DipJar Puts New Twist on Cashless Tipping

DipJar, a startup with offices in New York City and Boston, digitizes the all too familiar tip jar found at many coffee shops and restaurants. It allows credit and debit card users to leave a tip with a simple swipe of their card, providing service employees with yet another opportunity to collect that well-deserved gratuity.

DipJar lets coffee shop patrons leave quick and easy tips in a single swipe.

At a business where a DipJar is present, customers simply “dip” or insert their card into the device to leave a tip in an amount set by the establishment. The DipJar, which houses a card reader, circuitry and software to complete the cloud-based transaction, displays the amount tipped and makes a “change clinking” sound to notify employees of the payment. DipJar also is positioning the device as a way for charitable organizations to collect donations.

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Bounce Imaging Develops Tactical Ball for First Responders with Rapid Manufacturing

Simply tossing a ball can make dangerous places safer for police, firefighters and other first responders — if that ball is the Explorer, a smartphone-enabled camera tucked inside a baseball-sized shell, developed by a Boston startup, Bounce Imaging.

Once the patented ball is rolled around a corner or down a darkened corridor, its six-eyed camera snaps images every half second in every direction until the ball comes to a stop. An image-processing algorithm in Bounce Imaging’s app assembles the images into a panoramic view for display on a mobile Android or iOS device.

Law enforcement can roll the tactical ball into unknown places to stream to live feedback.

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Making the Steering Wheel Work

TRW Automotive’s clock spring design.

Most days drivers don’t give much thought to what happens when you press a steering wheel button. But it has been at the forefront of Rick Bowes’ mind for quite a while. Bowes is a designer in the body control systems group at Michigan-based TRW Automotive. The global company focuses on active and passive safety systems and has worked with Proto Labs for the past five years.   Continue reading

Doubling Down on Solar

Arun Gupta is the founder of Skyven Technologies, a Texas-based company that has developed a co-generating solar panel system that promises an efficient way to generate electricity and heat water.

The Skyven Cogen System brings together traditional solar photovoltaic, concentrating photovoltaic and solar water heating technologies, Gupta says, incorporating the best technologies that have emerged from the billions of dollars and decades of study that already have gone into solar energy.

Installed on a commercial rooftop, the system will produce 50 percent more electricity that will cost 20 percent less than a traditional photovoltaic system, he says. The installed cost of solar water heating with Skyven’s system is 40 percent less than with traditional technology.

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Kinetic Charger for Smartphones Brings New Meaning to Mobile

AMPY is an innovative kinetic charger that captures a person’s movement and converts it to charge for their mobile device. Tejas Shastry, Mike Geier and Alex Smith began developing the device in 2013 as students in an entrepreneurial class at Northwestern. They worked through dozens of prototype iterations involving 3D printed parts while fine-tuning its patent-pending, proprietary linear inductor. The user’s motion drives a magnet and coil system that generates electricity, which goes into a lithium ion battery for storage. Plug an iPhone, Android phone or other wearable device into AMPY’s USB port to begin charging.

The team at AMPY entered and won Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award, a service grant that will be used towards internal thermoplastic bobbins in the device. AMPY is now pilot testing with consumers while accepting online preorders at getampy.com for market-ready devices that are slated to ship in July 2015. Read our full case study on the development of AMPY.