Portions of the following post were taken from an article by Rob Spiegel publishing through Design News Daily.

Two former Apple design engineers – Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss have leveraged machine learning to help brand owners improve their manufacturing lines. The company, Instrumental , uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and fix problems with the goal of helping clients ship on time. The AI system consists of camera-equipped inspection stations that allow brand owners to remotely manage product lines at their contact manufacturing facilities with the purpose of maximizing up-time, quality and speed. Their digital photo is shown as follows:

Shedletsky and Weiss took what they learned from years of working with Apple contract manufacturers and put it into AI software.

“The experience with Apple opened our eyes to what was possible. We wanted to build artificial intelligence for manufacturing. The technology had been proven in other industries and could be applied to the manufacturing industry,   it’s part of the evolution of what is happening in manufacturing. The product we offer today solves a very specific need, but it also works toward overall intelligence in manufacturing.”

Shedletsky spent six (6) years working at Apple prior to founding Instrumental with fellow Apple alum, Weiss, who serves Instrumental’s CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  The two took their experience in solving manufacturing problems and created the AI fix. “After spending hundreds of days at manufacturers responsible for millions of Apple products, we gained a deep understanding of the inefficiencies in the new-product development process,” said Shedletsky. “There’s no going back, robotics and automation have already changed manufacturing. Intelligence like the kind we are building will change it again. We can radically improve how companies make products.”

There are number examples of big and small companies with problems that prevent them from shipping products on time. Delays are expensive and can cause the loss of a sale. One day of delay at a start-up could cost $10,000 in sales. For a large company, the cost could be millions. “There are hundreds of issues that need to be found and solved. They are difficult and they have to be solved one at a time,” said Shedletsky. “You can get on a plane, go to a factory and look at failure analysis so you can see why you have problems. Or, you can reduce the amount of time needed to identify and fix the problems by analyzing them remotely, using a combo of hardware and software.”

Instrumental combines hardware and software that takes images of each unit at key states of assembly on the line. The system then makes those images remotely searchable and comparable in order for the brand owner to learn and react to assembly line data. Engineers can then take action on issues. “The station goes onto the assembly line in China,” said Shedletsky. “We get the data into the cloud to discover issues the contract manufacturer doesn’t know they have. With the data, you can do failure analysis and reduced the time it takes to find an issue and correct it.”

WHAT IS AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines.  In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.   Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

As machines become increasingly capable, mental facilities once thought to require intelligence are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as an example of “artificial intelligence”, having become a routine technology.  Capabilities currently classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech,  competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), autonomous cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data.

FUTURE:

Some would have you believe that AI IS the future and we will succumb to the “Rise of the Machines”.  I’m not so melodramatic.  I feel AI has progressed and will progress to the point where great time saving and reduction in labor may be realized.   Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss realize the potential and feel there will be no going back from this disruptive technology.   Moving AI to the factory floor will produce great benefits to manufacturing and other commercial enterprises.   There is also a significant possibility that job creation will occur as a result.  All is not doom and gloom.


Various definitions of product lifecycle management or PLM have been issued over the years but basically: product lifecycle management is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of manufactured products.  PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.

“In recent years, great emphasis has been put on disposal of a product after its service life has been met.  How to get rid of a product or component is extremely important. Disposal methodology is covered by RoHS standards for the European Community.  If you sell into the EU, you will have to designate proper disposal.  Dumping in a landfill is no longer appropriate.

Since this course deals with the application of PLM to industry, we will now look at various industry definitions.

Industry Definitions

PLM is a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise, and spanning from product concept to end of life integrating people, processes, business systems, and information. PLM forms the product information backbone for a company and its extended enterprise.” Source:  CIMdata

“Product life cycle management or PLM is an all-encompassing approach for innovation, new product development and introduction (NPDI) and product information management from initial idea to the end of life.  PLM Systems is an enabling technology for PLM integrating people, data, processes, and business systems and providing a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.” Source:  PLM Technology Guide

“The core of PLM (product life cycle management) is in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge. PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD, CAM and PDM, but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and the processes through all stages of a product’s life.” Source:  Wikipedia article on Product Lifecycle Management

“Product life cycle management is the process of managing product-related design, production and maintenance information. PLM may also serve as the central repository for secondary information, such as vendor application notes, catalogs, customer feedback, marketing plans, archived project schedules, and other information acquired over the product’s life.” Source:  Product Lifecycle Management

“It is important to note that PLM is not a definition of a piece, or pieces, of technology. It is a definition of a business approach to solving the problem of managing the complete set of product definition information-creating that information, managing it through its life, and disseminating and using it throughout the lifecycle of the product. PLM is not just a technology, but is an approach in which processes are as important, or more important than data.” Source:  CIMdata

“PLM or Product Life Cycle Management is a process or system used to manage the data and design process associated with the life of a product from its conception and envisioning through its manufacture, to its retirement and disposal. PLM manages data, people, business processes, manufacturing processes, and anything else pertaining to a product. A PLM system acts as a central information hub for everyone associated with a given product, so a well-managed PLM system can streamline product development and facilitate easier communication among those working on/with a product. Source:  Aras

A pictorial representation of PLM may be seen as follows:

Hopefully, you can see that PLM deals with methodologies from “white napkin design to landfill disposal”.  Please note, documentation is critical to all aspects of PLM and good document production, storage and retrieval is extremely important to the overall process.  We are talking about CAD, CAM, CAE, DFSS, laboratory testing notes, etc.  In other words, “the whole nine yards of product life”.   If you work in a company with ISO certification, PLM is a great method to insure retaining that certification.

In looking at the four stages of a products lifecycle, we see the following:

Four Stages of Product Life Cycle—Marketing and Sales:

Introduction: When the product is brought into the market. In this stage, there’s heavy marketing activity, product promotion and the product is put into limited outlets in a few channels for distribution. Sales take off slowly in this stage. The need is to create awareness, not profits.

The second stage is growth. In this stage, sales take off, the market knows of the product; other companies are attracted, profits begin to come in and market shares stabilize.

The third stage is maturity, where sales grow at slowing rates and finally stabilize. In this stage, products get differentiated, price wars and sales promotion become common and a few weaker players exit.

The fourth stage is decline. Here, sales drop, as consumers may have changed, the product is no longer relevant or useful. Price wars continue, several products are withdrawn and cost control becomes the way out for most products in this stage.

Benefits of PLM Relative to the Four Stages of Product Life:

Considering the benefits of Product Lifecycle Management, we realize the following:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Increase full price sales
  • Improved product quality and reliability
  • Reduced prototypingcosts
  • More accurate and timely request for quote generation
  • Ability to quickly identify potential sales opportunities and revenue contributions
  • Savings through the re-use of original data
  • frameworkfor product optimization
  • Reduced waste
  • Savings through the complete integration of engineering workflows
  • Documentation that can assist in proving compliance for RoHSor Title 21 CFR Part 11
  • Ability to provide contract manufacturers with access to a centralized product record
  • Seasonal fluctuation management
  • Improved forecasting to reduce material costs
  • Maximize supply chain collaboration
  • Allowing for much better “troubleshooting” when field problems arise. This is accomplished by laboratory testing and reliability testing documentation.

PLM considers not only the four stages of a product’s lifecycle but all of the work prior to marketing and sales AND disposal after the product is removed from commercialization.   With this in mind, why is PLM a necessary business technique today?  Because increases in technology, manpower and specialization of departments, PLM was needed to integrate all activity toward the design, manufacturing and support of the product. Back in the late 1960s when the F-15 Eagle was conceived and developed, almost all manufacturing and design processes were done by hand.  Blueprints or drawings needed to make the parts for the F15 were created on a piece of paper. No electronics, no emails – all paper for documents. This caused a lack of efficiency in design and manufacturing compared to today’s technology.  OK, another example of today’s technology and the application of PLM.

If we look at the processes for Boeings DREAMLINER, we see the 787 Dreamliner has about 2.3 million parts per airplane.  Development and production of the 787 has involved a large-scale collaboration with numerous suppliers worldwide. They include everything from “fasten seatbelt” signs to jet engines and vary in size from small fasteners to large fuselage sections. Some parts are built by Boeing, and others are purchased from supplier partners around the world.  In 2012, Boeing purchased approximately seventy-five (75) percent of its supplier content from U.S. companies. On the 787 program, content from non-U.S. suppliers accounts for about thirty (30) percent of purchased parts and assemblies.  PLM or Boeing’s version of PLM was used to bring about commercialization of the 787 Dreamliner.

 

VOLVO ANNOUNCEMENT

July 7, 2017


Certain portions of this post were taken from Mr. Chris Wiltz writing for Design News Daily.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the VOLVO line of automobiles but for years the brand has been known for safety and durability.  My wife drives a 2005 VOLVO S-40 with great satisfaction relative to reliability and cost of maintenance.  The S-40 has about 150,000 miles on the odometer and continues to run like a Singer Sewing Machine.   The “boxy, smoking diesel” VOLVO of years-gone-by has been replaced by a very sleek aerodynamic configuration representing significant improvements in design and styling.  You can take a look at the next two digitals to see where they are inside and out.

As you can see from the JPEG above, the styling is definitely twenty-first century with agreeable slip-stream considerations in mind.

The interior is state-of-the art with all the whistles and bells necessary to attract the most discerning buyer.

Volvo announced this past Tuesday that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars.  “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.  The move is a significant bet by the carmaker indicating they feel the age of the internal-combustion engine is quickly coming to an end.  Right now, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based automaker is lone among the world’s major automakers to move so aggressively into electric or hybrid cars. Volvo sold around half a million cars last year, significantly less than the world’s largest car companies such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM, but far greater than the 76,000 sold by Tesla, the all-electric carmaker.

Every car it produces from 2019 forward will have an electric motor.   Håkan Samuelsson indicated there has been a clear increase in consumer demand as well as a “commitment towards reducing the carbon footprint thereby contributing to better air quality in our cities.”  The Swedish automaker will cease production of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and will not plan any new developments into diesel engines.

The company will begin producing three levels of electric vehicles (mild, Twin Engine, and fully electric) and has committed to commercializing one million Twin Engine or all-electric cars until 2025.   Between 2019 and 2021 Volvo plans to launch five fully electric cars, three of which will be Volvo models and two that will be high performance electric vehicles from Polestar, Volvo’s performance car division. Samuelsson said all of these electric vehicles will be new models and not necessarily new stylings of existing Volvo models.

Technical details on the vehicles were sparse during a press conference held by Volvo, but the company did offer information about its three electric vehicle tiers. The mild electric vehicles, which Volvo views as a stepping stone away from ICEs, will feature a forty-eight (48) volt system featuring a battery in conjunction with a complex system functioning as a starter, generator, and electric motor.   Twin Engine will be a plug-in hybrid system. During the press conference Henrik Green, Senior VP of R&D at Volvo, said the company will be striving to provide a “very competitive range” with these new vehicles, which will be available in medium range and long range – at least up to 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) on a single charge. Green said Volvo has not yet settled on a battery supplier, but said the company is looking at all available suppliers for the best option.  “When it comes to batteries of course it’s a highly competitive and important component in all the future pure battery electric vehicles,” he said. Samuelsson added that this should also be taken as an invitation for more companies to invest in battery research and development. “We need new players and competition in battery manufacturing,” Samuelsson said.

This new announcement represents a dramatic shift in point of view for Volvo. Back in 2014 Samuelsson said the company didn’t believe in all-electric vehicles and said that hybrids were the way forward. Why the change of heart? Samuelsson told the press conference audience that Volvo was initially skeptical about the cost level of batteries and the lack of infrastructure to for recharging electric cars. “Things have moved faster, costumer demand has increased, battery costs have come down and there is movement now in charging infrastructure,” he said.

Top of Form

VOLVO did not unveil any details on vehicle costs. However, earlier reports from the Geneva Motor Show in March quoted Lex Kerssemakers , CEO of Volvo Car USA, as saying that the company’s first all-electric vehicle would have a range of at least 250 miles and price point of between 35,000 and $40,000 when it is released in 2019.

I think this is a fascinating step on the part of VOLVO.  They are placing all of their money on environmental efforts to reduce emissions.  I think that is very commendable.  Hopefully their vision for the future improves their brand and does not harm their sales efforts.


Chattanooga, Tennessee is home to the Tennessee Aquarium.  We are remarkably fortunate to have this “fish tank” for many reasons.  First and foremost, the Aquarium has demonstrated one significant fact—it was the anchor for Chattanooga’s renaissance.  Chattanooga is no longer just a stop on your way to Florida.  It has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of non-citizens on an annual basis.  The aquarium gives tourists and residents something to do during and on week days and weekends.  The digital picture below will give you some idea as to the striking design of the facility.

It is hard to believe this week marks the twenty-fifth (25) anniversary of the aquarium.  I can remember the time prior to construction when many wondered whether or not the facility could support itself with visitors.  How would the City pay the employees?  How would the city maintain the facility?  Why take up precious land when it could be used for manufacturing and production?  All of these questions and more were asked—and answered.

The Tennessee Aquarium has been at the epicenter of the city’s downtown revival.  That fact is reflected with the knowledge that since its opening on May 1, 1992, more than twenty-three (23) million people have visited what has become, by far, the region’s biggest attraction.  In my opinion, the exhibits are much better than the aquarium in Atlanta and the Smokies. (Just my opinion.)

Let’s take a look at several facts that will highlight this marvelous addition to our city.

  • A new economic study estimates those visitors have pumped nearly $3.3 billion into Hamilton County’s economy and helped spur more than $5 billion in private investment downtown. Last year alone, out-of-state tourists coming to visit the Tennessee Aquarium are estimated to have had an economic impact totaling $115.7 million, according to a study by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sustainable Business and Development.
  • As you can see from the following graphic, the aquarium is just where it should be— right downtown.

Before the aquarium was built, you could go downtown and there would not be one soul on Broad or Market streets.  Broad and Market and the “main drags” in Chattanooga.  Today, those downtown streets are filled with people, even on most weeknights, and most of that has to do with what began with the aquarium.  After 6:00 P.M. any night, go downtown and try to find a parking spot on the street.  The garages have ample parking but on the streets-not so much.  The aquarium has also attracted a huge number of restaurants, bars, food trucks, dance halls, etc etc.  The vision our community leaders had to transform our city began with the aquarium, and without the aquarium we would not be where we are today.

  • The aquarium employs more than two hundred (200) people with seven hundred and fifty (750) volunteers.
  • The facility is home to more than twelve thousand (12,000) animals representing eight hundred (800) species.
  • Annual revenues = $25.2 million.
  • Mitch Patel, president of Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Corp., credits the aquarium for much of the growth in the city’s $1 billion-a-year tourism industry.
  • The aquarium’s educational and research mission has expanded its scope and footprint to add research and conservation institutes and extra attractions, such as the IMAX Theater, Ocean Discovery saltwater tanks and the River Gorge Explorer boat trips in the Tennessee River gorge.
  • Chattanooga downtown boosters also have added to its appeal with the development of Coolidge, Renaissance and the Tennessee Riverwalk parks; the Children’s Discovery Museum; the Walnut Street and Holmberg pedestrian bridges; the AT&T baseball stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts, the expansion of the Hunter Museum of American Art and growth of the Bluff View Art District, among other successes.
  • There has been $5 billion of private investment in our downtown area since 1992, including a billion dollars of projects announced in the past year and a half. That’s just extraordinary, but it shows the power of finding what is authentic and fits your community. That’s what the aquarium has been for Chattanooga.

As a catalyst for growth, the aquarium and other attractions helped to increase the hotel business in Hamilton County nearly fourfold. In 1991, the last full year before the aquarium opened, Hamilton County hotels captured forty-seven ($47) million in total revenues. Last year they generated $187 million in revenues, according to the Hamilton County Trustee’s Office and before the aquarium opened, the only major hotel built downtown in decades was the Marriott, which that opened in 1986 next to the Trade Center. For a major city, even a small city such as Chattanooga, this is big.   Since 1992, more than a dozen hotels have been added across Chattanooga, and more than $140 million in new hotels are being built or in the pipeline in Hamilton County, including five luxury or boutique hotels downtown.

“Jack’s fish tank” questioned

As mentioned above, some were initially skeptical of the aquarium idea, which was proposed by architectural students at the Urban Design Studio in 1981 and later embraced as one of the goals in the community planning process organized by Chattanooga Venture in the 1980s. When the aquarium was pitched to then-Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander among a group of community projects, he urged local leaders, including Chattanooga Coca-Cola magnate Jack Lupton, to make the attraction distinctive and world-class.   Lupton, Chairman of the Lyndhurst Foundation and other backers agreed to build the facility with private money and contributed ten ($10) million from the foundation and eleven ($11) million of his own money.  He also led the forty-five ($45) million fundraising drive.

The Tennessee Aquarium was designed by Cambridge Seven Associates, which had previously designed the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the New England Aquarium in Boston, to tell the story of aquatic life from the headwaters of the Smoky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. The 130,000-square-foot River Journey structure is the equivalent of a 12-story building and follows the path of a raindrop from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the ocean.  The digitals below will give you some idea as to what’s inside.

Many of its tanks and exhibits bear the names of corporate or individual donors. Memberships, admission fees and ongoing capital campaigns help pay to operate and expand the aquarium and support its educational research and outreach.

The 21st Century Waterfront, which included the thirty ($30) million Ocean Journey structure built in 2005, revamped the Ross’s Landing are to include a riverfront park, walkway, pier and boat docks, opening up the waterfront to pedestrians and Chattanooga’s downtown to boats.

The aquarium quickly won over most skeptics, topping its first-year attendance goal of 650,000 people within its first four months and topping out at nearly 1.5 million visitors in the first year. It consistently has ranked among the nation’s top aquariums in visitor satisfaction surveys. Please keep in mind the population of Chattanooga is 167, 674.  This will give you some perspective as to why the facility is so very important to our city.  How many other communities of our size can say they attract over a million visitors per year?  Think about and then, plan your next trip to Chattanooga.


If you work or have worked in manufacturing you know robotic systems have definitely had a distinct impact on assembly, inventory acquisition from storage areas and finished-part warehousing.   There is considerable concern that the “rise of the machines” will eventually replace individuals performing a verity of tasks.  I personally do not feel this will be the case although there is no doubt robotic systems have found their way onto the manufacturing floor.

From the “Executive Summary World Robotics 2016 Industrial Robots”, we see the following:

2015:  By far the highest volume ever recorded in 2015, robot sales increased by 15% to 253,748 units, again by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. The main driver of the growth in 2015 was the general industry with an increase of 33% compared to 2014, in particular the electronics industry (+41%), metal industry (+39%), the chemical, plastics and rubber industry (+16%). The robot sales in the automotive industry only moderately increased in 2015 after a five-year period of continued considerable increase. China has significantly expanded its leading position as the biggest market with a share of 27% of the total supply in 2015.

In looking at the chart below, we can see the sales picture with perspective and show how system sales have increased from 2003.

It is very important to note that seventy-five percent (75%) of global robot sales comes from five (5) countries.

There were five major markets representing seventy-five percent (75%) of the total sales volume in 2015:  China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, and Germany.

As you can see from the bar chart above, sales volume increased from seventy percent (70%) in 2014. Since 2013 China is the biggest robot market in the world with a continued dynamic growth. With sales of about 68,600 industrial robots in 2015 – an increase of twenty percent (20%) compared to 2014 – China alone surpassed Europe’s total sales volume (50,100 units). Chinese robot suppliers installed about 20,400 units according to the information from the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). Their sales volume was about twenty-nine percent (29%) higher than in 2014. Foreign robot suppliers increased their sales by seventeen percent (17%) to 48,100 units (including robots produced by international robot suppliers in China). The market share of Chinese robot suppliers grew from twenty-five percent (25%) in 2013 to twenty-nine percent (29%) in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, total supply of industrial robots increased by about thirty-six percent (36%) per year on average.

About 38,300 units were sold to the Republic of Korea, fifty-five percent (55%) more than in 2014. The increase is partly due to a number of companies which started to report their data only in 2015. The actual growth rate in 2015 is estimated at about thirty percent (30%) to thirty-five percent (35%.)

In 2015, robot sales in Japan increased by twenty percent (20%) to about 35,000 units reaching the highest level since 2007 (36,100 units). Robot sales in Japan followed a decreasing trend between 2005 (reaching the peak at 44,000 units) and 2009 (when sales dropped to only 12,767 units). Between 2010 and 2015, robot sales increased by ten percent (10%) on average per year (CAGR).

Increase in robot installations in the United States continued in 2015, by five percent (5%) to the peak of 27,504 units. Driver of this continued growth since 2010 was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen American industries on the global market and to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, to bring back manufacturing that had previously been sent overseas.

Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world. In 2015, the number of robots sold increased slightly to a new record high at 20,105 units compared to 2014 (20,051 units). In spite of the high robot density of 301 units per 10,000 employees, annual sales are still very high in Germany. Between 2010 and 2015, annual sales of industrial robots increased by an average of seven percent (7%) in Germany (CAGR).

From the graphic below, you can see which industries employ robotic systems the most.

Growth rates will not lessen with projections through 2019 being as follows:

A fascinating development involves the assistance of human endeavor by robotic systems.  This fairly new technology is called collaborative robots of COBOTS.  Let’s get a definition.

COBOTS:

A cobot or “collaborative robot” is a robot designed to assist human beings as a guide or assistor in a specific task. A regular robot is designed to be programmed to work more or less autonomously. In one approach to cobot design, the cobot allows a human to perform certain operations successfully if they fit within the scope of the task and to steer the human on a correct path when the human begins to stray from or exceed the scope of the task.

“The term ‘collaborative’ is used to distinguish robots that collaborate with humans from robots that work behind fences without any direct interaction with humans.  “In contrast, articulated, cartesian, delta and SCARA robots distinguish different robot kinematics.

Traditional industrial robots excel at applications that require extremely high speeds, heavy payloads and extreme precision.  They are reliable and very useful for many types of high volume, low mix applications.  But they pose several inherent challenges for higher mix environments, particularly in smaller companies.  First and foremost, they are very expensive, particularly when considering programming and integration costs.  They require specialized engineers working over several weeks or even months to program and integrate them to do a single task.  And they don’t multi-task easily between jobs since that setup effort is so substantial.  Plus, they can’t be readily integrated into a production line with people because they are too dangerous to operate in close proximity to humans.

For small manufacturers with limited budgets, space and staff, a collaborative robot such as Baxter (shown below) is an ideal fit because it overcomes many of these challenges.  It’s extremely intuitive, integrates seamlessly with other automation technologies, is very flexible and is quite affordable with a base price of only $25,000.  As a result, Baxter is well suited for many applications, such as those requiring manual labor and a high degree of flexibility, that are currently unmet by traditional technologies.

Baxter is one example of collaborative robotics and some say is by far the safest, easiest, most flexible and least costly robot of its kind today.  It features a sophisticated multi-tier safety design that includes a smooth, polymer exterior with fewer pinch points; back-drivable joints that can be rotated by hand; and series elastic actuators which help it to minimize the likelihood of injury during inadvertent contact.

It’s also incredibly simple to use.  Line workers and other non-engineers can quickly learn to train the robot themselves, by hand.  With Baxter, the robot itself is the interface, with no teaching pendant or external control system required.  And with its ease of use and diverse skill set, Baxter is extremely flexible, capable of being utilized across multiple lines and tasks in a fraction of the time and cost it would take to re-program other robots.  Plus, Baxter is made in the U.S.A., which is a particularly appealing aspect for many of our customers looking to re-shore their own production operations.

The digital picture above shows a lady work alongside a collaborative robotic system, both performing a specific task. The lady feels right at home with her mechanical friend only because usage demands a great element of safety.

Certifiable safety is the most important precondition for a collaborative robot system to be applied to an industrial setting.  Available solutions that fulfill the requirements imposed by safety standardization often show limited performance or productivity gains, as most of today’s implemented scenarios are often limited to very static processes. This means a strict stop and go of the robot process, when the human enters or leaves the work space.

Collaborative systems are still a work in progress but the technology has greatly expanded the use and this is primarily due to satisfying safety requirements.  Upcoming years will only produce greater acceptance and do not be surprised if you see robots and humans working side by side on every manufacturing floor over the next decade.

As always, I welcome your comments.


Biomedical Engineering may be a fairly new term so some of you.   What is a biomedical engineer?  What do they do? What companies to they work for?  What educational background is necessary for becoming a biomedical engineer?  These are good questions.  From LifeScience we have the follow definition:

“Biomedical engineering, or bioengineering, is the application of engineering principles to the fields of biology and health care. Bioengineers work with doctors, therapists and researchers to develop systems, equipment and devices in order to solve clinical problems.”

Biomedical engineering has evolved over the years in response to advancements in science and technology.  This is NOT a new classification for engineering involvement.  Engineers have been at this for a while.  Throughout history, humans have made increasingly more effective devices to diagnose and treat diseases and to alleviate, rehabilitate or compensate for disabilities or injuries. One example is the evolution of hearing aids to mitigate hearing loss through sound amplification. The ear trumpet, a large horn-shaped device that was held up to the ear, was the only “viable form” of hearing assistance until the mid-20th century, according to the Hearing Aid Museum. Electrical devices had been developed before then, but were slow to catch on, the museum said on its website.

The possibilities of a bioengineer’s charge are as follows:

The equipment envisioned, designed, prototyped, tested and eventually commercialized has made a resounding contribution and value-added to our healthcare system.  OK, that’s all well and good but exactly what do bioengineers do on a daily basis?  What do they hope to accomplish?   Please direct your attention to the digital figure below.  As you can see, the world of the bioengineer can be somewhat complex with many options available.

The breadth of activity of biomedical engineers is significant. The field has moved from being concerned primarily with the development of medical devices in the 1950s and 1960s to include a wider ranging set of activities. As illustrated in the figure above, the field of biomedical engineering now includes many new career areas. These areas include:

  • Application of engineering system analysis (physiologic modeling, simulation, and control to biological problems
  • Detection, measurement, and monitoring of physiologic signals (i.e., biosensors and biomedical instrumentation)
  • Diagnostic interpretation via signal-processing techniques of bioelectric data
  • Therapeutic and rehabilitation procedures and devices (rehabilitation engineering)
  • Devices for replacement or augmentation of bodily functions (artificial organs)
  • Computer analysis of patient-related data and clinical decision making (i.e., medical informatics and artificial intelligence)
  • Medical imaging; that is, the graphical display of anatomic detail or physiologic Function.
  • The creation of new biologic products (i.e., biotechnology and tissue engineering)

Typical pursuits of biomedical engineers include

  • Research in new materials for implanted artificial organs
  • Development of new diagnostic instruments for blood analysis
  • Writing software for analysis of medical research data
  • Analysis of medical device hazards for safety and efficacy
  • Development of new diagnostic imaging systems
  • Design of telemetry systems for patient monitoring
  • Design of biomedical sensors
  • Development of expert systems for diagnosis and treatment of diseases
  • Design of closed-loop control systems for drug administration
  • Modeling of the physiologic systems of the human body
  • Design of instrumentation for sports medicine
  • Development of new dental materials
  • Design of communication aids for individuals with disabilities
  • Study of pulmonary fluid dynamics
  • Study of biomechanics of the human body
  • Development of material to be used as replacement for human skin

I think you will agree, these areas of interest encompass any one of several engineering disciplines; i.e. mechanical, chemical, electrical, computer science, and even civil engineering as applied to facilities and hospital structures.

JOBS JOBS JOBS

April 5, 2017


I think we all hope meaningful employment for everyone wishing to work and physically able to work.

According to CNBC, we have the following statement:

“Companies added 263,000 jobs for the month, ADP and Moody’s Analytics said. That was well above the 185,000 expected from economists surveyed by Reuters and also better than the 245,000 reported for February.

The February number was revised significantly lower, however, from the originally reported 298,000.

In addition to the big gain on the headline number, the month also continued a trend away from services-oriented positions dominating job creation. Goods-producing firms contributed 82,000 to the total, as construction led the way with 49,000 new jobs.

Professional and business services was the leading sector, with 57,000, while leisure and hospitality added 55,000 and health care was up 46,000. Manufacturing payrolls grew by 30,000 and trade, transportation and utilities rose by 34,000.

In terms of company size, fewer than 50 employees represented the greatest growth area, with 118,000. Firms that employ 50 to 499 workers added 100,000.”

“The report comes amid hopes that President Donald Trump can deliver on his pro-growth agenda of lower taxes, less regulation and more infrastructure spending. Economic data points have been mixed lately, with sentiment surveys outpacing actual hard data of activity.”

The bar graph below indicates private sector job growth, or lack thereof for the last several months.  I do not think anyone would argue with the statement we are facing a growing economy but that growth is not robust by any stretch of the imagination.

Another very good sign our economy just might be on the mend:

“The U.S. trade deficit shrank by nearly 10 percent in February, hinting that the economy may be growing at a faster pace than many economists expect.

The deficit fell to a seasonally adjusted $43.6 billion, lower than the $44.6 billion economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had expected. Exports rose 0.2 percent to $192.9 billion in February while imports declined 1.8 percent to $236.4 billion, the Department of Commerce said Tuesday.”

 

The chart below indicates that drop.  We still are running a trade deficit but with the push for more “on-shoring” that deficit may continue to shrink.  This will undoubtedly improve the job market “state-side” and provide added employment.

The bar charts below will show Annual GDP growth rates, corporate profits, and single family home process.   I think each chart indicates recovery is still very incremental and some would say sluggish.  Our politicians in Washington indicate the following:

  • The repeal and replacement of the Affordable Healthcare Act will greatly reduce healthcare costs for the individual consumer.
  • The reduction of “red tape” and regulations for business owners will provide incentives for investment in companies and individual businesses.
  • Rework of the Federal Tax Code and subsequent reduction in corporate and individual tax rates will provide for much greater growth in GDP and corporate profits.
  • Increased trade with other nations will reduce the trade deficit and promote job growth
  • Significant increases in infrastructure spending will definitely improve job growth and job outlook.
  • “Leveling the playing field” relative to NAFTA and other global trade agreements can greatly improve job growth in the United States.

CONCLUSIONS:

All of these things can and possibly will improve job growth and aid our economy.  The big questions is—can Congress get together and pass legislation to get things moving again and in the proper fashion?  This week Congress is going home for Ester vacation.  Another vacation.   What if they remained in Washington, worked through Easter, stayed on the job, and provided their constituents with value-added?

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