INDUSTRY

MANUFACTURING

INTRODUCTION

While labour-saving automation of manufacturing processes started in the 18th century, it was in 1959 that computer numerical control (CNC) technology was introduced to program machine tools. (In 1970, Nick programmed a drill press using APT, a special-purpose computer language developed at MIT.) The first industrial robot, patented by George Devoi in 1954, was installed by General Motors in 1962. Now there are over 1 million robots installed world-wide, used for such applications as welding, painting, assembly, pick and place for printed circuit boards, packaging and labeling, palletizing, product inspection, and testing – and manufacturing industrial robots.

The most disruptive technology that will decimate jobs in the manufacturing industry is additive manufacturing (often referred to as 3D-printing). This is the technology that builds 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material (which may be plastic, metal, concrete, or human tissue), under the control of 3D modeling software. The technology was invented in Japan in 1981. Besides learning to work with different materials and layering techniques, current research includes varying the location of the x-y axis to change the physical properties of the product, and introducing a 4th dimension – time – in which a 3D-printer can be used to manufacture a 3D object that, when later heated or cooled to a specific temperature, will transform into a different 3D shape.

The initial use of 3D-printing was rapid prototyping (eliminating the need for molds), which significantly reduced and improved the quality of new product design. Now almost any shape or product can be manufactured, including such diverse products as guns, the exterior of houses, and human organs.

Studies have indicated that each industrial robot replaces over 6 shopfloor workers (and that does not include the reduction in supervision and support services) – and that over 8 million workers would have been required in the US if robots were not used. As the functionality of robots continues to expand, there will be manufacturing plants without human workers!

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Ultimaker interview: The future of 3D-printing (Additive Manufacturing – 2018-02 – ZDNet)

3D-printing is moving from instant prototyping to full-scale production in healthcare, aerospace and other industries (Additive Manufacturing – 2018-01 – ZDNet)

How Blockchain is being used in supply management (Blockchain/Supply Management – 2017-11 – TechRepublic)

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Self-assembling materials that can be printed inexpensively and shipped flat (Additive Manufacturing - 2018-04 - ZDNet)

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a process that allows plastic printed with a cheap 3D-printer to fold itself into predetermined shapes with the application of heat. The material may one day be used to produce flat-pack products that can be assembled quickly with a heat gun.

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Alibaba is trialling a blockchain platform for supply chain tracking (Blockchain/Supply Chain - 2018-04 - Coindesk)

Alibaba is trialing a blockchain platform for supply chain tracking to counter the spread of counterfeit food and health products. The new pilot program will track international shipments to China from an Australian healthcare supplier and a New Zealand dairy product maker.

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Robot will crawl through pipes to help decommission nuclear facility (Robotics/Maintenance - 2018-03 - ZDNet)

Robots have found a particularly important niche working in radioactive and toxic environments. After the Fukushima disaster, Japanese roboticists have created several robots capable of surviving, if only for a few minutes, inside the compromised reactor cores. Decommissioning the Piketon, Ohio facility will be helped by 2 customized autonomous robots, developed at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, which will identify uranium deposits on pipe walls, costly when done by human workers

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New method 3D-prints fully functional electronic circuits (Additive Manufacturing/Electronics - 2017-11 - Kurzweil)

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed a method for rapidly 3D-printing fully functional electronic circuits such as antennas, medical devices, and solar-energy-collecting structures.
These circuits can contain both electrically conductive metallic inks and insulating polymeric inks. A UV light is used to rapidly solidify the inks.

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Adidas creating small batches of city-specific sneakers, using robots and athlete data to cut shoe production (Robotics/Shoes - 2017-10 - TechRepublic)

Using its Speedfactory in Germany, Adidas is making shoes designed for certain cities, starting with London. The factory uses athlete data to create the city-customized designs, with manufacture by robots, cutting time to market from >12 months to <2 months. Mass production profitability requires at least 50,000 shoes, with Adidas employing a million factory workers in China and Vietnam.

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Small manufacturers operating all night using robots and automation (Robotics - 2017-10 - ZDNet)

A new class of collaborative industrial robots (‘cobots’), is distinguished by their relatively easy programming, and their ability to work safely alongside people thanks to robust safety features. Universal Robots is a major supplier with about 60% of the global market and $99 million (2016). Cobots can be used for ‘lights-out’ (i.e. all nght) operation.

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Robots have been responsible for <8% of work on Toyota’s global assembly lines (Robotics - 2017-09 - FastCompany)

Toyota’s automation ratio today is no higher than it was 15 years ago, based on the premise that only people can improve their own efficiency or the quality of their work. Toyota consistently generates industry best profit margins, often 8% or more, by focusing on their New Global Architecture in which material usage is improved making the cars lighter and more fuel-efficient, while the manufacturing process is improved.

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A new T-shirt sewing robot can make as many shirts per hour as 17 factory workers (Robotics/Clothing - 2017-08 - Quartz)

Georgia’s Softwear Automation has extended the functionality of LOWRY, its sewing robot, or sewbot, from using machine vision to spot and adjust to distortions in fabric, to making whole T-shirts and much of a pair of jeans. One of its robotic sewing lines can replace a conventional line of 10 workers, and produce about 1,142 t-shirts in an eight-hour period, compared to just 669 for the human sewing line.

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GE plans largest 3D-printer, building metal objects <1 cubic metre (Additive Manufacturing - 2017-07 - Technology.org)

GE is planning to build the largest 3D printer. using powdered titanium, aluminum, and other metals. It will be capable of 3D-printing objects up to 1 cubic metre.

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US manufactures more with 8 million fewer employees (Robotics - 2017-05 - TechRepublic)

Moshe Vardi, a computer science professor at Rice University and a leading expert in AI, points out that manufacturing is actually at an all-time high, but uses 8 million fewer employees. (Robots cost $15/hour to operate.) It’s impossible to predict the result of automation on the local basis, and people need to move to something that they do better than machines, which would involve higher-value skills.

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Large metal objects can be 3D-printed in a fraction of the time needed by current technology (Additive Manufacturing - 2017-05 - Technology.org)

Lawrence Livermore researchers use high-powered arrays of laser diodes, a Q-switched laser and a specialized laser modulator to flash print an entire layer of metal powder at a time, instead of raster scanning with a laser across each layer. Large metal objects could be printed in a fraction of the time needed for metal 3D printers on the market today, expanding possibilities for industries requiring larger metal parts, such as aerospace and automotive.

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Tomorrow’s office furniture will be rapidly 3D-printed in pools of goo (Additive Manufacturing/Furniture - 2017-04 - Quartz)

The furniture company, Steelcase, partnered with MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab at its International Design Center to create a printer that uses liquefied rubber, plastic or foam, which is injected into a scalable vat of gel (algae) that holds 3D-printed objects in place until they harden & can be removed & cleaned. Test designs were produced in minutes.

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3D-printing metal parts may soon be practical and affordable (Additive Manufacturing/Metal - 2017-04 - MIT Technology Review)

Desktop Metal plans on developing affordable 3-D printers that can make metal parts—and thus transforming much of manufacturing. It has raised nearly $100 million, and its founders include 4 prominent MIT professors, including the head of the school’s department of materials science and Emanuel Sachs, who filed one of the original patents on 3-D printing in 1989. Their vision is to establish a process of creating a digital design, printing out prototypes that could be tested and refined, and then use the digital file of the optimized version to create a commercial product or part out of the same material using a 3-D printer. The article reviews the history of 3-D printing and the current main players in the industry.

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Customized sweaters (Laser/Clothing - 2017-03 - The Verge)

A pop-up Adidas store in Berlin is offering customers the chance to design, create, and purchase a sweater in about 4 hours. A laser body scan determines the correct sweater size, and light projections show off potential patterns for the sweater, while customers use hand gestures tracked by sensors to tweak the pattern to their liking. Customers choose design options and color combinations on a computer screen. The cost is 200 euros (around $215).

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Cellulose filament 3D-printed creating anti-microbial tweezers (Additive Manu/Medical Instruments - 2017-03 - ScienceNews Journal)

The basis for the paper, the material that is the most used for printing on, is cellulose. Cellulose may soon also become a material that is used to do 3-D printing. New research done at MIT shows that this abundant material may potentially provide a renewable, biodegradable alternative to the polymers currently used for 3-D printing.

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