3D and 4D Printing – Print Your Next Meal? Surface Reactive Shoes? What?

Author: Carey Robards, Viking AT

Like most things, the further you go along, the more you discover.  That is one of the fun things about R&D and one of the driving forces to many success stories.  Today, radical technology is emerging to change the age old conveniences that we use in our daily lives.  If even half of them are successful, our lives will change drastically.  3D and 4D printing is unique because the kicker is this: it is all about the process more than the products it creates. There are so many possibilities to this evolution – if it can truly deliver all that it is already promising.

Imagine sitting in your living room as you decide to create a new chair to fill that empty corner space in the room. So, you go over to your computer, choose the shade or pattern that fits your liking, and hit print.. That’s progress.

The potential to change the way we get lots of “things” is really astronomical. Then you start talking about materials like proteins and biological reactions within 4D printing.  It seems that although 3D printing is catching on a bit, we’re all still waiting for the market of Holy Grail of printers to become available with usable metal materials to grow, and testing…lots of testing. Our first experience while using 3D printed parts by a very reputable company.  The parts failed to meet or maintain the structural properties of the original metal and were unusable. Within most every project scope, specific materials are chosen for their performance, based on the expected properties that come with that material.  If these properties are off and fail to perform or hold up to the necessary standards, designs fail or are vulnerable to failure.  That will never work. These parts now sit on a small shelf we affectionately call our “parts graveyard”.  We do still have high hopes for this technology as being a great solution some day for small production parts and prototyping that goes beyond plastic toys and novelty items, and just waiting for that day to come.

 3D and now even 4D printing with smart reactionary material has begun its steps towards revolutionizing manufacturing and prototype development in R&D. Heading towards home offices everywhere. The new 3D printers are on their way to your home soon.  The “Peachy Printer” is the first $100 3D Printer and Scanner that is pretty unique.  The technology is bumped up from standard cheap 3D printers to using audio waves controlling an XY laser and water, with actual resin and not mushy plastic.  It seems a little rough and grainy still, but according to their website, they are working out the bugs to accomplish better resolution potential. Imagine all the duck call bodies and reeds “Duck Dynasty” could print right from their very own shop with their own desktop 3D printer.  So, anyone from the home hobbyist to larger companies can find a 3D printer for their budget soon.

Anyone can now become their own dynamic automated producers of things.

With 3D printers becoming more affordable, software becoming more user friendly – allowing most anyone to be able to use them, and a much greater quality in printing materials and technique available in even the lower cost printers. We now are seeing some unimaginable concepts and products coming out using this process.

One new and interesting gadget (which leans more towards the skepticism side a bit), is the “Foodini”, by Natural Machines. The Foodini, as reported by the Smithsonian, “May allow people to painlessly prepare healthier meals instead of reaching for the factory-processed Stuff in your freezer”.  The concept is actually to print your food, free from additives like trans-fat to GMO’s.  The unit is more of an assembly machine and the claims are that they are mostly adept to “preparing burgers, gnocchi, ravioli, cookies, chocolate sculptures and bread sticks—foods generally made from pasty ingredients.” The Natural Machines website shows some high resolution photos and videos.  One immediate drawback to this idea that comes to mind is liquid medium raw foods. Hmmm….

image courtesy of natural machines
image courtesy of natural machines











Now, with the 4D printing coming out, we are now traveling into the “fourth Dimension”. A concept of 3D printing using new smart bio and nano materials that are responsive and self-adapting to its surroundings and can perform molecular self-assembly or re-assembly.  A collaboration effort between MIT, Stratsys & Autodesk is spearheading developments of such technology. Skylar Tidbits, director of the MIT Self-Assembly lab was named as one of the six Architectural League winners for collaborative research into programmable materials. Harvard, the University of Pittsburg and University of Illinois were given $855,000 in grant funding from the US Army to develop biomimetic composites that re-program their shape, functionality, and properties based upon external stimulation.

Discussions about many different applications and active projects are all over the internet and showing great progress are going to break through limitations to some really crazy stuff.  Imagine some of these coming into the market:

  • Furniture that you buy as a flat pack, bring home and watch as it self-assembles itself.
  • Printed textiles that can change and adapt to camouflage a solder in different environments or even hide them by bending light.
  • Bridges and temporary buildings self-assembling by dousing them with water and providing instant solutions in disaster situations.
  • Endless ammunition printed on the spot for military field operations.
  • Easier construction in extreme or dangerous conditions, including space and other planets.
  • Surface reactive shoes that transform to fit the different surfaces, to include cleats, as you go about your day.

It all sounds pretty amazing, and if you think about the fact that they are just getting started on the many applications that can come forward, the possibilities can seem endless.

“Endless possibilities” is what Viking is all about, and we look forward to the potential endless possibilities of this technology. We also have one or two on our wish list once things become a bit more refined but we are looking forward to 3D and 4D printing happening at the Viking lab!

Viking AT Piezo Actuator and Valve Technology




Parker Hannifin – The Movers and Shakers of the Motion Control Industry

Author:  Carey Robards, Viking AT

We were shooting for this week or next to host an interview with Roger Palmer, of Parker Hannifin and due to scheduling it looks like that will be next week.  In the meantime, this week we would like to talk a little bit about Parker as a company and their consistent evolutionary impact on our lives through the development of products and technologies that we use every day as dynamic human beings.


Company Information: Parker Hannifin, with headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio reported annual sales exceeding $13 billion in fiscal year 2013, with locations in 49 countries supporting 139 divisions and 341 manufacturing locations… Their products can be found in almost anything that moves.  They are the world’s leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions to a wide variety of mobile, industrial and aerospace mark aerospace, climate control, electromechanical, filtration, fluid and gas handling, hydraulics, pneumatics, process control, and sealing and shielding.  The company employs approximately 58,000 people in 49 countries around the world.

Parker began as “Parker Appliance Company” and was founded in 1917 and has been publicly traded on the NYSE since December 9,1964 and ranked 211 in the Fortune 500 list published by Fortune Magazine.  While it is incorporated in the United States, Parker-Hannifin has focused on its international growth which has been resulted in more than half of its revenue coming from overseas.

Corporate climate:  Parker’s business code of ethics, diversity, and global social responsibility is truly an experience that we at Viking AT have seen during our years of working with them.  Their company’s concentration on “A winning culture, passionate people, valued customers and engaged leadership” really shines through.


Cool Technologies:  Obviously there are more products and technologies than we could possibly mention in this article that we would rank as very cool products, and a few of them have our ViVa actuators in them.  Here are a few that are new or in the works that fall into the cool innovation list:

 Natural Gas & Green Technology 

  • VeParker_Veriflo_CNG_Dispensingriflow – Fast-fill compressed natural gas fuel dispenser. The user friendly design and awesome speed that this dispenser offers CNGg stations is phenomenal.  Veriflow is designed with the utmost safety control in mind  and offers consumers a High Tech dispensing experience while filling up.



Advanced Medical Technologies:

  • Negative pressure wound therapy – a miniature diaphragm pump with a brushless slotless motor is used within NPWT devices to pull a vacuum on the wound site and the wound bed. The vacuum pulls exudate from the wound site and physicallyX Valve_Automation_745X220 draws the wound together, promoting blood flow, thus expediting the healing process.



  • Indego – a powered lower limb orthosis (or exoskeleton) enabling people with mobility impairments to walk again.  Forbes Magazine calls it “This amazing robot exoskeleton”

    Parker Indigo Exoskeleton
    Parker Indigo Exoskeleton


  • Aircraft Fuel Cell Power System – Partnering with Airbus to develop a multi-function fuel cell system which will replace the small engine located near the rear of the aircraft known as the auxiliary power unit.


For more information on Parker Hannifin, go to www.parker.com.  If you would like assistance in reaching Parker Hannifin for product development inquiries, we would be happy to help and you can contact us at crobards@vikingat.com.

We look forward to sharing our interview with Roger Palmer, which we hope to have for you next week!

Viking AT Piezo Actuator and Valve Technology

Using Natural Gas Engines Instead of Diesel. The World Is Finally Driving Forward


Diesel to CNG

Author: Carey Robards, Viking AT

Last Friday, with everyone in America Celebrating the birth of our country’s national holiday of July 4th’s Independence Day, we were among those observers who spent that time with family and friends in celebration. 

This week, we have decided to cover a topic that seems to be truly moving forward in popularity and application: Natural Gas as a replacement for diesel fuel in truck fleets, buses, commercial vehicles, and cars.  This of course is not a new idea, since CNG vehicles were introduced in the late 70’s due to the oil crisis and reconsidered again in the 90’s after the clean air act amendment mandating new gas formulations and stricter omissions allowances.

The on-going question has been whether it will ever truly “catch on” and push through the barriers that have held it from being successful.  Some of the main barriers over the years have been slow public interest, manufacturers bringing products to markets, availability of CNG filling stations, and cost of new CNG engines or conversions.

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center, US Department of Energy
Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center, US Department of Energy

Today, with over 250,000 CNG vehicles in use within the US, and over 5 Million worldwide, interest is clearly rising at an incredible pace.  Manufacturers are now rising to the occasion, with companies large and small purchasing these fleets while seeing their initial transitional costs are being recovered due to the average 40 – 50% in fuel savings.  Some service companies and transportation fleets have begun to already enjoy the benefits such as front runners like UPS, Frito-Lay, Waste Management, Proctor & Gamble, Lowe’s, AT&T and trucking companies like Ryder Systems, Inc. who have invested millions in replacing diesel fleets with CNG vehicles.  AT&T alone reported to have spent $350 million by the end of last year for a fleet of more than 8,200 natural gas vehicles. Cities, municipalities and government branches are also rapidly transitioning over and offering their support to local companies who join them in an effort to reduce costs, both economic and environmental.

CNG gas pump
CNG gas pump

 “As gasoline prices continue to rise, American interest in CNG is rising, and with good reason – CNG costs about 50% less than gasoline or diesel, emits up to 90% fewer emissions than gasoline and there’s an abundant supply right here in America. “  – CNG Now


A Majority of the larger companies have their own filling stations, while companies like Clean Energy Fuels Corp., Trillium CNG, are opening public filling stations nationwide, along with several other smaller companies and Cities.  According to the US Department of Energy at the time of this article, there are 724 CNG stations available to the general public.  More and more local city groups are offering benefits in support of local companies making the transition.

Is it Possible to Convert Your Current Diesel Vehicles to CNG or LNG?

Absolutely. Companies like Omnitek, who provide complete conversion kits for diesel engines with or without turbochargers, offer these kits for a nominal cost. More than 5,000 conversion kits have been installed and are in use today.   CNG United, another conversion kit company with options for both 6 cylinder and 8 cylinder engines have training available for the do-it-yourself types.

Viking SIAC Actuator and Fuel Injector Driver

Viking SIAC Actuator and Fuel Injector Driver

Viking AT has a patented piezoelectric fuel injector actuator/driver called SIAC for CNG and LNG that is hermetically sealed and electronically controlled for exceptional results and reliability. We were determined to provide a strong and reliable piezo actuator that would allow for environmental threats, making them obsolete in their effect on the actuator itself. Conditions such as active gases, areas with high humidity or wet areas won’t affect this SIAC injector.

Recently, Viking has now taken our SIAC to new heights (literally) providing several different options and pre-load levels with complete environmental protection.


Viking SIAC Piezo Actuators
Viking SIAC Piezo Actuators

Key Benefits:

Maximize the amount of work from stack

No side loading

Hermetically sealed

Protection from humidity

Pre-load to maximize work and ensure survivability of stack.

We are excited about where this greener alternative to gas is heading, the lower costs of fuel and potential savings passed down to consumers by the companies that benefit from this incredible alternative. 

For inquiries about integrating our piezoelectric actuator into your product line, please contact our office at 941-924-0900 or email us at info@vikingat.com 

Viking AT has partnered with a major manufacturer and can supply small companies to major car manufacturers who are interested in providing CNG powered vehicles options to their lineup.

Viking AT Piezo Technology


Viking AT’s ViVa® Piezo Technology – Decreasing Industrial Imprints on Our Environment, One Actuation at a Time

Sarasota, Florida – Viking AT, LLC, creators of ViVa Technology, discuss the impact that piezo technology will bring to manufacturing and next generation products that will result in drastic improvements to the environmental footprint.

Everyone wants to get the most out of their manufacturing process and product capabilities. With Viking AT’s ViVa® Piezo Technology solutions you get MORE power, FASTER speeds, BETTER precision and control, and GREATER reliability. Even better, it’s done with a 95% reduction in power, providing ULTRA LOW power consumption and making it the latest in cutting-edge green technology.


Viking’s CEO Jeff Moler talks about one area that seems to be the most obvious and greatest “Green Power” replacement in terms of piezo technologythe replacement of solenoids with piezo actuators. 




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Viking AT Receives Recognition For Role In Developing Green Technology

We’re so excited to be interviewed by The Waterfront Restaurant. Their interest in sustainability goes way beyond their food: they’re also interested in cutting-edge green technology. We sat down with them and chatted about the energy-saving benefits our piezo actuators have over traditional solenoids. Check out the full interview over at their blog!

On The Cutting Edge Of Green Technology: An Interview With Viking AT

Something Different

OK, so I’m diverging from the normal path. Thought we’d take on a fun project. We designed a new competition Intake Plenum that adapts the Porsche GT3 throttle body to fit in the Cayman. Ben did a great job with software modelling flow and velocities.

Steve did an incredible job making the prototype. We dyno tested HP before and after installation, with all else the same. The results are everything we hoped for and more. Saw a 12 HP gain at the wheels, but the real news is a 19% gain in torque at the wheels in the high RPM range! What fun.