It’s now possible to 3D print a castle on top of a pencil tip

29 May 2020

Image: UpNano/TU Wien

This week in future tech, a start-up in Vienna has developed a 3D-printing technique that can print objects as small as 200 nanometres.

A collaboration between TU Wien in Austria and UpNano, a 3D printing spin-out from the university, has found a way to print objects on the nanoscale. Among a number of test examples, the engineers were able to print a castle on top of a pencil tip that you would easily miss with the naked eye.

This was the first time that test specimens have been created for material characterisation at ISO standards, allowing for 3D-printed objects at a size of just 200 nanometres. This was achieved using UpNano’s NanoOne printer.

Previously it was considered impossible to print specimens at the size necessary for ISO tests with a photopolymer and a two-photon polymerisation (2PP) 3D printer that, at the same time, are able to achieve a resolution in the sub-micrometre range.

The company was able to produce 30 bending test specimens in less than 10 hours and 12 tensile test specimens with a more complex structure in less than nine hours.

“This number of test specimens will allow test series with statistically sound results leading to material specification in compliance with ISO standards,” said Peter Gruber, co-founder and head of technology at UpNano.

‘Fabulos’ autonomous buses coming to Europe’s streets

After one and a half years of developing autonomous shuttle technology, an EU-funded project now brings robot buses to the streets of Europe. The Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation System (Fabulos), will see its systems tested using vehicles in real-life city conditions in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway.

Three suppliers have been chosen for this latest testing phase. Each supplier will receive up to €1m to prepare pilots and implement operational systems to validate their prototypes.

As part of each 50-day field trial period, the functionality, interoperability and security of the autonomous fleets will be assessed. The first trial was launched in Helsinki last month, where Gacha autonomous buses travelled along streets with mixed levels of traffic at speeds up to 40kph.

For the first time in Europe, the fleets are monitored from a newly established remote control centre. However, a human operator can give permission to pass an object, such as a car blocking the road, or take over the control of the vehicles.

Based on the results of these pilots, the Fabulos team will seek public consultation in 2021 to see whether systems can be fully deployed.

US Navy successfully tests anti-drone laser

A statement from the US Navy confirmed that the transport ship USS Portland successfully disabled an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) with a powerful new solid-state laser called the Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mk 2 Mod 0.

“By conducting advanced at-sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of solid-state LWSD against potential threats,” said Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of the USS Portland.

The Navy said it is facing increasing threats from UAVs, armed small boats and advanced reconnaissance systems. According to CNN, this latest defensive weapon features a powerful 150kW laser. Previous lasers deployed at sea have been substantially smaller in power output.

“With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the navy,” Sanders said.

AI finds ocean traps to help search-and-rescue missions

Researchers at MIT, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Virginia Tech have developed an algorithm that could help first responders identify where missing people or objects at sea are likely to be.

In a paper published to Nature Communications, the researchers said the algorithm analyses ocean conditions, such as the strength and direction of ocean currents, surface winds and waves. This allows it to identify regions of the oceans, in real time, where objects are likely to become trapped.

Over the course of a few hours of testing using drifters and human-shaped manikins into various ocean locations, they found that the objects migrated to where the algorithm had predicted.

“This new tool we’ve provided can be run on various models to see where these traps are predicted to be, and thus the most likely locations for a stranded vessel or missing person,” said Thomas Peacock of MIT.

“This method uses data in a way that it hasn’t been used before, so it provides first responders with a new perspective.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic