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Tech Watch - Oct. '17

Investing Big in LiDAR (Again) The race is on for next generation LiDAR technology that will be the foundation of autonomous driving and big investors are making chase.


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Investing Big in LiDAR (Again)
The race is on for next generation LiDAR technology that will be the foundation of autonomous driving and big investors are making chase. The latest example is Israeli firm Oryx Vision (oryxvision.com), which recently raised $50-million in a second round of venture capital financing. Third Point Ventures and WRV led the round, which included Union Tech Ventures, and existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Maniv Mobility and Trucks VC. Oryx has raised a total of $67-million since 2016.

Oryx says its LiDAR system has no moving parts and relies on silicon-based microscopic antennas to detect light wave frequencies to create an accurate picture of its real-world surroundings. Oryx’s technology is superior to systems that rely on photodetectors to interpret the energy of light particles because its antennas are resistant to interference from other LiDARS as well as pesky sunlight, according to the company. In fact, Oryx claims its system is “a million times more sensitive” than, traditional LiDAR.  

The new financing will go toward developing the technology, which Oryx says will be available for car-based testing in the second half of 2018. 

Eyes on You


Are you feeling sleepy? Distracted, perhaps? Are you, in fact, the rightful owner of this vehicle? 



These are questions a future vehicle’s instrument panel could soon be asking—and answering—in fractions of a second, as computer vision and software combine with human-machine interfaces that recognize faces and react accordingly. 


Eying this tech trajectory are Jabil Inc. (jabil.com) and eyeSight Technologies (eyesight-tech.com), which signed a partnership to develop in-car sensing technology that evaluates whether the driver is “active and aware.” Jabil makes optical technology and other electronics, and eyeSight supplies computer vision and deep-learning software. 


The companies have linked up to produce a system that identifies drivers through facial recognition, assesses driver attentiveness by the position of the head and tracking eyelids, and even measures driver distraction through iris tracking. The technology theoretically could also enable touch-free controls through modest gestures.


“The accuracy, intelligence and efficiency of the system we’re developing will enable automakers to implement in-car sensing systems across all vehicle types,” says Lisa Bahash, senior vice president at Jabil Automotive Group. 



Tailored to be Made

Makers of three-dimensional printers know that for both mass manufacturers and small-scale producers, parts customization is king. 


This summer, Solidscape (solid-scape.com), which is owned by Stratasys (stratasys.com), released its S500 3D printer, and a pair of casting and dissolvable support materials, innovations they say up the customization ante considerably. 


The S500 was designed for industrial casting manufacturers that need to produce complex parts where dimensional accuracy and near-perfect external and internal surface finishes are critical. It also was designed with speed in mind, by making castable parts and creating custom molds from wax patterns. 


"The growing global demand we see for manufacturers to develop more short production runs of precision parts requires tools that can help them iterate design cycles quickly," said Fabio Esposito, Solidscape’s president. 


The wax patterns produced by the machine can be cast directly in metals or can be used to make master molds, removing the tooling step in production, Esposito said. 


Embedded in the S500 is what Solidscape calls “Solidjet Technology,” which builds a support structure of solid wax that enables organic shapes with undercuts, overhangs, thin walls and interlocking parts. This is capable of producing castings with consistent interior and exterior surface finishes.


Solidscape also released a new material called “Midas” that enables clean burnouts without expanding. Those qualities make it an optimal material for metal casting of stainless steel, nickel and other alloys.



Painting by Smaller Numbers


As anyone who’s had a significant door ding or worse could tell you, exterior paint isn’t just paint. A vehicle’s exterior finish typically includes tiny metal flakes that give it that shimmering wink that draws us into the showroom. Borrowing from a medical imaging technique called “optical coherence tomography” (OCT), researchers from the University of Liverpool (liverpool.ac.uk)  say they’ve been able to automatically measure the size, number and orientation of metal flakes in industrially applied car paint. The approach could help speed up quality assurance at the end of the production line. 


"The painting step is a bottleneck in the manufacturing process," says Yaochun Shen, lead researcher on the project and professor at the UK university. "If the finished car paint does not meet requirements, then it must be removed chemically and the car completely repainted. This not only costs time and money but also creates chemical waste."


The UK scientists report using OCT can identify flakes that are as small as 1-micron thick. The automotive industry typically relies on ultrasound imaging to examine car paint during the quality assurance phase which, according to the researchers, can’t image metal flakes found in many contemporary paints. Ultrasound also requires physical contact with a sample, while the OCT method doesn’t touch the paint.  "Using the technique for monitoring in-line processes could also help automotive manufacturers better understand the whole coating process," says Shen. "With that better understanding, the car industry may be able to develop new coating processes or new types of coating."  



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