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AMT Tech Trends: Mil-Spec Madness

Episode 53: Ben’s fed up with seeing Spot the robot dog dancing and not working. Steve saw farming equipment at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Benjamin declares AI must get read up on material science to help put a stop to worldwide waste.
Jul 16, 2021

Episode 53: Ben’s fed up with seeing Spot the robot dog dancing and not working. Steve saw farming equipment at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Benjamin declares AI must get read up on material science to help put a stop to worldwide waste. Stephen can’t hold back his excitement over mil-spec material for additive manufacturing. Ben closes with advancements in additive resins for composite layup.

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Benjamin Moses: Hello, everyone, welcome to AMT's Tech Trends Podcast, where we discuss the latest manufacturing technology, research and news. I am Benjamin Moses, the director of technology, and I'm here with...

Stephen LaMarca: Stephen LaMarca, AMT's technology analyst.

Benjamin Moses: Steve, welcome back to the creative studio. We're back in the studio, man.

Stephen LaMarca: It feels so good to be back in the studio. I can't wait to listen to the first 30 seconds of this podcast once we've got the recording locked down, to hear how much better my audio quality is going to be that we're recording to the same device.

Benjamin Moses: Well, let's not get carried away, it took me a little while to get the system back up and running after a year.

Stephen LaMarca: That's true, we'll see how this bird's nest does.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, absolutely. Steve, before we get into some articles, man, I've got to rant a little bit.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes, let's hear it.

Benjamin Moses: I'm really tired of Dynamic robots.

Stephen LaMarca: Boston Dynamics?

Benjamin Moses: Boston Dynamics, their Spot AGV dancing. I saw an article, they're dancing to some Korean K-Pop band, BTS. I'm done with Spot being a YouTuber.

Stephen LaMarca: That's Hyundai taking ownership, that's definitely Hyundai taking ownership.

Benjamin Moses: The crossover to K-Pop?

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. 

Benjamin Moses: That's fair.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. It's like, well, they've got to have fun with Korean music somehow, so why not?

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. How am I supposed to take a $70,000... I was amazed when they said, "You can just buy it online." How am I supposed to take this seriously if there's dancing videos and public outrage of the police using them? What am I supposed to do?

Stephen LaMarca: Oh my God, yeah. Without getting into the police part too much, where they should be spending their money on training instead of toys, and that's as far as I will go with that. But I really want to see Spot being used for more industrial applications.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: And I know it will.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: And I know it's a shiny new toy, and people saw it dancing so they were like, "Well, for our first step of setting this thing up, why don't we try to make it dance too?"

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: So I understand that, and Hyundai is the new owner, they want to have fun with their new toy. They saw it advertised as dancing, they were going to have it dance too, but I am ready to see it used for industrial applications. In fact, I do know one industrial application of Spot, and there is some company that's making some product and it's probably in Brooklyn, New York, with an old warehouse, in an old school warehouse. Not a modern warehouse. 

They're making their products, they're storing them in a warehouse, and then when they get orders, they move it from the storage to shipping and receiving, box it up, package it and ship it. Because it's an old warehouse, it has multi levels, the old warehouse was designed for humans to be doing all of that work, not robots. So instead of a standard, wheeled AGV that is working in an Amazon warehouse, they need something that can navigate stairs, go up and down stairs and be able to carry a lot of product from one side of a warehouse or factory to shipping and receiving.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: So, that's the first serious known application for Spot, but I'm with you, I want to see it used in a serious manner more like that, because that's great. It can go up and down stairs beautifully.

Benjamin Moses: And I think that's a very good compromise, because setting up a warehouse for a true AMR or AGV, a warehouse one which has got little casters basically, and it kind of skates [around 00:03:36].

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: It takes a fair amount of work to get lighting right, to get the floor constructed properly so you can guide the vehicle along, to set up the racks so it can access everything.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So, something, a more flexible like Spot, makes a lot of sense, especially for a test, right? If you've got a warehouse and you're like, "Can I do this?" I don't know, spend $100,000 outfitting Spot the dog with an arm and a cart in the back, have it load that cart and figure out if it can roll around and get it in this adverse environment, so I really like that idea. And I agree with you man, I just want to see more videos of it doing stuff, industrial stuff, not dancing.

Stephen LaMarca: Speaking of which, what was really funny recently, after work my friends and I got onto Discord to fire up some games, and on one of our gaming nights we decided to play a game called Destiny instead of our typical game, Escape from Tarkov.

Benjamin Moses: I'm sorry to hear that, by the way.

Stephen LaMarca: What?

Benjamin Moses: You played Destiny.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, I mean, it's fun.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's a beautiful game too.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: Even though it's kind of old, Destiny 2, by the way, but because I'm new to the game, I'm level one or whatever, I think I'm in the teens now, but anyway they got me started in the game and they're navigating me through this area where you pick up items, quest items and missions and whatnot, and it's just like, I don't know what's going on. It's a pretty game, I like playing it and I'm glad you're here walking me through it, but I'm not playing this by myself, I'm glad you guys are here. Anyway, going through this area and I see this humanoid robot sweeping the floor with this old, wooden broom.

And I'm like, in today's dollars, that's got to be a quarter million dollar robot. If it was to exist today and it's using a three dollar Walmart broom to sweep the floor, this is a terrible use of automation. But at least it's not dancing.

Benjamin Moses: I completely agree with all fronts. All right, man, let's get into some articles. You got a really good one to kick it off about...

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, we're talking about robots, and we're gear heads.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: We love our cars. One of the most, really exciting annual event in the car world that happens is a mild competition, and I say that because while it is competitive and they do record lap times and there are records to be broken and whatnot, nobody there takes it too seriously, but it's the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England. This rich dude, the Lord of March, who has been made a saint or whatever, not a saint, a knight.

Benjamin Moses: A knight? Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know how that stuff works, we're in a freedom country, but this rich dude, the Lord of March, opens up every year his property for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and one of the events is a hill climb, which is a time trial, a race from one end to another, start to finish. It's not a lap, it's just a straight shot, well, not a straight shot, but I'm getting into the weeds too much.

It's a time trial, it's not against other cars at the same time, it's just from start to finish, they measure your time, see what you can do. And some of the vehicles that they have go up this hill climb, which is this dude, the Lord of March, it's his driveway. It's a give or take two mile driveway that they're doing this time trial up, but anyway, he's just showing off his money, which good for him, I don't want to be a hater.

But the people that show up, the vehicles that show up, the people who are on display, who are exhibiting their wares, their metal, are car manufacturers that want to show off their upcoming year's model sports car or a bunch of other old rich dudes that have restored these classic racing cars, like the Beast of Turin, an old four cylinder Fiat race car that has 16 liters of displacement in a four cylinder.

Benjamin Moses: That's crazy.

Stephen LaMarca: And it has straight pipes, so there's just flames coming out of the side of the engine.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: It doesn't even have exhaust pipes, there's just ports, the flames are coming out of the exhaust, it's wild. People who have restored cars like that do the hill climb, they're not really trying to set the best lap time, they just want to show that, "Look, we got this thing running, not only do I have the money to get this thing running, I've got the money to potentially wreck it right here and kill myself on this dude's driveway."

Benjamin Moses: And they run these cars hard, they're not...

Stephen LaMarca: They run them really hard, they flog them.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: And, you know, you've got other things like last year's championship winning Formula One car or Le Mans car driven by the current Formula One world champion, or the winner of the 24 hours at Le Mans, the drivers will show up there. It's basically an exhibition, it's not really a competition, it's an exhibition, they're just showing off wares and it's fun for people who are into that kind of stuff.

A new exhibitor showed up this year and I certainly am a fan of both industries, the automotive industry and manufacturing or agricultural in this case, and I was not expecting this and I loved it, but a company showed up with their autonomous agricultural robot that they developed to replace a conventional tractor and driver farmer. So it's this wheeled but spider looking robot that's really cool and it's just a farming tool, and it's not made to go fast, I mean, at the end of the day it's replacing a tractor and a tractor driver, and it's supposed to be harvesting stuff. It showed up to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and it did a run.

Benjamin Moses: That's awesome.

Stephen LaMarca: It did a run up the time trial, and it was really cool.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool to see. And we were going to talk about this earlier, there have been completely driverless vehicles that have shown up in the past, and they don't fare too well.

Stephen LaMarca: No.

Benjamin Moses: It's a tough environment, so if you look at the vision system that's required, it's a hill climb but it's fairly flat, there's a lot of haystacks on the side of hay bales and it's kind of hard to discern the turns in the track itself.

Stephen LaMarca: It's a hard hill climb because it's narrow.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. It's very narrow.

Stephen LaMarca: Again, it's a driveway. It's not a track, it's a driveway.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's hard for professional humans, Le Mans, Formula One winners to really get this thing, this track down and really get the best line possible up this. Let alone automation. And the best case scenario, an autonomous vehicle, is just unimpressive. It just navigates it, but it has a slow lap time.

Benjamin Moses: It goes into safe mode.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, it goes into safe mode. There have been some cases where I've seen an autonomous vehicle spin wheels as soon as the flag drops, spin wheels, does a great display of a burnout and just goes straight and ends up crashing into a bunch of hay bales and the thing never saw when to turn. 

Benjamin Moses: No. Awesome, Steve. I've got an article on material sciences, and I thought it was an interesting look at where we are as a society in terms of how we design materials for the entire lifecycle. So we've been talking about designer materials as specific applications, so instead of grabbing a standard Inconel 625 per some standard AMS specification, designing a very specific material for a very specific application, so kind of a niche material design.

And a couple of use cases have come up when they're retrofitting gears on helicopters or a casing where the gears are failing all the time because of the configuration, it's too much stress for that material so they design a specific material that can handle that scenario. And it seems to work out.

Stephen LaMarca: It happens all the time in helicopters.

Benjamin Moses: It's happening more and more often.

Stephen LaMarca: I feel like helicopters get all of the specialty alloys. I'm sorry, go on.

Benjamin Moses: In this case, the article from [inaudible 00:12:00] Times talks about going to a circular economy for materials, so statistically they talk about it as Apple... They're a big manufacturing company in retrospect, consumer electronics, but they revealed that they only recycle 10% of their material. Which is fairly interesting because they do buy back, they do get a lot of their old phones back, but in the whole overall scheme of things of all their products, only 10% of the material is recyclable. And that can be for a variety of things, semicons are very difficult to recycle.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, PCBs.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, and it's interesting, so the article talks about using artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop new alloys that can be extracted from their end product that can help to recycle their material more, so it's getting to instead of 10%, maybe in a bunch of years we can get to 40%, 50% by just designing materials that can be extracted from an assembly. And I think that's one of the biggest issues that you see is you've got, like you said, a PCB has got metal traces on it.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: How do you extract those metal traces? You've got to break it up or you've got to-

Stephen LaMarca: Burn it.

Benjamin Moses: Or burn it, right.

Stephen LaMarca: Just let it melt out.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, exactly.

Stephen LaMarca: And then you've got to make a new alloy that has a good amount, a good portion of its construction of whatever metal was in those traces.

Benjamin Moses: Exactly.

Stephen LaMarca: Cool.

Benjamin Moses: So, it's driving the change for their upstream as opposed to, "Let's figure out how to just get the material out easier." Well, that's one scenario, right? But also if we can design the material on the front end where you can extract the material, so for me the big takeaway is that there's going to be new materials coming out every other month I feel like, that we're going to have to figure out how to machine. What's the machinability, what's the formability, how do I heat treat this thing? So there's a lot of R and D and manufacturing experimentation is going to have to occur with a lot of these materials in the future.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. Materials are fun. I really do like materials. I love sounding like a broken record and talking about how Inconel 625 was designed, developed 60, 70 years ago. It's old as hell.

Benjamin Moses: Still going strong.

Stephen LaMarca: It is not a new material but what's new about it is our ability to finally work with it. We have the technology to finally work with it with additive and modern cutting tools, we can finally work with the stuff. But I think a problem is marketing. Electronics are a hot commodity, they're a big consumer item, and we've already proven with the fact that virtually all electronics are produced with slave labor that consumers don't care.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: They don't care about how recyclable it is.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: What is cool, what they do care about, one thing that does offer them the sexy bragging rights of their new piece of tech is the material developed specially for it. And I agree, as much as I love material science and the development and the movement forward in materials and specialty alloys for stuff coming out today, it's excessive and it's unnecessary. And to some degree it is wasteful, it's not to some degree, it is wasteful. 

Regardless of if your alloy is the most recyclable alloy ever, that's great, but it's still wasteful in that these companies, Apple is focusing on what's the most recyclable material we can design? They're thinking about what they can sell, they're thinking about the buzzword, the material science that they can sell to their consumers when they come out with their new phone next month. They're not thinking about, well, what e-waste can we cut down on?

Benjamin Moses: That's fair.

Stephen LaMarca: I think a lot of these companies really need to start thinking about e-waste more. Dell needs to stop packaging their computers with their awful mice and keyboards that are just going to end up in a landfill or in a swirl in the ocean. Microsoft really needed to think about the whole education behind the TPM requirement for Microsoft 11, because then that thing came out, when they had their press conference, their Zoom meeting really, that was aired terribly by the way, everybody, a lot of people I know started freaking out about TPMs and they're sold out right now.

Nobody cares about graphics cards right now, they're trying to get a $10 TPM to make their gaming PC that they spend thousands of dollars on relevant so they can get Windows 11 as soon as possible. Not that it even matters right now. Microsoft should've been like, "Okay, don't worry, it's still in development. If you want to be on the inside, you can sign up for Microsoft Insider, but you need a TPM, and before you go to CDW or Newegg or Amazon and buy a TPM to get them all sold out," because nobody's used to buying them and sellers are not used to keeping them on the shelves.

Microsoft should've educated people, "You might actually have one in your CPU or on your motherboard already, and here's how to enable it in your registry." Please don't fiddle with your registry unless you are a power user, but because they had the TPM requirement, which is kind of silly, but I also get it and they did a study that says that computers that have a TPM on them that is enabled are 60% less likely to experience any malware, viruses or hacking, which is a really big deal.

Benjamin Moses: That's good, yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: And a really cool statistic, but at the same time, because they didn't convey that message properly and how to enable your TPM if you already have one yet it's disabled so you think, "I don't have one I need to buy, buy, buy right now." That's generating a bunch of e-waste, these companies need to think about that stuff more often. I love the material science, to get back to the topic, but...

Benjamin Moses: I would change the idea of marketing to back to the previous topic of education. The idea of, to your point, do I have a TPM chip? That's the first question you should ask, do I have it? Do I need it? There's a lot more to just defining a set of needs and throwing it out in the world. I completely agree with you that there needs to be more information and more tools, so to figure out do I even have one on board? That's never come up in the past, how long have I been building computers, since '97, let's say, a TPM device or module has never come up in any of the builds that I've been doing the past, what is that, 30 something years, 20 something years, right?

And now all of a sudden it's a hot buzzword like, can you give me a utility, I can push a button and say yes I have this or no I don't, right? So the education side of technology implementation I think is definitely lagging, and connecting that need to-

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, and these are PC power users that don't know what a TPM is or how to determine whether or not they have one, or even maybe they do have one but it's not enabled so they immediately think that they don't have one because their system reads that they don't have one. These are PC power users. 

And we're trying to convey to the least power users, the manufacturing industry, a lot of machine tools that have Windows based controls on their CNCs are still running Windows 2000 or Windows NT and these are the guys crying about cybersecurity, cyber physical security and how can I prevent hackers from ruining my product line? It's like, well, when it comes to TPM, not even power users can figure it out, so, also there's just more silicon ending up in the ocean.

Benjamin Moses: Let's talk about Mil-Spec.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay. Yeah, sorry about that rant, but it's necessary. I mean, last thing, the whole Windows thing, with Windows 11 and the TPM chips, that press conference happened two weeks ago I want to say.

Benjamin Moses: It was fairly recent, yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Linus Tech Tips, the power users of power users, came out with a video yesterday explaining what's going on and how to prevent this and don't order a TPM chip just yet. It took them two weeks to figure out, all right, what's going on here?

Benjamin Moses: It requires a YouTuber to try and fix the world.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes. Okay, so, national stock numbers. 

Benjamin Moses: Yes. What is that?

Stephen LaMarca: Ben, do you like Mil-Spec equipment?

Benjamin Moses: I love Mil-Spec equipment.

Stephen LaMarca: We're a bunch of gear junkies, we love the toys that the military uses, who doesn't? Obviously the police do. But if you're shopping around, for the longest time I remember when I was in high school the big thing in the firearm industry was people wanted to buy Colt M4s, at least civilian versions of the Colt M4 that had as minimal parts changed from the actual military product line as possible, that's why you bought Colt, that's why you bought an AR-15 that was a Hartford Horsey.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Because the LE6902 or whatever, 6920, I forget what the Colt's product number at the time was, literally all they changed, they used a different lower receiver that didn't have the third hole drilled in there for the auto sear, they still had a full auto... Well, actually, Colt changed a lot of things, they were very anti civilian consumer.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: But, anyway, people still bought Colts because Colt owned the TDP, the technical data package for the US military's M4 carbine. Anyway, M4 carbine, the magazines that go into it that are made by Okay Industries out of stamped aluminum, all that stuff, all that Mil-Spec stuff. Mil-Spec, let's talk about Mil-Spec first. Mil-Spec just means the military decided that this product or this part for whatever tool it is, it doesn't have to be a firearm, when they determine something is Mil-Spec or of military specification, they are determining that it is of the highest quality at the lowest price.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Or at least that's what they say, sometimes they work with a company like Sig, and Sig is like, "You give us the biggest order possible, we'll give you the lowest price possible," and then the government is just like, "Yeah, we don't care if it works or not, this price is too good to pass up." Sometimes Mil-Spec doesn't work, but anyway, junkies like us, civilians, sometimes we really like Mil-Spec stuff.

But the holy grail of a Mil-Spec indicator is if a part or a product has an NSN, a national stock number. Then you know that it's not just the manufacturer of said part that's saying, "This is Mil-Spec." Any manufacturer can say, "Yes, this follows the military specification that went out to the contract. We're not the initial manufacturer that made this, but we are making it to military spec or to a higher specification," which is sometimes, in most of the cases, better.

Benjamin Moses: Correct.

Stephen LaMarca: But the ultimate indicator that something is Mil-Spec is if it has an NSN, a national stock number. And I bring all of this up because an additive manufacturing materials manufacturer slash supplier for nylon stock material, for use in 3D printing, has officially been awarded the first additive material NSN.

Benjamin Moses: Wow, that's awesome. That's great news.

Stephen LaMarca: So, you buy nylon filament for your 3D printer from this manufacturer, you are buying Mil-Spec filament. Which is really cool, that's a big deal, man.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, that's a huge deal for additive.

Stephen LaMarca: This is huge for additive, not only is it huge for nerds like us who like to buy military spec equipment, but this is huge for additive because additive has needed standards and we're starting to get a lot more standards in additive, but Dave Burns and Tim can tell you that the biggest thing that's holding back additive right now is materials availability and materials standardization. We've been getting a lot more standardizations, which is nice, but it's still not helping availability.

Military specification, as I mentioned kind of bashing Sig a little bit, the government is only going to award an NSN to a company that can provide a lot of it. Not only can it be of quality and of a low price, but you've got to be able to produce a lot of it and on demand and you've got to fill a massive contract relatively quickly. So, they've been able to do this.

Benjamin Moses: That's awesome.

Stephen LaMarca: And this is huge for additive because, again, the big bottleneck with additive lately has been material standards and material availability. This manufacturer of this filament, this material, this nylon for 3D printing, getting an NSN means that this stuff is quality, there's a lot of it, and it's cheap. 

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's a huge deal, it's really awesome.

Benjamin Moses: It is, and I was thinking about this in our prep, defining or giving a raw material an NSN number is fairly forward thinking as opposed to defining what that shape is and saying it needs to be 3D printed, right?

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So it's looking up the stream-

Stephen LaMarca: I didn't even think about that.

Benjamin Moses: That additive will be part of the military's ecosystem now because they have this raw material, right?

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So the forward operating base says-

Stephen LaMarca: Even if they're just making a T handle front sight adjustment.

Benjamin Moses: The US army has a way to go to get some cool applications. 

Stephen LaMarca: But this is a huge step and it's so cool, and I didn't even think about that, I'm glad you said that because I don't think a stock material has ever been awarded, maybe-

Benjamin Moses: An NSN number?

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: That's a good question. We used to buy a lot of Mil standard raw material, so there's a lot of raw materials that have been defined. Like Inconel 625, we used to buy a Mil standard version of that.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm actually eating my words right now because now I'm thinking of stuff like AR-15 bolts have to be made out of CPM 154, something like that, I don't know.

Benjamin Moses: Right. But the fact that it's given an NSN number takes it to the next level that, hey, this is something that is in our future and we'll just propagate it through our entire ecosystem, so it's a fascinating look in and I'm glad to see that the standards are moving forward with additive. It's got a long way to go but it's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: It's still a long way, but this is a huge step forward, this is really cool.

Benjamin Moses: We'll get into, our next episode, I was thinking about this when you mentioned the other article, that security has been a big issue. Recently there was a big supply chain security thing that's come about, and we'll have more information, that's being released I think, that'll help us talk about this on the next episode. But one other person was talking about additive in the military space, and their question was it's not a material or a process issue, it's a data rights and data security issue for additive in the military.

Stephen LaMarca: Wow.

Benjamin Moses: So, we'll get into that next episode.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay, yeah, we should.

Benjamin Moses: Because I've got a little more research to do in both areas, but I think the next episode we'll talk about cybersecurity.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, that sounds great.

Benjamin Moses: Was it my turn?

Stephen LaMarca: I think so. I thought you were closing it out.

Benjamin Moses: No, I want to talk about one more.

Stephen LaMarca: We've got one more?

Benjamin Moses: We've got one more.

Stephen LaMarca: Awesome.

Benjamin Moses: Let's end with this one, let's end with an automotive based thing, and I thought this was really cool, so, the article is from Composite World and it's about air tech 3D printed resin delivered composite tooling for competitive motor sports. So, we were talking about the Goodwood?

Stephen LaMarca: Goodwood.

Benjamin Moses: I don't think Good Will will have a motor sports festival.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't blame you for not watching it, it can be really boring, you really have to be into it.

Benjamin Moses: There's a lot of cars that run on that thing.

Stephen LaMarca: It's a lot of cars, it's easy to miss something that you want to see, and it goes on forever. I feel like it's an entire week. It is an entire week.

Benjamin Moses: The [inaudible 00:28:20] section part, so, this is 100 cars lining up and they have to go through and make a U turn to get into the starting area. Some cars will do a burnout, but sometimes the drivers aren't super experienced with that car and they'll stall half of the way through their burnout, so doing that little U turn, there's a lot of, we'll say problems, that I have seen.

All right, let's get back to the article, so, on motor sports there's a high emphasis on aerodynamics, and obviously they want to minimize the weight impact of adding aerodynamic features, so adding wings, splitters, small airfoils in the front. A lot of times they'll go to composites, like carbon fiber, right?

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: And so to manufacture in carbon fiber, you take this weave and you lay it in a mold and then you apply resin to it, then you throw this big bag over it to draw suction so the resin evenly distributes through the carbon fiber. Then you shove that whole thing in an autoclave so it's pressurized and it's in a high temperature. Then you pull it out, then you pull it off the mold. So it's very rough on the mold itself, you have the wear and tear of applying the composites to it, but also just moving it around and then the temperature cycling through the autoclave.

So, what they've done, normally that's an aluminum mold, so you design that then you machine it, it could be several feet long. It's a big mold, when you talk about molds, these are big molds usually. So, they're very costly and time to achieve those molds is very long. So in this article what they talk about is using a 3D printed resin mold, so instead of aluminum that's been subtractively manufactured, they'd said, "Let's print a mold and see how this works."

So, this has been done before, as in let's do a mold and I want to do one or two pieces. So I can print a mold out of some ABS or something that can handle the temperatures of the autoclave a couple of times and then they'll put it in the bag, they'll put the carbon fiber, they'll do all of the prep work, shove it in an autoclave and then the mold is essentially disposable at that point. But in this one they've gone through 250 autoclave cycles with this resin mold and they have not seen any...

Stephen LaMarca: With one mold?

Benjamin Moses: With one mold, any deterioration of surface quality, material capability, and they've done testing throughout the entire life of the cycle, 250 autoclave cycles. So I find there's a fairly interesting shift on what we consider consumable tooling, for 3D printed parts. It's always thought of, "Hey, let's print this thing, use it a couple of times and throw it away," but now you're getting into much more robust materials that can handle these extreme temperature cycles, over and over again.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's resin, we're not talking about metal additive.

Benjamin Moses: No, correct, this is resin. Now, it's probably a different resin than you're going to go buy for a desktop printer, right, it's probably a little bit different there.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, it's not J-B Weld.

Benjamin Moses: It's not UV J-B Weld. But I think there's a very interesting approach where obviously there are pros and cons if you compare subtractive to an additive part, you can get to a part quicker, but the subtractive part generally will last longer, so your costs over time significantly drops, that's why a lot of long run parts have these very, very robust tools because you pay 10 times the cost upfront but you get 100 times the life.

Now you're seeing a fairly inexpensive resin mold that's getting almost as long a life as a metal part, so your costs have significantly come down and your ability to get to parts has significantly gone quicker, so I thought between this and the national stock number discussion, I think this is a very full circle, happy times for additive.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. It's happy times for additive, and I mentioned this yesterday, I forget what meeting we were in, but I think that one of the trends, speaking of Tech Trends Podcast, one of the huge trends for this year or at least right now, no, definitely within the last year, one of the huge trends within additive is that plastic is here to stay.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: Back in 2016 when additive machines, additive was all over the emerging technology center of IMTS, people were really only interested in metal additive.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And it was at least that way until 2018, maybe even well into 2019. But plastic, not only is here to stay, but plastic additive, polymer additive, composite additive, is really showing that in a lot of cases it's superior to metal.

Benjamin Moses: Sure, yeah. And I like the idea, so we've had discussions with the guys at Oak Ridge about everyone's pushing for additive being the production environment, it's like, sure, that could be an end state, but there's still so much value in additive and tooling just in the production environment, there's significant low hanging fruit that I think the industry could definitely capitalize on.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. One of the other articles that I had in this week's tech report that's coming out Friday is how 3D printing or metal additive is being used to produce these new fuel injectors for a turbo fan, a turbine engine for helicopters.

Benjamin Moses: Back to helicopters again.

Stephen LaMarca: I forget what the brand is, the brand that makes the engines for Airbus helicopters. But they additively produce their fuel injectors, and the complex geometries that you can achieve with additive and specifically the internal complex geometries which in this case turns into complex internal plumbing of a fuel injector. You tweak that stuff, we see Porsche all the time, every year they come out with how they've managed to squeeze an extra 20 horsepower out of the same displacement engine, it's just by fiddling around with some of the plumbing in an intake plenum or something like that.

You do that with fuel injection on a really big scale, high power scale thing like a helicopter motor, and now this company is reporting, with this complex plumbing of their fuel injector, they're getting a 15% boost in combustion efficiency.

Benjamin Moses: That's huge.

Stephen LaMarca: It's really huge, it's reduced emissions, it's higher performance, it's everything that you want. Especially with a helicopter, which seems like they're really inefficient.

Benjamin Moses: I love to fly in helicopters though.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, flying in a helicopter is fun.

Benjamin Moses: It's a lot of fun. All right, man. Where can I find more info about us?

Stephen LaMarca: Amtonline.org/resources. That's where you'll get all of our news, our tech reports or newsletters, and of course links to our podcasts.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Bye, everyone.

Stephen LaMarca: Bye.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
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