Apple expands access to official repair parts for third-party shops

Apple just announced a new program to make it easier to repair out-of-warranty iPhones. In addition to Apple Authorized Service Providers, independent third-party repair shops will be able to access official repair parts and tools.

There are currently three options when you break your screen or other parts of your iPhone. You can go to an Apple store and give your iPhone to Apple employees. You can go to an authorized store (such as Best Buy stores in the U.S.), which means your iPhone will be repaired by Apple-certified technicians. Or you can go to a normal repair shop.

Authorized Service Providers already have access to official parts and tools. If your iPhone is under warranty, you can get a free repair and Apple pays back the authorized repair shop directly.

But until today, if you were a non-authorized repair shop, you couldn’t get official parts. It could result in mixed experiences with parts that don’t perform as well as official parts.

Starting today, any repair shop in the U.S. can get a free online certification in order to access the new repair program. After that, you can buy genuine parts and tools. You can also access the same repair manuals and diagnostics as authorized repair shops.

Apple says that it’ll expand the new program to more countries in the future. The company is already testing the program with 20 shops in North America, Europe and Asia.

This is great news for customers as it should improve the overall quality of repairs. Apple is essentially lowering the entry barrier to qualify to official parts.

If you want to make sure that your device is repaired using genuine parts or if your device is still under warranty, you should still go to an authorized repair shop or an official Apple store. It’s going to be hard to tell if third-party repair shops are using genuine parts as nobody is forcing them to switch to the new program.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Archinaut snags $73 million in NASA funding to 3D-print giant spacecraft parts in orbit

A project to 3D-print bulky components in space rather than bring them up there has collected a $ 73.7 million contract from NASA to demonstrate the technique in space. Archinaut, a mission now several years in development from Made In Space, could launch as soon as 2022.

The problem at hand is this: If you want a spacecraft to have solar arrays 60 feet long, you need to bring 60 feet of structure for those arrays to attach to — they can’t just flap around like ribbons. But where do you stash a 60-foot pole, or two 30-foot ones, or even 10 six-foot ones when you only have a few cubic feet of space to put them in? It gets real complicated real fast to take items with even a single large dimension into space.

Archinaut’s solution is simple. Why not just take the material for that long component into space and print it out on the spot? There’s no more compact way to keep the material than as a brick of solid matter.

Naturally this extends (so to speak) to more than simply rods and poles — sheets of large materials for things like light sails, complex interlocking structures on which other components could be mounted… there are plenty of things too big to take into space in one piece, but which could be made of smaller ones if necessary. Here’s one made for attaching instruments at a large fixed distance from a central craft:

optimast3Made in Space already has contracts in place with NASA, and has demonstrated 3D printing of parts aboard the International Space Station. It has also shown that it can print stuff in an artificial vacuum more or less equivalent to a space environment.

The demonstrator mission, Archinaut One, would launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle no earlier than 2022, and after achieving a stable orbit, begin extruding a pair of beams that will eventually extend out 32 feet. Attached to these beams will be flexible solar arrays that unfurl at the same rate, attached to the rigid structures of the beams. When they’re finished, a robotic arm will lock them in place and do other housekeeping.

You can see it all happen in this unfortunately not particularly exciting video:

Once finished, this pair of 32-foot solar arrays would theoretically generate some five times the power that spacecraft that size would normally pull in. Since spacecraft are almost without exception power-starved systems, having more watts to use or store for the orbital equivalent of a rainy day would certainly be welcome.

In another print, the robot arm could rearrange parts, snap on connectors, and perform other tasks to create more complex structures like the ones in the concept art up top. That’s still well in the future, however — the current demonstrator mission will focus on the beam-and-array thing, though the team will certainly learn a lot about how to accomplish other builds in the process.

Naturally in-space manufacturing is a big concern for a country that plans to establish a permanent presence on and around the moon. It’s a lot easier to make something there than make a quarter-million-mile delivery. You can keep up with Archinaut and Made in Space’s other projects along the space-printing line at the company’s blog.

Gadgets – TechCrunch