Design News caught up with Paul Benning, chief technologist for HP 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing to get an idea of where additive manufacturing is headed in the future. Benning explained that we’re headed for mixed-materials printing, surfaces innovation, more involvement from academic community, and greater use of software and data management.
Automated assembly with mixed materials
Benning believes we will begin to see automated assembly with industries seamlessly integrating multi-part assemblies including combinations of 3D printed metal and plastic parts. “There’s not currently a super printer that can do all things intrinsically, like printing metal and plastic parts, due to factors such as processing temperatures,” Benning told Design News. “However, as automation increases, there’s a vision from the industry for a more automated assembly setup where there is access to part production from both flavors of HP technology: Multi Jet Fusion and Metal Jet.”
While the medical industry and recently aerospace are incorporated 3D printing into production, Benning also sees car makers as a future customer for additive. “The auto sector is a great example of where automated assembly could thrive on the factory floor.”
Benning sees a wide range of applications that might combine metal and plastics. “Benefits of an automated assembly for industrial applications include printing metals into plastic parts, building parts that are wear-resistant and collect electricity, adding surface treatments, and even building conductors or motors into plastic parts,” said Benning. “The industry isn’t ready to bring this technology to market just yet, but it’s an example of where 3D printing is headed beyond 2020.”
Surfaces will become an area of innovation
Benning sees a future where data payloads for 3D printed parts will be coded into the surface texture. “It’s a competitive advantage to be able to build interesting things onto surfaces. HP has experimented with coding digital information into a surface texture. By encoding information into the texture itself, manufacturers can have a bigger data payload than just the serial number.”
He notes that the surface coding could be read by, humans for machines. “One way to tag a part either overtly or covertly is to make sure that both people and machines are able to read it based on the shape or orientation of the bumps. We have put hundreds of copies of a serial number spread across the surface of a part so that it’s both hidden and universally apparent.”
Benning sees this concept as p[art of the future of digital manufacturing. “This is one of our inventions that serves to tie together our technologies with the future of parts tracking and data systems,” said Benning.
Universities will introduce new ways to thinking
Benning believes that academia and training programs can offer new thought processes to liberate designers from old thinking and allow them to tap into technologies of the future. “3D printing’s biggest impact to manufacturing job skills lie on the design side,” said Benning. “You have a world of designers who have been trained in and grown up with existing technologies like injection molding. Because of this, people unintentionally bias their design toward legacy processes and away from technologies like 3D printing.”
Benning believes one solution for breaking old thinking is to train upcoming engineers in new ways of thinking. “To combat this, educators of current and soon-to-be designers must adjust the thought process that goes into designing for production given the new technologies in the space,” said Benning. “We recognize this will take some time, particularly for universities that are standing up degree programs.” He also believes new software design tools will guide designers to make better use of 3D printing in manufacturing.
Software and data management is critical to the 3D printing future
Benning believes advancements in software and data management will drive improved system management and part quality. This will then lead to better customer outcomes. “Companies within the industry are creating API hooks to build a fluid ecosystem for customers and partners,” said Benning.
HP is beginning to use data to enable ideal designs and optimized workflows for Multi Jet Fusion factories. “This data comes from design files, or mobile devices, or things like HP’s FitStation scanning technology and is applied to make production more efficient, and to better deliver individualized products purpose-built for their end customers.” The goal of that individualized production can support custom products build with mass production manufacturing techniques, leading to a batch-of-one or mass customization.
Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other Topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.
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After the earth seems to jump up and bite the right wheel on landing, wrenching the gear leg back on itself like some grotesque football injury, and after the wing slams the ground like a palm hitting a tabletop in anger, when the plane finally finishes its long shuddering slide through the gravel, I sit in the swirling dust and think back to a week before, in a Fairbanks hotel room, as Randy McKinney calmly explained all the many ways to die in the Alaskan bush. The list consisted, in part, of freezing, starving, injury, panic, getting lost, general stupidity and bears. Especially bears.
“No one realizes just how dangerous bears are,” said McKinney, my pilot and guide for the next week as I went in search of the Western Arctic herd, the massive caribou migration that takes place across Alaska each spring. “There’s nothing on earth you want less than getting charged by a grizzly.”
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By his count he’d been charged 15 times, which explained the guns, a .44 caliber revolver and a pump-action shotgun, sitting on the floral bedspread next to the flight tracker and a pile of assorted camping gear.
McKinney owns Explore Alaska—along with his wife, Lana—which arranges personalized trips to hard-to-reach places throughout the state, to fly-fish or view wildlife. I was there, ostensibly, for the caribou, which McKinney had described as a bona fide natural wonder, and maybe some hiking and a few swims in the type of streams they put on the postcards. But equally I was there because I wanted to understand a frontier, to see the other, outer edge of America. Northern Alaska felt like a cosmic ledger balance against the unrelenting, overcrowded convenience of New York City, where I live, and I thought that if I could somehow glimpse that opposite philosophical and geographic threshold, it would show me… something. I had no idea what. That’s the thing about frontiers: If you know what to expect when you get there, it’s not a frontier.
Aesthetically, McKinney is exactly what you want in an Alaskan bush pilot, a lanky, six-foot two-inch version of Robert Duvall in his 60s with a trim white cowboy mustache and a smooth drawl, who tells stories about characters with names like Stinky Hardy and Two-Jump Joe Tonasket and says folksy things like “tougher than a cast-iron football.” More importantly, he has an array of survival skills learned over an astounding range of jobs; a partial list of his résumé includes cowboy, dog-team driver, insurance-fraud investigator, bear guard, photographer, law-enforcement officer, commercial fisherman and team leader for personal security details. He’s also a doctor of homeopathic medicine and helps counter-poaching efforts in Africa, including by donating all profits from Explore Alaska.
In the Alaskan bush, everything is a matter of life or death. Weather, judgment, gear, information, common sense, patience—the wrong quality or quantity of any one of them can mean oblivion. McKinney ticked through a meticulous audit of the 30-pound survival pack that accompanies him each time he goes airborne: first-aid kit; freeze-dried rations; flares; compass; signaling mirrors; hunting knife; folding handsaw; an anti-dysentery treatment he invented; paracord; tarp; binoculars; several types of fire starter; fishing hooks and line; a water-filtration system. The list went on.
“In Alaska, things can go wrong for any reason,” he said, “or no reason at all.”
To drive home the point, he handed me a Bic lighter in a small orange container on a bootlace lanyard, to be worn around my neck every time we flew, one last chance to start a fire should the worst come to pass.
Sitting in a broken plane on a lonely gravel bar hundreds of miles from anywhere, deep in grizzly country above the Arctic Circle, I feel for the lighter beneath my shirt and try to remember everything McKinney told me about staying alive.
It’s not looking too shiny over that way, buddy,” McKinney said over the headset, nodding ahead of us toward a rolling gray wall, dark tendrils of rain snaking down into the mountaintops. Through the clear canopy I glimpsed the plane’s shadow trailing us 800 feet below, a dark smudge blinking in and out of view among thousands of square miles of snow and rock.
Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas but has less than half the population of San Antonio, and few highways. The state is a hotbed for aircraft, particularly bush planes, which in ideal conditions can take off and land within the length of a football field. McKinney’s pristine 2019 Piper Super Cub, heavily modified with lightweight, high-performance carbon-fiber components, can make impromptu airstrips of gravel bars, fields and mountain ridgelines.
But there’s a trade-off: the more stuff you carry, the fewer places you can land. So after flight-planning the route north from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean—checking weather cameras and calculating distances, fuel burn, potential wind resistance, cargo weight and gas reserves— McKinney began a ruthless culling from our over-grown pile of gear. First to go was the cooking tent, then a small folding table meant for preparing meals, then the fishing rods, and so on, until he looked up and said, “How do you feel about ditching the chairs?”
The reason the Super Cub is the most popular bush plane in the world isn’t horsepower—the Lycoming engine in McKinney’s model produces just 180 hp, about the same as a Mazda Miata—but its light weight, which makes it both agile and fuel- efficient. Super Cubs are an example of what’s known as “fabric-covered aircraft,” which is a disconcertingly literal description: an airframe composed of steel tubes swathed in synthetic cloth. Pilots call them “tube-and-rag planes,” which sounds like a type of toy, and sure enough, rap your fingers along the body and you’ll hear a hollow bong like a child’s drum.
The leading cause of aviation fatalities in small aircraft like these is fuel mismanagement, including improper calculation of range. Given that weight and distance are natural enemies, and considering we had some 400 miles to fly—including the Anaktuvuk Pass, a 160-mile artery through the heart of the Brooks Range, one of the more immense and unexplored mountain systems in the world—the chairs stayed behind. We took off from a grassy airstrip outside Fairbanks, gliding off the ground and skimming over the trees, the cockpit filled with a roar like mating lawnmowers.
As we pushed north, the bright primary colors of Wild Lake and Bettles gave way to muddy browns and blacks, the low scrub that sits atop the base layer of permafrost above the Arctic Circle. The Brooks Range loomed into view, and then we were in it, towering white-capped mountains stretching out in every direction, a sea of gray closing in around us, shouldering through the wind in a plane made of tubes that weighs less than some motorcycles.
We were scud running, chasing breaks in a moving wall of weather, zigzagging back and forth across the plotted course, always traveling downstream, which is to say downhill, the ground falling away in front of the plane acting as a potential escape route, or emergency landing. It’s not a game for amateurs—it’s exacting work, and without patience and a eager sense of the land below it can be deadly, the plane suddenly socked in from all sides, flying blind in thick gray soup, no way to tell whether it’s heading up into a mountain or down toward the ground.
“If I dropped the whole state of New York down there, you could spend the rest of your life looking for it and not find it,” McKinney said through the headset, nodding out toward the endless mountains. There was no sign of life, the small shadow of the plane the only movement below. We were trying to refuel at Kavic River Camp, on the North Shore just below the Arctic Ocean, before flying to one of the wide, flat ridgelines to the east to set up camp. But the weather was pushing back, jamming us into a headwind, forcing us to take the long way around the weather, burning fuel.
After the better part of an hour dodging clouds, McKinney finally banked west, out of the mountains, toward the Kavic River, announcing our position over the radio and requesting permission to land.
Kavic River Camp has the wholesome, forthright name of some lush getaway with burbling waters and Robert Redford types in waders. In reality it was a cold, flat, muddy expanse of gravel with a mess hall, a pair of outhouses, a cavernous garage and work tent and a series of low, rectangular wooden huts on tall treads called hooches. It was once a logistics base for an oil field; now it hosts hunters and visiting researchers, film crews and scientists. We were weathered in the moment we landed, the sky dropping straight to the ground to deliver a cold, driving rain.
A gargantuan machine rolled up, a red metal box on comically large tires nearly six feet tall. The front windshield folded down and a stout, gray-haired woman started hollering at us for spooking her geese. This was Sue Aikens, who’s lived at Kavic River Camp for the past 23 years and has starred on the BBC reality show Life Below Zero going on 13 of them. McKinney asked permission to set up our tents, but Aikens waved him off and suggested we grab a hooch. There was a fresh grizzly kill less than half a mile from camp, a pregnant caribou strewn about in several pieces, and the bear was in the area, defending his meal. McKinney nodded, at which point I noticed his chest holster and it dawned on me that he had flown the entire route with the .44 strapped across his flight suit. “You have to always fly with a gun,” he replied, “in case the plane goes down and a bear decides to pop up where you land.” The pecking order, though never in doubt, was suddenly tangible: The pilot had a gun; I got a lighter.
The next morning, the wings were dripping in long icicles, visibility limited to a few dozen yards. I loaded up on coffee and spent the morning in the hooch practicing knots McKinney had shown me. Around noon there was a high honking sound, like a bicycle horn. Aikens, in her massive truck, a Ukrainian-made Arctic-exploration vehicle called the Sherp, was offering us a tour.
She talked continuously as we rolled over bushes and chest-high vegetation. Aikens is a preternatural monologist and a poet laureate of freestyle profanity, but her subject matter is always Alaska: bears, the weather, bird hunting, the Kavic River, bear attacks (hers and others), homemade remedies for catastrophic injuries, the ceaseless dark of Arctic winters, her garden, how everyone in the pitiable monolith that is “the lower 48” is living life hopelessly wrong, the wildflowers in bloom (“If you don’t think there’s life up here in the permafrost, you need to get closer to the ground, because you’re only looking for it at human scale and you’re going to miss it”) and bears.
All that was left at the kill site was a shredded half-pelt that was once the mother caribou and a red, knobby shank of the fetus’s spine. Aikens pointed out the grizzly tracks—huge, a catcher’s mitt with claws—and placed a pair of heart-shaped rocks in the aftermath. Then we rolled off in search of the bear.
From the air I had watched how McKinney continuously gleaned information from the earth, studying wind direction in the pattern of ripples across a creek, or following the course of water downstream. From the Sherp, Aikens did something similar but reversed, studying the sky to get a sense of what was happening on the ground—vying flocks of sea birds congregating in the same spot might mean a kill, while agitated ravens could be a passerine bear alarm.
We picked our way across gravel bars along the Kavic River with no easy place to cross. Aikens flipped a switch, rerouting the exhaust to inflate the gargantuan tires, and the Sherp rolled to the edge of the river. Then a slow, queasy lurch to the driver’s side, one huge tire bobbing, Aikens’s window nearly scraping the gravel as she methodically cursed and worked the controls, briefly pulling us back ashore before pressing forward again, plunging the Sherp into the fast-moving river.
The Sherp, it turned out, couldn’t exactly swim, but it was designed to float. We drifted parallel to the shore for a dozen yards before the rubber found footing on the far bank and Aikens hauled the machine out of the water. We continued on, Aikens stopping her narration only to take a few potshots at a passing flock of geese. Sifting through rocks on the riverbank, she presented me with a gift of fossilized, blue-ribbed colonial coral and showed us stones so suffused with the crude oil that seeps from the ground that they smell like sulfur when scraped: scratch-and-sniff rocks. She expertly mimicked bird calls and projected, for all her boundless energy, the pervasive calm that comes from being intimately connected to the land.
“I’m like the tundra, I just hang around up here,” she said, watching the passing gulls, and I realized that Aikens didn’t mind the adversity or the almost cartoonish dangers: bears, murderous storms, unbroken months of darkness, freezing to death. For her, as for McKinney, and for the aspiring dog musher I met at the gas station at Bettles and for everyone else I had spoken with so far in Alaska, these weren’t challenges in constant need of overcoming. They were part and parcel of one of the last untamed places in America, and everybody I’d met couldn’t conceive of living anywhere else. Sue Aikens, a television star living in a tent at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, her closest neighbor an offshore oil rig, was exactly where she belonged.
McKinney and I spent the next several days at Kavic, the ridgelines to the east too snowbound to land and set up camp. When the weather was clear, we flew along the coast, searching for caribou that refused to materialize except for a few small, scattered groups.
At first it seemed impossible that we could miss half a million large, lumbering animals stretching for miles across flat ground. But the more we flew, the more it came to seem ludicrous that we would ever manage to find something so relatively tiny as the world’s largest overland migration. The few caribou we did see appeared as four or five or seven pin-dot animals trekking across thousands of miles of ice, inconceivably alone.
It was hard to stay mad at the caribou, if only because the terrain was so fascinating. Who knew ice came in so many colors? Rust red, jade, moss, periwinkle, sea glass, lemonade, a tepid brown like weak coffee, the same rich sky blue of a Tiffany’s box. Tantalizingly, the mud and snow were perforated with thousands of tracks, caribou prints in straight, orderly rows and the crisscrossing tracks of the wolf packs hunting them, the awkward pattern of wolverine paws appearing like misplaced quotation marks and, once, as we skimmed 50 feet above the beach, the giant, moccasin-like tracks of a polar bear.
One day we landed on a small, scimitar-shaped sandbar in the Arctic Ocean. The sand was as dark and powdery as espresso grounds, dotted with pale driftwood and gull feathers, and it’s very likely McKinney and I are the only two people to have ever stood on that exact spot on earth. I leaned into the wind and sun and peered out at the vast frozen plain beyond the farthest edge of America.
“Do you hear that?” McKinney asked, and I did. It was the sound of nothing, and it was beautiful.
The days at Kavic ran together, the weather never sitting still, cycling from snow to fog to rain to the midnight sun casting 50-foot shadows across the gravel. The hooch was dark and spartan, but it had a space heater and a reinforced freezer door to keep out snow, and the bears.
McKinney and I made a plan: We’d head out in the morning for one last chance to find the alleged caribou—a visiting ornithologist said he’d heard they were to the east, somewhere along the Hulahula River—then return, pack, refuel and head south, toward sun and warmth and the mineral waters of the Tolovana Hot Springs. It was Tuesday, or I was fairly sure it was.
Setting out for the Hulahula, we found ourselves scud running again, dodging an onslaught of clouds. I asked McKinney to circle back past a particularly menacing mountain for another chance at a photo. On the second pass, framing the peak through the viewfinder, I heard, “What’s that over there?”
We had almost missed it—a clear channel, sunlight in the distance. McKinney made his careful reconnaissance passes, examining the terrain, and the next moment, like The Wizard of Oz blinking into color from black and white, we were soaring through a sunlit valley awash in green—a hidden microclimate, surrounded on all sides by winter, alone in the full bloom of spring. Below, cutting through the plains and carved into the rock along the base of the mountains were the fossilized tracks of millions of hooves, an etched record of caribou migrations going back tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of years. We cruised the valley for the next 25 minutes, tracing the creeks and the small lakes until the weather turned again and chased us out of the secret paradise, back into the snow and ice.
At Kavic, McKinney veered off his runway approach, thinking he’d spotted a bear. It was the Sherp, bogged in several feet of water covered by an unassuming field of white like snow quicksand. By the time we landed, arranged a rescue team, packed the guns, rode the two miles east, winched the Sherp onto dry land and got back to camp, it was late, and despite the clear skies we gave up the plan to try for the hot springs.
When I awoke at three in the morning, it was snowing again. All at once everything was freezing and exhausting. It seemed I’d never be able to leave the cold muck, and suddenly I felt like demanding that McKinney hotdog us back through the mountains no matter the weather—to carry me away from the cigarette-burned blankets and damp outhouse toilet paper, on the way to grass and trees and warm sun. But I knew he wouldn’t, of course he wouldn’t, and in an instant I was full of rage at the oscillating weather, knowing that all of our plans were at the mercy of something as ephemeral as clouds. The snow, as if in agreement, continued to fall silently around me.
Sitting in the kneecapped plane, the edges of the propeller torn off, I wiggle and flex every part of myself: It’s all in working order. McKinney, too, is unharmed. We climb out—much more easily now that the plane is sitting on its belly, the starboard wing resting on the ground—and survey the damage: a short stretch of bent airframe, the mangled prop, various patches of shredded rag and the gear leg wrenched 90 degrees in the wrong direction. It’s a series of repairs that will require a hundred smaller bits and pieces, but all of it is either replaceable or fixable.
“Could have been a lot worse,” McKinney says, and there’s no doubt he’s right. At the beginning of our trip, I asked him about crashes: Does anyone get away with being a bush pilot for any length of time without wrecking? He shook his head. “Everybody balls up their plane at one point or another,” he said, and relayed a series of increasingly harrowing tales of other pilots’ bad luck—mechanical failures, boulders hidden in the snow, blitzkrieg weather, being stranded for weeks in a whiteout blizzard, survival hunting, living in a sleeping bag so as not to freeze to death in -70 degrees Fahrenheit. Our situation, by comparison, is idyllic: in a meandering valley in the shadow of unnamed mountains, the East Fork of the Chandalar River rushing past to the east. The reason we were landing was to determine whether we wanted to camp there for the night, until the right wheel hit a hole, at which point the decision was made for us.
We unload what we can from the plane, the front of the belly pod crushed under the weight of the cockpit; the camp stove, survival pack and fuel bags are all jammed together up front, unreachable from the rear loading door. McKinney unstraps the axe and starts chopping, cutting a long, jagged hole in the container’s side. With some wiggling and heaving, we pull out the remaining gear and begin to set up camp.
Even just over 130 miles south of Kavic, the weather is more in tune with spring—which is to say it’s not snowing—but we’re still above the Arctic Circle. We manage to set up the two-person tent next to a small creek moments before the sun disappears and a brutal wind whips in from the east, tearing out several guylines and bending a handful of titanium stakes; I catch the tent accidentally, standing downwind when the gust slaps the fabric into my chest on its way to blowing into the water. We run out more guylines, re-drive the stakes and pile a barbell’s worth of large rocks on top of each.
McKinney calls Lana on the satellite phone to update her on the situation and confirm our coordinates—she’s been continually monitoring our whereabouts on the flight tracker—and together they start devising a plan: components, materials and tools needed to fix the plane; stores that sell each; a list of people to call, to see who can come to the rescue or lend parts; our food situation (light; we left the majority of our provisions behind in Kavic, to save weight, though we still have some eggs and meat and several days’ worth of freeze-dried survival rations); and a realistic timeline for getting everything procured, packed, flown in, fixed and flyable. A couple of days at best, more likely several.
The next morning I wake around six and head down to the creek with the portable filtration system from the survival pack. The water is several inches deep and cold enough that shards of ice drift across the surface like in a well-shaken martini. I pump and listen to the flowing creek and watch the clouds settle over the nearest ridgeline and realize that, despite having spent the night before in a two-person tent, in a battering wind, within arm’s reach of a large handgun, I slept very well and I feel oddly refreshed.
As I walk back to the tent, McKinney puts a finger to his lips and points behind me. A herd of caribou stares at us from the brush, a stone’s throw away. A large bull, 400 pounds with towering black velvet antlers, locks eyes with me for a long moment, then snorts and turns, the rest of the herd following. Within moments they casually exit the bush, wade the creek and the river and disappear into the far timber. Six days unsuccessfully chasing caribou, with every man-made advantage of speed and vision and range, and the cud-chewing bastards got the drop on me.
McKinney tells me to wear the .44 at all times—cooking, writing, doing dishes, ducking behind the large thatch of bushes across the creek we’ve designated as the bathroom. “Grizzlies hunt the caribou,” he reminds me.
I fry slices of bread for breakfast alongside a half dozen scrambled eggs with cubes of buffalo sausage. Over the satellite phone, Lana relays that none of McKinney’s plane-owning friends are available to deliver parts: Two have engines undergoing maintenance, one is guiding a hunt and the other is heading to Michigan for a family reunion. “Well, we’ll need an airstrip at some point,” McKinney says to me, taking the shotgun and handing me the pistol, and we walk off in search of a runway.
An hour later we find a workable patch some 200 yards from the camp, mostly flat for several hundred feet and running parallel to a small creek. The only issue is the vegetation: chest-high clusters of birch saplings and small, gnarly bushes with tough roots twisted through the rocky soil, a thousand sharp awkward plants that all need to be cleared from the airstrip, the taller branches at the edges of the runway cut down to waist height to avoid snagging a wingtip.
The bushes are too small and the saplings too pliable for the axe, so we get to work with a serrated pocketknife and the folding handsaw from the survival pack, hot hours of kneeling in gravel and hardpack, yanking at roots and trying not to drive the saw into the sand as the gun holster bounces against my chest.
Several hours later, during a hasty lunch of protein bars, there’s good news. Geordy Pine, a 21-year-old hunting guide and part-time pilot for Explore Alaska, is skipping his family reunion to come help. First, however, he has to secure every item on the long list, which means raiding his own garage, then McKinney’s garage, then the garages of friends and neighbors, then flying four hours from Tok to Fairbanks, where Lana is making the rounds of aviation-supply stores. Then he needs to pack all the gear into his Super Cub, then fly another five hours to our location. The trip will require refueling several times, and the schedule for all of this, of course, depends on what the weather decides to do, which means the only sure thing is that he won’t arrive until later in the week.
We head back to the airstrip, spotting a foot-high mound of scat and a grizzly print in the mud, six inches wide and eleven inches long, not including the claws, though neither is fresh. We spend another four hours clearing brush, the work punctuated by the distant, echoing booms of ice shelves cleaving off into the river below. We finish work around eight and eat dinner squatting by the tent, watching a new herd of caribou laze in the rock field. Before bed, we fill the coffee mugs with silverware and stack them on the lid of the food bin as a bear alarm.
The next morning, Thursday. McKinney has been up for an hour working on the plane when I stumble out of the tent just past six. More good news from Lana: If the weather cooperates, Pine will arrive at Fairbanks that afternoon and expects to reach us at some point this evening. We squat in the tent, waiting out a torrential rain and scarfing a few protein bars, then grab the guns and head back to the airstrip.
After lunch—the last of the eggs—something interesting happens. I’m waiting for the water to boil for the washing up when I find a bottle of honey in the food bin, so I squeeze a glob onto a spoon. As I sit on my duffel bag, gazing out the tent door at the mountains, the honey hits some mainline pleasure artery and my neuroreceptors light up like a jackpot slot machine. In the moment, there’s nothing but the comfort of sitting after hard labor, the honey’s rich sweetness, the warmth of the sun as it breaks through the clouds to spotlight a distant peak. There are no distractions—my phone and computer are useless bricks in the bottom of my pack; I haven’t seen an email, a news story, Instagram or even a reflection of my own face for over a week—and I realize that, even though I’ve been lucky enough to have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world, this simple tablespoon of honey is the greatest dessert I’ve ever tasted.
We finish clearing the airstrip around five, then pile mounds of brush into nearby ditches to mark them as no-go zones. McKinney paces off the airstrip as I stand bear guard with the shotgun: After 15 hours over two days, we’ve carved 760 feet of airstrip out of inhospitable earth using nothing but a folding saw and a pocketknife. Back at camp, we sit and listen for the sound of an approaching plane and watch a far-off herd of caribou gallop silently across the ice.
Three hours later, 8 pm exactly, the unmistakable low whine of a Super Cub in the distance. We hustle over to the airstrip as the gray and orange plane appears, a dot over the mountains, getting bigger, lower, swooping down to make a pass, then another, touching the tires to the ground before rising again into the air, banking, banking again and coming in for a landing. McKinney pops a flare so Pine can read the wind direction, the yellow smoke blowing west to east. Pine’s plane, loaded with gear, uses most of the runway to come to a stop; McKinney and I whoop and high-five when he finally kills the engine. Pine climbs out of the plane. He has green eyes in a tan face, curly brown hair, a hunter’s unkempt beard. He takes a look around and says, “Wow, you guys are way out here.”
The work resumes immediately: unloading the plane and hauling the gear to camp, getting a six-foot-tall jack under the downed wing, McKinney and Pine starting repairs. By the time we crawl into our tents, it’s well past one in the morning.
Friday. McKinney and Pine are at work as I cook breakfast, fried discs of buffalo sausage, the last of the real food as there was no room for extra provisions in Pine’s plane. I notice the two of them huddling. McKinney walks over to me. They’ve discovered some part or other that needs to be replaced, something he couldn’t see until the wing was in the air. It wasn’t on the list.
“Geordy’s flying back to Fairbanks today,” he says, “and you’re going with him.”
It seems wrong, escaping before the job is done. More than that, I suddenly realize, I don’t want to go. The minor anxieties of modern life, asleep for the past 10 days, jump awake and start yowling for attention, demanding to be fed.
In the bush, there are no email backlogs, no train delays or parking tickets or smog warnings. There’s time, especially under a midnight sun, but very little of it to waste. Life is reduced to providing yourself with what few comforts you can—a warm breakfast, a spoonful of honey—after you’ve finished all the work necessary for staying alive. After time these comforts take on outsize meaning, blooming, transforming into moments of profound joy: icy creek water when you’re thirsty; warmth, after being cold for a week straight. I consider protesting my exit, but I know it wouldn’t do any good.
As Pine goes through his preflight inspection, McKinney and I regard each other for a moment. For 10 days we haven’t been more than a hundred yards apart, and now I’m going home and he isn’t. McKinney leans over and wraps me in an unexpected hug. I thank him for keeping me safe, for orchestrating an extraction and especially for never taking any unnecessary risk, beyond the obvious one that is flying a small plane over dangerous country. If it weren’t for his expertise, his ability to improvise, adapt and overcome, things could have been much worse. I’m grateful to realize I’ve spent the past 10 days learning from a consummate Alaskan.
Pine’s plane bounces over the rocks, picking up speed, and then the wheels are off the ground and we’re airborne, the earth dropping away, McKinney getting smaller. Suddenly I can make it out from the air, the long runway that wasn’t there three days ago—my infinitesimal mark on the remote wilderness of the Alaskan bush, a last outpost of America where few have ever been. And for the first time I feel it, and I’ve felt it every day since, the mark the bush made on me: a deep and unshakable stillness. The sound of nothing at the edge of the world.
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As we all know, a college education isn’t cheap. For institutions of higher learning, there is a massive opportunity to expand potential enrollment to students who might not have the time or financial resources to attend brick-and-mortar institutions on a full- or even part-time basis. There is also the benefit of enabling students to extend their digital lives into their education.
Unfortunately, however, many colleges and universities are squandering this opportunity. For the past several years, many of these institutions have somewhat begrudgingly embraced the idea of rolling out online education programs, mainly because they must in order to survive and meet the expectations of students today.
Statistics indicate the global online education market is expected to top more than $130 billion in the next few years. Meanwhile, on-campus enrollment is dropping, and the number of students turning to online education is steadily growing. But there is more to these trends than meets the eye.
While colleges and universities are investing in and offering online programs, they are not taking them as seriously as they could. This may stem from a lingering misconception that online curricula are not as rigorous as their face-to-face counterparts. Even when universities do create something innovative, such programs are often buried so deep in the organization that almost nobody knows about them, including the students.
This must change if colleges and universities hope to compete for students and deliver the kind of education they desire and deserve.
When we look at the changing demographics of incoming students today, it’s clear why:
Today, students are not sold on the value of taking on $200,000 in student loans for a degree. Moody’s Investors Service reports that net tuition growth continues to fall. According to Moody’s, 25 percent of private colleges operated with deficits in 2017, and research indicates expenses are outpacing revenues by 2 percent at state-run colleges nationwide. Unless institutions of higher learning make meaningful investments in online learning now — even when faced with budget and time constraints — their future viability will be in doubt. They’re going to be left in the dust by universities that do go down this path.
MORE FROM EDTECH: Discover how online education is evolving.
Colleges and universities have two basic options when it comes to online learning. First, they can opt to build the online practice themselves, committing staff and resources to developing these new products, implementing marketing strategies to identify and recruit students, and adapting infrastructure (online registration, payments, financial aid, student records) as they plan for more online students.
The second option is to outsource the entire operation. There are online program managers that are happy to offer this service — if they believe your specific degree will be marketable. But they will take a sizable portion of the revenue generated for the course, requiring your college to keep online tuition rates just as high as in-person classes. As other institutions launch their own online programs, and the battle of supply versus demand prompts them to lower tuition rates, institutions that rely on OPMs will not be in a strong position to compete.
Regardless of the model chosen, it’s important to embrace pedagogies that leverage synchronous (live) instruction. Merely depositing studying assignments and an occasional video lecture in a learning management system treats online learning as second-class education compared with the types of active debates and discussions you get with in-person or synchronous online instruction.
Online learning should be treated as another business or school within the institution to provide best-in-class modeling for academic departments and faculty, as well as delivering operational efficiencies for the college to thrive in recruiting and supporting students. Many institutions remain unable to make that migration, and most still have their asynchronous content buried in an LMS.
But there are examples of universities and institutions that are getting it right. At Arizona State University, for example, online learning isn’t viewed as substandard to traditional education; it’s just different from it. The university actually has an entire organization dedicated to building innovation into its online education offerings. Indeed, the EdPlus program has its own CEO, a former ASU dean, as well as a team for designing and scaling effective digital learning models. From 2012 to 2018, the university reported that the number of its students graduating with online degrees increased nearly 600 percent to more than 7,000 annually, and the number of programs scaled from 33 to more than 170.
Key to those results is ensuring that online students don’t slip through the cracks. ASU assigns every online student a “success coach,” and the university staffs over 60 of these coaches to support 30,000 students. In fact, EdPlus has several hundred employees. But that journey began with a commitment, a modest investment and a top-down desire to innovate. ASU hired the right people, who may or may not have come from traditional higher education backgrounds, and then empowered them to make the changes necessary to thrive. While decades ago, other colleges may have looked down at online learning and the efforts ASU was exerting, the proof is in the results. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find any institution out there that doesn’t wish it could have the same type of online results that ASU is delivering.
So, one might ask, why aren’t other universities doing this?
MORE FROM EDTECH: Structure your university for demand-driven education.
One of the reasons is that the type of technology needed to enable truly meaningful online education hasn’t been there. But I think a more likely reason is that, perhaps, we’ve become too comfortable as educators. Many of us believe that students are willing to accept substandard learning modes, so when we deploy online learning tools, we just do what we’ve always done. We give them books to read, videos to watch and some generic set of activities and pretend it’s all quite sufficient.
In reality, it’s not adequate at all. Just as you had rock star professors in colleges drawing big crowds because they were informative, compelling and entertaining, you also need those fundamentals in online education. Web-based learning must be interesting, engaging and give students the ability to learn their materials in a hands-on and interesting manner.
The technology is being created to make that happen, blending physical and digital components such as augmented and virtual reality, HD cameras, and even 3D printing. But even if you have the greatest technology in the world, it still won’t be enough if your institution doesn’t also accept the idea that online learning is here to stay. It must be a part of your culture. It should be at the forefront of everything you do.
During tough times, the organizations that make the difficult decisions and focus on strategic growth will ultimately have the best chance for future success. Those that choose to do the minimum when it comes to online learning programs are setting themselves up for failure. Those who get innovative and creative with web-based learning, on the other hand, stand to earn a reputation as flexible, modern educators.
Charles Lindbergh knew a thing or two about traveling light. When preparing The Spirit of St. Louis for his transatlantic flight in 1927, the pilot jettisoned everything—from his parachute and radio to the traditional leather seat. (He used a wicker chair.) He even designed special lightweight boots.
You probably delegate worries about your plane's range and fuel capacity to the airline, but odds are you hate to carry any excess ballast in your carry-on. That's why laptop vendors strive to trim every ounce from their designs, and why we at PCMag pay so much attention to the results—starting with this guide to the lightest laptops you can buy.
What defines a lightweight laptop? Most would agree that the upper limit is three pounds, possibly stretching to four for a system with a big 15.6-inch screen (although the 15.6-inch featherweight champion, the Acer Swift 5, is a remarkable 2.2 pounds). Neither of those figures counts the computer's AC adapter, an often-overlooked bit of baggage that can be anything from a compact shirt-pocket gadget to an ungainly brick.
For manufacturers, crafting an ultralight laptop is all about compromise. A smaller battery pack will save weight, but it won't last as long—a risky move in a market where many buyers expect to get through a full workday plus a Netflix movie in the evening. Exotic chassis materials like carbon fiber and magnesium alloys weigh less than ordinary notebooks' plastic and aluminum, but they also increase cost. A touch screen is convenient, but its glass overlay adds a few grams.
For you, shopping for a svelte laptop is all about choices. Some aren't particularly obvious, such as a system's expandability—the lightest machines may have their memory, for instance, mounted directly on the motherboard, rather than in the upgradable SO-DIMM sockets of bulkier models. Similarly, virtually all will use solid-state drives rather than cheaper but heavier hard drives for storage, though the upgradability of these drives in the lightest laptops will vary from no-can-do (the storage is soldered down) to potentially upgradable (on a PCI Express M.2 SSD module, if you can crack the case to access it).
Other choices will be, well, in your face, starting with the obvious one: the display panel.
At the risk of insulting your intelligence, the biggest factor in laptop weight is the physical size of the chassis. And for a laptop, that correlates with screen size. If you're cool with an 11.6-inch display, you've got plenty of low-cost ultralights to choose from; if you want a jumbo 17-inch screen, your only choice, to our knowledge, is the LG Gram 17, a Core i7 system carved from 2.95 pounds of nano carbon and magnesium. The flagship of the lightweight Gram line offers 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 2,560-by-1,600-pixel native screen resolution.
Most weight-savers, as you'd expect, are smaller than that, though it's up to you how small is too small. Many shoppers don't realize that the 2.8-pound MacBook Air is not Apple's traditionally lightest laptop—that's the now-discontinued 2.03-pound MacBook, though you may prefer the former's 13.3-inch to the latter's 12-inch display. (The MacBook can still be found in refurbished and used form.)
The most popular panel sizes for light laptops are 13.3 and 14 inches. Resolution is usually either 1080p, also known as full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), or 4K, also known as UHD (3,840 by 2,160 pixels). Some pixel counts fall between those extremes, such as the 2,560 by 1,440 of the 2.4-pound Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and the special Retina resolutions of Apple's Mac machines.
While it can be tempting to revel in the ultrafine detail of a 3K or 4K display for applications such as image editing or video streaming, don't be ashamed if your needs (and budget) favor the everyday productivity of a 1080p panel. Besides getting a perfectly adequate screen (something that can't be said for the older standard of 1,366 by 768 pixels), you'll get substantially better battery life, all else being equal.
Excess bulk is the enemy of light weight, so look for a laptop with a high screen-to-body ratio—in other words, thin rather than thick bezels surrounding the display. (Ditto for a unit without wide borders on either side of the keyboard.)
The Dell XPS 13 was an early pioneer of nearly frameless screen design, so much so that Dell has long described the 2.7-pound system as a 13-inch laptop in an 11-inch chassis. For years, however, the drawback to the Dell's skinny screen borders was that the top bezel didn't have room for a webcam, resulting in the XPS 13's camera being mounted below the display instead of above. There, it gave your Skype conference partners an unlovely view of your chin and nostrils.
Thanks to miniature lens engineering, accurate versions of the XPS 13 relocated the camera to the top bezel, where it remains. But it's still worth checking webcam placement before you buy. The cameras of a few accurate lightweights remain embedded in the top row of the keyboard or below (instead of above) the screen, favoring your neck instead of your face.
One other detail related to screens and bezels concerns a panel aspect-ratio migration that is underway. A big trend in 2022 is the move of many popular laptops (from Dell, HP, Lenovo and others) away from the typical 16:9 screen aspect ratio to a squarer 16:10 or 3:2. This allows for more vertical viewing space for webpage viewing, spreadsheet browsing, and more. It's something to watch for, especially if you'll use your light laptop more for productivity work than video viewing. (The 16:9 ratio is the best literal fit for the latter, but not much else.)
What if you'd like to indulge your inner Lindbergh and redesign your laptop for travel? There used to be notebooks that let you replace their optical drives with empty weight-saving slices, but designs of that kind (and optical drives) are history.
You can opt, however, for a tablet that lets you remove its keyboard cover. This gives you two choices: carry just the tablet, if you're viewing videos or jotting short notes with a stylus, or take both parts if you need to type something. A tablet plus its thin keyboard cover or folio usually weighs less than a conventional clamshell laptop.
The 13-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 8, for example, weighs just under 2 pounds without (and a bit over 2 pounds with) its Signature keyboard cover. For the keyboard accessory, Microsoft, unlike many makers of detachable 2-in-1s, charges extra.
Of course, detachables aren't the only 2-in-1 hybrid laptops—there are convertibles whose screens flip and fold from laptop to tablet mode, propping up for kiosk or easel-like presentation modes in between. Several of these qualify as light (the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is 2.9 pounds), though their versatile hinges add some weight compared to clamshells. (The Dell XPS 13 is 2.7 pounds, not a huge difference in this case.)
If you're an avid gamer, you should know that nearly all ultralights rely on their processors' integrated graphics instead of faster dedicated graphics—a discrete GPU is one of the first things that gets taken off the cargo roster when designers are trying to hit a weight target. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the best-known exception to this, but adding a discrete GPU option nudged the weight from 2.8 pounds to 3.1 pounds, making it notably heftier than many others on our list.
Light laptops also tend to have fewer ports and expansion options than their heavier cousins. Having just a couple of ports is common. The Dell XPS 13 does better with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB Type-C port, a microSD card slot, and an audio jack, but you'll still need a dongle (which is included) to connect a USB Type-A device and another (not included) to connect an external monitor.
Shop carefully if you're looking for, say, an HDMI video output or a full-size SD card slot, and realize that some ports seen on larger laptops (such as an Ethernet port for wired networks) are seldom seen on the lightest laptops.
Fortunately, the days when light laptops lacked battery life are more or less over. Though a beefy battery pack is still the easiest route to long runtime, today's lithium-polymer cells are both weight- and energy-efficient. You can cross-index this guide against our roundups of the best battery life laptops and the best ultraportables. But rest assured that we factored battery life into our top picks here.
By now it's clear—you don't have to strain your arm and shoulder to carry real productivity power. Below is a detailed spec breakout of the best light laptops we've tested. It's not comprehensive to every model, since we review so many systems, but we refresh it frequently with the best of the best. Meanwhile, safe travels and happy landings.
Despite living in the age of the paperless office, there are still plenty of reasons to connect a printer to a Mac computer.
However, the way an Apple machine connects to external hardware is different to a Windows laptop or PC. To use a printer on any Apple computer, you must first add it to your list of printers, and you do this through the Printers and Scanner Preferences menu.
Normally, macOS will use AirPrint to connect to the desired printer, or it will obtain said printer’s software – or ‘printer driver’. Apple advises not to install the software that comes with your printer or what is recommended on the manufacturer’s website. Instead, follow the instructions below for USB and wireless connections.
As mentioned above, in most cases macOS will automatically detect the new printer – it may just be a case of updating your software and then selecting the new external hardware.
However, this might not work for all printers, and so you will need to do the following:
Once it's all plugged in, you should see a pop-up message prompting you to obtain the new software. Go ahead and obtain it. Once finished you should be ready to start printing.
Things should be a bit more straightforward for printers that connect over Wi-Fi; if both printer and laptop are using the same Wi-Fi then theoretically they should be able to see each other.
If you need to check, however, go into ‘System Preferences’ and click on ‘Printers and Scanners’. If there is no printer listed here then you will need to add it yourself.
Start, again, by updating the printer to the latest software that’s available. If it’s a Wi-Fi printer, you may still have to connect it via a USB cable initially to set up ‘Wi-Fi printing’.
Once it is connected, you need to install the Mac software that came with the printer and use the setup assistant to connect the printer to your Wi-Fi network. Once that is completed you can remove the USB cable.
To add the printer to your list of printers, you need to go back into System Preferences, then Printers and Scanners and select it from the drop-down list. If it still doesn’t appear you can click the add button, which appears as a ‘+’, and all available printers should appear in a dialogue box.
If, however, your printer still doesn't appear, you may need to add the device via its IP address. However, it must support printing protocols - AirPrint, HP Jetdirect, Line Print Daeman, or the Internet Printing Protocol.
Click the add button and select the IP button, which should have the globe symbol. Then input the printer's information into the table.
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After more than a century of rejecting battery-powered cars, mainstream automakers are finally changing their minds.
This year, they’re debuting some of the best battery-electric vehicles (BEV) in their history. The cars are big and visually appealing; feature long-range batteries; and come in popular form factors – crossovers and SUVs. In short, they’re built to sell. And their underlying message is clear: These aren’t your regulator’s electric cars.
Moreover, the new breed of battery-electrics is being developed by some of the global industry’s most established, mainstream names. In the first half of 2019 alone, Audi, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, and Nissan debuted new BEVs with 200-plus-mile ranges. Later this year, Porsche will deliver a 600-HP, all-electric luxury vehicle. And Ford Motor Co. will reveal an electric, Mustang-inspired crossover that Ford chairman William Clay Ford has said will “go like hell.”
And the trend will extend well beyond 2019. General Motors has said it will introduce more than 20 new BEVs over the next few years, including a battery-powered Cadillac. And Fiat Chrysler is planning to offer four new electric Jeeps, while Ford is working on an all-electric version of the F-150 pickup. Meanwhile, Volkswagen is said to be investing $50 billion in electrification technology.
All in all, it amounts to a bonanza of BEVs. “It’s still a small fraction of the market,” said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Navigant Research. “But it’s definitely growing fast.”
Even as the market grows, however, mainstream manufacturers have a quiet but very real concern – the consumer. “The auto companies want to be committed, and they think what they’re doing is a good idea,” noted Mike Ramsey, senior director and automotive analyst for Gartner, Inc. “But they definitely need to see some market pull.”
Indeed, there’s still reason for concern on that front, despite the rollout of so many products. Last year’s US BEV sales amounted to only about 1.5% of the market, mostly because the vehicle prices are still higher than those of comparable gas-burning cars.
And that’s frightening for automakers who have already poured billions of dollars into development of new BEVs. Many fear they will over-produce. They imagine parking lots full of unsold, deeply-discounted, electric cars – and deep financial losses.
For mainstream automakers, it’s a risk they take as they dive head-long into the electric fray. And they know it. “There is no demand,” one automotive OEM, who preferred to remain anonymous, lamented to Design News .
Still, it’s the reality. “The customer is in charge of the game,” noted David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research and a 60-year veteran of the auto industry. “And no one knows what the customer will do.”
The Reasons Why
A confluence of factors – including global competition, government regulations, and falling battery prices – have brought mainstream automakers to this juncture.
It’s a juncture that many automakers couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. Most had been more notable for their tepid acceptance of battery-electric vehicles and, in some cases, outright refusal to build or sell them.
But for almost every mainstream manufacturer today, regulations have become a forcing factor. In the US, California and 14 other states have taken the lead, calling on automakers to hit prescribed percentages of zero emission vehicles (ZEV). If they don’t, there are penalties to be paid in the form of ZEV credits. Such credits can cost tens of millions of dollars, and end up getting paid to competitors, which most manufacturers are loathe to do.
Then there’s the global market. Most observers say the global market is the biggest motivator of all. At least 17 countries have announced plans to ban internal combustion engines in city centers, mostly between 2030 and 2040. And China has made battery-electric vehicles a national priority, even going so far as to require that customers enter a lottery in order to get a license for a new car with an internal combustion engine.
For automakers, the handwriting is on the global wall. “When you’ve got Europe and China and California holding a gun to your head and telling you to sell EVs, then you’re going to sell EVs,” noted Abuelsamid of Navigant Research. “If you want to be part of the global market, then you just have to do this.”
That’s why many of the aforementioned BEVs won’t be sold in the US. GM, for example, has talked about more than 20 BEVs, many of which are ticketed for China, Abuelsamid said. Ford has discussed as many as 14 different BEVs, of which only six will be offered in the US, and FCA’s electric Jeeps are targeted for other countries, he added.
Some automakers are unhappy about the mandates, but have little choice. “This is more of a forced march than a happy migration,” one foreign manufacturer wrote to Design News.
Others, such as GM, have concluded that if they have to build EVs globally, they might as well call for a national EV mandate in the US. That way, they can spread the cost of their massive BEV development efforts.
Either way, they want to be careful not to build too much, for fear US consumers won’t bite. It’s an especially difficult calculation, given the fact that virtually every automaker is losing money on every BEV it sells. “It’s really hard to make a business case for something that you know will lose money for an extended period of time,” Abuelsamid said. “So everybody aside from Tesla is trying to limit their sales to what they need to do in order to meet the mandates.”
Having been pushed to build EVs, however, automakers in accurate years have begun to make a curiously pleasant discovery: There's light at the end of that long, dark, development tunnel. And that light is the lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion batteries have come a long way since a decade ago, when the National Academy of Engineering estimated that they were costing OEMs more than $1,000/kWh (at $1,000/kWh, an 85 kWh battery would have cost $85,000). Today, most experts believe that the figure is under $200/kWh, and in many cases, around $150. Moreover, that’s a pack cost, including not only the lithium-ion cells, but the modules, cabling, and cooling systems, as well.
And still, the numbers appear to be dropping. For the first time since the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium set a goal of $100/kWh more than two decades ago, some automakers believe that figure may be in sight, said Cole of the Center for Automotive Research. “There’s at least one company that’s enthusiastic about it,” he told Design News. “In fact, they believe they can go well below that number, which would give them a huge competitive advantage.” If that’s true, then automakers could finally put EV costs on a par with those of internal combustion-based vehicles, Cole added.
Even today, some OEMs are finding that they can get volume discounts from lithium suppliers if they can scale up their production. “We’re seeing that the cost of a battery is about 40% of what it was six years ago,” Mike Duhaime, head of electrification architecture and technology at Fiat Chrysler, told Design News. “We’re almost at a point where battery-electrics are on a par with plug-in hybrids in terms of cost.”
Moreover, energy density is up, which means that automakers can also squeeze more range out of a BEV. “The battery technology of five, six, eight years ago got us 100 or 150 miles of range,” Duhaime said. “Today with the new battery technologies and the new electronics, we’re seeing 300 miles.”
A New Optimism
For some automakers, the battery improvements are translating to real optimism. Ford, for example, now believes that electric vehicles can succeed in their own right. “There’s an opportunity to be margin-positive here – to have profitability on battery-electrics,” Ted Cannis, global director of electrification for Ford Motor Co., told us.
For Ford, such thinking represents a major strategy shift. Only eight years ago, the company rolled out the Ford Focus Electric, a hatchback with a tiny 23 kWh battery and a meager 76-mile driving range. Sales were disappointing, but not unexpected. In retrospect, Cannis said, their approach was understandable, given the cost, the limited capabilities of the time, and the knowledge that they would be losing money. “Part of the thinking was, ‘it’s a compliance play,’” he said.
Now, however, that’s changed. For the as-yet-unnamed BEV that will be unveiled late this year, Ford engineers have taken a different tack. They built atop the Mustang name, added a big battery with a 300-mile range, employed a popular crossover form factor, and trotted out their chairman to let the world know that the new vehicle would “go like hell.”
The first model on GM’s new EV platform will be a Cadillac. GM says the new platform will allow engineers to quickly respond to customer preferences with a relatively short development time. (Image source: Cadillac)
“We had a couple of key principles,” Cannis said. “We decided we would leverage our iconic vehicles – the ones that brought us to the party. This is the strength of our brand around the world, where we have the greatest loyalty, and where we have the greatest connection to our customers. That’s been key.”
Ford is also tailoring its vehicle design to the manufacturing process, paying special attention to such matters as how the battery is placed in the vehicle. And it’s focusing on the EV “eco-system,” including charging infrastructure and customer experience, all of which is important to tech-savvy EV consumers, Cannis said.
Such consumer focus is key for virtually every mainstream EV maker today. The result is that manufacturers are suddenly getting good grades for their efforts. Jaguar’s new I-Pace won European Car of the Year, the first Jaguar to capture the award in its 50-year history. Also, the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV have received high praise for offering driving ranges of more than 250 miles at relatively low starting prices.
Hyundai’s Kona Electric offers a 258-mile all-electric range for a starting price of $36,850. (Image source: Hyundai)
Couple that new breed of vehicles with more fast-charge stations, and the future begins to look even rosier, manufacturers say. “Now, the EV becomes more of a primary-use, rather than a secondary-use, vehicle,” said Duhaime of Fiat Chrysler.
Inspired by Tesla
Industry analysts credit Tesla with providing part of the inspiration for such changes in mainstream thinking. Tesla, they say, showed there was a willing market for EVs by making an honest effort to appeal to buyers. Their vehicles offered long range and smart styling, along with great safety ratings and stellar acceleration and handling. The result was powerful word-of-mouth and an incredible international media buzz surrounding its vehicles.
“In the past, the theory was that only hard-core environmentalists would want to pay the premium for these vehicles,” Abuelsamid said. “They were just too expensive. But Tesla showed that these cars can appeal on their own merit, and that’s been a huge boon to all EVs.”
The question now is how big the EV market really is. US sales of BEVs this year aren’t much better than 2018, and Tesla appears unlikely to come close to the goals that it set for itself. The company’s mainstay – the Model 3 EV – posted sales of 25,000 units in December, then dropped to 6,500 in January after a $7,500 government tax credit for buyers was cut in half. Although sales have rebounded slightly, the company’s stock nose dived from $385 a share to less than $180 a share in a space of four months. In June, The New York Times questioned whether Tesla would ever be more than a niche player.
Skeptics worry that it’s taking too long for BEVs to make money. Amazon, they say, went through similarly dark, unprofitable days, when consumers balked at its business model. But the electric car re-boot began years before Amazon was launched, and now Amazon is a giant, whereas electric cars continue to struggle, they say.
To be sure, most studies suggest that BEVs will keep gaining share over time. Bloomberg’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2017 predicted that 54% of new car sales and 33% of the global car fleet would be electric by 2040. The question, however, is whether mainstreamers and startups can keep investing in the technology until the numbers rise.
Industry experts say that the winners in the BEV space may be the companies with the wherewithal to outlast the others. Cole of the Center for Automotive Research believes the OEM market will ultimately be defined along the lines of the “haves” and “have-nots.” The “haves,” he said, are more likely to be able to make the continued investment that’s necessary for BEVs to compete with gasoline-powered vehicles, especially in the mid- and entry-level markets.
“The ‘haves’ are looking at autonomy, mobility, and electrification, and it’s unclear to them what’s going to happen,” Cole said. “They admit they don’t know. But they’ll have the ability to stay in the game, and maybe even get a competitive advantage, whereas the ‘have-nots’ will have to find a partner – somebody who can help them do it.”
Still, mainstream automakers are more committed than ever, and are likely to keep investing in the technology, as long as governments continue to push and battery costs continue to fall. If the market is ready, they say, then they’re ready.
For that reason, a willing consumer will be the key. “Up to now, economics have been shoved aside in the debate over electrification, at least at the public level,” Cole said. “But consumers will have their say, and economics will ultimately be the deciding factor.”
Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 35 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.
This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America's largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.
Imperial College NHS Trust has broken reliance on on-prem storage and moved a big chunk of its capacity to Wasabi’s cloud object and file storage. The move is expected to cut storage costs by 30% and reduce painful refresh cycles and ongoing maintenance overheads.
The trust deals with more than one million patient contacts a year and is one of the largest acute trusts in the country. It had been locked into a five-year storage infrastructure hardware upgrade cycle, which had seen it move through HP, EMC and Huawei storage for the multiple petabytes of data it keeps.
“Every five years, we went through a storage refresh, with capacity doubling every year,” said technical architect Yusuf Mangera. “But you’d find yourself in year three or four having to buy TBs of capacity that would just last a year. It doesn’t make sense.
“Everyone started talking about cloud, but we stayed away from it for some time. It introduces a revenue-based model of paying for storage, and being in the public sector, we have been mostly capital spend-based. So we stayed away until we had more appropriate financial structures in place.”
With ongoing digitisation of information and data volumes expanding by 2x every year, the scalability offered by the cloud began to make more sense, especially for secondary data such as backups and archives, where migration between platforms during upgrades means moving relatively unaccessed data from one platform to another.
Wasabi was selected as a cloud storage supplier, largely because of its lack of egress costs and price points that were “significantly lower” than other suppliers, according to Mangera. He also pointed to Wasabi’s connectivity to S3 object storage and SMB file protocols.
A big advantage, said Mangera, is that the pain of upgrade cycles is reduced. “Not having to refresh every five years is a benefit,” he added.
Imperial College NHS Trust has about 4PB of production data on-site and about 4PB archived on-prem too. With what is held in the Wasabi cloud, that makes about 15PB. On-site, the trust runs HPE 3PAR and Huawei 18000 SAN storage, Qumulo file storage, Tintri for virtual servers and desktops and Commvault HyperScale X backup appliances.
Data classification and migration to the cloud is an ongoing project, said Mangera, with about 15-20% of data likely to remain on-site.
Significant benefits of the shift to the cloud include smoothing out backup and archiving processes. Previously, backup would become more onerous as the equipment cycle proceeded due to backup volumes increasing and infrastructure gradually being run towards capacity. Now it has been rationalised, with copies for rapid restore being held on-site, and in the cloud in case of total site failure.
Longer-term retention that previously went to tape is now staged off to the cloud. On-site storage for backups is handled by Commvault HyperScale X software-defined data protection appliances running on HPE hardware. It is staged off to the Wasabi cloud via a 10Gbps WAN connection.
When it comes to quantifying benefits, Mangera said: “ROI [return on investment] will not be visible for the next 12 months, but we expect it to be significant, taking into account the reduction in staff time and resources, and licence and support costs. We are looking at 30% savings by year two and year three.”
An underground economy that mirrors its legitimate e-commerce counterpart is supercharging online criminal behaviour, according to a report released by HP Wolf Security in collaboration with Forensic Pathways.
Cyber criminals are now operating on a professional footing with easy-to-launch malware and ransomware attacks being offered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis, allowing people with even rudimentary IT skills to launch cyber attacks at targets of their choosing, the report notes.
It found that competition in the underground has driven down the price of malicious tools, making them affordable to anyone. In an analysis of 174 exploits advertised on the dark web, HP Wolf researchers found an overwhelming number (91 per cent) were selling for less than $10.
A look at 1,653 malware ads revealed more than three quarters (76 per cent) selling for under $10. And on average, information stealers were selling for $5, remote access Trojans (RATs) for $3, exploits for $2.23, and crypters for $1.
"As we got into the 2010s, we started to see a really big push toward commoditisation," said Michael Calce, a former hacker known as "MafiaBoy" and chairman of HP Wolf Security Advisory Board, speaking at an online "fireside chat" on the report. "These communities and hackers are looking to push these exploits out at a cheaper price. Why? Because there's competition involved now."
Underground markets resemble legitimate economy
As the underground economy became more like the above-board economy, it's had to grapple with trust.
"We're seeing a lot of mechanisms that the operators of underground markets have come up with to encourage fair dealings between buyers and sellers," explained Alex Holland, a senior malware analyst at HP Wolf and author of the report, also speaking at the fireside chat.
Those mechanisms include vendor feedback scores — all cyber criminal marketplaces include those, according to the report. In addition, 92 per cent of the marketplaces have some kind of third-party service for resolving disputes, 85 per cent have escrow services, and 77 per cent require "vendor bonds," which must be paid before anyone can start selling in the marketplace.
"Vendor bonds discourage short-term scammers," Holland said. "In order to sell on an underground market, you need to reach a certain threshold of revenue. If you're a scammer, you're never going to meet that threshold."
Nation-states see cyber crime as a way of generating GDP
Looking ahead, the report identified four trends security pros should be aware of, such as an increase in destructive data denial attacks. "We can expect to see extortion attacks using the threat of data destruction against sectors that depend on IoT devices and data in time-sensitive and critical ways," the report predicted.
Another trend identified in the report is a continuation of the blurring of lines between criminals and nation-state threat actors, with criminals adopting techniques that require human-operated attacks harnessing a deep understanding of victims’ networks.
Meanwhile, nation-states will show a greater interest in monetising their activity. "Nation-states not only see the internet and cyber crime as strategic tools, but also to use cyber crime as a way of generating GDP," said Mike McGuire, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Surrey in the UK, speaking at the fireside chat.
The report also warned of threat actors using leading-edge technologies to power their malicious activities. Deep fakes could be used to power data integrity attacks, for example, and "cloud cracking" could become catastrophic if powered by a quantum computer.
In the future, attackers will focus less on new vulnerabilities and more on efficiently exploiting old ones, the report added. "We are likely to see attackers using AI and machine learning techniques to enable targeted spear-phishing attacks at scale."
A world rife with cyber threats is the reality everyone has to live in, Calce observed. "We've decided to surround ourselves with technology," he says. "We did not make security the core feature of this technology. Now we're paying the price."
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Workplace transformation addresses industry disruptors
Global collaboration is even more important today, when the automotive industry faces disruptors such as electric and self-driving vehicles, shared cars, and connected fleets of vehicles. With Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities for data collection and machine learning, the industry is set to revolutionize services for customers who want to optimize their driving resources while reducing their impact on the environment.
“Tech-driven industry disruptors are rapidly changing how people purchase, drive, share, and service their vehicles,” says Peter Friedwagner, Head of Infrastructure and Common Platforms at Porsche Informatik. “And customers’ expectations for flexible, cloud-based online services are evolving just as quickly. We must keep up through a renewed emphasis on software development and flexible online customer service. But to make that happen, our global workforce needed better mobile and cloud-connected business productivity tools. That’s why we deployed Microsoft 365.”
Including Microsoft Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, Microsoft 365 is the productivity cloud that connects people and information in intelligent, highly secure new ways. Using Windows 10 Enterprise as the operating system of choice means Porsche Holding can take advantage of the interoperability between Windows 10 and Microsoft Intune for modern workplace management. Using Intune for unified endpoint management will simplify operations while speeding up delivery of workstations to users.
As Porsche Holding positions itself as a tech-savvy organization that’s capable of taking on the world of digital automotive services, Eder reaffirms the concept of open communications and business opportunity. “Our future is all about company-wide collaboration via a standard set of tools,” says Eder. “Porsche Holding chose Microsoft 365 to connect people and information intelligently so that we can work together to grasp business opportunities without worrying about the technology.”
Given the diversity of services that Porsche Holding provides, it’s even more important to offer a standard set of productivity tools so that employees in dealerships, headquarters, warehouses, and logistics centers, including a significant cadre of software developers, can all connect and work at the same high level of productivity. “It’s a significant part of our employer branding strategy to offer a cool workplace for all employees,” says Herbert Lohninger, Head of Digital Workplace Services at Porsche Informatik. “We see the physical office environment as a critical factor for recruiting new talent. Employees need a mobile way of working that empowers them to interact easily with colleagues, partners, and customers through simplified knowledge sharing. Office 365 ProPlus fills that role.”
Porsche Holding started to build awareness of the upcoming changes in its business technology by putting an Office 365 demonstration booth next to the cafeteria at its headquarters. The company worked with the Microsoft FastTrack team to streamline mailbox migration from on-premises IBM Notes to Microsoft Exchange, and peer counselling and workshops introduced the other apps and services to the workforce. To date, 6,000 office workers and software developers now use Office 365 ProPlus, with a further 20,000 employees expected to join them by the end of 2019.
Enhanced security powers mobile productivity
Porsche Informatik chose Microsoft 365 for Porsche Holding not only for its interoperable business tools, but for its state-of-the-art security features. Porsche Informatik defined the company’s top security requirements as identity, data, and device protection. For each area, the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security component in Microsoft 365 offers a solution that works well in the Office 365 environment. “The intersection of security and usability is a key benefit of Microsoft 365,” says Lohninger.
Interoperable security services also simplify the delivery of a mobile-first workplace. “Compared to building a mobile device management solution on top of our Office 365 environment, Microsoft Intune provides what we need with no extra work,” says Friedwagner.
For identity protection, key capabilities within Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium, such as Azure Multi-Factor Authentication and conditional access, work with Intune to dynamically adjust security requirements depending on an employee’s device and environment. “Today, we require multi-factor access for all employees,” says Friedwagner. “This works well with conditional access policies, which allow seamless and highly secure usage of both private and company devices. A practical example of conditional access policies is the use of encrypted app containers, which do not allow data processing of company data with unmanaged apps on private devices. And we use Azure Information Protection for data classification to protect our documents. These overall security improvements to our organization can be accomplished within an integrated system that understands the context of a device and the location of the user.”
By Duncan Jones, Head of Cybersecurity at Quantinuum
In a accurate National Security Memo (NSM-10), the White House acknowledged the need for immediacy in addressing the threat of quantum computers to our current cryptographic systems and mandated agencies to comply with its initial plans to prepare. It’s the first directive that mandates specific actions for agencies as they begin a very long and complex migration to quantum-resistant cryptography. Many of the actions required of agencies depend on new cryptographic algorithms that have just been chosen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, although final standardization will take 18 to 24 months.
What should CISOs be doing to prepare for the risks of quantum computers and to comply with NSM-10 requirements? They should start by gaining an understanding of the new algorithm standards, and from there, focus on inventorying the agency’s most important information and assets.
NIST to the rescue
In as little as a decade, quantum computers will break many of the encryption schemes in use today, such as the popular RSA algorithm that we use for encrypting internet data and for digitally signing transactions. An attacker with a powerful quantum computer will be able to read data encrypted by an RSA public key or forge transactions signed by an RSA private key. Worse, a category of attack known as “hack now, decrypt later” may already be under way. Attackers who record data using quantum-vulnerable algorithms now can retrospectively decrypt it in the future using quantum computers. For any agency or contractor that shares data with a long sensitivity lifespan, this is a real concern.
Fortunately, the academic world has not been sitting idle. Since 2016, NIST has been working with the cryptographic community to identify and standardize new quantum-proof encryption algorithms. The NIST process will help ensure that these algorithms become standardized in Federal Information Processing Standards publications and are ready for consumption by federal authorities. As such, it’s important for CISOs to familiarize themselves with the new algorithms and their properties.
Each post-quantum algorithm has three different security levels defined—SL1, SL3 and SL5. These levels are very similar to key sizes in today’s algorithms. Much like 4096-bit RSA keys are stronger than 1024-bit RSA keys, SL5 is stronger than SL3 and SL1. However, that increased security comes at a cost. SL5 keys are typically larger to store and result in slower computations. It’s also notable that post-quantum algorithms cannot be used for both encryption and data signing. Instead, they are used for only one task or the other. This means we will be replacing a single algorithm, such as RSA, with two separate algorithms.
The table below shows some of the characteristics of the selected algorithms.
|Algorithm||Type||Family||Public Key Size||Ciphertext/Signature Size|
|CRYSTALS-KYBER||Key Establishment||Lattice-based||1.6KB - 3.1KB||0.8KB - 1.5 KB|
|CRYSTALS-Dilithium||Signature||Lattice-based||2.5KB - 4.8KB||2.4KB - 4.6KB|
|Falcon||Signature||Lattice-based||1.2KB - 2.3KB||0.7KB - 1.3KB|
|SPHINCS+||Signature||Hash-based||0.03KB-0.06KB||7.7KB - 49KB|
For immediate action
According to NIST’s chief of the Computer Security Division, Matt Scholl, “…don't wait for the standard to be done. Start inventorying your most important information. Ask yourself what is that data that an adversary is going to want to break into first.”
According to NSM-10, leaders from the Office of Management and Budget, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, NIST and the National Security Agency will be establishing requirements for inventorying all currently deployed cryptographic systems within six months of the May 4 memo. Within a year—and on an annual basis—“…heads of all federal civilian executive branch agencies shall deliver to the director of CISA and the national cyber director an inventory of their IT systems that remain vulnerable to CRQCs.”
Agency inventory requirements will include:
Migrating an agency or department to a fully post-quantum position is a complex process that will take many years. Although these post-quantum algorithms will not be ready for widespread production use until the standardization process finishes in 2024, considerable work—now mandated under NSM-10 directive—must be done to prepare for these changes, starting with the inventorying process.
Next steps for federal CISOs
Identify data assets and use of cryptography. Before you can prioritize migration, you need to understand exactly what data you have, and how vulnerable it is to attack. Data that is particularly sensitive and vulnerable to the “hack-now, decrypt-later” attacks should be prioritized above less sensitive data that isn’t transmitted freely. CISOs should start cataloging where quantum-vulnerable algorithms are currently being used. For a variety of reasons, not all systems will be affected equally. CISOs need a very clear picture of the vulnerabilities present in each of their systems.
Speak with vendors. Now is the perfect time to be asking your vendors about their plans for adopting post-quantum algorithms. A good vendor should have a clear roadmap already in place and be testing the candidate algorithms in preparation for 2024.
Test algorithms for home-grown software. Post-quantum algorithms have different properties than the algorithms we use today. The only way to know how they will affect your systems is to implement them and experiment. To assist with potential compatibility issues, NSM-10 encourages agency heads to begin conducting “…tests of commercial solutions that have implemented pre-standardized quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms.”
A good place to start is with the Open Quantum Safe project, which provides many different implementations of post-quantum algorithms designed for experimentation.
Quantum is not all bad news. It is worth remembering that quantum computing also offers new techniques for strengthening existing systems. Quantum computers are already being used today to generate stronger cryptographic keys. In the future, once this migration to post-quantum algorithms is behind us, we’ll view quantum as a gift to cybersecurity, not a threat.
Duncan Jones is the head of cybersecurity at Quantinuum.