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NASA Tests 3-D Printed Engine Components

3-D printing isn’t just for toys and plastic models of your head. Witness a hot fire of NASA’s newest design for rocket engine injectors, 3-D printed to up performance in a way that traditional manufacturing of the parts couldn’t attain.

The agency, which tested the experimental injectors last month at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., used a type of 3-D printing called direct laser melting. To make the parts, a machine fires a laser at metal powder under the direction of a computer design program. This deposits layers of the metal one on top of the other until the part is complete.

NASA says the technique is letting engineers build the injector out of just two parts instead of the 163 formerly needed using traditional manufacturing methods.

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Synthetic Cells Move On Their Own

What look like animated illustrations that could easily spring from a child’s imagination are actually newly unveiled artificial cells under a microscope.

Biophysicists at Germany’s Technical University of Munich along with an international team developed simple self-propelled biomachines in a quest to create cell models that display biomechanical functions.

The researchers say their work represents the first time a movable cytoskeleton membrane has been fabricated.

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Splashing Droplets Can Take Off Like Airplanes

by Patricia Waldron, Inside Science

When a drop of liquid hits a solid surface, the liquid will do one of two things: flatten like a pancake or launch a halo of droplets into the air. It’s a surprisingly complex and difficult-to-predict event.   

The secret is in the air. By taking into account the gas surrounding the drop, researchers find that they can calculate just how fast a drop can travel without splattering when it hits. A new study suggests that after the drop strikes a solid surface,  a tiny cushion of air carries along its edge as it spreads. The air provides lift like on an airplane wing and flings away droplets from the drop’s edge.

See videos below.

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Birds, Bats Are Models For Next Generation Drones 

Engineers working to build smaller flying machines are looking to those that know how to do it best—bats, birds and bees. Unlike human constructions, these animals use flexible flight surfaces to maneuver more precisely through air. 

In this 2012 video, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research presents some of the projects it is funding at universities like Harvard and Brown to make next-generation flying surveillance and warfighting tools.

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