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November 7, 2019 Jeremy Boren

Additive Manufacturing at Kennametal, Alexa Laser Hacks, Flint Smart Fountains

Additive Manufacturing Lets Kennametal Leverage Industry Expertise

Kennametal is planning to reduce its new product development and delivery times by launching an additive manufacturing business unit under its infrastructure division, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times.

The additive manufacturing unit will be housed at Kennametal’s R&D center in Latrobe, Pa., the Times reports, and headed by Sherri McCleary, director of additive business development.


McCleary is a materials engineer who previously worked at Arconic and Alcoa as a director of R&D, product development and prototyping.

“This is really about trying to create an opportunity based on both our competency… and combining that with a growing technology area in additive manufacturing,” McCleary said,

Kennametal has been shipping 3D-printed parts to oil and gas and other energy industry customers who put a premium of minimizing downtime, the paper reports.

McCleary told the Times that Kennametal’s “3D prints are typically hard materials with erosion, corrosion and high temperature resistance used in demanding environments.”

To reach more about Kennametal’s capabilities with metal powders, prototyping and production, check out the company’s additive manufacturing page.

Researchers Devise Smart Speaker Hack using Lasers Aimed at Mics

Amazon Alexa

The New York Times reports that researchers from Japan and at the University of Michigan used lasers, or even flashlights, pointed at smart speaker microphones to take control of Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri smart speakers.

Once they had access, they could control any device connected to the speaker. That includes flipping on and off smart lightbulbs, opening garage doors, unlocking cars and adjusting thermostats. They could even place e-commerce orders if the speaker connected to an online shopping account.

NYT reports the researchers were able to direct the laser light through a window “on the fourth floor of a building 230 feet away” to hit a smartspeaker microphone and take control of it. They could reach even farther with a laser directed through a telephoto lens.

The hack works by enabling the laser to mimic the pressure a microphone’s diaphragm would experience when sound waves reach it, say, for example, from a human voice saying, “Alexa, add a dozen black-out window drapes to my shopping cart.”

“The researchers said they had notified Tesla, Ford, Amazon, Apple and Google to the light vulnerability. The companies all said they were studying the conclusions in the paper released on Monday,” according to NYT.

There are no reports of anyone actually deploying this hack. However, it probably would not hurt to move your Alexa away from any large, open windows.

GrayMatter Travels to Flint, Michigan Next Week for Smart Fountain Installation

TechHub is going on the road!

We’ll be in Flint, Michigan, on the evening of Nov. 12 to attend a special meeting to update parents, teachers and students about the installation of smart fountains in Flint Community Schools.

This will be an opportunity to ask and answer questions about the fountains. The fountains work by using a smart filter and UV light to remove lead and other contaminates from drinking water flowing to Flint school buildings.

A unique feature of the fountains, which GrayMatter developed with DC Water, is their ability to collect and transmit data about the status of the filter inside each fountain.

The filter “knows” when it has reached the end of its useful life. It can inform maintenance personnel that it’s time for a replacement. The fountain can also deactivate itself when the filter is full so it doesn’t continue to dispense water before being replace.

The technology allows users to have confidence in their water.

“This project redefines public water consumption, putting people and clean water first.”

James Gillespie, GrayMatter CEO

Read more about how GrayMatter and DC Water developed the smart water fountain technology.

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Jeremy Boren

Jeremy is GrayMatter's Brand Manager and the author of TechHub and the emPOWERUP Podcast. He writes about digital solutions, trends and culture in the world of operational technology. Jeremy's background is in daily journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and enjoys highlighting the technologies and professionals taking on complex challenges in manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity and infrastructure.