this-is-how-americans-feel-about-manufacturing-in-2019

A national survey examines Americans’ perceptions about the manufacturing industry, including sustainability and tariffs, as well as whether they plan to pursue a career in the field.

How do Americans feel about the manufacturing sector? A new survey from product sourcing, supplier selection, and marketing solutions company Thomas polled participants from across the US to take a temperature on how Americans feel about manufacturing both from an economic standpoint and as a viable career option.

Sixty-two percent of respondents prefer to buy American-made products, for example. Only 46 percent of respondents view the increased number of tariffs on foreign-made goods as disruptive to the American economy. Most encouraging, 95% of all respondents said they believe manufacturing is important to the US economy.

The majority of those survyed also look at manufacturing as a good career choice. “Since the skills gap is one of the biggest issues the industry is facing, it’s good to see that 60 percent of survey respondents would likely encourage someone entering the workforce to pursue a career in manufacturing, said Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas, said. “In reality, there has never been a more exciting time for industry as output is at an all-time high and job growth continues to rise.” 

Take a look at the rest of the survey results in the infographic below:

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

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Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

virgin-says-hyperloop-will-be-the-best-mode-of-transportation
A conceptual rendering of hyperloops deployed for cargo shipping. (Image source: Virgin Hyperloop One)

Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO) believes it is sitting on the world’s most efficient mode of transportation. The prediction came as the Los Angeles-based company also announced it is joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE [Circular Economy] 100 Network. The charity organization is dedicated to bringing public and private groups together in the name of accelerating innovations that will facilitate a circular economy – meaning one in which sustainability, recycling, and reduced waste are the norm.

In a press statement, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said that innovations like the hyperloop are going to be necessary to drive toward a more sustainable fufure while still meeting increasing demands for transportation. “The only way to address this mounting crisis is head-on,” Branson said. “We need big ideas like hyperloop to reach zero-emission transport while rapidly connecting people and goods.”

“As the world’s population grows, especially our urban populations, global demands for rapid, seamless travel, and more efficient deliveries will continue to rise. We must meet demand in a way that is efficient, clean, and protects the future of our planet,” Jay Walder, CEO of VHO, added. “Hyperloop technology can be that radical solution, setting the bar for the fastest, most energy-efficient, and sustainable form of travel ever created.”

VHO says its hyperloop technology, which uses magnetic levitation to propel a capsule-like vehicle through a depressurized tube, can transport humans and goods at nearly 700 miles per hour. “It will be able to carry more people than a subway, at airline speeds and with zero direct emissions,” the company said. “By combining an ultra-efficient electric motor, magnetic levitation, and a low-drag environment, the VHO system will be five to 10 times more energy-efficient than an airplane and faster than high-speed rail using less energy.” Further, the company proposes that solar panels can be integrated into the hyperloop’s infrastructure to provide for its energy needs.

VHO is currently on a tour across America. The Hyperloop Progress & American Roadshow has been touring major cities across the US to introduce the public to hyperloop technology, specifically the company’s XP-1 vehicle. The company also has several hyperloop projects underway across the country. The Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Transportation Council and The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission are conducting active feasibility studies into the environmental impact of the hyperloop and the viability of building hyperloop routes in the Fort Worth area and the Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh corridor respectively. VHO also maintains a working test site in Nevada called DevLoop.

Internationally, the company is currently working with the Indian government of Maharashtra on developing a hyperloop route between Pune and Mumbai. “The implementation of a regional VHO system could reduce local greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000 tons (300 million pounds) annually while creating 1.8 million new jobs and $36 billion in economic impact across the region,” according to VHO.

An Open-Source Transportation Innovation

The idea of the hyperloop was first proposed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, circa 2012. Musk’s vision was for a new form of transportation that would be immune to weather changes, consume very little energy, never have collisions, store enough energy to operate 24/7, and travel at high speeds (able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes).

The concept was to place pods inside of a tube that contained an array of fans. The fans would create a partial vacuum within the tube, allowing the pods to be propelled (via wheels, air pressure, electromagnetic propulsion, or some other means) through the tube at high speeds. Enthusiasts believe the hyperloop could one day obtain supersonic speeds.

VHO’s XP-1 at the company’s DevLoop test track in Nevada. (Image source: Virgin Hyperloop One)

In 2013 engineers at Tesla and SpaceX released a 57-page white paper detailing an early design concept. That same year Musk announced he was open-sourcing the concept so that other companies and institutions could iterate on the idea and speed its development. This has led to a small ecosystem of hyperloop companies like VHO, Los Angeles-based Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, and Canadian company Transpod to emerge.

There have also been competitions challenging students and startups to develop their own hyperloop solutions. Design News chronicled the journey of one of those teams – Team rLoop. that created its own hyperloop system entirely via social media collaboration.

The Long Loop Ahead

All of this is not to say that hyperloop technology has a smooth road (or tube) ahead. There have yet to be any tests or deployments on the scale comparable to even a short commercial flight. And there are a lot of questions around the logistics necessary to implement a large-scale hyperloop infrastructure.

A 2019 report, “Global Hyper loop Technology Market Research Report- Forecast 2023” published by Market Research Future predicted that transportation demands point to potential growth in the hyperloop market but also that the technology faces major obstacles.

The “possibility of technical glitches and the shortage of power restrain the market growth,” the report said. “Other restraints could be that terrain and other natural disasters will act as a major restraint for this market. In addition to this, it is seen that the online services connected with hyperloop will require connection to the pods which might affect the magnetic field within the tube further forming a major obstacle for the implementation process.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

the-story-of-john-stanley-ford,-america's-first-black-software-engineer

In 1947, the same year that Jackie Robinson was breaking the color barrier in baseball, another man was doing the same in engineering. That same year, Thomas J. Watson, then the CEO and chairman of IBM, met a young African-American accounting student and former US Army lieutenant named John Stanley Ford at a dinner party. Watson would later hire Ford, making him the first black software engineer, not just at IBM, but in America.

John Stanley Ford’s story is chronicled in a new memoir, Think Black, written by his son, Clyde W. Ford, and published by Amistad Press and HarperCollins.

“At this ‘very critical time,’ my father believed that not only would he be judged at IBM, but all Blacks to come in the high-technology industry would be judged by how he behaved,” Clyde Ford writes. Clyde Ford himself would grow up to follow his father’s footsteps work as a software engineer at IBM from 1971 to 1977. In his book he writes of the discoveries made as he delved into his father’s legacy.

“When I went to work for IBM, I risked following the thread of my father’s path into the very corporate behemoth that nearly swallowed him whole. And where I had thought to find a contented man reaping the benefits of good fortune to build a comfortable life, I found a troubled soul battling both inner and outer demons arrayed against him; where I had thought to find a man quietly accepting of his place, I found a man covertly working to bring about change; where I had thought to find a company awakened to social justice, I found a business blinded by corporate greed; and where I had thought to come only to a deeper understanding of my father, I came also to a deeper understanding of myself.”

(Image source: HarperCollins)

In an op-ed for the L.A. Times , Ford discusses IBM’s problematic racial history. He is particularly critical of Watson, the namesake of IBM’s Watson supercomputer, who served as chairman and CEO of IBM from 1914 to 1956. In the 1930s Watson oversaw a program which saw IBM lending its punch card technology to the Nazi regime. The controversy surrounding that decision plagues the company to this day and has led to accusations of IBM having contributed to the Holocaust.

According to Ford, his father’s hiring was not about diversity or inclusion but was instead a PR move meant to detract criticisms of the company’s involvement with the Nazis as well as other questionable dealings, such as supplying technology to assist with classifying citizens during Apartheid in South Africa.

Ford writes that the climate at IBM was anything but friendly for his father. Over the course of his 37-year career John Stanley Ford faced wage discrimination, was passed up for promotions, and dealt with colleagues who attempted to sabotage his career. In his book Clyde Ford writes that the discrimination his father faced at work led John Stanley Ford to adopt eugenics-like beliefs – convincing himself that his race and skin color made him an inferior employee.

But Ford doesn’t want his father’s story to be one of segregation and oppression. Despite his poor treatment at the company, John Stanley Ford persevered and was instrumental in helping other African-Americans get hired at IBM. He helped women from his church, for example, who had learned technical skills during World War II, find employment at IBM. In a more controversial move, Ford says his father was also able to obtain copies of IBM’s entrance examination and coached black applicants through it.

John Stanley Ford himself would become one of the many figures to help usher in the digital age of technology. He spent part of his career working on the IBM 407, a tabulating machine that would later serve as the foundation for more advanced computing systems such as the IBM 650, the company’s first commercial business computer.

Think Black arrives at a time when diversity in tech is a more hot button issue than ever. Many major tech companies have come under scrutiny for a lack of racial and gender identity in their workforce. Recently, Google has been placed in the hot seat after leaked documents revealed a pattern of retaliation against employees who reported issues such as racism and sexual harassment within the company.

A study released earlier this year from New York University showed that Black and Hispanic workers are substantially underrepresented in tech, and woman and minorities are also underrepresented in the artificial intelligence sector in particular. This last bit becomes concerning as more and more companies adopt and develop AI technologies and reports continue to emerge showing evidence of racial and gender bias in AI algorithms.

In writing this book Ford seems to not only illuminate his father’s story, but also offer a cautionary tale to the pitfalls we may soon face if technology does not embrace diversity in its engineering workforce. “My father believed that technology offered the possibility of a more democratic, egalitarian future. But he also often admonished me to learn to control technology before it learned to control me,” Ford wrote for the L.A. Times. “We are at a tipping point where my father’s words must be taken seriously if technology is to be used for a society that we choose to live in rather than one that high-tech corporations find most profitable to create.”

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

The Midwest’s largest advanced design and manufacturing event!

Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis connects you with top industry experts, including esign and manufacturing suppliers, and industry leaders in plastics manufacturing, packaging, automation, robotics, medical technology, and more. This is the place where exhibitors, engineers, executives, and thought leaders can learn, contribute, and create solutions to move the industry forward. Register today!

5-reasons-you’ll-need-a-3d-printer-on-mars

3D printing will play a vital role when we get to Mars. Here are five reasons why.

  • The vision of actually stepping foot on another planet is closer than it has ever been, thanks to technologies that truly would have seemed like something out of science fiction to even early Apollo astronauts. But as that vision inches closer to someday being a reality, it raises legitimate questions not just about how to get to Mars, but how to live once we’re there.

    According to NASA’s own timeline, a manned mission to Mars is years away and a lot of work has to be done before it could actually happen. But whenever we get to Mars, 3D printing will play a vital role. Here are five reasons why.

  • 1. ) 3D-Printed Habitats

    It’s a pretty safe bet that when the first astronauts get to Mars, Marriott or Hilton won’t have beat them there. They’ll need a place to stay which they’ll have to build themselves. In May NASA awarded $500,000 to AI SpaceFactory for their design of a structure that could be 3D-printed from natural materials found on Mars – specifically basalt, a dark volcanic rock in abundance on the red planet’s surface. Basalt would be extracted and mixed with renewable bioplastic resources processed from plants in a hydroponic garden to create common 3D printing filaments like PLA. The result would be a structure providing protection from the extreme temperature swings and intense radiation on Mars.

    (Image source: AI SpaceFactory)

  • 3D printing, additive manufacturing, food, food manufacturing, health

    2.) 3D-Printed Food

    After moving in to your 3D-printed home and workspace you’re going to be looking for something to eat. Some of your nutritional needs can be met from the aforementioned hydroponic garden that will be growing in one of the modules in your Martian home. But that can’t meet all your needs. And of course the Martian landscape won’t be providing any help. But packing, storing, and maintaining the freshness of food for a trip that is estimated to take 32 months just to get there – and then staying for perhaps years – is simply impractical. One potential solution is to 3D print at least some of the nutritional requirements. Today, 3D-printed foods are still in the novelty stage. It’s common at trade shows to see 3D-printed chocolates or other candies. But the Holy Grail of 3D-printed food has been to create a meal – chicken, rice, and a vegetable for example – that would satisfy the nutritional needs specific to any individual. This is a long way off, but such a solution in one form another would be required to meet the sustenance needs of an extended stay in space.

    Above: A graphic from  Ewha Womans University in South Korea shows how food can be 3D-printed to provide people with a healthier, better-balanced diet and promote healthier eating

    (Image source: Jin-Kyu Rhee, Ewha Womans University)

  • 3.) 3D-Printed Medicine

    Humans get sick and have accidents. Any extended stay in space has to take into consideration medical needs. Research into 3D-printable bioinks is expanding at an accelerating rate. Today, there are projects experimenting with 3D printing medical applications in low gravity environments trying to replicate everything from bone cartilage to skin tissue. In addition, the idea of using 3D printing for personalized medicine (creatinf prescriptions specific to the individual) has been gaining ground in recent years and would certainly be a necessity in any extended space exploration.

    Above: MIT engineers have 3D-printed stretchy mesh, with customized patterns designed to be flexible yet strong, for use in ankle and knee braces.

    (Image source: Felice Frankel)

  • 4.) 3D-Printed Tools

    Although no one talks about this when discussing the role of additive manufacturing in space exploration, but the fact is there’ll be lots of equipment on some future Mars colony. And equipment, no matter how well built or how well designed, breaks. So if you’re cruising around on the rough Martian landscape in your Mars rover and a strut snaps, how would you replace it? Although it wouldn’t seem likely to be an early deployment, at some point it would make sense that 3D printers capable of producing different materials would eventually make their way to any Moon or Mars colony. Printers that could print in materials compatible with the atmospheric conditions or, ideally, extracted from the planet’s natural resources could solve a lot of maintenance and spare parts issues.

    Above: A team from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, for example, is creating a 3D-printed toolkit to assist with living and working on Mars.

    (Image source: Curtin University)

  • 5.) Creative Problem Solving with 3D Printing

    Having been in the industry for several years now, what has become obvious to me is that 3D printers, regardless of which additive technology or material, are problem solving tools. Years ago I sold 3D printers to a lab at Pfizer Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. At the time I was very puzzled. Why would a pharmaceutical lab want a 3D printer that only prints in PLA? Well, they printed a fish-food dispenser that could properly mix the drug being tested with the right amount of fish food. They printed test tube holders that would hold test tubes in a specific orientation. They printed a tablet for counting pills that was easier to use than the one they had. In other words, they started solving problems that prior to the printer they just had to accept.

    On the Toyota assembly line in Princeton, Indiana I saw a simple 3D-printed tool that reduced a basic task from fours steps to two. That might not sound like much but multiply it by 4,000 cars a week times 50 weeks. Reducing individual tasks even a little reaps huge benefits in productivity and reducing worker fatigue. There’s really very little doubt that a 3D printer on Mars printing tools or parts as they are needed for the hydroponic garden or the rover would be enormously valuable.

    (Image source:  Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash)

Jack Heslin is the Founder and President of 3DTechTalks, as well as the Head of Business Development for Lazarus3D, a medical 3D printing start-up. 

5-engineering-facts-about-the-apollo-guidance-computer

The Apollo flight to the moon would not have been possible without the support of mission control, engineering knowledge, and technical skills of the astronauts. In addition to these human talents, there was a small innovation that allowed the lunar module’s successful landing on the moon and return to earth: the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC).

Developed around 1965 at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, the AGC is well known as one of the first modern embedded systems. But there are other details of this system that you might not have known:

The Apollo Guidance Computer with display and keyboard. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

1.) The AGC Was a Digital Computer

The AGC was designed as an airborne digital computer to control, test, and operate the Apollo lunar module’s guidance system. The general-purpose computer used a binary 15-bit format for parallel word transfer and instructions using single addressing mode. The AGC’s data and instructions were stored in memory. The memory structure consisted of several fixed thousand words and 1,000 words were erasable. Included with AGC was a small number of central addressable registers for data storage and two interrupts. The interrupts resolved efficient programming and real-time system requirements operation conflict concerns.

2.) The AGC Used NOR Logic

AGC computation designed used three input NOR logic gates packaged in microcircuit form. Bipolar transistors served as the core method of selecting erasable memory for the AGC. The circuit configuration of the erasable memory was accomplished with current drivers. Also, discrete diode-transistor circuits enable the fixed memory function of the AGC’s computer logic. The basic logic function of the NOR gate is where one binary 1 input will produce a binary 0 output. This logic gate function served as the core decision making block for creating more complex combinatorial decision circuits.

The AGC schematic for the dual NOR logic function. (Image source: klabs)

3.) The AGC Used Core Rope Memory

The AGCs memory was constructed using a core rope data storage method. The core rope’s arrangement was six modules. Each module can manage 6,144 16-bit words. The core rope memory was further partitioned into banks of 1,024 words. The method of storing the data used a charging circuit. A charged core rope represented a binary 1 value. A binary 0 value was represented by a discharged core rope.

A core rope memory panel. (Image source: pixel)

4.) The AGC Had its Own Unique Display and Keyboard

To interact with the AGC, the Apollo astronauts used a display and keyboard (DSKY). The DSKY’s display used a combination of 7-segment numerical displays and indicator lights. A basic keyboard was used to enter mission programs and operations. The AGC was supported by two DKSYs: a main control panel and another located at the navigator’s station near the optical instruments. The DSKY measured 8x8x7inches and weighed 17.5 pounds.

To communicate with the AGC, the astronauts entered in mission programs and operations using verbs. For example, entering verb 78, allows the DSKY to prompt the astronaut for the azimuth information.

The AGC’s Display and Keyboard (DSKY). (Image source: Heritage Auction)

5.) There Is a Virtual AGC DSKY Simulator

The DSKY Virtual Simulator allows hands-on exploration of the AGC mission programs and operations used on the Apollo lunar module. The simulator was originally developed in C then converted to javascript by Ronald Burkey. Burkey explained the project’s objective was to provide a computer simulation of the AGC used onboard the Apollo lunar module. To illustrate the DSKY-AGC function, there is a Saturn 5 launch checklist to explore with the online simulator on the virtual DSKY website.

The AGC-DSKY Virtual Simulator. Image source: svtsim.com)

To further explore the Apollo Guidance Computer, additional information on the AGC hardware can be obtained from the NASA website. Also, the online virtual simulator for the AGC-DSKY can be found on the svtsim website.

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America’s largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.

Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!

friday-funny-presents-the-turboencabulator

Now here’s one of the all-time classics in engineering humor.

The turboencabulator – or turbo-encabulator – is a fictional machine that purportedly sold to the federal government for $750 million, and that’s in 1977 dollars.

The original technical description of the “turbo-encabulator” was written by British graduate student John Hellins Quick. It was published in 1944 by the British Institution of Electrical Engineers Students’ Quarterly Journal in an article titled, “The Turbo-Encabulator in Industry” by J.H. Quick, Student.

In 1962 a turboencabulator data sheet was created by engineers at General Electric’s Instrument Department, in West Lynn, Mass. It quoted from the previous sources and was inserted into the General Electric Handbook.

In 1977 Bud Haggart, an actor who appeared in many industrial training films in and around Detroit, performed in the first film realization of the description and operation of the turboencabulator, using a truncated script adapted from Quick’s article. Haggart convinced director Dave Rondot and the film crew to stay after the filming of an actual GMC Trucks project training film to realize the turboencabulator spot.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Drive World with ESC Launches in Silicon Valley

This summer (August 27-29), Drive World Conference & Expo launches in Silicon Valley with North America’s largest embedded systems event, Embedded Systems Conference (ESC). The inaugural three-day showcase brings together the brightest minds across the automotive electronics and embedded systems industries who are looking to shape the technology of tomorrow.

Will you be there to help engineer this shift? Register today!