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AMT Tech Trends: Gear Whining

Episode 59: Steve delivers a terrible intro. Ben talks about his visit with a gear grinding manufacturer and then an article covering Porsche’s plans to 3D print bespoke seats. Stephen tried to break into a 3D-printed neighborhood in Austin, TX...
Oct 29, 2021

Episode 59: Steve delivers a terrible intro. Ben talks about his visit with a gear grinding manufacturer and then an article covering Porsche’s plans to 3D print bespoke seats. Stephen tried to break into a 3D-printed neighborhood in Austin, TX. Benjamin reports Amazon is opening a new robotics facility and need to fill two-hundred manufacturing jobs. Steve says a Taiwanese chip manufacturer is opening a new plant in Phoenix, AZ. Ben closes with six ways shops can implement robot automation.

For the latest in Manufacturing Technology news https://www.amtonline.org/resources


Stephen LaMarca: Welcome everybody and hello to the Tech Trends podcast. I am your host Stephen LaMarca, AMT's technology analyst and I'm here with...

Benjamin Moses: I am Benjamin Moses, the director of technology, hello Steve.

Stephen LaMarca: And we're here to talk about all of the manufacturing technology news. This is our least smooth intro to date because Ben just dropped it on me that he wants me to do it. But Ben, what do you want talk about out before we get into articles? Tell me about your banter.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, absolutely. I had a great trip a week ago, went to Rochester, which is always fun this time of the year, a little cold. But Rochester hasn't turned fall season yet, it felt strange being up there this late in the season and still a lot of greenery.

Stephen LaMarca: Some would say that's where some of the industry greats are born and raised.

Benjamin Moses: That's what I hear.

Stephen LaMarca: Or at least have lived there.

Benjamin Moses: We had a committee meeting there, the company that hosted us was Gleason. The Gleason Works, they do gear manufacturing equipment, so they're on the committee and they're also a member of AMT. And we had a very interesting discussion in the committee, but also we had a tour of their facility, which is massive. Gleason Works has been around for a really long time, they've gone public private, I think right now they're privately held, but they've been in that Rochester area for a very long time and within that building for a very long time also.

Stephen LaMarca: Is this your first time? I have not been to a gear manufacturing facility, but has this been your first tour of a gear manufacturing facility?

Benjamin Moses: Correct. This is the first time in a true gear manufacturing-

Stephen LaMarca: Was it like a traditional manufacturing facility or was it more like a lab?

Benjamin Moses: So they do manufacture their equipment there, so they're assembling their gear manufacturing onsite there. So they're doing some assembly, they're doing all the controls there on site and design and development of new manufacturing equipment.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure.

Benjamin Moses: So their doing prototype testing, so it's manufacturing and R&D facility. So they do a lot in their facility there, so it's fantastic to see.

Stephen LaMarca: In their research and development facility, I would imagine they're using their own equipment, they're testing their equipment.

Benjamin Moses: Correct. Correct. Correct.

Stephen LaMarca: And I know you're about to get into this, but gear manufacturing is one of the craziest sciences. It's the most scientific thing in manufacturing I think. Even more than I think additive or generative design. Every time and I realize I sound like a broken record, but every time I open up a gear manufacturing magazine, I don't remember what it's called but there is one in this industry. Every time I open it up, it's like flipping through a textbook, there's formulas everywhere. And I just imagine in an actual gear grinding facility or gear generation facility it's got to be like a lab.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. So there's two sides of it, right? So there's complexity to gears themselves. And you've rightly mentioned that a lot of the gear manufacturers they go... And those magazines go very in depth of the technical size of it.

Stephen LaMarca: They go really in depth.

Benjamin Moses: So the shape of the teeth, how many teeth need to be engaged? All those are very, very complex.

Stephen LaMarca: The beveling of the teeth just for like... Beveling usually is just used to make things look pretty.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: But in the case of gears it's for stress relief.

Benjamin Moses: Right. And it's interesting if you look at it as a flat plane, so just a cross section on a sheet of paper, you have a profile. But also some of these are curved going into the page itself, so you have the three dimensional effect of the curvature that they want to incorporate in the gear.

Stephen LaMarca: Is that the beveling?

Benjamin Moses: No, it's the profile along the axis, so it's got a twist to it. I'm sure there's a gear term for it, I'll look it up in the magazine later. But the interesting thing that I saw was the complexity was reflected in one of the new machines that they're showing where on the controller, it was showing you the path of the cutter along the channel. So showing you how deep it was cutting into it, and it showed their profile and where it was and where they are on we'll call it closed loop manufacturing also.

So not only are they cutting very complex shapes on the 2D profile, but they're extending into adding twists to it along the access to it. But also they've done significant amount of work to get to close loop manufacturing, so they know where the profile is as they're in cut or after cut. So it's very fascinating that they're not only just cutting material, but they're extending their capabilities so they can produce very, very precise gears that are basically good right off the machine.

Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.

Benjamin Moses: And some of the trends that we talked about in the committee, so seeing their facility is massive. So they're making CNC gear manufacturing equipment there and then they're testing and they're doing custom automation also. So they're building and being able to handle material loading and unloading and also post processing.

So if they have to clean the part or anything like that, gear grinding to achieve the surface finishes, they also set up for that. But there are two topics that came up in terms of trends for gears themselves and I thought it was very fascinating because it's consumer driven. One is EVs, electric vehicles, the impact of gears on EVs. The common argument is the number of gears going from internal combustion to EVs, which is fair. But there's two trends that came out in that the gear designers and manufacturers are being driven to reduce noise of gears, because EVs basically have very low noise. And one of the noise generators within a EV vehicle is the gear, the gear meshing. So on the design side, they're constantly being driven to reduce the noise, which is fascinating to me. But also on the other side is generally the gears are being pushed in one direction.

So when you're designing it, you have loading on one side of the tooth or your fatigue is non reversing, so you're one direction back to zero, you don't go all the way to the opposite direction. But with EVs and regenerative breaking, now you're pushing on the backside of the tooth. Now you're pushing from one side all the way to the other side, so you have higher fatigue loads. So it's very interesting design process going forward where I think the industry's going to see a bit of a shift on both the design of the gears, but also the material that they're selecting and how they're manufactured.

Stephen LaMarca: I think it's really fascinating because I remember looking into this when I was fiddling and spending too much money on buying parts for my car. Like race car transmissions have straight cut gears, which are stronger, but the reason why they're not used in cars that people drive on a regular basis is because you'd think, why wouldn't you want to go with like a stronger gear all the time, just like you said they're noisier. And I never thought that with EVs that they need to make those gears even quieter than they were before. I feel like with the rise in popularity of the automatic transmission, I don't mean to throw a little bit of shade, but I feel like it's made gear manufacturers, gear grinders, it's made them go a little soft.

Because you also got to consider that the automatic transmission, when you talk about regenerative braking, there's always been forces applied to both sides of the tooth in a transmission. At least with a manual transmission, engine breaking is a big deal, it's a big deal in motorcycles for sure because they're all manuals, there's no automatic trans... there's no slushbox in a motorcycle or at least available for a motorcycle. And now we're getting back to the point where these transmission manufacturers were making 18 speed transmissions for the most recent econo box and it's a slushbox and they don't care about engine breaking and stuff like that. Because when you want to slow down, why waste all of that kinetic energy, if you want to waste the kinetic energy, send it to the brakes. But you just reduce the pressure in the torque converter and then there's no stress being put on the gear, so now we're coming back to that.

Benjamin Moses: So my takeaway is you're still not a fan of the automatic transmission. You'll still want a manual transmission for the rest of your life.

Stephen LaMarca: No.

Benjamin Moses: Okay.

Stephen LaMarca: I get that. I totally feel what you're picking up, but I will take an automatic transmission before I go with a CVT.

Benjamin Moses: Okay. That's fair. That's fair.

Stephen LaMarca: I want to keep those gear manufacturers in business.

Benjamin Moses: CVTs are not good. I feel so bad for people that own a car with a CVT.

Stephen LaMarca: I really like Toyota's CVT, that has a physical first gear. Because the hardest of launching a car, well, starting from zero is the launch, it's the most strenuous part and CVTs don't do it very well.

Benjamin Moses: Right. So they solved it by just putting in a first gear.

Stephen LaMarca: They put it a first gear-

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: ... and then you'll get a shift to the CVT and then the transmission lasts forever.

Benjamin Moses: Nice.

Stephen LaMarca: First gear is theoretically, your strongest gear in the transmission. It has the most torque, it has to put up with the most abuse and then you have the CVT after that you're golden. Toyota was genius it was like, "It's a two speed."

Benjamin Moses: One thing I've found very interesting and it'll transition to the next topic is as Craig was walking through the facility, they had a couple of nozzles and fluid conveyance parts within their machine in the cutting area. And that was the first application where I saw where they had additively grown parts in production. So they had these nozzles that they grew, I think they were metallic and they were actually using them in a certain machine. So I thought that was fascinating, they've come a long way.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's come a real long way.

Benjamin Moses: So the article I've got, the first one to kick it off is about additive applications.

Stephen LaMarca: Cool.

Benjamin Moses: This is from 3Dnatives and they actually have a series about five different videos in this article. And of course they cover some pop culture stuff like Squid Games, they have how to print 3D masks, which I glossed over, it was fine.

Stephen LaMarca: It's cool if you want to print your Halloween costume instead of buying it.

Benjamin Moses: Halloween's around the corner. So the first one I want bring up from the article was Porsche. They're doing a lot on 3D printing and advanced manufacturing in general, I'd say they push the envelope pretty hard as a large conglomerate of automotive stuff. But the video what they're talking about is 3D printing parts and customized components within the cabin. And you could say everyone's experimenting with mass customization, but in the article they talk about Porsche wants to launch in February next year, February of 22.

Stephen LaMarca: Wow.

Benjamin Moses: It'll be a standard option for customized seats to be designed based on the user-

Stephen LaMarca: That's cool.

Benjamin Moses: ... and they'll grow the seat per user basically. And they'll offer allow other upholstery items to be customized however the user wants. To be fair it's probably 125,000 car base and then you're probably going to be around $200,000 car.

Stephen LaMarca: It sounds like a $20,000 seat option.

Benjamin Moses: But the ability to say I've got a seat made just for me and I thought that was very fascinating. The video shows a variety of options of different seats materials and of course the form based on the individual driver. I thought that was very cool.

Stephen LaMarca: The concept of a bespoke seat for the owner slash driver of a vehicle is nothing new. They've been doing that since the supercars of the 80s and 90s, in a way not to save money, but to save weight. Those ratcheting mechanisms, those manual seat moving mechanisms to move your seat forward or backward as convenient as they are, and they're relatively simple and they've been making them forever, they are slightly complex, they add weight to the car. They're not as complex as an electric motor to say in the desire to save weight for a performance aspect a lot of those manufacturers like Ferrari, just like, "Let's measure you up, sit in the car. Here's a mockup seat, that's not bolted down. And okay, this is the perfect sit for you." If you're lucky, they'll adjust the pedals too and then they bolt the seat down. I think the most recent Ford GT the seat is actually stationary but the pedals can move. You can adjust the steering wheel maybe-

Benjamin Moses: Maybe.

Stephen LaMarca: ... but you can definitely adjust the pedals, which is really cool, it's on like the slider. The pedal box is on like a slider-

Benjamin Moses: That's fascinating.

Stephen LaMarca: ... which is really, really cool. It's very traditional. I like the old school race car, hypercar, supercar tech and that's like, "Nope, there's no adjustment to this." Like when you watch Le Mans race car drivers and that endurance racing, you have multiple drivers per car, you have three drivers per car and the seat doesn't move, it's not an adjustable seat, but all the drivers have different bodies. They're all really small and fit individuals but they are different.

Benjamin Moses: The seat has to fit well for crash safety.

Stephen LaMarca: The seat has to fit well. And they actually you'll watch when a driver leaves, they hop out of the car and they have to do a little bit of contortionist work to get out of the car. But then they reach back behind them to remove their drinks bottle, their water bottle and their seat insert, which I think in racing those are actually 3D printed.

Benjamin Moses: Could be. So they each should have their insert.

Stephen LaMarca: But they do have an insert. So this is cool, this is trickled down race tech and we're also sprinkling in a little bit of English Savile Row customization for the rich owner.

Benjamin Moses: We'll see how this turns out. Hopefully, we'll see some videos of how this turns out.

Stephen LaMarca: I just can't wait to know how expensive it is.

Benjamin Moses: The last video that I saw from here was there's an expert from Total Energy, their head of their manufacturing Edwige Ravry.

Stephen LaMarca: Total like the European and the gas company, excuse me the petrol company.

Benjamin Moses: The energy company.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay. That Total.

Benjamin Moses: Yep.

Stephen LaMarca: Not Total Wine & More.

Benjamin Moses: Massive company. And they're talking about some of their additive applications and they have a first 3D printed waterbushing that they're using in the North Sea. And there's a fairly critical element in their pipelines for safety, so it helps maintain pressure and redirect the pressure back into the drill head, so I thought it was a very fascinating looked at... Oil and gas is massive facilities and the ability for them to apply these interesting applications. Not just at the drill head, I've seen some very interesting applications of the drill head where they're using additive for flowing fluid and keeping that area cool and excavation of the cut material, but also for safety on the top side. So I thought it was a very interesting application that both these guys are looking at very different parts of the world of applications, but very interesting and shows a different future for tomorrow I think.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. Right. Another application that's showing a different future for tomorrow is additive in housing-

Benjamin Moses: That's right.

Stephen LaMarca: ... and it's starting to blow up. It's been blowing up, I've been talking about this for like a year now. But Axios, which is just a website but they released an article, 3D printed houses poised to go mainstream, and they're not kidding. I knew it was getting traction and they were in popularity, but I didn't think it was anywhere near mainstream yet. And then Axios like a good news article, they actually have all this evidence and they say, "These are all of the companies that are making additive houses, 3D printed houses. And this is where all these companies are working and this is how many neighborhoods there are that have additive houses." And I knew about the one in Austin, Texas, I'm not going to mention the company name because they didn't want to talk to us. I'm not going to say why, there's been a few speculations but I wish we got to get them on camera because it's really cool, I think additive houses are cool. We actually snuck into one I'm not going to say compound, but we went to this like tiny house neighborhood.

Benjamin Moses: Okay.

Stephen LaMarca: And there was like a community center, naturally, and it was a community center but it was actually a 3D printed house.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, fascinating.

Stephen LaMarca: We tracked an article online and found out where it was. We did also track somewhere on East 17th street in Austin, Texas in that neighborhood and it's not a very big street, it might be 13th street, you can Google it. Somewhere on East 17th street on that short street in Austin, Texas, there are somewhere four 3D printed houses-

Benjamin Moses: Nice.

Stephen LaMarca: ... and we actually tried to go see them, even though the company that built them, didn't want to talk to us, we were trying to sneak in. Knock on a door, talk to the homeowner and be like, "Can you show us the first floor?" Because it's only the first floor of the house that's additive manufactured, but-

Benjamin Moses: Sure. That's fascinating.

Stephen LaMarca: ... it's still really cool. And like I said, we got to see the one tiny house community center was made and it was fully furnished. We didn't get to go inside, but we totally creeped through the window. It looked really cool and it was built solid. And I tell you what I think if I haven't mentioned this before, the way a lot of houses are being built today because there's a huge material shortage for lumber and stuff like this, you're seeing a lot of houses being constructed using particle board and MDF instead of straight up sheets of lumber. And to me, somebody that absolutely does not have enough money to buy a house, especially in this area. If I do end up like putting my life on the line and the birthright of my first born to buy a house someday, I don't want it to be made out of particle board-

Benjamin Moses: That's right.

Stephen LaMarca: ... or MDF. I'm totally down with additive concrete. I would love to buy a 3D printed house as my first house.

Benjamin Moses: Can I go over some of these facts that they went over?

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: So one of the interesting things that they talk about, so if you look at the hype cycle I think we're past some of the misinformation, not in misinformation, but the overall hype of, "Hey, this is a cool idea." We're starting to see a little more traction towards that and one evidence is startups are getting more money. Obviously, startup can be propped up and then fail at some point they're startups for a reason. But as the companies get more money then that shows a little more positive direction, the getting business and people are interested in what they're doing. So one company who raised 207 million in they're last round, which is that's no joke for producing houses. And connected with that there's a San Francisco company that's pushing more carbon neutral construction.

So there's been a huge discussion obviously related to positively affecting the environment. And construction is not the best industry in terms of minimizing their waste and their carbon footprint. That's one thing I was very interested in seeing when they're building my house in terms of, I went to this construction site a few times and for the most part they did a lot of stuff offsite, and then brought in the structure and then they assembled there. But if you look at all the waste that goes on after that, it's just tons and tons and tons of waste, even in just the framework of the base construction of the house, where you could theoretically just build it somewhere else, minimize that waste.

Stephen LaMarca: How many of those big dumpster loads did you guys have to?

Benjamin Moses: Tons. Tons. I thought that was very interesting.

Stephen LaMarca: And then on top of that you have all the neighbors that will throw stuff into the dumpster too it's like, "I'm paying for this. Thank you."

Benjamin Moses: There's so many community emails about not doing that.

Stephen LaMarca: I can imagine.

Benjamin Moses: Being an HOA is not fun.

Stephen LaMarca: Don't you buy a house to get... I thought you bought a house to get out of paying rent.

Benjamin Moses: So the other or the last point that they all talk about is they have a small community in Palm Springs, 15 unit neighbor.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes. I saw that one.

Benjamin Moses: Which is cool, it's was 15 unit.

Stephen LaMarca: Fifteen's a lot.

Benjamin Moses: But they're talking about how they included solar panels and batteries and raising their carbon neutrality even further, not just in the construction, but in the out years of after they produce the house. To be fair you could build that in in the cost of a stick and nail house. But I thought it was very interesting that they're able to design these features into their house also.

Stephen LaMarca: And Palm Springs is a great place to implement solar photovoltaic cells.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Do I have to keep calling it that, can I call it solar panels?

Stephen LaMarca: I'm not going to call it solar panels.

Benjamin Moses: I will.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay.

Benjamin Moses: The next article I have is about new factory, new facility. I don't think we're a member yet, but maybe we can talk to them at some point Steve, Amazon opens up a new robotics facility in Massachusetts.

Stephen LaMarca: I haven't heard of them.

Benjamin Moses: So it's interesting. Amazon Robotics will continue to grow an engineering, manufacturing, support and test teams in Massachusetts. So the articles from Robotics Tomorrow, so they already have a site in North Reading and they're going to work with both these facilities in Massachusetts. It was interesting I'm surprised that they opened both of those facilities in Massachusetts, but I guess they're modifying that. And they also have a fair amount of presence in Pittsburgh with their artificial intelligence and what is going on with Carnegie Mellon and the AIM, Manufacturing USA Institute up there in Pittsburgh also. But it's fairly interesting that they're investing a ton of money to open up the facility. And of course, Amazon purchased a bunch of robotics facilities, obviously they have their own warehouse robots and they're producing their own single arm robots, and they have a long way to go and they're looking for obviously a lot of participation in that facility. So they're going to be doing a lot there on some R&D, some corporate facilities and of course some engineering and manufacturing for their robot.

Stephen LaMarca: And I'm sure they have a lot of other places that are going to be opening up to build stuff too.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. You're seeing a lot more of these type of facilities all across the US, which is great. Yeah. You've got an article also about a manufacturing facility, but on a different scale.

Stephen LaMarca: Another big company that you may or may not heard of, but you've definitely used some of their products before, TSMC, a Taiwanese chip manufacturer. The chip making industry is huge. We just went over these numbers, the chip making the chip manufacturing industry is worth 500 billion.

Benjamin Moses: Billion. That's a fair amount.

Stephen LaMarca: It's a fair amount. I do realize the manufacturing industry in general, the global manufacturing industry, it's like some teen trillion. So this is a fraction of that, but it's still huge, I'm not going to scoff at 500 billion. The chip shortage, the global chip shortage of this past year was a $100 billion hit on a $500 billion industry. 20% of the entire industry lost because of the chip shortage, that's crazy to me. But this company, this Taiwanese chip manufacturer, TSMC is investing, did I say 12 or 13%.

Benjamin Moses: 12 billion.

Stephen LaMarca: They're spending $12 billion to open a huge chip manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Of all of the things that manufacturing evangelicals have been trying to re-shore back in the US, I never would've thought chip making would've made it back over here. Batteries, believable. Believable.

Benjamin Moses: There's a trend towards that.

Stephen LaMarca: It's was a lot of crazy metals being mined up in Canada that China has been trying to steal, not steal-

Benjamin Moses: Borrow.

Stephen LaMarca: ... trying buy for making batteries. And so naturally there's been a lot of research done in batteries and batteries have been made in the US or being made more in the US. And they're using more material or they're discovering new materials and designing new materials to make CID batteries, which is making it more possible to make them anywhere you want. So naturally all the research is being done here, so why not build them here. Chip making though, that's always been a sound Southeast Asian thing. And now Taiwan is bringing one of their heavy hitters to the US to make 20,000 wafers a month. I don't know how many chips comes off of a wafer, but I know there are multiple dyes that come from a wafer and they plan to make 20,000 wafers month, that is a huge clean room.

Benjamin Moses: And one thing also to point out, so they're not doing simple chips or couple generation old chips, they're doing current generation and future generation chips. You mentioned they're doing five nanometer chips there and that's a sum up for future generations. So that's basically the current state of the art of what the current CPUs are right today, so I thought that was very, very interesting to look at. They're going to spend 12 billion to set up this amazing facility in Phoenix, which is a nice area by the way.

Stephen LaMarca: It is a nice area. Even the outskirts of Phoenix are really nice like Mesa.

Benjamin Moses: Yep. I've been to Sedona. It's fantastic.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, man. My family actually just picked up a dog. Not my immediate family, my cousins, just got some dog out in Sedona.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Some rare Italian breed.

Benjamin Moses: Of course, it is.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know why they got... it was probably to sniff out truffles on their farm. Oh, now it all makes sense.

Benjamin Moses: But it is a great step I think to... And it's not a short term investment, if you're investing $12 billion in a facility, it's going to be a long term investment. So it's not just a quick shift for fulfilling six months worth of inventory or something like that, the future of chip manufacturing has changed and will change I think.

Stephen LaMarca: Like you said, you touched on this, there's more and more chips being needed. I think it's crazy that but before we started rolling the gaming PC that I bought last year, that's well over a year old now, that was I think a 12 or 14 nanometer chip and this facility will be making five nanometer chips-

Benjamin Moses: That's great.

Stephen LaMarca: ... which is insane. You look at how many industries require chips going forward. We don't need some boomer hopping on here and being like, "Back in my day you didn't need a computer to work on your car." 10 years ago, 20 years ago you had one computer right on your car, you had an ECU at most. And now there's some sort of control unit or computer, thus chip for so many different things. I know one of the common features on my odor cycles, certainly on the high performance ones is an IMU. Which is has to deal with like the lean angle, it follows all of your telemetries and stuff like that, that requires its own processor.

Benjamin Moses: Yep. Yep. I was reading up on Intel's new generation of processors and obviously, they have compute units or threads that process certain amount of information. But now what they're doing is they're allowing a different controller to prioritize which tasks go on the chip. So now you have a processor on top of a processor, it's all built into the same chip, but the complexity of being able to manage the data and manage what task to get through, that's a fairly significant change of how computations are handled on the processor. It blew my mind that I would see some engineers like, "Why can't I have someone manage this work for me." I thought that was a great look at being able to have high processors or threads that require more computations versus background tasks and prioritize those differently.

Stephen LaMarca: And that goes onto mother boards as well even though the mother board doesn't come with the CPU on it. But motherboards still have like especially gaming mother boards, they advertise all of the time about how advanced their VRMs are, that's another chip to control where the power goes across the computer. It's just like potato chips, you can't have just one, you can never just have one, they call them chips for a reason.

Benjamin Moses: All right, man. The last article I got was not as complex as the topics that we've been talking about, it talks about automation though. And the reason I like this is I like to go over use cases or inspiration that, "Hey robotics have been around for a while, but how are people using that? Or how are corporations benefiting from that?" And this article from Robotics Business Review goes over six highlights for if you go into automation. And it's varying levels of automation, so you've got machine tending, you've got conveyors, you've got warehouse, things like that. But the core of it is obviously they offer great efficiency and productivity, so being able to remove the human from the process. And the reason that comes up interesting is that back to the prioritization discussion, when the machine is ready, the robot will be ready.

So if the human is off doing other things or multitasking within that cell, if there's a downtime where the machine is ready, but the human is not, that's where you run into issues. So it's not the human side of it, it's a prioritization of what the human is doing within the cell, that's often the discussion. And then they go over some percentage points of how much the potential that could be saved. In recent advancements in robotics they talk about improving safety and security. And of course, you still have your traditional larger single arm robot, you're going to have fencing and then as you break those curtains then obviously it shuts down. And then with the Clever Robots, you're seeing much more safe environments but also human to robot interaction, so that's where you get back into some of the efficiency and productivity.

Reduce expenditures so they talk about scaling up. And I thought that was an interesting point where if you're running a shift and then you need a scale up, you could run a night shift or a second, third shift or add a line and things like that. I think if you have some level of automation being able to go from first shift to second shift is a significantly different conversation, as opposed to trying to hire a second shift and that staff is required for it. Obviously, you need humans at some point in the process, but being able to scale up for future expansions, fairly interesting. And it mentions a couple other things like simple installation and robot multitasking. I wouldn't say installation's simple, but I feel like it's a little more predefined, like it's straightforward. And we did have a discussion of the skills required for implementing automation and how companies can either insource that or rely on a integrator, which it has on the company and what they're doing.

But the idea of robots who do multitasking has grown quite a bit too. And that article talks about if you have flexible end of arm tooling, where changing from one part to another, as long as it's within the same family is streamlined a little bit, I think that was the point of the article. The other one was a greater adaptability to insourcing rate and it's kind of tied to the multitasking. And finally, I think this is the big one that a lot of people miss on, they don't know about it until after they've gone through several rounds of automation is better contract pricing. So being able to offer a different price after you've gone through this round of learning how to implement automation and if they bring-

Stephen LaMarca: That's cool.

Benjamin Moses: ... in a price. So I thought that was an interesting look of, hey, these are all the interesting things that a company can benefit. And everyone talks about the high-low but having kind of walked through those and how they affect organization, I though it was fairly beneficial so I thought it was a cool article.

Stephen LaMarca: That is pretty cool, that's a good walkthrough. So as much as I support test beds, I feel like this article does a good amount of due diligence to be like, "Yeah, you can get a test bed if you want experiment for yourself." This is how it goes when it comes to implementing robotics.

Benjamin Moses: And the nice thing about the testbed too is that if you want to see actual numbers, and that's what I got into having difficulty at my previous company is proving a return on investment. So you can obviously go through sheets of paper calculations and figure out, "Okay, I can reduce my processing time, save this amount of money or I can shift human labor to be part of three or four cells as opposed to one cell," so you reduce the overhead cost there. But if you have a test bed, now you have more confidence in the data that you're generating to get your return on investment.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Steve, where can they find more info about us?

Stephen LaMarca: I thought you were going to say that since I started us.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, no, I'm not prepared for that.

Stephen LaMarca: It's okay. It's easy. They can find more info about us at amtonline.org/resources. You can go there to read our tech reports, our white paper series' and listen to previous episodes of the Tech Trends podcast. Thanks for joining us everybody.

Benjamin Moses: Bye everybody.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
Recent technology News
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Ben got to go to Oak Ridge National Labs and Steve didn’t. Stephen hasn’t bought a new Pocket NC because the credit card’s maxed out. Benjamin is impressed by GE’s specialty composites and performance-efficient jet engines.
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Ben and Steve drool over the new 2022 season F1 car designs. Benjamin and Stephen also share their disgust with the “big screw” industry. Ben features an article about the consistency of change in transformative technology.
Episode 66: Ben and Steve are done with crypto and NFTs. Stephen reads the podcast’s first ad: AM Radio! Benjamin opens with laser ultrasound to measure material elasticity. Steve shares his excitement over a new flame retardant additive polyamide ...
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