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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Nimble, collaborative robots are now doing industry's heavy lifting (Cobots/Robotics - 2019-09 - ZDNet)
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SEAT employs more cobots in its Mortorell factory – they've got a tedious, but important job (Cobots/Robotics - 2019-09 - Technology.org)
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A for-hire welding cobot has been developed amid labor shortage (Welding/Robotics - 2019-09 - ZDNet)
A collaborative robot (the BotX Welder) was developed by Hirebotics to be easily programmed to produce precision parts in small batches for small and medium sized metal fabricators, overcoming a shortage of welders.
IBM and other companies launch new blockchain network for supply management (Blockchain - Supply Chain - 2019-08 - Reuters)
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The 'Four Horsemen' of the Automotive Apocalypse (Automotive - 2019-07 - Stansberry Research)
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Humans working with robots in Amazon's sorting facilities (Warehousing/Robotics - 2019-06 - Wired)
In Amazon’s sorting facilities, a human will grab a flat package, hold its barcode under a red laser dot, and place it on a small orange robot. Hitting a button sends the robot mule to one of 300+ rectangular holes in the floor corresponding to zip codes. When there, the robot uses its own conveyor belt to slide the package down a chute to be loaded manually onto a truck for delivery.
Robots predicted to take over 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030 (Manufacturing - 2019-06 - CTV News)
A study by Oxford Economics, a private British-based research and consulting firm, forecasts that robots will take over some 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide by 2030, extending a trend of worsening social inequality while boosting overall economic output. Robots have already taken over millions of manufacturing jobs and are now gaining in services, helped by advances in computer vision, speech recognition and machine learning, the study noted. In lower-skilled regions, job losses will be twice as high as those in higher-skilled regions, even in the same country.
Amazon’s new robot can pack 600+ boxes/hour (Robotics/Warehousing - 2019-05 - ExtremeTech)
Amazon has installed $1+ million robots in its facilities that can pack 6-700 boxes/hour, and wrap packages inside custom-assembled boxes, operating at 4-5 times a worker’s rate. The robots may be installed at dozens of warehouses, eliminating about 24 positions/warehouse.
3D printing and robots power world's largest furniture maker (Furniture/Additive Manufacturing - 2019-05 - ZDNet)
The world’s largest furniture manufacturer, Ashley Furniture, is using robotics and 3D-printing to expand production in a shrinking labor market, achieving 10% more business with almost 15% less labor.
Trade organization ICC supports blockchain adoption for 45 million members (Blockchain/Supply Chain - 2019-04 - CoinDesk)
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Automated machine learning technology used to improve additive manufacturing (Additive Manufacturing - 2019-02 - STRN)
Researchers at Purdue U. and USC have developed automated machine learning technology to help improve additive manufacturing by ensuring that parts fit more precisely, and assembly needs less testing and time.
PepsiCo is "Relentlessly automating" its workforce (AI - 2019-02 - Gizmodo)
PepsiCo is investing its $4.9 billion 2018 annual profits in spending $2.5 billion (mostly on severance payments) to restructure the company by laying off many of its 263,000 employees and automating its warehouse and factory equipment.
3D-printing could be 100 times faster using light (Additive Manufacturing - 2019-01 - Technology.org)
University of Michigan researchers created a new approach to 3D-printing that lifts complex shapes from a vat of liquid at <100 times faster than current processes, using 2 lights to control where the resin hardens—and where it stays fluid. This enables the resin to be solidified in more sophisticated patterns.
New high-speed laser 3D-printing method creates objects in one pass (Additive Manufacturing - 2019-01 - Technology.org)
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC, Berkeley have developed a new high-speed 3D-printing method (Computed Axial Lithography) which uses projected photons to illuminate the syrup-like resin, creating a continuously shifting video of projections as the vial rotates. Most builds take several minutes to complete, many times faster than existing polymer 3D-printing techniques.