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Future of Automation

Future of Automation

Future of Automation

(OP)
What are the current problems and limiting factors in robotics and automation? Where is the technology likely to be in 5-10 years? I mean this in the broad sense of anything from industrial robotic arms to driverless cars to embedded control systems.

RE: Future of Automation

Can it replace the guy at the fast food joint that keeps getting my order wrong?

Can it replace the pastor at my church? Can robotics and automation really give you forgiveness?

However, I think we already have driverless cars, at least from my drive this morning. Maybe it will help with that.

All of these technologies will replace some people, but will require people with much higher skill levels. However, I won't be tiping the robotic waitress (or what ever they are called).

There are also a few jobs that require adapidabilty, but not much skill, so the plumber might be safe (why do they charge so much, and still not have the parts I need).

I think 3D printing may have a bigger impact, as it would mean so many things don't need to be kept in inventory at the retail level.

RE: Future of Automation

Working in automation, we see a growing call robots in manufacturing. That's where most of our business comes from. It is staggering to see how much manual labor still goes into manufacturing processes. Companies though would rather see a robot handle tedious tasks that may end up hurting a human worker. This has been allowing those workers to tend to the robots or preform higher quality work. From our point of view this is the growing trend. As robotic technologies get better more projects open up to improve those environments.

Driver-less cars certainly has been receiving a large chuck of media attention. I think that is an important thing to consider, in that it is simply more sensational to see a car drive itself than see a robotic arm load parts.

Though, in the same sense that more plants are seeing the benefit of robots, the wider spread of applications are coming forth from word of mouth between clients. Meaning robots in more open environments like farming etc start springing up. I think that when these types of applications start getting more media coverage, others will start cluing in to how easy it is apply robots to improve work. It may start becoming more widespread.

RE: Future of Automation

Note that I had chance to tour the GM final assembly line in Shanghai a few years ago where the make Chevy and Buick sedans for the Chinese domestic market. Now we didn't get a chance to see the body/frame welding and painting operations nor where the engines and powertrains were being assemblied, but we did see when the bodies were mated to the chassis with the powertrain components already in place as well as all the other stations, adding doors, dashbords, seats, etc. The only robots we saw were installing the front and rear window glass. Also near the end of the line where they were installing the batteries, while the actual placement of the battery into the engine compartment was done manually, there was a robot picking-up and moving the batteries from their pallets and placing them on a station very near where the car was moving so that the assembly line worker only had to move the battery a couple of feet into position. He never had to actually do much lifting since the batteries had been placed by the robot at just about the proper height of the engine compartment opening so it was just one easy movement over and down into place. But who knows, if I were to go back there today, it might be very different.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

In my neck of the woods, automation and robotic fabrication is more about improving quality than reducing cost. Freeform architecture of the type favored by Frank Gehry is possible because of CNC equipment, 3D CAD, and laser surveying equipment. Much of my structural glass work is enabled by CNC routers and 3 to 5 axis milling machines. Plenty of people want a Frank Gehry building, but not because they are cheap.

Robotic fabrication of the kind I am used to actually increases the amount of labor involved because there is so much additional thinking and coordination required to get things right for the small production runs involved in architectural construction. When you are building in bricks and 2x4's, you can afford to be loosey goosey because the brick layer can fudge it on site to make it fit.

RE: Future of Automation

For a high volume product, automation is the answer.

Been developing automated industrial machinery for around 3 years now and I feel one of the reasons why companies go with automation is to avoid operator errors and OH&S claims. Automation results in less operator interaction. Operators love to try ways of making life easier for themselves as it is quite a monotonous task for most industries. Lack of concentration can result in bad product or an injured operator, both which are not ideal.

One thing I've learnt is if you are automating a process you need to do it right. Doing in on the cheap is likely going to result more expenses on the long run!

RE: Future of Automation

Automation is certainly a cost saving and reliability exercise, but it doesn't come without it's own risks.

I work in a job production environment. Recently we have bought large CNC grinding machines to automate parts of the job. Push a button and walk away. Sounds nice and simple up until chatter and spiralling started appearing in the work. Skilled machinists do this by touch and have their own rhythm.

Quote (roshane87)

Operators love to try ways of making life easier for themselves as it is quite a monotonous task for most industries.
There is also this. Don't underestimate what operators or foremen will do to sabotage a job out of ignorance to the machine or other.

RE: Future of Automation

I think that 3-d printing might do more for automation than what most people think. Just think, inventory problems (where automation is making in-roads) can almost disappear (small parts now).
The 3-d printing can also reduce shipping costs of large non-bulky items, and if applied at the retail location, can make keeping inventory for 100's of items go away.
You pay for an item, and the store prints it right there.

Could work in a simular way for metal items with some of the multi-function machines. Go to the parts store and order piston, insert a blank in the machine, and in a few you have the part you need.
Parts inventory can go from 100's of items to a few blanks.

We would only need factories for items with difficult assemblies, or fine crafts personship.

RE: Future of Automation

Sort of like a ...

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

I don't see 3D printing ever being as cheap as say injection molding for plastics - mass produced injection molded parts are super cheap because you slam a bunch of material into a mold in under a second and it pops out right away perfect. Meanwhile, 3D printers labor away one layer at a time, and an hour later you still finish up with crappy surface quality requiring machining or finishing, and poor structural capabilities.

-> 3d printing is all about awesome design with low production runs. When you need two of something, not two million, and when they are special and intricate it makes sense. One of the more interesting things I saw was the Ex One system for 3d printing sand molds for metals casting. It totally eliminates the foundry pattern, and lets you do internal features which would be impossible with traditional methods.

RE: Future of Automation

I think we're making 3D printers to be a bigger thing that they really can be.

30 yrs ago, e-beam, direct-write-on-wafer was supposed to revolutionize the semiconductor industry because you could arbitrarily write whatever you needed to make whatever chip you wanted, without the investment of $150k for the maskset (molds) for each chip. But, a 0.25 micron system would take 8 hours to write one layer of a 12 layer process, while conventional masking systems could crank through hundreds of wafers per HOUR. And, current lithographic processes are running 20 nm features, which are 1/10th the feature size of the e-beam machine, on 20-inch wafers, which are 25 times the area of the wafers that took 8 hrs on the e-beam machine.

TTFN
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RE: Future of Automation

In the 21st century many manufacturing processes have become so cheap as to be effectively zero compared with the sale price. The selling price of items such as t-shirts is overwhelmingly marketing and distribution, not manufacturing. Clothes that fit properly look much better than those which do not, so presumably there is an opportunity on the high end. If the manufacturing price goes from 50 cents to $10, its still a good deal for a consumer willing to spend $30 on a t-shirt.

IRStuff: interesting history on the semiconductor side.

RE: Future of Automation

I'll be frank, I think 3D printing at the moment is more hype than substance.

That said, same was probably claimed of the Wright flyer and little over a decade later scores of aeroplanes were playing a not insignificant role in the larget conflict the world had seen to that point.

There are very cool applications, and it is likely all the hype will lead to more folks thinking about it which will lead to more cool applications even with current limitations.

However, as some mention above there are a number of limitations with the current or foreseeable state of the art.

As the technology improves more applications will open up I'm sure but I suspect some of them may be a ways out, and require a bit more skill/care & attention... to use than the technician at Kinko's or similar will have for the foreseeable.


20" wafers IRstuff, sure you don't mean 17.7" (450 mm)? Or do we need to stretch our giant tool 13% more?

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RE: Future of Automation

My point being that more stores could sell low volume items without having to keep an inventory by printing items as they are desired. This would almost eliminate shipping and inventory of those items, save the feed stock material.

I expect to see more automation, and to see improved products and services. This is based on the retail people I see who all seem to think we can't do without them. And Amazon has gone a long ways to replace those people by selling items that are not stocked, inventoried, or sold in the local stores. And even selling items that are sold in local stores. What is actually happening is battle of local store, wait in line, if they have the item, vs order on-line and recieve it in a few days.
There's nothing that states automate me like 'welcome to walmart'.

RE: Future of Automation

cranky/guys: I imagine some sort of online model for 3D printed consumer goods makes the most sense in respect to the capital investment required for the printer. Simple ABS plastic 3D prints will not be very interesting to consumers, so you will need multiple materials for the print to be really useful. This would start to look more like a factory than a printer, meaning you will need some significant scale to pull it off.
-> Furniture would make some sense. If I have a spot in my living room 5'-6" wide, I don't want a 6ft or a 4ft wide shelf unit. My time is also valuable, and I don't want to hunt all over town looking for a shelf with the right dimensions.

RE: Future of Automation

OK, I was winging it on the wafer size. Looks like Wacker only makes them up to 300 mm, currently, which seems to have been the maximum for quite a while. And, it seems as if the 450-mm generation isn't exactly happening with any rapidity.

TTFN
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RE: Future of Automation

Retail 3D printing will allow fortunes to be made, and fortunes to be lost, and probably not in a way that anyone foresees right now.

Suppose you have a piece of custom furniture printed, and it breaks, and someone gets hurt? Who pays? That's not worked out yet.

Can you expect retail labor to run and maintain a 3D printer? Note please that you can't get a key duplicated in a big box store until they find the one employee who is allowed to run the key duplicator.
... and those jobs are disappearing as fully automated key cutters appear.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Future of Automation

Actually, we're probably only a year away from self-service key duplications, given the almost completely turn-key cutters that Home Depot has

TTFN
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RE: Future of Automation

Self-service key duplicators are already here......but I had to call for a refund of my $$ because the keys it cut didn't work in my lock..

http://www.minutekey.com

(not affiliated)

Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community..

To the Toolmaker, your nice little cartoon drawing of your glass looks cool, but your solid model sucks. Do you want me to fix it, or are you going to take all week to get it back to me so I can get some work done?

RE: Future of Automation

You haven't seen the key machine in Walmart? It is automatic, just put your key in. You can find it next to the dog tag machine, like anyone needs a dog tag. Sort of goes with the machine that makes bags of ice, the ATM, and self-checkout.

Believe it of not, in some countries they still have gas station attendants that pump the gas for you.

That key machine sort of reminds me of a simple CNC machine. You put in a blank, and a pattern, and it grinds the blank to match the pattern.







RE: Future of Automation

Retail 3D printed stuff is an information management challenge as much as a manufacturing challenge. If I think about the amount of intellectual energy that goes into any of my custom projects, its totally impossible for a $10-$10,000 consumer purchase. The custom manufacturing involved needs to be constrained to only a few variables, like the width of a shelf or the type of key. Still, this is potentially a huge leap forward for consumers stuck with fixed design products.

RE: Future of Automation

The only thing that hasn't been made fool-proof on key duplicators is the positioning of the blank longitudinally. I've had 3 keys cut on the same machine, by the same person, at the same time, and one of the three will not work without some additionally grinding, another will be really tight, and only work in the one lock that's pretty loosey-goosey to begin with, and the last is the only one that works from the get-go. Since both the master and blank have to be placed correctly longitudinally, there are two opportunities to make errors. What's still missing is having the machine check the position and adjust accordingly. But, the key blanks are so cheap that it's probably not economic to make the fix.

TTFN
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RE: Future of Automation

Hopefully, the future will include fembots. I'm still waiting for my flying car.

RE: Future of Automation

Quote (cranky108)


Believe it of not, in some countries they still have gas station attendants that pump the gas for you.

Here's some advice for the next time you happen to be in Oregon; don't ever try to pump your own gas as you'll be in for a big surprise winky smile

It's against the law!

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

Quote ((cranky108))


That key machine sort of reminds me of a simple CNC machine. You put in a blank, and a pattern, and it grinds the blank to match the pattern.

Tracer mills have been around a lot longer than CNC and often does not even involve electrical/electronic controls. For years, Bridgeport sold multi-head, hydraulically controlled tracer mills like this one:

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

And how much is gas in Oregon?

Fembots? Are you talking about the $6 million man type? Or something out of westworld?

There maybe something about the $10 limit and vending machines. But with credit card readers on new vending machines that might go away. After all what is the cost at one of those pizza vending machines?

A gas pump is a type of vending machine, and they have charged me $25 for gas before. Much better than facing the guy behind the counter (want a slerpy with that).

What ever happened with walking floor truck trailers?

RE: Future of Automation

Speaking of automation and Oregon, they have 100% vote-by-mail elections in Oregon.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

Canada's one of them thar hick countries where folks still pump gas for ya.

Course, they have to thaw it first.

RE: Future of Automation

Most Canadians were SOUTH of where I lived at one time (and it's NOT Alaska but it is in the US).

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

Saw a video the other day of a farmer harvesting lettuce with device that looks like a rotary lawn mower. The three types of lettuce were planted in three consecutive rows, and were mowed to a specific size. One person to harvest, and not the many required with head lettuce.

Bottom line is we will see some product changes to assist automation efforts. So we are likely to see higher prices for products that can't be automated.

RE: Future of Automation

Cranky,

I was talking Austin Powers type fembots. Women of high caliber.

RE: Future of Automation

I'm still waiting for the 'revolution' of 3D printing. I don't know if it will be a revolution, but is a really neat technology. Very entertaining to watch all the activity. At my university employment gig, I had a sales guy drop in recently and pitch a system that would make hard plastic small (80 mm x 120 mm, say) semi-precision mold inserts suitable for 300 shots (he says). Now that was an interesting proposal: use a printer to make multiple copies of mold inserts so one can mold many copies. Without the machine shop, machine tools, & machine time to produce hardened tool steel inserts. Hmmmmm......

But again, I conducted an Advisory Board survey asking members to rate their interest in course we would teach. Additive Manufacturing ranked dead last.

Glass's comment about low-precision made me think of an old 80's Gary Larson Far Side comic about "cow tools". It was a real head-scratcher when this cartoon first came out. A precursor, perhaps?
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3211/2347642183_912...

3D printing may be just what is needed to jump start the space exploration program.

TygerDawg
Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering
www.bluetechnik.com

RE: Future of Automation

In NJ it is also against the law to pump your own gas. The unions are strong in NJ!

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

RE: Future of Automation

I have tried 3D printing for some plastic prototypes of certain tools before making final decisions on designs. When using sites such as 3D hubs, I found that many of the companies
that are selling the use of their 3D printers are marketing them as just that: Great ways to prototype your ideas.

The guy I talked to at the company said that the majority of their business came from people who had designed some sort of devise, or had had commissioned them to design a circuit board, and then needed
a casing to form the final product. They seemed to be happy using their 3D printer for that purpose only. Not really expanding the horizons of 3D printing but using whatever existing technology was out
to cater to people who want to quickly see their vision of a product, and iterate there forward.

From what I observed, I can visualize that this and similar applications are where 3D printing will take root for a good while. So it is already successful, the ease of access is great for the end user, but I don't see it growing away from such a market without a large leap in cost efficiency.

RE: Future of Automation

One problem with technology is the amount of time it takes to come to market. So when should we expect to see Johnie cabs?

Strange how you can't pump your own gas in some places, but the proposal for electric car home charging might change that. Or not, where you might have to have an attendant come to your house and plug it in for you, and unplug it the next morning. Would they need to be from the union?

Can't help think 'press one for billing questions', as this automation is rarely useful.

RE: Future of Automation

I suspect that the reason you're not allowed to pump your own gas in Oregon and New Jersey is for more practical reasons than simply service station attendants being members of a union. I suspect that it has to do more with safety, the enforcement of state laws (proper containers) and an attempt to reduce 'drive-offs'. Besides, in states where the norm is self-serve, stations are still obligated to pump gas for handicapped drivers (without an extra charge) who display a handicapped license plate or windshield placard.

BTW, the no-self-serve laws in Oregon and New Jersey have been on the books for more than 60 years.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

@JohnRBaker, you can /say/ it's for safety, and the politicians may TRY to PERSUADE people it's for safety, but everyone I've ever talked to in the states with such laws are under no such illusions.

_________________________________________
NX8.0, Solidworks 2014, AutoCAD, Enovia V5

RE: Future of Automation

The fact is the laws haven't changed because the people haven't demanded it.

There is a news story about NASA proposing (or someone else, I am not sure) combining 3D printing(sort of) with a spider type of space craft to be able to build spacecraft webbing in space. I thought it an interesting twist. There was not much information on the material being spun.

There is also a story about the indy 500 going electric. I wonder if they are also going to add slots, and electric pickups to the track. Then add driverless cars and we can all watch what a 8 year old can do now.

RE: Future of Automation

Not sure about the future configuration of Indy cars, but Formula One has been running hybrids for a couple of years now.

John R. Baker, P.E.
Product 'Evangelist'
Product Engineering Software
Siemens PLM Software Inc.
Digital Factory
Cypress, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

To an Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

RE: Future of Automation

Haha. I was just imagining electric stock car racing. Dozens of cards not making any noise and charging as they drove, never needing to strategically make pit stops for gas.
I imagine that would make the fans of the sport blissfully pleased.

RE: Future of Automation

There is an all-electric powered formula car race series that runs internationally. They just had race 6 last weekend in Long Beach, CA. 6 winners in 6 races, 2 teams are USA based, Andretti and Dragon.

http://www.fiaformulae.com/
http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/teams/andretti.aspx
http://www.fiaformulae.com/en/teams/dragon-racing....


This is the second season of Formula 1 running thier curremt version of Hybrid technology power packages.

http://www.formula1.com
http://www.formula1.com/content/fom-website/en/cha...

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

Ben Loosli

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