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This article was published on May 23, 2016

This week in patents: 3D printed airplanes, Ford’s self-driving cars, and more

This week in patents: 3D printed airplanes, Ford’s self-driving cars, and more
Deepak Gupta
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Deepak Gupta

Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inve Deepak is the founder of patent services firm PatentYogi, a new kind of patent services firm that simplifies the patent process for the inventors across the globe. They provide free patentability search service for individual inventors and startups. He also runs a YouTube channel, PatentYogi, where he publishes videos on patents. For interesting daily updates on patents, check their Instagram and Facebook.

Last week, the US patent office issued 6,754 patents. Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base. As we cannot list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the six most interesting patents.

Printing board passes is one thing… Soon it’ll be the whole plane

Patent Number – US 20160136891

That 3D printing can create complex shapes including small aircraft parts is well known. But it may have seemed far fetched to think of the possibility of printing out an entire aircraft.

Now, Airbus has invented a way to 3D print parts like fuselage, wings and door that can withstand the tough operating conditions of an aircraft.

The technique involves applying powder form of strong materials such as titanium and aluminium and selectively melting them with lasers. A subsequent step of cooling then induces internal stress within the layers that causes it to bend in a required direction.

By creating these internal stresses, the technique ensures that the aerodynamic characteristics of parts such as fuselage and wings are maintained even in the presence of operating forces.

For example, the internal stresses induced in a cargo floor panel may act in a direction opposite to that of the cargo weight. The result is a component that is mechanically strong and resilient to forces.

Nike is about to help your golf game

Patent Number – US 9,339,713

Nike is unarguably the most innovative sports company. This week they received a patent for a high-tech golf aid that includes a golf ball tracking system and a heads up display. The golf ball tracking system tracks multiple golf ball trajectories when hit by a golf club. The golf balls include emitting diodes that assist in tracking the balls when hit.

The heads-up display is worn on the user’s head and displays an image within a field of view of the user. The heads-up also displays shot statistics for each one of the multiple trajectories within the field of view of the user.  The shot statistics include initial ball speed, spin rate, total distance, and carry distance.

Ford enters the self-driving car race

Patent Number – US 9,340,126

Ford thinks that front seats in cars are obsolete. They are not wrong. As autonomous vehicles become more sophisticated, the amount of passenger interaction required by the autonomous vehicle decreases. Eventually, autonomous vehicles will require no passenger interaction beyond, e.g., selecting a destination, leaving passengers to focus on non-driving-related tasks.

This patent discloses a system that allows the front seats to be moved from a front-facing position to a rear-facing position when the vehicle is stationary or while the vehicle is operating in an autonomous mode.

Helicopter rides just got a whole lot smoother

Patent Number – US 20160137296

Airbus patents an improved dome for its helicopters.

Helicopters generally suffer from a problem called “tail-shake” where the tail is aerodynamically excited due to impact of disturbances generated by the lift rotor.

This causes discomfort to the crew/passengers and also deteriorates parts of the helicopter.

Airbus has now solved this problem with an innovative dome arranged on the head of the lift rotor.

The dome deflects the flow of air downstream from the lift rotor in a downward direction. The flow of air is then deflected mainly towards the covers and the tail boom, and no longer towards the stabilizer and the fin of the rotorcraft.

In addition, the exterior surface of the dome includes bulges and recesses.

This serves to generate a pulsed flow of air generated by the lift rotor that helps eliminate the tail-shake effect.

 NASA wants to predict earthquakes

Patent Number – US 20160139213

Powerful electric currents are generated deep inside the Earth causing low frequency electromagnetic signals that have long been reported in connection with impending earthquake activity.

But these electromagnetic signals are extremely low in strength and frequency making their detection almost impossible in the presence of other surrounding noise.

Nasa has now invented an extremely sensitive magnetometer that can detect the faintest of electromagnetic signals indicative of geophysical weather and atmospheric changes.

Small changes in the ambient magnetic field cause fluctuations in permeability of a variable permeability core of the magnetometer. This causes a change in the inductance of a coil surrounding the core. By passing a current through the coil and measuring the voltage across it, an indication of the ambient field is obtained.

In addition to predicting earthquakes, this magnetometer can also detect global lightning activity, storms, global temperature variations, geomagnetic activities on other nearby planets and detection of underground nuclear tests. 

Playing with magnets has never been more fun

Patent Number – US 9,342,073

Sphero has developed a ball which includes an internal drive system with motors coupled to wheels engaged with the inner surface of the ball. The wheels are continuously engaged with the inner surface to allow for power to the motors to be transferred to the inner surface of the ball. This causes the self-propelled ball to roll and maneuver along a surface.

The ball also includes magnetic interactive components inside the ball. An external accessory is magnetically couple to the ball. The external accessory is shaped like head of BB-8.

The ball is able roll and maneuver while the external accessory remains under magnetic interaction with the magnetically interactive components within the ball. The accessory device remains within a constant relative portion or area on the exterior surface of the spherical housing (e.g., a top portion) as the self-propelled device rolls.