Reshoring Initiative: Automation is Not the Bad Guy

Reshoring Initiative: Automation is Not the Bad Guy

Jun 22, 2017

By Anna Wells, Industrial Equipment News Automation has long carried the blame for the outflow of jobs from the manufacturing sector, but the Reshoring Initiative says that it is actually key to job growth in the U.S. The Reshoring Initiative is reporting that, for the first time in decades, more manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States than are going offshore. According to a recent press release promoting the Reshoring Initiative’s 2016 Reshoring Report, the combined reshoring and foreign direct investment (FDI) trends grew by over 10 percent in 2016, adding 77,000 jobs and exceeding the rate of offshoring by about 27,000 jobs. “The 2016 results bring the total number of manufacturing jobs brought back from offshore to more than 338,000 since the manufacturing employment low of February 2010,” said the release, adding that there are still “huge opportunities and challenges to bringing back all the 3 to 4 million manufacturing jobs cumulatively lost to offshoring.” Secretly, I’ve always wondered if these kinds of stats were a little overhyped – playing into our desires to latch on to a feel-good story with a positive trajectory. But when the Reshoring Initiative takes a deeper dive into the “whys” of reshoring, they make a pretty compelling case that is clearly resonating. Some of the reasons they cite for the ramp-up include things like proximity to customers, government incentives, skilled workforce availability and “ecosystem synergies,” which I take to mean that intangible of culture that drives so many successful businesses. Transportation equipment remained the strongest industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total jobs returned, and plastics/rubber and furniture saw the largest increases in industry ranking. Preliminary 2017 data trends are looking to be at least as good as 2016, but it certainly begs the question as to how we can sustain this activity over time. The Reshoring Initiative believes that government plays a big role, but also, in a recent e-newsletter, has pointed to an unlikely champion: automation. For years, automation has been carrying the blame, rightfully or not, for the outflow of jobs from the manufacturing sector. But the Reshoring Initiative takes a different tact, going so far as to say that automation is...

Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable”…

Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable”…

Jun 16, 2017

“Michelin’s concept tire comes wrapped in “rechargeable” 3D-printed treads” By  Aaron Heinrich, New Atlas Aside from trotting out a new tread pattern every year or so, you might think there’s not a lot manufacturers could do to improve the humble car tire. But advances in materials, sensors and manufacturing techniques are opening up new possibilities. Michelin is exploring this potential with its Vision concept tire that is airless, 3D printed, equipped with sensors, biodegradable, and not just a tire, but a tire and wheel in one.   Unveiled at a global symposium on urban mobility challenges it hosted this week in Montreal, Canada, Michelin’s Vision tire is constructed using 3D printing technology. This enables an airless interior architecture that mimics alveolar structures (such as the air sacs of the lungs) that is solid in the center and more flexible on the outside, resulting in a tire that is immune to blowouts or going flat. The core of the tire, which also functions as a wheel and can be reused, would be made from organic materials that are bio-sourced and biodegradable. 3D printing allows the amount of rubber tread applied on the outside of the tire to be optimized to meet the specific needs of the driver while keeping the amount of rubber required to a minimum – and the tread can even be topped up, or “recharged,” when it wears down or the driver is headed for different road conditions. Although the Vision’s tread would still be made mostly of rubber, Michelin is envisioning the day when materials such as straw or wood chips could be used to make butadiene, a key ingredient in making synthetic rubber today. The condition of the tires would also be monitored in real time using embedded sensors. The owner would receive information about the tire’s condition and possibly use an accompanying app to make an appointment to change the tread for a particular use, like going skiing. Michelin isn’t saying when any of these innovations will be implemented, let alone when the Vision might be available for purchase, but Mostapha El-Oulhani, the designer who headed the Vision Project, said the promise of the concept tire is within reach....

What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future…

What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future…

Jun 15, 2017

“What role will robotics and 3D printing play in the future of manufacturing?” By Nell Walker, Manufacturing Global Digitalisation is taking over the manufacturing world, forcing traditional fossil-fuelled methods out of the way and improving the flexibility of processes globally. IIoT and Industry 4.0 are a looming presence spurring businesses to adopt advanced automation solutions in order to hasten production, lower manufacturing costs, and remain competitive. Top Technologies in Advanced Manufacturing and Automation, 2017 is part of business consultancy Frost & Sullivan’s TechVision Growth Partnership Service program. The study covers the technologies of robotic exoskeletons, metal 3D printing, computer integrated manufacturing, nano 3D printing, collaborative industrial robots, friction stir welding/solid state joining, magnetic levitation (Maglev), composite 3D printing, roll-to-roll manufacturing and agile robots. These are expected to have the most impact across a variety of market segments, including automotive, healthcare, consumer electronics, aerospace and transportation. “Developments in 3D printing materials, metal inks, printing techniques and equipment design are driving the global uptake of metal 3D printing,” said Frost & Sullivan TechVision Research Analyst Ranjana Lakshmi Venkatesh Kumar. “R&D can enhance metal 3D printers’ ability to print high-strength, lightweight prototypes and parts at low costs, making these printers highly relevant in the aerospace and automotive sectors.” The robotics market has also experienced huge advancements recently, and collaborative robots have the highest impact. “Collaborative robots are gaining traction due to their ability to work alongside humans, ensure worker safety and integrate with existing environments,” noted Frost & Sullivan TechVision Research Analyst Varun Babu. “R&D efforts to improve the level of interactivity and customization will bolster the adoption rates of collaborative robots, particularly in automotive, aerospace, logistics and warehousing, healthcare, and consumer electronics industries.” Robotic exoskeletons and agile robots are also important developments of note. The former is a wearable device that can increase strength and mobility of the wearer, and the latter are small robots which offer superior agility, efficiency, and uptime. Overall, with greater government support and deeper convergence, advanced manufacturing and automation solutions will surely be the cornerstones of Industry...

Manufacturing Jobs Outsourced to Space

Manufacturing Jobs Outsourced to Space

Jun 8, 2017

By Industrial Equipment News How it’s becoming cheaper and more efficient to manufacture 250 miles above the earth. Although it’s somewhat open for debate, the International Space Station is currently scheduled for retirement somewhere between 2024 and 2028. Shortly thereafter, Houston-based Axiom has big plans for the real estate it currently occupies. The firm’s overall plans for space are pretty aggressive, including an extension for the Space Station to accommodate tourists as soon as 2020. When the ISS runs its course, this module would be self-sufficient and open to expanded use for research and manufacturing. The company feels that by 2027 the ability to offer contract manufacturing, or at least lease the available space at their new outpost for production, will be a leading revenue source for the company. Axiom feels this will be made possible by advancements in 3D printing that would allow for manufacturing products like jet turbines, solar panels, satellites and optical fiber. There are two primary reasons for Axiom’s enthusiasm. First, costs for producing space station-like hubs are down nearly 90 percent since the ISS was made in 1998. This makes manufacturing in the microgravity environment of space, which is ideal for maintaining cleanroom-like conditions, more affordable to more countries and more companies. Lower-cost real estate in space also means specialized operations like repairing and deploying small satellites will be subject to greater competition because it could be done at a fraction of the current cost. Additionally, Axiom is looking to partner with California-based Made In Space, which built the 3D printers currently onboard the Space Station. Made In Space also developed the Archinaut – an advanced 3D printer with robotic assembly arms. Archinaut would allow for manufacturing larger pieces of equipment, as well as integrating electrical components. Combining these capabilities means supports for large telescopes, parts for spacecraft and other larger and more complex equipment could be made in space, instead of relying on spacecraft transport. This type of space-based manufacturing tech removes additional cost and takes the size of the spacecraft and its payload limitations completely out of the equation. There would essentially be no size limits when looking at what can be built in...

Carbon Fiber, Steel, Put New Twist on Automotive…

Carbon Fiber, Steel, Put New Twist on Automotive…

May 12, 2017

“Carbon Fiber, Steel, Put New Twist on Automotive Lightweighting” By Charles Murray, Design News Hybrid approach enables engineers to cut weight in high-load, high-volume auto applications. In a new twist on automotive lightweighting, engineers from Eaton Corp. are combining steel with carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics to cut weight in high-load, high-volume powertrain applications, such as differential housings and transmission gear sets.   Eaton engineers say the new approach not only allows them to handle the high torque loads of those components, it enables them to do it in a way that’s economically palatable for automakers. “Typically, when we talk about metal replacement in vehicles, we’re looking at lower-load, thermoplastic parts, like under-hood parts that use nylon,” noted Kelly Williams, research and technology manager for polymers and nanocomposites at Eaton Corporate Research . “But higher-load, harsher-environment applications like this haven’t been done. This is a new approach, as far as we know.” Williams said that the automotive supplier is working with at least two automakers on replacement of cast iron differential housings with hybrid parts made from steel and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The hybrid housing, which is subjected to torques as high as 4,000 lb-ft, uses a steel frame to carry the higher loads and employs the CFRP to carry medium-level loads. Even with its equivalent load-carrying capacity, it weighs about 40% less than the cast iron version, Williams said. “In terms of strength and stiffness, this approach can be comparable to cast iron,” Williams told Design News. “Carbon fiber alone is not as stiff as steel — its modulus is not as high as steel — so that’s why we use both materials.” Carbon fiber composites have a specific modulus of 14 GPa cc/g, versus 25 GPa cc/g for steel, she added. To be sure, CFRP has been used previously in vehicles and in aerospace applications, but generally not for high-load, high-volume parts, largely due to manufacturing cost constraints. Eaton was able to reduce costs, however, by combining the steel frame with the overmolded composite, enabling the creation of a quick, net-shape parts that need little secondary finishing. As a result, cycle times are shorter, making it less costly and more suitable for...