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Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(04):24-26. doi:10.1115/1.2008-APR-1.
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This article discusses engineering initiatives to develop a metal cutting machine that helps program itself and trim manufacturing costs. The smart machine, which was predicted be ready for its debut by mid-2010, would save manufacturers’ time and expense by greatly reducing waste and by speeding the machine-cutting process. The smart machine, with the help of its onboard software, will know the best way to make a part. It will generate its own cutting tool path based on that information and its own tool list. The goal of this smart machine is to use software and hardware in a way to create a machine that constantly monitors itself and conveys vital information to the operator and process planner. Engineers are creating process and structural dynamics simulation models. A process planner would use the models to simulate various scenarios before manufacturing begins. The chapter also highlights that the overall smart machining challenge now is to develop sensors that will monitor a machine and give vital feedback to the process models that need that information.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(04):27-31. doi:10.1115/1.2008-APR-2.
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This review focuses on engineering initiatives in manufacturing submillimeter parts with micrometer-scale features. Conventional rapid prototyping is not very dimensionally accurate, but newer processes are closing the gap. New micromilling machines can produce an array of tiny features with accuracies measured in micrometers. The chapter highlights various efforts by different companies in the field of micromachining and other micromanufacturing processes. American Society of Mechanical Engineers member Dick DeVor and his team of researchers received a grant from the National Science Foundation to demonstrate a machine that could mill parts with micrometer-scale features. A three-year grant followed, enabling the researchers to improve the technology and probe the radical differences between micromachining and conventional milling. In addition, a microfactory has been developed by the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, which links several small delta robots that can assemble three parts per second with 5-micrometer accuracy.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2008;130(04):32-36. doi:10.1115/1.2008-APR-3.
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This article describes various electrochemical programs that could enable advanced vehicles to generate critical gases directly from water. Energy storage solutions using water electrolysis and fuel cell systems are being examined for applications ranging from backup power systems and lighter-than-air vehicles to extraterrestrial bases on the moon and Mars. The basic architecture of a regenerative fuel cell energy storage system includes a high-pressure water electrolysis system, a fuel cell, a fluid management and storage system, a thermal management system, and a power management system. For extraterrestrial applications, the system would be used in tandem with a photovoltaic array. Recent studies have focused on oxygen and hydrogen storage pressures of between 1000 and 2000 psi, requiring the development of a high, balanced-pressure water electrolysis cell stack and balance of plant to safely manage these fluids. Fuel cell-powered vehicles hold the promise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, provided the hydrogen fuel is produced from a renewable energy source, such as a high-pressure water electrolyzer operating from wind, solar, or nuclear power.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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