Mechatronics Zone Blog

Understanding the Role of Cobalt in Batteries

By Kevin Clemens | March 22, 2018

A new report by the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) in Germany suggests that worldwide supplies of lithium and cobalt, materials used in electric vehicle batteries, will become critical by 2050. The situation for cobalt, a metal that is typically produced as a byproduct of copper and nickel mining, appears to be especially dire as “…the cobalt demand by batteries might be twice as high as the today’s identified reserves,” the HIU report stated.

12 Milestones in Electric Vehicle Racing

By Kevin Clemens | March 21, 2018


Senior Editor Kevin Clemens has been writing about energy, automotive, and transportation topics for more than 30 years. He has set several world land speed records on electric motorcycles that he built in his workshop.


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Jaguar's Entry Signals Electric Vehicles Are Headed for the Mainstream

Autonomous Mobile Robots Close the Automation Gap in Production Facilities

By Rob Spiegel | March 21, 2018

Autonomous mobile robots are becoming widely accepted in manufacturing and other settings. They’re getting deployed in a broad range of environments and applications, from moving materials in a factory to carrying medication to patient rooms in a hospital. Production processes have long been automated, but the movement of material has typically been a manual process, a gap in an otherwise automated facility.

The Unknown & Hidden Behaviors of Real-Time Systems

By Jacob Beningo | March 20, 2018

Hardware designers have it easy. They are working with a physical component that can be examined, weighed, and measured. If the hardware doesn’t work or has an issue, hardware designers can probe the electrical signals and visualize them using an oscilloscope. When I started developing embedded software almost two decades ago, it always bothered me that I couldn’t see what was actually happening in the microcontroller. I had to cross my fingers and hope that the software was executing as I intended.

Flexible, Safe Robots Quicken ROI

By Rob Spiegel | March 20, 2018

A robot that can work on one shift picking parts and another shift loading parts will deliver a quicker ROI than a static robot fixed to one job. Small- and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are discovering that smart manufacturing tools are now affordable. This is changing the audience for automation tools such as robots. The new robots can be moved from task to task and they’re safe around human workers. Plus, the cost of the robots and their accessories are now within the financial reach of SMEs.

This 3D-printed plastic stethoscope costs less than $3 but performs as well as models costing almost $200

By Norbert Sparrow | March 19, 2018

An emergency room physician who has worked in some of the poorest parts of the world has developed a plastic, 3D-printed stethoscope that performs on a par with conventional devices. It costs less than $3 to make, and can be produced by anyone with access to a 3D printer and ABS polymer. Traditional brand-name stethoscopes run between $150 and $190.

Jaguar's Entry Signals Electric Vehicles Are Headed for the Mainstream

By Kevin Clemens | March 19, 2018

When Tesla started selling its Model X crossover sport utility vehicle (CUV) at the end of 2015 it was the only game in town if you wanted a mid-sized, all-electric, luxury crossover. The key here is electric, because although the CUV segment has become one of the industry’s hottest sellers, Tesla has had the only electric CUV vehicle—until now.

Harvard SEAS Researchers Develop Technique to Control Fiber Orientation in 3D Printing

By Tracey Schelmetic | March 19, 2018

When the first ancient people mixed straw with mud to create stronger bricks for their houses, it may have been the first human-engineered composite material, but it was far behind nature. Wood is one of nature’s most fascinating composites – it combines a weak substance called lignin with long cellulose fibers that act as a polymer to create a strong yet lightweight material. Human bone combines hard-but-brittle calcium phosphate with the more flexible protein collagen to create one of nature’s strongest composites.


Biggest 3D Printed Parts Keep Getting Better

By Ann R. Thryft | March 16, 2018

OEMs in many industries are incorporating 3D-printed end-production parts into their products, not only in the long-time leaders for this trend -- aerospace and medical -- but also in automotive. Ford, for example, was the first automotive OEM to receive and evaluate Stratasys' large-scale Infinite Build technology, based on its fused deposition modeling (FDM) thermoplastic extrusion technology.

Battery Revolutions Are Predicted Weekly, But This One Might Be Real

By Kevin Clemens | March 16, 2018

Are we on the cusp of a revolution in battery technology? Qichao Hu, founder and CEO of SolidEnergy Systems Corporation in Woburn, Mass., thinks so.