Category Archives: Product

Unlocking Engineering Data for Downstream Consumption is Now a Must

By Dave Opsahl – Thanks to their tools, manufacturers have been able to create fully annotated 3D models that include all of the product manufacturing information (PMI) necessary to define, manufacture and control a product.

However, it’s no longer enough to enable engineers to create a single master model. People need an efficient way to share that information downstream of engineering and have it be easily consumed by a wide range of audiences for a host of different uses — such as the machinists who are making the product, the suppliers who want to bid on supporting it, the technicians who will be servicing it, and so on.

Simply put: if you’re an engineering software vendor, making product information available for consumption outside of your application is now a critical part of your application’s value proposition —and it’s where customers will be won and lost. more> https://goo.gl/b56KzQ

Updates from Adobe

By Serena Fox – Imagine wearing the same shoes every day of your life. “For my sister, her wheelchair is an extension of her body,” says designer Ailbhe Keane. “Dressing her wheels is like putting on a new pair of boots.”

That’s the idea behind Izzy Wheels, an Irish company that aims to transform the wheelchair from a medical device into a form of artistic self-expression. Founded by Ailbhe and her sister Isabel Keane, the online shop sells colorful, easily interchanged wheelchair spoke guards that feature designs by illustrators and artists from around the world.

Their tagline, “If you can’t stand up, stand out!” was inspired by Isabel, who was born with spina bifida and is paralyzed from her waist down. Growing up, she was frustrated by how little was available to personalize her chair. “I don’t want my chair to look like it was made in a hospital, I want it to look like a piece of fashion,” says Isabel, who today serves as brand ambassador and spokesperson (no pun intended) for the company that bears her name. more> https://goo.gl/URbUKg

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The economy is more a messy, fractal living thing than a machine

BOOK REVIEW

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence, Author: George Zarkadakis.

By George Zarkadakis – Mainstream economics is built on the premise that the economy is a machine-like system operating at equilibrium. According to this idea, individual actors – such as companies, government departments and consumers – behave in a rational way.

Ever since the invention of the assembly line, corporations have been like medieval cities: building walls around themselves and then trading with other ‘cities’ and consumers.

The so-called ‘gig economy’ is only the beginning of a profound economic, social and political transformation. For the moment, these new ways of working are still controlled by old-style businesses models – platforms that essentially sell ‘trust’ via reviews and verification, or by plugging into existing financial and legal systems.

Blockchain technologies promise to replace these trusted third parties with a huge digital record book, spreading out organically across a network of computers that grows and changes but can’t be meddled with.

By getting rid of middlemen, they’re likely to radically reduce transaction costs, and accelerate the mixing of many different actors in the new economy who have been freed from the grip of leaders or institutions. more> https://goo.gl/Gs6f4B

Updates from GE

By Yari M. Bovalino & Tomas Kellner – Frank Herzog was still in elementary school in the historic Bavarian city of Bamberg when he fell in love — with metals. So ardent was his passion that he later quit high school to pursue it. “I was young when I realized that I loved the material,” he says.

More than three decades later, Herzog’s fascination with shiny objects continues. He is the founder and CEO of Concept Laser, a pioneering maker of 3D printing machines, including the world’s largest industrial printer for metals. His machines can print delicate jewelry and dental implants as well as massive engine blocks for trucks.

Last fall, GE acquired a majority stake in Herzog’s company, and Concept Laser is now part of GE Additive, a new GE business dedicated to supplying 3D printers, materials and engineering consulting services.

Herzog, 45, grew up in a state that’s obsessed with engineering. Mechanical engineers alone account for 17 percent of Bavaria’s workforce. more> https://goo.gl/uS55hn

How to Avoid a Tech Counterrevolution

By Leonid Bershidsky – It’s easy to laugh at a juice squeezer produced by a relatively small startup, whose real competence is in making fancy fruit-and-vegetable packets. It’s not really problem-solving tech; it’s a money-raising gimmick.

The problem is deeper though. Musk, a slicker marketer than Zuckerberg, talks about initially releasing a technology that would help people with brain damage — from strokes, for example.

Facebook is talking about “sharing thoughts,” hitting precisely on the most worrying aspects of the nascent technology: Who wants to share uncensored thoughts, especially with a company that collects information about its users without explaining to them exactly what is harvested? Who wants to give a machine built by a corporate entity access to one’s brain?

Tasks that desperately need automation and tech solutions are narrow. Thinking smaller and applying resources and energy to narrow, specific problems could be a good chance to build trust before it disappears entirely. more> https://goo.gl/MEm63N

Updates from GE

Game On: Augmented Reality Is Helping Factory Workers Become More Productive
By Tomas Kellner – As chief engineer for advanced manufacturing at GE Healthcare, Jimmie Beacham, 43, is in charge of a futuristic laboratory in Waukesha, Wisconsin, experimenting with new ways to make things. He and his team are using the Xbox and a connected Kinect motion tracker to bring augmented reality (AR) into the factory and help workers become more efficient. “We are projecting the work instructions onto the parts and use sensors to monitor the assembly and give feedback to the operator,” Beacham says.

Specifically, the Kinect and a camera are following the worker’s movements and feeding them to a computer that stores the assembly instructions. The computer controls an overhead projector that displays the manufacturing steps on the workbench. Based on the visual and sensory feedback, the system signals the operator immediately if an error occurs or guides them to the next step.

The system currently at the Waukesha lab came from Light Guide System, a Detroit-area maker of augmented reality tools for industry. The first applications are focusing on guiding workers through “the critical steps where we can’t afford to make a mistake,” Beacham says. But his team has already started expanding its scope and connecting it to face recognition technology, collaborative robots, or cobots, and Predix, GE’s software platform for the Industrial Internet. more> https://goo.gl/KaGM9r

If US trade with China is so unfair, why is GM the best-selling car there?

By Tim Fernholz – While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how.

This isn’t exactly anyone’s definition of “fair” trade, but there is a logic to the situation. The system came into play in 2001, after China joined the World Trade Organization. At the time, Chinese industry was much further behind America’s. The idea was that future rounds of WTO negotiations would lower China’s trade barriers further, but global trade talks have stagnated completely.

Ironically enough, therefore, this “unfair” situation for America is a product of globalization’s stumbles, not the unyielding march forward that the Trump administration portrays it as.

And any attempts to convince China to drop its protections will now be coming from the most protectionist American administration in recent memory. more> https://goo.gl/7Supvh

Updates from GE

School’s In: GE’s New “Brilliant Learning” Program Will Train Workers For Jobs Of The Future
By Tomas Kellner – Jesse Schrimpf didn’t study additive manufacturing in school. But when a 3D printer showed up at his plant in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the GE Healthcare engineer decided to give the machine a whirl.

Normally, Schrimpf would design a new master mold, order a wooden mold prototype costing as much as $20,000 from a supplier and wait as long as four weeks for the delivery. He would test it, make tweaks and repeat the process. The costs quickly added up.

But with the 3D printer at his disposal, he could print a mold that performed better than the wooden kind in just two days on-site and for $1,000. The printer, which creates 3D objects directly from a computer file, enabled him to incorporate changes into the next design version with his keyboard and a mouse.

Schrimpf is in many ways the poster child for GE’s new “brilliant learning” program the company is launching for employees around the world this week. It includes “massive open online courses” in several languages, workshops, “immersion boot camps on lean manufacturing” and other training designed to help employees get ready for the arrival in the factory of 3D printing, big data, robotics, digital and lean manufacturing and other advanced technologies.

GE is launching “brilliant learning” to change things. The model feeds into the company’s idea of the Brilliant Factory, a plant that uses big data, software sensors, new manufacturing methods and robotics to increase productivity. GE businesses are busy rolling out the concept at 17 sites in Japan, India, Italy, Mexico and also the U.S, and more are in the pipeline. more> https://goo.gl/1jmbjf

How Ethernet Will Get to 400Gbps

By Lynnette Reese – The IEEE 802.3bs standard for 400Gbps is on track to be ratified and released late this year. Higher speed technologies tend to get driven to adoption as soon as they are available.

In 2004, 10Gbps was the leading edge. In 2010 40Gbps Ethernet and 100Gbps were introduced. How did we get this far, so fast?

The present group is leveraging a parallel lane structure to get to 400Gbps. For electrical interfaces the fastest speeds in the spec will be 50Gbps. When discussing optical fiber transmission, then the variation depends on the distance that one requires.

Technically, 400Gbps is not possible without switching away from non-return-to-zero modulation (also known as NRZ-type) encoding, the encoding scheme that everyone thinks of when they visualize Ethernet communication and other serial data transmission schemes.

NRZ data is encoded into a binary pattern with fixed voltage levels. A binary 0 is represented by the lower voltage level; the higher voltage level indicates binary 1. In 1000base-T Ethernet, the stream of 0s and 1s is driven at a 1000 bits per second (1Gbps) transmission rate.

At present, the physical “wall” of streaming 0s and 1s for single lane electrical interfaces is 25 Gbps, found in the standards as 802.3bj across backplanes and cables, and 802.3bm across chip-to-chip and chip-to-module interfaces.

In May 2016, an IEEE 802.3 task force formed to develop a single-lane 50 Gbps Ethernet standard. The 802.3bs standard, which defines 400Gbps in aggregate, will use an encoding scheme called PAM4 (4-Level Pulse Amplitude Modulation) to reach 50Gbps per channel. PAM4 is an encoding scheme that doubles the bit rate by providing four signal levels in the space of the two that NRZ presently provides. PAM4 cleverly divides the least significant bit (LSB) signal level in half and adds it to the signal of the most significant bit (MSB). more> https://goo.gl/fcDF8f

Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

By Noah Smith – One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:

It isn’t just manufacturing employment and the sector’s share of gross domestic product that are hurting in the U.S. It’s total output. The U.S. doesn’t really make more stuff than it used to.

And, more troubling, the U.S. is now losing computer manufacturing. Susan Houseman et al. show that U.S. computer production began to fall during the Great Recession. In semiconductors, output has grown slightly, but has been far outpaced by most East Asian countries. Meanwhile, trade deficits in these areas have been climbing.

Faced with this evidence, many skeptics will question why the sector is important at all.

Why should a country specialize in making things, when it can instead specialize in designing, marketing and financing the making of things? more> https://goo.gl/5xRTIf