Vaquform: The World's First Digital Desktop Vacuum Former

The Vaquform is a Kickstarter project that hopes to add some digital technology to vacuum forming and also  bring an industrial level of quality to your desktop.  

It goes far beyond the LCD interface. Vaquform brings high-end process control to desktop vacuum forming, turning it into a smart appliance fit for a modern engineering lab, design office, or artist studio.  Kickstarter page:

Beyond the Hype: What's Next for Industrial 3D Printing

Vicki Holt of Proto Labs via The Huffington Post:  It wasn’t long ago that 3D printing was one of the buzziest technologies around.  We watched as a 3D printer recreated a bust of Stephen Colbert on TV. We heard from industry analysts who were bullish on adoption of the technology. We imagined a future with a 3D printer in every home when major retailers began selling them online and in stores.

Fast forward to today. The potential of 3D printing remains enormous. Global spend on the technology is expected to climb from $11 billion in 2015 to nearly $27 billion in 2019. But with all of the early excitement now behind us, where does 3D printing stand today? And where will it go in the future?  It can be summed up in three key developments.  Cont'd... 

Manufacturers raise investment in next-gen tech, survey says

Dustin Walsh for Crain's Detroit Business:  U.S. manufacturers are rapidly boosting investment in advanced digital technologies, according to a survey to be released Monday by Troy-based technology business association Automation Alley.  The survey coincides with the association's 2017 Technology Industry Outlook event on Feb. 13 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Nearly 400 manufacturing and technology business leaders are expected to attend.

According to the survey, 85 percent of U.S. manufacturing executives responded they plan to increase existing budgets for new technologies, with nearly a third planning to increase budgets by up to 15 percent.  More than half of the respondents said they have a dedicated budget to technologies described as Industry 4.0, with the top three being cloud, cybersecurity and data analytics.  Cont'd...

S. Korea's Hanwha to develop smart factory platform

Pulse News:  South Korea’s leading conglomerate Hanwha Group plans to venture into the smart factory business, joining the burgeoning market dominated by General Electronics Co. (GE) and Siemens AG in the transitional age of industry and society heading towards full automation and practical robotics applications. 
According to a senior official at Hanwha Wednesday, the group recently formed a task force team dedicated to the development of hardware and software that can help to make factories smarter, cost-efficient, and more productive through increased computing systems. Hanwha Techwin Co., the group’s defense and aircraft engine making unit, will first come up with a pilot model in automating factories that would be applied to other manufacturing subsidiaries.   Cont'd...

Google Ventures, BMW, Lowe's Invest in Desktop Metal

Desktop Metal, an emerging startup with the mission to bring metal 3D printing to all design and manufacturing teams, announced today it has raised a total of $97 million in equity funding since its founding in October 2015. The announcement comes as the result of the latest Series C investment of $45 million, led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), as well as BMW i Ventures and Lowe's Ventures. Desktop Metal will use the funding to continue to develop its technology and scale production as the company prepares for its product launch later this year. 
Driven by invention, Desktop Metal is committed to accelerating the adoption of metal 3D printing in design and manufacturing through the creation of innovative technology that produces complex parts. Previous investors include NEA, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lux Capital, GE Ventures, Saudi Aramco, and 3D printing leader Stratasys.   Full Press Release.

Number of Smart Factories in South Korea to be Almost Doubled

Cho Jin-young for Business Korea:  The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy announced on February 2 that the South Korean government invests 90.5 billion won and the private sector invests 20.3 billion won this year so that smart factories can be built for at least 2,200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the number of such factories in South Korea can be increased to 5,000 before the end of this year.

The ministry is planning to diversify the types of smart factories, too. For example, the new smart factories are slated to include 500 clean energy-based ones for a higher level of energy efficiency and 50 cloud-type smart factories that are capable of connecting regions and various sectors of the manufacturing industry.  Cont'd...

Five steps to enabling a data-driven, smart factory

Alun Williams for ElectronicsWeekly:  he top strategic objectives in the manufacturing industry have remained consistent for years, with many centered on serving customers.

Industrial companies want to deliver customers high quality products, on time, at a globally competitive cost. They also want to be able to flex production capabilities up and down as needed to quickly introduce new products to the marketplace.

Pairing physical assets with intelligent gateways to gather, analyze and communicate data is driving enormous new efficiencies in manufacturing and business operations.

New operational efficiencies enabled by IoT are generating significant returns in manufacturing.  Cont'd...

MIT Builds Invisible Fish Grabbing Robot

Matthew Humphries for PCMag:  Catching a fish can be tough, even if you are just trying to net a goldfish in a small tank. That's because the fish spots the danger and makes a swim for it. But what if you didn't need a net because you're controlling an invisible grabbing robot?

That's what Xuanhe Zhao, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT succeeded in creating, but its applications go way beyond catching and releasing fish unharmed.

The robot is constructed of a transparent hydrogel, which is strong and durable but mostly made of water. As the video below explains, each arm of the robot is constructed from 3D-printed hollow cubes of hydrogel, which are then linked together. By injecting water using a syringe it's possible to make the arms curl and uncurl quickly in a grabbing motion.  Cont'd...

U.S. investors see more automation, not jobs, under Trump administration

David Randall for Reuters:  When U.S. President-elect Donald Trump criticized United Technologies Corp's (UTX.N) Carrier unit in November for its plan to move some 800 jobs to Mexico, the parent-company made a swift decision to keep the factory in Indiana.

Yet, the move did not translate into saving jobs. Instead, the company decided it would move toward automation as a way to cut costs.

"We're going to make up [the] $16 million investment in that factory in Indianapolis to automate, to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive," chief executive Greg Hayes said on CNBC last month. "What that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs."

Swapping robots and software for human labor has underpinned much of the productivity gains in the United States over the last 25 years. Now, with a greater political push to keep factories at home, investors are betting that automation will gain speed in industries ranging from auto manufacturing to chicken processing to craft beer breweries.  Cont'd...

Adidas reveals plans for 3D printing 'Speedfactory'

Corey Clarke for 3DPrintingIndustry:  Adidas is moving closer to a 3D printing shoe manufacturing revolution. As previously reported the sports shoe manufacturer used 3D printing to produce the Ultraboost Parley and 3D Runner releases in 2016. This year, Adidas are keen to up the tempo with their Speedfactory concept.

Industrial factories where 3D printing and robotics manufacture sneakers on-demand are at the core of the plan. Manufacturing will also become localized, eliminating costs associated with logistics and supply chains. Large-scale production at German Speedfactory in Ansbach is set for mid-2017, with Adidas expecting to create 500,000 shoes a year in the future. While in the U.S, Adidas has announced plans to create a Speedfactory in Atlanta in late-2017.  Cont'd...

ASU site of largest academic additive manufacturing center in the southwest US

Gail Overton for LaserFocusWorld:  By forming a partnership with Concept Laser (Grapevine, TX), Honeywell Aerospace (Phoenix, AZ), and Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT; Tempe, AZ), the largest additive manufacturing (AM) research facility in the Southwest is now on the Polytechnic campus of the Polytechnic School at Arizona State University (ASU; Tempe, AZ). The 15,000 square foot center holds over $2 million of plastic, polymer, and 3D metal printing equipment and the Polytechnic School at ASU offers the only manufacturing engineering undergraduate degree in Arizona and is one of only 22 ABET accredited manufacturing engineering programs in the United States.

The lab has a Concept Laser M2 cusing and Mlab cusing machine which are dedicated to 3D metal printing, also known as metal AM. Unlike conventional metal fabrication techniques, AM produces fully dense metal parts by melting layer upon layer of ultrafine metal powder. The Polytechnic School is using the machines for a wide range of research and development activities including materials development and prototyping complex mechanical and energy systems.  Cont'd...

3D graphene: MIT scientists develop super-light, super-strong structure

Weston Williams for The Christian Science Monitor:  Many scientists consider graphene to be one of the most potentially useful materials ever created. The atom-thick chain of carbon atoms are strong, light, and promise many applications, from energy storage to pollution removal to waterproof coating.

While graphene has been studied since the 1940s, scientists have had considerable trouble constructing it into a structurally useful form on a three-dimensional level. But now, scientists at MIT have figured out how to build up graphene into useful, 3-D shapes with the potential to be lighter and stronger than steel.

The new research marks an important step forward for the material. The hexagonal structure is essentially an "unrolled" carbon nanotube only an atom thick, usually only functional on a two-dimensional level. Despite this limitation, graphene is more than 100 times stronger than steel, and converting that two-dimensional strength into a structure usable for three-dimensional building materials has for years been something of a holy grail for graphene researchers. And now, scientists may be one step closer to that conversion.  Cont'd...

CES 2017 - MarkForged 3D prints metal

From CES 2017: From the company that revolutionized 3D printing with composite carbon fiber, comes a breakthrough in metal. The Metal X greatly accelerates innovation, delivering metal parts overnight using a new technology at a fraction of the cost. Leave 20th century manufacturing in the dust and create anything from industrial replacement parts to injection molds to working prototypes.

Manufacturers most upbeat in two years, ISM survey shows

Jeffrey Bartash for MarketWatch:  American manufacturers finished 2016 on a wave of optimism, as a survey of executives hit the highest level in two years.  The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index climbed to 54.7% in December from 53.2%, slightly higher than the MarketWatch forecast. Any number above 50% signals expansion.

The index is compiled from a survey of executives who order raw materials and other supplies for their companies. The gauge tends to rise or fall in tandem with the health of the economy.

New orders and production surged in the final month of the year and plans for employment also edged higher. Bradley Holcomb, chairman of the ISM survey committee, said comments from executives were largely positive.  Cont'd...

YCF - 2017 could be year of smart factory

Katie Mallinson for B Daily:  2017 could be the year of the smart factory. That’s the opinion of Huddersfield-based YCF – the not-for-profit organisation committed to supporting the manufacturing industry and its supply chain.

The statement follows months of speculation around Industry 4.0 – the idea of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technology.

Simply, it’s the computerisation of manufacturing, involving systems that communicate with each other, monitor physical processes and make decisions. And YCF’s CEO Jill Mooney thinks that 2017 could be the year that manufacturers start to plan the implementation of such machinery.    Cont'd...

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Materials & Processes - Featured Product

Innovative, Modular, Dual Belt Conveyor Pallet Systems

Innovative, Modular, Dual Belt Conveyor Pallet Systems

Dorner's 2200 Series Precision Move Pallet Systems feature the latest advancements in pallet traffic management. A unique pin tracking system guides pallets through merges and curves while maintaining product orientation. The fast belt change capability increases efficiency and reduces downtime in assembly automation processes. They are available in lengths up to 25 ft., can handle loads up to 500 lbs. and travel at speeds up to 114 ft/min.