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Will This Hoverboard Hazard Help Improve International Manufacturing And Importing?

If you haven’t already seen kids riding along on self-balancing scooters, advertised as hoverboards, you’ll may very likely see them after the holidays–unless tragic developments and seller bans have an impact. The two-wheel, ride-on device has become one of the most in-demand gifts for Christmas.

But if there’s one thing that will hurt its popularity and has already raised its notoriety, it’s the number of riding accents and fire incidents traced to the toy. The real culprit behind issue appears to be a lack of manufacturing standards, quality control, and traceability.

The virtually nonexistent production and safety standards for hoverboards have even lead some to wonder why there haven’t been more accidents already reported.

Hover-Board-2-WheelsImage Source:

Rapidly Released, In-Demand, And Potentially Dangerous 
Earlier this month, the United Kingdom’s National Standards said that of the 17,000 hoverboards they’ve inspected since October, 88 precent of them can be considered unsafe due to faulty plugs, cabling, chargers, batteries, and other components within the device.

The vast majority of hoverboards are manufactured in China, and millions have already been shipped out to the rest of the world. Now that the serious problems surrounding this rapidly released and in-demand product have become apparent, many are asking just how this has happened and what are the larger issues this one fad brings to light.

Manufacturing To Meet Fads Over Standards 
In China, it’s not difficult to take a completely new product design and get that product on international store shelves in just months or even weeks. The global manufacturing giant has been consistently recognized for this unprecedented speed, but it sacrifices a lot in the process.

Self-regulation, tangled patent and intellectual property issues, lack of mandatory safety standards and inspection processes, and the plethora of things that can and do go wrong with electrical components, have all contributed to the especially faulty example of the hoverboard.

In this specific case, there are numerous manufacturers—some less capable than others—producing their own version of the same product, without any set production standard, safety requirements, or inspection process.

hoverImage Source: Gizmodo 

Not Just The Fault Of The Factory
There’s also the problem of importer practices. Many resellers are focused on hitting the market with a fad product at the peak of its popularity, even it means sourcing goods from factories with unknown reputability and without taking the time to complete their own comprehensive safety and quality testing.

The hoverboard is further compromised by its reliance on a larger lithium-ion battery, which can cause fires due to overheating or incompatible voltages between the board’s charger and battery.

Normally, regulatory and certification companies like UL will test and certify electronic products as safe and up to specific commercial standards, but reportedly there has yet to be a hoverboard to have been UL certified.

hoverboad-pic-picImage Source: Quartz

Complex Products, Cheap Standards
This is only scratching the surface of the many issues that result from high-demand, self-regulated, rapid paced manufacturing of consumer electronics. The hoverboard is just one instance of how lacking quality and production standards can literally combust into very real dangers for the consumer.

Given the popularity of, and the demographic for this product—which includes children—unsafe hoverboards could amount to truly unfortunate cautionary tale about lack of quality and care in the international supply chain. And if it’s not this fad electronic, could it be next year’s?

It seems the call for genuine quality assurance, traceability, and industry-spanning standards is clear, but is it loud enough to be heard over demands for speed and low cost in the manufacture and supply of complex products? Tell us your thoughts on this issue in the comments.

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New mRNA Technology to Remake Vaccine Research and Production

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is the central technology behind the rapid creation of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines. Known as cell-based vaccine technology, mRNA mimics the way cells generate proteins that activate immune responses. The process provides advantages over old vaccine production methods that relied on culturing viruses within eggs. Cell-based technology allows for increased vaccine efficacy and makes it possible for manufacturing facilities to produce multiple vaccine products at the same time.

Marriage of Biology and Computation Power

The scientific discipline of bioinformatics sequences DNA, which produces RNA messengers to carry out its functions. Modern advances in computational power speed this process and help researchers learn how to manipulate the immune response. As a result, scientists increasingly have the means of controlling dangerous viruses, like coronavirus and Ebola. In terms of vaccine production, the new method increases vaccine yields, purity, and potency.

The breakthroughs resulting from bioinformatics and mRNA will require a new generation of production equipment, including bioreactors and fermenters. Demand for such vaccines will be high around the world due to the devastation and economic disruption caused by outbreaks and pandemics.

Vast Potential Beyond Coronavirus

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has focused the global research and pharmaceutical industries on vaccine development and production. Science could bring many viruses under control, such as Zika, Epstein-Barr, or Lassa. The massive global efforts that delivered a coronavirus vaccine in under a year will also be called upon as new viruses emerge. Variations of influenza could threaten human populations at any time.

Higher Demand for Refrigeration Equipment

At this point, mRNA vaccines must be stored and transported at extremely low temperatures. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at -70 Celsius, and the Moderna vaccine needs a temperature of -20 Celsius. Pfizer already maintains massive freezer farms for holding vaccines.

As the global population continues to cope with coronavirus and future threats, refrigeration manufacturers could experience greater demand for their products. Let us know if your industry expects additional business due to the ballooning growth of vaccine production.

ABOUT Pfizer

We help protect as many people as possible from life-threatening illness with quality vaccines that make an impact across all stages of life by combining unrelenting passion, global impact, and an enduring quest for progress to unlock the promise and value that vaccines hold for our world.

Our passion for science, for delivering excellence, and for people’s health drive bold advancements in Research and Design (R&D) and high-quality manufacturing to consistently make a meaningful impact on public health. Passion drives our organization and permeates everything we do.

From our research scientists to our business operations teams, Pfizer Vaccines is comprised of passionate, world-class employees who work every day to translate cutting-edge science into next-generation vaccines that improve people’s lives.

ABOUT Moderna

Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease.

Given its essential role, we believe mRNA could be used to create a new category of medicines with significant potential to improve the lives of patients.

We are pioneering a new class of medicines made of messenger RNA, or mRNA. The potential implications of using mRNA as a drug are significant and far-reaching and could meaningfully improve how medicines are discovered, developed, and manufactured.

Since our founding in 2010, we have worked to build the industry’s leading mRNA technology platform, the infrastructure to accelerate drug discovery and early development, a rapidly expanding pipeline, and a world-class team.

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GM Announces Plans To Launch Self-Driving Taxis As Early As 2019

General Motors (GM) has announced ambitious plans for a 2019 commercial launch of autonomous taxis, which the company aims to release in multiple cities. Described as a direct challenge to other autonomous vehicle tech ventures, including Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Uber Technologies, the move represents a large step forward for prevalence of self-driving vehicles in everyday life.

FileCruise Automation Bolt EV third generation in San Franciscojpg

Image Source: Wikimedia

Autonomous Taxis In A Matter Of Months

With the success of the electric Chevrolet Bolt, its acquisition of Cruise Automation last year, and its $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft also in 2016, GM’s move into the autonomous ride-hauling service race isn’t much of a surprise, but their claim that they can make this roll-out a reality in such a short time has turned a lot of heads. “If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in a large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” GM President Dan Ammann said.

A Goal For Safe, Low-Cost Transportation

Ammann also stated that safety would be the deciding factor on when driverless taxis ultimately hit city streets. GM did not name specific locations for their launch but for “dense urban environments”. They have also stressed the economic benefits for riders. GM’s CFO Chuck Stevens has said that with the launch of their autonomous taxis, “We have a path to take 40 percent of the cost out of ride services,” taking charges to less than $1 per mile by 2025 compared to roughly $2.50 per mile today according to a Reuters’ report.

Image Source: The Detroit News

Who Will Win The Self-Driving Race?

While GM has the right umbrella of capabilities to make this type of autonomous launch a reality in less than two years, Uber, Waymo, and other companies are closing in on the race to get autonomous taxis deployed in major cities and adjacent suburbs. Whatever company will be most successful with their brand is not yet clear, but one thing appears sure: public access to autonomous vehicles is just around the corner.


What are your thoughts on GM’s plans? Comment and tell us what you think of this story.

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Artificial Muscles May Create A Softer, Stronger Robot

Most robots are comprised of metal and hard plastic, which ensures their stability but it’s not always the most ideal structure for more dynamic strength and safe interaction with humans. A new type of robot “muscle” could serve to remedy those limitations while expanding capabilities.

Image Source: Wired

Origami-Inspired With Enhanced Strength

Researchers at the Wyss Institute of Harvard and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) recently announced the creation of artificial muscles that can be incorporated into a range of robotic skeletons and enable them to greatly extend their lifting capabilities. The structure of the muscle system has been inspired by the complex geometric folds of origami creations. The muscle is able to lift 1000 times its own weight and is meant to be filled with a layer of air or water, which enables it to function based on controlled variations in pressure.

Image Source: Wired

Flexible And Inexpensive

The vacuum maintained within the layers of the muscle system helps balance strength with a softer touch. The system is fairly versatile and can be closely fitted to a robot’s skeletal frame, as it requires only air and water to function under the control of the vacuum. This also contributes to their lower cost—researchers state that a muscle can be created in roughly ten minutes with fabric or plastic-based materials that cost less than a dollar.


Will this system help give future robots a more deft touch with greatly enhanced strength? Comment and tell us your thoughts on this development.

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