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R&D project targets fully adaptive automotive lighting By Christoph Hammerschmidt a perfect ilumination is a major safety factor in road traffic. An R&D project in Germany aims at developing a fully adaptive lighting system for road vehicles. The consortium involved covers the entire value chain - from liquid crystals to semiconductors, PCBs and optical systems. The goal of the research project with the funny name VoLiFa2020 is to develop a fully adaptive illumination distribution for intelligent, efficient and safe vehicle lighting. Fully adaptive in this context means that the lighting system adapts automatically, continuously and with almost zero delay to the driving situation - if, for instance, another vehicle or even a bicycle appears in the counter traffic, the lighting system will selectively dim the respective sector in the light cone. With its differentiated lighting distribution, the system will help drivers to faster and better identify potentially hazardous situations and thus contribute to overall road traffic safety. Involved are a number of companies that cover the entire technology chain. Chemical company Merck develops specific liquid crystals custom-designed to control the light beam. Chipmaker Elmos AG is responsible for the semiconductors involved while PCB manufacturer Schweizer Electronic AG devises the customer-specific printed circuit board. Automotive lighting company Hella KGaA holds the responsibility for the development of the optical systems and the integration of the components. The research institute for lighting technology and mechatronics (L-Lab) and carmaker Porsche are devising the overall system specifications, taking into account the subjective perceptual aspects of all traffic participants. The lighting system targets not only passenger cars but also commercial vehicles like trucks and buses. The project is partially funded by the German federal research ministry BMBF with an amount of €2 million over a period of three years. Open-source projects key to popularize 3D printing By Julien happich powered by a growing range of industrial applications, 3D printing will become a mainstream production tool in many industries, according to Lux Research. The market research firm estimates that the total 3D printing (3DP) market will nearly quadruple to $12 billion in 2025, with printers alone representing a $3.2 billion share, while formulated materials could account for $2 billion. The remaining $7 billion could come from the value of parts produced with this technology. “Consumer uses of 3D printing attract most of the headlines, but industrial uses, from molds and tooling to actual production parts, are quietly having the greatest impact,” notes Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “How 3D Printing Adds Up: Emerging Materials, Processes, Applications, and Business Models.” “However, the field is still just getting started; advances in processing and printable materials technology are still necessary for future growth,” he added. According to Lux Research analysts, much like conventional “2D” printer makers, 3D printer companies often sell formulated materials at a steep mark-up, from 10 times to 100 times, an economic model which somehow holds back the widespread adoption of 3D printers, confining their use to prototyping rather than volume production. Out of the four printer companies that dominate the market with a combined 31% share of the pie, namely 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS and Arcam, only the last one has an open materials supply model, which could eventually break the ties from a Razor/Blade type of business model. According to Lux Research, as patents on many key 3D printing technologies will start to expire over the next three years, new crops of lower cost 3D printers will appear, widening the range of capabilities available to end users. By publicly endorsing 3D Systems’ printing services for the customization of its open-source modular phone, will Google push the top companies towards lower material costs? Part of the customization options will certainly include a large open-source library of 3D CAD models of the different module housings, ready for further texturing through open source CAD tools, so consumers can order their parts on a 3D printing-ondemand basis. A fair number of 3D printing companies already offer their services online, but will it take a Google modular smartphone to break the current 3D printing economic model and drive the massive adoption of 3D printing? 22 Electronic Engineering Times Europe June 2014 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE JUN 2014
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