Ford Opens $45M Advanced Manufacturing Center

Ford Opens $45M Advanced Manufacturing Center

Dec 18, 2018

By Jeff Reinke, ThomasNet Redford, Michigan, is the new home of Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, focused on improving the company’s approach to building cars and trucks. The $45 million complex houses 100 experts working on integration strategies for various cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, including 3D printing, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), robotics, and digital manufacturing. The Advanced Manufacturing Center contains 23 3D printing machines, and Ford is working with 10 3D manufacturing companies to develop applications with a range of different materials, from nylon powder to sand to carbon. One application currently under development could save the company more than $2 million. The soon-to-be-released Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 features two 3D-printed brake parts, while the F-150 Raptor includes a 3D-printed interior part. The company believes that as this technology becomes more economical, the use of such parts will become more and more prevalent. Assembly line workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant, where Ford builds the Ranger pickup, use five different 3D-printed tools that played a critical role in the launch of the Ranger. In fact, the company says that these tools knocked off weeks from an already tight timeline. Ford is also banking on augmented and virtual reality to help in simulating and designing assembly lines. By donning specialized gaming equipment, engineers can configure a virtual reality production line without leaving the Center, allowing engineers to identify potentially unsafe processes and fine-tune workflows long before an assembly line is put into play. AR and VR can also allow manufacturing teams to work collaboratively in facilities around the world, meaning employees on different continents could work in the same virtual space, at the same time. Finally, the new facility will allow the company to optimize the use of collaborative robots. Ford has more than 100 of them in 24 plants globally. For instance, at the Livonia Transmission Plant in Michigan, a co-bot performs a job that was so ergonomically difficult for employees that they could only perform that task for one hour at a time. The co-bot was a welcome addition to the production line. These co-bots also help the automaker reduce costs by eliminating the safety cages required by larger robots. Utilizing co-bots in...

The Robots Are Coming, but Not the Way You Imagined

The Robots Are Coming, but Not the Way You Imagined

Dec 17, 2018

Industrial robots are driving improvements in productivity, quality, and flexibility that are helping U.S. manufacturers to compete globally. At the same time, they’re spurring the growth of a new ecosystem of jobs, from mechanical design to AI-based computer vision. By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine The robots are coming—that much is true. But manufacturers, by and large, don’t see them as the job-stealing invaders of the workplace that many people have imagined. It’s not that robots don’t excel in performing many tasks formerly done by people. It’s just that people also excel in certain areas where robots aren’t up to the task. And  in the manufacturing realm, industry leaders and company officials who have integrated robots into their plant’s operations say that their impact stretches well beyond the work that they’ve proven to do so well.   “These machines are going to have a huge impact into the broader economy,” said Tom Galluzzo, founder and chief technology officer of IAM Robotics, in a presentation at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in June. “They’re going to empower people to do the things that we’re innately better at—the creative thinking skills. And I think that’s where our employers have to take responsibility—to educate people and to empower them to do those kinds of creative thinking.” In manufacturing, people can focus on higher-level work because industrial robots are known to perform repetitive tasks with greater precision than their human counterparts. Manufacturers who use robotics in printed circuit board assembly, for example, often report greater peace of mind knowing that the robots are maintaining high quality while increasing the productivity of their operations. Sam Hanna, president of Quality Manufacturing Services, Inc. (QMS), a provider of electronics manufacturing services in Lake Mary, Florida, said that QMS has added robotics to its operation when a reasonable return on investment has justified the investment. The company has invested heavily in late-model surface mount pick-and-place equipment, a key contributor to quality as electronic components and packages continue to shrink in size. “We get consistent output, the machines never get tired, and they’re certainly faster than humans,” said Hanna. “The precision we can get out of machinery is far better than we can get out of...

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...

Which Technologies Should Come First, Second, Third?

Which Technologies Should Come First, Second, Third?

Mar 7, 2018

By Ken Koenemann – VP of Supply Chain and Technologies, TBM Consulting Group Featured on Advancedmanufacturing.org Analytics solutions. The industrial Internet of Things. Robotics. Automation. Manufacturers looking for tech solutions that will help them control costs and gain a competitive edge have many great options. In fact, deciding what type of technology to invest in and why can seem overwhelming. Could you get a better ROI through automation and improved productivity, or through using analytics to identify inefficiencies and streamline processes? To glean the most from almost any new technology, make sure you have: A clear understanding of what’s happening in your business A vision for what you want the technology to do and why The right process structure and skill sets along with team alignment. Before investing in any new technology, ask these questions: What are the key drivers of operational and financial performance for your business? Do you clearly understand performance levels, reasons for misses and have processes for correcting them? Many manufacturers regularly fall short of their strategic goals, and it’s a good bet most of them also struggle with these questions. A lack of data usually isn’t the issue. Most manufacturing environments usually include some combination of ERP, CRM, CMMS, EMS and financial reporting systems and spreadsheets. The problem is the long time it takes to gather and analyze key performance indicators from the various sources. When that’s the case, predictive technology is invaluable and probably your best next investment: It will help you better understand what’s happening in your business and why to keep strategic goals on track, and it will position you to apply new technologies more effectively moving forward. Many cloud-based predictive solutions are also more versatile and relatively inexpensive and easy to implement compared with, say, a behind-the-firewall solution. Moreover, a well-executed solution can delivery similar types of insights quicker due to a shorter implementation timeline. Predictive solutions are helpful because they can help you improve understanding of most facets of your operations, from sales trends to reasons for downtime. One manufacturer with which TBM is familiar was regularly losing a day’s worth of production every few months, which added up to several hundred thousand dollars...

How will Industry 4.0 impact U.S. manufacturing?

How will Industry 4.0 impact U.S. manufacturing?

Jan 26, 2018

By JLL Staff Reporter, Real Views The Fourth Industrial Revolution is picking up steam in warehouse aisles and factory floors around the world. As advancing technology brings the manufacturing industry closer to the vision of a ‘smart factory,’ the future of U.S. manufacturing depends on how well industry leaders play the new cards in the deck: robotics, data, automation and 3D printing—without overlooking the value of human capital. So far, the U.S. appears ready for change, earning a “well positioned for the future” nod from the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Production assessment, which evaluated production structures in countries around the world. While human-free warehouses and factories are still a long way off, more sophisticated, tech-fueled automation is already becoming a standard feature of the nation’s industrial buildings. These days, drones equipped with sensors can scan bar codes for inventory purposes, safely restock and pick merchandise on high shelves, and move small items quickly around the warehouse. Meanwhile, robotics and other technologies such as 3D printing, connected sensors and artificial intelligence are drastically transforming the way goods are manufactured. “Industry 4.0 represents a clear opportunity for the U.S. manufacturing sector when you think about the skilled positions coming back into the economy,” says Aaron Ahlburn, Managing Director, Industrial & Logistics Research, JLL. “Most industry-relevant technology works best when paired with intelligent use, and the U.S. has a competitive advantage when it comes to skilled, tech-savvy labor.” The factory of the future depends on today’s talent The United States’ manufacturing sector is the second largest in the world, after China. According to WEF’s 2018 report, the U.S. “is globally renowned for its ability to innovate and is currently at the forefront of major developments surrounding the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” This won’t be the first time the U.S. manufacturing industry has won in terms of innovation. This is, after all, the birthplace of the moving assembly line. And earlier automation technologies have already made this a country where only two in five employees are now directly engaged in production, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Still, according to the same report, the nation’s share of global manufacturing value has declined over time, dropping from 29 percent...