Toyota bets on sprawling Kentucky plant with $1.3 billion…

Toyota bets on sprawling Kentucky plant with $1.3 billion…

Apr 13, 2017

“Toyota bets on sprawling Kentucky plant with $1.3 billion investment”  By Nathan Bomey, USA Today Toyota said Monday that it will invest more than $1.3 billion in its sprawling Georgetown, Ky., plant, its largest factory in the world, in a massive retooling project designed to bring new vehicles to market faster and more efficiently. Although the investment does not include new jobs, the move signals a deepening commitment to the U.S. market amid threats by President Trump of a border tax on automakers that bet on Mexico. The president, who had previously targeted Toyota in his criticism of companies that make vehicles in foreign markets and sell them to Americans, hailed the Japanese automaker’s investment as reflective of an “economic climate that has greatly improved under my administration,” according to a statement issued by Toyota. To be sure, the Toyota investment is part of a plan announced days before Trump took office to invest $10 billion in U.S. operations over the next five years. In that respect, the investment is no surprise. The future of the sprawling, 7.5 million-square-foot Kentucky plant, which is Toyota’s largest factory in the world, was never in doubt. The company makes several vehicles there, including the Camry sedan, which Cars.com has dubbed the most made-in-America car in the U.S. based on an assessment of the car’s components. Still, the investment marks a significant bet on the future of American manufacturing. Toyota said the retooling investment would pave the way for a new system of vehicle assembly that it’s calling Toyota New Global Architecture.  The new platform is designed to be easily adjusted for future models, giving Toyota the ability to make engineering and design changes swiftly to response to market changes. “This is the largest investment in our plant’s history and it speaks directly to the quality of our people and our products, as well as the partnerships we’ve forged in the local community and across the state,” Toyota Kentucky president Wil James said in a statement. “This major overhaul will enable the plant to stay flexible and competitive, further cementing our presence in Kentucky.” The plant currently has about 8,200 employees, having added 700 in recent months to launch...

Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization…

Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization…

Apr 11, 2017

“Adidas, Carbon take giant step into mass customization of athletic shoes” By Norbert Sparrow, Plastics Today German sportswear giant adidas (Herzogenaurach) brought 3D printing’s promise of mass customization one step closer to the local mall today with the introduction of its Futurecraft 4D athletic shoe line, which features a midsole manufactured using a process called Digital Light Synthesis. Developed by Silicon Valley startup Carbon (Redwood City, CA), the technology differs from conventional 3D printing in that it grows objects from a pool of resin rather than creating them layer by layer. The partnership with Carbon allows Adidas “to overcome many of [the] difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mold, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production,” reports Reuters. Three hundred pairs of Futurecraft 4D shoes have been released for friends and family, and Adidas reportedly expects to sell 5000 pairs of the shoes this year, ramping up to 100,000 next year. Adidas used its extensive library of running data to shape functional zones into a midsole design crafted through Digital Light Synthesis, explains Carbon. “Unlike any traditional manufacturing technology, Digital Light Synthesis allows adidas to precisely address the needs of each athlete in regards to movement, cushioning, stability and comfort with one single component. Carbon’s unique programmable resin platform offers unparalleled performance with respect to material durability and elastomeric responsiveness,” said the company. Initially, adidas plans to produce batches of shoes customized for specific sports and cities, but the ultimate goal is to allow customers to be measured and tested in store for a perfectly fitted shoe that takes into account the user’s gait, weight and athletic pursuit, reports Reuters. Adidas describes the envisioned experience in this way on its website: “Imagine walking into an adidas store, running briefly on a treadmill and instantly getting a 3D-printed running shoe. Creating a flexible, fully breathable carbon copy of the athlete’s own footprint, matching exact contours and pressure points, it will set the athlete up for the best running experience. Linked with existing data sourcing and foot-scan technologies, it opens unique opportunities for immediate in-store fittings.” Not about to be left in the dust, Nike is also exploring the...

A New Way to Make Electronic Components

A New Way to Make Electronic Components

Mar 28, 2017

The Ability to 3D Print Electronics Is Here By Mark Shortt, Editorial Director, D2P Magazine When you think about the innovation that’s happening today in the field of electronics, there’s a lot to wrap your head around as people debate the future of Moore’s Law, the fate of silicon transistors and possible role of carbon nanotube chips, and materials that could, possibly, widen the application range of flexible, conformal electronics. One look at the nine manufacturing innovation institutes that are part of the national Manufacturing USA network (formerly the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation) gives you a pretty good idea of the impact that electronics will have in furthering the development and adoption of emerging manufacturing technologies and innovative products. PowerAmerica, one of the nine manufacturing innovation institutes, is working to develop advanced manufacturing processes that will enable large-scale production of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, which allow electronic components to be smaller, faster, and more efficient than they would be if the semiconductors were made from silicon. At the same time, NextFlex, America’s first Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is working to support the advancement of technologies and materials that will bring flexible, stretchable body-worn electronics into the mainstream. Two others—America Makes, dedicated to strengthening capabilities in 3D printing, and the new Advanced Functional Fabrics of America—are working in areas where new developments and breakthroughs will impact how electronics are manufactured and applied to next-generation products. We’re living in a digital age in which collaboration helps further not only the development of new technologies, but also their interdependence across a wide spectrum of industries. So it’s not surprising, then, that we’re seeing some of the more intriguing developments in electronics today happening as a result of applying breakthroughs in materials, 3D printing, and software. These developments, whether they’re highly conductive silver inks for 3D printing, or better ways of integrating electronics into stretchable polymer fabrics, are changing the ways we manufacture electronics and how we incorporate them into more functional parts, components, and products. One of these breakthroughs is the development of innovative 3D printing technologies that offer new ways to manufacture electronics. These direct-write methods are barely beginning to scratch the...

HP reveals next move in making 3D printing competitive…

HP reveals next move in making 3D printing competitive…

Mar 27, 2017

“HP reveals next move in making 3D printing competitive with injection molding” By Norbert Sparrow, Plastics Today HP (Palo Alto, CA) has a storied past, but it may have an even more glorious future if it is able to deliver on its vision of industrial-scale 3D printing that can rival injection molding. Its opening salvo in achieving this long-term ambition came just about one year ago, when it unveiled the HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, which prints quality parts up to 10 times faster and at half the cost of current 3D printers, according to HP. The newest milestone came last week, when it launched its 3D Open Materials and Application Lab at its sprawling facility in Corvallis, OR. HP invited several journalists, myself included, and analysts to tour the lab and to lay out its strategy for embedding 3D printing within the $12 trillion manufacturing sector. The Corvallis facility, a stone’s throw from Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium, was the birthplace of thermal inkjet technology some 30 years ago, and remains a hotbed of innovation, where material scientists and engineers design, test and build printheads, silicon wafers and thermal inkjet printer heads. Right now, all eyes are on the capabilities of its additive manufacturing system and the development of compatible materials. Multi Jet Fusion is the culmination of decades of research, Timothy Weber, PhD, Vice President and General Manager of 3D Materials and Advanced Applications, told journalists during the site visit. “The total market for 3D printing is around $5 to $6 billion,” said Weber. “The market wasn’t big enough to interest a $50+ billion company like HP, and we didn’t have a technological differentiator,” he added to explain why the company waited as long as it did before dipping its toe in the additive manufacturing pond. That changed with the development of Multi Jet Fusion technology, which has the potential to compete with conventional plastics processing techniques, and the ability to engineer materials at the voxel level. The mighty voxel HP describes the voxel as a volumetric pixel. With Multi Jet Fusion, HP can manipulate materials at the voxel level by dosing liquid functional agents in the powder bed as the parts are...

Has Tesla Found a Better Way to Test and Validate Vehicles?

Has Tesla Found a Better Way to Test and Validate Vehicles?

Mar 24, 2017

By Charles Murray, DesignNews Electric carmaker might shorten the beta test phase of its forthcoming Tesla Model 3 vehicle. A recent statement by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk has auto insiders wondering if the electric car maker has found a better way to test and validate vehicles, or if it is embarking on a risky new course. In the statement made on an exclusive investor-only call last week, Musk reportedly suggested that the beta test phase of the company’s moderately-priced Model 3 EV is being shortened, and that its “early release candidates” are already being built on production tooling. According to various electric car websites, such as Elektrek, Tesla engineers used sophisticated design-for-manufacturability analytics, enabling them to limit the number of pre-production iterations of the vehicle. The result is that the quality of the so-called “release candidates” is higher than it was for the company’s earlier products, the Model S and Model X, reports said. “The most plausible interpretation of this statement about release candidates is that (Musk) has opted to short-cut development testing of prototype vehicles,” noted Sam Abuelsamid, senior reach analyst for Navigant Research , in an e-mail to Design News. “In all likelihood, he is assuming that they can get by with more simulation testing and less testing of physical prototypes.” If that is indeed Musk’s plan, it would be a departure from the way automobiles have traditionally been tested, validated and manufactured. In common practice, beta testing involves months and tens of thousands of testing miles on vehicles built on pre-production tooling. In the case of the Model 3 (photo, left), that phase may have been short-circuited, but it’s difficult to know definitively because Musk often uses different terms than other automakers when describing the process. Tesla did not respond to an e-mail from Design News asking for clarification. Automotive experts said the industry will watch carefully to see if the Silicon Valley carmaker’s software-centric approach is successful, but many were skeptical. “Everybody is trying to accelerate the process of launch,” noted David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research . “But if you say you’re going to skip part of the normal process in validating your tooling,...