Preference for Electromechanical Actuators on the Rise
Hydraulic actuators have long been the go-to choice for engineers looking to produce large forces or move heavy loads. Today, however, an increasing number of engineers are choosing electromechanical actuators over their hydraulic counterpoints.A major reason for this switch is that electromechanical actuators tend to be smaller and lighter since they don’t require pumps, accumulators, oil tanks, and pipework. Instead they use a precision ball or roller screw to create force, drawing power from a connected electric motor. This also makes it easier to integrate electromechanical actuators into a machine’s electronic control system. Another benefit to electromechanical actuators is that, due to their design, they tend to be quieter than hydraulic actuators.Tarek Bugaighis, president of Ewellix USA (formerly SKF Motion Technologies).Electromechanical systems can also operate at a wider range of speed and power than hydraulic equipment, and offer a higher level of positional accuracy, says Tarek Bugaighis, president of Ewellix USA (formerly SKF Motion Technologies), a supplier of actuators, pillars, ball and roller screws, and linear guides and systems. “They also work more consistently,” he adds. “The viscosity of hydraulic oils can change with time and temperature, affecting machine performance. Electromechanical systems go on working to precise tolerances and, because their moving parts are based on well-understood rolling element bearing technology, it is possible to predict their operating lifetimes under a given set of operating conditions."Despite the apparent engineering advantages of electromechanical actuation, Bugaighis notes that a major factor impacting wider use of the technology has been its initial cost factor. “On a per-actuator basis, the initial purchase price of electric machines is certainly higher than their hydraulic counterparts,” he said. “When viewed from a total cost perspective, however, this argument rarely holds sway. Over the full lifecycle of a machine, electromechanical actuators offer sources of savings that far outweigh their higher initial cost.”Bugaighis points to six factors as the principal reasons electromechanical systems tend to be cheaper in the long run:Energy efficiency. Hydraulic systems have multiple sources of energy loss from the initial conversion of electrical power into motion to drive the hydraulic pump, losses within the pump itself, fluid friction in transmission pipes and further losses within the actuator. “Overall, a hydraulic system is likely to deliver only around 44 percent of its input power to the load,” Bugaighis says. “Electromechanical systems, by contrast, lose energy only due to the limits of motor efficiency and via friction in the gearbox and actuator components. An electromechanical actuator will typically transfer 80 percent of its input power to the load. Moreover, while hydraulic pumps must run continually in most applications to ensure adequate response from the machine, the power consumption of electromechanical actuators is zero when they are not being used. This means that electric actuators can pay back their initial costs in energy savings alone in just a few months.”Reduced heat. The energy lost in hydraulic machines is converted to heat. In precision applications, such as plastic molding machines, this heat must be removed using chillers, further increasing overall energy demand, says Bugaighis. Because of their higher efficiency, electrically actuated machines require only around 35% of the cooling energy of a hydraulic equivalent.Shorter cycle times. The higher speed and improved controllability of electromechanical actuators can allow machines to run faster, increasing output, according to Bugaighis. “Take robotic spot welding in the automotive industry for example. When a Japanese car manufacturer switched to electromechanical welding tongs, this change, along with the higher speed of the new actuators, permitted an increase in throughput of 10%, equivalent to more than 100 vehicle body shells every day,” he says.Improved material use. Enhanced accuracy and consistency mean electrically driven machines tend to offer twice the repeatability of hydraulic alternatives, thereby reducing scrap. “Even in applications producing low precision components, savings from scrap reduction and quality improvements can outweigh the additional actuator cost in two years or less,” says Bugaighis.Increased uptime. Hydraulic devices rely on a network of valves, hoses, filters, and seals—a failure in any one part of the system is likely to bring the entire machine to a stop until the problem can be identified and repaired. Electric machines have fewer wearing parts, and those are all located within the ball or roller screw mechanism and gearbox. A problem with an electrical actuator can usually be addressed by quickly swapping out the affected device.Simplified maintenance. Having fewer reoccurring expenses, such as the need to purchase oil, filters, or seals for hydraulic systems, means that machines with electromechanical systems don’t have to be stopped for long to replace parts.“Together, these benefits add up to savings of several tens of thousands of dollars per year for a typical production machine,” says Bugaighis. “Just under half of those savings come from areas other than energy use.”ELECTROMECHANICAL ACTUATORS
COVID-19 Tracking Is Having Some Issues
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Harnessing today's technology to the task of fighting the coronavirus pandemic is turning out to be more complicated than it first appeared. The first U.S. states that rolled out smartphone apps for tracing the contacts of COVID-19 patients are dealing with technical glitches and a general lack of interest by their residents. A second wave of tech-assisted pandemic surveillance tools is on its way, this time with the imprimatur of tech giants Apple and Google. But those face their own issues, among them potential accuracy issues and the fact that they won't share any information with governments that could help track the spread of the illness. Contact tracing is a pillar of infection control. It's traditionally conducted by trained public health workers who interview those who may have been exposed, then urge them to get tested and isolate themselves. Some estimates call for as many as 300,000 U.S. workers to do the work effectively, but so far those efforts have lagged. Other tech companies like Salesforce have offered database tools to assist manual tracing efforts, although those also raise privacy concerns because of the need to collect and store detailed information about people's social connections, health status and whereabouts. Privacy advocates warn that the danger of creating new government surveillance powers for the pandemic could lead to much bigger problems in the future. In a new policy paper shared with The Associated Press, the American Civil Liberties Union is warning state governments to tread more carefully and establish stricter privacy procedures before deploying technology meant to detect and curb new coronavirus outbreaks. Even the most privacy-minded tools, such as those to be released soon by Apple and Google, require constraints so that they don’t become instruments of surveillance or oppression. “The risks of getting it wrong are enormous,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a senior legislative counsel with the ACLU. ACLU’s report says the worst location-tracking technology should be rejected outright, such as apps that track individual movements via satellite-based GPS technology and feed sensitive personal data into centralized government databases. “Good designs don’t require you to gather people’s location information and store that,” Singh Guliani said. She urged governments to set rules addressing both privacy and efficacy so that surveillance tools don't interfere with more conventional public health methods. Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota were the first U.S. states to launch voluntary phone apps that enable public health departments to track the location and connections of people who test positive for the coronavirus. But governors haven’t had much luck getting the widespread participation needed for them to work effectively. The state with the highest known rate of participation so far is South Dakota, where last week about 2% of residents had the Care19 app on their phones. Last week was also the first time it recorded a single infection. The same app is getting even less support in North Dakota. “This is a red state,” said Crystal Wolfrum, a paralegal in Minot, North Dakota, who says she’s one of the only people among her neighbors and friends to download the app. “They don’t want to wear masks. They don’t want to be told what to do. A lot of people I talk to are, like, ‘Nope, you’re not going to track me.’” Wolfrum said she’s doubtful that the app will be useful, both because of people's wariness and its poor performance. She gave it a bad review on Google’s app store after it failed to notice lengthy shopping trips she made one weekend to Walmart and Target stores. North Dakota is now looking at starting a second app based on the Apple-Google technology. “It was rushed to market,” because of the urgent need, Vern Dosch, the state’s contact tracing facilitator, told KFYR-TV in Bismarck. “We knew that it wouldn’t be perfect.” The ACLU is taking a more measured approach to the Apple and Google method, which will use Bluetooth wireless technology to automatically notify people about potential COVID-19 exposure without revealing anyone's identity to the government. But even if the app is described as voluntary and personal health information never leaves the phone, the ACLU says it’s important for governments to set additional safeguards to ensure that businesses and public agencies don’t make showing the app a condition of access to jobs, public transit, grocery stores and other services. Among the governments experimenting with the Apple-Google approach are the state of Washington and several European countries. Swiss epidemiologist Marcel Salathé said all COVID-19 apps so far are “fundamentally broken” because they collect too much irrelevant information and don't work well with Android and iPhone operating software. Salathé authored a paper favoring the privacy-protecting approach that the tech giants have since adopted, and he considers it the best hope for a tool that could actually help isolate infected people before they show symptoms and spread the disease. “You will remember your work colleagues but you will not remember the random person next to you on a train or really close to you at the bar,” he said. Other U.S. governors are looking at technology designed to supplement manual contact-tracing efforts. As early as this week, Rhode Island has said it is set to launch a contact-tracing database system mostly built by software giant Salesforce, which has said it is also working with Massachusetts, California, Louisiana and New York City on a similar approach. Salesforce says it can use data-management software to help trained crews trace “relationships across people, places and events” and identify virus clusters down to the level of a neighborhood hardware store. It will rely on manual input of information gathered through conversations by phone, text or email. “It’s only as good as a lot of us using it,” Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said at a news conference last week. “If 10% of Rhode Island’s population opts in, this won’t be effective.” The state hasn't yet outlined what people are expected to opt into. The ACLU hasn't yet weighed in on the Salesforce model, but has urged contact-tracing public health departments to protect people from unnecessary disclosure of personal information and to not criminalize the requirement for self-isolation. MANUFACTURING.NET
Is the Supply Chain Ready for Robots?
Supply chain automation as a method to keep up with consumer demand and lower expenses is no new concept. What is new, however, is the accessibility of the latest generation of robotics and automation solutions. These days, 72 percent of enterprises use robotic automation, and usage is on the increase, quickening deployment of intelligent machines across manufacturing, warehousing and distribution to a record pace. The ruffle effect is a host of new opportunities and challenges for supply chain organizations, the most critical of which is securing the skills required and changing the way people work in a progressively digitized industrial environment. Each chapter of the Industrial Revolution demonstrates a usual ebb and flow in the number and makeup of jobs. As early as the steam engine, innovation displaced certain workers with new ones who, for example, had cognitive skills like creativity and problem-solving. This continues with robots. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, the shifting labor division between humans, machines and algorithms will result in 75 million dropped job roles, but an addition of 133 million job roles, netting 58 million. Amazon exemplifies this dynamic. The company had about 45,000 workers when it launched robots in 2014. Now, with upwards of 80,000 robots in operation, Amazon employs more than 600,000 workers. Similar results have been found across the organizational spectrum, from great multi-national employers to small manufacturing companies. Out With the Old, in With the New As technologies advance through each industrial revolution, jobs—and job titles—have changed to mirror newly required skills. Actually, a recent MIT study concluded that in the past decade, occupations boasting a 10 percent increase in job titles also grew 5 percent quicker. Many unheard-of job titles, as an example, emerged through the rise of cell phones, mobile apps, social media and cloud-based services. This trend is well underway in the automation age. Job roles characterized as task- or manual process-based are dropping, and even possible to disappear, in the next few years. Concurrently, traditional jobs, such as for instance machinists, welders and technicians, are spawning new job roles like “mechatronics,” which combines mechanics and systems design. The speedy beginning of new roles presents an enormous challenge to companies’ pursuit of automation implementation—and an ever-widening skills gap. It’s Not a Gap… It’s a Chasm Never before has technology disrupted American society at such a rapid clip. The capabilities gap is projected to leave 2.4 million spots empty between 2018 and 2028, with a possible economic impact of $2.5 trillion, according to Deloitte. In addition to that, 80 percent of manufacturers report a absence of qualified applicants for skilled production positions, which could result an 11 percent loss in annual earnings. Even as 80 percent of manufacturing managers are willing to pay more than market rate to fill positions afflicted by the skills gap, 60 percent of those spots remain unfilled. New Ways of Learning Experienced professionals are key to corporate success and global economic development. Then again which skills are needed for a future of automation? As Deloitte puts it, digital skills like programming and technology must marry human skills like critical thinking, emotional intelligence and creativity. But if there is one skill to encourage among future workers, it’s the ability to keep learning and adapting. Between 75 and 375 million displaced laborers may need to change occupational categories and learn new skills by 2030. For the supply chain’s automation age, learning can take different shapes: • AR and VR can display information across a worker’s field of vision to mimic real-time.• Companies can use simulation training for highly complex tasks or dangerous jobs where errors can be deadly.• More learning systems will migrate online. The changes will keep coming in the age of robots. Some may be evolutionary, as workers conform to new technologies, while others will be revolutionary, leading to new industries and job roles. The goal, however, is still the same: ensuring that the evolution of our human skills keeps pace with automation. This article is originally posted on manufacturing.net
What makes a great website?
What makes a great website?How many websites exist on the world wide web? At this time of writing, almost 1.9 billion. With so many websites covering almost every topic under the sun, it can seem almost impossible to stand out from the crowd. Websites that are too similar to each other may not catch the viewer’s eye, may cause confusion, or end up deceiving potential customers altogether. Because of this, a lot of online entrepreneurs must consider the follow-up after getting traffic to their site: how to get their traffic to actually do something.A great website should serve its clear purpose online. A confusing, poor website will only serve to worsen one’s reputation, and ruin leads and traffic. For some companies, such as online services, their website is the only thing customers will see and know. A website’s design cannot be taken so lightly for them!In this blog, here are a few things that make a great website.Great visual designThis is often known as the “prettiness” factor. Which e-commerce website would be more likely to keep customers, this: Or this: Needless to say, a website that has too much packed into the same space can cause a viewer to have difficulty reading, eye strain, and confusion, leading to a quickly closed tab. Because of this, one should consider their website’s design to be accessible, clear, and easy, for a good user experience. Users want to read clear text on complementing colour schemes (like black text on white background), and a fancy button that cannot be read will only frustrate users rather than awe them. Another easily overlooked factor is fonts. A good font can mean light and day in terms of a website’s mood, such as fonts that make text look more robotic, compared to font that make text look rounder and bouncier. A professional accounting service may use more rigid, serif fonts, whereas a party balloon service may use more cartoony fonts. With this, fonts will help the viewer easily understand the goal of the website. A happy user may just end up becoming a happy buyer!Great technical backend Websites primarily rely on search engines to be discovered. With so many people browsing the web, it is important for website builders to realise the power they possess when they can easily have technical SEO knowledge, fast loading screens, and no missing pages. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is incredibly important for search engine analysers, or crawlers, to identify and index one’s site. This is done by using keywords and SEO tags in the backend of one’s site, which the search engine crawlers will index automatically, and rank the site higher or lower based on the quality of the content. Keywords and SEO tags will help immensely in getting one’s site to be found through searches. Besides that, security is also a technological aspect that cannot be overlooked. Websites that are not up to date, have weak password protection, or are not protected from hack attacks will be ranked much lower in search engines than other trustworthy sites. Tools such as Cloudflare and SSL Certificate installers are very helpful in making a website’s security backend strong.Great audience understanding A website certainly cannot please everyone. No matter how intuitive the design, how informative the content, or how insightful the descriptions, content aimed at the wrong audience will fall flat. Understanding one’s audience can begin with a good dose of common sense. Children and teens are less likely to buy car insurance services, and the older generations are not going to be so keen to buy cartoon sneakers as compared to their children. There are exceptions to every rule, but it is good to keep in mind how the public demographic will respond to a website’s services.Look at other websites or competitors in your niche market. Are they targeting any specific audience with their content and advertising? Besides that, one could also talk with their friends and family to gauge their opinion about the impressions your content and your competitor’s content give. Understanding one’s audience is important, as your website’s goals can be easily changed to suit their needs. Does your audience want to buy products quickly and move on? Does your audience want to know more about the services you offer before contacting further? If one has already made some sales, or has an existing customer base, analytics software like Google Analytics can provide detailed information about your website visitors.With this information, now you can adjust your content for your audience, or attract new ones!Great copywriting The photos may be stunning and high quality, and the website may load quickly, but without any content, the website serves no purpose. This is where copywriting comes in. A copywriter’s task is to craft descriptive content that will help users understand the website’s purposes and fulfil their own. If one page of your site is written like a legal document, and another like a tabloid article, it can confuse and turn viewers off. Copywriting has the powerful ability to use the written word to persuade someone to take an action.Make sure all the website’s descriptions and content are to-the-point and clear. Blogs can be descriptive and flowy, but customers usually only need clear information about the products they aim to buy. Advertisements are also a form of copywriting, and a great website is usually backed by some effective advertisements too.The copywriting needs to have a distinct call to action – Buy this. Learn more about this. Make an appointment. If the writing has too much padding between the words before the call to action, viewers may not even make it to the “learn more” button in the first place.Don’t confuse your website viewers. Give them a call to action.Great adaptability This point may sound like a large thing to focus on, but usually comes bundled with most website builders: mobile adaptability. There are far too many websites out there that look beautiful on desktops, but lack functionality when viewed from a tablet or phone. Pictures are clipped out, text is misaligned, and sometimes shop buttons malfunction. This is bad, as in this era of modern technology, almost 80% of online users use a smartphone, while 57% of online users use more than one type of device. These statistics could mean missed customers! Many website builders offer mobile adaptability, so widgets, images, and text change shape freely to fit a phone screen’s smaller size. Furthermore, Google added mobile friendliness as a factor in ranking websites in search engines, so those that take the extra step to optimise their websites for mobile users receive higher SEO rankings.Besides that, one should also note the design of the website on mobile, and whether it is effective for viewers. On a desktop with a large screen, information can be easily read, but one should also experiment viewing their site on their phones and tablets to make sure typical users can interact and find what they want fast and easy.A great website takes time and a LOT of work. It takes web designers weeks to come up with a draft that satisfies most, if not all the points listed above. With thousands of websites competing to be on the first page for any given search, the only websites that will make it in the end are the ones that keep improving and become better over time.A website owner should not remain easygoing and complacent when they find a website design that works for them. Consistently testing the pages, going through customer feedback, and experimenting in the website’s backend will provide for a more in-depth knowledge of one’s website, which will prove to be important in the future. Creating a great website will not be easy, but it’s not impossible.Have a website be beautifully designed and SEO-ready for you. Sign up with Tronserve today.
Geek+ Robotics Bringing Their Multi-Product Advanced Warehousing Solutions to ProMat
Geek+ Robotics will be presenting their latest and most advanced robotic solutions at ProMat 2019, the largest supply-chain trade show in the Americas, at Booth N6327, in Chicago, April 8th to 11th. Lit Fung, Managing Director and Michael Hao, President, will be available for interviews. New products include the C200 Bin-Carrying Robot Shuttle System, Autonomous Forklifts, and the OpenBox System. Geek Moving SystemThe Geek Moving System for bins, pallets, boxes or single pieces - from goods receipt, unloading and storage, to picking, packing and order shipment, substitutes traditional AGVs and reduces labour intensity. Features include simple installation, elegant industrial design, high-precision navigation and long-lasting battery life, and its compatibility with cage trolley towing, conveyor roller systems, lifting, and human-machine relationship. Geek Autonomous ForkliftThese two new forklifts realize self-driving through SLAM navigation and are capable of automated storage and retrieval. Its sensors can find the measurement and position of the goods on the shelves, pinpoint the pallet slots effectively and carry the products to the selected area under the instruction from the scheduling system. Geek Robot Shuttle SystemThis new system identifies and picks standard-sized boxes and brings them to work stations for picking and packing. The system includes smart scheduling and precise navigation. It is appropriate for multi-SKU storage and picking applications and is designed to function on single layer rack and multi-layer mezzanine racks, fits within existing warehouses. Carton or shoe boxes can also be picked by the C200 with single box weights up to 40 Kg. Geek OpenBox PlatformOpenBox leverages SLAM navigation technology and learns from each task it operates to maximize route guidance, manage traffic and reduce waiting times at packing stations. The system enables rapid deployment, efficient point-to-point transport and easy docking, free from modification of environments. The OpenBox system can be combined with a variety of robots and top modules to meet diverse handling situations. About Geek+ Robotics Explosive growth in global e-commerce along with growing labour expenses and high charges of turnover have created big demand for automation. Geek+ is at the forefront of solving these challenges with an ever increasing line of products. Geek+ has delivered more than 5,000 robots across 100+ robotics warehouse projects in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Europe, and the United States. Last year Geek+ raised $150M and plans to open a U.S. office and training facility.This article is originally posted on roboticstomorrow.com
Autonomous Podcars 3D Printed On-Demand for Last Mile Mobility
Researchers from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) used an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) to 3D-bioprint a trachea. Researchers have already 3D-printed tracheal splints and scaffolds to grow tissue-engineered tracheas, but this is the first trachea with various functional materials. Previous attempts failed because they only used regenerated cartilage tissue. According to the researchers, they weren't strong enough to hold the airways open or provide the necessary flexibility. These constructs were printed with cartilage and smooth muscle regions at the same time using biodegradable polyester material and stem cell hydrogels. The cartilage provides enough support to avoid collapse, and the smooth muscle offers the needed flexibility.The proof-of-concept could one day lead to custom patient care for those suffering from tracheal stenosis, or the narrowing of the windpipe. Now, these patients need breathing tubes. In the future, medical professionals could use the patient's medical records to print biocompatible replacements.Next, the team will test long-term functionality to make sure the 3D-bioprinted tracheas maintain their initial characteristics. WFIRM has done some impressive work in the past, everything from 3D printing human ears to growings livers, kidneys, and even anal sphincters.3D-Printing Improves Lightning Strike ProtectionResearchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using a new 3D printing technique to improve lightning strikes on airplanes. Airplane exteriors sare traditionally made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). It's lighter than metal, but its low electrical conductivity and heat resistance make it vulnerable to lightning strikes. Conventional lightning strike protection technology includes expanded metal foils/films on top of composite structures. This technology works, but it increases weight, corrosion, and it's expensive to add and repair. Oak Ridge researchers created a new adhesive material for carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), and the material has proven effective against lightning strikes. The polymer has a chain-like structure that makes the aircraft components both electrically conductive and structurally strong with thermal treatment. It's applied in thin layers from 0.25–0.4 mm thickness.Now comes the fun part. The research team had to test it, so it conducted simulated lightning strike tests on the protected components. The pieces not only showed minimal damage but also enabled more uniform heat dissipation, suggesting that it could eventually lead to more effective lightning strike protection technology.3D-Printed Autonomous Podcars This week, NOWLAB introduced LOCI, a design prototype for a 3D-printed autonomous podcar designed for last-mile movement. NOWLAB is the additive manufacturing innovation arm of the BigRep Consultancy, the team behind the NERA eBike, a 3D-printed electric-motorcycle, and smart concrete walls with embedded sensors. First seen on New Atlas, the podcar has airless tires, embedded electronics, and wireless connectivity to transport you through dense urban environments. NOWLAB envisions podcars being manufactured on demand using a fleet of BigRep's 3D printers. One highlight of the prototype is that if you need a new component or part, you scan the NFC chip in the piece with your phone and send it to the 3D printer. The team could also integrate sensors to monitor parts for preventative maintenance.According to the company, the podcar was developed using parametric modeling. The design is flexible, not only in that it's printed on-demand, but different features and materials, or even tires, could be swapped out based on the location or application. According to the company, LOCI has only 14 unique parts, all of which were 3D-printed with BigRep additive system. Even the tires. AUTONOMOUS PODCARS 3D PRINTED ON-DEMAND
Technology Leader of the Year: Enabling the Digital Transformation
As the "father of cloud computing," Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is responsible for the platform that is now driving manufacturing's digital future. Today, he is collaboratively developing the transformational technologies smart manufacturers need to compete. Since 1993, the IndustryWeek's Technology Leader of the Year feature has served as our platform to celebrate individuals who have successfully leveraged technology to reshape the manufacturing world. Manufacturing greats including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Harley-Davidson's Jeff Bleustein and GM's Ralph Syzgenda have each taken home the honors.As the year of the great digital transformation, 2019 saw some of the biggest advancements yet. After all these years of talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation defining the future health and progress for the manufacturing industry, the hype has finally delivered on its promise. Along the way, one company has established itself as the clear leader: Amazon. And, if the future of manufacturing depends on technology and IoT, then Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is the person that will make it possible.Often referred to as one of the fathers of cloud computing, few others have had as much impact on the future of manufacturing as Vogels. This is especially true as Industry 4.0 has put an emphasis on the importance of digital technologies. While the journey to revamp manufacturing may have started with cloud computing, it is the blend of data-driven technologies that positions Amazon and Vogels as the leader in this space. Specifically, it is technologies such data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT and edge computing that are ultimately enabling manufacturers to find success within the growing experience economy.Taking the reignsAs Amazon’s CTO, Vogels is responsible for driving the company's customer-centric technology vision. Vogels joined Amazon in 2004 as the director of systems research after spending time as a distributed systems researcher at Cornell University. He assumed the roles of CTO and vice president the next year, and quickly surfaced as a key force behind Amazon’s approach to cloud computing.When Amazon Web Services (AWS) first started offering its suite of transformative technologies (2004-2005) outside the company, Vogels’ team was primarily focused on collaborating with companies that needed to quickly achieve internet scale. In those days, they were mostly younger businesses or truly progressive enterprises that already had a clear digital future. As such, Vogels acknowledges that manufacturing companies were not necessarily an immediate target – and for good reason. At that time, manufacturers were overwhelmingly relying on decades-old equipment that was often singularly dedicated and lacking the ability to generate useable data. However, it did not take long for a digital evolution to transpire within the manufacturing sector.“It happened that many manufacturers were looking to completely revamp their infrastructure,” says Vogels. “They were interested in using cloud technology to make use of analytics as a key part of being smart manufacturers. That understandably meant finding ways to turn these singular devices into data generators, seamlessly moving the data to cloud, exploring machine learning and then capitalizing on the ability to push insights back into the plant environment.” Since 1993, the IndustryWeek's Technology Leader of the Year feature has served as our platform to celebrate individuals who have successfully leveraged technology to reshape the manufacturing world. Manufacturing greats including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Harley-Davidson's Jeff Bleustein and GM's Ralph Syzgenda have each taken home the honors.As the year of the great digital transformation, 2019 saw some of the biggest advancements yet. After all these years of talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation defining the future health and progress for the manufacturing industry, the hype has finally delivered on its promise. Along the way, one company has established itself as the clear leader: Amazon. And, if the future of manufacturing depends on technology and IoT, then Amazon CTO Werner Vogels is the person that will make it possible.Often referred to as one of the fathers of cloud computing, few others have had as much impact on the future of manufacturing as Vogels. This is especially true as Industry 4.0 has put an emphasis on the importance of digital technologies. While the journey to revamp manufacturing may have started with cloud computing, it is the blend of data-driven technologies that positions Amazon and Vogels as the leader in this space. Specifically, it is technologies such data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT and edge computing that are ultimately enabling manufacturers to find success within the growing experience economy.Taking the reignsAs Amazon’s CTO, Vogels is responsible for driving the company's customer-centric technology vision. Vogels joined Amazon in 2004 as the director of systems research after spending time as a distributed systems researcher at Cornell University. He assumed the roles of CTO and vice president the next year, and quickly surfaced as a key force behind Amazon’s approach to cloud computing.When Amazon Web Services (AWS) first started offering its suite of transformative technologies (2004-2005) outside the company, Vogels’ team was primarily focused on collaborating with companies that needed to quickly achieve internet scale. In those days, they were mostly younger businesses or truly progressive enterprises that already had a clear digital future.As such, Vogels acknowledges that manufacturing companies were not necessarily an immediate target – and for good reason. At that time, manufacturers were overwhelmingly relying on decades-old equipment that was often singularly dedicated and lacking the ability to generate useable data. However, it did not take long for a digital evolution to transpire within the manufacturing sector.“It happened that many manufacturers were looking to completely revamp their infrastructure,” says Vogels. “They were interested in using cloud technology to make use of analytics as a key part of being smart manufacturers. That understandably meant finding ways to turn these singular devices into data generators, seamlessly moving the data to cloud, exploring machine learning and then capitalizing on the ability to push insights back into the plant environment.”Collaborative development…on the edgeVogels has since worked closely with numerous manufacturers, taking the time to understand their current positions as well as their goals in embracing technology in order to capitalize on the digital realm. “We have always had strong relationships with our customers and together we have developed solutions,” he says. “We do not go off into a high tower, build something and then give it to manufacturing customers. We learn about what they want their technology to look in five to 10 years, and make sure that we build tools that are ready for the manufacturer of the future. This introduced a whole new realm of functionality – especially around device management, security and edge computing.”The cloud evolution has really moved beyond the phase of companies moving everything to the cloud with people abandoning all local processing. “For quite a few internet and consumer driven companies that is the case. That is their reality,” says Vogels. Yet, for manufacturing, the edge computing component is becoming extremely important. “Manufacturers need to be able to operate in a disconnected mode, but still need to benefit from advanced processing capabilities,” he says. “This creates a very interesting challenge to collaboratively build technologies for devices that will spend a spectrum of time not just in the cloud, but on premise as well.”Vogels points to Amazon’s IoT Greengrass offering as a direct result of collaboration with manufacturers. Greengrass seamlessly extends AWS to edge devices so they can act locally on the data they generate, while still using the cloud for management, analytics, and durable storage. Whether or not there is an internet connection, devices can run AWS Lambda functions, execute predictions based on machine learning models, keep device data in sync, and communicate with other devices securely.Manufacturers can get rich insights at a lower cost by programming devices to filter data locally and only transmit the data needed for applications to the cloud. Understandably, the goal is to reduce the amount of raw data the manufacturer sends to the cloud, which ultimately minimizes the cost and increases the quality of the data transmitted. AWS is going a step further by integrating machine learning into edge devices. ML uses algorithms that learn from existing data, a process called training, to make decisions about new data, a process called inference. Because inference requires significantly less computing power than training and optimizing ML models, it occurs in real time when new data is available.According to Vogels, getting inference results with low latency is important for making sure that IoT applications respond quickly to local events. Such local inference could allow a robot to make autonomous decisions in near-real time, even without a connection to the cloud.Recognizing growing digital potentialAlthough AI is very a broad concept, the machine learning component and the ability to make use of the very large data sets continues to show potential, especially when considering the phenomenal amounts of data US manufacturers create daily. “That is only going to grow tremendously, both in volume and importance,” says Vogels.Woodside Energy serves as a prime example. Initially, Woodside’s Pluto Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Western Australia leveraged 10,000 sensors, primarily capable of alerting key personnel when faults occurred. However, being able to leverage cloud-based machine learning capabilities has proved transformative.Today, Woodside uses sensor data to build an algorithm that allows the team to predict and prevent foaming in the Acid Gas Removal Unit (AGRU), a critical part of the production process that cannot be monitored directly. Currently, Woodside runs more than 6,000 algorithms on the sensor data from its Pluto plant. These same operations now make use of 200,000 sensors, monitor operations 24/7. By connecting these IoT sensors to the AWS Cloud, Woodside has been able to optimize the production and maintenance. “This is a major shift from reacting to an alarm going off to being able to take data, analyze and immediately predicting potential issues,” says Vogels.Access to new datapoints is enabling Woodside’s data science team to continuously find new insights by sharing data across the organization. Of course, the Woodside transformation is ongoing including a dedication to explore uses for AI to augment and inform better decision-making.Data fueled futureAccording to Vogels, many of the truly smart manufacturers have already passed through the barrier of Industry 4.0. And, some of these manufacturers have significant plans to fully capitalize on the digital realm. For example, in March 2019, AWS announced an ongoing cooperation agreement with Volkswagen (VW). As part of agreement AWS is building an “industrial cloud” for VW, which will connect all of VW’s 122 global factories, enabling the automaker to seamlessly collect all of its data in real-time and put it into the cloud.As VW’s industrial cloud solidifies, the plan is to use the AWS IoT, machine learning, analytics and computing solutions for plant assembly efficiency, vehicle quality and production flexibility. These include more efficient control of material flow, the early detection and elimination of supply bottlenecks and process disruptions, and the optimized operation of machinery and equipment in all plants. In addition, the cloud-based platform with its simplified data exchange is an essential prerequisite for Volkswagen to provide new technologies and innovations rapidly across its various locations. These include smart robotics, and data analysis functions to analyze and check shop floor processes from plant to plant. With the cloud-based platform, new applications, for example in IT-security for shop floor systems, can be scaled up direct to all locations throughout the world. Volkswagen will leverage AWS innovation best practices to become more agile and react faster on industry trends.The architecture will be the new Digital Production Platform (DPP) from Volkswagen in future. All the Group’s plants and companies outside the Group will dock their system architectures onto this platform. This platform will standardize and simplify data exchange between systems and plants. “This is key step to enabling the type of comprehensive analytics that fuel maintenance and anything else a progressive manufacturer can get out of data,” says Vogels.For Vogels, continuing to expand machine learning, IoT and edge computing will remain key focus areas for his team. However, security is the top priority. And it is also an area where his team has worked to be innovative. “As we work to bring legacy devices online in one form or another – whether it is into a private network, into the cloud or into a private network linked to the cloud – we need to recognize that this data is crucial to the manufacturing organization. It is industrial gold. We need to make sure that our customers are protected there. Now more than ever security needs to be the top priority,” he says.A big piece of the puzzle? Building new tools that enable manufacturers to take actions to help themselves, explains Vogels. “Machine learning will play an increasingly important role here. You cannot build one service that works for all of your customers, especially when it comes to security. You need to be able to learn from the environment.”Focus on educationTechnology is almost always being used for a particular task – no one is creating technology for technology sake. Yet talent is lacking for most companies and continues to be the biggest challenge. At the same time, most companies have decided that cloud is the future – whether they are using it for analytics, product development or to dynamically control the entire supply chain. It is interesting to watch companies who have traditionally been slow moving, because of the massive investments they have into their assets, are now are moving full force into the digital domain, explains Vogels.“They are managing a completely new world for them, and in many cases, without any access to digital talent. As cloud technology slightly settles down, the focus is now on how can we train people fast enough, so that all of these companies that are either going through or need to go through the digital transformation actually have access to the talent that they need,” he says. “We are looking forward to helping establish educational programs.”Bottom lineVogels is passionate about helping manufacturers successfully go through the digital transformation. After all, that’s where the real future of manufacturing thrives.“Giving manufacturers the right tools, so that they can focus on what they actually want to do with their data as they continue to optimize operations,” he says. “This is true whether it’s Siemens Healthcare building machinery that has IIoT fully integrated or a smart manufacturer who still needs to be able to move back and forth between the cloud and on-prem. We need to make sure that we are building technologies that they can use five to 10 years from now because that is the process manufacturers go through.”FATHER OF CLOUD COMPUTING
LASER COMPONENTS Wins “Best of Sensors” 2019 Award
Bedford, NH: LASER COMPONENTS, particular provider of components and services in the laser and optoelectronics industry, has been known as a "Best of Sensors" 2019 Award winner in the Automotive/Autonomous category. The company's QuickSwitch Pulsed Laser Diode (PLD) was respected as one of the Innovative Products of the Year 2019 which highlights cutting-edge advancements and successes that are transferring the sensors industry forward. Across fourteen categories, the prestigious awards were presented by the Editor of FierceElectronics during Sensors Expo & Conference 2019, held June 25-27, 2019 in San Jose, California. Based on LASER COMPONENTS' proprietary compact hybrid configuration that integrates a 905 nm laser diode, switch and capacitor inside a TO56 metal housing, QuickSwitch can generate in one second up to 200,000 laser pulses with a typical duration of 2.5 ns. This is currently the fastest hybrid PLD solution available on the market allowing to collect data faster and higher resolution in laser-based distance measurement (LiDAR) applications that are finding their way into passenger vehicles. In the race to safer driving, automotive LiDAR sensor manufacturers will benefit from QuickSwitch to design more sensitive systems that warn drivers of hazards earlier, avoid collision, and ultimately facilitate autonomous drive. "Our engineers' innovative way to minimize the inductance loop and to optimize the circuit layout for driving PLDs with fast rise times and short pulses is setting us apart from conventional designs," says Mr. Matt Robinson, Sales Director of LASER COMPONENTS USA. "We are honored to receive this award in recognition of their dedication to deliver a unique product that meets current and future market needs," Robinson added.This article is originally posted on manufacturingtomorrow.com
NTT To Join Hands With NEC For 5G Network Development
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. is planning to invest in NEC Corp. for joint development of next-generation 5G wireless network technology, sources close to the matter said Thursday. NTT is considering investing several tens of billions of yen in the Japanese electronics and information technology company, the sources said, adding that the two companies will likely announce the plan in the near future. Japan has been behind in international competition for 5G mobile communications networks and base stations, while Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, Finnish firm Nokia Corp. and Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. are expanding their respective market shares. The technology behind 5G networks enables the transmission of large amounts of data at extremely high speeds, allowing user devices to connect to almost all products and services through the wireless network. NTT and NEC are also planning to promote cooperation in the development of future communication technologies beyond 5G. THE MAINICHI
Silicon Labs’s CEO on AI and UWB
LAS VEGAS — “We are still in the early days of market adoption of IoT,” Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs, told EE Times at the company’s booth during CES.But wait, hasn’t the electronics industry been talking about the internet of things (IoT) for more than two decades? Trace back to the time when RFID tags began to be touted as a must-have in supply chains. (Kevin Ashton, the then-director of the Auto-ID Center, is widely known for having coined the phrase “IoT” back then.)Besides, the industry supposedly has all the necessary building blocks for IoT: a low-energy microcontroller, wireless connectivity, sensors, and maybe antennas in an IoT module. At this point, isn’t IoT essentially a “bing-bang-boom”? Not necessarily. Tuttle maintains that IoT is a market that takes decades to unfold. Consider the IoT attach rate for commercial lighting systems, he said. “We are probably at 10% to 15% … It’s still low.”Selling into the futureIn Tuttle’s mind, transitions this big are never done and never enough. Furthermore, the technologies applied to IoT are constantly advancing. As IoT continues to look for design wins in the industrial market, Tuttle said that the chip supplier’s job is never done at the time of sales. He said, “We are selling our chips into the future.”In other words, “Our products must be able to support new software, protocol updates, and applications — all that — over the next 10 to 15 years.” That’s a long-haul business. IoT users in the industrial market are also looking for IoT devices that are contextually aware. Location is one important element.Silicon Labs just announced this week the company’s new Bluetooth SoCs, capable of asset tracking. The new low-energy device takes advantage of Bluetooth Angle of Arrival and Angle of Departure capabilities, thus offering sub-1-m location accuracy, according to the company. Location, however, is just one element that can make IoT aware of its context. Others, such as light, sound, voice, and vision, can make IoT devices “a lot more aware of the environment they are operating in,” Tuttle explained.The next logical step is to add AI to the IoT module. Tuttle promised that Silicon Labs will deliver in 2020 an IoT solution integrated with AI acceleration. By making IoT devices “trainable, actionable, and capable of extracting information and learning from the environment,” they become a lot more contextually aware, he explained.Of course, Silicon Labs isn’t alone as it looks to add machine learning on end nodes. But rather than forcing inference jobs to run on current devices, Silicon Labs plans to add an AI acceleration feature to the company’s Wireless Gecko Series 2 platform.Unlike competing AI edge devices plugged into the wall, Tuttle said, “Our goal is to get this [IoT devices with multiple sensors and AI features] hooked up with wireless network or connected smartphones. The name of the game is to enable machine learning on a very low-power, always-on device with a limited memory budget.”Armed with its Gecko MCUs known for its low-energy sensor interface and interconnect features such as Peripheral Reflex System, Silicon Labs believes it has an edge in the race to add machine-learning features to IoT solutions.The low-energy sensor interface, for example, can connect to duty-cycling inductive, capacitive, and resistive sensors while autonomously operating in Deep Sleep mode. With Gecko MCUs, the peripherals also connect directly to one another, allowing them to communicate without waking up a CPU or seeking its intervention.“These are all great features unique to our Gecko MCUs, and some people even say that this is enough,” said Tuttle. But the company is taking more steps to optimize AI functions on IoT devices. Tuttle wouldn’t disclose details and timelines for the new AI products. However, he implied that they will be ready when Silicon Labs holds its own “Works With Smart Home Conference” in September. “We will bring Google, Amazon, and others onto the stage,” said Tuttle.How about UWB?With the introduction of the Bluetooth 5.1 spec, Bluetooth can now do fine-grained positioning. Accuracy of positioning is accomplished by an Angle of Arrival mechanism. Undoubtedly, this will become essential to context-/location-based IoT applications.But if positioning is so critical, how about using ultra-wideband (UWB)?Tuttle said, “Absolutely. We are interested. Things are getting more interesting as UWB becomes a part of iPhones and Samsung’s phones.” But he added, “Just to be clear, that is not to say that Silicon Labs is going to do UWB.” In the past, when UWB was gunning for wireless streaming, positioning itself to compete with Wi-Fi, Tuttle said, “We — at Silicon Labs — never chased that market then.”While UWB has its limitations, especially at distance, it offers more accurate location than other technologies. UWB will be great for a set of applications, said Tuttle, such as payments at point of sale. “But we will wait and see.” For its IoT business, Silicon Labs sees itself focusing on local rather than wide-area networks such as LTE and LoRa. The same could apply to UWB. “In our business, what we decide not to do is just as important,” said Tuttle.SILICON LABS’S CEO