These Five Exponential Trends Are Accelerating Robotics

Alison E. Berman for Singularity Hub:   If you've been staying on top of artificial intelligence news lately, you may know that the games of chess and Go were two of the grand challenges for AI. But do you know what the equivalent is for robotics? It's table tennis. Just think about how the game requires razor sharp perception and movement, a tall order for a machine. As entertaining as human vs. robot games can be, what they actually demonstrate is much more important. They test the technology's readiness for practical applications in the real world—like self-driving cars that can navigate around unexpected people in a street. Though we used to think of robots as clunky machines for repetitive factory tasks, a slew of new technologies are making robots faster, stronger, cheaper, and even perceptive, so that they can understand and engage with their surrounding environments. Consider Boston Dynamic’s Atlas Robot, which can walk through snow, move boxes, endure a hefty blow with a hockey stick by an aggressive colleague, and even regain its feet when knocked down. Not too long ago, such tasks were unthinkable for a robot. At the Exponential Manufacturing conference, robotics expert and director of Columbia University’s Creative Machine Labs, Hod Lipson, examined five exponential trends shaping and accelerating the future of the robotics industry.    Cont'd...

Inside the Gigafactory That Will Decide Tesla's Fate

From Bloomberg: To get to Tesla’s Gigafactory, you drive east from Reno, Nevada, turn into a sprawling industrial center, and make a left on Electric Avenue. The high desert landscape dwarfs everything, even the vast white building with the red stripe along the top. As you reach the gate with the security guard, the breadth of Tesla’s ambitions becomes clear. Even the name itself suggests more to come: Gigafactory 1... ...The $5 billion Gigafactory was born of necessity. Tesla needs a hell of a lot of batteries, for both the forthcoming mass-market Model 3 sedan and the Tesla Energy product line. The timeline for getting those batteries made just became much shorter, too. On Wednesday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk stunned investors by announcing a sped-up production schedule that calls for a half-million electric vehicles per year by 2018, not the previously stated goal of 2020. For a company that delivered just 50,658 vehicles in 2015, the ramp looks like a hockey stick... (full story)

Three ways to leverage IIoT

Scott Stone for Plant Engineering:  The Internet of Things (IoT) will significantly alter manufacturing, transportation, distribution and other industrial sectors over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum. We've only hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ways Internet-connected devices will transform these industrial sectors. To put a number on the anticipated growth of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) over the next few years, Accenture places conservative spending estimates at $500 billion worldwide by 2020. Forward-thinking businesses are already leveraging the power of the IIoT and reaping the benefits. When used effectively, it allows companies to better manage their operation, increase production and transform business for the better. Let's take a look at how industrial organizations should be harnessing IIoT to set their businesses up for future growth.   Cont'd...

The MakerBot Obituary

From Brian Benchoff at Hackaday:   MakerBot is not dead, but it is connected to life support waiting for a merciful soul to pull the plug.  This week, MakerBot announced it would lay off its entire manufacturing force, outsourcing the manufacturing of all MakerBot printers to China. A few weeks ago, Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company, released their 2015 financial reports, noting MakerBot sales revenues have fallen precipitously. The MakerBot brand is now worth far less than the $400 Million Stratasys spent to acquire it. MakerBot is a dead company walking, and it is very doubtful MakerBot will ever be held in the same regard as the heady days of 2010. How did this happen? The most common explanation of MakerBot’s fall from grace is that Stratasys gutted the engineering and goodwill of the company after acquiring it. While it is true MakerBot saw its biggest problems after the acquisition from Stratasys, the problems started much earlier... (full article) (fist hand account from Isaac Anderson)

Disney files patent for near instantaneous 3D printing

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Disney Research has filed a patent for a 3D printing technology that uses high-intensity light to harden photo-sensitive resin in a single process, removing the need for layer-by-layer printing. The patent describes a machine for printing in "a nearly instantaneous manner." "Presently, 3D printing is extremely slow and time consuming. For example, it may take several hours to print a single 3D object even if the 3D object is relatively small (e.g., several inches in diameter and four to 12 inches tall)," Disney stated in its patent filing. "The 3D printing process that uses conventional 3D printers ... is limited in its speed by the speed of the mechanism moving the print head to each new position on a print layer."   Cont'd...

Examining 'Industry 4.0′ opportunities in Japan

MINORU MATSUTANI for Japan Times:   “Industry 4.0,” or the fourth industrial revolution, can offer both opportunities and risks for the Japanese economy. It is a term to describe the future state of the economy, particularly manufacturing, based on the connectivity of everything, or the “Internet of Things” (IoT). This connectivity includes not only PCs and mobile phones, but also cars, manufacturing equipment and other devices. Although Japan is said to lag behind other developed nations, a recent gathering discussed whether the country could thrive in this new economy. A consultant, an IT service company president, an employee of the same company and a university professor, all of whom are Japanese, delivered presentations and discussed related issues at a symposium organized by the Keizai Koho Center, titled “The Future of Industry (Industry 4.0) and Japan’s Economic Growth,” in Tokyo on March 18.   Full Article:

A Swarm Of 3D Printing Spiders Could Build Your Next Home

IDO LECHNER for PSFK:  Watching an object being 3D-printed is a spectacle to behold; the speed at which intricate geometries unfold before your eyes is enough for anyone to reckon that this is the future of manufacturing. While both consumer-grade models and more advanced versions are capable of whipping up objects made from different materials, each with their own aesthetic and subsequent properties, the scale of what can be fabricated is entirely based on the size of the printer at use. For this reason, a research team based out of Siemens’ Corporate Technology’s Princeton campus has developed mobile 3D printers in the shape of spiders, which are both autonomous and capable of working in sync to expedite the printing process. PSFK spoke with Siemens’ Director of R&D of Engineering Livio Dalloro on why the team decided to shape their printers like spiders, the implications such a technique might have on the industry, and how Siemens sees the device unfolding in the foreseeable future.   Cont'd...

Bring 3D printed robots to life with 'Ziro' hand-controlled robotics kit

Benedict for 3Ders.org:   Tech startup ZeroUI, based in San Jose, California, has launched an Indiegogo campaign for Ziro, the “world’s first hand-controlled robotics kit”. The modular kit has been designed to bring 3D printed creations to life, and has already surpassed its $30,000 campaign goal. It would be fair to say that the phenomenon of gesture recognition, throughout the wide variety of consumer electronics to which it has been introduced, has been a mixed success. The huge popularity of the Nintendo Wii showed that—for the right product—users were happy to use their hands and bodies as controllers, but for every Wii, there are a million useless webcam or smartphone functions, lying dormant, unused, and destined for the technology recycle bin.   Full Article:  

Obama and Merkel open HANNOVER MESSE

"We want to build on the spirit of innovation in the USA," said POTUS Barack Obama in his opening speech. This spirit has been driven by Germany and HANNOVER MESSE, especially over the past 70 years. Obama added that the USA has now created new production facilities, subsidy schemes and jobs in recent years to help reach this goal. In what is likely his last visit to Germany as President, Obama spoke in particular about the TTIP free trade agreement. He believes that there are too many obstacles restricting trade between the EU and the USA. Different regulations and standards lead to higher costs. Therefore, one of TTIP's aims is to establish harmonized high standards. Obama also promoted the USA as a production location for European companies. Angela Merkel gladly took the opportunity to respond:  "We love competition. But we also like to win,"  replied the German Chancellor. A challenge with a smile. In her speech, Merkel emphasized that cooperation is essential for the future of industrial production - in a transatlantic partnership. "We in the EU want to lead the way, together with the USA," said the Chancellor, referring above all to the development of global communication and IT standards for integrated industry. However, the opening ceremony at HANNOVER MESSE 2016 was more than a meeting of Heads of State. Amidst musical numbers and dance performances by humans and machines, German Minister for Education and Research, Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, presented the coveted HERMES AWARD for industrial innovation. This year's winner is the Harting Group with its intelligent communication module, MICA.   Cont'd...

46% of German companies use Industry 4.0 - survey

Almost one in two companies in the manufacturing sector (46%) use Industry 4.0 applications, while another 19 percent have specific plans to implement them, according to a recent Bitkom survey among 559 industrial companies with more than 100 employees. About 65 percent of the German industrial companies are already active in the Industry 4.0 sector. Around 23 percent of the companies asked have no concrete plans to use Industry 4.0 but will consider use for the future. Only 12 percent stated that this is not an issue currently. The study also showed that companies are still careful when it comes to investments: although 57 percent of the companies use or plan to use Industry 4.0, the budget for this is on average only 4 percent of the total revenue. Users and planners of Industry 4.0 primarily aim to optimise processes (69%) and to improve the capacity utilisation of their factories (57%). Half of the respondents expect a faster realisation of their customers’ individual wishes. 44 percent want to reduce their production costs with Industry 4.0 and 19 percent their personnel costs.   Cont'd...

The Questions Executives Should Ask About 3D Printing

Channing Flynn for Harvard Business Review:  Most hearing aids in the U.S. are now custom-made on 3D printers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first 3D-printed pills. Carmakers have started using 3D technology to produce parts. And last year saw the first demonstration of a digital printer producing multilayer, standards-based circuit boards. Imagine the changes afoot in the pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive, and consumer electronics industries. 3D printing is poised to redefine global manufacturing and distribution. It could upend supply chains, business models, customer relationships, and even entrepreneurship itself. It may do to physical goods what cloud computing is now doing to digital services; what the PC, internet, and smart mobility have done to personal computing; and what outsourcing did to software development and business processing — take mass distribution and innovation to the next level while realigning the very geography of work and trade.   Cont'd...

Swagway Teardown: What Makes a Safe Hoverboard?

From Andrew Goldberg at Ifixit.org: The board is also smart enough to not drive around without you. Riders need both feet firmly planted on the board or it won’t be going anywhere. Just how does the board know you’re properly mounted? Each foot pad has two infrared sensors—one at the toe, one at the heel. Stepping down on the pad pushes a peg between emitter and receiver. Only when all four sensors are blocked are you ready to roll... ...Those sensor switches live on the backs of the two gyro boards—one for each wheel. These boards are largely responsible for the “smart” part of smartboard. Each board is home to an Invensense MPU6050 6-axis gyroscope+accelerometer, and a GigaDeviceGD32F130 ARM Cortex-M3 32-bit microcontroller (thanks, Ken!). The ARM chips are responsible for reading the infrared switches, controlling the sweet underglow headlights and top-mounted indicator LEDs, and collating and sending data from the MPU6050 to the main board (more on that later)... ( full article )  

How Microfactories Can Bring Iterative Manufacturing to the Masses

ANDREW O'KEEFE and JASON DORRIER for Singularity Hub:  Humans manufacture a mind-numbing amount of stuff each year—ever wonder how we do it? In the past 100 or more years, it’s been all about economies of scale. This means you should make a lot of a thing because the more you make, the more your fixed expenses get spread out. This reduces the cost of each unit, from light bulbs to iPhones. Here’s the problem. It’s expensive to do a big manufacturing run. So, how do you know what to make in the first place? Often, it’s an educated guess based on prototypes and limited feedback, but you don’t really know until you try to sell a product—and by then, you’re fully committed, succeed or fail. Jay Rogers of Local Motors wants to upend common wisdom. Manufacturers should run through tons ofpotentially good ideas and then test them out to see if people actually want what they’re making before going full scale. And Rogers thinks microfactories are the way to do it.   Cont'd...

This 3D printer can rival standard manufacturing on the factory floor

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Start-up Carbon began shipping its industrial-grade 3D printer with the expectation that big-name companies will soon be using it to replace traditional forms of manufacturing. Last year, the Silicon Valley company emerged from quiet mode to announce its technology: a machine that can create objects 25 to 100 times faster than other 3D printers. Carbon is not selling its M1 3D printer outright, but instead is offering it through a subscription price of $40,000 per year, which includes a service and maintenance plan. The three-year-old company based in Redwood City, Calif. said its Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) printing process can create objects in minutes compared to the hours a typical 3D printer requires.   Cont'd...

With this new 3D printing technique, robots can "practically walk right out of the printer"

Katherine Noyes for Digital Arts:  Imagine you could use a standard 3D printer to create your next robotic assistant. Just snap in a motor and battery, and it's ready to go. That's precisely the scenario made possible by a new 3D printing technique developed at MIT. Liquids have long been a challenge for 3D printing, and they're necessary for hydraulic devices like moving robots. On Wednesday, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) announced what they call the first-ever technique for 3D printing robots that can print solid and liquid materials at the same time.   Cont'd...

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