• Why Drive-on-Chip Will Make Ethernet The Manufacturing Network

    It’s not just our familiarity with Ethernet or its ability to more easily connect the plant floor to the enterprise that will continue to drive the rise of Ethernet on the plant floor. Embedded systems will also play a role.

    Drive-on-chip systems, for example, use FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) to place the control algorithm elements of industrial drives into various types of automation hardware. Because these embedded drive systems can be easily programmed — or reprogrammed — they can support multiple types of encoders and industrial Ethernet protocols.

    Granted, this drive-on-chip concept is of higher interest to automation OEMs than it is to end users; but having a degree of knowledge about how this embedded technology will shape the automation devices you buy and use in the near future should be a priority for end users as well.

    Altera, manufacturer of the Cyclone V and Cyclone V SoC (system on chip) FPGAs, contends that, as automation vendors work to integrate their digital drive functions onto a single piece of silicon, the communication protocol is, by necessity, becoming a small function implemented as part of the entire “drive-on-chip” design. And when you consider that a drive system vendor must support six to eight standards to be able to sell its products worldwide, it’s not difficult to see why the flexible drive-on-chip will become popular with device manufacturers.

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    Currently, to support a particular industrial Ethernet protocol, an OEM must design the Ethernet MAC (media access control) for its industrial products that often differs from a traditional Ethernet MAC, which requires a special design in the FPGA or ASIC. As a result, different real-time requirements for the end device can lead to different architectures of the communication protocol standards. Plus, as Ethernet protocol standards continue to evolve, there is always a possibility that the MAC design may change.

    For OEMs to future-proof their designs to cope with such changes once their devices are in place at a manufacturing facility, Altera contends that a programmable hardware approach is the safest bet.

    Implementing the Industrial Ethernet protocol as an embedded function within a programmable fabric, according to Altera, gives OEMs the flexibility to support multiple protocols with the same hardware as well as the ability to create an integrated system design factoring in power, cost, and form factor.

    Since FPGAs are now capable of performing simple interface logic and bridging functions in addition to embedded processing functions, traditional FPGA functions can be integrated with the drive control loop and communication protocol functions. In essence, this boils down to industrial Ethernet being just one of the blocks integrated in an FPGA along with other common functions.

    Altera will be presenting at The Automation Conference (May 14-15, 2013) in Chicago to help automation vendors and users better understand how advances in embedded systems are changing the landscape of automation hardware and software. Also, Altera has produced a white paper covering this topic in detail. You can access the white paper here.

    From automationworld Wednesday, November 7, 2012
  • Did You Know You Can Turn a 2D Photo into a Printable 3D Model?

    squ4Do you have a favorite photo of a beloved pet or a special person that you’d like to see as a printable 3D model? This is certainly possible, as we’ve seen time and time again — and as explored in a recent Sculpteo blog post. It seems like 3D printing keeps offering more and more options to easily make 3D models, and now, Sculpteo is sharing tips on how to 3D print a model from a 2D photograph, too. Of course, the more photos you have, and the more detailed they are, the more detailed your model will be. So let’s see exactly how this is possible!

    First you will want to familiarize yourself with software options like your Extrude Tool in your CAD software or any other software that you decide to use including MeshMixer, Blender, or SketchUp. Since photographs are two-dimensional, your extrude tool adds a third axis that creates new geometry for a 3D model. Smoothie 3-D is free online software that allows you to create a 3D model from even one photograph that can be symmetrically replicated. (See photos and video using squirrel photo below.) You have a few options here if you only have a few photos to work with. You can use solutions described for one photo (Smoothie 3-D), you can check out 3D modelling software like ZBrush or Sculptris, or you can seek help with your model from a 3D designer.


    What if you want to create a 3D model from photos, but you haven’t taken the photos yet? There are some definite things you can do to optimize this process. The trick here is to use photogrammetry, which is a technique that captures a series of points in space from a series of photographs. You simply take photos of an object from many angles and then upload them into photogrammetry software to generate a file to 3D print. A digital singlesqu3 lens reflex camera seems like it will work the best here, since it produces the highest resolution pictures. Also, you want to work with a lighting device to ensure that shadows are reduced so they don’t blur your photographed object’s outline. Finally, a tripod to place you camera on will help keep the photos stabilized, less blurry, and consistent. You should also read Sculpteo’s ten commandments for optimal shooting to create your 3D file here.

    Sculpteo also recommends other helpful software programs like 123D Catch, Memento, Photoscan, and Acute 3D to help prepare your 3D file. Once you have your 3D file, you simply need to print it, and Sculpteo recommends printing your model using full-color sandstone material so you can get the best print job possible.

    Now that we’ve reviewed available software programs and photography techniques for ensuring the best quality photos, you should have a much easier time converting your 2D photos into printable 3D models. Is this a process you are interested in trying out? Discuss in the 2D Photos to 3D Prints forum over at

    From 3dprint Sunday, January 31, 2016
  • 3D Printed Stop Motion Lion Film Created by Recent Graduate of Northumbria University

    I just love all the creative things people are doing with 3D printing. Just like any new technology, as it emerges on the scene, innovative minds figure out new ways to use it, creating works of art as well as actual useful applications. 3D printing is film3no different in this respect. In the nine months since we have begun covering the industry, there have been countless projects from innovative minds, which have really impressed the community.

    Back in April, a London-based design-led creative agency called DBLG sought to explore ways in which they could combine 3D printing and stop motion photography, which led to them producing an incredibly fluid stop-motion animation they called Bears on Stairs. Additionally, we have already seen that one major production studio, Laika, has been using 3D printing for several of their stop motion films, most recently The Boxtrolls.

    Upon the release of DBLG’s Bears on Stairs animation, Fin Crowther, a recent graduate of Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, decided to create his own 3D printed animation.

    Modelling the Lion

    Modelling the Lion

    “This is a project that I started after my graduation to keep me occupied whilst seeking permanent work in the industry,” explained Crowther to “I had seen the viral video ‘Bears on Stairs’ by DBGL during my degree in Newcastle and since then it had always been playing in my mind that I’d like to make something similar should the opportunity arise.”

    That opportunity came to him when he gained access to a Stratasys Fortus 360mc 3D Printer at a job he took working as a model making tech at the Design Development Centre at Huddersfield University.

    Crowther decided that he wanted to model a lion for his stop motion animation and thus set out on creating the lion’s run cycle via Autodesk Maya, after studying several tutorials online. In all, he had to model 10 different running positions of the animal, which would be placed into a 10 frame loop at 24 frames per second.

    “Taking each frame of the run cycle I edited them to have the support, fit on a base and then cleaned up the mesh to make it water tight and ready to print before exporting from Maya,” explained Crowther. “This was roughly 24 hours of work over about a week in my spare time.”


    10 models, one for each frame of film

    Each of the 10 prints were fabricated on the Stratasys machine in approximately 10 hours. He then used a laser cutter to create a base for each print, and photographed them all from the exact same position. Using Adobe After Effects, he was then able to loop the photos he took, and export to a video format.  As you can see in the video, he showed the animation from a few different angles.

    “It has been a valuable experience using 3D printing and I hope to experiment and work with it more on upcoming projects,” stated Crowther.

    Let’s hear your thoughts on Crowthers work in the 3D printed stop-motion lion film forum thread on

    From 3dprint Tuesday, October 7, 2014
  • New SP3 String Pot Sensors from Variohm

    Variohm EuroSensor has released the innovative SP3 String Pot sensing device manufactured by Celesco. The device has a robust wire extension configuration featuring an accurate plastic-hybrid potentiometer and a winding drum in a cost-effective and sensitive enclosure, custom-made to provide 0–10 VDC or 4–20 mA output by coupling the proper signaling cables during its installation process.

    SP3 String Pot Sensors

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    The compact device is capable of performing accurate linear position calibration in varying selectable ranges including 120mm, 315mm, 635mm and 1270mm. The device cab be incorporated within a 25mm wide x 50mm deep x 90mm high envelope, and its long-span water repellent polycarbonate shielding involves four point fixing and an additional bracket for installation in almost all the systems.

    The wire extension sensing unit eliminates the necessity of a wiring arrangement which complicates the calibration processes where space is restricted to accommodate other conventional measurement units or in areas where the mobile elements are hidden or submerged by other devices.

    The SP3 sensor exhibits 15g acceleration rating in retraction and supplies a durable operation with 2.5 million mechanisms in 120 mm travel version, that is, 250K cycles in 1270 mm travel unit. The entire precision is in the order of 0.25% to 1.0% FS according to the length of stroke, shows more than 0.05% FS recurrency with infinite calibration resolution frequency. 

    The voltage provision ranges from 8 to 40VDC for the power output series as well as 12 to 32VDC for the voltage series. The electrical interface is supplied using a 1 m multi-conductor wire. The SP3 facilitates secure operations and supplies ample levels of accuracy for many purposes for the OEM devices and light industrial machineries, explains the company.

    From azosensors Sunday, October 31, 2010
  • Record breaking 3D bike

    Renishaw has been featured in the 2015 edition of Guinness World Records for manufacturing the world’s first 3D printed titanium alloy bicycle frame. The project was completed in collaboration with British bike manufacturer Empire Cycles.

    The original design for the 3D printed bike frame was supplied by Empire Cycles and Renishaw initially arranged to topologically optimise and manufacture the bike seat post bracket. When this proved successful, Renishaw agreed to embark on a project to additively manufacture the entire bike frame. The final result was a strong, functional bicycle frame that was 33 per cent lighter than the original.

    “The metal 3D printed bike was a remarkable project that stirred the imagination and enthusiasm of our engineering team,” explained Robin Weston, Marketing Manager of Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Products Division.

    “The project was completed about a year ago and the impact it’s had on the popularity of additive manufacturing, also known as metal 3D printing, has been staggering. The bike has travelled the world, been exhibited at trade shows and museums on almost every continent and has now taken its place in the Top Tech section of Guinness World Records.

    “Renishaw is currently working on multiple projects that highlight the additional benefits of additive manufacturing as a complementary production method. We think the technology has huge potential and we would like to help industry and the wider audience understand it better.”

    The world’s first metal 3D printed bike is currently on display in the UK at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) as part of the 3D: Printing the future exhibition. The free event explores 3D printing technology and will remain open to the public until 19th April 2015.

    From eurekamagazine Wednesday, March 18, 2015