Why manufacturing will make or break the future of energy

Lauren Hepler for GreenBiz:  From solar panels a decade ago to energy storage today, the history of clean tech is littered with capital-intensive concepts poised to radically alter the relationship between industrialized society and the environment. But why do these widely heralded breakthroughs always seem to limp along so slowly when it comes to actually hitting the market? The dreaded "valley of death" between conception and commercialization is one increasingly recognized explanation, dooming novel technologies to relegation in never-ending pilot projects as follow-on investment lags. For Mark Johnson, the Department of Energy's resident innovation expert, the real problem often boils down to production. That is, not just inventing a new energy-centric technologies, but making sure those new tools can be reliably made in a cost-effective manner.   Cont'd...

Going Beyond 3D Printing to Add a New Dimension for Additive Manufacturing

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:  A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers has demonstrated the 3D printing of shape-shifting structures that can fold or unfold to reshape themselves when exposed to heat or electricity. The micro-architected structures were fabricated from a conductive, environmentally responsive polymer ink developed at the Lab. In an article published recently by the journal Scientific Reports (link is external), lab scientists and engineers revealed a strategy for creating boxes, spirals and spheres from shape memory polymers (SMPs), bio-based "smart" materials that exhibit shape-changes when resistively heated or when exposed to the appropriate temperature. Lab researcher Jennifer Rodriguez examines a 3D printed box that was "programmed" to fold and unfold when heated While the approach of using responsive materials in 3D printing, often known as "4D printing," is not new, LLNL researchers are the first to combine the process of 3D printing and subsequent folding (via origami methods) with conductive smart materials to build complex structures.   Cont'd...

New technologies reshape production lines

LINSEY MILLER & CHRISTOF WEHNER OF ARTESYN EMBEDDED TECHNOLOGIES, originally Published on Embedded Computing Design:  Whether people call it Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or networked production, they are all talking about coming changing paradigms in the industrial network. Today there are several single-task workstations, manned by humans or robots, which are connected to a higher-level enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. However, that hierarchy is on the cusp of changing massively in the near future to accommodate newer, more intelligent technologies spanning multiple segments of the production line.   Cont'd...

How to prepare a business for an Industry 4.0 network

Joe Bombagi for Business Review Europe:  The first industrial revolution was based on the use of steam to power machines. The second centred on the use of electricity to supply energy to assembly lines. The third came about with the use of electronics and IT to further automate production. But all of that is in the past. We are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, in which the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to overhaul not only business, but also every aspect of modern life. From cars, washing machines, and even clothing, to heart monitors and dams, anything and everything will soon be connected. As a result, the Industry 4.0 phenomenon is expected to revolutionise all areas within the manufacturing space, connecting all the elements that take part in the production process within the industrial environment: machines, products, systems, and people. The IoT will make today’s organisations more competitive by enabling them to further automate manufacturing processes, and collect and analyse data which they can then use to tailor their products to specific client needs.   Cont'd...

This Time, 3D Printer Makers Think They Found a Sweet Spot

Olga Kharif for Bloomberg Technology:  3D printing has long been a cool technology in search of a huge market. The industry may have found one in mass production. Because of its high cost and slow pace, 3D printing’s use in manufacturing has been limited mostly to prototyping, making plastic molds for teeth alignment and creating tools. That may be about to change, potentially lifting the shares of printer makers 3D Systems Inc. and Stratasys Ltd. after a long slump.  HP Inc. will introduce a $130,000 printer later this year, which it says can make parts at half the expense and at least 10 times faster than rival printers -- and likely use lower-cost materials. While HP’s entry could be a competitive blow, it may also help expand the market for 3D mass production, where other printer companies have already turned their focus. Jabil Circuit Inc. plans to be an early adopter of HP’s device, printing end plastic parts for aerospace, auto and industrial applications that it currently makes using processes such as injection molding, John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing at the electronics-manufacturing service provider, said in an interview.   Cont'd...

IISc building India's 1st smart factory in Bengaluru

Chethan Kumar for The Times of India:  India's first smart factory — moving from automation to autonomy — where machines speak with each other, is being set up in Bengaluru. A smart factory, armed with data exchange in manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT) is the future and experts are calling it revolution Industry 4.0. Reports peg the smart factory industry to touch $215 billion by by 2025 and there has been no major economy in the world that is not embracing it. And, India's very own smart factory, the first one, is making progress at the Indian Institute of Science's (IISc) Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM) with a seed funding from The Boeing Company. CPDM Chairman Amaresh Chakrabarti, who spoke exclusively to TOI about the project, said: "Yes, it will actually be manufacturing things here. But it will be a scaled down version, we won't have the numbers of an actual factory." As for the funding, he said: "I can only say Boeing is giving us enough to implement the project. I cannot discuss details. But the project is revolutionary. Indian factories now have automation, we've made some progress there, but here, we are talking about a facility that is autonomous, thinking and working on its own."   Cont'd...

OpenKnit: Open Source Digital Knitting

From OpenKnit: OpenKnit is an open-source, low cost, digital fabrication tool that affords the user the opportunity to create her/his own bespoke clothing from digital files. Starting from the raw material, the yarn, and straight to its end use, a sweater for example, in about an hour. Designing and producing clothes digitally and wearing them can now happen in the very same place, rewarding the user with the ability to make decisions regarding creativity and responsibility.  (homepage) (full instructions for a Wally120 open-source knitting)

Have we solved the nanomaterials problem?

Nick Hall for 3D Printing Industry:   Researchers at Virginia Tech have potentially cracked a conundrum that has tormented the scientific community and created a viable method to produce usable metallic nanomaterials. Of course, 3D printing provided the answer and this really could change the world we live in. Nanostructures have the capacity to disrupt a number of industries and they can revolutionize material science, medicine and battery technology to name just a few. If we can truly harness nanomaterials then almost every facet of modern life will change, from the clothes we wear to our water filtration system. It’s one of those breakthroughs that really could change everything. So the potential is immense, but nanostructures are complex to produce in usable form. Scaling them up to a workable size has caused issues with the structural integrity, performance and consistency. Outside of the theoretical setting, they have largely frustrated us.   Cont'd...

Norsk setting up industrial scale additive manufacturing plant in New York

Aerospace Manufacturing & Design:  Norsk Titanium U.S. is building the world’s first industrial-scale metal additive manufacturing plant by 2017 in Plattsburgh, New York. Officials at the aerospace structural company say the state of New York and the State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institutehave place an order for 20 Norsk MERKE IV Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) machines. “We are proud to be a part of the unwavering vision and leadership of Governor Cuomo and are moving forward in support of his efforts to revitalize upstate New York with jobs, technology and community pride,” says Norsk Titanium Chairman of the Board John Andersen Jr. “Our researchers have spent ten years pioneering the Rapid Plasma Deposition process that is now ready to cut millions of dollars in cost from the world’s premier commercial and military aircraft, and with the foresight displayed in other sectors, the State of New York is the ideal place to launch this manufacturing revolution.” Norsk Titanium President and CEO Warren M. Boley Jr. adds, “Today marks the beginning of a new erain the way aircraft, marine vessels, automobiles, spacecraft, and many industrial products are designed and built. Not only are we creating jobs, huge economic impact and great visibility for the wider Plattsburgh community, we are also making history by kicking off a new phase of on-demand, near-net-shape manufacturing that sets a new benchmark of efficiency and customer responsiveness.”   Cont'd...

Atomic-scale additive manufacturing techniques could create stronger, lighter, smarter materials

Benedict for 3Ders.org:  Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have predicted that atomic-scale 3D printing techniques could be used to create stronger, lighter, and smarter materials. Focused electron- and ion-based methods could be used to develop quantum computers, efficient solar cells, and other technology. In a paper published in the journal ACS Nano, ORNL researchers have reviewed several methods of atomic-scale 3D nanofabrication, suggesting ways in which the processes could be refined in order to perfect the art of creating material at the atomic scale. While traditional 3D printers deal with shapes divided into layers which are then turned into physical objects, the process known as “directed matter” involves fabricating structures atom by atom. Scientists believe that this form of additive manufacturing could allow manufacturers of the future to create near-perfect materials with incredibly precise structures.   Cont'd...

Rise in Robotics Requires New Tax Approach, EU Report Warns

Linda A. Thompson for Bloomberg:  European lawmakers warn that the growing use of robots and artificial intelligence may cause job losses across the continent, threatening to result in plummeting tax revenues if current tax frameworks aren't revised to account for the rise of the robotic workforce. Practitioners told Bloomberg BNA that taxing robots as “electronic persons,” as the EU contemplates in a recent report, would hinder innovation and that other ways of taxing the value that robotics create should be explored. The recent European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs draft reportrecommends the European Commission adopt a resolution to require companies to report on “the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions.” Its first paragraph references Frankenstein, and comes amid mounting concerns that the rise in automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace will fundamentally alter economies, destroy jobs and jeopardize social welfare programs such as social security.   Cont'd...

China's Midea buys nearly half of German robotics firm Kuka

The Star:  Chinese appliances giant Midea moved a step closer to fulfilling its ambition to acquire German industrial robotics firm Kuka with two weekend deals raising its stake to nearly a majority.  Two of Kuka’s biggest German shareholders – technology company Voith and entrepreneur Friedhelm Loh – said they had decided to take up Midea’s offer of €115 (RM512) per share and sell their stakes.  German news agency DPA reported that Voith had agreed to sell its stake of 25.1% for €1.2bil (RM5.34bil).  And Loh told the business daily Handelsblatt he had decided to sell his stake of 10% for nearly €500mil (RM2.22bil).  Combined with its existing holding of 13.5% in Kuka, the two purchases mean Midea now holds 48.5%, or not far from the outright majority, in the Augsburg-based robot builder.   Cont'd.. .

Companies, employees not quite ready for cognitive technology wave of robotics, AI, machine learning

Larry Dignan for Between the Lines:  Robots, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other cognitive technologies will replace about 7 percent of U.S. jobs by 2025 with office and administrative staff taking the biggest hit, according to a Forrester Research forecast. The bad news is jobs will be lost. The good news is that new gigs will be created as cognitive technology takes hold. One reason the disruption won't be larger or happen sooner is that companies aren't ready for the change related to the new automated workforce, said Forrester. Among the key items: 16 percent of U.S. jobs will be replaced, but 9 percent of jobs will be created. That's how Forrester gets to the 7 percent job loss by 2025 figure. Emerging jobs will be robot monitoring pros, data scientists, automation specialists and content curators. 93 percent of automation technologists feel unprepared to take on smart machine technologies. 83 percent saw cognitive computing as critical to their companies' future. 32 percent of respondents said they are prepared for the cognitive technology changes ahead, but only 12 percent are prepared to deal with the human and organizational fallout. 46 percent say the number of jobs will remain about the same and 43 percent of respondents thought jobs would decline. Full Article:

Midea makes bid for robotics maker Kuka official

DW.com:  Chinese appliance firm Midea has announced it has launched a cash offer for a stake of 30 percent in German industrial robotics supplier Kuka. The takeover bid has stoked controversy in Germany and Europe. Midea said on Thursday it would offer 115 euros ($130) per share to Kuka owners under efforts to become the biggest single shareholder in one of the world's leading manufacturers of industrial robots. The Chinese appliance maker, which is so far only known to be producing washing machines and air conditioners, also said its offer would end July 15, with no ceiling on the percentage of shares it was aiming to buy.  Kuka shares closed at just above 106 euros in trading at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The stock gained about 26 percent since the deal was first proposed in May.   Cont'd...

3D printing of patterned membranes opens door to rapid advances in membrane technology

Penn State Materials Research Institute via Science Daily:  A new type of 3D printing developed by researchers at Penn State will make it possible for the first time to rapidly prototype and test polymer membranes that are patterned for improved performance. Ion exchange membranes are used in many types of energy applications, such as fuel cells and certain batteries, as well as in water purification, desalination, removal of heavy metals and food processing. Most ion exchange membranes are thin, flat sheets similar to the plastic wrap in your kitchen drawer. However, recent work has shown that by creating 3D patterns on top of the 2D membrane surface, interesting hydrodynamic properties emerge that can improve ion transport or mitigate fouling, a serious problem in many membrane applications. Currently, making these patterned membranes, also called profiled membranes, involves a laborious process of etching a silicon mold with the desired pattern, pouring in the polymer and waiting until it hardens. The process is both time-consuming and expensive, and results in a single pattern type. “We thought if we could use 3D printing to fabricate our custom-synthesized ion exchange membranes, we could make any sort of pattern and we could make it quickly,” says Michael Hickner, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Penn State.   Cont'd...

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MICROSCAN: READ AND VERIFY BARCODES INVISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE

MICROSCAN: READ AND VERIFY BARCODES INVISIBLE TO THE NAKED EYE

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