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...

Bosch Rexroth launches Industry 4.0 training rigs

The Engineer:  Bosch Rexroth has launched a new range of training rigs designed to help students get up to speed with the internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. The rigs will form part of the company’s Drive & Control Academy programme and are built with industry-grade components. Aimed specifically at educational and industrial institutions, the rigs are tailored towards students and teachers as well as customers and employees, designed to assist with the adoption of Industry 4.0 practices. According to Bosch Rexroth, the modular hydraulic, pneumatic and mechatronic systems simulate a complete production process, combining several elements that can be operated individually or together. The physical rigs are accompanied by corresponding exercises, eLearning, project manuals and other supporting material. “The launch of our new training rigs offering is market leading and aims to provide the younger generation with a better understanding in the future of manufacturing,” said Richard Chamberlain, product manager service at Bosch Rexroth. “We firmly believe our industry grade training rigs will equip students with the ability to stay ahead of the curve. Our course material helps guide trainees through consecutive steps that build on one another, which means motivation remains high.”   Cont'd...

Foxconn Replaces 60,000 Labourers With Robots in China

Subhrojit Mallick  for GIZMODO India:   Apple and Samsung phone manufacturer, Foxconn has already taken a step towards the dystopian future. The South China Morning Post reported the manufacturing giant has replaced 60,000 laborers with robots. The total strength of Foxconn factory workers reduced from 110,000 to 50,000, marking a huge shift towards automation of routine jobs.  The Foxconn technology group confirmed to the BBC that they are automating many of the manufacturing tasks associated with their operations by introducing robots. However, they maintained the move will not affect long-term job losses.    Cont'd...

China's Big Bid For Germany's Industry 4.0 Technology

Klaus E. Meyer for Forbes:  Midea, the Chinese household appliances (“white goods”) manufacturer just made what analysts called an ‘incredibly high’ bid for German robot maker Kuka. This acquisition would take the Chinese investor right to the heart of Industry 4.0 : Kuka is a leading manufacturer of multifunctional robots that represent an important building block for enterprises upgrading their factories with full automation, the latest human-machine interface functionality, and machine-to-machine communication. Midea want a 30% stake in Kuka and have offered €115 per share. Kuka’s shares traded at €84 the day before and had already increased 60% since the beginning of the year. This offer values Kuka at €4.6 billion, which means Midea’s 30% stake would be worth €1.4 billion – on par with Beijing Enterprise’s February 2016 takeover of recycling company EEW which was the largest Chinese acquisition of a German firm to-date. Midea’s takeover bid underscores Chinese interest in German Industry 4.0 technology; in January 2016, ChemChina paid €925 million for Munich-based KraussMaffei machine tools, in part because of their advances into Industry 4.0. Recent smaller Chinese acquisitions in the German machine tool industry, which include the partial acquisitions of H.Stoll by the ShangGong Group and of Manz by the Shanghai Electric Group are, in part, motivated by the objective to partake in the latest Industry 4.0 developments.   Cont'd...

German manufacturers take aim at smart factories, mass customization

TOMOHISA TAKEI, Nikkei staff writer:  It has been five years since Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, was first unveiled at the Hannover Messe industrial technology trade fair in Germany.      Industry 4.0 was more of a conceptual model at that time. This year, however, the trade show witnessed an emerging trend toward "smart factories" that can provide mass customization.      On April 25, SEW-Eurodrive's booth at Hannover Messe drew crowds of visitors. The German industrial motor maker demonstrated its automated vehicles for next-generation assembly plants, what it calls the "Lean Smart Factory."      In SEW-Eurodrive's demonstration, about 10 such "smart vehicles" moved about as five workers assembled products. One vehicle approached its target worker, displayed a procedure on its screen and instructed the worker to do the assembly work. After the worker completed the task, the vehicle received the product and moved on to another worker in charge of the next process.      These smart vehicles were connected over a network and programmed at the company factory. But it looked as if the products themselves were driving the vehicles and moved to where the tasks needed to be done. SEW-Eurodrive has already introduced the system at its factory in the southwestern German town of Graben-Neudorf, intending to make individually tailored products in the future.   Cont'd...

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