Category Archives: Science

Updates from Siemens

Consolidating 3D Printing Tool Chains to Mitigate Risk in Medical Device Applications
By J Thompson – Use of 3D Printing technology to create medical devices has been widely publicized over the past several years. Most of these stories illustrate the unique ability for 3D Printing (aka Additive Manufacturing / AM) technology to produce highly complex organic shapes.

Despite past success with AM, and very promising growth opportunities, there are significant risks with the current AM practices for workflows in device design and manufacturing. These risks must be recognized and addressed by device makers to fully realize the potential of AM, and avoid failure modes inherent in current practices.

Today, the biggest risks are caused by software “tool chains” in which different, specialized software applications are used sequentially to yield finished devices. A fundamental problem with serial tool chains is rework. What happens when you get off the “happy path”, and issues are discovered in the fourth, fifth, or tenth tool in the chain, and resolution requires a change in the first or second tool in the chain? That typically means serially reworking the entire workflow from the point of change.

This kind of rework should be viewed as expected, normal, necessary, commonplace, and even desirable since it theoretically leads to an improved final result. However, as AM attempts to enter an “industrial” stage of maturity, there are several risks associated a serial tool chain, especially if rework is manual and requires experts to re-do knowledge-intensive rework. more>

How to Save the Human Race

BOOK REVIEW

World Population and Human Values: A New Reality, Authors: Jonas Salk and Jonathan Salk.

By Gabrielle Levy – Until only recently, the whole of human history has been marked by population growth, first gradual and then, in the past two hundred years, a sudden explosion. But in the last decades of the 20th century, population growth began to slow, and eventually, it will plateau or even decline.

The moment at which growth goes from accelerating to decelerating, according to a theory posited by Dr. Salk is called an inflection point – and would be filled with turmoil and conflict, but also opportunity.

Salk characterizes the time before the inflection point as Epoch A, and in that period, people were focused on their own betterment and achievement as necessary to capitalize on the potential for great growth. But going forward, after the inflection point in Epoch B, people will need to be more collaborative and sustainability-oriented. This plays out now in issues like climate change, where the world must work together to combat the issue.

The book has a particular kind of resonance and a particular kind of relevance at this moment in time, because we’re really seeing the pull between two differing value systems, and making decisions as a species about how we’re going to deal with the future. It’s always been a meaningful book, but I think it’s particularly poignant at this moment in time. more>

Updates from Siemens

Case Study
PlySim meets composite structural engineering challenges; results include a 500+ percent improvement in modeling productivity, plus a better blade and a growing business

Siemens – According to RenewableUK, the trade and professional body for the United Kingdom (U.K.) wind and marine renewables industries, the U.K. is the windiest country in Europe – so much so that this free fuel could meet the power needs of the country several times over. RenewableUK notes that there are over 4,000 wind turbines currently operational in the U.K., with a total capacity of 7.391 gigawatts (gw), enough to power over 7 million homes. It is estimated that by 2016, there will be 8 gw of offshore capacity installed, with a total of 18 gw by 2020. However, there are significant engineering challenges associated with such substantial growth that companies such as PlySim, based in Edinburgh, U.K., are already successfully addressing.

PlySim Ltd. (Plysim) is a composite structural engineering consultancy, with heavy focus on finite element analysis (FEA). Its main markets are in the renewables sectors (wind, wave and tidal) as well as marine and civil engineering. Malcolm Wadia, director of PlySim, says, “We work with clients worldwide on the analysis of large complex structures in composite materials, having materials tested if necessary, developing the whole structural design prior to analysis, and providing certification reports and full-scale test specifications for each design, if required. Ultimately, we provide the 2D ply layup and production drawings.” more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Human Factors Research Helps Accelerate Mission Planning
By John Toon – The key to a successful flight mission is planning – sometimes several hours of it. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) specialists in human factors and human computer interfaces are working with NAVAIR PMA-281, Strike Planning and Execution Systems in Patuxent River, Maryland, to streamline the current mission planning process and identify user interface requirements supporting multi-domain mission management in next-generation naval planning capabilities.

With guidance from the GTRI researchers, the project will improve usability of the mission planning software tools, creating a more consistent and intuitive screen design that’s easier to learn and more logical to follow. This effort could benefit all Department of Defense (DoD) agencies for collaborative mission planning.

“We are working with Navy and Marine Corps aviators to identify areas in mission planning where work-flow can be streamlined, reducing the time required to mission plan,” said Marcia Crosland, project director for GTRI’s Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS) User Interface Design and Usability efforts. “Our task has been to define the user interface concepts and decision-making tools to help reduce the time required for mission planning. We’ve created detailed designs and specifications to direct current and future development of mission planning systems.” more>

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So Much More than a Tiger

By Bolaji Ojo – The foundation for what Taiwan is today and what will be years from now were laid decades ago by successive leaders in government and private sectors who elevated the island above natural and geopolitical obstacles to ensure its survival.

Taiwan – also known as the Republic of China – is not at risk of extinction. Rapid economic growth catapulted Taiwan into the group of countries economists like to describe as Asian Tigers, but the island plays an even more central role in the high-tech ecosystem.

It is today headquarters to some of the better-known players in the electronics industry, amongst them Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest chip foundry. Foxconn, the No. 1 global contract manufacturer and a Top 5 high-tech company by sales, calls Taiwan home, as does WPG Holdings, a leading distributor of electronic components. Taiwan is a major supplier of PCBs to OEMs and EMS providers and is host to AU Optronics Corp., one of the biggest suppliers of displays for smartphones, PCs and laptops.

Taiwan’s challenge this time is finding a way to respond to China’s ascendance and staving off rivals elsewhere. Taiwan was one of the forces behind the emergence of China as a heavyweight in the electronics supply chain. The huge investments of money and expertise poured into China by Taiwan, Japan and other Western countries helped to turn the Communist country into a manufacturing hub for the electronics industry. For Taiwan, though, China presents a conundrum; It has become both a beneficiary of and a victim of China’s explosive growth. more>

Updates from Siemens

Automotive manufacturing and autonomous vehicles
By Dave Lauzun – Automotive manufacturing has been happening for a long time, but when most people think of automotive manufacturing, they imagine a moving assembly line. The moving assembly line revolutionized how vehicle manufacturers produce cars, but it wasn’t always the go-to process.

As vehicles were first beginning to be built at the turn of twentieth century, vehicle manufacturers typically built the whole car at once. It was a time-consuming, costly process that kept cars out of most consumers’ hands.

In 1913, over at Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford wanted to cut down on the time and cost associated with building the Model T. He needed to find an efficient way to build this car, and he came up with idea of being able to “productionize” the Model T through a moving assembly line. In this assembly line, the Model T production was broken down into 84 steps, and employees were trained to do just one step.

The results of this change were enormous for Ford Motor Company. The automaker drastically reduced the time it took to build the Model T from 12 hours to 90 minutes. The cost savings in manpower and time to produce the vehicle on the assembly line also meant the company could drop the price of the Model T from $850 to $300.

How will automakers turn their focus away from research and development and toward the mass production of autonomous vehicles? And, how can that mass production be economically viable for their business and for their customers? more>

Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work


Barclays – Humans have often had a cautious relationship with new technology, particularly when it causes widespread disruption in the workforce. Yet historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but rather have led to the creation of new opportunities. Farriers and saddlemakers were hit hard when cars replaced horse carriages, but the petrol stations, mechanics, motels and related industries that sprung up created new, yet different, types of jobs.

More recently, the smartphone is a great example of technological advances creating new forms of work. Twenty years ago, mobile app developer was not a job; today, millions of such developers are at work around the world.

One of the most influential economists of all time, David Ricardo, flip-flopped on the issue. In 1821, he stated that while was a general good, he was now more worried about the substitution effect on labor. And the discussion was not always academic – the Luddite movement was an early example of workers resorting to violence to protest the use of technology in textile factories.

As the decades passed, the Industrial Revolution led to a visible, massive improvement in living standards. But the debate – on how technology affects work and whether it is an unequivocal positive – continued to wax and wane.

Machine learning represents a fundamental change. It is a subset of the much-abused term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and is grounded in statistics and mathematical optimization. The computer is fed vast data sets and a few general parameters to point it in the right direction. Then, the machine executes simulations of how biological neurons behave, uses that to recognize recurring sequences in the data, and writes its own rules.

Suddenly, it is no longer limited to applying algorithms that
a human wrote; the machine is designing its own. more (pdf)>

Enlightenment rationality is not enough: we need a new Romanticism | Aeon Ideas

BOOK REVIEW

Enlightenment Now, Author: Steven Pinker.
Modern Prometheus: Editing the Human Genome with Crispr-Cas9, Author: Jim Kozubek.
The Will to Knowledge, Author: Michel Foucault.

By Jim Kozubek – Progress creates the illusion that we are moving toward deeper knowledge when, in fact, imperfect theories constantly lead us astray.

The conflict is relevant in this age of anti-science, with far-Right activists questioning climate change, evolution and other current finds. But is that really bad? Nineteenth-century Romanticism was the first movement to take on the Enlightenment – and we still see its effects in such areas as environmentalism, asceticism and the ethical exercise of conscience.

In our new era of Enlightenment, we need Romanticism again.

With science becoming a brutal game of market forces and patent controls, the skeptics and Romantics among us must weigh in, and we already are. In one study that provides free genome sequencing for newborns, only 7 per cent of parents wanted to take part, suggesting that the public is cautious about how data might be abused by insurers, business and government.

Pinker’s solution to the distortion is investing science with secular humanism, an elastic concept of goodness that plies against financial pressures. But can we depend on technologists for such a benevolent spirit?

Right now, in biotech, only the market rules.

Modern-day Romantics have a right to be concerned about the motives of scientists, if not of science itself. more>

Updates from Siemens

Program Lifecycle Management for Consumer Products & Retail

Siemens – The pace of innovation in the consumer products industry is constantly rising and driving a need for more flexible and collaborative tools based on best practices for project, program and lifecycle management. Companies expect solutions to connect processes, automate tasks and be intuitive for the broad audience of roles involved in their processes.

Taking an integrated approach is mandatory in today’s complicated and competitive market. Only by combining product lifecycle information with program and project management methodologies can the true operational potential of a company be unlocked.

Program lifecycle management is a methodology that provides a solution based on a collaboration platform. It addresses essential needs of the consumer product and retail industry, both in terms of offered functionality and flexibility. more>

The Big Shift

How American Democracy Fails Its Way to Success
By Walter Russell Mead – As Americans struggle to make sense of a series of uncomfortable economic changes and disturbing political developments, a worrying picture emerges: of ineffective politicians, frequent scandals, racial backsliding, polarized and irresponsible news media, populists spouting quack economic remedies, growing suspicion of elites and experts, frightening outbreaks of violence, major job losses, high-profile terrorist attacks, anti-immigrant agitation, declining social mobility, giant corporations dominating the economy, rising inequality, and the appearance of a new class of super-empowered billionaires in finance and technology-heavy industries.

That, of course, is a description of American life in the 35 years after the Civil War.

The United States is passing through something similar today. The information revolution is disrupting the country’s social and economic order as profoundly as the Industrial Revolution did.

The ideologies and policies that fit American society a generation ago are becoming steadily less applicable to the problems it faces today.

It is, in many ways, a stressful and anxious time to be alive.

And that anxiety has prompted a pervasive sense of despair about American democracy—a fear that it has reached a point of dysfunction and decay from which it will never recover. more>