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Exoskeletons Could Improve 787 Production

This is how Boeing will be able to make 14 787 Dreamliners each month. Also, lasers that send quiet, targeted messages to specific people, and the first true 3D printer.

Researchers Transmit Super-Targeted Audio Messages with Lasers

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory are using lasers to send quiet, but targeted messages to specific people.

Using the photoacoustic effect, which transmists sound using the water vapor in the air, the researchers hit people with 60 decibels of sound - the equivalent of a conversation in a restaurant, background music, or an air conditioning unit that's 100 feet.

Right now, they targeted individuals little more than 8 feet away (2.5 m), but the idea is to eventually be able to send direct messages to a single person without any receiving equipment.

So far, the researchers have sent music and recorded speech, but next the team will work on expanding the range. The technology has obvious applications for the military and, tragically, in super-targeted advertising as well as the downfall of modern civilization.


The First True 3D Printer

New work from University of Michigan researchers may have significantly increased the speed Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing. SLA is typically slower, trading speed for precision it uses an ultraviolet laser to harden a liquid resin.

The researchers, Timothy Scott and Mark Burns, have found a way to print 2 meters of material per hour, which is roughly 100 times faster than similar processes in the market. The work could make SLA a more viable option for mass production.

Traditional SLA machines use light to harden the liquid plastic layer by layer. This method uses one precise flash to solidify an entire object in a single step.

So far, the team  has printed the University of Michigan logo, a tiny boat, and a lattice structure.

The researchers say this is one of "the first true 3D printers ever made.” Once the technology is more developed, it could drastically impact traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding. But if you look at the little boat, you can tell that we still have some time before a commercial product launches.


Boeing Exoskeletons Could Improve 787 Production

Boeing wants to make 14 787 Dreamliners each month and to make that possible, workers will now be outfitted with exoskeletons.

Exoskeletons, which have been proven to improve worker productivity while limiting fatigue, have already made waves in the automotive industry as Ford and Hyundai have outfitted workers, and the military has jumped in the game as well, with preliminary work on exoskeletons that help lighten the load for the average soldier.

According to a recent report from Reuters, Boeing rolls out a new 787 every 1.75 days, or 12 a month. The investment in exoskeletons, which cost from $4500 - $7000 each, will push that to every 1.5 days. It might not seem like much, but when the 787 starts at $239 million, you understand a need to pick up the pace.

Boeing tested the technology with a group of mechanics in South Carolina and if the data continues to show improved safety and productivity, it could be rolled out to thousands of workers over the next two years.

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