ACM TechNews sponsored by Learn more about Texis, the text-oriented database providing high-performance search engine features combined with SQL operations and a development toolkit, that powers many diverse applications, including Webinator and the Thunderstone Search Appliance.   Learn more about Texis, the text-oriented database providing high-performance search engine features combined with SQL operations and a development toolkit, that powers many diverse applications, including Webinator and the Thunderstone Search Appliance.
ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Thunderstone or ACM. To send comments, please write to [email protected].
Volume 7, Issue 797: Friday, May 27, 2005

  • "GAO: DHS Cybersecurity Plans Need More Work"
    Computerworld (05/26/05); Rosencrance, Linda

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has yet to sufficiently address the nation's cybersecurity needs, concludes a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Although GAO credits the DHS with the establishment of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and forums to encourage trust and data-sharing between federal agencies and law enforcement entities, the department has still not developed national cyberthreat and vulnerability evaluations or cybersecurity contingency strategies. Ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said "our critical infrastructures remain largely unprepared or unaware of cybersecurity risks and how to respond to cyberemergencies." The GAO says the DHS must stabilize its organization, obtain organizational clout, address hiring and contracting issues, educate more people about cybersecurity roles and capabilities, forge effective alliances, and demonstrate value in order to successfully secure the U.S. information infrastructure. DHS officials agreed that the department's cybersecurity duties are in need of prioritization, but did not agree with the GAO's recommendations on its optimal solution strategy. Ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said the GAO report shows that a national cybersecurity plan is "virtually nonexistent."
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "H-1Bs Not Going Like Hotcakes"
    CNet (05/24/05); Frauenheim, Ed

    Congress approved 20,000 new H-1B visas late last year in response to industry pressure, but only 6,400 visa petitions have been submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since the agency began accepting applications on May 12. "We had anticipated that the petitions might come in at a much faster rate," says Chris Bentley with USCIS. The additional visas are reserved for foreign professionals with a master's degree or higher from U.S. academic institutions. Opponents of the H-1B program claim it has encouraged offshore outsourcing, undercut U.S. salaries, and is highly susceptible to abuse. Industry leaders say the program helps curb offshoring, insisting that H-1Bs can ease shortfalls in skilled labor as well as give U.S. companies access to overseas talent as global competition increases. On Oct. 1, 2004, USCIS said it had already received enough applications to fill the annual cap of 65,000 H-1Bs for fiscal 2005, and later admitted that it approved 10,000 too many petitions. This could mean that the annual cap for fiscal 2006 will be surpassed by 6,500 visas, since approximately two-thirds of approved petitions translate into actual visas, according to Bentley.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Poland's Minister of Science: HPC Needs Development"
    HPC Wire (05/27/05) Vol. 14, No. 21

    High-performance computing (HPC) researchers from government, industry, and academia discussed ongoing and future projects at the 14th HPC User Forum in Warsaw. Army High Performance Computing Research Center (AHPCRC) scientist Dave Doherty noted the large number of chemists who were abandoning high-end HPC work and said scalability was a critical need, along with productivity-focused programming models such as UPC and Co-Array Fortran. Sverre Jarp of the CERN Large Hadron Collider project said the group had moved away from supercomputers in favor of new grid technologies some time ago, and was now pursuing several large grid projects and forming partnerships with industry. European HPC centers are linked via high-speed networks and Warsaw University's supercomputing center used UNICORE open-source software for grid purposes. The most urgent needs for grids today are security, accounting, software licensing, services, and portals, said Warsaw University researcher Piotr Bala. Research group IDC is conducting a study of the world's largest HPC systems, benchmarking 16 machines on 25 selected codes, said analyst Addison Snell. HPC systems are a critical asset for 97 percent of businesses in the United States, according to a survey by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, but many companies lack skilled staff. Clustered computing is popular for its price-performance ratio, but still lacks maturity in some areas. The HPC User Forum meeting in April covered new programming models such as UPC and Co-Array Fortran, but Defense Department technologist Steve Finn noted new programming models will not likely be adopted unless they provide significant payback.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "What's Next After AJAX?"
    InfoWorld (05/23/05); Khare, Rohit

    New Web applications that leverage AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) are boosting prospects of more viable Web UIs by providing smoother scrolling, incremental updates, and more interactive input forms. However, fat-client UIs still have the advantage in terms of being able to receive real-time event notification such as instant messaging, stock tickers, and other forms of push data streaming. AJAX allows small download transactions to occur so that the Web UI is more fluid. But asynchrony as defined by AJAX is different than in the middleware community, where the formal definition refers to messages sent in both directions rather than only upstream, as in the case of AJAX. However, developers have come up with a way to keep response connections open in
    http using hidden frames and JavaScript tags, allowing streamed data into the browser. The open-source ARSC (A Really Simple Chat) program leverages this type of interactivity but requires a modified HTTP server to rebroadcast chat streams to other users. But the broader implication of new Web UI capabilities is application integration, such as with the open-source Nevow and Pushlets for Python and Java, respectively, which allow Web interfaces to fully interact with enterprise applications and Web services. Web UIs will still be limited by slower response times, strained interactivity, and graphical modesty, but new push data streaming capabilities for AJAX bring Web UIs much closer to being a robust platform for application development.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Bipartisan Group Raises E-Waste Awareness"
    eWeek (05/24/05); Goad, Libe

    The establishment of the bipartisan Congressional E-Waste Working Group was announced by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Mary Bono (R-Calif.) at a May 24 news conference. Thompson said the group would convene regularly to discuss solutions to the mounting problem of electronic waste, and one of its first priorities was making the issue more prevalent in the minds of congressmen. The group also co-sponsored its first congressional staff briefing, which focused on the need for deploying a national e-waste recycling initiative. Matt Gerien, a representative of Thompson's, said building momentum on a solution to the e-waste problem is a tough challenge, since the issue must "hit a critical mass before people take notice." Hewlett-Packard's John Fray reported a profound scarcity of consumer awareness, as indicated in recent HP surveys. One poll found that 95 percent of American consumers do not know what the term "e-waste" means, and are ignorant of local e-waste recycling programs; 68 percent hoard used or unwanted computer hardware at home, and 63 percent believe e-waste to be a more important or as important an environmental issue as air pollution. The same survey found 66 percent of senior IT executives to be poorly informed about end-of-life product disposal, while 70 percent underrate the cost of such disposal. Silicon Valley Toxics Association program director Gopal Dayanani said electronics manufacturers must also do their part to solve the e-waste problem.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Collaboration Is a Necessity for a Secure Infrastructure"
    Computing (05/26/05); Nash, Emma

    Now that IT is considered an integral part of the business, it is time for collaboration between industry users and vendors to establish best practices, says Oracle chief security officer Mary Ann Davidson. As one of the 10 charter members of the Global CSO Council, Davidson is taking a lead role in fostering collaboration between industry users, vendors, and government; other Global CSO Council members including New York cybersecurity head William Pelgrin, eBay CSO Howard Schmidt, and Bank of America information security director Rhonda MacLean. Davidson is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create secure software development auditing standards that could be applied to commercial software, and is representing the industry on Capitol Hill to push for funding of such efforts. Software development auditing standards are an essential building block to better overall security, she says. Another important critical issue for improving IT security is improved software development education at universities. Currently, hiring companies are left with the burden of training new programmers in secure development practices; university programs should be certified, so that software developers create stable products similar to how architects and civil engineers also focus on stability and security. Finally, Davidson points out that IT security awareness is starting to increase due to issues such as regulatory compliance, and that new security products are preventative in nature.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "House Approves Spyware Penalties"
    TechNews.com (05/24/05); McGuire, David

    The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of Rep. Mary Bono's (R-Calif.) Spy Act and Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) Internet Spyware Prevention Act on May 23. The anti-spyware proposals are nearly identical, although Bono's bill requires businesses to use an "opt-in" policy in which they must ask people's permission to install spyware on their computers. Goodlatte's measure offers no such provision, and it has garnered much more industry support as a result. Bono's bill bans some of the more egregious spyware tactics, and sets a maximum penalty of $3 million for each violation; Goodlatte's legislation would send some spyware distributors to prison for up to five years. An inability to reach a compromise on the "opt-in" issue scuttled the hopes of merging the two proposals, according to Bono. She says, "I believe it's one of the most important parts of the bill. I think we own the computer and we ought to have a say about who installs what on your computer." The Information Technology Association of America has been a frequent adversary of anti-spyware legislation, but President Harris Miller acknowledges the need for a national standard, since several states have started promoting their own anti-spyware measures that could lead to balkanization if left unchecked. America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance found spyware installed in 85 percent of 329 randomly selected Internet users' computers last October, with the average "infected" computer hosting over 90 spyware and adware programs; last year IDC predicted that annual anti-spyware software expenditures will skyrocket from $12 million in 2003 to $305 million in 2008. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) has sponsored anti-spyware legislation in the Senate, and says passage of the House bills shows progress on the issue.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "New Haptics Systems Challenge Stroke Patients to Grasp, Pinch, Squeeze, Throw and, Yeah, Get Pushy"
    USC Viterbi School of Engineering (05/24/05); Ainsworth, Diane

    An interdisciplinary team of researchers is developing and testing cutting-edge haptics technologies designed to aid the rehabilitation of stroke victims at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's Integrated Media Systems Center (IMSC). The National Institutes of Health awarded a $1.8 million grant to IMSC researchers and their colleagues in the University of Texas, Austin's psychology department last year to collaboratively develop new haptics interfaces with researchers at USC's Keck School of Medicine. "Haptics, which adds the sense of touch to 3D computing, lets stroke patients interact with virtual worlds by feel," says USC Annenberg School for Communication professor Margaret McLaughlin. Among the interfaces IMSC researchers have come up with is the PHANToM robotic force-feed device, which helps users virtually pinch and manipulate objects on a computer screen, with the help of stereoscopic goggles. Another interface consists of a therapeutic environment in which the user wears a "cyber grasp" exoskeleton over a data glove that measures the position and orientation of the hand in 3D space. McLaughlin says these interfaces allow physical therapists to tailor exercise programs to each stroke patient's level of impairment, and also provide instant performance feedback to help the therapist design an increasingly rigorous rehab program. Also under development is a Web-based "telerehabilitation" interface that enables both the therapist and the patient to set recovery goals according to individual patient lifestyle on a private Web site with a built-in peer-to-peer audio conferencing feature.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Smoother Bureaucracy for Europe's Mobile Workforce"
    IST Results (05/26/05)

    The increasing mobility of Europe's workforce requires less expensive and more transparent, efficient, and user-friendly electronic information exchange between public administrations, and the IST-funded INFOCITIZEN project aims to fulfill these requirements with a new platform. The platform's feasibility was evaluated in several trials throughout Europe: A German trial involved services related to birth, civil status, citizenship, and residence certificates; a Greek test focused on the adoption application process; the census process was tackled in a Spanish trial; and an Italian test addressed marriage between Italians and non-Italians. "The high quality of the very complex system produced provides an excellent model of how to address interchange of data between administrative authorities while respecting subsidiarity and important differences in regulations and administrative procedures in Member States," declares project coordinator Dirk Werth of Germany's Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. INFOCITIZEN automates information exchange and eliminates paper-based processes with a software system that expedites public services and enhances their quality and economies. Werth says the modular "agent-based" software system is "especially appropriate for supporting decentralized structures." INFOCITIZEN architecture's basic components are a conceptual architecture that meets the needs of Europe's public administrations by defining business processes, information objects, and fundamental interoperability mechanisms; a technical architecture for defining the platform's structure; and a system architecture that delivers a schematic of the INFOCITIZEN software solution in accordance with the proper selection of cutting-edge technologies.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Watching You, Watching Me"
    Globe and Mail (CAN) (05/26/05) P. B15; Buckler, Grant

    Researchers at Queen's University's Human Media Laboratory are developing technology that has a greater awareness of people, according to lab director Roel Vertegaal. Among the projects under development at the lab is the eyeBlog, a system consisting of special glasses equipped with a camera and a sensor that picks up beams of infrared light reflected off a nearby person's eye; the camera starts recording video automatically when the sensor ascertains that the wearer has been maintaining eye contact with someone for over 10 seconds, and this video is fed to a computer. Vertegaal says the video clips produced by eyeBlog need virtually no editing. He says the device could be used in the treatment of autism and for recording person-to-person interactions. Another product from the lab is the eyeBox, a USB digital camera that detects people staring at it, and that can be employed to control programs via head and eye movements. Vertegaal says the device could potentially find use in psychological experiments and safety provisions. Still another Human Media Lab project is the Attentive Cubicle, an overhead camera that monitors the activities of people sitting in adjoining cubicles. The system helps facilitate communication between cubicle dwellers by detecting when two people are facing an opaque cubicle divider, and then turning the partition transparent so they can converse face-to-face.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The 2020 Vision of Robotic Assistants Unveiled"
    New Scientist (05/24/05); Knight, Will

    The Prototype Robot Exhibition opening next month at the World Expo 2005 in Japan will showcase more than 60 types of robots expected to be commonplace in 2020. Futuristic medical robots sharing the spotlight will include Nagoya University's EVE and Hyper-Finger: The humanoid EVE features replica human organs and is designed as a training tool for doctors and nurses, while Hyper-Finger is a minuscule robot that can perform microsurgery within an abdominal cavity while being controlled by only one finger. Examples of robotic companions expected to inhabit the home of 2020 include Toshiba's ApriAlpha and ApriAttenda, which are reprogrammable autonomous assistants designed to keep young children or elderly people engaged; ApriAlpha uses voice recognition to identify its owner and respond with greetings or reminders, while ApriAttenda employs cameras to recognize and follow its owner. Also to be demonstrated at the exhibition is Miraikikai's WallWalker, a domestic bot that clings to windows and cleans them without human assistance. The show's entertainment-themed section will feature humanoid robots that an Osaka TV production company has programmed to tell jokes and perform slapstick, as well as Hiroshima University's Batting Robot, a practice tool for baseball pitchers. M-Tran III from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology is a modular machine that can reconfigure itself to support a four-limbed or slithering mode of locomotion. Ritsumeikan University's Koharo, meanwhile, is a spherical robot that can roll or leap through the air by contracting its sides. The Prototype Robot Exhibition runs from June 9 to June 19.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Rethinking the Relational Database"
    CNet (05/20/05); Mitchell, Kate

    Relational database management systems (RDBMS) are terrific technology, but are increasingly mismatched with the large volumes of business event being data generated today, writes CopperEye CEO Kate Mitchell. Relational database technology offers sophisticated development tools, the ability to manage frequently updated information, and support for large numbers of concurrent users; but businesses today are storing rapidly growing volumes of data, much of which does not need to be changed or accessed again, such as data from RFID systems, Sarbanes-Oxley controls, bill-of-material records, and other business event data. To illustrate how quickly this data can accumulate, consider that mobile phone operators regularly store up to 4 TB of mobile call records over a two-week period, a figure that could grow 20-fold with the introduction of 3G networks. Estimates for RFID systems forecast tens of millions of terabytes needed for storage each day, and if relational databases are used in this scenario, costs would rise in proportion to the amount of data stored. But old flat file technology would work well for this type of write-once/read-maybe business data, and could complement RDBMS. The index feature on a flat file would provide fast access to data in the repository, more so than with a tape library--and the flat file set-up could use commodity server hardware and disk-based storage. Moreover, RDBMS resources would be freed up for tasks they were meant for, such as allowing multiple user access to changeable data. As businesses begin collecting huge volumes of business event data, they need to rethink their database strategies, Mitchell concludes.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "New Rules for the Internet Age: Copy Rights and Copy Wrongs"
    Toronto Star (05/22/05) P. D10

    The Internet age has outmoded traditional forms of distributing copyrighted material, requiring a new type of copyright regime, according to intellectual property experts who back free exchange of information. Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons project is among several projects that aim to blaze a new trail; allowing people to creatively use a growing collection of owned work. Creative Commons has so far issued 12 million downloadable copyright licenses in the past two-and-a-half years. The key point in the current intellectual property debate came in 1999 when Napster allowed widespread, easily accessible peer-to-peer file-sharing. Since then, blogs, podcasting, and other manifestations of a new creative culture have emerged. University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, who helped establish Creative Commons Canada, says new mediums should be protected by the same free expression concept that has traditionally been applied to spoken and written speech. In addition to the Creative Commons projects, the University of Waterloo is seeking to compile a digital repository of cultural bits such as outtakes that otherwise would be lost due to copyright issues. Geist says such efforts will not help spawn new cultural and creative industries. Other public-domain projects include the Prelinger Archives and the BBC's Creative Archive. Geist says such projects represent the "evolution of media and the evolution of creativity. It's something that we ought to be embracing, not finding ways to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube. We ought not to be looking to the law to be solving issues that don't necessarily need solving."

  • "New Ways to Search, Navigate and Use Multimedia Museum Collections Over the Web"
    University of Southampton (ECS) (05/24/05); Addis, Matthew; Martinez, Kirk; Lewis, Paul

    The European Commission IST-funded Sculpteur project has spent the past three years developing new tools and techniques for creating, searching, navigating, accessing, sharing, repurposing, and using multimedia content from multiple sources over the Web, which museums and galleries could use to make their collections more accessible. The project has introduced two new modes for searching and navigating multimedia collections: By concept and by content. Conceptual searching allows users to make complex queries without manually combining the results of multiple separate searches, and to specialize or generalize their query as they see fit; Sculpteur provides a Concept Browser that graphically visualizes the concept ontology. Users can query and contrast different properties of 2D images and 3D models with content-based searching, and combining the concept, content, and text-based searching modes can yield better results as well as support new user search scenarios. Another Sculpteur tool is a classifier based on the integration of content semantics (color, shape, pattern) and application semantics (who, what, where, and so on) that can be used to analyze multimedia and categorize art objects in accordance with art domain semantics. Sculpteur's integrated Web interface is geared toward "power users"--museum professionals and the like--who need sophisticated searching and exploration capabilities. Each museum and gallery participating in Sculpteur has mapped the data in their legacy systems to the CIDOC Conceptual Reference Model, which supports interoperability and cross-collection searching, both between separate museums over the Web and within a set of legacy systems at a museum or gallery site.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Students Help Researchers Find Ways to Better Harness Supercomputer Power"
    Chronicle of Higher Education (05/27/05) Vol. 51, No. 38, P. A31; Kiernan, Vincent

    A five-university effort funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) could help researchers more effectively tap supercomputer power through the observation of computer-science students as they complete assignments in supercomputing classes. The project involves the recording of students' online work as they write and rewrite programs, and the assessment of the final versions of the assignments to test their operational performance. One of the participants, University of Maryland at College Park computer science professor Victor Basili, says the insights gained could yield the most effective methods for writing programs that handle diverse operations, as well as optimal strategies for teaching those methods. He says supercomputing researchers have chiefly concentrated on improving supercomputer hardware, while the project takes the opposite approach by focusing on software enhancements. DARPA is funding the project as part of a larger initiative to create a new generation of supercomputers after 2010 for both government and industrial use. DARPA program manager Robert Graybill says evaluating the students' work could help lead to the development of techniques for measuring the productivity of supercomputing programs. Other institutions participating in the program include MIT, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and the University of Southern California.
    Click Here to View Full Article
    (Access to this article is available to paid subscribers only.)

  • "Networks Drive Car of the Future"
    Network World (05/23/05) Vol. 22, No. 20, P. 70; Marsan, Carolyn Duffy

    The increasing complexity of automotive electronics is spurring car manufacturers to deploy shared data networks and standard protocols to facilitate high-speed internal communications between control systems, as well as use industry standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to support connections to external systems. Among the many automotive functions, products, and conveniences network advances can enable are hands-free calling via cell phones linked to built-in microphones and speakers through Bluetooth; digital satellite radio that drivers can use to download real-time news, information, and entertainment services, and receive streaming video; sensor-equipped virtual bumpers that can prevent collisions by detecting obstacles and automatically stopping the vehicle; remote monitoring services that can be used to schedule maintenance checks and run diagnostic tests to help pre-empt breakdowns; and navigational map or music file downloading via Wi-Fi. Standardization streamlines technical complexity and lowers the cost of components and software development. Chrysler's Martin Yagley says standard network protocols "enable us to introduce technology faster," which translates into better diagnostics for the consumer. Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics publisher Paul Hansen expects Bluetooth to be operational in 200,000 units annually within five to seven years, and ABI Research foresees the emergence of Bluetooth-enabled services such as remote diagnostics and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Of particular interest are two-way data communications systems that support traffic management and other applications designed to improve navigation and driver safety, although the infrastructure investment needed to make it work is formidable.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "The Browser Reloaded"
    InfoWorld (05/23/05) Vol. 27, No. 21, P. 38; Wayner, Peter

    Web applications can get a new lease on life through the Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) development model, which unshackles applications from the traditional request/response process and facilitates the asynchronous transaction of network communications. AJAX Web browsers use processing threads running in the background that preload Web page content, which enables automatic AJAX application loading, client-side data encryption, less bandwidth and processing strain on the server, and increased query response time. With AJAX, Web designers can control any characteristics of any type or image on a page, and the enthusiasm this is generating may reflect a new symbiosis between programmers and designers. However, AJAX is not without its shortcomings: Development tools for building JavaScript are rare, and many applications need capabilities that are only featured in the version of JavaScript included in newer browsers such as Firefox. Features that programmers of other languages expect to be included as routine components have only just started to appear in JavaScript. Furthermore, Princeton University computer science professor Ed Felten warns that the act of converting server-side features into JavaScript code could unintentionally give rise to security vulnerabilities. And the compiling of JavaScript code is dissimilar from that of Java, C, and other languages, while the JavaScript code can be seen or even edited by end users before it runs. Another hurdle is the fact that the JavaScript language is still immature.
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Security: More Than Good Programming"
    SD Times (05/15/05) No. 126, P. 5; Zeichick, Alan

    A new BZ Research survey of 383 software development managers lists a variety of reasons as to why software applications are so riddled with security holes. Poor programming practices, poor design and architecture, and a lack of developer security training were cited by more than 50 percent of respondents, while 42%-50% cited insufficient testing and quality assurance, flawed software components and libraries, inadequate management emphasis on security, and shoddy implementation and administrative practices. However, several respondents attributed major security problems to a dearth of user education and bad user habits, which were never mentioned in the poll; consultant Amin Adatia said that a "majority of the breaks are due to human factors--from lack of training to plain stupidity to unwillingness to think." Desktop operating systems, desktop applications, server operating systems, Web servers, Web applications, and server applications were ranked in descending order as major security problem areas for respondents or their companies. When asked about the security of common server operating systems, some desktop managers said the more popular platforms are more likely targets, and therefore more work must be dedicated to securing the system. Many respondents noted the survey failed to ask about security vulnerabilities caused by email. Almost 50 percent of respondents claimed their organizations were not committing enough resources to ensure the security of applications, though more than 60 percent said their companies' efforts to boost software security were "somewhat effective."
    Click Here to View Full Article

  • "Homemade"
    IEEE Spectrum (05/05); Lipson, Hod

    Fabbers--personal devices that can fabricate useful items on demand from computerized design specs--could give a significant boost to independent design, eliminate a sizable portion of stock and delivery costs, and enable a new level of product customization. Rapid-prototyping systems employed in various industries are a likely forerunner of home fabbing: The machines build products by depositing materials in successive layers as they read data describing sections of a computer model. A critical milestone is a rapid prototyper that generates objects featuring both electronic and mechanical components, while increasing the system's speed, reducing its cost, and making it easy to use are further challenges to be met. Moreover, the range of materials rapid prototypers can work with must be extended to include substances that induce motion through electric stimulation and chemical systems and separators to fabricate batteries. Integrating direct-write technologies with solid-freeform fabricators requires the adaptation of thin-film deposition to rough 3D surfaces, while standard file formats for specifying multimaterial objects must be developed so that people can freely share design specs. Professor Hod Lipson's team at Cornell's Computational Synthesis Laboratory has successfully created a small fabber that produces a coin-shaped battery and actuator without human intervention. The fabber follows a computer-aided-design model and uses software that produces the paths that guide the tools, as well as a fabrication sequence of materials and tools; stereolithography files define the objects to be printed. The Cornell team's breakthrough is a significant step toward their goal of a system that can print out robots with integrally fabricated sensors, actuators, and a power supply.
    Click Here to View Full Article

    [ Archives ]  [ Home ]