David H. Parker’s picture

By: David H. Parker

It is well known that the speed of light depends on the index of refraction of the medium in which the light is propagating. It is also well known that in a dispersive medium, the speed of an amplitude modulated wavefront depends on the group refractive index, i.e., slightly slower than the carrier light. Corrections for the group refractive index in air are typically made for temperature, humidity, and pressure—without which measurements could be in error by tens of parts per million. The internal instrument optical elements are also subject to dispersive effects, which have heretofore been ignored in the literature—and presumably in the design. Note that this is probably because no commercially available optical design software package models amplitude modulated wavefronts. A thought experiment will illustrate the problem.

Greg Hoeting’s picture

By: Greg Hoeting

Nuclear power has long been a clean, dependable source of energy throughout the world. However, as power plants age, concerns grow about their continued reliability. Many components make up the infrastructure of a nuclear power plant with the design intent to reduce radiation and contamination exposure to personnel, equipment, and the surrounding environment.

One of the biggest sources of this radiation and contamination comes from the vast network of pipes throughout the plant.

Olympus America’s picture

By: Olympus America

F unction often relates to form, and this is particularly true within the world of manufacturing. Rigorous quality assessment procedures ensure that components are manufactured according to their precise specifications before being assembled into the fully functioning whole. These assessments might include tasks such as geometric product specifications, fracture analysis, and surface roughness testing, and they form the core of quality control in many manufacturing processes. As such, identical tasks may be performed across industrial sectors as diverse as medical engineering, electronics, and the automotive industry. This article explores the limitations of existing approaches to quality assessment within industry, and details how opto-digital technology can be used as a more efficient alternative.

Techniques commonly used to accomplish tasks in quality assessment include contact profilometry and traditional light microscopy, and these demand a high level of accuracy in both inspection and metrology. Although these successful approaches are heavily relied on within industrial quality assessment, the novel approach of opto-digital microscopy is becoming an increasingly popular solution, bringing industrial quality control into the digital era.

Multiple Authors
By: Donald J. Wheeler, Al Pfadt

Each day we receive data that seek to quantify the Covid-19 pandemic. These daily values tell us how things have changed from yesterday, and give us the current totals, but they are difficult to understand simply because they are only a small piece of the puzzle. And like pieces of a puzzle, data only begin to make sense when they are placed in context. And the best way to place data in context is with an appropriate graph.

When using epidemiological models to evaluate different scenarios it is common to see graphs that portray the number of new cases, or the demand for services, each day.1 Typically, these graphs look something like the curves in figure 1.

Figure 1: Epidemiological models produce curves of new cases under different scenarios in order to compare peak demands over time. (Click image for larger view.)

Del Williams’s picture

By: Del Williams

We are all familiar with flash memory storage devices, the inexpensive “thumb” drives that you stick into your laptop to store and transfer data. However, there are much more rugged industrial flash drives that perform mission-critical storage functions built into systems that you rely on almost every day. You can find these in healthcare imaging, diagnostic, and therapeutic equipment; in aerospace for jet mission data collection, unmanned aircraft base stations, in-flight wi-fi services, and flight recorders; and in transportation for controlling a locomotive subsystem, recording event data, and launching the operating system for a commercial vehicle tracking system.

Simon Côté’s picture

By: Simon Côté

How can the KTM racing team inspect motorbike parts of various shapes, sizes, and complexity, and account for minuscule material variations and deviations between laps? The team trades microns for milliseconds. Here is how KTM Motorsports used 3D scanning solutions to perform quality control procedures and improve their times on the track.

Pol Espargaró from Red Bull KTM MotoGP

KTM AG is Europe’s leading high-performance street and off-road sport motorcycle manufacturer based in Mattighofen, Austria. Over the years, KTM has built a reputation as a fierce competitor on racetracks around the world. With an established presence in the off-road segments, KTM has progressed through the world of street motorcycles and recently made a foray into sport bike territory.

Robert Bellinger’s picture

By: Robert Bellinger

Scanning laser confocal microscopy (SLCM) has become a popular inspection tool in both research laboratories and manufacturing production lines. With a 405 nm laser light source, SLCM combines high-resolution horizontal (XY ~200 nm) and vertical (Z ~10 nm) information to create a 3D image within seconds.

SLCM’s measurement scale overlaps with optical light microscopy (OLM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and atomic force microscopy (AFM). In addition, there are minimal sample preparation requirements, and the microscopes can accommodate samples with a wide range of shapes, including large sizes. No consumables are required with SLCM, and there’s minimum system maintenance. All these benefits make SLCM a useful inspection tool. The table below summarizes the difference between these four techniques.

Figure 1: Comparing scanning laser confocal, scanning electron, atomic force, and optical light microscopy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s picture

By: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

‘Engineering is about building things to help others.”

Before diving into a longer explanation, that’s how Singanallur “Venkat” Venkatakrishnan, an electrical and computer engineer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), described engineering to students at Northwest Middle School.

Venkat was among 20 ORNL engineers who visited 15 middle schools across East Tennessee for Engineers Week, an international outreach effort created to cultivate a diverse engineering workforce by “increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.” ORNL’s inaugural Engineers Week activities introduced more than 800 students to the possibilities of engineering—and to the national lab in their backyard.

Singanallur “Venkat” Venkatakrishnan shows students at Northwest Middle School how to make a “hoop glider” as part of ORNL’s Engineers Week activities. Credit: Abby Bower/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

NIST’s picture


Unlike diamonds, solar panels are not forever. Ultraviolet rays, gusts of wind, and heavy rain wear away at them over their lifetime. 

Manufacturers typically guarantee that panels will endure the elements for at least 25 years before experiencing significant drop-offs in power generation, but recent reports highlight a trend of panels failing decades before expected. For some models, there has been a spike in the number of cracked backsheets—layers of plastic that electrically insulate and physically shield the backsides of solar panels.

The premature cracking has largely been attributed to the widespread use of certain plastics, such as polyamide, but the reason for their rapid degradation has been unclear. By closely examining cracked polyamide-based backsheets, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues have uncovered how interactions between these plastics, environmental factors, and solar panel architecture may be speeding up the degradation process. These findings could aid researchers in the development of improved durability tests and longer-lived solar panels. 

Kevin Hill’s picture

By: Kevin Hill

Analytical balance scales are a part of many laboratories. If you use them regularly, you need to keep the analytical scales well-maintained. They are extremely sensitive, and factors like dust, vibration, and air drafts will throw off the accuracy of the scales. This is why it is important to maintain and calibrate them regularly so that you get accurate weights every time you measure.

An analytical balance will work efficiently only if it is maintained properly. Follow the specific manufacturer’s recommendations that come with the balance.

Apart from that, follow these eight tips.

Keep it in the right environment
Keep the analytical balance in an area that is free of vibration and has controlled temperature and humidity.

Don’t place the balances next to doors or windows because opening or closing them will result in air drafts or temperature fluctuations that can lead to inaccurate measurements.

Keep it clean
Keep the analytical balance clean. Debris inside the weighing chamber can affect the weighing results.

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