4 Trends Light Up Photonics, Optics Show

EYE ON INNOVATION
More than 23,000 engineers, industrial designers, scientists, senior executives, and entrepreneurs from around the globe gathered this week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center for Photonics West, which is the world’s largest optics and photonics conference.

The event, sponsored and coordinated by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, was actually three conferences in one: BIOS, Bio-Optics and Biophotonics; LASE, Laser Sources and Lasers for Manufacturing; and OPTO, Optoelectronic Materials and Devices.

More than 23,000 attended Photonics West this week in San Francisco.

The event included nearly 5,000 presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and seminars over six days and featured more than 1,300 exhibitors, including Proto Labs.

Among a staggering range of subjects explored at the conference, four hot topics that were especially creating a buzz included advice for startup companies, the exploding virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) market, emerging automotive optic applications—especially for autonomous vehicles, and the continued promise of 3D printing. Continue reading

Automotive Tech Takes the Wheel at CES 2017

EYE ON INNOVATION

Take a stroll through CES 2017 and you might think you accidentally entered an auto show. As cars become venues for the latest tech, they’ve turned into centerpieces at the world’s largest consumer electronics showcase.

This year, auto manufacturers captivated attendees with demos of self-driving cars, high-performance electric vehicles, and even holographic dashboard displays. Here’s what caught our attention at the show.

The HoloActive Touch system uses reflections to produce a holographic interface.

BMW Makes Holographic Displays a Reality
Seeing new tech from BMW has become somewhat of a tradition at CES. This year was no different. Attendees were introduced to the HoloActive Touch system. It’s a free-floating, holographic display not unlike something you’d find in a “Star Wars” film. The user interface enables drivers to control the car’s functions without making physical contact with the vehicle.

A camera installed in the dashboard detects users’ movements and registers the position of their fingertips. When a fingertip makes contact with the virtual surface, a pulse is emitted and the function is activated. BMW has yet to announce a release date for the new dashboard concept, but its current gesture-controlled system will do for now. Continue reading

Med Device Conference to Showcase Advancements

EYE ON INNOVATION

Innovation drives successful companies, and med device and med tech firms are no exceptions. At Proto Labs, we’re proud to be a supplier for a number of these innovative companies and help them swiftly move medical and scientific advancements to the marketplace.

Proto Labs staffers Jenna Nyman, left, and Peter Douglass, right, met with industry professionals at last month’s Autodesk University conference in Las Vegas. We’ll be at BIOMEDevice next week in San Jose.

This med tech innovation will be on display next week (Dec. 7 and 8) at BIOMEDevice at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. We’ll be there, too, in booth #707. We invite you to swing by our booth and say hello.

The conference will bring together nearly 3,000 industry professionals and more than 300 med tech suppliers. Keynotes, workshops, and other sessions will explore a stunning variety of topics: cybernetic technology, biocompatibility testing, bio-absorbable polymers, Industrial Internet of Things, mobile health, FDA regulations, wireless medical devices, intellectual property regarding med device development, and more.

Proto Labs is providing custom-machined aluminum-joint housings for this powered exoskeleton.

We look forward to participating in this event, given that product developers at med tech companies turn to our prototyping and quick-turn production services to reduce design risk, accelerate development, and launch new products in less time.

A couple of recent examples of our med-related work include projects with Wicab, Inc., a Wisconsin company that’s developing and launching wearable technology for the blind; and the University of Houston, which is developing a powered exoskeleton (see prototype, pictured) that may help paraplegics walk again.

See you in San Jose!

Augmented Reality Emerges as a Tool for Engineering Design

EYE ON INNOVATION

Virtual reality (VR) may be garnering a lot of media buzz these days, but augmented reality (AR) is gaining traction as a technology that offers practical applications for engineers, designers, and technicians.

Big names are getting involved, too, including Microsoft and Autodesk, which have recently teamed up to pair Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 engineering design software.

Though still in the formative stages of development, AR-enhanced design software will help developers to visualize designs, view CAD model holograms, and see how new or replacement components and parts might fit on existing products. A recent article in Mechanical Engineering Magazine, for example, showed how AR allowed designers to visualize new motorcycle cladding and a fuel tank cover on an existing bike (see photo).

Photo: Mechanical Engineering Magazine

How does AR work?

Unlike VR, in which you put on glasses or a headset to fully immerse yourself in a virtual world, AR taps into technology to enhance the world around you. Also using glasses or a headset, AR dangles text, graphics, or video into users’ visual fields that describes, or augments, what they are looking at. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Self-Driving Tractor Harvests Interest from Ag Industry

The latest innovation in tractors for the modern farm “features everything but the farmer,” muses a recent headline in a story from Bloomberg News about an autonomous tractor concept from CNH Industrial.

“As Detroit carmakers and Silicon Valley tech giants vie to bring driverless cars to U.S. roads, one of the world’s largest tractor makers is looking to do the same down on the farm,” Bloomberg reports.

This self-driving tractor, a Case IH Magnum prototype model from CNH Industrial, was revealed for the first time last month at a farm equipment show in Iowa.
Photo: Wall Street Journal

At a farm equipment show in Iowa in September, CNH Industrial (Case IH/New Holland) revealed its Autonomous Concept Vehicle, which drew strong interest from those in attendance.

The cabless, self-driving tractor—a Case IH Magnum prototype model—is equipped with cameras, radar, and GPS, enabling farmers to remotely monitor planting and harvesting via computer or tablet from their homes, barns, fields, or pickup trucks. A second concept model, the New Holland T8 NH, includes a cab, so that the tractor can be operated either by a driver or in autonomous mode.

Continue reading