Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Honda develops walking assist device

TOKYO —Honda Motor Co said Monday it has developed a prototype of a walking assist device for supporting the elderly and others with weakened leg muscles. The device is designed to be worn with a belt around the hips and thighs.

It is equipped with sensors for measuring the hip angle so that optimal assistance will be provided from the motors around the thighs. The device helps lengthen the user’s stride and facilitates walking. The device is based on the company’s ASIMO humanoid robot technology.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Panasonic Develops New Fuel Cell Cogeneration System for Home Use; World's Highest Power-generation Capability, Durability and Environmental Benefits

Tokyo, Japan, Apr 15, 2008 - (JCN Newswire) - Panasonic, the leading brand by which Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. is known, today announced it has developed a home-use polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) cogeneration system. The cogeneration system features the world's highest power-generating efficiency of up to 39% Lower Heating Value(LHV), durability of 40,000 operation hours and 4,000 start-stop times, and a predicted lifetime of over 10 years.

Panasonic has strived to achieve its vision of "living in harmony with the environment." With this goal as a motivator, the company has now developed a home-use fuel cell cogeneration system that is planned for early commercialization as a next-generation energy supply system.

Based on the results of large-scale field testing conducted between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2008**, a new system has been developed with upgraded energy-saving features and enhanced reliability. Further field testing is scheduled in fiscal 2009 ending March 31, 2009.

When installed in an ordinary household, the new system can reduce primary energy consumption by 22% (about 1.4 times more than the conventional system) and can cut CO2 emissions by 12% based on the basic unit for all power sources. With year-round operation, it can save 3,262 kWh of primary energy and reduce CO2 emissions by 330 kg. The new system
can reduce CO2 emissions by 37% based on the basic unit for thermal power source. With year-round operation, it can cut CO2 emissions by1,175 kg.

The three-year field tests also found that the system was often operated in a power output range between 500 W and 1 kW in ordinary households. Within this practical use range, the new system has achieved drastically improved power-generating efficiency compared to conventional systems. The Panasonic system has achieved the world's highest power-generating efficiencies 39% (LHV) at 750 W; 38% or higher in the 500 W - 1 kW range and 34% at 300 W. The system has also satisfied durability requirements for home-use equipment.

In the conventional system, the fuel processing device is not as efficient and inverter efficiency drops toward its lower output ranges. As a result, the power-generating efficiency of the conventional system is the highest at its higher ratings, and falls with decreasing output.

Panasonic has made the system feasible by using cell stack technology that employs highly-durable Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA), fuel processing technology that allows stable operation in a wide range at high efficiency and low-loss boost inverter technology.

Panasonic will install production equipment for the new system in its plant in Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and will start manufacturing from June this year. In fiscal 2010, further investments will be made to start a full-scale commercialization of this system as a new environmental business that creates a new energy source.


Robotic-suit facility being built in Tsukuba

TSUKUBA —Cyberdyne Inc on Wednesday broke ground on a new lab in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, to develop a robotic suit aimed at helping people with disabilities to move their limbs. The lab will double as a manufacturing plant and is due to begin turning out 400-500 units of the suit each year from October, with annual output rising to several tens of thousands of units over the next several years, according to the technology venture founded by researchers headed by Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba.

Company has tied up with Daiwa House Industry Co to rent out the new product to consumers and healthcare institutions. The robotic suit is called HAL, which stands for hybrid assistive limb. It covers both sides of the user’s body and weighs about 23 kilograms. When a person tries to move his or her limbs, the brain transmits neural signals to the muscles. Sensors attached to the suit pick up weak biopotential signals that filter through the surface of the skin in the process, which in turn activate either one of the two power units for the upper or the lower body to move the wearer’s limbs in line with the muscular movements willed by the brain, the company explains.

In addition to helping people with disabilities to walk and perform other physical tasks, HAL can also be used to lighten the load on workers performing heavy manual work, a Cyberdyne official said.

The product comes with a rechargeable 100-volt battery pack that powers the suit for about two hours and 40 minutes, the official added.

Monthly rental fees for the biped model will likely be around 200,000 yen or less for health organizations and 100,000 yen or less for individual customers.

The company says that it has received inquiries about the suit from several hundred people, including muscular dystrophy sufferers.

‘‘We want to take our business worldwide,’’ says Professor Sankai, president of Cyberdyne.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Toray to build world's biggest carbon fiber plant

TOKYO — Toray Industries Inc will build the world’s biggest carbon fiber plant to meet growing demand from the aircraft, automobiles and other industries. The new plant, to be located in Masaki, Ehime Prefecture, southwestern Japan, is slated to begin operations as early as 2010 with an annual capacity of 4,000 tons, company officials say.

By the end of 2012, Toray’s annual carbon fiber output capacity will increase 1.7-fold from the current level to more than 30,000 tons.

Toray is developing the carbon fiber components for use in the tail of the first Japanese-made small passenger jetliner now development by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. The new plant will make not only high-performance but also general-purpose carbon fibers.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sony Bravia E4000 HDTV is an Art Piece, Really!

Sony Bravia E4000 HDTV is an Art Piece, Really!

The Sony Bravia E4000 has been created to look like a picture frame, so that it looks great on your wall. When guests are around, you can create a photo slideshow, turning it into the most expensive photo frame of 2008. Of course, we love the idea and we love how thin the TV seems to be. However, when watching movies, it feels like the white frame could be distracting (the aluminum frame of my current HDTV certainly is). Fortunately, several frame colors are available.

  • 26”, 32” or 40” LCD 10-bit display
  • Frame colors: Midnight Sky, Aluminum, Dark walnut, Pearly White
  • 1080p
  • Analog/Digital TV Tuner
  • 3x HDMI ports, VGA Port
  • USB photo viewer
Article from Ubergizmo.