Tech Watch: Dec. 2018

There’s a high likelihood you’ve either driven or taken a ride in a vehicle that was touched by GKN Driveline, a division within the global engineering firm of the same name that makes driveline technologies for 90-plus percent of the world’s car makers.

Customized Tooling, Generalized Time Savings

There’s a high likelihood you’ve either driven or taken a ride in a vehicle that was touched by GKN Driveline (gkn.com). A division within the global engineering firm of the same name, GKN Driveline makes driveline technologies for 90-plus percent of the world’s carmakers. It designs, develops and manufactures two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, hybrid or pure electric vehicle architectures that are integrated into the widely practical, such as Fiat Chrysler vehicles, to the wildly aspirational Maserati and Ferrari roadsters. 

The variety of technology applications GKN produces means production flexibility and speed are non-negotiable, particularly on the factory floor. That’s where GKN says it turned to 3D printing in general and to Stratasys Inc. (stratasys.com) in particular. 

GKN Driveline recently began using a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer at its plant in Florence, Italy, where it is now reporting a 70 percent cut in lead times when harnessing 3D printing for customized assembly tools.
 

“The ability to quickly 3D print tools and parts that are customized to a specific production need gives us a new level of flexibility and significantly reduces our supply chain. Considering that we produce several thousand individual parts a week, this ability to manufacture on-demand is crucial to ensuring our production line is always operational and maintains business continuity,” said Carlo Cavallini, GKN lead process engineer and team leader.

In one example, workers developed a tool that improves grease distribution and eliminates the need to clean up spillages. The tool has helped in streamlining the production cycle.

As they’ve expanded the adoption of 3D printing, plant managers have also used the Stratasys tech to shape several customized end-of-arm tools made of ULTEM 9085 3D printing material.  These tools, which move individual components down the production line, have similar durability against the metal parts they’re replacing and have helped the plant reap time savings, the firm says. 


Sony’s Chip May See Further

Sony Corp. will start shipping samples of what it’s calling the industry’s highest resolution complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor. Sony is positioning the sensor, which has a 7.42 effective megapixel filter, for cameras and advanced driver assistance systems. 

The sensor can snag high-definition images of road signs as far as 160 meters (525 feet) away, making its resolution three times more powerful than competitor sensors, the company says.

The stacked design of the chip, known as IMX324, includes a layered pixel array and a signal processing circuit that means a smaller size and a lower power demand. Sony said it expected the IMX324 will be compatible with the EyeQ 4 and EyeQ 5 image processors being developed by the Intel-owned Mobileye (www.mobileye.com), for use in autonomous vehicle technology. Sony notes the sensor is expected to meet reliability testing standards for automotive electronic components by June 2018. 


Entertained to Death 

All the conveniences of our phones and tablets are making their way into the car. We’re more entertained, but University of Utah researchers say they’re making us less safe—and they have the data to prove it. 

Commissioned by AAA and led by psychology Professor David L. Strayer, the study found in-vehicle information systems take drivers' attentions off the road for too long.
 

"With the best intentions, we will put some technology in the car that we think will make the car safer, but people being people will use that technology in ways that we don't anticipate," Strayer said.

Researchers looked at infotainment systems in 30 different 2017 vehicles. “Assisted” with voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies, study participants were tasked with making a call, sending a text message, tuning the radio or programming the navigation system while driving.

The researchers found drivers using features such as voice-based and touch-screen technology took their eyes off the road for more than 24 seconds to complete tasks. The most distracting function? Programming the nav system chewed up attention spans—taking diverting attentions for an average of 40 seconds to complete. 

The risk of a crash doubles when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for two seconds, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. AAA said it hoped the new research would help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and the demands they place on drivers.


A Viper That’s Looking Out for You

Unlike the household name of Sony, the Israeli company AdaSky (adasky.com) has largely been in “stealth mode” (their terminology). But just like Sony, AdaSky will soon be shopping around prototypes of its new thermal-imaging camera, called Viper, for testing at tier-one suppliers and automotive OEMs.

Viper will enable any autonomous vehicle to see better and analyze its surroundings, even at night, the company says. It includes a thermal camera paired with plenty of machine vision algorithms in one package. 

Viper passively collects finite impulse response, or FIR, signals by detecting thermal energy radiated from objects and their body heat. Algorithms then process the signals collected by the camera to fill in a picture of pedestrians, cyclists or dogs (as the company’s demo shows) from as far away as more than 100 meters.

"The most basic need for an autonomous vehicle is to be able to see and interpret what is happening around it, regardless of road conditions. Existing sensors and cameras available today can't meet this need on their own," said President and CEO Avi Katz. "To address this, we turned to FIR technology, which has been proven in other vertical industries and is mature enough to scale. We adapted the technology for the automotive industry and have been able to create a solution that performs at its best in most cases where other sensors fail."

Founded in January 2016, AdaSky’s mission isn’t to replace other sensors on the market. Instead, the company’s value proposition to automakers and suppliers is as a backup set of automated eyes for a fully autonomous vehicle.