Judith Su’s picture

By: Judith Su

My Little Sensor Lab at the University of Arizona develops ultrasensitive optical sensors for medical diagnostics, medical prognostics, environmental monitoring, and basic science research. Our sensor technology identifies substances by shining light on samples and measuring the index of refraction, or how much light is slowed down when it passes through a material that is different from one substance to another—say, water and a DNA molecule.

The big idea

Our technology lets us detect extremely low concentrations of molecules down to one in a million-trillion molecules and can give results in under 30 seconds.

Ordinarily, index of refraction is too subtle to detect in a single molecule, but using a technology we developed, we can pass light through a sample thousands of times, which amplifies the change. This makes our sensor among the most sensitive in existence.

The device includes a tiny ring that light races around—240,000 times in 40 nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. A liquid sample surrounds the sensor. Some of the light extends outside of the ring, where it interacts with the sample thousands of times.

Elizabeth Benham’s picture

By: Elizabeth Benham

This year will be the 45th anniversary of the Metric Conversion Act, which was signed on Dec. 23, 1975, by President Gerald R. Ford. Normally, we celebrate by sharing metric education resources, but this year I want to use the occasion to dispel some common misconceptions about the U.S. relationship with the metric system.

You’ve probably heard that the United States, Liberia, and Burma (aka Myanmar) are the only countries that don’t use the metric system (International System of Units or SI). You may have even seen a map that has been incriminatingly illustrated to show how they are out of step with the rest of the world.

Countries that have not "officially" adopted the metric system (The United States, Myanmar, and Liberia) in gray. Credit: AzaToth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


George Schuetz’s picture

By: George Schuetz

Before a fixture gauge is designed, the engineer must understand what specifications must be inspected. In many respects, the gauge’s design reflects not only the design of the part but also the manufacturing processes that produced it.

Machinists must establish datums in order to machine a part accurately, and gauge designers often need to know what those datums are in order to position the part repeatably relative to the gauge head or other sensitive device. Sounds simple and straightforward, but that is not always the case.

Sometimes the parts are so large that they cannot easily be brought to the gauge, and a special arrangement might be required to bring the gauge to a section of the part. Other times, the part is so small that it seems impossible to get to the dimension that must be measured. Gauge designers are always amused when a part print—that comes in at 10 times the normal size—refers to a small land at the bottom of the bore. At 10 times the size, it looks pretty simple, although in reality it may be impossible to measure.

This is when good fixture design comes into play to ensure the measurement can be made in a way that is easy for the operator to make, and to produce repeatable and accurate results.

NVision Inc.’s picture

By: NVision Inc.

A popular high-tech retailer recently used NVision Inc.'s long-range scanning and measurement services to reduce by one full month the time and cost of expanding its business into a newly vacated space. The system is designed to scan large structures where precise manual measurements are difficult or even impossible.

The scans were used to create a computer-aided design (CAD) file that revealed numerous interferences contained within the proposed design for the vacant space. The retailer used the CAD file to revise its designs before construction began, thus avoiding costly and time-consuming midconstruction corrections.

When a retailer closes its brick-and-mortar store, it can provide a neighboring retailer with the opportunity to expand its own space, increasing its displays, inventory, customer services, and ultimately, sales. However, this opportunity invariably requires some redesign work and new construction on the part of the expanding retailer.

Tim Mouw’s picture

By: Tim Mouw

To establish a successful quality control program, you need good instrumentation, robust software, and trained users. But even with everything in place, there are some common pitfalls to watch for when using a spectrophotometer to analyze color quality.

Jérôme-Alexandre Lavoie’s picture

By: Jérôme-Alexandre Lavoie

On Sept. 24, 2020, Creaform released the latest products in its R-Series scanners and software, which can increase productivity by detecting and addressing issues using automated dimensional quality control.

The lineup includes the new MetraSCAN-R BLACK robot-mounted optical CMM scanner, four different models in the CUBE-R 3D scanning measuring machine, and the brand-new VXscan-R digital twin environment software module that represents a key element in the company’s turnkey automated quality control solution suite.

Zach Murphree’s picture

By: Zach Murphree

The metal additive manufacturing (AM, aka 3D printing) industry is in vigorous pursuit of repeatable part quality. Its aim is to match the reliability and performance found in traditional manufacturing industries such as machining or casting. Repeatable quality opens the door to wide-scale implementation in product development: Witness the explosive growth of molded plastics after the development of a well-defined shape-forming process for part consolidation and functionally creative geometries was established.

Industry analyst Smartech Publishing states that the AM market crossed $10 billion last year. Going forward, AM’s potential in series production and direct part replacement is huge. Growth now depends largely on quantitative quality measurement and establishing dependable machine-calibration methods. Even the improving cost-efficiencies of AM won’t advance the process much if component behavior can’t be fully understood and trusted in mission-critical applications or across mid- to high-volume orders.

Jason Stoughton’s picture

By: Jason Stoughton

Remember that documentary you saw that finally explained metrology and why measurements are critical to practically every aspect of modern life? Yeah, neither do I. Probably because that documentary doesn’t exist... or does it?

The Last Artifact, a new one-hour film that PBS stations started broadcasting in September 2020, aims to fill that cinematic void by bringing metrology to the people. It tells the tale of measurement science and features researchers from metrology laboratories around the world, including several faces from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The crew of
The Last Artifact films NIST’s Kibble balance, a complex instrument used in the redefinition of the kilogram. From left, NIST researchers Stephan Schlamminger and Darine Haddad, sound recordist Parker Brown, director of photography Rick Smith, and co-director/producer Jaime Jacobsen. Credit: J. Stoughton/NIST

Shobhendu Prabhakar’s picture

By: Shobhendu Prabhakar

Although remote inspection has been a topic of discussion in the oil and gas industry in the past, it has recently been getting more attention during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many oil and gas operators, as well as engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractors and suppliers have come forward to discuss this topic with an open mind and explore possibilities. Remote inspection is perhaps the need of the hour, but it can also be the future of inspection.

What is remote inspection?

Remote inspection is an alternative to an onsite physical inspection in which the person performs inspection activities remotely using sophisticated technological tools. It’s many benefits include:
• Elimination of personnel risk exposure to hazardous conditions and dangerous tasks in harsh environments
• Global collaboration and optimization of workforce use
• Inspection cost reduction
• Real-time feedback
• Flexibility
• Eco-friendly by helping to reduce overall global carbon footprint

Success factors for remote inspection

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?
—Henry David Thoreau

Ron Cowen’s picture

By: Ron Cowen

NIST physicist Zachary Levine doesn’t cook that often, but when he does, it can easily turn into a science experiment.

Two years ago, after he and his wife had endured a week of under-baked cookies and chicken that took forever to roast, Levine wasn’t content to simply recalibrate his oven according to the manufacturer’s directions. In attempting his own calibration, using the boiling point of water as a standard reference, Levine ended up studying the thermal physical properties of water.

More recently, Levine was back in the kitchen, boiling the contents of a frozen package of peas and carrots for dinner, when he noticed something odd: The two vegetables spontaneously parted company, with the peas generally moving to the edges of the pot while the carrots stayed put in the center. Every time Levine stirred the vegetables together—once, twice, three times, four times—they quickly separated, reverting to the same pattern in some 15 seconds.

He had to know why.

Syndicate content