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In the last couple of months, Nasa has been preparing to venture back to the moon for first time in over 40 years, dishing out contracts worth billions to the titans of aerospace. The program, called the Artemis Program, is hoping to occupy the moon for a longer period of time, potentially setting up for future missions into the further reaches of our solar system. Nasa predicts a preliminary landing date for as early as 2024.

Lately, they’ve started looking into a series of concept vehicles to better prepare scientist to traverse the lunar surface and train them to go beyond it. One of these concept vehicles, named Intrepid, is a robotic lunar lander designed by Arizona State University and First Mode, an engineering firm based in Seattle.

Researchers expect the lunar lander to be able to travel upwards of 1000 miles on the surface over the course of its life time, during which it will be collecting lots of potentially valuable scientific data from various locations like rock formations, relatively young craters and volcanoes. Scientist hope to gain a better understanding of the moon and more importantly the universe by study these locations’ physical properties, environment, composition and local magnetic fields.

This program would also serve as a test to ascertain what technologies and improvement would be need to properly traverse and probe mars, mainly focusing on dust reduction and radiation.

After months of research, the team of scientists will hand over their preliminary findings to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who will then construct a mission architecture and estimated cost based off of the findings and considerations.

Still interested in the technology it takes to get to the moon? Find out about 7 innovations that arose from the Apollo Program.

A drone capable of installing roof shingles has recently been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan. Using its eight separate rotors, the autonomous craft is able to precisely target a specific nailing point and trigger the mounted nail gun, all without any human interaction.

Equipped with a nail gun and a series of stationary cameras and markers, the drone is able to accurately establish his location and determine the current position for the nail. The team also developed the software used to fire the nail gun. A big challenge surrounding the software was figuring out how much pressure is needed to depress the nail gun muzzle. In order to prevent accidental firing, most nail guns require the user to apply pressure to the nail gun muzzle, so the team had to work around this safety feature while still upholding the drones stability. 

The drone is still in it’s prototyping phase as there are many limitation that face the current model. One key drawback is that the drone actually works slower than an average human roofer. Another constraint is the limited flight time. Since the drone is battery powered and the hardware and nail gun both require a hefty amount of power to operate, the drone has short flight time of 10 minutes. According to Researchers, a tether providing power to the drone could allow it to operate continually.

Roofing is a dangerous, dirty and tedious job. Automated roof installation could help remove humans from this harmful job and maybe in the future, this technology could even be applied to a variety of maintenance tasks for bridges, cell towers or even wind turbines.

Want to learn more about the latest in drone technology? Check out Yates Electrospace Corp’s new Delivery Drone.


The Brayton cycle is a thermodynamic process that occurs in jet engines and all other gas turbine engines too. It describes how the engine is able to produce work through heat and energy. In the case of the jet engine, the work generated in a propulsive thrust 

When analyzing the thermodynamic processes inside an engine, engineers usually divide the engine based off the major thermodynamic processes like compression, combustion and expansion. Below is a simplified schematic of an engine, with each divided segment labeled with a station number.

Image result for jet engine diagram stations

As the air enters the inlet and moves from station 0 to 1, the air is compressed. The compression process should preferably  be adiabatic, meaning heat neither enters nor leaves during the process and isentropic, meaning entropy remains the same throughout the process. While in the compressor, the temperature and pressure of the air raises.

While keeping the pressure constant, as the air moves through the combustor from station 1 to 2, fuel is added to the flow. The newly introduced fuel is then combusted, increasing the temperature further. 

The gas then begins to expand as it enters the turbine and moves from station 2 to 3. During this expansion, work is done on the turbine. This work is then transferred through a shaft to both the compressor and the nozzle, producing thrust and accelerating the engine forward.

The diagram above depicts an ideal Brayton cycle. In reality, the processes characterize as isentropic or adiabatic are not perfectly fixed in heat or entropy. Instead of vertical or horizontal lines in the ideal Brayton cycle, jet engines usually result in slanted lines. Although they’re not completely the same, the Brayton cycle is still valuable for evaluating a jet engine as they are still very similar.

Engine efficiency

A critical part of designing a jet engine is assessing and gauging how efficient it is. The more efficient an engine is, the less fuel it needs to consume to create thrust. 

Jet engine efficiency is usually defined as the ration between propulsive power and fuel power.

In the above equation for overall efficiency, T is thrust, U0 is the flight velocity, mf is the flow rate of the fuel mass and hf is the specific fuel energy per unit mass. Overall efficiency can also be calculated by taking the product of two different specific efficiencies, thermal and propulsive efficiency.

Thermal efficiency

The thermal or internal efficiency of an engine is the efficiency at which it can convert fuel into kinetic energy. It’s often written as the ration between fuel power and the rate at which kinetic energy is produced.

In the above equation, me is the flow rate of the exhaust mass and Ue is the exhaust velocity.

Jet engines with higher temperatures and pressure ratios have a higher thermal efficiency. The thermal efficiency is often limited by the materials used in the jet engine. The higher the temperature, the more stress the materials have to withstand without melting or mechanically failing.

The temperature in most combustors can reach up to 2,300° C. For comparison, the surface of the sun is around 5,600° C. In order to handle this temperature without melting, the jet engines made by Rolls-Royce use a special nickel alloy coated with a thin layer of ceramic, but even with this special high-temperature-resistant plating the combustion chamber would still melt. To avoid this, a series of laser-driller holes helps funnel cooler air from the compressor to cool the combustion chamber. 

Propulsive efficiency

The propulsive, or external efficiency of an engine is the efficiency at which an engine can convert kinetic energy to propulsive thrust. To have a high propulsive efficiency, engines must have a propelling mechanism that depletes very little energy during the conversion process. It’s often described as the ratio between the production rate of propulsive kinetic energy and the propulsive power.

In order to maximize propulsive efficiency, the engine needs a configuration that produces a large thrust, while still maintaining the smallest change in velocity across the engine. To accomplish this, the engine must be able to move a large volume of air. An engine with a lower flight velocity than its exhaust velocity will waste energy, producing a low propulsive efficiency. 

The speed of the jet also has an effect on the propulsive efficiency. When a high velocity jet exhaust enters a low velocity airstream, a lot of energy is lost. At low speeds, a turbojet is not very efficient. Using a configuration called a turboprop to drive a propeller is much more efficient use of the work produced by a jet
engine. This advantage begins to diminish at around 400 mph as the blades reach supersonic speeds. At these
speeds, the blades begin to create shock waves, reducing the efficiency. 

A turbofan engine has the advantages of both a turbojet and a turboprop, providing better propulsive efficiency at both low and high airspeeds. Using more machinery and only slightly more fuel, the turbofan is able to move a much larger volume of air and generate more thrust compared to the turbojet. 


Industry, Innovation

Due to cutting edge technologies that would have resembled something from science fiction to early astronauts, landing humans on another planet may be closer to a reality than we think. NASA has stated that it has plans for a manned mission to Mars, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done and questions that need to be answered to accomplish this feat. These questions aren’t just about how to get there, but more importantly how to live there. NASA believes that 3D printing could be crucial to our success in creating Mars Colony and here’s why.


One of the most important things the astronauts are going to have to build for themselves once they arrive is shelter. Earlier this year, AI Space Factory was award $500,000 by NASA for their design of a structure that could be 3D printed from basalt,   a natural volcanic rock found in abundance on the surface of Mars. When extracted and mixed with a renewable bioplastic obtained from plants in a hydroponic garden, the rock can create a 3D printing filament similar to polylactic acid. The resulting structure would be able to provide protection for all sorts of natural environmental dangers on Mars like violent dust storms, harsh temperature swings, and extreme radiation.


After constructing your 3D printed house, you’ll need to make sure you have a consistent food source. You’ll be able to obtain some nutrients from the hydroponic garden mentioned above, but that won’t be enough to meet all your nutritional needs. Packing enough food and keeping that food fresh for the 32 month space trip and the subsequent years on Mars is an unrealistic task and the dry arid environment of Mars won’t help this problem any further. 3D printing food is still in it’s early stages of development, but with the right advancements, it could be a potential solution to this food shortage issue. Currently, researchers have only been able to create small chocolates and candies, but hopefully in the future, they’ll be able to print a whole meal, helping astronauts get the nutrients they need for their lengthy space trip.


In order for this Mars mission to be a success, We need to plan for any kind of accident or sickness that could arise. Bioprinting has seen some huge growth in the recent years. With bioprinting, astronauts would be able to us bioinks to 3D print artificial organs and other body parts. Currently, researchers are trying to perfect this equipment for us in a low gravity environment.  They’re hoping to be able to replicate everything from skin tissue to bone cartilage. In addition to bioprinting, 3D printing could offer another medical advantage in printing specific medicine or prescription. 


Creating a colony on Mars would take a lot of equipment and that equipment is bound to break, especially on the rough terrain of Mars. This is where additive manufacturing could help out. It wouldn’t seem all too likely for the early stages of the colony, but further down the road it would make sense to bring 3D printers capable of printing with different types of materials and printing in different atmospheric conditions to Mars. These printers could use the planet’s natural resources to print a variety and help solve a lot of spare part and maintenance problems.

Problem Solving 

Regardless of which additive technology you’re using, weather it be additive construction, bioprinting or additive manufacturing, 3D printers are, at their core tools for solving problems. Many companies today have started using these wonderful machines to solve countless problems, like Pfizer Corporation, a pharmaceutical lab in Connecticut. They used their 3D printer for many different uses like creating a fish-food dispenser to help mix the proper amount of fish with the drug they were testing, test tube holders to hold them in specific orientations, a tablet for counting pills that was easier to use the previous tablet they had. They were able to solve problems and make improvements to situations that normally they would have to just accept. Being able to do this on Mars with the hydroponic gardens or rovers would be an incredible tool and there’s no doubt that 3D printing will be insanely valuable to a Mars Colony. 

Wanna find out more about the latest in 3D printers? Learn about how S-Squared 3D Printers made a 500 square foot house using additive construction.


S-Squared 3D printers started out as a desktop 3D printer manufacturing company in 2014. While the company still continues to produce and sell its AFP-1728 and AFP-512 models, shipping about one each month, they recently starting looking into bringing additive manufacturing to the world of construction.

“We met with one of our current partners who wanted to, as we sometimes describe it, spit out a house. We wanted to scale up full force with it.”

Anderson is confident in his teams ability to undertake this additive construction feat. He believes his team has both the construction and engineering skills necessary to solve such a challenging problem. Running a remodeling and construction company for the past 10 years, Andersen has been able to gain valuable construction experience as a contractor. Likewise, James Michel has built over a thousand units over the past 15 years as a residential and commercial contractor. On the engineering side of things, Robert Smith, the co-owner of the company, has built many CNC machines and even developed the company’s original desktop 3D printers. Mario Szczepanski, longtime friend of Robert Smith, has been an engineer for over 35 years, dealing with mechanical, optical and electrical systems.

Switching from printing small plastic to printing a 500 square foot house is no easy task. The main problem is that the plastic components used in 3D printing are incapable of generating a structure of that size in a timely manner. “The entire machine is made out of aluminum and stainless-steel construction,” Andersen stated. “We’re using very accurate parts, linear rails. We’ve developed our own gear ratios to hold up the large gantry.”

SQ3D recently filled a patent for their Autonomous Robotic Construction System. Anderson wasn’t able to go into all the details behind the extruder and cement mixture, due to the proprietary nature of the technology, but he was able to state that they weren’t able to manually mix the cement due to the large quantity and reactivity of the mixture, so they had to use a large volumetric mixer. They also had to modify the cement pump being used too.

The key to additive construction is creating the perfect cement mixture. That’s why SQ3D developed their own mix, to ensure that they got the right drying speed and flowing rate for the mixture. Too fast of a flow rate or too slow of dry time makes it harder for the cement to support the following layers.

Instead of printing the walls and other elements off site and then assembling them on location, like the largest additive construction company WinSun does, SQ3D is concentrating of generating the whole structure at the construction location. After developing its own slicing software, SQ3D is able to create a printable tool path code from a 3D model.  Due to the different printing properties of cement and the industrial scale of the machine, a completely unique and new extruding process was required for the ARCS.

Long Island’s First Fully 3D Printed House 

The structure generated in Long Island is far from being called a “home”. There were no plans for anyone to actually live in it and the structure was already demolished by SQ3D. The structure was a test run for the ARCS to see how well the cement would layer and if the building would hold together once finished and it was a huge success. Not only did the building withstand compression tests of over 6,000 PSI, which is double the amount required for residential houses, it’s also the largest structure the firm has produced. Furthermore, since the concrete is sealed, the structures produced by the ARCS are both fireproof and waterproof.

Since we’re still in the early stages of additive construction, there has yet to be any common place standards put into place for the industry. According to Andersen, we should see some standards being introduced within the next two years and he hopes SQ3D plays some part in the process. Andersen added that they aim to get a trademark for their material infill pattern, which can have a considerable effect on the structural integrity of a 3D printed structure or object.

Automating the Construction Process

Having successfully 3D printed a house, SQ3D is going to be focusing its efforts on automating the construction process further. With the printing process itself already almost completely automated, the company plans to automate the mixing process for the cement next. The firm plans to do this by using integrated sensor in a silo with pump attached to it.

SQ3D believes that additive construction could not only make homes stronger while also using fewer materials, but it could also result in fewer work related injuries and fatalities. By automating the construction process, you could remove the need to have to put workers in danger by only requiring a handful of engineers to oversee the process. “Worldwide, about 3,800 deaths and about 700,000 injuries occur annually in the construction field,” Andersen said. “Those are real lives being affected. Having this whole process automated could prevent .”

Beside furthering the automation process, SQ3D plans to look into different reinforcement techniques, like adding fibers to the concrete to help support it. Down the line, the company is also interested in looking into geopolymers to be used in place of concrete. The reason they want to get rid of concrete all together is because concrete production accounts for 8 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. To put that in prospective, if it were a country, concrete would be the third largest contributor of CO2 emissions right behind China and the United States.

Guinness World Records is currently assessing the 3D printed home to conclude if the structure is truly the largest building 3D printed on site, but SQ3d has already begun working on an even bigger project. They’re next test is going to be a 1,800 square foot permitted home, which Andersen stated is definitely going to “shatter any 3D printing records.”

Wanna learn more about the latest in 3D printing? Find out what researchers at Ames Laboratory were able to accomplish with additive manufacturing. 

The Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University have partnered together to create a new method to print metal traces of softer materials. The researchers were able to recreate this method multiple times on jello and even on delicate materials like rose petals.

Through undercooled metal technology, the Engineers were able to create this monumental step forward in 3D printing by using microscopic oxide shells that trap the liquid metal below its melting point. In order to fill these infinitesimally small shells, which are only about 10 microns in diameter, the researchers used a tungsten microprobe. When cracked, by ether dissolving them with chemicals or using mechanical pressure, the metal trickles out and solidifies, creating a line of conductive metal.

The metal used inside these tiny capsules is a Field’s Alloy composed of bismuth, indium, and tin. Through vigorous testing, the researchers found that these capsule have been able to create a conductive line on almost everything, from a hard slab of concrete to a small delicate leaf.

The research team believes that this technology could have some astonishing applications in the future, like sensors that monitor crops performance, building integrity or even medical conditions. Some recent tests made by the team of engineers include a remote control created on a piece of paper, electrical contacts for solar cells and a successfully printing on a model of a human brain. Elon Musk’s latest venture, Neuralink, may have some competition when it comes to its brain sewing machine.

What originally began as a teaching exercise three years ago has grown into a fully fledged project, with researchers eagerly trying to figure out the limits of this technology and what to print it on next. Their next big tests they’re planning to print on are ice cubes and biological tissues, with he later hopefully being less crucial tissue.

Wanna learn more about the latest in 3D printing? Find out how S-Squared 3D printers 3D printed a 500 square foot house using additive construction.


Industry, Innovation
The Electronics Research Laboratory or ERL was founded by Volkswagen in Belmont, California to function as the company’s center for research and innovation.  When it first started in 1988, it had only three employees, but over the years it has expanded to over 180 different employees from engineers to product designers and recently it has invested in generative design software.

Earlier this Month, Volkswagen renamed the ERL to the IECC and gave it a new purpose. The also revealed a brief look at some potential technologies that you could expect from them. The IECC or the Innovation and Engineering Center California is going to be one of the largest Volkswagen research facilities outside of Germany.

There are two divisions within the IECC. There is the ICC for innovation which focuses on research and pre-development and the ECC for engineering which focuses on self-driving and connected car technologies.

To give an idea of what’s on the horizon for the IECC, Volkswagen revealed their Type 20 Concept Vehicle which combines elements from their past with cutting edge technologies. The design for the Type 20 is based on their famous 1962 Microbus. From this base they added an assortment of technologies that are still in development, like holographic infotainment, battery-electric vehicle drivetrain, biometric driver identification and a special custom suspension, created in partnership with Porsche, that can automatically correct drive height. They also used generative design, an AI design program that limits the weight of the car, while also magnifying the strength of car components.

Volkswagen was able to make some exotic, fascinating and powerful components with Autodesk’s generative design software called Fusion 360. Using this technology, they were able to re-conceptualize  their seat brackets, mirror mounts, and steering wheel.  In addition to Volkswagen, engineers at NASA and General Motors currently utilize this bleeding edge technology too.

Generative design is a process that starts with an engineer inputting a set of parameters like goals, specifications, materials, manufacturing process and cost. The AI then creates numerous designs concurrently based on physical real world constraints and requirements. Through generative design, Volkswagen is able to generate structures that their human engineers and designers couldn’t envision or formulate


Octinion, a robotics engineering company located in Belgium has recently created a robot capable of picking strawberries. It was created to help farmers with the recent worker shortages they are suffering from. 

According the Octinion, in the same amount of time it takes a normal human strawberry picker to pick about 100 lb of strawberries, Rubion, the strawberry picking robot can pick nearly 800 lbs. Rubion is able to accomplish this feat through a pre-programmed dataset in its internal RGB camera and a photonic sensor which lets it recognize and distinguish different wave lengths and from those wave lengths, it can determine if the strawberry is ripe or not. Once the robot decides the berry is ripe, it carefully picks the berry using a soft gripper. It then sorts the berry based on its weight and size. This whole process is quickly executed within five seconds called the five-second picking cycle

“Just like you know what a plump, juicy red strawberry looks like, Rubion can do this mathematically,” says Dr. Jan Anthonis, the CTO of Octinion”looking for the infrared spectroscopic heat signatures given off from a perfect fruit, getting a perfect ‘hit’ every time,”

Strawberries and other fragile and soft fruits are tough to automate because not only does the robot need to be capable of determining between under ripe, over rip and rip fruit, the robot also needs to handle it delicately due to easy bruising. Rubion is proficient in locating, gathering and storing the strawberries all without damaging them.

Automation Technologies like Rubion are gaining popularity fast due to labor shortages in the agriculture industry around the world. Many farms don’t have enough workers to pick all their fruits or vegetables so the remaining produce is usually left to rot. There have been many other attempts from different robotics engineering companies at automatic produce harvest like a robot that can pick 25,000 raspberries in a single day, a robot that harvests apples automatically using suctions and a robot that can cut and harvest lettuce. Likewise, rice farmers in Japan are starting to use robotic ducks to diminish weed growth and pesticides in rice fields 


Up until now, Ice Berg lettuce has been a tough crop to automatically collect, but engineers at the University of Cambridge have created a new robot, called Vegebot that harvests lettuce using a machine learning algorithm. According to The Journal of Field Robotics, what originally started as a proof of concept lab test has now advanced to a full fledge machine that has been consistently and successfully picking lettuce in an assortment of different fields.

The Vegebot has a computer vision system built into it and using its overhead camera, it can identify the head of lettuce and determine whether the lettuce is still growing, ready to harvest or diseased. After the Vegebot determines that the lettuce is ready to harvest, a second camera is used to guide a Universal Robots UR10 arm with a blade anchored to it to cut the head. A gripper or end effector is then used to collect the harvested lettuce from the ground.

While this prototype was success in picking the lettuce, researchers admitted that this process currently takes more time and is less efficient that using human workers and still needs a lot of work. Harvesting lettuce automatically is an arduous problem to solve because the heads grow low to the ground making it difficult to cut and they can be easily damaged during handling.

The researchers at Cambridge were able to use a set of lettuce images to train the Vegebot to recognize and classify diseased or infected heads of lettuce through a machine-learning algorithm. They were also able to teach the Vegebot the proper grip to employ when handling the delicate crop so it doesn’t get damaged. Although not fully complete yet, the Vegebot and other robotic harvesters could not only help relieve labor shortages in the farming industry but it could also diminish food waste.  Instead of picking the whole field in one pass, forthcoming iterations, according to researchers will be able to continuously and repeatedly analyze and harvest fully developed vegetables 


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