Laser Printing for Rapid Fabrication of Waterproof E-Textiles   

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So-called “smart fabrics” that have sensing, wireless communication, or health-monitoring technology integrated within them are the wave of the future for textile design, which is why researchers have been working on new ways to improve their design and fabrication.

Now a team from RMIT University in Australia have done just that with new technology that can rapidly fabricate waterproof smart textiles with integrated energy-harvesting and storage technology that precludes the need for a battery, researchers said.

rapid fabrication, laser printing, smart fabrics, RMIT University in Australia, waterproof, flexible textile patch
Litty Thekkakara, a researcher from RMIT University in Australia, holds a textile embedded with energy-storage devices developed using a new laser-printing process she and her team invented. (Source: RMIT)

Indeed, this is one of the challenges to developing smart textiles—a power source that doesn’t burden the wearer or is user-friendly, said Litty Thekkakara, a researcher in RMIT’s School of Science who worked on the project.

“By solving the energy storage-related challenges of e-textiles, we hope to power the next generation of wearable technology and intelligent clothing,” she said in a press statement.

Printing the Power

Specifically, Thekkakara and her colleagues have developed a method for fabricating a 10-by-10 centimeter waterproof, flexible textile patch with graphene supercapacitors directly laser-printed onto the fabric.

The invention is an alternative method to current processes for developing smart textiles, which have which have some limitations, she said.

“Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibers, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” Thekkakara said in a press statement.

The electronic components also can be in danger of short circuiting or failing when they come in contact with sweat or moisture from the environment if the textile isn’t waterproof, she added.

Washable and Durable

The team tested their invention by connecting the supercapacitor with a solar cell to create a self-powering, washable smart fabric. Tests analyzing the performance of the fabric showed it remained relatively stable and efficient at various temperatures and under mechanical stress, researchers said. Researchers reported these findings in an article in the journal Scientific Reports.

 The team envisions the e-textile being used in novel wearable technology, which is currently being developed not only for consumer-fitness applications, but also for specialized clothing in medical and defense sectors for health monitoring and safety tracking, respectively.

The laser-printing method also paves the way for new, more advanced fabrication of next-generation smart textiles that can integrate intelligence in the process itself, said Min Gu, RMIT honorary professor and distinguished professor at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology

“It also opens the possibility for faster roll-to-roll fabrication, with the use of advanced laser printing based on multifocal fabrication and machine learning techniques,” he said in a press statement.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

The Midwest's largest advanced design and manufacturing event!
Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

 


          

Robot Democratization: A Machine for Every Manufacturer   

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With collaborative robots proliferating, we wanted to know who’s using these robots and what tasks they’re doing. Design News caught up with Walter Vahey, executive vice-president at Teradyne, a company that helps manufacturers gear up their automation. Vahey sees a real change in the companies that are deploying robotics. For years robots were tools only for the largest manufacturers. They required expensive care and feeding in the form of integrators and programming. Now, collaborative robots require configuration rather than programming, and they can be quickly switched from task to task.

Vahey talked about robot companies such as Universal Robots (UR) which produces robot arms, and MiR, a company that produces collaborative mobile robots. He explained how they’re putting robotics in the hands of smaller manufacturers that previously could not afford advanced automation. The difference is that these robots are less expensive, they can be set up for production without programming, and they can be quickly reconfigured to change tasks.

Universal Robots, MiR, Taradyne, robotics, robots, automation, small manufacturers
Robots are now within the investment reach of small manufacturers. That's fueling a surge in the use of collaborative robots. (Image source: Universal Robots)

We asked Vahey what’s different about collaborative robots and what he’s seeing in robot adoption among smaller manufacturers.

Design News: Tell us about the new robots and how they’re getting deployed.

Walter Vahey: Companies such as Universal Robots and MiR are pioneering the robot space. They’re bringing automation to a broad class of users and democratizing automation. For small companies, the task at hand is to figure out how to fulfill their orders. It’s particularly challenging to manufacturers. In a tight labor market, manufacturers are facing more competition, growing demand, and higher expectations in quality.

Manufacturer can plug UR or MiR robots in very quickly. Everything is easy, from the specs up front to ordering to quickly arranging and training the robot. There’s no programming, and the robots have the flexibility to do a variety of applications. Every customer is dealing with labor challenges, so now they’re deploying collaborative robots to fulfill demand with high quality.

The whole paradigm has shifted now that you have a broader range of robot applications. You can easily and quickly bring in automation, plug it in ,and get product moving in hours or days rather than months. That’s what’s driving the growth at UR and MiR.

The Issue of Change Management

Design News: Is change management a hurdle?. Does the robot cause workforce disruption?

Walter Vahey: We really haven’t seen that as an issue. The overwhelming need to improve and fulfill demand at a higher quality level helps the manufacturers deploy. It outweighs other challenges. We help with the deployment, and the manufacturers are making the change easily.

We grew up as a supplier of electronic test equipment. Since 2015, we’ve entered the industrial automation market with a focus on the emerging collaborative robot space. We see that as a way to change the equation for manufacturers, making it faster and easier to deploy automation.

Design News: What about return on investment? Robotics can be a considerable investment for a small company/

Walter Vahey: The customers today are looking for relatively short ROI, and we’re seeing it from 6 months to a year. That’s a no brainer for manufacturers. They’re ready to jump in.

We work hard to make deployment less of an issue. We have an application builder, and we use it to prepare for deployment. The new user may have a pick-and-place operation. They choose the gripper, and we guide them to partners who make it easy to deploy.

The application builder helps the customer pick the gripper. The whole object is to get the customer deployed rapidly so the automation doesn’t sit. With MiR, the robot comes in, and we find an easy application for the mobile device. We take the robot around the plant and map it. We’ve work to guide customers through an application quickly and make the robot productive as soon as possible.

There are hundreds of partners that work with UR and MiR, providing grippers and end effectors. We have a system that customers can plug into. Customer can look at grippers from a wide range of companies. We’re not working just on the robot deployment. We work to get the whole system deployed so they can quickly get the ROI.

What Tasks Are the Robots Taking On?

Design News: Who in the plant is using the robots, and what tasks are involved?

Walter Vahey: There is a range of users. To be effective at training a robot and configuring it, the people best suited for it are the ones most aware of the task. To get the robot to be effective you have to know the task. By and large, the person who has been doing that task is best suited to train the robot. That person can then train other robots. Nobody’s better suited to do it than the people who know what needs to be done.

The tasks are broad set of applications. We automate virtually any task and any material movement. It’s not quite that simple, but it’s close. With UR, we’re doing machine learning, grinding, packing, pick-and-place, repetitive tasks, welding. It’s a very broad set of applications. In materials it’s also very broad. Parts going from a warehouse to a work cell, and then from the work cell to another work cell, up to a 1000-kilo payload. We’re moving robots into warehousing and logistics space, even large pieces of metal. The robots are well suited for long runs of pallets of materials.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

The Midwest's largest advanced design and manufacturing event!
Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

 


          

Graphene-Lined Clothing Could Prevent Mosquito Bites   

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Scientists have found the carbon-based material graphene extremely useful in applications ranging from 3D printing to electronic devices to the creation of new materials. Now a team at Brown University has explored a rather novel use of the two-dimensional material—to help prevent someone from getting bitten by mosquitoes.

A team led by Robert Hurt, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering, has developed fabrics that use graphene to repel mosquitoes in two distinct ways, researchers said.

graphine, mosquitoes, developed fabrics, Brown University
MIT engineers have developed robotic thread (in black) that can be steered magnetically and is small enough to work through narrow spaces such as the vasculature of the human brain. The researchers envision the technology may be used in the future to clear blockages in patients with stroke and aneurysms. (Source: MIT)

One is by acting as a barrier the pesky insects are unable to bite through, they said. The textile’s use of graphene also has proven in experiments to block chemical signals the pesky insects use to sense blood, which dims their urge to bite someone in the first place, researchers said.

Mosquitoes carry serious and sometimes-fatal diseases such as malaria and dengue fever in many parts of the world where medical care is limited, and can infect humans with their bite. This is why there is “a lot of interest in non-chemical mosquito bite protection,” Hurt said in a press statement.

His team already had been working on fabrics that integrate graphene as a barrier against toxic chemicals, which inspired them to explore new uses for the material in textiles, he said. “We thought maybe graphene could provide mosquito bite protection as well,” Hurt said in the statement.

Permission to Bite

To test if graphene could indeed repel mosquitoes, researchers recruited some brave test subjects who were willing to put their arms in a mosquito-filled enclosure with a small patch of skin exposed to disease-free mosquitoes for biting.

The team compared the number of bites participants received on their bare skin, on skin covered in cheesecloth, and on skin covered by a graphene oxide (GO) films sheathed in cheesecloth. GO is a derivative of graphene that can be made into films.

The mosquitoes all but ignored the graphene patch, leading researchers to believe that the material might not just have a physical, but also a chemical component to blocking the insects, they said.

Indeed, the skin covered by dry GO films didn’t get a single bite; participants wearing the cheesecloth and those without protection were not so lucky, sustaining multiple bites.

The Chemical Connection

After this initial test, researchers set out to see if their idea that there is a chemical barrier to mosquitoes in graphene was correct. They dabbed some human sweat onto the outside of a graphene barrier that had previously blocked the mosquitoes. This time, the insects showed as much interest in the area as they did to bare skin, researchers said.

Further tests confirmed that the graphene oxide could provide puncture resistance to the proboscis of mosquitoes that do the biting. However, it worked only when the material was dry; graphene saturated with water would offer little resistance, researchers found.

A workaround for this would be to use GO with a reduced oxygen content called rGO, which proved to be a barrier in both wet and dry conditions, they said.

The team published a paper on their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers next want to try to find a way to make GO water resistant as well by stabilizing it, as it has a key advantage over rGO when designing and developing mosquito-resistant clothing, which is the team’s ultimate aim, Hurt said.

“GO is breathable, meaning you can sweat through it, while rGO isn’t,” he said in the statement. “So our preferred embodiment of this technology would be to find a way to stabilize GO mechanically so that is remains strong when wet. This next step would give us the full benefits of breathability and bite protection.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

The Midwest's largest advanced design and manufacturing event!
Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

 


          

Industry leaders discuss hemp business   

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As the ever-changing marijuana industry continues to grow in Michigan, another crop is making headway as well: hemp. While the two are similar, they’re not exactly the same. Right now, Michigan’s first ever legal hemp harvest is in full swing and in hopes of clearing up confusion about the plant, industry […]
          

A New Leadership Tandem: Mike Quartararo and Ari Kaplan to Lead ACEDS   

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Editor’s Note: Received earlier today from BARBRI Group Chairman and CEO Stephen Fredette, the following executive leadership update for the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS) involving industry leaders Mike Quartararo and Ari Kaplan is published with permission for your consideration. ACEDS ANNOUNCEMENT (October 7, 2019) Dear ACEDS Community, I’m pleased to announce that effective October 1, Mike Quartararo, a long-time ACEDS member, former law firm eDiscovery director, author and community leader has joined us as President of ACEDS and Professional Development. Additionally, leading legal industry strategist, consultant and author, Ari Kaplan, will apply his talents on a consulting basis to help build a new ACEDS Global Advisory Board and act as Chairperson for that group. Mike will be assuming the responsibilities of executive director Mary Mack, continuing to build on the tremendous foundation she established, leading the global ACEDS…
          

Powering up: NAU teams with Latin American universities on global energy initiative   

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Oct. 7, 2019 Billions of people throughout the world rely on energy to power their daily lives. But behind the simple flip of a switch, there is a complex system of science, people and policy that keeps energy flowing. In an increasingly energy-driven world, there is a growing need for industry leaders who can deal […]
          

Flyover Podcast Festival | October 11 | Bloomington, IN   

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Flyover Podcast Festival

I’m excited to be sharing my experience in podcasting with other industry leaders coming up on the 11th of October at The Mill in Bloomington, Indiana at the Flyover Podcast Festival! I hope you can join us! The Flyover Podcast Festival is where the Midwest podcast scene connects and thrives. Experienced and aspiring podcasters alike enjoy a jam-packed day of creative, technical, and business-savvy podcasting innovation at The Mill coworking and incubator space in Bloomington,

The post Flyover Podcast Festival | October 11 | Bloomington, IN appeared first on Martech Zone.


          

Storage Wars: Choosing a Secure Student Data Solution   

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Storage Wars: Choosing a Secure Student Data Solution eli.zimmerman_9856 Tue, 10/01/2019 - 16:36

Legislators across all 50 states have introduced student data privacy laws. The move makes sense: As educators leverage the benefits of connected classroom technologies, student data is captured and used to personalize the experience.

But what happens to this data when lessons are over and students leave for the summer, or move on to college or the workforce? How do K–12 schools ensure they’re in compliance with local laws and minimize risk without hampering their ability to deliver high-quality, engaging classroom experiences? 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how FERPA has changed over the years and what updates mean for K–12 schools.

Storage Failure Has Consequences for K–12 Schools

Student data isn’t single source. It can include everything from names and birthdates to learning styles, social preferences, grades and even medical histories. Schools bear the burden of security for this data — even if they hire third-party providers to manage its collection, storage and distribution. 

The impact of storage security failure is substantial. In a recent lawsuit, an Illinois woman and her daughter accuse Pearson, the multinational publishing and education company, of exposing the information of more than 1 million students when it failed to detect or respond to a 2018 data breach. 

As noted by The Threat Report, use of an outdated and insecure MongoDB server led to the leak of more than 7 million student records — data that included students’ full names, school names and account authorization keys.

Failure to protect student data, even at arm’s length, could have serious consequences for schools. Lawsuits are one potential outcome, but educational institutions could also find their public reputations irreparably damaged. 

Plus, malicious actors could also glean data from storage breaches to steal students’ identities or launch targeted attacks. As ZDNet reports, 69 percent of schools have been targets of phishing scams, and 30 percent have suffered malware infections.

3 Options for K–12 Student Data Storage

When it comes to securely storing student data, K–12 schools have three broad options: on-premises, cloud-based or a mix of both. Each choice comes with unique challenges and benefits. Here’s what educators need to know.

1. On-Premises Storage: Historically, K–12 schools have used on-premises storage to handle student data. But concerns around aging hardware — from end of life to firmware security flaws and limited storage capacity — are now forcing many organizations to choose: Should they stay onsite, or move data elsewhere?

The biggest benefit of keeping storage local is total control. IT staff members know exactly where data is kept. But location isn’t everything, notes Rob Clyde, former ISACA director and current executive chair of the board of directors for White Cloud Security. Schools need to ask, “What kind of data is it? Is it covered by compliance laws? Is it personal or sensitive?” 

In-house storage requires both situational awareness and strong encryption, Clyde tells EdTech. “For any kind of data, always encrypt,” he says.

Clyde recommends strong off-the-shelf algorithms to help stay ahead of attack efforts and insider threats.

2. Cloud-Based Privacy: Cloud-based storage solutions offer another option for protecting student privacy. Clyde is a big fan of cloud for schools because it “allows more flexibility and lets you scale easier. It gets you out of the business of managing servers and scaling.” 

For schools with smaller IT staffs or that lack administrators dedicated to IT, “the cloud is actually more secure than local servers,” Clyde says. But security doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To address key data privacy concerns in the cloud, Clyde recommends the following:

  • Choose a Major Cloud Vendor. Offerings from industry leaders such Google are feature-rich and unlikely to suddenly close their doors and leave your data in limbo. These vendors also let you specify where data “lives” in the cloud, which is critical to satisfying new data privacy requirements such as GDPR
  • Keep the Keys Safe. Strong encryption reduces data risk, but accessing encrypted data requires a key. What happens if this key is compromised? Keys obfuscated and stored in Software as a Service (SaaS) applications aren’t secure, Clyde says, and “losing the key is just as dangerous.” He suggests keeping master keys on a flash drive and then securely storing this device in a physical vault or safe.
  • Ask the Tough Questions. Third-party providers offer the benefit of scalable storage, easy access and secure key management, but they also introduce risk. If data is compromised, schools are ultimately responsible. Third-party risk assessment is critical, Clyde says. Schools need to ask where data is stored, what encryption methods are used and how cloud vendors are meeting key compliance requirements.

3. Hybrid Solutions: Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean abandoning physical servers. Hybrid solutions offer a way to transition from on-premises to SaaS as hardware ages out or becomes fundamentally insecure. One potential stumbling block is having IT staff who are familiar with local storage but uncertain about cloud offerings. “The red flag is talking about cheap hardware,” Clyde says. If technology pros can’t meet in the middle, “you may need to retrain them or hire different IT staff.” 

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how schools can approach digital citizenship through a combination of curriculum and education technology.

Use a Data Risk Rubric to Evaluate Security Efficiency

As the volume and variety of student data increases, it’s easy for school officials to become overwhelmed. The solution is to go back to the basics. 

No matter the storage option selected, five key rules apply:

  • Minimize Data Collection. The less data collected, the lower your risk. If student data isn’t directly related to key school functions such as attendance, grading or enhanced learning activities, don’t ask for it on paper forms or store it digitally.
  • Purge Wherever Possible. Don’t keep data any longer than necessary. Create standard retention policies that include destruction dates.
  • Always Encrypt. Encrypt data in transit and data at rest to frustrate attacker efforts if systems are compromised.
  • Prioritize Least Privilege. Not all users need access to school data. Limited privileges reduce total risk.
  • Monitor User Activity. Who’s doing what on your system? Deploy monitoring solutions to detect potentially damaging behavior.

Cybersecurity in education is now top priority as students’ personal data is digitally stored to streamline administrative tasks and improve classroom engagement. Failure to protect this data has serious consequences — effective protection demands frank assessment of current storage methods, consideration of new cloud-based options and methodical application of data security best practices.

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning writer capable of bridging the gap between complex and conversational across technology, innovation and the human condition. 


          

Digital Summit DC: Are Your Digital & Social Media Strategies In, or Out?   

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We look forward to attending the Digital Summit, which comes to DC each year, to draw inspiration from industry leaders and peers as we approach Q4 and head into a lot of planning for the new year. Speakers this year spanned from top social media execs to Randi Zuckerberg (who loves to remind us that […]

The post Digital Summit DC: Are Your Digital & Social Media Strategies In, or Out? appeared first on Ketchum.


          

Let’s talk: Ecommerce   

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Considering the digital age that we live in, in today’s Let’s Talk we ask: Can a business survive without an online offering? We wanted to ask industry leaders whether they thought that it’s really possible for a business in 2019 to survive long-term without some form of ecommerce. We, of course, understand the importance of Read More...

The post Let’s talk: Ecommerce appeared first on Dynamic Business.


          

ROUNDTABLE DEBATE: How can jewellery firms engage staff and drive consumer loyalty?   

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In partnership with leading payment provider, Klarna, Professional Jeweller gathered jewellery industry leaders to discuss engaging staff and driving consumer loyalty in today’s ever-evolving retail climate. On the panel: Craig Bolton, executive director, Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths (CB) Hayley Quinn, managing director, Swarovski UK & Ireland (HQ) Jeremy Hinds, sales development director, F. Hinds […]

The post ROUNDTABLE DEBATE: How can jewellery firms engage staff and drive consumer loyalty? appeared first on Professional Jeweller.


          

West Coast Financial Industry Leaders Gather to Celebrate the 10th Annual Sohn San Francisco Investment Conference   

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The annual event has donated $1.6 million to Bay Area organizations that support underserved youth while also assisting the broader Sohn mission of pediatric Cancer research.

(PRWeb October 08, 2019)

Read the full story at https://www.prweb.com/releases/west_coast_financial_industry_leaders_gather_to_celebrate_the_10th_annual_sohn_san_francisco_investment_conference/prweb16625783.htm


          

Aesthetics Biomedical joins RealSelf in Seattle for "The House of...   

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Aesthetics Industry Leaders Bring Complimentary Cosmetic Treatments and Expert-Led Panel Discussions to The Pacific Northwest for beauty enthusiasts and newcomers alike

(PRWeb October 08, 2019)

Read the full story at https://www.prweb.com/releases/aesthetics_biomedical_joins_realself_in_seattle_for_the_house_of_modern_beauty_pop_up_event/prweb16618185.htm


          

DeepMind Is Working on a Solution to Bias in AI   

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In DeepMind's hypothetical college admissions example: qualifications (Q), gender (G), and choice of department (D), all factor into whether a candidate is admitted (A). A Causal Bayesian Network can identify causal and non casual relationships between these factors and look for unfairness. In this example gender can have a non-causal effect on admission due to its relationship with choice of department. (Image source: DeepMind)

DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google's parent company) is working to remove the inherent human biases from machine learning algorithms.

The increased deployment of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into the real world has coincided with increased concerns over biases in the algorithms' decision making. From loan and job applications to surveillance and even criminal justice, AI has been shown to exhibit bias – particularly in terms of race and gender – in its decision making.

Researchers at DeepMind believe they've developed a useful framework for identifying and removing unfairness in AI decision making. Called Causal Bayesian Networks (CBNs), these are visual representations of datasets that can identify causal relationships within the data and help experts identify factors that might be unfairly weighed against or skewing others. The researchers describe their methodology in two recent papers, A Causal Bayesian Networks Viewpoint on Fairness and Path-Specific Counterfactual Fairness.

“By defining unfairness as the presence of a harmful influence from the sensitive attribute in the graph, CBNs provide us with a simple and intuitive visual tool for describing different possible unfairness scenarios underlying a dataset,” Silvia Chiappa and William S. Isaac, the authors of the studies, wrote in a blog post. “In addition, CBNs provide us with a powerful quantitative tool to measure unfairness in a dataset and to help researchers develop techniques for addressing it.”

To describe how CBNs can be applied to machine learning, Chiappa and Isaac use the example of a hypothetical college admissions algorithm. Imagine an algorithm designed to approve or reject applicants based on their qualifications, choice of department, and gender. While qualifications and gender can both have a direct (causal) relationship to whether a candidate is admitted, gender could also have an indirect (non-causal) impact as well due to its influence on choice of department. If a male and female are both equally qualified for admission, but they both applied to a department that historically admits men at a far higher rate, then the relationship between gender and choice of department is considered unfair.

“The direct influence captures the fact that individuals with the same qualifications who are applying to the same department might be treated differently based on their gender,” the researchers wrote. “The indirect influence captures differing admission rates between female and male applicants due to their differing department choices.”

This is not to say the algorithm is capable of correcting itself however. The AI would still need input and correction from human experts to make any adjustments to its decision making. And while a CBN could potentially provide insights into fair and unfair relationships in variables in random datasets, it would ultimately fall on humans to either proactively or retroactively take steps to ensure the algorithms are making objective decisions.

“While it is important to acknowledge the limitations and difficulties of using this tool – such as identifying a CBN that accurately describes the dataset’s generation, dealing with confounding variables, and performing counterfactual inference in complex settings – this unique combination of capabilities could enable a deeper understanding of complex systems and allow us to better align decision systems with society's values,” Chiappa and Isaac wrote.

Improving algorithms themselves is only one half of the work to be done to safeguard against bias in AI. Figures released from studies such as one conducted by New York University's AI Now Institute suggest there is a greater need to increase the diversity among the engineers and developers creating these algorithms. For example, as of this year only10 percent of the AI research staff at Google was female, according to the study.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest's largest advanced design and manufacturing event!
Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!


          

CO2 Could Power Planes, Trains, and Ships Someday   

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From left: Researchers Christopher Graves, Michal Bajdich and Michael Machala work on the development of a new method for converting carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide for carbon-neutral fuels. (Image source: Mark Golden)

While researchers have experimented with using alternative fuels for large modes of transport such as airplanes, so far they haven’t found a truly viable option.

That could change thanks to new research from scientists at Stanford University and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), who have developed a new method for turning carbon dioxide into energy-rich carbon monoxide.

This crucial conversion is the first step to transforming carbon monoxide into nearly any liquid “carbon-neutral” fuel and even synthetic gas and plastics. The researchers believe their method could lead to cost-effective ways to more broadly convert larger quantities of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide for the production of carbon-neutral fuels. Lowering costs and other barriers could lead to viable fuels for even heavy modes of transportation, which require energy-dense fuels.

The latest breakthrough was led by William Chueh, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, and Christopher Graves, associate professor in DTU’s Energy Conversion & Storage Department. Theis Skafte, a DTU doctoral candidate at the time, also participated in the work, which took place at Stanford. The team published a recent study on their work in the journal Nature Energy.

Chueh and Graves had been separately working on high-temperature electrolysis of carbon dioxide for years, but the breakthrough came only when the teams put their heads together, said Skafte, now a postdoctoral researcher at DTU.

“We achieved something we couldn’t have separately – both a fundamental understanding and practical demonstration of a more robust material,” he said in a press statement.

Removing Key Barriers

The Stanford/DTU research team used electricity and an Earth-abundant catalyst, cerium oxide (also known as ceria), to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. Unlike other catalysts used in this process, cerium oxide is much more resistant to breaking down.

Plants transform carbon dioxide to carbon-rich sugars naturally, but scientists still have yet to find a commercially viable artificial electrochemical route to turn this gas into carbon monoxide. Current devices developed to do this use too much electricity, convert a low percentage of carbon dioxide molecules, or produce pure carbon that destroys the device, according to the researchers.

For their approach, the Stanford-DTU team built two cells for carbon dioxide conversion testing – one with cerium oxide and the other with conventional nickel-based catalysts. What they found is that the ceria electrode remained stable, while carbon deposits damaged the nickel electrode, which substantially shortened the catalyst’s lifetime.

“This remarkable capability of ceria has major implications for the practical lifetime of CO2 electrolyzer devices,” Graves said in a press statement. “Replacing the current nickel electrode with our new ceria electrode in the next-generation electrolyzer would improve device lifetime.”

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

The Midwest's largest advanced design and manufacturing event!
Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!


          

Process Designed for 3D-Printing Mini Soft-Robotic Actuators   

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Scientists have a growing interest in the design of soft robots that are safer and more nimble than their rigid counterparts.

One area in which they’ve been challenged in the development of these robots is at the smaller scale, such as in the millimeter range, because of the complexity of fabricating such fine parts at this size.

soft robots, actuators, digital light projection, Singapore University of Technology. DLP 3D printing
Researchers in China and Singapore have combined efforts to develop a generic process flow to guide the 3D printing of miniature soft pneumatic actuators that are smaller than a coin. Researchers also designed a soft debris remover with an integrated miniature to help navigate through a confined space or collect small objects in hard-to-reach positions. (Source: Singapore University of Technology and Design)

Now a team of researchers from Singapore and China have combined efforts to develop a 3D-printing process using digital light projection (DLP) to develop pneumatic actuators for soft robots ranging in size from 2 millimeters to 15 millimeters, with a feature size of 150-350 micrometers, they said.

The method paves the way for easier fabrication of tiny soft robots well-suited for navigation in confined areas as well as the manipulation of small objects, researchers said. These robots could find use in various applications, from medical technology to jet maintenance.

Specifically, the scientists--from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), and Zhejiang University (ZJU)—have presented a generic process flow for guiding DLP 3D printing of these miniature pneumatic actuators.

The method offers an alternative to the molding and soft-lithography methods that are typically used and require great delicacy, thus are more complex, said Associate Professor Qi (Kevin) Ge from SUSTech, the lead researcher of the research project.

"To ensure reliable printing fidelity and mechanical performance in the printed products, we introduced a new paradigm for systematic and efficient tailoring of the material formulation and key processing parameters,” he said in a press statement.

Multi-Step Process

DLP 3D printing is a process in which photo-absorbers are commonly added into polymer solutions to enhance printing resolutions in both horizontal and vertical directions. However, if the dose of those absorbers is too high, it can lead to rapid degradation in the material's elasticity, an aspect that’s critical for soft robots to sustain large deformations, researchers said.

To achieve their results and not sacrifice any durability in potential soft robots fabricated using the process, researchers made a number of informed decisions, said Yuan-Fang Zhang, a researchers from SUTD who worked on the project.

First the team selected a photo-absorber with good absorbance at the wavelength of the projected UV light and then conducted mechanical performance tests to determine the appropriate material formulation, he said.

“Next, we characterized the curing depth and XY fidelity to identify the suitable combination of exposure time and sliced layer thickness," Zhang said in a press statement.

This process flow enabled researchers to develop a multimaterial 3D-printing system to fabricate a variety of miniature and structurally diverse soft pneumatic robotic actuators, researchers said.

Moreover, the method should be compatible with commercial stereolithography (SLA) or DLP 3D printers without needing to make any hardware modifications, Ge said in a press statement.

Researchers published a paper on their report in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

To demonstrate the usefulness of their process, the team devised a soft robot as a proof-of-concept—a debris remover comprised of a continuum manipulator and a 3D-printed miniature soft pneumatic gripper, they said. The robot can navigate through a confined space as well as collect small objects in places that humans might have a difficult time reaching, researchers said.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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