Chiefs hold back on smart factories after backlash

Peggy Hollinger for Financial Times:  General Electric, one of the world’s biggest industrial companies, estimates that digitising industrial machinery, networks and processes will not just bring down the costs of manufacturing. The data it generates will open new business opportunities, such as optimising maintenance schedules for customers or improving the design and quality of products. The resulting “industrial internet”, GE argues, has the potential to deliver global productivity improvements that could add $10tn-15tn to global GDP over 20 years.

No manufacturer can ignore the coming revolution. Yet many, in developed economies at least, are wary. A backlash against globalisation, fuelled by decades of decline in America’s rust belt and the erosion of blue-collar jobs, has already upset the status quo in the US, where Donald Trump’s protectionist slogans helped him to win the White House.
Almost half the 1,370 chief executives questioned in PwC’s annual Global CEO survey published this week fear that this latest industrial revolution will feed further distrust among their companies’ stakeholders — whether they be investors, employees or the wider public.  Cont'd...

Sharp Executive Says Plan for Foxconn LCD Plant in U.S. is Still 'On The Table'

Mitchel Broussard for MacRumors:  Foxconn and Sharp are looking closer than ever to building a manufacturing plant within the United States, according to one Sharp executive who said that the plan is still "on the table" (via Nikkei). The plant would mainly be focused on the manufacturing of LCD panels for TV sets and home appliances, but Foxconn is said to be considering moving iPhone production stateside as well. 
The news continues a rumor from last year born out of President-elect Donald Trump's comments on wanting Apple to make its products stateside. Foxconn laid out plans for such a move in December, along with Japan-based SoftBank Group, with each company hoping to create a combined 100,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next four years.   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...

The 3D Printers of CES

Brian Benchoff for HACKADAY:  CES is over, and now we can take a step back, distance ourselves from the trade show booths, and figure out where 3D printing will be going over the next year.

The Hype Cycle is a great way to explain trends in fads and technological advances. VR and autonomous cars are very early on the Hype Cycle right now. Smartphones are on the plateau of productivity. 3D printing is head-down in the trough of disillusionment.

For this year’s CES, 3D printing is not even a product category. In fact, the official documentation I found at Prusa’s booth listed their company in the ‘Assistive Technologies’ category. These are dark days for the public perception of 3D printing. 

The perception of 3D printing has been tied inexorably to Makerbot. Makerbot presented the only 3D printer on The Colbert Report. Only Makerbot had their 3D printing storefronts featured on CNN. It’s been like this for half a decade, and hopefully things will get better.  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.

3D printer builds a cube from a vat of goo … using a phone screen

Ed Oswald for DigitalTrends:  What if we told you that you could be holding in your hand a key piece to your next 3D printer? If Taiwan-based 3D-printing startup T3D has anything to do with it, your smartphone will have you creating 3D objects in no time. While the printing surface contains a mechanically operated plate that is dipped into a special resin, it’s your smartphone that tells it how to operate.

From within the printer’s app, you select the shape you’d like to print. From there, the light from the screen moves through a series light patterns necessary to create the object in a special light sensitive resin. While it works a bit slow — as you can see, the cube structure in the video demo above takes over seven hours to print on an early prototype — it’s like nothing we’ve seen before.  Cont'd...

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...

Dubai Govt, US startup to team up for 3D printing

Paromita Dey for Construction Week Online:  The Dubai Government is set to collaborate with US-based startup, Cazza Construction Technologies, to aid 3D printing in the country through the company's construction automation technologies.

According to the 'Dubai 3D Printing Strategy', which was launched by UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in April this year, 25% of the buildings in the emirate will be based on 3D printing technology by 2030, and this percentage will rise with the development of global technology as well as growth of market demand.

Chris Kelsey, CEO of the Silicon Valley-based startup, said: “We were one of many groups invited to showcase our technologies in Dubai. The government has been looking around the world, whether it was companies from the Netherlands, China, Russia, or the USA to see the upcoming technologies involving construction automation and 3D printing.  Cont'd...

What are the business and security impacts of Industry 4.0?

Ben Rossi for Information Age:  Industry 4.0 will make manufacturing more efficient and productive. By optimising factories, it will directly improve yield. On the product side, it will also extract greater value from data for usage-based design and mass customisation, which in turn will open the way to new markets. On many levels, it will completely change the business model to an outcome-based approach.

Accenture estimates that automation, connectivity and embedded software can increase production line productivity by up to 30%. The shift from selling products to selling measurable outcomes will redefine whole industry structures. This is the shift to servitisation, whereby companies are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to find new ways to grow revenue and increase profits.

Industrial equipment manufacturers sell outcomes, like machine hours or price-per-user, rather than just products. For the customer it means less disruption, increased uptime, incremented factory yield and ultimately higher satisfaction.  Cont'd...

Using 3D Printing, Lithography & Soft Robotics: New Prosthetic Hands Made for $50 at Cornell

Bridget Butler Millsaps for 3DPrint.com:  What’s so incredible about the soft robotic hand created by a team at Cornell? It can grip, sort, and sense what it is touching. But what’s truly astounding is the potential it offers in terms of price and prosthetics for the future. Bringing forth further innovation and progress to the world of robotics, at $50 one can see how it might have realistic, significant impact on numerous levels.

Dispelling the idea of robots as lovable but clunky machines with a steel and rigid grip, Cornell researchers have managed to create what looks like—and offers the feel of—a human hand. This means that the task list for robots may expand exponentially as they are able to handle more delicate items, to include items like food and other fragile products. This also means that they would be able to work with people without injuring them, such as in a medical setting.  Cont'd...

Japan's Rust Belt Counting on Robonomics to Run Assembly Lines

Yoshiaki Nohara, Toru Fujioka, and Daniel Moss for Bloomberg:  A withering factory town in Japan’s Rust Belt is looking for revival through a dose of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s "robot revolution."

Kadoma’s population has declined 13 percent as the nation ages, prompting mergers among elementary schools and emergency services departments. Factories can’t find enough people to run assembly lines, further threatening an industrial base that includes titan Panasonic Corp. and smaller businesses like Izumo Co., a maker of industrial rubber.

Yet Izumo President Tsutomu Otsubo doesn’t believe the solution involves finding more people. He’d rather find more machines to do the work so his company can capitalize on Abe’s plan to quadruple Japan’s robotics sector into a 2.4 trillion yen ($20 billion) industry by 2020.  Cont'd...

A New Use for High-Speed Fiber Optics: Connecting Smart Factories

Jennifer Baljko for EBN Online:  Machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) have risen to the forefront of many strategic technology conversations.

Companies are revamping product designs and component capabilities to allow for seamless, real-time communication flows between devices. Executives talk about how constant transmission and automated analysis of machine-generated information will transform the way we live, work, play, drive and shop, and change the landscape of our homes, offices, cars, malls, supermarkets, hospitals, gas stations and every other place we move through on a daily basis.

As M2M and IoT shape business and operations strategies, influence product design and compel companies to re-examine how suppler and customer data is collected and used, a question begs: How will companies pool together all their internal factory and supply chain data in a way that matches the speed, consistency and reliability of what IoT promises? The factory, after all, is the heartbeat that keeps many companies operating, and a data bottleneck there comes with a costly implication.

Many in the industry in have started to realize that, and it's resulting in a deeper conversation around industrial IoT, or IIoT.  Cont'd...

Spanish City Installs 3D-Printed Bridge

Jen Kinney for Next City:  Alcobendas, Spain, this week unveiled a 3D-printed pedestrian bridge, reports 3ders.org, a 3D printing news site. The approximately 40-foot concrete bridge is made up of eight separate parts that fit together, and was created using an additive manufacturing process. It spans a small canal in Castilla La Mancha Park.

According to a statement from the Alcobendas City Council, the 3D printing process resulted in far less waste than normally produced while creating concrete structures, making it less expensive than traditional processes.

Large-scale 3D printing holds the promise of versatility — since structural elements can be created without molds or forms — and of sustainability, since raw material can often be recycled and fewer resources are required during manufacture.  Cont'd...

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