February 06, 2024 Volume 20 Issue 05

Mechanical News & Products

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How a BattleBot was built using Onshape

Learn how RoboGym Robotics, a veteran BattleBots team, said goodbye to Solidworks and took their design game to the next level using Onshape, the cloud-native, all-in-one CAD and PDM solution. RoboGym was able to analyze key components of their Roundhouse BattleBot like its armor and weapon bar, run simulations, collaborate, iterate, and optimize their design to its fullest.
Read this informative Onshape blog.

Who knew? How colorants affect plastic

In plastic injection molding, one aspect of polymer characteristics that doesn't always get the consideration it deserves is the addition of colorant. Believe it or not, there is a whole scientific body of knowledge about the ways in which adding color to plastic can affect its behavioral properties. This short article by Denny Scher of ICO Mold takes a high-level look at some of the different, and surprising, ways colorants can affect plastics.
Read the full article.

Smart fixed flange bearings unlock predictive maintenance

igus has developed intelligent two- and four-hole fixed flange bearings with wireless sensing capabilities for wear detection. Constructed from self-lubricating, high-performance plastic, the bearings feature an integrated abrasion sensor, thin circuit board, and cableless battery supply. Wear interrupts the board's conductor paths, causing the electronics to lose the signal. The sensor then transmits a long-range network signal to an igus i.Cee switch cabinet module for analysis, including the percentage of abrasion.
Learn about igus smart bearing technology.

Screw jack configuration and selection tool

Thomson has added a screw jack config and select tool to its online engineering toolset to help design engineers optimize and specify screw jacks for applications involving loads up to 100 tons. Screw jacks are increasingly replacing hydraulic cylinders in many ultra-heavy, low duty-cycle applications. Enter load, speed, travel, duty cycle, and other motion parameters.
Learn more.

Retaining magnets from JW Winco: Universal and clever

JW Winco has expanded its magnet line to support more applications with new materials, shapes, systems, and even raw magnets. Learn about their latest offerings, including retaining magnets designed for corrosive environments (GN 50.8), encapsulated magnets designed for sensitive or painted surfaces (GN 51.8), handle magnets (GN 53.3), and powerful magnets designed to handle challenging environs (GN 52.6).
Learn more.

3D print tool steel with the ease of a plastic

The Virtual Foundry, a pioneer in advanced 3D-printing materials, is excited to announce the launch of their latest innovation: M300 Tool Steel Filametâ„¢ (not a typo). This material answers the demand for FFF 3D-printable Tool Steel, delivering unparalleled strength and versatility. What sets this material apart is its seamless compatibility with various 3D printers, including Creality, Bambu Lab, Ultimaker, and more. The filament prints effortlessly, resembling the ease of working with PLA (plastic).
Learn more.

New from Ruland: Inch-to-metric rigid couplings

Ruland Manufacturing now offers rigid couplings with inch-to-metric bores as a standard product, giving users a wider range of off-the-shelf couplings. This expansion is the latest addition to the company's inch-to-metric, standard coupling product line that includes seven types of motion-control couplings and universal joints. Instead of re-machining or ordering custom-made couplings, using off-the-shelf, inch-to-metric rigid couplings saves time and money.
Learn more.

Case study: YouTuber builds one-of-a-kind PC chassis with Xometry's manufacturing services

Learn how Josh Sniffen, the YouTuber behind the popular PC-building channel Not From Concentrate, leaned on Xometry for a wide range of manufacturing options, personalized DFM feedback, and order management support for his latest creation: the HEXO ATX.
Read this very cool Xometry case study.

E-Z Lok threaded insert CAD models available in online catalog

E-Z Lok, a leading manufacturer and master distributor of threaded inserts for metal, plastic, and wood, has recently launched an online CAD library to showcase a wide selection of its products. Built by CADENAS PARTsolutions, this catalog streamlines the design and spec process for engineers, MRO, and OEMs. Datasheets available for download.
Learn more about E-Z Lok threaded inserts.

70% longer service life for linear bushings

As a result of an optimized production process, Bosch Rexroth's segmental linear bushings with plastic cage used in a wide variety of industries achieve a load capacity that is up to 20% higher and a service life that is up to 70% longer. They are part of a Rexroth round guide with a matching shaft. The increase in load capacity makes it possible to use a smaller size in many cases while meeting the same requirements. Downsizing reduces system costs, saves space, and reduces weight.
Learn more.

Trick to measuring angles in SOLIDWORKS

Learn from the pros at TriMech how to take angle measurements easily in SOLID-WORKS. TriMech has an entire YouTube channel dedicated to SOLIDWORKS tips, and the company is excellent at training too.
View the video.

6 considerations for selecting a ball valve

Ball valves are the ideal valve of choice for liquid and gas conveyance lines ranging from diesel fuel to compressed air. Although these valves may seem simple, there's a lot more to them. Parker Hannifin offers valuable advice on body materials, configuration, seals, venting, and more in this informative post.
Read the Parker blog.

Great Resources: Sheet metal design guide

If you're looking for a basic guide to sheet metal design, this one from Xometry will serve your needs well. Follow the design requirements and tolerances in this guide to ensure parts fall closer to design intent. This is the type of information you'll sock away and then refer to again and again.
Read the full article.

What's a magnetic GHOST fastener?

PEM® GHOST™ Fastening Technology from Penn-Engineering uses a fully concealed pinch-lock mechanism to create a secure and sleek lock with zero visible evidence of disassembly once engaged. Using a magnetic release tool on the concealed fastener actuates the internal components, unlocking the pinch-lock grip and instantly releasing the pin from the fastener. From automotive interiors to access control systems, this clever fastening tech is adaptable to many applications.
View the video.

Engineer's Toolbox: The secret to living hinges that fold flat

Living hinges are often used to produce a container and its lid as a single molded part. If properly designed, they can open and close thousands of times without ever losing strength or flexibility. Proto Labs provides valuable tips on designing these (sometimes thin and fragile) parts.
Read the full article.

Researchers convert CO2 from the atmosphere into valuable carbon nanofibers

A new process converts carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into valuable carbon nanofibers. Using tandem electrocatalytic (blue ring) and thermocatalytic (orange ring) reactions to convert the CO2 (teal and silver molecules) plus water (purple and teal) into "fixed" carbon nanofibers (silver), it makes hydrogen gas (H2, purple) as a beneficial byproduct. [Credit: Zhenhua Xie/Brookhaven National Lab and Columbia University; Erwei Huang/Brookhaven National Lab]





Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Columbia University have developed a way to convert carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, into carbon nanofibers, materials with a wide range of unique properties and many potential long-term uses. Their strategy uses tandem electrochemical and thermochemical reactions run at relatively low temperatures and ambient pressure.

As the scientists describe in the journal Nature Catalysis, this approach could lock carbon away in a useful solid form successfully to offset or even achieve negative carbon emissions.

"You can put the carbon nanofibers into cement to strengthen the cement," said Jingguang Chen, a professor of chemical engineering at Columbia with a joint appointment at Brookhaven Lab who led the research. "That would lock the carbon away in concrete for at least 50 years, potentially longer. By then, the world should be shifted to primarily renewable energy sources that don't emit carbon."

As a bonus, the process also produces hydrogen gas (H2), a promising alternative fuel that, when used, creates zero emissions.

Capturing or converting carbon
The idea of capturing CO2 or converting it to other materials to combat climate change is not new, but simply storing CO2 gas can lead to leaks. Additionally, many CO2 conversions produce carbon-based chemicals or fuels that are used right away, which releases CO2 right back into the atmosphere.

"The novelty of this work is that we are trying to convert CO2 into something that is value-added but in a solid, useful form," Chen said.

Such solid carbon materials -- including carbon nanotubes and nanofibers with dimensions measuring billionths of a meter -- have many appealing properties, including strength and thermal and electrical conductivity. However, it's no simple matter to extract carbon from carbon dioxide and get it to assemble into these fine-scale structures. One direct, heat-driven process requires temperatures in excess of 1,000 C.

"It's very unrealistic for large-scale CO2 mitigation," Chen said. "In contrast, we found a process that can occur at about 400 degrees Celsius, which is a much more practical, industrially achievable temperature."

The electrocatalytic-thermocatalytic tandem strategy for CNF production circumvents thermodynamic constraints by combining the co-electrolysis of CO2 and water into syngas (CO and H2) with a subsequent thermochemical process under mild conditions (370 to 450 C, ambient pressure). This yields a high CNF production rate. [Credit: Zhenhua Xie/Brookhaven National Lab and Columbia University]





The tandem two-step
The trick was to break the reaction into stages and to use two different types of catalysts -- materials that make it easier for molecules to come together and react.

"If you decouple the reaction into several sub-reaction steps, you can consider using different kinds of energy input and catalysts to make each part of the reaction work," said Brookhaven Lab and Columbia research scientist Zhenhua Xie, lead author on the paper.

The scientists started by realizing that carbon monoxide (CO) is a much better starting material than CO2 for making carbon nanofibers (CNF). Then they backtracked to find the most efficient way to generate CO from CO2.

Earlier work from their group steered them to use a commercially available electrocatalyst made of palladium supported on carbon. Electrocatalysts drive chemical reactions using an electric current. In the presence of flowing electrons and protons, the catalyst splits both CO2 and water (H2O) into CO and H2.

For the second step, the scientists turned to a heat-activated thermocatalyst made of an iron-cobalt alloy. It operates at temperatures around 400 C, significantly milder than a direct CO2-to-CNF conversion would require. They also discovered that adding a bit of extra metallic cobalt greatly enhances the formation of the carbon nanofibers.

"By coupling electrocatalysis and thermocatalysis, we are using this tandem process to achieve things that cannot be achieved by either process alone," Chen said.

Recycle-ready, carbon-negative
"Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis conducted at CFN revealed the morphologies, crystal structures, and elemental distributions within the carbon nanofibers both with and without catalysts," said CFN scientist and study co-author Sooyeon Hwang.

The images show that, as the carbon nanofibers grow, the catalyst gets pushed up and away from the surface. That makes it easy to recycle the catalytic metal, Chen said.

"We use acid to leach the metal out without destroying the carbon nanofiber, so we can concentrate the metals and recycle them to be used as a catalyst again," he said.

This ease of catalyst recycling, commercial availability of the catalysts, and relatively mild reaction conditions for the second reaction all contribute to a favorable assessment of the energy and other costs associated with the process, the researchers said.

If these processes are driven by renewable energy, the results would be truly carbon-negative, opening new opportunities for CO2 mitigation.

Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Published February 2024

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