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Questions, answers, ideas / 3D Printing: How Not to Get Sued
« Last post by Geo. on September 09, 2015, 08:53:22 AM »
3D Printing: How Not to Get Sued
Tue, 09/08/2015 - 4:03pm by Kaylie Duffy, Associate Editor,

3D printing is one of the newest forms of manufacturing, and thus it is bound to endure some legal uncertainty. The three most important areas of intellectual property (IP) that relate to 3D printing are patent law, copyright law, and trade secrets.

Broadly speaking, patents and copyrights are IP rights that are federal in nature. They are provided by Congress; whereas, trade secret protection is offered by states.

According to Paven Malhotra, attorney at Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco, “While there is uniform patent and copyright law in the U.S., when it comes to trade secrets it becomes a little more complicated, because you have 50 states that have their own twists upon trade secret laws.”

Patent Law
Patent litigation has been on the rise for a number of years due to litigation by non-practicing entities, or trolls. Investment companies will try to acquire patents they deem valuable, and then sue a large number of industry players who’ve potentially practiced the patent.
“For most trolls, the goal is not to actually go into litigation,” explains Malhotra. “The goal is really just to get a quick settlement.”

In the last few years, there has been a gold rush to the patent office, with many people trying to secure patents that cover various methods of manufacturing related to 3D printing.

“This has happened pretty dramatically since around 2000,” says Malhotra. “Since about 2003, there have been about 3,500 patents that have been granted on 3D printing manufacturing methods.”

It usually takes two to three years between the time a patent is filed for and granted, which means that, while there hasn’t necessarily been an exorbitant amount of litigation so far, with the explosion of patents that have been granted, the amount of litigation that will occur is likely to increase. This seems even more likely as trolls are acquiring patent portfolios related to 3D printing.

The Cost of Patents
It takes about 28 months on average from the filing date of a patent until the time it’s granted (and that assumes the patent is eventually granted). Many times, the patent office will simply reject the application.

According to Malhotra, on average companies spend $22,000 on filing a patent. And once the patent is secured, the companies must continue to pay maintenance fees. 

“During the lifetime of a patent, you’re looking at approximately $34,000 for one patent. This may be cost prohibitive for a number of companies,” says Malhotra. “Therefore, some companies need to look for alternative ways that are less expensive to try to secure their intellectual property.”

If you plan to sue an entity for infringing on your patent, you must research the extent of the litigation cost. If the dollar amount at stake in the litigation is less than one million dollars, the average litigation cost will be $650,000. If you go up to one million to 25 million dollars in potential damages, it will be about 2.5 million dollars to litigate that case. And if the stakes are above 25 million dollars, it will cost about 5 million dollars to litigate that case.

“You also need to consider very carefully whether it’s really worth it to actually bring a lawsuit against one of your competitors if they’re infringing your rights,” says Malhotra. “But more importantly, if you’re the defendant and you’re actually sued for patent infringement, the first thing you have to think about is whether you can pay these kinds of fees.”

Copyright Law
The principle distinction between patent and copyright, is that patent law is focused on intellectual property that has some kind of utilitarian function; whereas copyright is focused more on artistic expression or design.

Malhotra explains, “Copyright protects original works of authorship, like literary, visual, and musical works, and it only covers the artistic expression of those works. In terms of who should be concerned with copyright, it would be parties that actually manufacture copyrighted products; those parties which hold copyrights themselves; websites that have CAD files for 3D printing on them; as well as parties that create CAD scans of existing objects.”

While trying to deal with copyright issues in the 3D printing realm, the U.S. legal system has examined some of the legal solutions used with digital music.

“In response to sites like Napster, Congress passed something known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA provides safe harbors for internet service providers,” explains Malhotra. “Now the reason this is relevant, is because if you run a website that has CAD files on it that can be used with 3D printing, you might be held liable if those CAD files have copyrighted materials.”

In order to avoid lawsuits, websites like Shapeways and Thingaverse, which host 3D CAD designs for 3D printing, have learned to comply with the DMCA in a unique way. Businesses, consumers, and third party websites like Shapeways are coming together to create a solution that pleases everyone.

A great example of this recently took place between the toy company Hasbro and Shapeways. Hasbro was confronted with a growing amount of people stealing their designs (i.e. My Little Pony, Monopoly, Transformers, etc.) and creating toys without Hasbro’s permission. The toy company was forced to track down the individuals to shut down the activity, which only alienated customers from the company.

To satisfy all parties, Hasbro and Shapeways came together to encourage artists to create and sell 3D designs based on Hasbro brands via Individuals can now apply to Hasbro and receive a license to create their own designs for these particular products. All three entities (Hasbro, Shapeways, and the individual) will then get a cut of the money.

“This is one of the first examples where a company has found an innovative way to try to satisfy copyrights, satisfy the customers, and make money all at the same time. Perhaps we’ll see more companies decide that it’s not worth it to try to chase down everybody to stop copyright infringement,” muses Malhotra.

Trade Secrets

Protecting intellectual property using patents and copyright law can often times be expensive to maintain. In recent years, companies have looked for alternative ways to satisfy their rights at a lower cost. One way of doing this is to consider trade secret law.
Trade secret law is essentially state law that protects information that is not generally known; that has been subject to efforts to keep it secret; and that has some kind of advantage for you.

The law prohibits the misappropriation of trade secrets. In other words, efforts to acquire those trade secrets improperly and misuse them is illegal.

“There’s one thing to note – there’s a requirement under trade secret law that the trade secret has to be the subject of appropriate efforts to keep it secret,” explains Malhotra. “If you want to enforce your IP as a trade secret, what you have to prove in court and ultimately to the jury is that you treated that information as a secret.”

This means that companies must have nondisclosure agreements in place; they must limit the number of people who have access to the information; and they must establish a record that they actively tried to keep it a secret.

So if you think it’s too expensive at this point to try to obtain patent protection on your rights, you need to strongly think about whether trade secret protection is the way to go, and whether you are willing to implement the steps needed to keep the information secret.

Questions, answers, ideas / Lean Labor In Manufacturing
« Last post by Geo. on September 08, 2015, 09:10:59 AM »
Lean Labor In Manufacturing
Fri, 09/04/2015 - 3:05pm
Gregg Gordon

Razor-thin margins. Pressures to cut costs. Increased competition from existing vendors as well as new players in the market. It is tough to be in manufacturing today, especially when it comes to gaining a true competitive edge.

This is why it is important for manufacturers to increase productivity, control costs and optimize labor resources and align them to the most important project or goal. Conceptually, all of this sounds good, but for many manufacturers, the question remains: How?

Lean Labor can be an extremely effective way to achieve all of these objectives. Most manufacturers are familiar with the concept of Lean — as it applies to managing manufacturing equipment and processes — but now, many manufacturing leaders are applying Lean principles to the way they manage their workforce.

The concept is gaining popularity and building momentum, to the point where the American Payroll Association is now offering a dedicated Lean Labor educational course as part of its overall curriculum. And as manufacturers embrace Lean Labor, many are finding that it is helping them gain a new competitive advantage. For example, Lean Labor methodologies are helping them align labor with actual demand, which leads to shorter lead times, reduced costs, and a stronger bottom line.

Lean Labor in Action: The Perfect Paycheck
To get a closer look at Lean Labor, consider the example of the “perfect paycheck,” or the idea of providing the right pay at the right price at the right time. Most manufacturers strive to deliver the perfect product or service to their customers, and delivering the perfect paycheck to your employees should be just as important. But it’s not always that easy. Most often, the culprit is manual, error-prone process, such as timekeeping or payroll. But when manufacturers must also factor in variables such as overtime, leave, shift differentials, vacation time, union agreements, and state, local, and federal labor laws and regulations — delivering the perfect paycheck gets a lot harder.

But with Lean Labor, providing a perfect paycheck — each and every time — doesn’t have to be an impossible task. First, automated workforce management solutions can successfully eliminate manual efforts and the many efforts that go along with those. Getting rid of paper-based methods saves time and increases overall productivity, but it also helps eliminate employee “buddy punching” and other forms of abuse — both of which are critical to improving payroll accuracy.

Lean Labor can also help automate repetitive actions and improve efficiencies to keep total costs low. Finally, by gaining a highly repeatable process that minimizes errors and wasted time, manufacturers can deliver the perfect paycheck, on time, every time.

Complete Insight. Complete Control.
Lean Labor can also help manufacturers improve the way they align employees with production demand. For example, scheduling applications — a critical component to a larger workforce management solution — help shift supervisors create each shift with the right mix of employees and skills. Not only does this increase total production and help hit revenue targets, but it also helps decrease overtime costs for any replacement workers who may be called in to fill a gap.

Lean Labor and workforce management technology also give manufacturers real-time visibility into what is happening on the shop floor. With true insight into what’s happening with materials, machine downtime, new delivery dates, and more, manufacturers can redeploy employees in time to minimize delays and added costs.

Minimize Compliance Risk

Today, litigation on behalf of nonexempt employees over alleged violations of state and federal labor laws — including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — is on the rise. Part of the challenge is just how difficult overall compliance can be. Many manufacturers still rely on manual, paper-based approaches or pulling data from disparate systems to attempt their compliance efforts. Inevitably, these approaches only increase their risk of violating union bargaining agreements, industry regulations, or state and federal statutes.

With workforce management technology, manufacturers can automate processes that are critical to complying with industry regulations and labor laws. The technology can help track the status of employee training, certifications, and safety profiles, and even send alerts before an employee’s status becomes an issue. The software also offers detailed records and complete labor audit trails to help streamline compliance efforts.

The Lean Labor Solution
While it is true that it is extremely tough to compete in the manufacturing industry today, Lean Labor can help. With Lean Labor, manufacturers gain a proven way to gain new efficiencies, reduce and control costs, and increase overall productivity. In turn, this allows them to focus on revenue-generating activities, strengthen the bottom line, and increase their overall competitive advantage.

Gregg Gordon is Senior Director of Big Data Practice at Kronos Incorporated
Questions, answers, ideas / How Bureaucracy Starves the Golden Goose of Innovation
« Last post by Geo. on August 26, 2015, 11:10:19 AM »
How Bureaucracy Starves the Golden Goose of Innovation
by Doug Ringer, Product Development & Marketing Expert

There‘ve been many discussions about the slowing of innovation in large companies and conversely, how quickly small firms seem to create new ideas and products. There are 3 reasons that slow the development of new products in large firms. They are, in no particular order:

1.   “One size fits all” development model
2.   Matrix organizational structure
3.   Process is more important than results

“One size fits all” development model

This development model can be a great detriment to the small organizations within a large corporation. A senior executive in the department responsible for product development decides to simplify his divisions implementing common development processes no matter how different the products may be. The senior staff is satisfied because everything is uniform.

However, the general manager at the business unit level (aka “the profit center”) that the corporate product development departments are supposed to support can no longer meet his profit objectives because products that used to take 6 months to develop, now take 12, and cost more than before.

To make matters worse, while his design cycle went to 12 months, the competition reduced their cycle to 6 months. In 5 years, the competition will release 10 new products; his group will release 5.

Matrix organizational structure

The matrix organization complicates product development and slows the pace of all phases of a program. Here is how this type of structure slows progress.

o   The project teams are committees with members placing their departments’ requirements ahead of the overall business’ needs

o   Decisions are required to be made at the highest levels in the organization adding weeks of time to the schedule to:

o   find time for meetings with decision-makers

o   educate the decision-makers on the background of the issue

o   investigate additional, tangential topics before the decision will be made. This is typically caused by the quest for the ‘perfect’ solution.

Process is more important than results
The product development team has little control over the processes they must follow, regardless the impact on project costs, revenue, and profit. It is the triumph of process over results.

           Bureaucracy:      MEANS  > 1 ENDS

If time-to-market is important, then the lack of timely decisions cause missed opportunities. If product cost is the key goal, then meeting the requirements of all departments can prevent suitable profits. If a project is taking longer than planned, additional resources cannot be added or processes shortened to meet revenue targets. This is no different that asking a sales force to meet their targets selling under-performing, over-priced products.

Recommendations for Saving Your Firm’s Innovation Engine
Here are three recommendations that will resuscitate innovation in your organization.

1.   Give product development groups guidelines and let them make all decisions that fall within them. Have a single person responsible for making the decisions that fall outside these project guidelines. Require this person, or her delegate, make a decision within 48 hours. If not, the decision defaults back to the project team.

2.   Eliminate to the extent possible the negative effects of a matrix organization structure by requiring the project team to provide frequent updates to the head of the profit center (typically the GM). These should be separate from to the “stage gate” meetings that the project team provides.

o   These should be small, private meetings where the GM can ask direct questions and receive direct, unfiltered answers

3.   Make it clear to the development group that these projects represent the future of the entire business. This aligns the project teams to the needs of the profit center which is funding the project.

This guidance is simple to implement. All it requires is for companies to trust the processes they have in place, to trust their people to do right by the company, and to support instead of stymie their action plans. Challenge the teams if necessary, but make it clear to them that there is a path forward that is clearly marked.
Questions, answers, ideas / Engineering in the New Industrial Revolution Part 2
« Last post by Geo. on August 25, 2015, 08:20:10 AM »
Engineering in the New Industrial Revolution Part 2
Tue, 08/25/2015 - 9:58am
Matt Kelland,

Engineering in the New Industrial Revolution
Developing for this new industrial world requires a different mindset to much traditional engineering. Designing machinery for a modern factory requires far more than mechanical engineering: it requires familiarity with robotics, information technology, and process engineering. In a very important sense, manufacturing engineers are verging into artificial intelligence, much more than just physical construction of objects.

 “There’s a huge skills gap,” says Didier. “We need maybe 10 million engineers over the next decade who can work with this kind of equipment. The level of automation we are looking at is ever expanding: it’s not enough to have a robot that can do the task. Now you have to be able to automate fault detection and preventive maintenance. You have to ask, what are the scenarios that tell me something is about to fail and fix it before it’s a problem? Effectively, you’re automating optimization. The key for engineers is to take your understanding of the physical world and the product and apply that knowledge into building a system. Robots should be self-configuring, if it fails, I should have all the information I need.”

Walter pinpoints one key part of the problem. “There is a large divide between the IT groups and the operations groups, and that’s one of the areas we need to get sorted to create understanding for this to work. A lot of the issues are due to policies within companies. The IT groups need to understand operational issues, just as the ops guys need to understand the IT issues. What we really need is engineers who have practical operational experience.”

Steve Hechtmann of Inductive Automation specializes in integrating industrial control systems. “When I go in to a client, I’d ask to operate the process for a day to get how it actually works and what really matters to them. You’re surrounded by millwrights, hydraulics guys, electricians, chemists, and so on. You don’t need to do be able to do their job, but you do need to understand that, if you’re the computer guy, you need to know what they’re doing and why. It’s very interdisciplinary, and that’s a lot of fun.”

“We started the mechatronics program because traditional four-year engineering degrees don’t give engineers the practical skills they need,” notes Paveglio. “Even physical maintenance is a skilled job. You still need a guy with a wrench and a can of grease and micrometers, but he needs new skills. Machines need adjusting to thousandths of an inch. You need someone who can recognize whether a problem is electrical, mechanical, software or some combination of them all. And those skills aren’t easy to teach. You need lots of hands-on experience, and you often need to develop simulators for training on. After all, you don’t want students to wreck a million-dollar machine! But if you can program a 6-axis robot, you can be earning 30k more than a guy with a normal engineering degree.”

The technical challenge facing engineers is huge. “You’ll be in the workforce for fifty years, but in a few years, things will completely change. Are you willing to go back and retrain?” asks Kurfess. “You need to change the way you think. For example, these days, we’re no longer telling a robot to get an object based on its spatial position. Instead, it uses vision systems to find something of the right shape. When you’re setting up a production line, you have to ask, how do I make it easy for the robot? For a person, I’d put screws in a box, for robots I’d put them in holes. You need to understand how robots ‘think’ and change your thinking to match.”

Just keeping up with latest developments is a time-consuming task. “The integrators who put these systems together have to know what’s already available,” says Paveglio. “In most cases, you can use components off the shelf. Often they need to be customized. The rare projects are completely designed from scratch, but even they use a lot of ready-made components and assemblies. The key is someone who knows what’s out there and how to bring them together as a system. You can source parts from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, America, or anywhere, and they’re all designed to IEEE standards so they can interact. Almost anything you can think of, someone out there has something that can do it. You could spend hundreds of hours just training on what sensors are available. Do you need a camera that can go inside a 2000 degree oven? You can get it if you know where to look.”

Some companies, such as Siemens and BMW, have already taken the initiative to start training the next generation of engineering workforce themselves. “The robot manufacturers need to teach people how to work with their kit,” Paveglio stresses. “CEOs are worried about what’s going to happen if they can’t buy the technical skills they need.”

Other industry-led consortia such as AVNU are partnering with universities to try and get the necessary skills into the education system. “At Cisco, we’re establishing partnerships with companies like Rockwell to train IT guys to get familiar with operational parts of the business,” notes Didier. We have to see some blending of engineering capacities: for example, mechanical engineers need to understand the core IT technologies so as they develop new products, they can get them into the IoT world and get things done faster. We’ve established the Industrial IP Advantage consortium to deliver free IT/OT training to cross train engineers. And we’ve just announced the Cisco Certified Network Assistant Industrial program which will set the standard for engineers in this field.”

Walter encourages both engineers and companies to do their part to change the industry. “Getting involved in AVNU is a good way to come up to speed on what’s happening and find ways to participate. There are also forums in IEEE. We are looking for smart people to jump in and help to create change.”

“Getting the right training and experience is a real problem,” confirms Hechtmann. “Young engineers coming into the field are more or less clueless about how to run plants and factories, because they don’t teach that. We set up Inductive University so that engineers can become credentialled in using our systems. We work with universities, department heads, etc to get practical skills to students. With this you can get a job anywhere in the world with an integrator.”

Interspecies Communication is Key
However, mastering a wide range of massively different technologies is only the start of the skills engineers need. Engineers also need to develop a deep understanding of the business aspect of manufacturing: not just cost, but the needs of the business to adapt and adopt flexible procedures.

 “Ultimately, all those machines need to communicate with the people who are running the plant,” explains Bob Giese, President of Versacall. “On any production floor, there is a whole spectrum of activity, so how does the management know where to direct their attention? The answer, as we’ve proven with companies like Harley Davidson and 3M, is that the machines themselves need to provide that information. When you have good feedback, you can see where the issues are and take decisions on what’s happening. We can eliminate tedious and inaccurate manual data capture, and that gives us better auditing. We can address health and safety issues, get better quality products, and increase productivity and control. We can identify whether we are hitting production targets, monitor the amount of waste, and monitor cycle time. We’re typically getting a 10% reduction in downtime, which gives our clients an increase of 3% or more in production.  The key is the ability to direct information to the correct individual.”

But merely providing swathes of data isn’t enough. It has to be presented in a form that managers and line personnel can understand, and act on. “Understanding of the manufacturing process and presenting it in visual format, on anything from large screens to phones and tablets, is where technology is at,” stresses Giese. “Knowing that is what makes a difference from a job candidate standpoint.”

Walter concurs. “From a skill set perspective, the level of complexity that this type of system adds is substantial, and all of this needs to be abstracted from the end user. If you look under the covers of, say, a cell phone, think about what a good job the developers have done of making it easy for the users. That’s what we need to do in manufacturing. Operators want to optimize production of what they do, not be experts in the systems that hold it all together.”

The 21st Century Engineer
Barrett has reassuring words for engineers. “Faced with this level of automated manufacturing, the skilled labor workforce often gets nervous about job security. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s the opposite: we’ve grown faster and hired more people.”

There are a growing number of roles for engineers in this new world, and demand has never been higher for those with the right skills. At the root of the business, there’s a vast need for individual components, from sensors or servos to routers. The next layer of engineers creates standard assemblies or machines, from smart machine tools to highly sophisticated robots. Then come the integrators, who design the plants and factories, and finally, the on-site operators need the skills to maintain and run them.

Traditional engineering skills, including CAD/CAM, math, and all the specialist disciplines are still essential. Almost every branch of engineering is affected, from agricultural to architectural, aerospace and automotive. The challenge facing most engineers now is not merely whether we can build something, but how efficiently we can manufacture it. And to do that, the key, according to everyone we spoke to, is cross-disciplinary collaboration, adaptability, and creativity.

As Hechtmann says, your task is to breathe life into machines.

Just try to avoid creating Skynet by accident.

This blog originally appeared on
Questions, answers, ideas / Engineering in the New Industrial Revolution Part 1
« Last post by Geo. on August 25, 2015, 08:17:52 AM »
Engineering in the New Industrial Revolution
Tue, 08/25/2015 - 9:58am
Matt Kelland,

Get to know the engineers creating the next industrial revolution — and how they got their jobs.

In the world’s largest ketchup processing plant, a robot fires a continuous stream of freshly picked tomatoes across the factory floor using compressed air.
A plethora of cameras make minute observations of every tomato as they fly by, checking for ripeness and damage.

As soon as a defective tomato is identified, another robot fires a precision blast of air at it, unerringly knocking it out of the stream and into a separate hopper.
At the other end of the factory, the finished bottles of ketchup are packaged up and placed on pallets by autonomous forklift trucks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

No humans are involved.
Every industry is affected by automation. It’s not just cars that are being made by robots now. Our power plants are becoming increasingly automated. Our food is grown and processed in automated farms, storage units, and factories. Buildings are prefabricated by machines.
In the modern factory, smart machines talk to each other, and notify their human masters when they need attention.

In this industrial revolution, most of the human workforce is simply no longer necessary, replaced by increasingly sophisticated robots, more advanced sensors, and a more robust internet.

“What’s happening is that rules-based human activity is going away,” says Kevin Paveglio, who runs the mechatronics degree program at ECPI College of Technology in Virginia. “Low skilled jobs are disappearing. We don’t need people putting things in boxes any more. We’re taking out human elements because of safety & quality concerns. Cars now last longer, because they’re put together better. Twenty years ago, seventy thousand miles on a car was a lot, but now they’re just broken in at that age. The companies who automate are doing much better in the economy. Simply put, for manufacturing companies, it’s do or die.”
Faster, better, cheaper… automation offers all three. Machines are poised to take a huge proportion of the burden of manual labor from us. Whether that heralds a utopia or dystopia remains to be seen: are we ushering in an era of mass unemployment or increased leisure?

But as the Luddites showed 200 years ago when they failed to destroy the machines that changed the textile industry, the technology itself is unstoppable. Society will have to adapt, not just in America, but worldwide.
The Day of the Machines is here.

Machines Are Just Plain Better
It says a lot about our powers of ingenuity that we  invent machines which can outperform us in almost every way, from tomato screening to diagnosing cancer. The advantages to adopting automation are undeniable.
Prescient is a manufacturing and technology company that creates steel frame structures for hotels, dormitories and multi-family housing. They utilize robotics extensively to make the process more efficient, faster, and cheaper.

“In the process of the design we incorporate standardization which allows us to design through proprietary components, like Lego sets. That leads us to a lot of opportunities to streamline the manufacturing because it’s all about repetition. We can easily incorporate elements like robotic welding,” explains Michael Lastowski, Founder and CTO.

Director of Technology, Rick Barrett, explains the process. “With this simplified product design we have panels, posts and trusses. Holes are drilled automatically, not by hand, then the panels are welded in a fully robotic system in a controlled environment. This gives us far more accuracy on the construction of the components, typically tolerance of less than a 16th inch on something like a hallway.  We also get a far higher consistency of weld.  The finished products still requires visual inspection, and some manual welding to correct errors, but at least 75% of the work is done by the machines.”

“Our fabrication plants are working 24 hours a day,” says Lastowski. “And we just need equipment operators, not a full staff. The commercial advantages are huge. Normally, it would take a month to construct the components for a 100,000 square foot 5-story hotel. We can do it in a week, for less money. And the faster that hotel is up, the sooner the owner is making revenue. Everybody wins.”

Paveglio echoes the improved quality that automation brings. “The Boeing 727 used to have around 2000lb of shims to keep it together when it was hand built. Now it has just 200lb of shims because there’s more precision.”

While fully robotic plants get all the attention, one underrated aspect of automation is men and machines working together. Professor Thomas Kurfess at Georgia Tech, an ASME fellow and former advisor to President Obama on manufacturing technologies, calls these systems “co-bots”. Robots are great for moving big things around, but they have their limitations. Often, they’re most effective as part of a man-machine team.

We know what you’re thinking now – will we ever see Alien-style exoskeletons? “Oh yes, full exoskeletons are happening,” Kurfess says. “There’s lots of work going on, but realistically, we’re not likely to see them in the near future. First we will get robotic arms or similar devices, that makes use of human perception, motor skills and decision making, combined with robot strength. If you’re putting an engine into a car, the human can align it while the robot carries the weight. In surgery, it works the other way round, normal size movements translate to micro movements.”

Cheaper, Safer, More Productive

However, working with robots has its own set of problems. Kurfess emphasizes the need to think about the manufacturing environment. “Most automated production facilities are mostly robotic welding & assembling.
That’s not a healthy environment for humans, so robots and humans have to be physically separated: if a human gets in the robot area, everything shuts down. Allowing humans to work in proximity to robots can change the way we interact.

Vision and other sensory systems track the human and put a virtual box around them to prevent robots getting in. Robot controllers are fast enough to sense if the robot is coming in contact with something, and react to that contact in real-time, so the robot can safely be around humans.”

But speed, cost and quality aren’t the only benefits that automation brings. Machines are making workplaces safer, operating in environments that are hazardous to humans, or detecting potential problems long before they become dangerous.
Mark Spindler, CTO at Lakeland Grain, develops and installs fully automated grain terminals. “As we move the grain, it’s dumped out of a truck into a pit, up a bucket elevator, onto a conveyor, and into the bin. This generates lots of grain dust, which is very explosive. When a belt gets out of alignment, they can heat up and cause an explosion. It’s a major problem for the industry. We still get 10-12 explosions a year across the US, some of which are fatal. Existing systems monitor the temperature every few minutes, and will sound an alarm to warn the human operator that there’s an issue. The problem is that a drifting belt can make it game over in mere seconds. Our technology detects when something is wrong and automatically shuts down the equipment instantly.”

This level of predictive maintenance saves lives and money. Operating on a “best practice” routine inevitably means unnecessary downtime while equipment is inspected for wear or damage, and expensive parts are often replaced before it’s strictly necessary.

Factories need to keep stocks of components on hand, so that they’re always available, which locks up operating capital and storage space. And when a vital piece of equipment fails unexpectedly, it can delay production throughout the entire plant.

“It’s all about data collection,” says Kurfess.  “Imagine a smart copy machine. When toner gets low, it sends a message to the company and they send new toner, so I never run out, it just shows up when I need it. Now apply that logic to machine tools. What if my tools can tell me which inserts are wearing out, so they can get replaced just in time, so we’re not spending money on inventory sitting on shelves? That improves our supply chains as well as productivity.”

Improved data collection also gives manufacturers much more flexibility in the way they operate. Once you know exactly what is going on within an individual machine or assembly plant, you can configure it in different ways.

“You can choose to run your machines at high deterioration to maximize output, or you can opt to reduce wear to save costs,” explains Todd Walter, Chief Marketing Manager of Embedded Systems at National Instruments. “You can calculate exactly how much that will cost in in terms of additional maintenance and make a business decision about whether the additional revenue is worth it.”

The Industrial Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) may have been slow to catch on in the consumer world; not many of us have really seen the need for smart fridges or washing machines, but connectivity is changing everything in the industrial world.

Traditional Internet may be adequate for homes and businesses, but for industry, the standards often need to be higher.  “It’s taken a while for the Internet to really hit manufacturing, but for good reasons,” notes Industry Solutions Architect Paul Didier of Cisco. “If you have to wait 2 mins for your Amazon purchase, no problem, if you have to wait two minutes to shut down a power station, that can be catastrophic. They can’t move as fast as other businesses because of safety and regulations, but now technology is catching up with their needs.”
 Bandwidth, latency, security and reliable connectivity can be major problems for many industries, whether they’re using ethernet or wireless.

“We install systems in harsh environments such as oil & gas plants, transformer stations where there is a lot of metal and interference, or places where temperature or dust is an issue,” says Matt Nelson of AvaLAN Wireless, who pioneered the use of 900 mHz wireless in manufacturing. “When you’re putting in connections to and from transformer stations, unintentional emissions cause havoc. We have to keep channels narrow, power high, and connectivity on.”

However, once you solve those fundamental engineering problems, the transformation in industry is astonishing. “You can upgrade your connected equipment the same way you upgrade your cellphone,” explains Dan Sexton of GE. “You can simply send a firmware update directly from the manufacturer and change the way something works.”

For Prescient, connectivity offers even more flexibility. “We have plants round the world. If one of them is taken offline by a storm or something, we can simply re-route production to another plant with literally a press of a button,” says Barrett.

At Lakeland Grain, IoT is a vital part of improving grain storage. “The machines talk to each other, which cuts out human error,” explains Spindler. “You can’t accidentally put the wrong thing in the wrong bin, which is an expensive mistake. We also have wireless probes deep in the stored grain, looking for the hot spots that signify potential spoilage, and communicating with the fans that adjust temperature and humidity to minimize shrinkage if the corn dries out. They’re constantly reporting back to a control panel that operators can access from a browser on their phones, tablets, or whatever, and they’ll send out alarms via text or email if there’s an issue. Without this, you don’t know there’s a problem until it’s too late, and your grain has gone bad. This way, you can easily increase your revenues by $250,000 in a season with a $15,000 system.”

End part 1
Think Tank: Congressional Report Misrepresents Health of U.S. Manufacturing
Mon, 08/24/2015 - 2:48pm
Andy Szal, Digital Reporter

A D.C. think tank argues that the nation's manufacturing center needs help from lawmakers, contrary to recent federal research.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation slammed a recent Congressional Research Service report as overly rosy and suggested that "U.S. manufacturing is in trouble and needs help more than ever.”

The ITIF — a non-partisan group with bipartisan honorary co-chairs — said that the sector remains only barely recovered from the Great Recession and that CRS' research contained significant flaws.

The group said that the CRS estimate of a 12 percent manufacturing employment decline between 2003 and 2013 used unofficial data and a poorly selected timeframe.

Statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, by contrast, showed a decline of more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2013, ITIF said.

In addition, ITIF analysts said that U.S. manufacturing output is likely down and that a series of positive indicators cited by CRS — research and development, foreign direct investment and domestic manufacturing inputs — were misrepresented or overstated.

The think tank recommended that Congress take steps to reduce corporate tax rates, increase investment incentives, improve enforcement of trade rules and bolster innovation and workforce development.

“We need to take an honest look in the mirror," said ITIF President Robert Atkinson. "Right now, the state of U.S. manufacturing is not a pretty picture."
Questions, answers, ideas / STEM Schools Highlight Newsweek’s High School Rankings
« Last post by Geo. on August 20, 2015, 11:49:36 AM »
STEM Schools Highlight Newsweek’s High School Rankings
Wed, 08/19/2015 - 3:16pm
Jake Meister, Real Time Digital Reporter

 The top 10 schools in Newsweek's "2015 High School Rankings" list includes several schools who are focused on STEM. (Image: Wilson Dias/ABr)Several schools oriented toward STEM earned high grades in Newsweek’s 2015 list of the America’s top 500 public high schools.

To compile the top 500 list, Newsweek partnered with statistical survey research corporation Westat to create a three-step procedure comprised of a shortlist analysis, ranking analysis, and equity (Gold Star) analysis.
In order to achieve the shortlist analysis, Newsweek used public information to rate schools based on aptitude rates on standardized state tests. Schools that met minimum criteria for college readiness factors were then surveyed. For the ranking analysis, the surveyed schools were assessed based on six college readiness factors. For the equity analysis, the top schools in the ranking analysis were given enhanced acknowledgement for having disadvantaged students who performed better than that state’s average on standardized tests.

Some of the key factors used to create the “America’s Top High Schools” list included graduation rate, college enrollment rate, drop out rate, SAT and ACT scores and participation, AP/IB scores and participation, enrollment into college courses during high school, and state test scores.

The top 10 schools, ranked from 1-10 are Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va.; High Technology High School, Lincroft, N.J.; Academy for Mathematics Science and Engineering, Rockaway, N.J.; Union County Magnet High School, Scotch Plains, N.J.; Bergen County Academies, Hackensack, N.J.; Gretchen Whitney High, Cerritos, Calif.; Middlesex County Academy for Math Science & Engineering, Edison, N.J.; International Academy, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Academy of Allied Health and Science, Neptune, N.J.; and Walter Peyton College Preparatory High School, Chicago.

"Newsweek's High School Rankings are exceptional because of the many factors we take into consideration when selecting top schools as well as our look at inequality when it comes to education. We have unique insight into what public schools across the country are doing to prepare their students for college, which is a critical next step for graduating teens," said Jim Impoco, Editor in Chief of Newsweek. "Our analysis looks at a broad range of criteria and sheds light on schools that are setting the bar high for their students and helping them to succeed in the next chapter of their education."

Newsweek also released its 2015 list for the Top 500 High Schools that are “Beating the Odds.” That list includes schools which are “doing an exceptional job of preparing students from disadvantaged backgrounds for college,” according to Newsweek.

The top 10 schools in the “Beating the Odds” list are ranked from 1-10 as follows: Success Academy, Cedar City, Utah; Northside College Preparatory High School, Chicago; Transmountain Early College High School, El Paso, Texas; The Brooklyn Latin School, Brooklyn, N.Y.; West St. John High School, Edgard, La.; Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, N.Y.; Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Hollis F. Price Middle College High School, Memphis, Tenn. San Gabriel High School, San Gabriel, Calif., and Valley View High School, Pharr, Texas.

The full list can be found at:
Questions, answers, ideas / Re: Screw Thread formulas
« Last post by Geo. on August 19, 2015, 12:59:07 PM »
The Three Wire Method for Measuring V-Threads

The three wire method is considered the best method for extremely accurate thread measurement
Tolerances for threads are based off the pitch diameter of V-Threads

By using three wires in a pyramid arrangement and a micrometer the pitch diameter can be measured by subtracting the wire constant from the measured distance over the wires

This method is dependent on the use of the “Best” wire for the pitch of the thread
The “best” wire is the size of wire that touches the middle of the sloping sides (Flank) of the thread, at the Pitch diameter.

To find the proper size wire, Divide the constant .57735 by the number of threads per inch  (TPI)            (.57735 / N = wire size)  Example: the wire size for 8 TPI:  .57735 / 8 = .072

All three wire must be of equal size and should be hardened and lapped

(The Bureau of Standards specifies an accuracy of .00002 for measuring wires)

The next step is to determine the Micrometer Measurement over the Wires, for National Coarse use the formula: Measurement over wires = Major diameter + 3 wire diameters – 1.5155 / number of threads                 
 (M = D + 3W – 1.5155 / TPI)

If the project is 1”- 8 TPI the Example is:
M = (D = 1”) + .216 (.072 * 3 = .216) - .189 (1.5155 / 8 = .189) = 1.027
So the Micrometer Measurement over the Wires is 1.027

For National Fine Thread the formula is the same except that the constant used is 1.732
Questions, answers, ideas / Screw Thread formulas
« Last post by Geo. on August 18, 2015, 12:15:02 PM »
Screw Thread formulas

American National Screw Thread Form
Pitch (P) = 1 / number of threads per inch
Depth (D) = .64952 * P
Flat (F) = .125 * P  or  ( P / 8 )
Angle = 60 degrees
Length (L) = P * .75

Pitch (P) = 1 / number of threads per inch
Depth (D) = 1/2  P  + .01 Inch
Flat, (Crest) (F) = .3707 * P 
Flat, (Root) (C) = (.3707 * P) - .0052
Angle = 29 degrees

Pitch (P) = 1 / number of threads per inch
Depth (D) = .5 *  P 
Width (W) for screw = .5 * P
Width (W) Thread groove in Nut = .5 * P + .100 - .002 inch

Pitch (P) = 1 / number of threads per inch
Depth (D) = .6866 * P 
Width (Crest) (F) = .335 * P
Width (Root) (C) = .310 * P
Angle = 29 degrees
Questions, answers, ideas / Testing aptitude
« Last post by Geo. on August 11, 2015, 08:10:07 AM »
Testing aptitude and/or knowledge is a good base for selecting an employee, but there is a whole lot more to a productive and integrated addition to ones workforce. The ability to follow instructions ranks quite high on my list of necessary attributes.
I don't know where I saw this first. I wish I could take credit for it because it can be used to weed out people who will not follow instructions. It can be entertaining as well. It goes something like this (edit it to suit your needs and sense of humor.)

You will be scored on your speed of completion and adherence to instructions. Please complete each of the following tasks to the best of your ability. You are to use the caliper, micrometer, paper and ink pen provided.

#1. Read all instructions thoroughly prior to beginning this test.
#2. Measure the thickness of the paper to the nearest .0001. Write this number on the paper.
#3. Fold the paper 4 times such that the number for its thickness is visible.
#4. Measure the thickness of the folded paper to the nearest .001. Write this number on the back of your right hand.
#5. Stand on one leg while measuring the thickness of the edge of the desk.
#6. Measure the ID of your left nostril. Measure the right one and note the differential on your left hand.
#7. Disregard instructions 2 through 6.
#8. Calculate lead, feed and coolant requirements for as 6 insert 3" face mill given the following parameters...
#9. Go to the office turn in your results for #8 and request an application form. If you have ink on the back of your hands don't bother going to the office, just go home.

The more I think about it, the first time I saw this was in a psychology experiment done by some grad students. The list of activities was very long and very silly. The second to last instruction was to disregard the above instructions except for the first one, which was "Read all instructions fully prior to...." The last one was to sit and watch everyone else for five minutes and then take your paper to the front and leave. A significant number of people were dancing around, trying to rub their heads while patting their stomachs etc.
I'm not advocating trying to humiliate people who don't follow instructions closely when specifically instructed to, but if we don't hire them we won't have to watch them cut off their fingers and burn off their hair.

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