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ramé-hart instrument co. November 2015 Newsletter

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ramé-hart - Your Partner in Disruption
I've been reading a book called No Ordinary Disruption1 which details new global trends and disruptive forces that will reshape the world in ways we don't yet fully comprehend. It's a riveting read but I became really excited when I read about The Disruptive Dozen.2 The authors are all directors of McKinsey Global Institute, a research organization specializing in management consulting and research. While learning more about these disruptive fields, I made an epiphanous discovery that we have ramé-hart customers who are using our tools to make advances in each of these twelve areas. Here is a summary of The Disruptive Dozen and examples of how we are partnering with innovators in each of these fields to make the world a little more global and definitely a better place:

1. Genomics. This rapidly growing discipline requires a level of massive computational horsepower that has only recently become available. In addition to sequencing DNA and using bioinformatics to analyze genomes, genomic research includes bioengineering which is focused on creating biomaterials such as synthetic tissue, heart valves, and even biopolymers. All of these new materials have to be tested which is where we come in. We partner with biotech innovators to characterize biosurfaces, to ensure they are biocompatible, will work as designed and meet stringent specifications. Tangentially related, the field of biomimetics which is focused on making materials that copy the properties of living organisms (e.g., the Lotus leaf) is blossoming and one in which we are also involved.

2. New Materials. From automotive engineers to the makers of umbrellas and army boots, everyone is excited about genuine3 self-cleaning superhydrophobic surfaces that are durable and change the way we maintain things that get dirty or wet. Others are interested in optimizing surfaces to ensure proper adhesion, reduce wear, and improve performance. As material scientists develop new methods and materials to make better products, we are there to help characterize these engineered materials and disrupt the status quo.

3. Energy Storage. This is a big one. Whoever can figure out a better battery than lithium-ion could hit the jackpot. We have a number of customers who are right now working on top-secret disruptive projects to do exactly that. Electric cars, trains, drones, mobile devices, robots - they all need more juice that lasts longer and weighs and costs less. We help these energy storage innovators measure surface tension, contact angle, and surface energy on materials used in the development of these budding technologies.

4. Advanced Recovery of Oil and Gas. Who would have thought ten years ago that fracking would invade the energy industry and account today for nearly half of all domestic oil production and two thirds of natural gas production in the United States? Petroleum and chemical engineers are using our tools to tweak their toolbox of surfactants and dispersants with an aim at improving well yields, maintaining environment friendliness, and disrupting the way the world is powered.4

5. Renewable Energy. Numerous producers of solar panels are using ramé-hart instruments to develop and improve thin-film materials used in photovoltaic cells. Durable superhydrophobic surface treatments being developed today not only improve light absorption and roll-off of rain and dew, but also add a self-cleaning benefit.5 Makers of wind turbines are also using our tools to improve the efficiency of their blade designs and materials. Solar and wind are disruptive; and we're helping progress the work of these and other renewable energy sources.

6. Robotics. At least one of our customers is working on a top-secret project to develop a surgical robot with biotactile sensors designed to minimize the variable of human error in critical life-saving minimally invasive surgical procedures. Others are working on improving the way robots can adapt to picking up objects of varying size and shape.6 If scientists can emulate the stickiness of the Gecko foot (which follows the Petal effect, not the Lotus effect), new gripping designs can further expand the utility of robotic automation and material handling. Contact angle and wetting properties are studied in the design and selection of materials for robotic tools and components with an eye toward biocompatibility and improved gripping strength and flexibility. We are partners with developers of disruptive robotic innovation.

7. Autonomous Vehicles. The safety of self-driving cars relies on sensors (optical, infrared, ultrasonic, laser) some of which must be kept clear of snow and rain. Self-cleaning surfaces and superhydrophobic coatings enhance reliability and improve visibility for humans and sensors alike for this promising new technology.

8. 3D Printing. Over twenty years ago I was making 3D CAD models which were exported to a format used by expensive stereolithography hardware to produce small parts in single quantities in what we called back then "rapid prototyping". While 3D printing really is not new, it's come a long way since then and is much less costly. (There is a 3D printer on Amazon for less than $400.) Current 3D printing technology is also increasing in popularity due to the many applications that can benefit: medical devices, bio-printing, automotive parts, even clothes, food, and myriad consumer products. One of the most disruptive aspects of additive manufacturing is the production of nanomaterials. Researchers at John Hopkins University have developed a form of 3D printing called Dynamic Stencil Deposition (DSD) which permits the creation of nanostructures with resolutions as small as 10 nm and featuring programmable heights.7 Imagine a world in which you can print a custom nanosurface to your own specifications. Our tools are used to capture the wetting properties of these nanoscale 3D surfaces and parts.

9. Mobile Internet. Today the world uses five billion mobile phones but fewer than half are web-enabled. In a half dozen years, the number of web-enabled devices will disruptively double. Every one of those smartphones and tablets will have an anti-fingerprint oleophobic touchscreen. Today, chemical treatments and screen texturing are currently used to resist the natural oils of the hand. We expect this problem to be addressed in a big way - a task that many are already working on with the help of our tools. And we will continue to be on the front line of touchscreen innovation.

10. Internet of Things. Your car, your house lights, your thermostat, your music, your garage door, your parking spot, your home security system, your swimming pool's pH balance, and a hundred other things you interface with on a daily basis are destined to be controlled from your smart phone, your voice, or simply your presence. In any case, what they all need are many small chips. That's where we come in. Our Model 400 is the only model specifically designed for a particular disruptive application - chip making - and more specifically for quality control during the semiconductor wafer manufacturing process.

11. Cloud Computing. It's hard to believe that we ever lived without the cloud. If I add an appointment to my Google Calendar or a contact to my Evernote, I can pull it up on my smartphone, my Chromebook, my Kindle (or any tablet), and of course on any PC. It's quite amazing how convenient the cloud is. It is disrupting the way computers have been serving us for the past several decades. What does the cloud need to grow and continue to disrupt? Storage, and lots of it. That's where we come in. All the major HDD disk makers use contact angle to evaluate cleanliness, lubrication, and properties of adhesion. And even the makers of chips used in SSD drives rely on contact angle during plasma treating and as a QC tool during wafer fabrication.

12. Automation of Knowledge Work. Who checked you in the last time you took a commercial flight? If it was like the last ten times I've flown, it was a faceless kiosk with a touchscreen. Same for banking, an ATM. If minimum wage goes to $15/hour, you can bet McDonalds will have kiosks as well. How do we (ramé-hart) benefit from the automation of work? More touchscreens (see 9 above), more chips (see 10 above), and more cloud storage (see 11 above), not to mention the superhydrophobic umbrellas and boots all those new coders will be buying as they go to work in the rain to make all this disruptive automation work.

So, there you have it: The Disruptive Dozen and how we contribute in some way to each of them. If you are involved in disruptive technology and need a partner, we are here to help. 

1 Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, Jonathan Woetzel, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends. PublicAffairs, 2015. Hardcover.
2 pages 34-39.
3 See last month's newsletter for a discussion of pseudosuperhydrophobicity, or non-genuine superhydrophobicity: http://www.ramehart.com/newsletters/2015-10_news.htm.
4 For more on fracking, see our January 2012 Newsletter: http://www.ramehart.com/newsletters/2012-01_news.htm
5 For a somewhat dated review of solar technology and contact angle, see our August 2009 Newsletter: http://www.ramehart.com/newsletters/2009-08_news.htm.
6 See Versaball, for example, http://empirerobotics.com/#howitworks
Fabrication of One-Dimensional Programmable-Height Nanostructures via Dynamic Stencil Deposition. Review of Scientific Instruments 79: 073909. arXiv:0802.1848. doi:10.1063/1.2960573


We Need Your Help
Help. We need your help. We want to sell you a new instrument but since each one is hand-built to order, we need a few weeks to put it together and test it thoroughly before we ship it off to you. Needless to say, every year we get a rash of urgent orders the final week of December from people who absolutely positively need their instrument delivered before year end. Really. So, our plea is please get us those orders by the first week of December so we have ample time to get the job done and shipped on time. Better yet, avoid the rush and get your order to us this month of November and you will receive it long ahead of any end-of-year deadline. Thank you. For help getting an order going, please  contact us today for a quotation or answers to any questions you may have. 


Carl Clegg
Director of Sales
Phone 973-448-0305
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