How Factory Intelligence is Evolving

How Factory Intelligence is Evolving

May 23, 2018

By Larry Maggiano, Senior Systems Analyst, Mitutoyo America Corp. Featured on AdvancedManufacturing.org Intelligent factories have existed since manufacturing’s historical inception, but intelligence—defined as the acquisition and application of manufacturing knowledge—resided only with the factory’s staff. With the advent of numerical control (NC) and then computer numerical control (CNC) technologies, factory machines gained digital I/O capabilities but were still not smart. Digitally enabled machines, though increasingly productive, had no awareness of themselves, their environment, or the tasks being performed or to-be performed. In spite of these limitations, centralized factory intelligence has been achieved at modest scales through a deterministic low-level set of digital commands and responses. An experiment in large-scale centralized factory intelligence was General Motor’s 1982 Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP), operating over token bus network protocol (IEE 802.4). The MAP-enabled factory intelligence experiment ended in 2004 as it was difficult to maintain operational reliability. One of the most important reasons was a lack of system resiliency, a downside of required deterministic factory communication standards and protocols. Another reason was that the connected machines could not continue to operate at any level when instructions were not forthcoming from a central system. An analogy might be made to the mainframe-to-terminal infrastructure that became obsolete in the 1990s with the development of the PC and distributed computing. Several significant changes have enabled the development of smart machines for the intelligent factory. The first is the extension of IT’s ubiquitous Ethernet LAN infrastructure to the shop floor, enabling rapid 3D downloads of model-based definition (MBD), and uploads of process and product data. Secondly, today’s digital twins are smart in that they possess an awareness of not only their capabilities and operational status, but of work that can be performed on any particular MBD. In this manner, smart machines can bid on tasks, much like their human partners. A smart machine’s digital twin does not need deterministic low-level instructions, but instead responds to a submitted MBD, and, if selected, does real work with its physical counterpart. Lastly, three standardized core technologies–HTML, CSS and JavaScript—are recognized as enabling the widespread adoption of the Internet and the emergence of intelligent global systems. It is envisioned that similar standardized core technologies will enable...

FDI & Reshoring Lead to U.S. Manufacturing Growth

FDI & Reshoring Lead to U.S. Manufacturing Growth

May 21, 2018

By Stephen Gray, CEO, Gray Construction Featured on Area Development Online An improving business climate, including tax cuts and elimination of onerous regulations, bodes well for manufacturing in the United States. During the first quarter of 2018, U.S. manufacturing is riding a wave of 19 consecutive months of growth. This manufacturing growth is largely attributed to improving global economies and robust business investment.  According to the Reshoring Initiative, reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) together grew by more than 10 percent in 2016, adding 77,000 jobs and surpassing the rate of offshoring jobs by 27,000. In 2017, reshoring and FDI job announcements soared adding over 171,000 jobs. The jobs equal 90 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing jobs added in 2017. Already, the preliminary data for 2018 is at least as strong as 2017. An Inviting Destination for Business The American industrial sector is flourishing, with the United States continuing to be the largest receiver of FDI in the world. A number of factors are contributing to U.S. manufacturing’s rapid growth: Manufacturers want to expand in the U.S. because of its abundance of natural resources. In particular, rebounding oil prices have spurred more drilling and investment. The U.S. has high labor standards, encouraging a high-quality, safe working environment. Manufacturers are responding to increasing scrutiny of production practices. In addition, manufacturers are pushing training programs and partnering with colleges and universities to create a more competitive workforce. At the same time, states and communities are integrating job training programs as part of their incentive packages to attract manufacturers’ investment. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, has created investment opportunities for businesses, and the manufacturing industry has already experienced positive results. The American consumer continues to be a draw for manufacturers. Consumer spending is a significant driver of a strong economy. As SelectUSA points out, the U.S. offers the largest consumer market on earth with a GDP of $18 trillion and 325 million people.Manufacturers prefer to be near these consumers. The trusted business climate in the U.S. allows businesses to operate in a secure and stable environment. Companies are finding a wealth of opportunity in the U.S. marketplace....

A New Era of 3D Printing

A New Era of 3D Printing

May 16, 2018

By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine Adaptive Corporation, Inc. strives to enable innovation by applying technology to streamline business processes, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies throughout the product development lifecycle. Adaptive is a reseller of Markforged 3D Printers, like the Onyx Seriesand Metal X, which are used to make carbon fiber composite and metal printed parts, respectively. Frank Thomas, a metrology and additive manufacturing specialist for Adaptive, has worked with a variety of manufacturing companies in the areas of engineering, metrology, and additive manufacturing, as both an implementation consultant and product specialist. Over the past 10 years, he has focused on connecting engineering and manufacturing, specifically around quality, and now additive manufacturing.  His goal is to help companies better connect the “virtual” to the “physical,” thereby improving their time to market and reducing cost. Thomas said that until fairly recently, additive manufacturing was used most often as a tool to create parts that you could hand to somebody so that they could see it, touch it, and provide some input as to what might need to be changed or modified. But that’s changed in recent years as new materials have been developed that enable printers to make stronger, more durable parts. “Metal printing has always been there, but that has an economic value proposition that’s a bit challenging for it,” he said in an interview. “The ABS and nylon and other plastic 3D printers, up until the last couple of years, weren’t necessarily dimensionally accurate, and then they had challenges creating a part that’s functional. That’s what I think is different about the market today, compared to just, really, a couple of years ago.” Adaptive markets 3D printers that feature dimensional accuracy and the ability to yield a part that is functional, depending on the application. Thomas said that he’s also seeing a lot of interest in metal 3D printing. “Where metal 3D printing comes from is the argon laser based systems,” he told D2P. “The companies that have had applications or use cases for them have made the investments, and they’ve been huge investments. They probably start at half a million dollars and go up, and that doesn’t even count the facility that’s required to be able to...

China really is to blame for millions of lost U.S. …

China really is to blame for millions of lost U.S. …

May 15, 2018

“China really is to blame for millions of lost U.S. manufacturing jobs, new study finds” By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch Millions of Americans who lost manufacturing jobs during the 2000s have long ”known” China was to blame, not robots. And many helped elect Donald Trump as president because of his insistence that China was at fault. Evidently many academics who’ve studied the issue are finally drawing the same conclusion. For years economists have viewed the increased role of automation in the computer age as the chief culprit for some 6 million lost jobs from 1999 to 2010 — one-third of all U.S. manufacturing employment. Firms adopted new technologies to boost production, the thinking goes, and put workers out of the job in the process. Plants could make more stuff with fewer people. In the past several years fresh thinking by economists such as David Autor of MIT has challenged that view. The latest research to poke holes in the theory of automation-is-to-blame is from Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute. Academic research tends to be dry and complicated, but Houseman’s findings boil down to this: The government for decades has vastly overestimated the growth of productivity in the American manufacturing sector. It’s been growing no faster, really, than the rest of the economy. What that means is, the adoption of technology is not the chief reason why millions of working-class Americans lost their jobs in a vast region stretching from the mouth of the Mississippi river to the shores of the Great Lakes. Nor was it inevitable. Autor and now Houseman contend the introduction of China into the global trading system is root cause of the job losses. Put another way, President Bill Clinton and political leaders who succeeded him accepted the risk that the U.S. would suffer short-term economic harm from opening the U.S. to Chinese exports in hopes of long-run gains of a more stable China. No longer needing to worry about U.S. tariffs, the Chinese took full advantage. Low Chinese wages and a cheap Chinese currency CNYUSD, -0.6037%   — at a time when the dollar DXY, +0.48%  was strong — gave China several huge advantages. Companies shuttered operations in the U.S., moved to China and eventually set up...

The Four Slide Metal Stamping Advantage

The Four Slide Metal Stamping Advantage

May 9, 2018

By ThomasNet.com  Metal stamping is used to turn cold sheet metal and other materials — such as copper and brass — into high-performing products and parts that can be used in various industrial and manufacturing processes. Traditionally, power press stamping machines are built to blank and stamp metal parts; these machines are ideal for simple, straightforward operations. Progressive die stamping improved on power press stamping machines by allowing for the completion of various operations, such as punching, coining, and bending. Multi-slide stamping machines then further improve the die stamping process by allowing for the production of highly complex shapes and bends. The four slide metal stamping machine is one such machine, although the terms “multi-slide” and “four slide” are often used interchangeably. How Does Four Slide Metal Stamping Work? Power press stamping and progressive die stamping both utilize an up-and-down, or vertical, motion when processing sheet metal and other materials. These stamping methods are geared toward the production of less complex parts. Multi-slide metal stamping, including four slide metal stamping, is different; these machines work in right angles, or horizontally. The slides, or rams, in the machines, strike the sheet material to produce the finished product. Multi-slide stamping machines may have more than four multiple moving slides, while four slide metal stamping machines have a fixed number. Servo motors or cams act on the slides, allowing the workpiece to be worked from four sides. The Benefits of Using a Four Slide Metal Stamping Machine Since different tools can be attached to the slides in a four slide metal stamping machine, it is much more versatile than a stamping press. Four slide equipment is also able to handle the manufacture of much more complicated parts, including parts with multiple, complex, or over 90° bends and twists. A huge range of parts can be produced using four slide metal stamping, including flat springs, clips, brackets, shunts, friction plates, terminals, and retainers. Both flat and round materials can be formed. Moreover, four slide metal stamping machines are much more cost-efficient than other stamping machines. The tools needed for four slide stamping are often cheaper than those required by other stamping methods, and die sets are not required....

Researchers 3-D print electronics and cells directly on skin

Researchers 3-D print electronics and cells directly on skin

May 7, 2018

By The University of Minnesota Featured on Phys.org One of the key innovations of the new 3-D-printing technique on skin is that the printer uses computer vision to track and adjust to movements in real-time. Credit: McAlpine group, University of Minnesota In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota used a customized, low-cost 3D printer to print electronics on a real hand for the first time. The technology could be used by soldiers on the battlefield to print temporary sensors on their bodies to detect chemical or biological agents or solar cells to charge essential electronics. Researchers also successfully printed biological cells on the skin wound of a mouse. The technique could lead to new medical treatments for wound healing and direct printing of grafts for skin disorders. The research study was published today on the inside back cover of the academic journal Advanced Materials. “We are excited about the potential of this new 3D-printing technology using a portable, lightweight printer costing less than $400,” said Michael McAlpine, the study’s lead author and the University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print a chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin. It would be like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the future with everything they need all in one portable 3D printing tool.” One of the key innovations of the new 3D-printing technique is that this printer can adjust to small movements of the body during printing. Temporary markers are placed on the skin and the skin is scanned. The printer uses computer vision to adjust to movements in real-time. “No matter how hard anyone would try to stay still when using the printer on the skin, a person moves slightly and every hand is different,” McAlpine said. “This printer can track the hand using the markers and adjust in real-time to the movements and contours of the hand, so printing of the electronics keeps its circuit shape.” Another unique feature of this 3D-printing technique is that it uses a specialized ink made of silver flakes that can cure and conduct at room temperature. This is different from...