Within the MERGE Federal Excellence Cluster, the scientists are developing wood veneer-plastic composites, known as ‘veneer prepregs ’. They are cost-effective and easy to recycle; the regional wood species European beech and spruce are used as the raw material. The veneer is first pre-dried at approx. 80 degrees Celsius; it is then wet with a thermoplastic matrix. The scientists subsequently leave the impregnated veneer to cool under pressure at room temperature until it sets. The plastic then forms a layer in the outer vessels of the veneer. This means that the material continues to have a low density, and therefore weight. The veneer composites are currently already being used in MERGE Up! , an electrically driven lightweight car, developed as a research project at Chemnitz University of Technology. In this car, the material is used to make the covers for an input system in the car’s center console and as exterior components for the side door. The veneer cover of the center console is incorporated in a newly developed hybrid laminate. By touching the veneer prepregs, the driver can control electronic applications in the vehicle.
To develop the method, researchers used comprehensive datasets to "train" a deep, or machine, learning algorithm to recognize patterns in complex visual inputs, such as medical images. The approach was created collaboratively by investigators at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Global Good, a project of Intellectual Ventures, and the findings were confirmed independently by experts at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). "Our findings show that a deep learning algorithm can use images collected during routine cervical cancer screening to identify precancerous changes that, if left untreated, may develop into cancer," said Mark Schiffman, M.D., M.P.H., of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and senior author of the study. "In fact, the computer analysis of the images was better at identifying precancer than a human expert reviewer of Pap tests under the microscope (cytology)." The new method has the potential to be of particular value in low-resource settings. Health care workers in such settings currently use a screening method called visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA). In this approach, a health worker applies dilute acetic acid to the cervix and inspects the cervix with the naked eye, looking for "aceto whitening," which indicates possible disease. Because of its convenience and low cost, VIA is widely used where more advanced screening methods are not available. However, it is known to be inaccurate and needs improvement. Automated visual evaluation is similarly easy to perform. Health workers can use a cell phone or similar camera device for cervical screening and treatment during a single visit. In addition, this approach can be performed with minimal training, making it ideal for countries with limited health care resources, where cervical cancer is a leading cause of illness and death among women. To create the algorithm, the research team used more than 60,000 cervical images from an NCI archive of photos collected during a cervical cancer screening study that was carried out in Costa Rica in the 1990s. More than 9,400 women participated in that population study, with follow up that lasted up to 18 years. Because of the prospective nature of the study, the researchers gained nearly complete information on which cervical changes became precancers and which did not. The photos were digitized and then used to train a deep learning algorithm so that it could distinguish cervical conditions requiring treatment from those not requiring treatment. Overall, the algorithm performed better than all standard screening tests at predicting all cases diagnosed during the Costa Rica study. Automated visual evaluation identified precancer with greater accuracy (AUC=0.91) than a human expert review (AUC=0.69) or conventional cytology (AUC=0.71). An AUC of 0.5 indicates a test that is no better than chance, whereas an AUC of 1.0 represents a test with perfect accuracy in identifying disease. "When this algorithm is combined with advances in HPV vaccination, emerging HPV detection technologies, and improvements in treatment, it is conceivable that cervical cancer could be brought under control, even in low-resource settings," said Maurizio Vecchione, executive vice president of Global Good. The researchers plan to further train the algorithm on a sample of representative images of cervical precancers and normal cervical tissue from women in communities around the world, using a variety of cameras and other imaging options. This step is necessary because of subtle variations in the appearance of the cervix among women in different geographic regions. The ultimate goal of the project is to create the best possible algorithm for common, open use.
The "drug sponge" is an absorbent polymer coating a cylinder that is 3D printed to fit precisely in a vein that carries the blood flowing out of the target organ - the liver in liver cancer, for example. There, it would sop up any drug not absorbed by the tumor, preventing it from reaching and potentially poisoning other organs. In early tests in pigs, the polymer-coated drug absorber took up, on average, 64 percent of a liver cancer drug - the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin - injected upstream. "Surgeons snake a wire into the bloodstream and place the sponge like a stent, and just leave it in for the amount of time you give chemotherapy, perhaps a few hours," said Nitash Balsara, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Because it is a temporary device, there is a lower bar in terms of approval by the FDA," said Steven Hetts, an interventional radiologist at UC San Francisco who first approached Balsara in search of a way to remove drugs from the bloodstream. "I think this type of chemofilter is one of the shortest pathways to patients." Most anticancer drugs are poisonous, so doctors walk a delicate line when administering chemotherapy. A dose must be sufficient to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells, but not high enough to irreparably damage the patient's other organs. "We are developing this around liver cancer because it is a big public health threat - there are tens of thousands of new cases every year - and we already treat liver cancer using intra-arterial chemotherapy," Hetts said. "But if you think about it, you could use this sort of approach for any tumor or any disease that is confined to an organ, and you want to absorb the drug on the venous side before it can distribute and cause side effects elsewhere in the body. Ultimately we would like to use this technology in other organs to treat kidney tumors and brain tumors." Hetts, the chief of interventional neuroradiology at the UCSF Mission Bay Hospitals, treats tumors of the eye and brain by threading catheters through the bloodstream to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the site of the tumor. This delivers the maximum dose to the tumor and the least dose to the rest of the body, minimizing side effects. It is a vast improvement over injecting chemotherapy drugs straight into the bloodstream, which allows the drugs to reach and poison every part of the body and gambles on the tumor succumbing before the patient. Nevertheless, typically more than half of the dose injected into the body escapes the target organ. Several years ago, he started thinking about a major improvement: filtering the blood coming out of the targeted organ to remove excess chemo so that much less of the drug reaches the body as a whole. Balsara, a chemical engineer who specializes in ionic polymers for batteries and fuel cells, is one of the people Hetts approached to find a suitable absorber to put in the bloodstream. "An absorber is a standard chemical engineering concept," Balsara said. "Absorbers are used in petroleum refining to remove unwanted chemicals such as sulfur. Literally, we've taken the concept out of petroleum refining and applied it to chemotherapy." Berkeley postdoc Hee Jeung Oh spent more than a year perfecting a way to adhere the polymer to a 3D-printed cylinder with crisscrossing struts that could be placed inside a person's vein. "This is a first level in vivo validation that yes, this device will bind up drug in the bloodstream," he said. "But extensive animal testing is not the next path; the next path is getting conditional approval from FDA to do first-in-human studies, because it is much more realistic to test these in people who have cancer as opposed to continuing to test in young pigs who have otherwise healthy livers." Drug sponges could be applied to many types of tumors and chemotherapy drugs, Hetts said.
According to the Japanese group, its new TM cobots assist human employees with highly repetitive tasks such as fitting, assembling or inspecting components. Thanks to their ease of programming via a flowchart-based interface, they should also be able to handle frequent product changes. For the time being, the series comprises 12 models, which come with an arm length of 700, 900, 1100 or 1300 mm and are equipped to carry a load of between 4 kg and 14 kg. The robot arm has an integrated image processing and lighting system for scanning products from numerous angles. The software offers a range of features such as pattern and color recognition and barcode scanning. With ISO 10218-1 and ISO/TS 15066 certification, the robots meet all current safety standards for human-machine collaboration. The series also includes a model that is compatible with mobile robots from Omron’s LD line. It was only in November 2018 that the Japanese group agreed a strategic partnership with Berlin-based company InSystems Automation, working in the field of mobile robotic systems to develop bespoke solutions for automated material handling.
Ford is using automated hot forming in a new hall at its Saarland plant, where the Focus is built. The manufacturer is combining conventional ovens with digital technology in the form of heat-resistant robots and laser systems. The system is used to produce weight-optimized body components from particularly hard boron-steel plates. On a 40 meter-long oven line, the steel is heated to temperatures of up to 930 degrees Celsius using gas and magnetic induction. After further processing in a 1,250 tonne press, lasers are used to cut the water-cooled plates into their final shape. With robots responsible for all material handling throughout the production process, Ford has achieved full automation. The technology was introduced as part of a modernization campaign totaling 600 million euros. Entire areas of production in the automotive industry are increasingly benefiting from digitization. For example, BMW is using robots for fully automated quality control in its paintshop; it reports that this results in a more reliable assessment than that provided by human employees.
Working with the Technical University of Darmstadt, Unipor wants to take the benefits of 3D printing and bring them to brickmaking . The first results of the collaboration will be presented by the company during the BAU trade fair in Munich from January 14 to 19, 2019. The main focus will be on cost-effectively manufacturing custom shapes, which is not possible with conventional mass production. Examples given by the Unipor Group include custom shapes that make it easier to fit windows or attach facades to masonry. The core of the brick printer is a special robot that processes the raw material based on a precise digital image. Additive manufacturing not only allows the construction of completely new geometric structures that are not feasible with conventional methods, but also ensures optimized use of materials and improves the physical properties of the brick. At the Technische Universität Darmstadt, the project is part of larger research plans. Researchers here are working on the use of additive manufacturing in combination with a wide range of different materials to open up new opportunities for the construction industry .
"We believe that capturing the dynamic cellular and molecular features in freshly removed or biopsied tissue specimens contains valuable diagnostic and prognostic information that is currently lost when specimens are placed in a fixative and essentially killed quickly in order to preserve structure," said Boppart, who is also a faculty member at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois and a professor of electrical & computer engineering (ECE) and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. "Our imaging platform and methodology allow us to extract this new information in real-time, at the point-of-procedure." Boppart's portable optical imaging system uses precise light pulses to simultaneously image tissue in four modalities, enabling his team to study concurrent processes within cells and tissue that make up the tumor microenvironment. For example, collagen fibers appear in green; elastin fibers and flavin adenine dinucleotide-containing cell cytoplasm appear in yellow; cell membranes, lipid boundaries, and extracellular vesicles (EVs) appear in magenta; and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide in the cells and lipids appears in cyan. The team demonstrated the viability of their imaging system in the operating room at Carle Foundation Hospital during breast cancer surgeries. Within 30 minutes of the diseased tissue being extracted, the researchers were able to identify specific tissue features, including molecular signatures associated with metabolic activity inside individual cells that make up the tumor microenivronment. The researchers were also interested in measuring tumor-related extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are known to promote the spread of cancer. "EVs do play an essential role in cancer progression," said ECE graduate student Yi "Edwin" Sun, the lead author of the research paper. "Quantifying EV densities may be developed as a potential biomarker for future cancer diagnoses." As part of their studies, they also collected and imaged healthy breast tissue that surgeons had removed from cancer-free patients during breast reduction procedures. In a comparison of the two types of tissue, they found a clear difference in EV density between the cancerous and healthy tissue. For example, the cancerous tissue exhibited increased EV densities and had shorter tumor-to-margin distance. "What we observed about the extracellular vesicles is significant but it could only be accurately determined with our new system," said Sun, noting how other portable optical imaging systems deployed in the operating room all alter the tissue samples either with fluorescent dyes or toxic ultraviolet light. "Our imaging technique works well with current cancer treatment routines and is free of any form of perturbation." According to Boppart, the team's future plans include using the imaging system on tissue specimens obtained from needle-biopsy procedures that are routinely performed in outpatient settings. They will also continue using the system on samples from the operating room. The imaging system is described in the paper, "Intraoperative visualization of the tumor microenvironment and quantification of extracellular vesicles by label-free non-linear imaging," which was published online December 19, 2018.
The automotive supplier Bosch, together with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IKH) Stuttgart and other partners from science and industry, developed the Industry 4.0 (IHK) training course and has already tested it in a pilot project. The course is aimed at skilled workers with professional experience in production or logistics and is completed with a certificate. Subdivided into five modules, it conveys an understanding of current technologies and data transmission options as well as how logistics and supply chains function in the digital world. It focuses on technical content and working methods such as Scrum . According to Bosch and the project partners, this is the first course that directly targets skilled workers and qualifies them for the requirements of networked production. The first twelve participants from the Bosch plant in Stuttgart-Feuerbach have already successfully completed the course. The IHK plans to offer the courses throughout Germany for all companies starting 2019.
According to managing director Stefan Studer , its symbolic acceptance of the humanoid robot as a member is about “questioning the self-image of labor unions”. This is intended to make both members and businesses more aware of unresolved issues relating to digitization and, in particular, with regard to working with cobots. The market for collaborative robots has grown significantly in recent years. Machines equipped with artificial intelligence and sensitive sensors are already working side by side with human colleagues in many companies. Businesses hope that using such robots will allow them to cope with the skills shortage . But unions fear that in the medium term this could push people out of their jobs. And there are other sticking points to consider: what happens if something goes wrong in this new form of collaboration? Who is liable for the damages? Can robots be placed under an obligation, or might they also have rights? By admitting a robot, the Swiss union hopes to shine more light on questions of this kind.
A cancer breath test has huge potential to provide a non-invasive look into what's happening in the body and could help to find cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be effective. The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre is running the PAN Cancer trial for Early Detection of Cancer in Breath* in collaboration with Owlstone Medical** to test their Breath Biopsy® technology. Breath samples from people will be collected in the clinical trial to see if odorous molecules called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be detected. Prof. Rebecca Fitzgerald, lead trial investigator at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, said: "We urgently need to develop new tools, like this breath test, which could help to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, giving patients the best chance of surviving their disease. "Through this clinical trial we hope to find signatures in breath needed to detect cancers earlier - it's the crucial next step in developing this technology. Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy® technology is the first to test across multiple cancer types, potentially paving the way for a universal breath test." When cells carry out biochemical reactions as part of their metabolism they produce a range of VOCs. If their metabolism becomes altered, such as in cancer and various other conditions, cells can release a different pattern of VOCs. The researchers aim to identify these patterns using Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy® technology. The researchers in the trial will collect samples from 1,500 people, including healthy people as trial controls, to analyse VOCs in the breath to see if they can detect signals of different cancer types. The clinical trial will start with patients with suspected oesophageal and stomach cancers and then expand to prostate, kidney, bladder, liver and pancreatic cancers in the coming months. The trial is recruiting patients to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge who have been referred from their GP with these specific types of suspected cancer. They will be given the breath test prior to other diagnostic tests. Patients will breathe into the test for 10 minutes to collect a sample, which will then be processed in Owlstone Medical's Breath Biopsy laboratory in Cambridge, UK. By looking across cancer types, this trial will help unpick if cancer signals are similar or different, and how early it's possible to pick these signals up. Some people will go on to be diagnosed with cancer, and their samples will be compared to those who don't develop the disease. If the technology proves to accurately identify cancer, the team hope that breath biopsies could in future be used in GP practices to determine whether to refer patients for further diagnostic tests. Billy Boyle, co-founder and CEO at Owlstone Medical, said: "There is increasing potential for breath-based tests to aid diagnosis, sitting alongside blood and urine tests in an effort to help doctors detect and treat disease. The concept of providing a whole-body snapshot in a completely non-invasive way is very powerful and could reduce harm by sparing patients from more invasive tests that they don't need. "Our technology has proven to be extremely effective at detecting VOCs in the breath, and we are proud to be working with Cancer Research UK as we look to apply it towards the incredibly important area of detecting early-stage disease in a range of cancers in patients." Almost half of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage in England***. This highlights the importance of early detection, particularly for diseases like oesophageal cancer where only 12% of oesophageal cancer patients survive their disease for 10 years or more.