CASE STUDY: Brain-Machine Robotics System May Help Paraplegics Walk Again

Proto Labs is helping researchers at the University of Houston move a science fiction concept to a real-world application that may help paraplegics walk again.

A University of Houston research lab is developing a powered exoskeleton that will be part of a futuristic brain-machine robotics system. Proto Labs is helping by providing custom-machined aluminum-joint housings.

Photo Courtesy: University of Houston

A multidisciplinary research team that includes engineers, neuroscientists, health professionals, and students is working to create, from scratch, a powered wearable robotic device that allows those with lower-limb paralysis from spinal injury, disease, or stroke to regain mobility without a walker or canes.

A sci-fi element lives on in the project, which is taking place at the university’s Laboratory for Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems. As the lab’s futuristic name suggests, the ultimate goal is to allow users to control the exoskeleton—commanding it to go forward or backward, to turn, sit, or stand—using their thoughts instead of a joystick, switches, or external operator typical of other devices.

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Q&A: Rapid Manufacturing Fit for High-Speed Bike Design

Every year, cyclists converge in Battle Mountain, Nevada in pursuit of achieving speed records at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC). The competition is a mix of athletic performance, engineering and a seemingly endless number of variables. This past fall, Teagan Patterson, a Battle Mountain native and high-speed bicyclist, teamed up with Eric Ware and Mark Anderson to design a bicycle capable of capturing the world record — and her lifelong dream. 

Mark and Eric are veterans of the WHPSC having raced in 2009 with their vehicle, the Wedge, and reaching speeds above 70 mph — good for the eighth fastest time in the world and third fastest in American cycling history.

Drawing from their previous success, they worked with Teagan in preparation for the 2015 WHPSC, where they would try for another record.

Eric Ware knew Proto Labs from his day job as a mechanical engineer, so he decided to call us up for some machined parts for the bicycle design. In this Q&A, Ware gives a look behind-the-scenes at his team’s project.

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WEBINAR: Rapid Manufacturing Methods for Plastic Parts

Tony Holtz, Tech Specialist.

You’re invited to join Proto Labs’ live webinar presentation on rapid manufacturing. The free webinar will be hosted by our technical specialist Tony Holtz and last around 45 minutes with a Q+A to follow.

You’ll hear about the different industrial 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding processes at Proto Labs, and learn which one is best suited for your next project, based on the project’s material requirements, quantities and lead times.

TITLE: Choosing the Right Rapid Manufacturing Method for Plastic Parts

DATE: Thursday, April 21 at 1 p.m. CDT

REGISTER:
http://event.on24.com/wcc/r/1158589/3BE5D1B5A337F26F67DEE106F834E163

Unable to attend? Register anyway and we’ll email you the recording afterward!

6 Ways to Cut Machining Costs

The left image illustrates resulting corner radii from milling. Consider adding reliefs to sharp corners (right image) to improve fit.

Machining gets a bit more complex every year, and as a result, it can be challenging to keep pace with the do’s and don’ts of part design. But lowering the cost of machined parts while improving functionality can still be achieved by a few relatively simple adjustments to your part design or material selection.

Small tool diameters add machining time so consider removing text or logos from machined prototypes.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • Machining corner holes
  • Deburring edges
  • Avoiding unnecessary text
  • Keeping an eye on thin features
  • Reducing part complexity
  • Selecting material alternatives

READ FULL DESIGN TIP.

TIPS WITH TONY: Prototyping with Soft Metals

Soft metals — aluminum, magnesium, brass, copper — are available in different grades at Proto Labs depending on the 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding service chosen. Quantities range from 1 to 5,000+ parts in 1 to 15 business days.

Aluminum engine bracket 3D printed through DMLS.

Aluminum
At Proto Labs, we use the industrial 3D printing process of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to build parts from soft (and hard) materials like aluminum.

DMLS-built aluminum provides parts with excellent strength-to-weight ratios, temperature and corrosion resistance, and provides good tensile, fatigue creep and rupture strength. With a tensile strength of 37.7 ksi (260 MPa) and a hardness of 47.2 HRB, for example, you are able to have parts produced in nearly any part geometry with features like internal channels or complex undercuts that can’t be manufactured through any other method. And, final parts are still up to 98% dense.

You can also get aluminum parts using CNC machining in 6061 and 7075 grades. 6061 can provide you with improved corrosion resistance and can be welded while 7075 provides you a part that has a higher tensile strength and is harder than 6061.

Do you need a prototype of an aluminum die-cast part? We can mimic aluminum die casting using our stereolithography (SL) process and SLArmor technology. SLArmor uses our DSM Somos (NanoTool) material, applying a nickel metal coating that gives the look and feel of metal without the added strength or weight.

 

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