Researchers confront optics and data-transfer challenges with 3D-printed lens

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IMAGE: Illinois researchers developed a spherical lens that allows light coming into the lens from any direction to be focused into a very small spot on the surface of the lens…
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Credit: Graphic by Michael Vincent

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers have developed new 3D-printed microlenses with adjustable refractive indices – a property that gives them highly specialized light-focusing abilities. This advancement is poised to improve imaging, computing and communications by significantly increasing the data-routing capability of computer chips and other optical systems, the researchers said.

The study was led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers Paul Braun and Lynford Goddard and is the first to demonstrate the ability to adjust the direction in which light bends and travels through a lens with sub-micrometer precision.

The results of the study are published in the journal Light: Science and Application.

“Having the ability to fabricate optics with different shapes

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Relativity Space raises $500M to speed up plan to build and launch 3D-printed rockets

Tim Ellis and rocket component
Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis stands alongside a 3D-printed rocket component. (Relativity Space Photo)

Relativity Space says it’s brought in another $500 million in investment to speed up its effort to build entire orbital-class rockets using 3D printing.

The startup — which was founded in Seattle less than five years ago and is now headquartered in Long Beach, Calif. — has attracted more than $685 million from investors so far, and is said to have a total valuation in excess of $2 billion.

That rise to unicorn status has sparked comparisons to another California-based space venture, SpaceX, even though Relativity has yet to launch a rocket.

In a news release, Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis said his company is on track to execute the first launch of its Terran 1 rocket from Florida next year, thanks to existing capital on its balance sheet.

“With this new Series D funding, we

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3-D-printed weather stations could enable more science for less money

3-D-printed weather stations could enable more science for less money
3-D-printed weather station initial installation in the field. Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

An inexpensive monitoring system with 3-D-printed parts and low-cost sensors might not last as long as a commercial one, but it can be just as accurate, researchers found.


Across the United States, weather stations made up of instruments and sensors monitor the conditions that produce our local forecasts, like air temperature, wind speed and precipitation. These systems aren’t just weather monitors, they are also potent tools for research on topics from farming to renewable energy generation.

Commercial weather stations can cost thousands of dollars, limiting both their availability and thus the amount of climate data that can be collected. But the advent of 3-D printing and low-cost sensors have made it possible to build a weather station for a few hundred dollars. Could these inexpensive, homegrown versions perform as well as their pricier counterparts?

The answer is yes—up

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Relativity’s 3D-printed engine has completed a mission duty cycle test-firing

Full-duration test of Aeon 1 rocket engine.

Relativity Space said Monday that the company has successfully completed a full-duration test-firing of its Aeon 1 rocket engine, running it at full power for 187 seconds.

The test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi took place with all of the engine’s key components—including turbopumps, injector, and combustion chamber—operating in a flight-like configuration. Surprisingly, the company met this milestone ahead of schedule—Relativity had been targeting completion of this mission duty cycle test before the end of 2020.

“Despite the coronavirus, we’re on track,” said Relativity’s chief executive, Tim Ellis, in an interview. “The mission-duty-cycle engine test is actually two months ahead of schedule. So I think it really demonstrates how the 3D-printing approach to building a rocket is lightning fast.”

Moving fast

It is safe to say that Relativity, which aims to 3D print nearly the entirety of its rockets, is moving

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Rocket Lab’s next launch will deliver 30 satellites to orbit — and a 3D-printed gnome from Gabe Newell

Rocket Lab’s next mission will put dozens of satellites into orbit using the launch company’s Kick Stage “space tug,” as well as a 3D-printed garden gnome from Valve Software’s Gabe Newell. The latter is a test of a new manufacturing technique, but also a philanthropic endeavor from the gaming industry legend.

Scheduled for no earlier than November 15 (or 16 at the New Zealand launch site), the as-yet-unnamed launch — Rocket Lab gives all of their missions cheeky names — will be the company’s “most diverse ever,” it said in a press release.

A total of 30 satellites will be deployed using Rocket Lab’s own Kick Stage deployment platform, which like other “space tugs” detaches from the second stage once a certain preliminary orbit is reached and then delivers its payloads each at their own unique trajectory. That’s the most individual satellites every taken up at once by Rocket Lab.

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Hardware tinkerer builds a streaming-focused, 3D-printed handheld gaming PC

In context: PC gaming has come along way over the past few years, both in terms of its userbase and accessibility. Thanks to the efforts of companies like GPD (the creator of the well-known GPD Win handheld PCs), we can even bring our full-fat PC games with us on the go, albeit with some compromises in the performance department.

However, what if you want a mobile gaming experience without giving up performance or graphical fidelity? That’s a question Redditor Tombston asked and answered for himself a couple months ago.

The crafty user took the time to fashion his own Raspberry Pi Zero W-based game streaming handheld, which he’s dubbed “Lemonlight.”

On the surface, the custom device resembles a Nintendo Switch Lite. However, from what we can tell, there isn’t a single Switch component here — on the exterior, there’s a host of Dual Shock knockoff buttons, two Wii U analog

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