Tech Watch/Feb. 2018

The Coming EV Boom; Testing 3D Printing Close Up; A New LiDAR Entrant; Sensing Human Heartbeats Inside the Car

Testing 3D Printing, Close Up

3D printing, while cheaper than many other forms of rapid prototyping, still isn’t cheap. Creating iteration after iteration adds up, particularly when testing out how different materials react to differing designs. 

Visualization software firm Allegorithmic (allegorithmic.com) recently unveiled the 3D Print collection for its Substance Source online materials library. The collection is intended to give designers an in-depth cheat sheet for what their products could look like in 3D printed form. 
The downloadable previews also mimic the surface attributes such as textures and even layer imperfections found in 3D printed materials. Some 40 materials and 10 printed meshes are represented in the collection, as are different printer head variations. Allegorithmic says it spent months consulting design industry professionals and in-house 3D artists to assemble the product preview archive, which is geared to help 3D printing newbies and new industry adopters test out patterns in their designs. 

“With this new collection, we wanted to offer designers the ability to experiment with a new sense of tactility through photorealistic renderings, so they can almost feel the object in their hands before they print it,” says Nicolas Paulhac, product manager of Substance Source and CMF Designer at Allegorithmic. 

The catalog is included as part of a subscription with Substance for the $19.90 “Indie” plan and $99.90 for the “Pro” plan. Either plan offers 30 downloads per month, plus access to the latest releases of all Substance software. Companies looking to access the entire library with unlimited downloads may contact Allegorithmic directly on pricing options. 


The Coming EV Boom

Toyota plans to make 10 pure battery electric vehicle models by the early 2020s. General Motors says it will make 20 new EV models by 2023. Ford followed GM’s announcement with its own plans for 13 new EVs through a $4.5-billion investment. And those industry-shaking announcements were just in the fourth quarter of 2017. 

Even if only half of those announcements come to fruition in the timelines promised, the global EV market and the lithium-ion battery industry are poised for a boom. BCC Research (bccresearch.com) anticipates that said boom will create a $63.2-billion annual passenger EV market by 2022. An even more optimistic projection could see a market worth more than $71.5-billion in 2022, based on annual sales of more than 2 million passenger EVs. 
 

EV sales are expected to pass the 1 million mark in 2017. Sweden-based EV-Volumes (ev-volumes.com), which follows global sales, projects five-million battery-powered cars will be roaming the roads by the end of 2018.

The boom, obviously, would carry over to the lithium-ion battery market, as well. That market could reach $60-billion a year for lithium-ion batteries by 2024, according to Global Market Insights (gminsights.com). That number includes both EV batteries and sales of smaller lithium-ion batteries for consumer electronics, such as smartphones and tablets.


A New LiDAR Entrant

The battle over who will control, or perhaps even get a toehold, in the LiDAR market continues,  seemingly with new entrants nearly every month. In December, emerging from stealth mode was San Francisco-based Ouster (ouster.io). The firm not only announced a $27-million round of venture backing led by Cox Enterprises, it unveiled that its Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) remote sensing system, the OS1 LiDAR, was hitting the market immediately.

Potentially more newsworthy than either one was the claim that the would-be price Ouster said it would charge for its ready-to-ship OS1: 85 percent less than its prime (and unnamed) competitor. 

LiDAR technology is widely considered the lynchpin for most autonomous driving systems. Ouster says its OSI is a 64-channel sensor, which matches highest-resolution automotive LiDAR technology now on the market. 

The company was co-founded by CEO Angus Pacala, the former head of engineering of Quanergy Systems, and CTO Mark Frichtl, a Quanergy Systems engineer who also spent time at Palantir Technologies, First Solar and the Apple Special Projects Group.

The startup says it will use the funding for manufacturing and development of the sensors, which it plans to produce in the tens of thousands this year. The financing also will help fuel its planned expansion from its current headcount of about 40 to 100 employees by summer.  


Sensing Human Heartbeats … Inside the Car 

Israeli firm Guardian Optical Technologies ( www.guardian-optech.com) says its sensor technology is so “passenger aware” that it can discern just how many heartbeats are in a car at any given moment. 

The patent-pending sensor combines two-dimensional video image recognition and three-dimensional motion detection to paint a macro- and micro-picture. The system scans and tracks occupants and objects in the cabin, and can discern the difference between the two. Guardian reports that the system also ties into seatbelts, airbags and other built-in safety systems, picking up tiny movements, including heartbeats in the vehicle.

“Our vision is to create the ultimate in-vehicle sensing platform, enabling manufacturers to be more aware of passengers so that over time the travel experience will be improved, and the road will become a safer place for us all,” says co-founder and CEO Gil Dotan.

Guardian says the single sensor works in conjunction with other off-the-shelf tech and helps reduce the number of sensors required to operate in the cabin, cutting costs. It pegs those savings at around $20 per vehicle. 

The company also plans to accelerate the rollout of the technology with the help of $5.1-million in series A investments from Maniv Mobility and Mirai Creation Fund, a round of funding announced in December. The Mirai Creation Fund is backed by some 20 companies, including Toyota.