EYE ON INNOVATION: New Fridge Keeps Cool Without Electricity

A new powerless refrigerator uses evaporation to keep food cool and prevent items from spoiling.

Students from the University of Calgary put a new spin on refrigeration.

Great news for your next camping trip, yes, but even greater news for those parts of the world that are deprived of reliable electricity sources. As reported by Wonderfulengineering.com, for those who live in these regions, refrigeration isn’t just a way to preserve favorite foods, “it is a matter of survival itself…”

The idea for the electricity-free fridge recently captured first place in the Biomimicry Global Design Competition, sponsored by Montana-based Biomimicry Institute, which challenged students and researchers worldwide to develop nature-inspired products that address critical sustainability issues. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION [Halloween Edition]: Surviving Zombies; Plus, Proto Labs’ Zombies

Nothing says Halloween like zombies. As a result, on this Halloween weekend, our Eye on Innovation features a column from the SolidWorks Simulation blog with the scary yet reassuring premise and title, “How an Engineer Survives a Zombie Apocalypse.”

Originally published last year by Desktop Engineering, the blog post offers engineering advice for zombie-proofing your house. As a SolidWorks Simulation, it leads readers through a step-by-step process to board up doors and windows just in case “the undead are stumbling over the horizon” toward your house on the day your car doesn’t start. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool G-RO Luggage Likely to Go Places

“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ sign…please make sure you’ve stowed your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin.”

That’s an easy request if you’re traveling with the new G-RO carry-on luggage, which is set to reach the market next summer. Its size is compliant with TSA, FAA, airline and international travel regs.

Photo By: New York Post

But we like it because of its smart product design.

Developed by New York-based Shalgi Design Studio, this luggage is well thought out, and includes uncommon features such as patented, large, low-mass “all-terrain” wheels; a strong, ballistic nylon overall material for the case; a charging station with two USB ports to charge your laptop, tablet and smartphone simultaneously; a location tracker and proximity detector; a built-in tablet stand; and even a waterproof bottom. Continue reading

Proto Labs Boosts Trinity University Research Project for NASA

A team of university students in engineering science recently turned to Proto Labs to manufacture metal parts for a research challenge project the group was working on for NASA.

The project centered on designing, building and testing an asteroid-sample retrieval and containment device for a simulated space mission. Heady stuff for the four first-year students at San Antonio-based Trinity University: Mel Du, Tanner Peterson, Davis Owen and Samy Abdallah.

Mel Du, left, Trinity University student, posed for a photo with Stan Love, right, NASA astronaut, who is holding the SHARC device.

The team had churned out several prototypes on a university-owned, production-model, fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer. But, as Mel Du concluded, those 3D-printed plastic (ABS) parts would not be strong enough for actual use in space or even in NASA’s testing phase of the device. The retrieval device is basically a hand tool for astronauts to use.

Du and his team turned to Proto Labs’ industrial-grade prototyping. Proto Labs fabricated several SLS and machined parts for the students’ device, which they had dubbed the SHARC—Sampling Hardware for Asteroid Retrieval and Containment. These parts included retention pins, retention pin covers, a right arm for the device, a slide, a plate and handguard with a tether loop.

The testing occurred this past June in the simulated microgravity environment of the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (a giant swimming pool) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The testing was part of NASA’s Microgravity University. The SHARC worked well throughout all of the testing.

Read more details about how Proto Labs helped NASA and Trinity University in our latest case study.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Travel Light with Silicone Drinkware

If you’re a camper or day hiker, you’re constantly on the lookout for ultra-light gear for the trail. Add these silicone drinking cups to your pack list.

Photo: Werd.com

They look just like glass, but are unbreakable, won’t weigh down your pack and, yes, they’re made out of silicone.

Portland, Ore.-based outdoor gear manufacturer and outfitter Snow Peak offers these safe, food-grade cups that are, as Werd.com comments on its website, quite versatile: “Hot tea, cold whiskey, they can handle it all.” These cups are available in various sizes, including a highball glass, stemless wine tumbler and rocks glass. Founded in 1958 by Japanese mountaineer Yukio Yamai, Snow Peak strives to, as its website states, “create products that inspire people to enjoy the outdoors, [seeking] harmony between people and nature.”

At Proto Labs, we’re familiar of course with silicone parts and products, because we offer our own quick-turn liquid silicone rubber (LSR) molding process, which can produce various durometers of standard, medical-grade and optically clear silicone parts and products, much like these drinking cups.

Price range for Snow Peak’s cups: $25 to $27.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at cool technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.