First, let us define a collaborative robot or cobot:  “Cobots, or collaborative robots, are robots intended to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity.  Cobots stand in contrast to traditional industrial robots which are designed to work autonomously with safety assured by isolation from human contact.   Cobot safety may rely on lightweight construction materials, rounded edges, and limits on speed or force. Safety may also require sensors and software to assure good collaborative behavior.”

A picture is probably worth a thousand words so take a look.

You will notice the lady above is “collaborating” with the robotic system above.  They BOTH are providing an assembly operation.


The robotic system shown above is drilling a hole in flat metal material while the worker watches.  The drill pattern has been previously chosen and programmed into the computer driving the system.

HISTORY:

The first definition of a cobot comes from a 1999 US patent filing for “an apparatus and method for direct physical integration between a person and a general-purpose manipulator controlled by a computer.”   This description basically refers to what we would now call an Intelligent Assist Device or IAD. An IAD is the ancestor of modern cobots, which resulted from the efforts of General Motors to implement robotics in the automotive sector of our economy.   This new device could move in a non-caged environment to help human workers in assembly operations.  For safety reasons, it had no internal source of motion power.  Please note the “non-caged” description.  For safety reasons, most robotic, non-COBOT, systems are surrounded with safety barriers to protect employees.  COBOTS are generally not of that category. 

In 2004, robotics developer KUKA released their LBR3, a lightweight COBOT with motion of its own.  This was the result of a long collaboration between company and the German Aerospace Center Institute.  Its motion-controlled capabilities were later refined in two updated versions and released in 2008 and 2013.

In 2008, Universal Robots released the UR5, a COBOT THAT COULD safely operate alongside employees, eliminating the need for safety caging or fencing.  The robot helped launch the era of flexible, user-friendly and very cost-effective collaborative robots.  These gave small-to-medium manufacturers the possibly of automating their facilities without investing in cost-prohibitive technology or in a complete make-over of their manufacturing capability.

As with all revolutionary technology, COBOTS were initially met with significant skepticism by the manufacturing industry.  Many facility managers saw them as technological marvels but questioned the possibility of integrating them into actual working environments. Today, however, the market for industrial COBOTS has an annual growth rate of fifty percent (50%) and it is estimated that it will hit three billion USD ($3.00 billion) in global revenue by the end of 2020.

There are limitations at the present time relative to applying COBOTS to manufacturing processes. The most important ones are the need for fine dexterity—for example, when picking up small and delicate pieces and the ability to make decisions rapidly to avoid obstacles without stopping production.   Some of these issues are being overcome by integrating vision systems allowing the COBOT to adapt to environmental changes.  This include obstacles of different nature and variation in the position of the object they are supposed to pick up and locations where they must be dropped off.   This new technology not only eliminates the need for precise positioning, but allows manufacturers to finally combine safety and maximum productivity.  The increased sensitivity will allow several COBOTS to work together independently, performing different tasks without colliding.


The magazine “Foundry Management & Technology” is used as a source for this post.

If you follow the literature at all, you know that robotic systems have gained significant usage in manufacturing methodologies.  Now, when I say robotic systems, I mean a system of the type shown below.

This is a “pick-and-place “or SCARA (Selective Compliance Articulated Robotic Arm) type system.  We are definitely not talking about the one shown below.

Human robotic systems are well into the future.  We are talking about robotic systems used strictly in manufacturing work cells. 

From experience, the cost of deploying a robotic system can go well beyond the price tag of the robot itself.  You have direct installation costs, cost for electrical and pneumatic inputs, cost for tooling, jigs, fixtures, grippers, welding rigs, costs for engineering and robotic maintenance, insurance, etc.  All of these costs MUST be factored in to discover, or at least estimate, the overall cost of operating a system. 

A report by the Boston Consulting Group suggests that in order to arrive at a solid cost-estimate for robotic systems, customers should multiply the machine’s cost by a minimum of three.  In other words, let us say that a six-axis robot costs $65,000.00, customers should therefore budget $195,000.00 for the entire investment. This is a great “rule-of-thumb” which should represent a starting point. Due to the varying nature of manufacturing facilities, estimated costs fluctuate dramatically according to the specific industrial sector and size of the operation.  Please keep in mind that these costs are not always linear in nature and may vary during machinery lifecycle. 

Let’s look at an example. A manufacturer plans to use two SCARA robots to automate a pick-and-place process.  The robots will operate three shifts daily, six days per week, forty-eight (48) weeks per year.  Equivalent labor would require two operators per shift, equating to six (6) operators generating the same throughput over the same period of time.  Now, using the lowest average salary of a U.S. production employee, we would have to pay approximately $25,000.00 per employee per year or approximately $150,000.00 per year.  When employing robotic systems, human labor is not completely eliminated. A good rule-of-thumb for labor estimation alongside a robotic system is twenty-five percent (25%) of existing labor costs.  This would reduce the human labor to $37,500.00 per year—a great savings producing an acceptable ROI. This estimating method does NOT account for down time of equipment for maintenance and/or parts replacement.  That must be factored into the mix as well.  There will also be some expense for training personnel to monitor and use the equipment.  This involves training to set up the systems and initiate the manufacturing process. 

Robotic systems are predictable.  They can eliminate human error.  They do not take lunch breaks and if maintained properly can provide years of usable production. The payback is there and if a suitable vendor is chosen, a great marriage will occur.  Vendor support when operating a robotic system is an absolute must—a must.


Archimedes declared “Eureka I’ve found it”.  Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the “A-Team” said, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Boo-yah is a cry of success used by the Army. Well, down here in the South we call the act of discovery a Jubilation T. Cornpone moment.  Okay, have you ever made the statement: “I thought of that some months ago” only to lament the fact that you did not act appropriately and give your idea wings?  We all have. Let’s take a look at several “serendipity” moments that resulted in great discoveries being brought to commercialization.

  • Legend has it that Archimedes was about to bathe when he discovered that an object’s buoyancy force equals the weight of the fluid it displaces. Thrilled, he ran naked through Syracuse shouting “Eureka”.
  • According to biographers, Paul McCartney composed this melody in a dream at the Wimpole Street of then-girlfriend Jane Asher.  Upon waking, he rushed to a piano and played the tune to avoid forgetting it.  The tune was Yesterday.
  • Riding a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein was struck by the sight of the city’s medieval clock tower—and was inspired to devise his elegant special theory of relativity: time can beat at different rates throughout the universe, depending on how fast you move.
  • We can all thank Josephine Knight Dickson for those ubiquitous adhesive bandages later known as Band-Aids.  She often cut and burned herself while cooking.  So, in 1920 these events prompted her husband, Earle, a Johnson cotton buyer, and Thomas Anderson to develop a prototype so Josephine could dress her wounds unaided.
  • At the tender age of fourteen (14) Philo Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when he suddenly realized how television could work.  The back-and-forth motion of the till inspired him to imagine how an electron beam could scan images line by line—the basis for almost all TVs until LCD and plasma screens.
  • 3M scientist Spencer Silver just could not interest the company in his low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive.  Then colleague Arthur Fry found an application—at choir practice. Coating the sticky stuff on paper, Fry reasoned, he could create stay-put paper in his hymnal as a bookmark.
  • GoPro visionary Nick Woodman invented his wrist-strap-mounted, 35-millimeter camera while trying to capture his passion surfing on film. He turned it into a business that, at its height, was worth eleven (11) billion dollars.
  • The quickie oven (microwave) was born while engineer Percy Spencer was working on magnetrons for military radar sets.  When a candy bar in his pocket melted near various radar components, Spencer realized microwaves could penetrate the exterior of a food and cook it from inside out-unlike old-school ovens that cook from the outside in.
  • In 1905, eleven (11) year old Frank Epperson of Oakland, California mixed sugary soda power with water and left it out on a cold winter’s night.  The concoction froze-and proved delicious when he licked it off the wooden stirrer. Epperson, who died in 1983, dubbed his accidental treat the Epsicle and later patented it.  He sold the rights in 1925.
  • One day in 1941, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the Swiss woods.  When returning, he noticed burrs stuck to his pants–which refused to be removed. Under a microscope, de Mestral saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that attached themselves to thread loops in his pants.  Sensing a business opportunity, he connected with a Lyon fabric manufacturing firm and named the product with portmanteau of “velvet” and “crochet”—French for hook.
  • At the height of WWII, a mechanical engineer named Richard James was trying to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea.  After accidentally knocking spring samples from a shelf, he watched in astonishment as the springs gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. Teaming with his wife, Betty, James developed a plan for the wonderful novelty toy Slinky.

All of these “inventions” were waiting to happen but just depended upon creative minds to bring them into fruition.  This is the manner in which creativity works.  Suddenly with great flashes of brilliance.


With the federal government pulling out of manned space flight, it gave private companies ample opportunity to fill in the gaps.  Of course, these companies MUST have adequate funding, trained personnel and proper facilities to launch their version(s) of equipment, support and otherwise that will take man and equipment to the outer reaches of space.  The list of companies was quite surprising to me.  Let’s take a look.

These are just the launch vehicles.  There is also a huge list of manufacturers making man-rovers and orbiters, research craft and tech demonstrators, propulsion manufacturers, satellite launchers, space manufacturing, space mining, space stations, space settlements, spacecraft component manufacturers and developers, and spaceliner companies.   I will not publish that list but these companies are available for discovery by putting in the heading for each category.  To think we are not involved in space is obviously a misnomer.

 

CONCEPT CARS FOR THE FUTURE

February 9, 2019


On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) unveiled a landmark resolution cementing the pillars of an unprecedented program to zero out planet-warming emissions and restore the middle-class prosperity of postwar America that the original New Deal helped spur.

Just three months after calls for a Green New Deal electrified a long-stagnant debate on climate policy, the Democratic lawmakers released the six-page document outlining plans to cut global emissions forty (40) to sixty (60) percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and neutralize human-caused greenhouse gases entirely by 2050.

The joint resolution stakes out a “ten-year national mobilization” plan to build “smart” grids and rapidly increase the share of American power generated from solar and wind from ten (10) percent today to as close to one hundred (100) percent as possible over the next decade. The plan reframes tired talk of repairing the nation’s crumbling bridges, highways and ports as a crisis in a new era of billion-dollar storms. It gets local, demanding upgrades to “all existing U.S. buildings” to “achieve maximum” efficiency with energy and water use.

These are tremendously ambitious goals and quite frankly somewhat misguided.  The time line is NOT realistic.  We are, at the present time, not anywhere close to achieving those goals.  No programs in action to achieve those goals and one thing the “gentle” congresswoman misunderstands—the American love for fast cars, slow cars, electric cars, hybrid cars, etc. You surely must get my drift. Our entire economy has been built on fossil fuels.  That will continue using carbonaceous fuels until viable and cost-efficient alternatives are realized and commercially available.

The automotive industry thinks that time is down the road and they are operating with that belief. Let’s take a very quick look at what the automotive industry thinks is in store for our future “rides”.  The digital pictures below will give you some idea as to the concepts the industry is working on for future sales.

The E-Legend is an all-electric modern reinterpretation Peugeot’s 1969 -504 coupe. The automotive industry is making across-the-board moves to electric vehicles, and French manufacturer Peugeot isn’t about to be left behind. Ahead of the 2018 Paris Motor Show, Peugeot has released its E-Legend concept EV with a design that harks back to the classic 504 coupes of the 60s and 70s. In a world where aerodynamics leaves automotive design with a feeling of sameness across the industry, the E-Legend breaks from convention with a classically proportioned exterior and sharp features. The interior is nearly a modern masterpiece, with seats that could be at home in a modern office and a rectangular steering wheel. Peugeot claims 456 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque from the electric powertrain and a range of 373 miles, putting it right in line with current EV offerings. With its good looks and solid specs, the E-Legend is begging to see production.

Mercedes has unveiled the Vision EQ Silver Arrows Concept, and it is a stunner. The concept is a feast for the senses, a product of Mercedes’ masterful use of its own heritage and reinventing it with a futuristic electric-jolted twist. As it is, the EQ Silver Arrow is a showcase concept — and what a concept, it is — that we’ll never see in production form. The good news is that the concept isn’t just a muscle-flexing design exercise, too. Parts of the concept will appear in Mercedes’ new electric brand offshoot, EQ. As to what those parts are? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

Porsche has announced that it will put the Cross Turismo into production as a variant of the upcoming Taycan EV, creating 300 new jobs at Porsche’s Zuffenhausen headquarters. The reports of the wagon’s death have been greatly exaggerated, and the Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo concept is the latest proof that the body style is alive and well. Following the path blazed by the raised ride height and plastic-clad wheel arches of its corporate cousin, the Audi A4 All-road, the Mission E Cross Turismo is an all-electric, off-road-ready wagon that’s nonetheless claimed to be capable of blasting to 60 mph in less than 3.5 seconds and to 124 mph in less than 12 seconds.That’s right, Porsche is hinting that boxer engines won’t be the only characteristic its vehicles share with Subarus, and the Mission E Cross Turismo reveals the brand is, at the very least, considering an Outback-like variant of its upcoming Mission E sedan. Presumably, such a model will accompany a lower-riding, cladding-free, and non-knobby-tired Sport Turismo wagon version of the Mission E, as well.

“In our striving for efficiency, have we lost empathy for the traveler?” These words, from Volvo’s launch video for its new 360c fully autonomous concept car, hit home with me. I fly a lot, so I’m fully familiar with efficient but unsympathetic forms of travel, and Volvo’s idea is to help people like me through the design of its future cars. The Volvo 360c is, like most concepts of our time, all-electric, fully autonomous, and covered by a big sweeping glass dome. What distinguishes it, though, is Volvo’s vision of how it fits into the broader scheme of city infrastructure, short-haul flights, working commutes, and environmental concerns.

The PB18 e-tron concept embodies a fundamentally driver-centric sports car — there are no piloted driving systems to add weight, and its relatively lightweight construction helps propel it to speeds above 186 mph. It features a large-format cockpit which is a freely programmable unit and can be switched between layouts for optimal racetrack- and road-driving. The driver’s seat and cockpit are integrated into an inner monocoque shell that can be slid laterally to accommodate for one- or two-person seating.

The all-electric I.D. Vizzion will have a production version with a steering wheel and Level 4 autonomy on board, but the concept being shown off on the Geneva floor was the one with full autonomy and no human controls. To look at the expansive opening created by the Vizzion’s vast doors and the carpeted interior and contoured seating inside, you’d be reminded of Aston Martin’s similarly grand Lagonda concept car. But where the Aston Martin is sumptuous and enticing, VW’s carpet is made out of an unpleasant synthetic material, and the entire interior feels cheaper than it looks.

There’s not much in the way of features on the inside of the I.D. Vizzion: like most concepts, it’s minimal and stripped down, with only a shelf at the front of the car for tossing your sunglasses onto. There are wireless charging pods for phones, which are increasingly becoming a standard feature even in current production models.

CONCLUSION:

As you can see, the automobile industry is planning on a long and continued future although all-electric and autonomous vehicles are definitely in the future.  Please let me have your comments. See if you and I agree at all.

1918

October 6, 2018


I want us to climb in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and travel back in time to the year 1918.  One hundred years ago.  What were things like back then; clothes, cars, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.    It’s amazing to me how many advances have been made in just one hundred years.  Let’s take a quick look.

  • The average life expectancy for men was forty-seven (47) years.
  • Fuel for automobiles was sold in drug stores.
  • Only fourteen (14) percent of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only eight (8) percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten (10) MPH.
  • The average wage in the US was $0.22 per hour.
  • The average worker made between two hundred ($200) and four hundred ($400) dollars per year.
  • More that ninety-five (95%) percent of births took place in homes.
  • A dentist made $2500 per year.
  • A veterinarian made between $1500 and $4000 per year.
  • Ninety percent (90%) of ALL doctors had no college education. Instead, they attended so-called local medical schools. Many of which were condemned in the press and the government as substandard.
  • Sugar was four cents ($0.04) per pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents ($0.14) per dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents ($0.15) per pound.
  • Most women washed their hair only one per month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • The population of Las Vegas was thirty (30).
  • Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only six percent (6%) of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • There were two hundred and thirty (230) murders reported in the entire United States.

If a picture is worth a thousand words—let’s have pictures.  All of following pictures are from Getty Images and were taken in the year 1918.  Let’s take a look.

HUGE differences—right?  One thing I am certainly grateful for is advances in medical technology.  Our life expectancy for a male is now seventy-eight (78) and not forty-seven (47).  Huge advances.

TEN MOST RELIABLE CARS

April 4, 2018


Conservative design principles may be the key to building a more reliable automobile, say engineers from Consumer Reports who studied vehicle reliability for their 2018 auto issue.  Nine of the ten vehicles receiving “much better than average” overall scores in every available year of the survey were either from Toyota or Lexus.  The only exception was the Acura TSX mid-sized sedan, which received a perfect score in every model year from 2010 to 2014. This probably does not surprise anyone.

Let’s take a look at what Consumer Reports considers the ten most reliable models.

CONCLUSION:

Consumer Reports’ ratings of vehicle reliability are based on survey responses from more than half a million vehicle owners. The surveys ask questions about 17 different potential trouble spots, ranging from engines and transmissions to fuel systems, electrical, suspension, brakes, body hardware, and in-car electronics, among others.

In the ratings, the Camry received “much better than average” ratings (the magazine’s highest score) for in-car electronics in four of the last eight model years on the Consumer Reports survey. It also received perfect scores in all eight years for three engine categories and two transmission categories.

Toyota’s conservative approach does have a downside, however, Fisher added. The company’s vehicles are often dinged by automotive writers for being “dowdy,” or just plain lacking in excitement, he said. “Other manufacturers are willing to take risks for the sake of a performance increase, or for fuel economy boost, or for excitement and drive-ability,” he said. “And those manufacturers continue to get accolades from their peers. However, I would argue that none of those accolades consider reliability.”

OKAY—what are you after? Bells and whistles or a reliable vehicle to get you to and from work?

 

%d bloggers like this: