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PTC Product Lifecycle Stories eMagazine - Summer 2014


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features in-depth reporting and expert commentary on the issues impacting manufacturing, engineering, and product development today. This issue features stories on the Women in Manufacturing, the Internet of Things, Problem Solvers in Singapore, Ukraine Conflict Impact of Supply Chain, Industrial Robots, a Budget 3D Printer, Underwater Robots, and 3D-Printed Homes.

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PTC Product Lifecycle Stories eMagazine - Summer 2014

  1. 1. PRODUCT LIFECYCLE STORIESINSIGHT ON PRODUCTS, MANUFACTURING, AND SERVICE WHY WOMEN STILL DON’T WANT MANUFACTURING JOBS ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: How IoT Ready is Your Company? Home of the Best Problem Solvers: Singapore Ukraine Conflict Brings Supply Chain Woes The Next Industrial Robot Could be a Kangaroo Summer 2014
  2. 2. Summer 2014 – Table of Contents Feature Article Despite solid growth across the nation, the manufacturing industry not only faces a skills gap, but also a serious gender gap. Although women outperform men in higher education, they are still underrepresented in all manufacturing sectors. WHY WOMEN STILL DON’T WANT MANUFACTURING JOBS 08 How IoT Ready is Your Company? The number of smart “things” is growing, and research predicts that the Internet of Things will lead to a potential economic impact of $2.3 trillion for the global manufacturing industry. How capable is your company of capturing a piece of this trillion-dollar pie? Home of the Best Problem Solvers: Singapore Jobs today are placing an emphasis on tasks that require complex problem-solving skills, but are schools teaching students the skills necessary to keep pace with these new demands? 12 Ukraine Conflict Brings Supply Chain Woes Crises, natural or manmade, often put a strain on supply chains, and the current turmoil in Ukraine is a reminder that globalization creates risks as well as opportunities. 16 The Micro: A 3D Printer Designed for Everyone 3D printing has clearly taken off in many industries, and now a Kickstarter campaign has proven that there’s also demand for a consumer printer. 24 3 Amazing Underwater Robots It’s said that we know more about outer space than about the vast oceans on this planet. But new types of robots—underwater autonomous vehicles—are helping to open the ocean to researchers in new ways. 26 3D-Printed Homes Gain Momentum Imagine a contractor building a home, but instead of hauling in lumber, he sets up a giant 3D printer on the lot and a few days later a house with a foundation and walls is ready to finish. 3D printing on a commercial scale may be some time away, but the process is gaining momentum. 30 The Next Industrial Robot Could be a Kangaroo If it looks like a kangaroo and hops like a kangaroo, it could be a sophisticated German robot powered by electric drives and pneumatic pumps. 20 Cover photo credit: Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
  3. 3. Summer 2014 – Letter from the Editor Over the past half a decade, the U.S. manufacturing industry has added 600,000 jobs, and growth continues with exciting advances in fields like 3D printing, robotics, materials engineering, nanotechnology, and the IoT. Manufacturing workers earn on average 17 percent more than the rest of us, and career opportunities are diverse. And yet, women still aren’t interested. Today, only 25 percent of manufacturing workers are female. Compare this to the height of WWII, when the female labor force grew by more than 50 percent and working women abandoned their traditional jobs in trade, personal service, and catering to enter war production plants and factories by the droves. So what’s different about today’s manufacturing environment, or with women themselves? Culture, lack of role models, and persistent stereotypes may all play their part. In our cover story, staff writer Michelle Reis explores the pervasive under-representation of women in manu- facturing and what we can do to finally turn the tables. Also in this issue, we explore the latest in robotics—from underwater discovery and adventure to a three-foot-tall gesture-controlled bionic kangaroo that could change factory assembly lines everywhere. Freelance writer Maria Regan investigates why children from Singapore are outperforming the rest of the world when it comes to problem solving, and innovation and environment reporter Gary Wollenhaupt contem- plates how 3D-printed homes could be part of a more sustainable future. Sincerely, Nancy Pardo Editor in Chief PRODUCT LIFECYCLE STORIES LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: NANCY PARDO
  4. 4. Driven by a more competitive labor market, lower energy costs, and the re-shoring movement, Amer- ican manufacturing has been able to grow by about 600,000 jobs in the last four years, reversing a decades-long negative trend. Manufacturing registered a 55.4 percent PMI for May 2014, mark- ing an expansion for the 12th consecutive month. Yet although there is solid growth across the nation, many manufacturers are still struggling to meet labor needs, as evidenced by The U.S. Department of Labor, which shows that there were 241,000 open manufacturing jobs in March, 2014. President Obama has attempted to use federal dollars to help strengthen technical colleges and recruit more people to pursue jobs in manufac- turing, but despite these efforts a resource that could help address these problems is being highly underutilized. “Amidst all the promising signs in U.S. manufac- turing, one disparity continues to make headlines,” reads a memo from the United States Congress. “The recent job gains in manufacturing have been largely among men.” Women, despite outperforming men in higher education credentials and making up about 47 percent of the U.S. workforce, only account for about 25 percent of manufacturing workers, according to data from women’s advocacy group Catalyst. And while the number of men employed in manufacturing between 2010 and 2013 grew by 7 percent, the number of women fell by 0.3 percent. According to Allison Grealis, the director of Women in Manufacturing (WiM), a 400-member group that aims to attract and retain women in the industrial sector, this under-representation is mostly caused by outdated perceptions. Despite advances in gender equality in recent decades, there is a long-standing view of manufac- turing as having a male-centered culture that implicitly excludes women from attaining core managerial roles. In fact, a study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute cites this belief as a key driver of women not entering the industry. Another factor that is leading to the gender gap is a lack of understanding around modern manufac- turing. “Too often they think of it as their father’s manufacturing; still un-modern, dirty, dark, dingy, and not a place for women,” Grealis says. “That it requires a whole bunch of girth and heavy lifting, and that it’s not a very pleasant place to work.” In reality, modern manufacturing is an incredibly different sector than the stereotypes suggest. Why Women Still Don’t Want BY MICHELLE REIS
  5. 5. Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress
  6. 6. Companies are more high-tech, utilizing equipment that is computer controlled and automated. And modern manufacturers need to work more with their mind, and not worry about having brute force. Excellent science, technology, engineering, mathe- matics (STEM), and problem solving skills are now necessities in this industry. “It’s less about brute force and getting your hands dirty and more about use of advanced technology and design,” says Jennifer Bass, who bought Essve Tech, a manufacturer of corrugated steel pipes in Alpharetta, GA, in 2004. “This has really leveled the playing field.” And the Manufacturing Institute study—which surveyed 600 women with manufacturing jobs—al- so found that women working in today’s modern manufacturing environment are extremely satis- fied with their job. About 75 percent of respondents stated their manufacturing career is interesting and rewarding. “The main reason we hear from women why they love manufacturing is that it’s exciting,” Grealis says. “There’s a lot of on-the-job problem solving, you get to work with a lot of great teams, and you get to work in a lot of new technologies, like 3D printing and all the automation and robotics. It’s never a dull day.” Focusing on the positive gains a manufacturing career can bring is only one step toward recruiting more women into the sector. Probably the first and most important action is to place more women in leadership roles within the manufacturing world. “You know, it’s difficult to envision yourself in an industry when you don’t see many like you in there,” Grealis explains. “As you open The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, you’re hearing about the high performing manufacturing companies, but too often you’re not hearing from the key women who are involved with these companies.” Pamela Kan, president of the Bishop-Wisecarver Group, also believes it’s important to showcase women in leadership roles, especially when encour- aging younger girls to enter manufacturing. “We need to give girls aspirations—something they can dream about,” she says. “We need to make ourselves more visible and accessible to the next generation.” This is where initiatives like WiM’s Hear Her Story can make a difference. The blog showcases the daily lives of women in manufacturing—what it “It’s less about brute force and getting your hands dirty and more about use of advanced technology and design”
  7. 7. looks like for them at work, who they are, and how they got into manufacturing. Testimonials, like welder instructor Sue Silverstein’s, gives women today a real glimpse into how women experience manufacturing: “The environment in manufacturing today is very different from when I started out,” Silverstein says in an April, 2014 post. “It’s much better for young women. My male students don’t bat an eye about having a female instructor or female classmates.” Mentorship and sponsorship programs are also incredibly important in helping bridge the gender gap, and also an effective tactic to support wom- en’s advancement into leadership roles. Recent research shows that individuals who have the active support of sponsors within their organiza- tion are more likely to advance in their careers and see an increase in stretch assignments, promo- tions, and pay raises. According to Million Women Mentors, high quality mentoring programs that connect young women with female professionals can increase the number of women who pursue and succeed in STEM careers. In fact, having these successful female role models could be the key to countering the negative stereotypes associated with industries like manu- facturing—young girls who see successful women in leadership positions may be inspired to take a similar career path. “The skills shortage facing U.S. manufacturers is apparent, and the under-representation of women only contributes to the gap,” says Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. “We must empower each other as ambassadors of the indus- try so we can inspire the next-generation of young women to pursue manufacturing careers and encour- age current female talent within the industry.”
  8. 8. The number of smart “things”—from thermostats to smart clothes—is growing thanks to demand in the consumer market. Gartner predicts that by 2020 about 26 billion smart, connected products will be in service. That’s an average of 3.3 devices for every person on the planet, not including the projected 7.3 billion smartphones and tablets that will be available. But don’t think that the IoT will only affect and benefit consumers. “The Internet of Things will create greater economic value for all organizations, and for the global economy,” says Peter Son- dergaard, senior vice president of Gartner Research. According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, 80 to 100 percent of all manufacturers will be using IoT applications by 2025, leading to a poten- tial economic impact of $2.3 trillion for the global manufacturing industry. Not only are the returns huge for manufacturers, but the IoT also promises to minimize, and possi- bly eliminate, massive information gaps around real-time conditions on factory floors, product use, and even equipment maintenance. This will help manufactur- ers minimize errors, be more flexible with managing late-stage engineering changes, and ultimately accel- erate new product introductions. BY AILBHE COUGHLAN How IoT Readyis Your Company
  9. 9. Naturally, many companies will want to have a piece of the trillion-dollar pie, but manufacturers who want to enter the IoT business must consider the following: What does the IoT mean for your company? Each company will find different opportunities in the IoT, but all will share the desire to increase revenue, scale efficiently, and set themselves apart from competition. Manufacturers starting from scratch need to transform their business models so that they are both effective and lucrative. According to Don Fike, vice president and technical architect at FedEx Corporate Services, there’s no reason IT can’t take the lead in leveraging the IoT for business benefit. “A good place to start is to take a look at your business processes and how they might be impacted by some of the sensor technolo- gies and real-time capabilities,” he says. “Step back and say, ‘How can this change my business process?’” Do your products have the potential to be smartly connected? If a manufacturer decides they want to bring connec- tivity to their products, they must evaluate which part of the product lifecycle they need to concen- trate on, as products can be smartly connected either from a design or a service perspective. Designing connected products also requires the integration of hardware and software design. Both processes depend on good design to succeed, but hardware production calls for product design and engineering in a linear and lengthy development cycle, while software design happens in short, modular loops and requires support from different kinds of design- ers and programmers. Manufacturers must make sure they can handle both capabilities.
  10. 10. Is your IT department ready for the IoT and its security issues? Companies must understand the technology they are working with, as well as the security implica- tions and privacy laws. “Everyone recognizes that security is an issue, but not everyone is implement- ing stuff in their software to really respect it,” says Russell Fadel, CEO and co-founder of ThingWorx, the first company to offer a platform designed to build and run the applications of the connected world. The IoT, and all of the IP-addressable devices that come with it, will create new areas susceptible to attacks designed to either compromise the device or gain access to the enterprise network (think of the recent Heartbleed bug). IT teams must be ready to routinely monitor these devices, protect them from spam, viruses, and malware, and also be prepared to address new security issues as they arise. But evaluating IoT readiness is only one piece of the puzzle. Once the decision to enter this business has been made, companies must then make sure their future strategy for dealing with smart, connected products is one that is not only aligned with the overall goals of the organization, but will also bring the highest returns. According to Bain & Company, senior executives must consider the following questions before settling on a strategy: • Will the highest value be in hardware (advanced servers, new chips), software and services, or in data itself? • What solutions will meet our customer needs and entice them to invest while also reducing costs, generating revenue, and lowering risk? • What capabilities and assets do we need to develop and deliver these solutions? Who should we partner with? • Which standards should we back? • What are the risks of not acting?
  11. 11. Once companies have solid answers to these questions and have decided on their strategy, they must then: • Define and commit to investments. This means creating budget for the right technologies and employees with the right skills to identify, create, and execute IoT applications. The IT infrastructure may need updating or a company may invest more heavily in data analytics than in the past. A good first step should be to see what early adopters are doing to learn about which applications create lasting value and which tend to fail. • Discover what the privacy and security issues are, and manage them accordingly. Security issues are a big threat. Businesses and governments must find a balance that will protect consumers, while also allowing room for advancement and innovation. • Evolve your culture and business to adapt to a smart, connected world. The IoT will require new skills, employees with more diverse back grounds, new channels to monetize fresh lines of business, and, most importantly, new business models. According to a report from Harbor Research, smart business models will extend beyond ideas about new products and services to the very way in which business is conducted. New business tools and methods will be needed for competitive advantage. The world of the IoT and smart, connected products is not something to be ignored. It’s becoming clear that in order to capitalize on its benefits, organiza- tions will have to ask some key questions, make critical decisions, and most importantly, be ready to transform. Everyone recognizes that security is an issue, but not everyone is implementing stuff in their software to really respect it”
  12. 12. For decades the demand for workers across the globe who can perform routine tasks like bookkeeping or sorting has been declining. Machines have eroded the need for such workers, and now humans are being required to up their game, with a new emphasis on tasks that require complex problem-solving skills. But are schools teaching students the skills necessary to keep pace with these new demands? The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) believes a lot is riding on our ability to improve the way we teach problem-solving skills. So much so that it has added problem solving to its Programme for International Assessment (PISA), a test of math, science, and reading given every three years to half a million 15-year-old students in 65 countries and economies. The problem-solving component, which was given to a subset of 85,000 students in 44 countries and economies, was included for the first time in PISA 2012 and results were released in April 2014. The questions in this new section are designed to measure an individual’s ability to under- stand and resolve problem situations. The test challenges involve real-life scenarios like: • Determining how an unfamiliar MP3 player works, and then finding a way to simplify its controls without losing any of the existing functionality • Figuring out how to purchase the least expensive train ticket for different scenarios using a vending machine (with a malfunction thrown in as an added challenge) • Using an interactive map of traffic and travel times to determine the best place for a group of friends in different suburbs to meet when none of them can afford more than a 15 minute travel time These problems don’t require expert knowledge to solve, so the results give insight into students’ general reasoning skills, their ability to regulate problem-solving processes, and their willingness to do so. The test is given on computers so that questions can be interactive. Rather than providing all the information required to determine an answer upfront, students SINGAPORE BY MARIA K. REGAN HOME OF THE BEST PROBLEM SOLVERS:
  13. 13. have to explore the problem situation to uncover useful facts, as they would do in real life. For example, in the questions about buying the least expensive train ticket for various scenarios, students must first learn how the digital ticket machine works, then press the appropriate buttons to determine the price of each ticket type. The computers also make it possible to score students based on process: whether they explored the options systematically before answering as opposed to simply guessing. In the U.S. Country Note, OECD says: “Fifteen-year-olds who lack these [problem solving] skills today face a high risk of economic disadvantage as adults. They will compete for jobs that are becoming rare; and if they are unable to adapt to new circumstances and learn in unfamiliar contexts, they may find it particu- larly difficult to move to better jobs as economic and technological conditions evolve.” So which countries have the best problem solvers? Students from Singapore and Korea were the top performers (mean scores of 562 and 561 points, respectively), and were described by the OECD as “quick learners, highly inquisitive, and able to solve unstructured problems in unfamiliar contexts.” The next-best performers were students in Japan, Macao-China, Hong Kong-China, Shanghai-China, and Chinese Taipei. American students, benchmarked against other developed nations, performed about average in reading and science and below average in math. While they managed to score slightly above average on problem solving, U.S. students were still outper- formed by their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Finland, Britain, Estonia, France, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Germany. “Today’s 15-year-olds with poor problem-solving skills will become tomorrow’s adults struggling to find or keep a good job,” says Andreas Schleicher, acting director of education and skills at the OECD. “Policy makers and educators should reshape their school systems and curricula to help students develop their problem-solving skills.” Project Lead the Way, the largest STEM-education provider in the U.S., offers programs to help schools Photo credit: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images
  14. 14. do just that. This year, the company will be in 6,000 U.S. elementary, middle, and high schools with 7,000 programs—60 percent more than last year. “Children have a natural curiosity,” says Vince Bertram, Ed.D., the company’s president and CEO. “They like to problem solve and play. Then they get to school and we teach them how to be compliant.” “Our programs are all problem based,” he continues. “Traditionally, school has been about content knowl- edge and teachers have been trained to convey infor- mation. In the real world, you must have the skills not only to solve problems, but to identify problems and opportunities as well.” However, Bertram points out, problem-solving skills alone are not enough; workers need collaborative skills as well. “Collaboration is what brings breakthroughs in problem solving,” he says. The OECD agrees. As part of the 2015 PISA, it’s developing a new set of computer-based challeng- es to assess the cognitive and social processes (such as communication, organization, and con- sensus building) that underlie collaborative prob- lem-solving skills. To create uniform collaborative situations in which individuals can be fairly measured, other team members will be represented by the testing com- puter. As a student progresses through the prob- lem-solving task, the computer will monitor the current states of a problem. With each state, it will provide a changing set of actions a student can take to converse with other team members (e.g., through menu-based chat interfaces) or to perform actions to help solve the problem. The computer’s record of all communications and actions will be used to score the assessment. Though improving the way we teach young people to problem solve is a challenge that schools need to address, parents can also foster these skills. “As parents, we can think about questions we ask our children and they ask us,” Bertram says. “In particular children often ask ‘why?’ Do we turn that question off by saying, ‘because I said so’ or ‘that’s just the way it is?' That’s not very motivating.” The goal, says Bertram, is for children to under- stand how things are connected and to become good at reasoning, so it’s better to explore why. “Children don’t have the context we have as parents,” he says. “We need to expand their think- ing. You may still make the same decision, but the child’s mind will be broadened by the explanation, and he’ll learn that it’s OK to explore.” Traditionally, school has been about content knowl- edge and teachers have been trained to convey in- formation. In the real world, you must have the skills not only to solve problems, but to identify problems and opportunities as well”
  16. 16. Crises, natural or manmade, often put a strain on supply chains, and the current turmoil in Ukraine is a reminder that globalization creates risks as well as opportunities. Natural gas that heats much of Europe, auto parts going to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, grain for Europe and the Middle East, and ammuni- tion for American hunters all travel through Ukraine or are exported from its farms and factories. Since revolutionaries in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, ousted Viktor Yanukovych in February, trade with Ukraine and Russia has been under constant threat. Falling currencies, blocked supplies, uncertainty over new borders and customs, and tax fluctuations are all impacting production and distribution across Russia and Ukraine. And with the U.S. threatening increased sanctions, the situation is likely to be exacerbated. On the metals front for instance, several key U.S. manufacturers’ supply chains could feel the crunch. Boeing buys nearly a third of its titanium for its planes (translating into an $18 million total spend) from Russia, mostly from VSMPO-Avisma, the largest titanium producer in the world. So far, sanctions have been limited to financial restrictions on a few Russian leaders, but for sup- Local workers from a steel mill demolish barricades outside the headquarters of the 'Donetsk People's Republic' in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. ply-chain managers it’s a balancing act between staying put and looking at alternate suppliers and supply routes. “Assessing risks is complex because politics sets the agenda,” says Rosemary Coates, president of Blue Silk Consulting, a Silicon Valley firm. “If you have a factory in Ukraine, you may have to shift production, and that could have a significant impact on the place that you leave.” Coates, who advises Nike Inc. among other clients, says that companies are increasingly sensitive about the impact of their actions on local economies. “We have to be aware that by closing a plant, we’re caus- ing a lot of misery for people. We have to ask, ‘what will be the impact on the people and the politics?’” Coates says that production in both Ukraine and Russia can be challenging, with widespread corruption and petty crime. But she says that Ukraine in particular is well-integrated into east- ern European supply chains, particularly with Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Germa- ny. Russia is Ukraine’s biggest trading partner. Ukraine exports cars, planes, and other goods to Russia, and it is dependent on Russian supplies of oil and gas. Photo credit: Daniel Mihailescu /AFP/Getty Images
  17. 17. Photo credit: Daniel Mihailescu /AFP/Getty Images “We have to be aware that by closing a plant, we’re causing a lot of misery for people. We have to ask, ‘what will be the impact on the people and the politics?’”
  18. 18. Ukraine is one of the most industrialized regions of the former Soviet Union, making myriad compo- nents and finished goods. It exports commodities including steel, sunflower oil, grain, and honey, but the crisis has left customers, suppliers, and inves- tors nervous. Industrial production in Ukraine decreased six percent in April, 2014 when com- pared to April, 2013, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. The automotive industry is one of the hardest hit, with the international community considering Crimea as occupied territory. One large carmaker says that U.S. and EU authorities have “unofficially” warned carmakers to avoid doing business in the Crimea peninsula. There’s even confusion around how to label goods leaving the region. Stickers saying “Made in Ukraine” or “Made in Russia” are affixed to manu- factured goods or printed on textiles to tell consum- ers where a product originated from. Even though Russia says it has annexed Crimea and a vote there approved the takeover, the U.S. still requires that any goods from Crimea be labelled “Made in Ukraine,” says Coates. “This is a very significant point being made by the U.S. government,” Coates says. “Goods coming from the Crimea cannot be labeled ‘Made in Russia’ because the U.S. government does not recognize the Russian government there.” While the recent spike in violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine has disrupted automotive busi- nesses on the ground, with bands of criminals in Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts robbing and looting at will, wildly fluctuating import tax on autos is impact- ing both Ukraine and Russia on yet another level. Early in the year, the Ukrainian government announced it would cut in half and then eliminate special duties on imported cars. The plans, strongly opposed by Ukraine automakers, were a response to protesters who wanted cheaper cars. But after president Yanukovych fled the country, the parlia- ment reversed course and raised duties, including imposing new excise taxes. Foreign manufacturers who are located in Ukraine to get access to the Russian market are concerned that Russia may raise tariffs on Ukraine cars to the same 25 percent rate imposed on other imports. That would effectively close the Russian market to Ukraine manufacturers. In more obscure supply-chain news, the unrest in Ukraine was apparently to blame for a shortage of ammunition at a Florida firearms show in March. Phil White, editor of TheFirearmBlog, says that shipments of ammunition from Russia and Ukraine for Wolf Performance Ammunition, a California-based import- er of Russian bullets, were recently interrupted. Wolf is a sponsor and the sole supplier of ammunition for the show. The company was told a ship traveling from a Russian port had been scheduled to pick up a shipment from a Ukraine ammunition factory at a port in Crimea, but the supplies hadn’t arrived. Even if Russia and Ukraine avoid outright warfare or further occupations of territory, the area is likely to be a continuing source of worry to companies with operations or suppliers in the region.
  19. 19. Springing through the Australian outback, the kangaroo is a model of efficiency. Thanks to its unique method of travel, this marsupi- al is capable of moving quickly for incredible lengths of time without using large amounts of energy. Every time a kangaroo’s feet hit the ground, the Achilles tendon in its hind legs stretches to store BY MICHELLE REIS Next Industrial Robot Could be A KANGAROO energy, and it uses that power for the next jump. You can think of it working in a similar way to a spring in a pogo stick. Now the kangaroo’s graceful movements have been recreated by a development team from Festo’s Bionic Learning Network, a German-based supplier of automation technology.
  20. 20. Photo coutesey of Festo
  21. 21. near the hip of the roo kick in, making the biomi- metic animal lean forward. When it reaches a certain angle, energy is released and allows the robot to hop. Integrated controls, condition monitoring, and real-time diagnostics allows the robot to have stability while jumping and landing. If for any reason the angle of the jump is off, the system can monitor itself, consider the variables that could cause a shaky take-off or touch down, and use a set of algorithms to make sure it does not crash. When it’s not busy hopping about, the BionicKangaroo rests on its small front arms for stability. For power, the BionicKangaroo relies on two sourc- es: A small compressor that provides high pressure air for the pneumatic muscles that power the jumping, and lightweight batteries that energizes the entire robot. Probably the most fascinating aspect of this whole project is how the engineers decided to control this tiny robo-marsupial. Instead of using something like an RC remote, the BionicKangaroo is directed through gesture controls. The BionicKangaroo stands just slightly over three feet and weighs 15 pounds. The robot can hop a distance of about two and a half feet and can jump over a foot high. Through a combination of pneu- matic and electric drive technology, it is able to recover, store, and retrieve energy to use on its next bounce, just like the animal it’s modeled after. To achieve this, an elastic band made of rubber is fastened to the back of the robot’s foot, parallel to a pneumatic cylinder on the knee joint. This band serves the same function as the Achilles tendon in a real kangaroo, cushioning the hop while simultane- ously absorbing kinetic energy and releasing it for the next jump. “Most interestingly, we combine electrical and pneumatic drives,” explains Annette Ostertag of Festo’s technology division of the corporate communication team. “The electrical drives are necessary for precise movements, while the pneumatic actuators are necessary for the dynamic jumping behavior.” When the robot is ready to make a leap, pressurized gas makes the elastic tendon tense up and motors
  22. 22. A human wearing a Myo armband from Thalmic Labs can interact with the robot without having to touch any inputs. The band’s Microsoft-Kinect-like technol- ogy is Bluetooth-enabled and has a range of 54 feet. “We decided to use gesture control as a possibility of man-machine-interaction, a field that is very interesting for us,” explains Ostertag. “We are constantly researching in the field of handling and control of automation technologies, and gesture control could be one possibility in the future.” Showcasing the power of biomimetics Consumers excited by the prospect of owning their own robo-kangaroo may be disappointed to hear that they won’t be in stores anytime soon. Festo doesn’t intend to make its creation available for everyday individuals to play with. Instead, this project is a tool in showing the power of biomimet- ics—a field of science that uses natural-world designs to create things to benefit humans—and inspire would-be engineers. In practical terms, Festo believes that the robot’s unique movements, based on the principal of “recovering, storing, and releasing energy based on a natural model” to facilitate movement, could be an intelligent way of recovering energy in industrial automation and might be applied to the automated tools it makes for factory assembly lines. “Together, the electrical and pneumatic drive technology leads to a highly dynamic system which is still very energy-efficient,” says Ostertag. “All of these learnings will find their way into the products of the future.” The BionicKangaroo isn’t the first bionic robot that the Festo team has created. In fact, the company has made a name for itself with its various “biomi- metic” robot designs that take their operational characteristics from animals. The Bionic Learning network has created everything from bionic jellyfish to an incredibly realistic robotic seagull, applying principles from nature to inspire new technical applications and industrial practices. Photo coutesey of Festo
  23. 23. 3D printing has clearly taken off in many diverse industries, from airplane manufacturing to health- care and automotive, but is there or will there ever be a demand for 3D printers in the consumer market? As the Micro Kickstarter campaign has proven, there is a demand for a consumer printer. A huge one. Only 11 minutes after the crowdfunding crusade for “the first truly consumer 3D printer” went live, it reached its $50,000 goal. In 25 hours, it hit $1 million (faster than the Pebble Watch, which took 28 hours) and in less than three days, the campaign hit the $2 million mark, making it one of the most successful Kickstarters of all time. Created by Maryland-based M3D, the Micro 3D printer is one of the most affordable 3D printers to hit the market. Competitor 3D printers targeting consumers, such as MakerBot’s Replicator Mini ($1,375) and the Pirate3D Buccaneer (around $500) are priced much, much higher than the Micro (starting at $299 for backers). BY MICHELLE REIS I Photo courtesy of M3D
  24. 24. But the affordable price isn’t the only attribute attracting consumers; the printer’s aesthetic is also a crowd pleaser. The cubed printer is small enough to fit comfortably on a desk or bookshelf, is lightweight and portable, and comes in a variety of colors. The plug-and-play feel to the Micro is an improve- ment over other consumer 3D printers. It comes ready assembled with auto-leveling and auto-cali- bration built into the printer head so it can print without needing user intervention, and PLA, ABS, or the company’s filament spools fit inside the box to help with portability and keep a sleek, clean look. Due to its size, users won’t be able to print large items, but could print vases, custom cookie cutters, or toys for their pets. Simple software: a huge selling point The Micro stands to overcome a major obstacle that has stood in the way between 3D printers and consum- er adoption: difficult and non-intuitive software. A custom companion software “as interactive and enjoyable as a game” could be the answer. The app is designed for touchscreen use, supports drag and drop interactions, and allows you to easily tweak your model before sending it to print. Micro owners will also be able to search for objects to print online and organize their 3D models into a library to access later. This simplified software could play a huge role in expanding the 3D-printer market beyond hobbyists with the right technical knowhow to the everyday consumer who doesn’t know about CAD design. Backers can expect their printers to arrive between August 2014 and March 2015, and worldwide distri- bution will start after that. Will the Micro finally bring 3D printing to the masses? At the moment, 3D printers aren’t in high demand. High costs and complexity (due to printer setup and the need for CAD software knowledge) has made the technology something that only appeals to hobbyists. But interest within the consumer sector is increas- ing. Strategy Analytics reports the consumer 3D printing market could hit $10 billion by 2024 and then $70 billion by 2030, and that there is the potential for more than 50 percent of households in the United States and Europe to own a 3D printer. And according to analyst company Canalys, crowd- funding efforts like kickstarters are also helping 3D printing gain significant traction among consumers. “To date, the enterprise space has been the focus of 3D printing activities," says Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd. "While enterprise engagement will continue to grow, it looks to be the consumer space that will drive shipments in the near future. We are already seeing significant numbers of early technol- ogy adopters and hobbyists investing in relatively cheap 3D printers. As prices continue to fall, the technology improves and use cases are tested, this trend is set to continue." Companies like Staples and Adobe are also helping 3D printing go mainstream. Staples has partnered with 3D Systems, a provider of 3D content-to-print solutions, to offer 3D print solutions, and it also sells consumer printers, while Adobe has intro- duced 3D printing capabilities to Photoshop CC. The Micro’s incredibly fast success on Kickstarter is also a good indication that consumers are ready for 3D printers to go mainstream, but only time will tell if this printer will truly be the groundbreaking technology its makers claim it to be. Until the Micro is in the hands of real users and they write their reviews, there won’t be any way to tell if the product is a hit. Photo courtesy of M3D
  26. 26. Photo courtesy of CoralBots
  27. 27. It is said that we know more about outer space than we do about the vast oceans on this planet. But new types of robots—underwater autonomous vehicles or AUVs—are helping to open the ocean to researchers in new ways. Marine robots today can rebuild coral ecosystems, measure the thickness of ice floes, and explore the ocean floors. Restoring and conserving coral reefs Twenty percent of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed due to both natural and man-made events. Hurricanes, fishing, water traffic, pollution, and too many visitors have all damaged reefs. A project called Coralbots currently underway at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland has a vision to use autonomous underwater robots to help repair and rebuild the world’s coral reefs. Left on their own, coral reef regrowth and regenera- tion is a very slow process due to pieces of coral breaking off and getting scattered. The Coralbots help find and collect pieces of living coral and bring them back together to speed regrowth efforts. The bots can also repair reefs in deeper water where human divers can’t help. “The Coralbots project is making steady progress on coral recognition software. We achieved state-of-the-art results in coral recognition recently and are looking at further improvement with ‘deep learning’ methods,” explains David Corne, a profes- sor at Heriot-Watt University. Corne’s colleague, Lea-Anne Henry adds, “Our dedicated robot platform will be in place soon— probably a VideoRay Remotely Operated Vehicle. Our Belize associate is also taking a series of high-reso- lution images to help us prepare for the first Belize mission. In parallel, we are already looking ahead to the next generation of Coralbots which will make use of soft robotics to handle delicate specimens.” The startup phase of Coralbots—which included research into swarm ‘micro-rules’ that guide Coral- bot behavior, computer vision capabilities, and robot arm/gripper prototypes—was supported by seed funding and efforts from numerous volunteer students and scientists, and the project is actively seeking new donors. Researching the Antarctic climate Australian researchers are using AUVs to map the underside of Antarctic ice with multi-beam sonar while helicopters conduct 3D mapping from above. The robot, swimming 65 feet below the ice, uses a back and forth “lawnmower” grid pattern to scan the ice, and stores the data in an on-board computer. After each survey, this data is converted into a 3D map of that section of ice. This project is helping researchers understand more about the effects of climate, since sea ice thickness is one of the most critical indicators of global climate change. “Satellites have successfully observed the variability and change in sea ice ‘extent’ occurring at both poles over the last 30 odd years, but changes to sea ice ‘thickness,’ and therefore overall volume, is challenging due to the complex nature of sea ice structure and its dynamic behavior,” says Guy Williams, the lead researcher for the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems’ Undersea Ice Project. The underwater robot is able to take in-situ mea- surements of sea ice thickness, something that was constrained to ship-based observations and manual drill lines in the past. Ship-based and manual drilling observations are often limited because of the logistic and seasonal considerations. With the AUVs, floe-scale measurements totaling over 1.5 million square feet of under-ice topography have been taken, providing new information regarding ice draft and deformation that far exceeds traditional data sets. Photo courtesy of ACE CRC
  28. 28. “The retrieval of floe-scale, 3D topography ‘under’ the ice together with video images has taken us to the ‘dark side of the moon’ in terms of sea ice observations—something that simply wasn’t possi- ble before,” Williams concludes. Ocean exploration for everyone Most underwater exploration projects require significant funding to launch, but entrepreneurs Eric Stackpole and David Lang have built an open source, do-it-yourself underwater robot called OpenROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to make underwater exploration easy and affordable. In a video, Stackpole explains, “The allure of the ocean is that it is right there…and the ocean is three-dimensional, so 95 percent of where life can exist on this planet has never been explored.” The beauty of the OpenROV is that is looks like it could be a child’s remote-controlled toy, but has true scientific value. Oceanographers who are accus- tomed to expensive technical equipment are enthu- siastic about this type of robot, which only costs $849, and believe it can help further their research. The OpenROV was initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $111,000 on a $20,000 goal. Venture capitalist True Ventures added $1.3 million to the funding, enabling the company to deliver more than 500 kits since 2012. “It shouldn’t take a research grant to do exploration, it should take curiosity—and that’s what we’re all about,” states Stackpole. “If we can crowdsource exploration, there’s a lot of good that can come from that.” Underwater robots continue to be engineered with greater features and capabilities, as well as with accessibility and entry-level pricing. These advanc- es will aid scientists on their diverse missions to further explore the Earth’s oceans. “It shouldn’t take a research grant to do ex- ploration, it should take curiosity—and that’s what we’re all about” Photo courtesy of OpenROV Photo courtesy of OpenROV
  29. 29. Imagine an architect designing a house and then instead of hauling in lumber, the builder sets up a giant 3D printer on the lot. A few days later a house with a foundation and walls is ready to finish. BY GARY WOLLENHAUPT 3D-Printed Homes Gain Momentum
  30. 30. Image courtesy of Contour Crafting
  31. 31. 3D printing on a commercial scale may be some time away, but the process is gaining momentum. China’s WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. recently built 10 houses in 24 hours for less than $5,000 each at the Shanghai Hi-Tech Industrial Park. The 2,150 square foot houses were created using a proprietary mixture of recycled mill tailings and other waste ingredients, along with glass fiber to form a concrete aggregate poured into layers. The project used four printers 105 feet by 33 feet wide and 22 feet tall to print the components in a factory, which were then trucked to the building site. Designers planned for windows, plumbing, electrical systems, and insulation, which can be added after the walls go up. This isn’t the only breakthrough in large-scale 3D printing. The Contour Crafting system, developed by Univer- sity of Southern California professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, can print a house on-site in 24 hours. Moving back and forth across the building site on rails, the giant-size 3D printer, which looks like a crane with a hanging delivery nozzle, layers concrete to create walls based on an architect’s design. It reinforces the walls as it builds, and leaves spaces for things like plumbing and electric. Once the structure is complete, workers come in with doors and windows and provide the finishing touches. 3D printed houses are mostly focused on providing low-cost housing for the indigent or those displaced by storms. For instance, temporary housing could be erected in the wake of a severe hurricane. Or refugees could move out of tents and into a safe, durable concrete house. The Canal House project in Amsterdam has a slightly different goal: to keep up with rapidly expanding city limits. It uses printed plastic sections that fit togeth- er like a child’s building toy. The oversized 3D printer, called de KamerMaker or “room builder,” creates honeycomb bricks from molten plastic, that builders then snap together like Legos. The plastic “ink” used for construction is made with industrial glue that’s 80 percent vegetable oil. The goal is to print with sustainable and recycled Visitors view 3D printed building block at the opening weekend of the 3D Print Canal House expo. Photo courtesy of: DUS Architects
  32. 32. materials, but the printer can use any material that melts at the right temperature and then hardens again. The first segment, a corner of the house with a portion of a staircase, took about a week to print. Eventually the internal structure will be filled with foam that dries to the hardness of concrete. The project’s founders, DUS architects, expect it to take three years to print and assemble the entire three-story canal house. The architects hope 3D printing will allow housing to keep up with the growing population migration to the cities. Also, recycled materials can be incorporated into the building, cutting down the cost of moving building materials. The designers say 3D printing offers greater customization, modifying designs for a homeowner’s needs and tastes. In the meantime, the site has become an attraction in itself. Personal tours as well as company and school tours are available to interested parties. The most recent visitor to visit the site? President Barak Obama. Photo courtesy of: DUS Architects Photo courtesy of: DUS Architects Full size 3D printed building blocks at the opening weekend of the Canal House expo. Barak Obama visits the Canal House project in Amsterdam.
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