How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

Jan 20, 2017

“How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved $12 Million” By Colin Paris, Manufacturing.net A call comes through on my tablet. It’s a familiar digital voice letting me know that one of GE’s power generation turbines installed at a utility customer’s power plant was experiencing a change in its operating profile. This change was causing a critical part to wear more rapidly than usual. It would not necessarily cause a problem today, explains the caller, or even in the coming months. But further down the line, it could become an issue that would reduce the overall performance of the power plant and lead to more expensive repairs. That voice on the other end of the line is not a human operator. It is the turbine’s Digital Twin, an exact digital replica of the physical machine built with artificial intelligence algorithms that allow it to see, think and act just like human beings do. In my ten- minute conversation with this Digital Twin, we figure out a solution that would save $12 million for the customer with a simple adjustment in how the turbine operates. The drop-off in performance and higher repair costs will be avoided thanks to a few simple changes the Twin itself recommended based on its assessment of historical data, other turbines in this fleet, and its deep knowledge of the physical stress on the turbine in question. The Internet ushered in the world of connectedness on a level no one had previously imagined. Today, that connectedness has spread from human-to-human, to human-to-machine, to machine-to-machine, and we’ve given it a new name – the Internet of Things. We see the IoT in the home, when we talk to Amazon Echo’s Alexa or to Google and ask them for information or to perform a simple task. To understand those questions and requests, Alexa uses a dictionary that is gained from Wikipedia – and its capabilities are developing quickly, since much of the digital infrastructure of the consumer IoT is already in place. The industrial IoT is developing even quicker, despite exponentially higher technological and regulatory complexities. Industrial devices – like a power generation turbine, a jet engine, a locomotive, or an MRI machine...

Robot Would Assemble Modular Telescope — In Space

Robot Would Assemble Modular Telescope — In Space

Jan 12, 2017

By Design-2-Part Magazine  BELLINGHAM, Wash.—Enhancing astronomers’ ability to peer ever more deeply into the cosmos may hinge on developing larger space-based telescopes. A new concept in space telescope design makes use of a modular structure and an assembly robot to build an extremely large telescope in space, performing tasks in which astronaut fatigue would be a problem. The robotically assembled modular space telescope (RAMST) design is described by Nicolas Lee and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an article published in July by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (JATIS). Ground-based telescopes are limited by atmospheric effects and by their fixed location on the Earth. Space-based telescopes do not have those disadvantages, but have other limits, such as overall launch vehicle volume and mass capacity. Design of a modular space telescope that overcomes restrictions on volume and mass could allow telescope components to be launched incrementally, enabling the design and deployment of extremely large space telescopes. The design detailed by Lee and his colleagues in “Architecture for in-space robotic assembly of a modular space telescope,” focuses primarily on a robotic system to perform tasks in which astronaut fatigue would be a problem. “Our goal is to address the principal technical challenges associated with such an architecture, so that future concept studies addressing a particular science driver can consider robotically assembled telescopes in their trade space,” the authors wrote. The main features of the authors’ proposed architecture include a mirror built with a modular structure, a robot to put the telescope together and provide ongoing servicing, and advanced metrology technologies to support the assembly and operation of the telescope. An optional feature is the potential ability to fly the unassembled components of the telescope in formation. The system architecture is scalable to a variety of telescope sizes and would not be limited to particular optical designs. “The capability to assemble a modular space telescope has other potential applications,” said Harley Thronson, senior scientist for Advanced Astrophysics Concepts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a press release. “For example, astronomers using major ground-based telescopes are accustomed...

Why so many U.S. manufacturers are putting up…

Why so many U.S. manufacturers are putting up…

Dec 21, 2016

“Why so many U.S. manufacturers are putting up ‘Help Wanted’ signs” By Danielle Paquette, The Washington Post Susan Murray Carlock says her Indiana company is providing something popular opinion has deemed nearly extinct: well-paying manufacturing jobs. Over the past four years, Mursix Corp., a creator of seat belt buckles and bed frames, has sought to fill a variety of production positions. The average wages exceed $20 an hour — a ladder to the middle class. Trouble is, she can’t find workers. “We’ve been on a growth trajectory that is crazy,” said Carlock, whose family bought the firm for roughly $5 million in 1990 and has watched it grow into a $42 million business. “But we face serious labor force issues.” The company needs skilled laborers, men and women who can absorb the “tribal knowledge” of the toolmakers before they retire, she said. This year, in an effort to draw talent, the firm set up an apprenticeship, paying promising employees as they learn the trade. Carlock’s predicament isn’t isolated, even in the Rust Belt, where steadily vanishing manufacturing jobs became central to this year’s presidential election. She knows of at least two other plants in Muncie, Ind., a college town in the state’s northeast quadrant, that face a similar hiring challenge. “We’re all competing with each other for people,” she said. “To say manufacturing is dying in the United States just isn’t true.” But American manufacturing is changing, and the enterprises flourishing today often demand a different set of skills than assembly lines of the past. One reason for the labor shortage is the fear of change, said Michael Hicks, a business professor at Ball State University in Muncie, Carlock’s city. Many of the open roles involve computer assistance, which requires job training. Although some companies and state programs will cover the tuition bills, some workers, particularly those who’ve held the same job for decades, are hesitant to take them up on the offer, even if unemployment is imminent and the wages are competitive. The average hourly wage for these roles is approximately $20, according to federal data. “I’ve gone to war,” said Hicks, an army veteran turned academic, “and going back to school was scarier.” Young people aren’t helping fill the slots...

Meet the Giant Robot That Builds Boeing’s Airplane Wings

Meet the Giant Robot That Builds Boeing’s Airplane Wings

Oct 24, 2016

By Wired Building something as large as a 737 wing takes an even bigger machine. Boeing’s Panel Assembly Line (PAL) is the 60 ton, 20 feet tall, friendly robot that always lends a rather large hand.      ...

How AI & Robots Will Bring Manufacturing Home to the U.S.

How AI & Robots Will Bring Manufacturing Home to the U.S.

Sep 27, 2016

“How AI & Robots Will Bring Manufacturing Home to the U.S.” By Tom Vander Ark, Getting Smart Imagine custom shirts and shoes at mass production prices with same day delivery; imagine turbine parts produced at the airport where and when they are needed; imagine a new tooth made while you’re in the dentist chair. The age of smart local manufacturing is just around the corner. Often called Industry 4.0, this new wave manufacturing incorporated connected devices (internet of things: IoT), cloud computing and machine learning. The term Industry 4.0 originated in 2011 with German government-funded research on advanced manufacturing. Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com explains: The first industrial revolution was the Industrial Revolution between 1760 and 1820ish, which brought us steam power and mechanization through spinning mills. The second industrial revolution was mass production, starting around 1870, but best known for the assembly lines of Henry Ford 1913. The third industrial revolution was the introduction of computers and automation in manufacturing from 1950 onward. The fourth industrial revolution is cyber-physical systems.     End of the Flight to Cheap Labor “Much of the labor intensive manufacturing moved to areas of the world where cheap labor was abundant and had the raw material or the ability to bring them in and ship the product at a reasonable rate,” said Charles Speelman, Superintendent of the Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion Ohio (below). Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977 marked the peak of U.S. manufacturing employment. Outsourcing really accelerated after Bush took office in 2001. “Everyday low prices” became a staple Wal-Mart thanks to cheap Chinese labor. But in the last ten years, the rise of the Chinese (and Mexican and Vietnamese) middle class reduced the labor arbitrage. Third wave factories invested in automation reducing labor as a percentage of total costs. Beginning in 2010, U.S. manufacturing employment began to rise with the first hints of onshoring. Car manufacturing is an interesting signal: while parts are made worldwide, Hondas are built in Ohio and Alabama, BMW and Mercedes are made in South Carolina, Toyotas are made in Indiana and Volkswagens are built in Tennessee. Automation is making U.S. products more competitive compared with similar goods sourced from low-cost countries. In a 2015...