Established in 1946, WIKA is a global family-run company and a world leader in pressure and temperature measuring technology. In fact, when it comes to fill levels, flow rates and calibration technology, the WIKA Group and its workforce of 9,300 set the standard. The company has now raised the bar yet again by launching the first device of its type in the shape of a float switch with PNP or NPN switching output signals. The “"GLS 1000" captures the fill level of liquids with an accuracy equal to or less than one millimeter. In a world-first, the digitalized float-based measuring principle of this new WIKA fill level switch is based on semiconductor sensors that support an unlimited number of switching cycles. If the user requires, up to four switch points can be specified with a minimum distance of just 2.5 millimeters between each, which means even the smallest of level changes can trigger a switching pulse. What's more, the "GLS 1000" features a temperature output with Pt100/Pt1000 resistance for monitoring the temperature of liquids. As it is similar in shape and structure to its conventional counterparts, the "GLS 1000" digital float switch can be used as an economical replacement for classic PNP/NPN limit level switches, even though it uses electronic switching principles.
Voodoo Manufacturing is based in the New York borough of Brooklyn and specializes in delivering 3D print jobs. The company is focused on industrial mass production, but is in competition with service providers who use conventional injection molding processes. To utilize the more than 200 3D printers on the company’s approximately 1700 m2 premises more efficiently, the business is using a UR10-model cobot from Danish market leader Universal Robots. The robot arm is mounted on a mobile base and can reach around 100 of the installed 3D printers. It is responsible for removing used printing plates from the equipment, placing them on a conveyor belt and loading the printers with new plates. Automation has allowed Voodoo Manufacturing to triple its production – not least because the UR10 also works at night, monitored by proprietary software. With an additional UR10, the company hopes to increase utilization of its printer capacity from the current level of 30-40% to around 90%, further reducing production costs. The firm’s long-term goal is to install up to 10,000 3D printers served by several cobots in order to work more cost-effectively than the injection-molding industry.
The e-mobility trend is creating a new problem. What to do with all the old batteries that still work but are unsuitable for driving due to deteriorating performance? Swedish automotive group Volvo is now taking part in a project putting retired bus batteries to use in a solar installation. Specifically, the project involves the new Viva residential complex owned by housing cooperative Riksbyggen in Göteborg, which was designed as a sustainable project. Under an energy supply plan drawn up in collaboration with energy provider Göteborg Energi and the Johanneberg Science Park, energy from the photovoltaic installations on the roofs of the apartment buildings is stored by batteries previously installed in the electric buses on line 55 in Göteborg. The installations deploy 14 used lithium-ion batteries, linked up to create a 200 kWh storage unit. They are intended to store excess electricity from the solar installation so that it can be made available at peak times or even sold. The batteries can also be used to store electricity from the national power grid.
Cancer research at the genetic and molecular level has already enabled new targeted therapies. At the same time it has revealed the complexity and diversity of cancer - we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Identification of new significant treatment targets in cancer cells and their supporting normal tissue requires development of a precision cancer medicine toolbox. "The iCAN flagship leverages on the unique strengths Finland has in the areas of top-level cancer research, various registers and digital health. We will for example collect gene function and drug sensitivity data from isolated tumor cells and cancer cells grown outside of the human body and combine these with digital health/lifestyle data obtained during treatment or provided by the patients themselves. Data mining is also developed by utilization of artificial intelligence. The new knowledge obtained should provide a basis for development of the right treatment for each patient," says the director of the iCAN flagship, Academy Prof. Kari Alitalo from the University of Helsinki. The iCAN flagship was awarded 11 million euros from the Academy of Finland for the first four year period. Total funding is aimed to reach an annual level of 51 million euros through commitment of the host organisations and especially through increased business collaborations. "We believe iCAN will become a global model for integration of digital health/lifestyle data with precision medicine tools. The flagship also emphasizes empowerment of the patients in all parts of the chain from research to treatment. In addition, iCAN enables new health sector innovations and business based on top research at the University of Helsinki. Over twenty pharma and digital health companies have already expressed their interest to join the flagship," notes Rector of the University of Helsinki Jari Niemela. The interdisciplinary flagship brings together researchers from cancer biology and cancer genomics to machine learning, digital health and clinical research. "Helsinki University Hospital HUS is strongly committed to taking advantage of digital health data in cancer research in the new iCAN flagship. Our data lake offers a globally unique research infrastructure for data mining and we have the first OECI-accredited Comprehensice Cancer Center in the Nordics. The flagship also supports the regional and national cancer center and the health sector growth strategy," says HUS Chief Medical Office Markku Makijarvi.
The human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is globally widespread and the majority of adults are carriers, also in Germany. After an infection, the virus hides in the body for a lifetime, which usually goes unnoticed. However, when the immune system is weakened, as is the case after transplants or when unborn children become infected during pregnancy, it can cause damage to a range of different organs including the nervous system. It is therefore important to find out whether an appropriate immune response against the virus is present in order to prevent such damage from occurring. Dr. Andreas Moosmann heads a DZIF research group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and is specialised in studying immune responses to viruses. "In healthy humans, cytomegalovirus replication is curbed by T cells in particular," explains Moosmann. Billions of different T cells patrol through our body. Each cell has its own sensor on its surface, a so-called T cell receptor, which is able to identify just a small portion of a specific pathogen. As soon as this sensor is activated, the T cell turns into a killer cell. The infected cell is then killed and the viruses contained within it cannot replicate any longer. "Just by looking at specific T cells in the blood, we can now precisely detect whether a virus is present," says Moosmann. The problem up to now has been that complex techniques challenged such analyses. "Separate tests were required for every individual type of T cell and for each particular specificity," says Moosmann. In order to identify viruses more rapidly and precisely, Moosmann and his Munich team of scientists developed a method that enables analysis of millions of T cells with one single test. "We sequence ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the blood samples, through which we can identify existing types of T cell receptors that are specific for different parts of CMV," explains PhD candidate Alina Huth. Using this new method, the scientists were able to identify 1052 CMV-specific T cell receptors in eight healthy virus carriers. In a second group of 352 donors, the scientists measured the prevalence of these sequences, enabling them to very precisely predict infected donors. The results will be serve to establish a database of virus-specific T cell receptors. According to the scientists, this method can also be used for other viruses. Biologist Dr Xiaoling Liang is convinced that "This diagnostic method will deliver more information at a lower cost and is therefore attractive for clinicians in future. We can now develop a test that can directly determine the immune status for different viruses in one step." The applications of such a test are manifold. For example, it could be used to predict viral infections in transplant patients and other people with weakened immune systems and enable timely treatment. "We believe this test has great potential. It could, for example, also be used to check if a vaccination has been successful. And it will promote research on the connections between infections, auto-immune diseases and allergies," adds Moosmann.
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.