Recent Posts

Manufacturing jobs booming, but may be harder to fill

Manufacturing jobs booming, but may be harder to fill

Oct 6, 2017

By Suzanne O’Halloran, Fox Business When South Korean appliance giant LG broke ground for a new one-million-square foot washing machine factory in Clarksville, Tenn. in August, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was side-by-side with LG North American President and CEO William Cho cheering a project that is expected to create 600 jobs and perhaps many more in the years ahead. “Our Clarksville factory has great potential to expand to produce other products beyond just washing machines,” said William Cho President & CEO LG North America during an interview with FOX Business. “We have 310 acres…and our new washing machine facility will occupy just one-quarter of that when it opens in early 2019. The other three-quarters will have potential to extend additional LG home appliances.”   The plant, LG’s largest in the U.S., is set to open in the first quarter of 2019 and will add 600 well-paying jobs manufacturing jobs to the U.S. pipeline with potential for more. Cho says the company will focus some of its recruiting and hiring efforts on nearby Fort Campbell to tap what he describes as military veterans that are “skilled workers”.  Additionally, the company also announced plans to open an electric vehicle component factory in Michigan, creating an additional 300 new jobs, and is building its North American headquarters in Englewood, New Jersey which should double local employment to 1,000 jobs. LG joins a growing list of global companies coming to the U.S. to open factories to the delight of President Donald Trump. Earlier this year Foxconn, the Taiwanese Apple (AAPL) supplier, announced plans for a Wisconsin plant that is expected to create 3,000 new jobs, while Toyota (TM) and Mazda announced a joint-venture plan to build a $1.6 billion U.S. assembly plant promising 4,000 new jobs starting in 2021. These future factories may help continue the U.S. manufacturing sector’s momentum as the country makes more goods, but its job growth may not carry the same momentum. “Job growth may not be staggering, but we could staunch the bleeding.  Could we boost manufacturing output, produce more stuff? Yes,” former White House director of economic policy under George H.W. Bush Todd Buchholz tells FOX Business. Automation and technology is also creating a...

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023

GM to Produce 20 New Electric Cars by 2023

Oct 4, 2017

By Charles Murray, DesignNews Future GM battery-electric vehicles will include coupes, sedans, crossovers, SUVs and possibly even pickup trucks. General Motors raised the stakes in the auto industry’s ongoing competition to build more affordable, long-range electric cars this week, announcing it would roll out two more all-new EVs in the next 18 months, and 20 more by 2023. The giant automaker said that the first two vehicles will be “based off learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV.” The others will include coupes, sedans, crossovers, and SUVs. GM told Design News that it would also not rule out the possibility of a pickup truck. To underscore its effort, GM released a photo including eight different vehicles silhouetted underneath drapes, clearly exhibiting different sizes and shapes. The silhouetted figures represent the array of pure, battery-powered cars that the company will release in the next five-and-a-half years, all designed from the ground, up. “The Bolt EV was the first, affordable, long-range all-electric vehicle,” said GM spokesman Kevin Kelly. “We’ve cracked the code. We know how to do it.” GM’s statement comes at a time when much of the entrenched auto industry seems as if it is racing to make bigger and bigger announcements about electric cars. Today, Ford Motor Co. said it has formed an internal unit, called Team Edison, whose charter it is to accelerate development of electric vehicles, while forging partnerships with other auto manufacturers and suppliers. Similarly, Toyota Motor Corp. said last Thursday that it is teaming with Mazda Motor Corp. and with supplier Denso Corp. to “jointly develop basic structural technologies for electric vehicles.” The announcements provide a broad signal that traditional automakers have accepted electrification, but it’s still clear that most of them are unsure how fast it will take place. Industry analysts, such as Navigant Research , have predicted that approximately 4% of vehicles sold worldwide in 2025 will be battery-electric. Other analysts, however, have forecast figures in excess of 20%. “If you try to guess anything out to about 2030, your crystal ball will be pretty fuzzy,” Kelly told us. Analysts today acknowledged that no one’s sure whether consumers, even the younger ones, will embrace pure electric cars. “Engineers are starting to see a...

When a Medical Part Requires a New Process

When a Medical Part Requires a New Process

Oct 3, 2017

By Mark Langlois, Design-2-Part magazine Two suppliers to the medical device industry—a custom extruder and a micro-injection molder—have developed innovative techniques to tackle tough parts manufacturing challenges. Medical OEMs’ demands on high quality custom manufacturing firms are so great that they have inspired some industry-leading suppliers to develop new manufacturing processes or technologies to meet these exacting customer needs. At Putnam Plastics, engineers led the 33-year-old medical extrusions firm, based in Putnam, Connecticut, into new manufacturing techniques and materials to meet the demands of OEMs that asked for smaller parts and higher quality. For medical parts used inside a patient’s body, failure isn’t an option. Putnam Plastics manufactures tri-layer extrusions via its trademark Total Intermittent Extrusion (TIE™) process that eliminated problems found in other manufacturing processes. This manufacturing technique creates composite catheter shafts that provide a soft tip and a shaft that combines flexibility and stiffness, allowing for easier insertion and manipulation.   Makuta Technics Inc., a micro injection molding firm with 21 years in the business near Indianapolis, Indiana, developed a robotic and automated manufacturing process to create a medical DNA holder that measured in microns and couldn’t be touched by human hands. Three competitors failed to make the part before they even attempted to reach the “untouched by human hands” standard. Both Putnam Plastics and Makuta focus on improving their manufacturing processes to prepare for future products. But what are some of the major technical and engineering challenges these firms faced? Why couldn’t any mom and pop outfit do what they do? Stuart Kaplan, who founded Makuta Technics Inc. in 1996, told D2P in a phone interview that it comes down to tolerances. “The DNA-free requirement was impossible until we created the automation required,” said Kaplan. “The secondary cutting operation has to be hands-free. Three suppliers before us never made it to the DNA part. They couldn’t make the geometry. We had the expertise in mold design, automation, and processing. They (the OEM) let us know what their problems were in every area. We went all the way from development through production.” Makuta developed the robotic and automated manufacturing process that consistently met the 150 micron wall thickness, give or take 10 microns, untouched by human hands, in quantities...

Autonomous Mobile Robots Support A Lean Approach…

Autonomous Mobile Robots Support A Lean Approach…

Sep 28, 2017

“Autonomous Mobile Robots Support A Lean Approach To Operations” By Ed Mullen, VP of Sales-Americas at Mobile Industrial Robots, Manufacturing Business Technology  As manufacturers embrace a lean approach to operations, executives are evaluating their opportunities to continually optimize productivity. Even in highly automated facilities, material handling is often still a manual, inefficient process, but automating material transportation to reduce production bottlenecks and deploy valuable human workers more effectively has been a challenge. Decision-makers have been faced with expensive investments in automated guided vehicles (AGVs), which don’t provide the flexibility needed in today’s agile manufacturing processes. But new sensor and software technologies make autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) ideal for unpredictable or changing production layouts and dynamic work environments. Agile manufacturing is allowing companies to adapt to fast-changing market demands and maintain their competitiveness, but on-time delivery of materials and assemblies within those facilities continues to be a challenge. Manual transportation requires workers to leave their stations to push carts loaded with materials between manufacturing processes and the stockroom, and can result in production backlogs and idle workers as they wait for assemblies and parts to be delivered. Automating this deliver has been a challenge, however. Plant set-up is often dynamic, with new production cells and processes that must be supported and people, equipment, pallets, and other obstacles can appear in what used to be open passageways. Any automated material transportation approach must be flexible and easily adaptable without additional cost or disruption to processes, not to mention safe for operation around employees. That flexibility also means that automated material handling must be easy to learn, program, deploy, and redeploy in-house to ensure that the chosen approach can cost-effectively keep up-to-date with requirements. Traditional automated guided vehicles (AGVs) move materials using fixed routes that are guided by permanent wires, magnetic strips, or sensors embedded in the plant floor. However, those systems are inflexible, expensive, and disruptive for dynamic manufacturing floors. If manufacturing processes change, the facility must be updated again — and if people or material temporarily blocks the AGV’s route, it simply stops until the way is cleared. In contrast, today’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are designed for dynamic environments. They offer the flexibility, safety, and...

Strut-Truss Design, 3D Printing Reduce Mass of Satellite…

Strut-Truss Design, 3D Printing Reduce Mass of Satellite…

Sep 26, 2017

“Strut-Truss Design, 3D Printing Reduce Mass of Satellite Structural Components” Featured in Design-2-Part Magazine PALO ALTO, Calif.—Space Systems Loral (SSL), a provider of satellites and spacecraft systems, recently announced that it has successfully introduced next-generation design and manufacturing techniques for structural components into its SSL 1300 geostationary satellite platform. Its first antenna tower that was designed using these techniques, which include additive manufacturing (3D printing), was launched last December on the JCSAT-15 satellite, the company said in a press release. “SSL is an innovative company that continues to evolve its highly reliable satellite platform with advanced technologies,” said Dr. Matteo Genna, chief technology officer and vice president of product strategy and development at SSL, in a company release. “Our advanced antenna tower structures enable us to build high performance satellites that would not be possible without tools such as 3D printing.” The highly optimized strut-truss antenna tower used on JCSAT-110A consisted of 37 printed titanium nodes and more than 80 graphite struts. The strut-truss design methodology is now standard for SSL spacecraft, with 13 additional structures in various stages of design and manufacturing, and has resulted in SSL’s using hundreds of 3D printed titanium structural components per year, according to the company. “We would like to thank our customer, SKY Perfect JSAT, for partnering with us on this important satellite manufacturing advance,” said Paul Estey, executive vice president, engineering and operations at SSL, in the release. “This breakthrough in satellite design is an example of SSL’s holistic approach to new technologies and its teamwork with satellite operators that need to maximize their satellites’ capability.” For SSL (www.sslmda.com), optimizing at the system level with additive manufacturing is reported to have enabled an average of 50 percent reductions in mass and schedule for large and complex structures. The savings over conventionally manufactured structural assemblies are much greater than what is possible with the optimization of an individual part. Since the launch of JCSAT-110A, SSL has completed assembly and testing on several other strut-truss structures and continues to expand its use of additive manufacturing and other next-generation design and manufacturing techniques, the company...

Robots With More Common Senses

Robots With More Common Senses

Sep 25, 2017

By ThomasNet The ability for a mechanical device to understand tactile sensations and process reactions accordingly has long been a goal of medical researchers. Recently, a team from the University of Houston was able to realize this goal with the use of a stretchable material that can be used with robotic hands to sense the difference between hot and cold water, as well as other sensations. The new material is being referred to as an artificial skin with stretchable electronics. In addition to more lifelike prosthetics, the team led by mechanical engineering professor Cunjiang Yu feels their new advancement could serve a number of biomedical applications. And outside of the medical field, this new stretchable electronic skin could be used for creating wearable electronics and human-machine interfaces (HMIs). The key was creating a rubber composite semiconductor that would allow the electronic components to continue working even as the material was stretched over the robotic appendage. Traditionally, semiconductors are brittle, making their use in flexible environments challenging without complex mechanical support. In addition to gauging temperature, the rubber semiconductor allowed the new “skin” to understand computer signals sent to the hand, and translate them via American Sign Language. The skin is comprised of a silicon-based polymer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The composition of PDMS was crucial for accurately placing and holding numerous nanowires. These nanowires transport the electric current used to generate the robotic hand’s ability to feel and...