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MM: Building New Parts From Photographs, And A Solar-Powered Helicopter

In this episode, we examine producing new products and parts from photographs and solar-powering a helicopter.

Building New Parts From Photographs

Engineers from Penn State University believe that someday soon, manufacturers could produce new products or parts with as little as a few simple clicks of a camera. Photogrammetry, or taking measurements using photographs, is about as old as the camera itself, but Penn State researchers envisioned applying it to manufacturing.

In order to produce a new version of an existing structure, researchers took a series of close-range digital images of the structure at various angles. The photographs generated a cloud of reference points to replicate the structure in a computer-aided design file, then as a 3D model.

From there, the part could be built anew or printed using a 3D printer β€” all in a fraction of the time and expense needed for current replication methods. In larger manufacturing operations, Penn State engineers suggested that cameras could continuously take photos of equipment and parts β€” and make the quality control process much more efficient.

Researchers plan to fine-tune the technology before testing it in an industrial setting.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What would successful adoption of photogrammetry mean for manufacturers β€” particularly smaller companies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Solar-Powered Helicopter

Several years ago, students from the University of Maryland achieved the world's longest human-powered helicopter flight. Then in 2014, a new team of undergrads took over the project to convert the aircraft to solar-electric power. Late last month the aircraft made its first purely sun-powered flight.

Named the Solar Gamera, the aircraft is powered solely by four banks of solar panels with lift provided by four sets of rotor blades and measures 100 feet square. In August, the vehicle lifted a passenger over one foot into the air, staying airborne for nine seconds. Once the electronic control system can better compensate for drift, the flight duration time should rise significantly.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Could this lead to renewable energy flight taking off? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

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