoil, enabling precise shooting accuracy.
Image courtesy Duke Robotics Inc.

Winner of the prestigious Security Innovation Award from the US Department of Defense Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), Duke Robotics’ Regulation A+ equity crowdfunding offering provides the general public—to accredited and non-accredited investors alike—with an opportunity to invest in new robotic and drone technology developed in Israel.

Duke’s management believes the company’s developments are game-changing, with significant growth potential, in the robotics industry today. With the company’s mission to save lives and to empower troops with immediate aerial support, Duke Robotics developed the TIKAD—a fully robotic weaponry system on an airborne platform, referred to as “The Future Soldier” drone system. The high-powered TIKAD is remotely operated, user-friendly, easily carried into the field, and is capable of carrying various weapon payloads.

With a proprietary stabilization technology, the TIKAD can absorb the recoil of its weapons, allowing for pinpoint targeting and shooting accuracy that can protect troops in a variety of dangerous situations. The company claims the technology can reduce the number of deployed ground troops, thereby reducing the number of casualties.

“As a former Special Mission Unit commander, I have been in the battlefield for many years,” Raziel Atuar, Duke Robotics CEO, said in a statement. “Over the last few years, we have seen how the needs of our troops in our battlefield has changed.”
The company’s TIKAD technology is said to enable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology to replace troops as classic army versus army confrontations on the battlefield have become increasingly rare, with guerrilla warfare now commonplace. Executives at Duke Robotics say the use of UAVs to fire small arms from the air has not been a viable option—until now.

“When terrorists operate, they operate from within the civilian population—preventing the military from shooting a missile into their targeted area,” said Atuar. “The risk of collateral damage to innocent civilians is often too high. The primary solution you are left with is sending in ground troops—but this shifts the risk to your troops, which often leads to injuries and casualties. But, we thought, ‘what if…what if there was a better way’. So we created the solution—the TIKAD.”

To learn more about Duke Robotics’ Regulation A+ Equity Crowdfunding, see DukeFutureSoldier.com.

Tech Front is edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak.

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