Do the benefits of robotics outweigh the heavy demands on infrastructure?

Ben Rossi for Information Age:   Robotics has already been deployed in manufacturing to great effect for over a decade, performing delicate and precise tasks with greater accuracy than humans. But now cutting-edge robots and other smart machines are set to join forces with the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, which Gartner estimates will total 25 billion devices by 2020. In healthcare, robotic services are already operating pharmacy dispensers and robotic trolleys are now deployed in a growing number of hospitals. In hospitality, robots deliver services such as drinks dispensing and automated trolley deliveries. Robots have even made their way into education, where they are being deployed successfully as a tutor, tool or peer in learning activities. But what impact will this large-scale adoption of robotics have on existing networks as they encounter inevitable further strain?   Cont'd...

3D Hubs, an online marketplace for local 3D printing, scores $7M Series B

Steve O'Hear for TechCrunch:  3D Hubs, an online marketplace for 3D printing services, is tapping into two recent trends enabled by industrial 3D printing: the rapid prototyping of new products, and the move to personalised and bespoke production. The Amsterdam-headquartered startup connects those requiring 3D printing with local 3D printers, both through its website that lets you order 3D printing jobs online, including getting a real-time quote, and via an API that enables companies to automate short production runs of products on-demand. The latter, of course, is also powering “zero-inventory” manufacturing: products are only produced on a per-order basis (and in some instances are also fulfilled directly to the end customer), which is another trend that is starting to gain traction.   Cont'd...

Robotics, automation, and how a strong network is needed to connect it all up

Manish Sablokk for IoTTech:   Cutting-edge robots and other advanced smart machines are set to be added into the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, which is projected to reach 25 billion devices by 2020. Robotics has already been used in manufacturing to great effect for over a decade, performing delicate and precise tasks with a higher success rate than humans. With advancements such as 'deep learning' robots, delivery drones and ubiquitous knowledge-sharing between machines, widespread robotics adoption is becoming far more feasible. In healthcare, there are already robotic services in operation with automated pharmacy dispensing and robotic trolleys - robots that can navigate between floors and even call the lift using a Wi-Fi sensor. The hospitality sector has also been a keen adopter of robotics to deliver services and in education, robots are being deployed successfully as a tutor, tool or peer in learning activities, providing language, science and technology education.   Cont'd...

Industrial digitisation on fast track

The New Indian Express:  In a move to build the digital enterprise, the digitisation in industrial sector is  set to grow to 65 percent in the next five years as it is a priority of most CEOs in the industry, according to a PwC report. According to PwC Industry 4.0 report, more than half of the industrial companies in India are using data analytics and over 90 per cent expect data to impact their decision-making in five years. Globally, digitisation is expected to rise to 72 per cent from 33 per cent, the report noted. It is also noted that around 39 percent of the companies plan to invest more than 8 percent of their annual revenues in digital programmes in the next five years.   Cont'd...

Where do you get the I/O for the IIoT?

Nick Butler, National Instruments for ControlDesign:  Data is the heart of all Internet of Things systems, including systems deployed into industrial environments. When we talk about making the aging electrical grid smarter or the factory of the future more efficient, what we’re really after are insights that can make our equipment and infrastructure smarter and more efficient. And to deliver these incredibly valuable insights, which will result in millions of dollars in savings, uptime or operational efficiency, we need data. Lots of it. We also need complex, computationally intensive algorithms that scour the data to find trends, patterns and anomalies (Figure 1). While these algorithms and analysis routines are a very important piece of the IIoT puzzle, the best data scientists in the world cannot predict equipment failures without enormous amounts of data.   Cont'd...

Hitachi Begins Development of Factory Automation Platform as a Service Testbed

Kagan Pittman for Engineering.com:  Will the Internet of Things be the future of manufacturing? Global conglomerate Hitachi Group seems to think so. Hitachi recently partnered with Mitsubishi Electric and Intel to receive approval for their Factory Automation Platform as a Service (FA PaaS) Testbed at the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), a global non-profit organization. The testbed will operate as a testing platform based on the reference model of IIC to test solutions in controlled scenarios that match real-world conditions, for the ultimate purpose of connecting manufacturing sites with head offices in order to streamline their operations. Hitachi hopes to use the FA PaaS to respond to what they see as a market rapidly growing and demanding faster product development, market introduction, quality improvements and shorter lead times.   Cont'd...

Schneider Electric's three steps for implementing Industry 4.0

Eric Emin Wood for IT World Canada:  Manufacturing companies with visions of incorporating the latest automated, cloud-based, analytical tech into their production process need to recognize the value of a measured approach, an original equipment manufacturing (OEM) veteran says. Martin Stephenson, vice president of process automation for OEM Schneider Electric Canada, which specializes in power management, building management, datacentres, and process and automation control, says that while some firms are equipped to embrace the change right away, others might find that implementing what he calls “Industry 4.0” isn’t a good fit for them at all. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” he says. “Customers need to have a truthful conversation with themselves and say, ‘How do we manage what we do now? Are we ready for this step? … Do we have the right infrastructure? Do we have the right cybersecurity in place?’ There are a lot of discussions to be had before this leap of faith happens.”   Cont'd...

10 Ways Machine Learning Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Louis Columbus for Forbes:  Every manufacturer has the potential to integrate machine learning into their operations and become more competitive by gaining predictive insights into production. Machine learning’s core technologies align well with the complex problems manufacturers face daily. From striving to keep supply chains operating efficiently to producing customized, built- to-order products on time, machine learning algorithms have the potential to bring greater predictive accuracy to every phase of production. Many of the algorithms being developed are iterative, designed to learn continually and seek optimized outcomes. These algorithms iterate in milliseconds, enabling manufacturers to seek optimized outcomes in minutes versus months. The ten ways machine learning is revolutionizing manufacturing include the following:

'UK manufacturers fail to understand Industry 4.0'

Ian Vallely for Works Management:  There isn't enough understanding of Industry 4.0 by UK manufacturers, according to a report by BDO in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  It said just 8% of UK manufacturers have a significant understanding of Industry 4.0 processes despite 59% recognising that the fourth industrial revolution will have a big impact on the sector, according to the report . As the increasing use of automation, data exchange, technology and wider supply chain communications driven by Industry 4.0 provides both huge opportunities and threats to UK manufacturing, there remains a ‘gaping hole’ in the education and understanding of Industry 4.0. According to the BDO Industry 4 0 Report, increased productivity, better data analysis, increased competitiveness and lower manufacturing costs are the top ways in which Industry 4.0 will affect UK manufacturing.   Cont'd...

FIRST 3D TOOLS PRINTED ABOARD SPACE STATION

Evan Gough for UniverseToday:  Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have manufactured their first tool using the 3D printer on board the station. This is another step in the ongoing process of testing and using additive manufacturing in space. The ability to build tools and replacement parts at the station is something NASA has been pursuing keenly. The first tool printed was a simple wrench. This may not sound like ground-breaking stuff, unless you’ve ever been in the middle of a project only to find you’re missing a simple tool. A missing tool can stop any project in its tracks, and change everybody’s plans. The benefits of manufacturing needed items in space are obvious. Up until now, every single item needed on the ISS had to be sent up via re-supply ship. That’s not a quick turnaround. Now, if a tool is lost or destroyed during normal use, a replacement can be quickly manufactured on-site.   Cont'd...

MIT Food Computers

From MIT:   The Food Computer is a controlled-environment agriculture technology platform that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber. Climate variables such as carbon dioxide, air temperature, humidity, dissolved oxygen, potential hydrogen, electrical conductivity, and root-zone temperature are among the many conditions that can be controlled and monitored within the growing chamber. Operational energy, water, and mineral consumption are monitored (and adjusted) through electrical meters, flow sensors, and controllable chemical dosers throughout the growth period. Each specific set of conditions can be thought of as a climate recipe, and each recipe produces unique results in the phenotypes of the plants. Plants grown under different conditions may vary in color, size, texture growth rate, yield, flavor, and nutrient density. Food Computers can even program biotic and abiotic stresses, such as an induced drought, to create desired plant-based expressions... (project homepage)

Carnegie Mellon Taps Private Gift for Engineering Simulation Center

Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology:  Carnegie Mellon University has launched a new collaboration with Ansys, a global company that produces software for engineering simulation. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will endow a new "Ansys Career Development Chair" in the College of Engineering and help fund a new building dedicated to the study of Industry 4.0. That facility will bring together faculty, students, researchers and corporate participants. Industry 4.0 is the name given to a movement that uses sensor, robotic, simulation and other innovative technologies to shrink development cycles and transform product design, development and manufacturing. The new 30,000 square foot facility, which will be known as the Ansys Building, is intended to expand the "making" capabilities of the college by adding a simulation and collaboration lab and a large open bay facility for undergraduate students to build full-scale projects. That open bay facility will be next door to the fabrication and machining facilities of the Hamerschlag Hall MakerWing, announced in December, where students will be able to make their components and then assemble them into larger systems.   Cont'd...

How Small Manufacturers Can Leverage Smart Manufacturing

Andrew Waycott for Industry Week:  I see three ways in which smaller manufacturers can leverage Smart Manufacturing.  The first is the way applicable to all manufacturers—using today’s affordable sensors to get better data, then using that data to fine-tune the process, decrease variability and remove bottlenecks. All of these bring costs down and drive quality up. Now let’s talk about the other two ways—ways that are specific to the smaller manufacturer. Smaller manufacturers have the edge in building volumes of one—in other words, customized orders. For many smaller manufacturers, the look is less assembly line and more set of work stations. This means that the operator in a smaller plant typically makes more decisions. It’s a more people-oriented process.   Cont'd...

The Biggest Challenges of Data-Driven Manufacturing

Willy C. Shih and Helmuth Ludwig for Harvard Business Review:  The widespread deployment of low-cost sensors and their connection to the internet has generated a great deal of excitement (and hype) about the future of manufacturing. The internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet in the United States, Industrie 4.0 in Germany, and 物"网 (wù lián wăng) in China are all centered on the application of big data and analytics to creating the next generation of manufacturing: using data to reduce costs through next generation sales and operations planning, dramatically improved productivity, supply chain and distribution optimization, and new types of after-sales services. In fact, IoT is at the peak of Gartner’s 2015 hype cycle, which suggests the next phase will be disillusionment, and it will be years before we see real productivity gains. We believe data-driven manufacturing is indeed the next wave that will drive efficient and responsive production systems. But to get beyond the hype, managers need to understand some underlying challenges and paradigm shifts. While there are a multitude of challenges on the road to successful implementation, we think there are four especially important ones.   Cont'd...

RAPID 2016 - HP begins selling its Jet Fusion 3D printer; says it's 50% cheaper, 10X faster than others

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Hewlett-Packard today began taking orders for its first 3D printer, the HP Jet Fusion printer, which it said will be up to 10 times faster than existing machines and can cut the cost of manufacturing parts in half. At the RAPID 3D additive manufacturing conference here, HP revealed two models:  the lower-cost and lower production 3200 series and the 4200 series, for which it is now taking orders. The 4200 series will begin shipping to manufacturers in October; the 3200 series will be available in mid-2017. HP originally unveiled its Jet Fusion printer in October 2014. HP claims its printer will enable mass production of parts through additive manufacturing (3D printing), instead of just rapid prototyping, for which the technology  is typically used. The printers are unlikely to be used to produce millions or billions of production parts; think, instead, in terms of hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of parts, HP said.   Cont'd...

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