Category Archives: Technology

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>

We Don’t Have Elections

BOOK REVIEW

Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection, Autor: Jacob Silverman.

How tech companies merge with the nation-state
By Jacob Silverman – It should shock no one if Facebook emerges from its latest privacy imbroglio with a meager fine and a promise to do better—even as our elected leaders, whose lack of knowledge of Facebook’s workings reflected their advanced age, tut-tutted that this time Facebook has to do better.

The canon of American regulatory practices tends toward the ceremonial, with extreme deference shown toward corporations that may one day hire former regulators. Senator Lindsey Graham even invited Zuckerberg to submit possible regulations—an example of regulatory capture so blatant that “corruption” doesn’t even seem like the proper word.

Playing along, Zuckerberg expressed an openness to regulation, though he asked for a light touch, which, barring another data spillage, he should expect.

Beyond a few mild critiques, Congress’s overriding opinion of Zuck seems to be that he was a classic American success story, and perhaps—in his cunning acquisition of ungodly riches on the backs of others’ labor—he is.

To better understand Silicon Valley’s politics, we might return to the nation-state metaphor and consider technology companies as recently ascendant great powers. Endowed with impressive resources, making themselves known in assorted global capitals, their CEOs are greeted in the manner of heads of state. Their vast offshore cash reserves resemble sovereign wealth funds, whose investments have the power to shape politics. more>

It’s Time to Protect Identity Like We Protect Critical Infrastructure

By Andre Durand – With the past year’s record-breaking wave of breaches, it is now safe to believe that most Americans have had their personal identity information exposed—and analysis of the Hudson Bay breach has confirmed this knowledge is now being traded in dark markets.

The long-term ramifications are going to have an impact on every public and private sector organization that utilizes our identity to conduct business and to provide access to critical systems, which will create disruption in our day-to-day activities and even to our way of life.

Because business and government institutions that handle personal information are vital to our society, it’s time to designate “identity” as a new segment in the nation’s critical infrastructure, a set of 16 sectors the Homeland Security Department deems essential to the nation’s well-being.

The entire identity chain must be strengthened to prevent these criminal activities. Birth certificates, which can be used to open bank accounts, are still administered by hospitals that are ill-equipped to manage security. Our government devotes huge resources to ensuring that currency can’t be counterfeited, yet it pays scant attention to documents that can be used to obtain multiple forms of ID. Every physical document we use to prove our identity should be made far harder to duplicate.

We can then move onto our digital systems. more>

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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>

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

BOOK REVIEW

The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Author: Peter Temin.

By Lynn Parramore – America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success.

They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector.

Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all.

Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in.

While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing. 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)>