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A way to make 3D printed parts stronger

A way to make 3D printed parts stronger

Sep 21, 2017

By Bill Bregar, Plastics News Brandon Sweeney, a doctoral student at Texas A&M University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, has developed a way to make 3D printed parts 275 times stronger. Sweeney, working with his adviser Micah Green, associate professor of chemical engineering, applied traditional welding concepts and a carbon nanotube composite filament to bond the submillimeter layers in a 3D printing part using focused microwaves. Sweeney began working with materials for 3D printing while he was employed at the Army Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. “I was able to see the amazing potential of the technology, such as the way it sped up our manufacturing times and enabled our CAD designs to come to life in a matter of hours,” Sweeney said. “Unfortunately, we always knew those were not really strong enough to survive in a real-world application.” When he started his doctorate studies, Sweeney was working with Green in the chemical engineering department. Green had been collaborating with Mohammad Saed, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Texas Tech, on a project to detect carbon nanotubes using microwaves. The three men came up with an idea to use carbon nanotubes in 3D printed parts, then using microwave energy to weld the layers of parts together. “The basic idea is that a 3D part cannot simply be stuck in an oven to weld it together, because it is plastic and will melt,” Sweeney said. “We realized that we needed to borrow from the concepts that are traditionally used for welding parts together where you’d use a point source of heat, like a torch or TIP welder, to join the interface of the parts together. You’re not melting the entire part, just putting the heat where you need it.” The team puts a 3D printed filament and apply a thin layer of a carbon nanotube composite on the outside. “When you print the parts out, that thin layer gets embedded at the interface of all the plastic strands,” Sweeney said. “Then we stick it in a microwave, we use a big more sophisticated microwave oven in this research, and monitor the temperature with an infrared camera.” The patent-pending...

Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Sep 20, 2017

By Anthony Bourne, Industrial Equipment News Manufacturers need to think carefully about how they position IoT and other disruptive technologies, and how they communicate the benefits. Digital Transformation (DT) is coming of age. In the recent Digital Change Survey commissioned by IFS, 80 percent saw themselves as “enabled, enhanced or optimized” to leverage DT. Even more impressively, 89 percent said they had “advantageous” or “adequate” funding in place for digital projects—a clear acknowledgment that the time of disruptive technologies is here. But why are businesses investing? Where do they see the big profits? And how successfully are they selling digital change throughout their organizations? Beyond Efficiency The survey found that over a quarter (27 percent) of companies say digital transformation makes them more competitive. Additionally, 29 percent see the main benefit as accelerating innovation and 28 percent feel that growth opportunities in new markets are the primary advantage. Companies using digital transformation to ask far-reaching strategic questions—like “can I use it to get myself a bigger share on the market, or increase my product portfolio?”—are making the most of the long-term, strategic opportunities. They’re sensing how it can transform even seemingly small tactical decisions into key strategic differentiators. But these companies are in the minority. The largest group in the survey, 47 percent, still see the main benefits of DT as “improving internal process efficiencies”, which makes me wonder: do companies really see the full potential? Innovation can make or break a company, and study after study foregrounds it as a C-level priority. So why doesn’t it appear to be a driver for digital transformation? Considering technology investments, this could mean that the majority of funds are invested in making internal processes more effective and thereby failing to enable innovation. Improved internal efficiency as the key reason to explore DT is, in my view, too short sighted. It fails to exploit the strategic benefits and makes it more difficult to win the understanding and commitment of the staff. Overcoming Fear of Change Despite plenty of good news, the survey still reveals that 42 percent of respondents view aversion to change as the main barrier to digital transformation. Companies need to think carefully about how they position...

Custom Injection Molding Trends Higher

Custom Injection Molding Trends Higher

Sep 19, 2017

By Tony Uphoff, President and Chief Executive Officer at Thomas Publishing, ThomasNet  An interesting trend we’re seeing is a steady uptick in sourcing related to custom injection molding. This is a promising development for the economy as plastics is actually the third largest manufacturing industry in the country. Our data shows some significant increases in this important category. In the last five weeks on the thomasnet.com platform, sourcing for custom injection molding is up 35% over its all-time average. In the related category of injection molded plastic fabrication, sourcing activity has been higher in its all-time average in eight of the past 12 weeks. As you’re probably aware, American companies offshored a huge portion of their injection molding in recent decades. But when we look at how some companies today are weighing the benefits of reshoring versus offshoring, this upward trend in custom injection molding here in America starts to make some sense. The biggest incentive for offshoring has always been one of cost. But the days of cheap, abundant labor seem to be coming to an end, particularly in Asian countries such as China where there’s a growing demand for higher wages among the workforce. According to Harry Moser at the Reshoring Initiative, more and more companies today are looking at the TCO, or total cost of ownership, of offshoring versus reshoring, factoring in such things as increased productivity, shorter supply chains, and agility and innovation in customer responsiveness. Combine that with things like new tax incentives, lower freight costs, and abundant natural gas pushing down energy prices, and those companies, looking at TCO, are finding that they can manufacture more profitably right here at home. Specific to injection molding, there are also significant quality and consistency advantages to doing it here in the U.S. I speak to our clients regularly in the industry, many who have received overseas tooling from companies that are reshoring. One of those clients, the Rodon Group, reports that the majority of that tooling is virtually unusable here in America. It rarely meets the quality standards set forth by the Society of PlasticsIndustry, which specify things such as tolerances and finishes for injection molded parts here in the U.S. As Rodon’s Jill Worth told me, there’s...

Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB…

Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB…

Sep 15, 2017

“Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB Assemblies” By Mark Langlois, Design-2-Part Magazine Assembling a printed circuit board requires more than steady hands Robots aren’t just a cheaper assembly method—they’re almost required because some components are the size of ground pepper. Not coarse ground, either. “Today, in the end, automation is essential to manufacturing printed circuit boards,” said Accu-semblyPresident John Hykes, who founded the California firm in 1983 by making motion detectors with hand-held soldering guns in the family garage. He recruited the whole family, who turned out 100 to 200 of the detectors a week to start, and about 1,000 a week within a year. Accu-sembly added automated machines within a few years of the firm’s founding, Hykes said in a telephone interview with D2P. First, the company worked with surface mounted components. It learned and added components with leads. Then came ball grid arrays, which had to be X-ray inspected, and Accu-sembly automated the process. Accu-sembly (accu-sembly.com) operates today in a 30,000-square-foot factory with 100 employees in Duarte, California. The company’s markets include aerospace, industrial, commercial, and automotive businesses. As an electronics manufacturing services provider, Accu-sembly manufactures custom printed circuit board assemblies. In support of this, the firm provides design for manufacturing review, procurement and supply chain management, and testing services. Accu-sembly manufactures printed circuit board assemblies that meet IPC-A-610 and J-STD-001 class 2 and class 3 requirements. It can place the smallest 01005 (0.4mm x 0.2mm) chip components and large high pin count BGA devices. Its manufacturing processes are also suitable for placing tiny micro BGA devices as well. Hykes said in an emailed response that most of its products begin with surface mount device installation using fully automated assembly lines. “This includes solder paste screen printing, robotic P&P (pick and placement), and reflow. Our equipment and processes allow us to place large complex BGA (ball grid array) devices, as well as the tiniest parts and micro BGA devices. Through hole assembly is managed with a combination of wave soldering, selective wave soldering, and manual assembly. Post assembly inspection includes both automated optical inspection and X-ray inspection as necessary. Functional test routines using customer specific equipment is offered, along with flying probe electrical test...

Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Sep 13, 2017

By Cecilia Kang, The New York Times WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the House took a major step on Wednesday toward advancing the development of driverless cars, approving legislation that would put the vehicles onto public roads more quickly and curb states from slowing their spread. Under the bill, which was approved by a unanimous voice vote, carmakers can add hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars to America’s road in the next few years. States, which now have a patchwork of rules regulating the vehicles, would have to follow the new federal law. The House vote sets the stage for a battle between safety advocates and companies that make the largely unproven technology. Automakers say the vehicles could greatly reduce roadway fatalities and help their businesses, but many safety advocates say they are not ready for wide deployment. The next steps will come in the Senate, which is expected to consider a similar bill soon. Lawmakers who support the legislation said the country’s confusing regulatory environment was hampering the driverless-car industry’s prospects. “Self-driving cars have the potential to save lives especially when the majority of fatalities are caused by human error,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan. “The question is whether we are in the driver’s seat and not to cede it to China or India.” Auto and technology giants, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Waymo, Alphabet’s driverless division, have pushed hard for the new law. They have also pressed regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to clarify safety guidelines covering self-driving technology. Elaine L. Chao, the transportation secretary, is expected to announce revised guidelines for the vehicles next week in Michigan. In recent years, dozens of states have passed laws related to self-driving safety, some of which carmakers view as too heavy-handed. The companies have, for example, fought proposals in California, Michigan and New York that would require driverless cars to be electric-powered and to contain steering wheels and brake pedals. “The reason why Congress is doing this is that there was a growing concern of a vacuum created because N.H.T.S.A. hadn’t acted and the states were acting in N.H.T.S.A.’s place,” said Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research group in...

U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Robot Density

U.S. Metro Areas With Highest Robot Density

Sep 12, 2017

  By Dyfed Loesche, Manufacturing Business Technology Automation is one of the developments that has many employees in manufacturing worried. Some experts cite large negative effects of robots on employment and wages. However, robot penetration in the United States is uneven. With nine robots per a thousand workers Toledo in Ohio has the highest density of robots, according to research published by Brookings. If you look at the absolute figures, then the Detroit-Warren- Dearborn area, one of the biggest manufacturing hubs, has the most robots. All five metro areas depicted have had big growth rates, more than 20 percent since 2010....