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AMT Tech Trends: Olympic Metal

Episode 54: Ben and Steve get up to speed with the Tokyo Olympics. Stephen mentions two potentially aerospace-grade additive materials. Ben continues with the Army’s investment in next-gen materials research. Steve follows with cutting-edge consumer AVGs.
Jul 30, 2021

Episode 54: Ben and Steve get up to speed with the Tokyo Olympics. Stephen mentions two potentially aerospace-grade additive materials. Ben continues with the Army’s investment in next-gen materials research. Steve follows with cutting-edge consumer AVGs. Benjamin pivots to Intrinsic, Alphabet’s new industrial robot software company. Stephen adds with some info on an open-source reinforcement learning framework for robots. Ben closes a record low thermally conductive material.

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Transcript

Benjamin Moses: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the 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: Steven LaMarca, Technology Analyst.

Benjamin Moses: Steve, how you doing today?

Stephen LaMarca: Doing great.

Benjamin Moses: Did you know the Olympics are going on right now? I completely slept on that.

Stephen LaMarca: So I've seen things on the internet.

Benjamin Moses: I've seen things on the internet too.

Stephen LaMarca: And things blatantly telling me that the Olympics are going on, but I feel like I didn't know.

Benjamin Moses: And it threw me for a loop because I do like get investing into the Olympics as much as I can as a viewer, but I cut a lot of my broadcast services so I don't have Verizon or television service or a Comcast television service.

Stephen LaMarca: Right, right.

Benjamin Moses: Everything I watch is through an app or on-demand. So I was scratching my head, how am I going to watch this? And the one app that I pulled in had to require a television broadcast subscription. I'm like I'm done with this one. But I realized NBC has a Peacock app which you can do on-demand stuff which is fine.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay.

Benjamin Moses: And then they have all the Olympics stuff. But it threw me for a loop on how to effectively watch that where I can't just turn on a TV and to see whatever they're showing me, I have to go through and browse through all the different sections.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: And, of course, everything that I want to watch isn't lumped into other sports. So they had track and field, they've got volleyball stuff. They have the big pillar stuff.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes. Oh, yeah we follow the other.

Benjamin Moses: So I want to watch skeet and trap, I was like how do I find skeet and trap? So I had to go through and I was scrolling and scrolling for 10 days and I finally got to the gold medal round for the skeet and trap which the USA crushed it, by the way.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, of ... America's going to do what America does.

Benjamin Moses: We do well as shooting.

Stephen LaMarca: We shoot ... Well, at least I hear, this year it's not about basketball. At least we're not shooting there.

Benjamin Moses: No, no, the U.S. lost to France in open pool so they're not out of the tournament yet.

Stephen LaMarca: It's still ... Okay.

Benjamin Moses: It was an interesting-

Stephen LaMarca: Then that was mishyped because I saw that headline. I also saw the headline saying that this is the on record as the least watched Olympics.

Benjamin Moses: That's unfortunate.

Stephen LaMarca: And it's blatantly thrown in my face as going on right now and I'm like, "I wonder when that's taking place?" I'm just that checked out of the Olympics. Also, I feel like a child because I also ... I don't have cable either and when I do want to watch something on cable I just use my mom's Verizon account.

Benjamin Moses: No, no, no that goes around a lot these days. And it's unfortunate, it's the least watching. You and I know were talking about some of the upsets. There's pillars of ... Or countries that have longstanding been like they're expected to get gold.

Stephen LaMarca: Right, right, right, right.

Benjamin Moses: And there's a lot of turnover like the U.S. losing to France. I mean, in the past couple years since the Dream Team, there's been a growth in international play, their international could be just significantly better, and they're more competitive, but a loss is still a loss and there's other-

Stephen LaMarca: And apparently the women's soccer team, U.S. women's soccer team, took a loss. Now was that for the gold or was that just a tryout game?

Benjamin Moses: I'm not sure if that was full play or if that was in playoffs, I'm not sure. Worst case scenario is not good.

Stephen LaMarca: Either way it's like they crush it. They're awesome. I did also see that ... What else was another major upset? Oh, ping-pong.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, man what happened?

Stephen LaMarca: China didn't win.

Benjamin Moses: Oh man.

Stephen LaMarca: China ... China is to ping-pong as we are to shooting, and China decimates at ping-pong. And apparently, I saw it ... It was on VICE so I mean, take that with a grain of salt. I'm probably reading tabloids at this point. But VICE said ... Had some headline on the lines of, China metals silver in ping-pong, and the medalist is crying and apologizing on TV. And I just read this and I'm thinking, this person's going to be assassinated.

Benjamin Moses: They won't exist on this planet anymore. It is interesting because I was watching some swimming event and you see the excitement of the gold winner is ... They're out of this world which rightfully so. They're number one in the world. You can't say that of many other things of things that you've achieved. And then you look at the silver medalist and they're like ah. I'm like, you got silver in the Olympics shouldn't you be excited. It's not a participation trophy. That's a good accomplishment. There's so few people that are happy to win silver or bronze. I'm like, that's a tough life. So the discipline and rigor to get to become an Olympian athlete is out of my mind. But I feel bad that they're not celebrating silver or bronze.

Stephen LaMarca: It's pretty bad. My cousin ... Well actually, I got two relatives. My aunt Denise, I think she ... Her last hurrah and ... She used to be a competition skeet and trap shooter.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, cool.

Stephen LaMarca: And her last tour ... I don't know if that's what you call it, but her last time in competition, her last season, was Kim Rhode's first.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, man.

Stephen LaMarca: And she shot alongside Kim Rhode.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: That's really cool. I'm like, oh my God, Denise, you knew Kim Rhode. I felt terrible getting that excited because I know how awesome my aunt Denise is. But also my cousin Megan was going to go to one of the Olympics because she was on the Olympic scull team, which I don't know if that's actually what you call it. But she was on the rowing team.

Benjamin Moses: That's what it's called.

Stephen LaMarca: The women's rowing team. And she's actually ... I don't want to throw shade at her. No, no, I'm just going to stop there. She was on the rowing team though. It's like that still means that these people were the best of the best. Just to be on the team.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: They're that good.

Benjamin Moses: My wife was making fun of me that, in two rotations for the Olympics, they'll be in LA. They're going somewhere next time and then after that, they're going to LA. It's my 50th birthday we'll go to LA. Either that or I'll be dead.

Stephen LaMarca: But it's just crazy that this Chinese athlete brought much shame upon the family-

Benjamin Moses: For getting a silver.

Stephen LaMarca: For getting a silver, when that's awesome. And here in the U.S., Kim Rhode has collectively brought home so many ... I think she's brought home so many more golds than even Michael Phelps has, and yet you never hear about that in the news. Poor thing.

Benjamin Moses: That's right.

Stephen LaMarca: But what's next?

Benjamin Moses: Let's talk about some articles, man.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: I hear you got one on aerospace material.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, yeah. So last episode, two weeks ago, we were talking about Mil-spec additive materials.

Benjamin Moses: Right, right.

Stephen LaMarca: And how ... I forget the company's name already. I feel bad. I can look it up easily. But this company got awarded by the U.S. Government a NSN for their additive materials, which is a big deal. It's Mil-spec additive. Well, Markforged, a company that we know well, is ... And they're known for printing carbon fiber. Additive, composite, and polymer printing. They've submitted two of their additive materials for ... Or to NCAMP, the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance, which is one of the governing bodies, or one of the authorized bodies that approves materials. Or it was one of the regulatory bodies for the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA. And should either of these materials, whether it's one or both of them, beat qualify with the NCAMP. The federal ... The FAA will officially declare one or both of these materials as aerospace grade additive composites, additive Palmer carbon composite.

Benjamin Moses: That's a product.

Stephen LaMarca: That's a big deal. That's another big ... It's really cool that ... As I said last episode, it's huge that additive materials, specifically materials, are ... Get such a recognition because that's the toughest thing right now. We need standards, and not just standards with the technology but standards with the material. And if you have standards and you can comply with those standards of the material, then that means you can make a good amount of that material.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And the materials are the hard thing to come by right now.

Benjamin Moses: And I think aerospace is a really good market because for that process and that material on a couple of fronts. One, as you can harness value from being lighter and increasing performance, right. The airlines will directly get increased profits on that type of adoption.

Stephen LaMarca: And not just increase profits but cost-cutting on repairs.

Benjamin Moses: Correct, sure.

Stephen LaMarca: Because additive, we can't forget, additive is awesome at repairing things.

Benjamin Moses: And it's an interesting the-

Stephen LaMarca: Repairing carbon fiber must be pretty tough so if you can do it with additive-

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: It's going to help a lot.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, I see what you mean. And they experimented with doing that on metal components too. I've seen a couple use cases on ... The military has launch rails for missiles and things like that crack and they've been doing weld repairs basically. And they're switching to additive or hybrid process because you've got machine afterwards.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: It makes a lot of sense. But also, one minor thing I've noticed from my experience in aerospace is, the repair market for aerospace is interesting, particularly pricing. So making sure the thing is fixed per the functionality, that's robust. But in terms of the pricing market, it's really interesting because it depends on who owns the IP to actually make that product or be able to repair it. Sometimes you have to go back to the OEM, and since they're single source they can charge much more than the original price of the product.

Stephen LaMarca: What jerks.

Benjamin Moses: So if you're repairing a single tie rod and that got dinged, you could cut that out of a tube and weld repair that. But we've charged two to three times what the original cost of the making the original ones because one, they could be selling that at really low margins to the OEM and they're recouping the margins back on repairs. But the repair market is actually very, very price competitive for other people besides the [crosstalk 00:10:19].

Stephen LaMarca: Is that one of the reasons why when you fly internationally or you fly in literally any other country, you'll most of the time be ... Well, as long as it's not a third world country, you'll most of the time be on a brand new or really nice plane. And if you fly-

Benjamin Moses: Internal to other countries.

Stephen LaMarca: Internal to the U.S. If you fly from one state to another, you're in some 40-year-old jetliner that's falling apart.

Benjamin Moses: They're cobbling it together. They're keeping it-

Stephen LaMarca: That stinks, man.

Benjamin Moses: That's the way it is.

Stephen LaMarca: And they're making a profit off of that, the aerospace companies. Shame on you.

Benjamin Moses: Whatever. It's a capitalist market, bro.

Stephen LaMarca: They got to make money some ... It's capitalism. Making money, dude.

Benjamin Moses: All right. I got one on also material. So the Army is investing on next-generation materials research. So this is a interesting article of their approach to look at the future. And they're partnering with two universities to improve manufacturing capabilities. And it's a pros and cons on this article. I'm glad that the Army's investing in this and not mentioning ... Not growing wrenches and full tools.

Stephen LaMarca: Site adjustment.

Benjamin Moses: Site adjustment tools. I think this is a more strategic look at it. And I'm on the fence about it because they're so focused on the manufacturing capabilities. I'm more interested on more interesting use cases. For example, growing a barrel, where you could have a heat shroud built into it, or cooling vents and things like that where you get better performance, better longevity, as opposed to focusing on the manufacturing process which ... But to be fair, there's smarter people in the Army than me. But they're partnering with the University of Kentucky, and the University of Tennessee, and the ... So there's a group within the Army is the U.S. Combat Capabilities Development Command. If you're part of DEVCOM give me a call we'll chat.

But focusing on three, four primary areas. One is high temperature materials, which I'm definitely on board. We could definitely use ... Improve manufacturing capability of high temperature alloys and better performance out of those alloys. One I didn't particularly like was advanced additive manufacturing. I mean, maybe they're looking at ... So I've been reading up on a couple of articles on the military's use of additive, in general, and they're very focused on pushing it as forward into the operating theater as possible, which makes a lot of sense. Getting repairs close to the field. And the Army's looking at it ... Or the Department of Defense is looking at as a physical solution, but there's a whole big ecosystem of the digital rights that are not being solved right now.

So there's two sides of that hopefully, the group will solve. One is getting the technology in the field as close as possible, but also how do you manage that data without losing that data? So being able to grow ... So if I need to grow a wrench, clearly the guy on the front end could model it and then grow it locally, but realistically, is going to pull from a warehouse of data, pull that data into the front lines, and then print it locally. How do you secure that digital infrastructure? So where that data is stored and how that data is transmitted is not being stolen from another nation state. So there's a fairly big cybersecurity risk on printing at point of service for a lot of these technologies ... For the information. So hopefully, they do solve that as part of their problem, but we'll see.

The other thing I'm really in ... The last one I'm really interested in is novel manufacturing process, and predictive modeling, and performance assessment. So being able to predict manufacturing processes, which as a ... Well, you come a very long way of being able to say, "I can make this part within tolerance and this amount of time or realistically this amount of cost." But we've advanced so far in dimensional ... In dimensional accuracy for a manufacturing process, particularly subtractive, I think we're at a very fine line of being able to say with high confidence that this thing I designed I'm going to have a high success rate and or high yield. So being able to predict our entire manufacturing process and seeing the performance from the parts being produced were there, that's something I'm very interested in. And it's a parallel to the digital thread and digital twin models too.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure. And I think that's also just a testament to how far and how quickly additive has come because it seems ... From listening to what you just said, it seems like the point to which additive technology and additive companies are going to be chasing the almighty micron is right around the corner.

Benjamin Moses: Definitely. I agree with that.

Stephen LaMarca: That's wild.

Benjamin Moses: You got one on consumer AGVs?

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, yeah. Okay. So I found an article ... Well, I ... Tech Trends, the app led me to a article that linked back to Tom's Hardware.

Benjamin Moses: Cool.

Stephen LaMarca: And I was reading that and I'm like okay, I don't know how I'm going to throw ... Be able to throw this in the tech report so I scrolled all the way to the bottom of the article to read the final paragraph as I usually do to cheat when I need to skim an article, and immediately below that I see an article that just published four minutes ago and it's another Tom's article. And, of course, I don't have the actual title of the ... Oh, it was something ... So Tom's Hardware is a website that does mostly computer and techie news for the individual consumer for ... Or prosumers, even if you want to go there. But it's consumer-grade stuff, and they typically don't think about ... They're not reporting news to people with corporate budgets, they're reporting to people who are really just savants and have personal budgets.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: And so they're like, "There's this" ... The article is something along the lines of ... The title is, New Raspberry Pi Powered AGV is Ridiculously Expensive or something like that. So I'm like oh man, we use a lot of raspberry Pi's on the testbed, let me check this out. And AGVs are cool, it'd be cool to get an AGV for the testbed. I mean, we've got a cobot already. And I'm looking at it, and a company ... Some company that is actually pretty big, and I hate that I'm not remembering it right now, partnered with highway Huawei-

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: The Chinese company that made the phone with the crazy camera that got banned in the U.S. They joined forces to make a raspberry Pi powered AGV that has a 360 degree ... Well, no, it has a five megapixel vision system camera and a 360 degree LIDAR system.

Benjamin Moses: Wow, that's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, and with Mecanum wheels. So the little wheels that roll like conventional wheels do, but also have those 45 degree angled rollers along the tread so it can strafe to. They're 360 degree directional wheels.

Benjamin Moses: Cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Without turning-

Benjamin Moses: Right, right.

Stephen LaMarca: On a net ... Nevermind. They're really fancy wheels that allow it to go in every direction and it will allow the vehicle to a strafe. All in a consumer-grade AGV. We're saying LIDAR raspberry Pi powered so really easy to work on and modular because it's a raspberry Pi. I can't stress LIDAR enough. A five megapixel camera for the vision system and oh, it's also modular that you can put the same company that makes this AGV also makes a six joint collaborative robot arm.

Benjamin Moses: Nice.

Stephen LaMarca: You can ... For the price of that arm, you can also mount said arm on top of the AGV to make a super industrial robot. When we were talking about Spot last, how you can work to implement Spot into a warehouse scenario, because where a wheeled AGV may fail in an older warehouse that requires workers to go up and down stairs, Spot can do that.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: This AGV wouldn't be able to do that. But also Spot is $75,000 and also an industrial robot. This AGV that Tom's Hardware is claiming is super expensive and unobtanium is $1,300 all in.

Benjamin Moses: All in.

Stephen LaMarca: It's $700 for the AGV, the wheeled AGV with the LIDAR system powered by a raspberry Pi.

Benjamin Moses: Nice.

Stephen LaMarca: And an extra $600 if you want to add the six joint collaborative robot on top of it. $1,300 is nothing for a company that is thinking about getting into automation or AGVs even. And it's maybe ... If only there was some product that we could buy that allowed us to experiment with this technology, to try before we buy because we don't want to go all in on a Spot if we can't figure out how to use it.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Along comes this raspberry Pi powered robot that's $1,300. Maybe it's not really that much for a consumer but that is nothing for a job shop that wants to experiment potentially with automation. How cool is that?

Benjamin Moses: That's really awesome. I mean, being able to ... Like you mentioned, being able to bring in something like that for a test and having no risk, right. What's $1,300 risk and maybe say 20 hours worth of time of someone to experiment over a couple of months, that you'd learn so much and be able to ask more informative questions when you're ready to scale up and that's really surprising.

Stephen LaMarca: ANn what we've been mentioning the past few episodes is, the next step for automation is taking one of these fancy cobot arms that some people are implementing AI or machine learning on them, but the real ... The physical next step with these arms is putting them on an AGV, making them mobile, not just on a track, but on an AGV so they can go wherever they want. Putting a robot arm on Spot. And here comes this company with a product you can buy today that costs nothing. Now, it's probably a toy. We're talking RC car size.

Benjamin Moses: Size.

Stephen LaMarca: Because I think the arm only has 12 inch reach.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: And 8.8 ounce carrying, lifting capacity on the arm which is not much, but that is enough to do some baseline testing and it just proof of concept testing.

Benjamin Moses: Right. And also, based on the images, right, it is small scale and that is a fact. But whether or not it's pro ... Con or a negative is irrelevant to the testbed, right. Just learning how it operates and learning how it works in the field. But also, looking at the pictures, it's robust. I mean, looking at it, it's fully packaged. It's not the thing that ... When people have mention raspberry Pi devices, it's cobbled together. There's wires hanging out.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, yeah it's an exposed circuit board.

Benjamin Moses: This is completely well-packaged with the wheels, and the robot, and everything. It looks like a scaled-down industrial package.

Stephen LaMarca: It's enclosed.

Benjamin Moses: It's enclosed. Might as well.

Stephen LaMarca: Might not want it to roll across an oil slick covered machine shop floor.

Benjamin Moses: I mean, you should test that.

Stephen LaMarca: We should. It's worth-

Benjamin Moses: That's part of the test.

Stephen LaMarca: $1,300 ain't ... It's nothing to test it.

Benjamin Moses: Do you want Mecanum wheels? Is that what it's called?

Stephen LaMarca: Mecanum.

Benjamin Moses: Mecanum.

Stephen LaMarca: You know what's really weird about that word Mecanum. So Mecanum wheels are those wheels with the 45-degree angle rollers that allow the wheel to strafe left and right.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And not just roll like a conventional wheel forward and back. Mecanum is spelled with a capital M.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, interesting.

Stephen LaMarca: So I don't know if it's somebody's name or what but that is the word Mecanum. I could be saying it wrong, but I'm telling you it's written that way.

Benjamin Moses: The next article I've got is also about automation. So don't forget Google isn't a parent company anymore. Alphabet is a parent company that owns Google. Google's now a sub-tier of Alphabet. And I lose sight of that sometimes. I completely forget that there's a bigger company. So Alphabet launches a company called Intrinsic. I think I'm pronouncing that correctly.

Stephen LaMarca: I think you are.

Benjamin Moses: It's a new company to build software for industrial robots. So I thought that was really interesting that they got into ... So where they spun out ... So Alphabet has a Moonshot program. They take the fairly say immature ideas and see if it's worthwhile and they spin out a bunch of spinoff companies from there. So it's a fairly robust process to see if they want to test something. And they've been experimenting with robotics, in general. Hardware robotics and that includes single arm robots to AGVs, AMRs, Any type of physical automation. And they bought a bunch of companies. And I don't know if you remember, but they actually bought Boston Dynamics before Hyundai bought them out so they were owned by Alphabet or somebody.

Stephen LaMarca: I didn't know that.

Benjamin Moses: And I completely forgot about that because that happened a bunch of years ago. And one of the reasons that they sold it, and the article mentioned that, is hardware is hard, man. Trying to get a profit out of a hardware-based company is surprisingly difficult. I mean, considering their background is more software, but I mean, they do have physical assets that they do sell to the consumers, right.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. And is what I mentioned with the last article was you still got to figure out how to implement it and you got to be able to take that dive. And if ... I guess they weren't able to implement it. As for Hyundai, South Korea, the masters of all that is robotics, next to Singapore, they have a use case.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: Or, at least they can think of one.

Benjamin Moses: And then they mention the article. And we've had that conversation internally at the management level that for startups in the manufacturing space, our membership producing technologies, if you're producing hardware it is really difficult to get that into sustained life, getting out of the startup world of funding and into self-sustaining world. If Google has trouble with doing it, a lot of people are going to have trouble doing it. So they shifted to software for robotics. So what they're trying to do is using machine learning to teach robots to manipulate objects without direct supervision. And they mention, obviously, that's one of Google's, obviously, core strengths is machine learning and applying those to different applications. So they've been experimenting with different tasks. Automating, making adjustments so they are completing tasks on their own, the work on a wide variety of different applications.

And they've been testing automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control. So it's a pretty broad spectrum. And on Intrinsic site, on the Moonshot website, they show a couple of use cases and they've been working with a fairly international group of researchers and developers to test out these scenarios So I'm curious to see what they'll produce in the future. The stuff ... Some of the Moonshot ideas that I'm keeping an eye on haven't progressed into a buy now button just yet. They're still in demonstration and stuff.

Stephen LaMarca: Isn't Moonshot ORNL, Oak Ridge National Labs?

Benjamin Moses: I mean, the Moonshot idea is-

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, okay.

Benjamin Moses: About an idea, but they have I think it's called X Moonshot or something like that, that's their Alphabet's program.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, cool.

Benjamin Moses: So I'm curious, at some point in the next couple of years, to see what an industrial company can actually buy from Intrinsic to see how they implement it. But having their skillset applied to robotics. And I think we've talked about this in the past is, in general, manufacturing. So the ability to program in manufacturing, there's a significant language barrier. The way humans communicate versus the way we want machines to communicate, there's a significant difference. So I think this is one of the ideas of bridging the gap of issuing say commands or ideas to robots that they can figure out on their own. So defining tool paths for a robot or a path for a robot. I mean, that'd be the best use of a human's time by saying, "Pick up this object and put it there."

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: Right. That makes a lot of sense, right. So I'm curious to see what they'll come out within the next couple years.

Stephen LaMarca: It's wild. I don't know where it's going to go. That's something I genuinely have no prediction on that. It's above me.

Benjamin Moses: You can't predict. Speaking above you, I think our next article is a little higher.

Stephen LaMarca: The next article's definitely above me, but I know enough to know it's worth mentioning. So yesterday on GitHub, a new code piece of software-

Benjamin Moses: Yes.

Stephen LaMarca: Framework popped up for programming robots or for at least testing and simulating robot motion. A framework, an open source framework at that, called robo-gym allows reinforcement learning, which is something under AI, to be tested and implemented into your robot programming.

Benjamin Moses: Cool.

Stephen LaMarca: So it's just wild. It was something worth mentioning I think because MTConnect, our little bread and butter, is in fact open source as well and open source is always a good thing. It doesn't necessarily mean it's free to implement. You won't be paying ... Whoever developed it, you won't be paying them any money but you may be paying some other company to either make you parts to be able to implement such a technology software. It's not technically software.

Benjamin Moses: Or contribute towards it. I mean, I think that's one of the-

Stephen LaMarca: And right now it's only available on ... They do disclose on GitHub that it's only available for one model of universal robots and they're quickly patching it or expanding it to work with the other range of universal robots arms. But they also said, "That's just because that's the company that we have right now to develop this. It will be no trouble to expand this to any other brand." So it's not dependent on ... Or it's not specifically for universal robots. This stuff is potentially going to blow up really fast and it's going to be on other robots and allow you to upgrade if you would, your collaborative robot or even industrial robot to something third gen for AI-driven faster than we think.

Benjamin Moses: That's fascinating. I'm definitely interested to see future adoption of that. And also they're branching out to other companies, other models, and other different type of robots.

Stephen LaMarca: I still have to Google reinforcement learning.

Benjamin Moses: Man, there's so many subsets of-

Stephen LaMarca: So many learnings.

Benjamin Moses: So many different learnings. The last article I want to talk about is again, materials. A lot of-

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: Stuff on materials today. And this is super nerdy.

Stephen LaMarca: This is my favorite one.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: You know how I always mention I can't wait until you introduce this. But you know how I love talking about how Inconel, one of everybody's favorite alloys in this industry.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: It was invented 60 years ago. It's old older than dirt, man, it's an old alloy but it's hot now because we're finally able to work with it. We're able to print it, we've got the highest end coated carbide tools that are able to machine it. We can finally manufacture parts out of Inconel, even though it is an old material, it's an old alloy. It's by no means new or special. Well, it is very special because it's hard to work with but not anymore. This is like that. This new material I'm going to let you introduce it.

Benjamin Moses: Okay.

Stephen LaMarca: But will allow for so many things that I've been reading about in Car and Driver, that will be so cool. But go on.

Benjamin Moses: There's a lot of applications. So the title is New Material Breaks Low Thermal Conductivity Record. So let's back up a little bit. Thermal conductivity is how much heat transfers through a material, right. So if you've got-

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: Low thermal conductivity-

Stephen LaMarca: It's an insulator.

Benjamin Moses: Insulator, correct. High means it's a high transfer you can convey temperatures quickly from the inside to the outside. So this research was exploring inorganic material so nothing grown or they have to fabricate this in a lab, has the lowest thermal conductivity ever reported to be a boon for a technology. So they made a material that has a lowest ever for an inorganic material.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: And it's a solid state. So in aerospace, the best thermal insulator we've actually used is called air gap. So if we have a hot tube, we actually wrap a polymer on the outside, and the static air pressure inside acts as an insulator.

Stephen LaMarca: Like a heat pipe if you would because that has just air in it and a little bit of vapor.

Benjamin Moses: Exactly. But this is the ... It takes the air itself as a gas has a really, really low thermal conductivity so they've used gases like that to prevent or as an insulator. But they have this new material that allows it to get down to 0.1 Watts kelvin per meter. So apologize for the note. So okay. So the thermal conductivity coefficient tells you how fast things are. It can transmit. So they developed a thing at 0.1. So for reference, aluminum has a coefficient of 239, right.

Stephen LaMarca: But that's using the heat sinks.

Benjamin Moses: But aluminum was meant ...It's used as a heat sink. It's meant to transmit heat. But Inconel, a little more robust has a connectivity of 15.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, wow. I didn't know that Inconel was that low.

Benjamin Moses: It's pretty low. And then you get it to the gases and then it's more along the scale. So the idea-

Stephen LaMarca: How about ceramic? Did you have ... Do you have an-

Benjamin Moses: I mean, at my computer I do.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay.

Benjamin Moses: I don't have it right here.

Stephen LaMarca: Damn.

Benjamin Moses: But it's pretty low. But I'm assuming ... I mean, they have the lowest record so it's got to be higher than that, right. So ceramics are ideal, right. They're a great insulator, right. You see them in aerospace a lot, on turbines, and other applications where they're super hot, but you don't want to melt that material operating condition higher than the melting point of the materials.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: So there are ceramic coatings that protect that. But this is better than that. And it's very important because in a lot of applications, like consumer applications. Let's talk about computers, and phones, and things like that. This device that heat up, and you don't want that heat transmitted into your body or into other devices, you can control that, right. So the parallel-

Stephen LaMarca: But you also want it to ventilate.

Benjamin Moses: So okay, that's fair. But there are the scenarios in consumer applications or industrial applications. So let's get back to aerospace. I've got a jet engine, I want to operate at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hotter than most material will melt at, or the strength will degrade so quickly at that temperature it's basically Play-Doh at that point. But if I apply this coding or this material as a coding and has such a low thermal conductivity, I don't have a thick material to prevent this thing from melting. Now, we could apply this to directly on turbines. I can put this on fans. I can put these and other hot elements that I can maybe go instead of using Inconel or some hassle or some super high strength, high temperature resistance, maybe I can go to a high strength stainless or things like that where you can start doing more economical materials as opposed to using the high, high, superalloys.

Stephen LaMarca: The other cool thing about this is, as a coding or even a shield, you can use it too ... You'll be able to use it to keep high heat in one thing.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And keep that heat from bleeding out into other things.

Benjamin Moses: Right, right.

Stephen LaMarca: So in an engine, in your exhaust pipes, you actually want your exhaust gases to be as hot as possible.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Because the higher heat ... The more heat that's in those exhaust gases, the further apart the molecules are spaced and the faster those molecules are moving. And, obviously, the faster they're moving means the more quickly that gas is going to escape the engine and escape the vehicle.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Go out the tailpipe. You're going to get higher flow. And that's why you want to keep as much heat in the exhaust gases as possible. You also want heat in your exhaust gases to keep your catalytic converter. If you're running gas, you want to keep your catalytic converters as high ... As hot as possible because the hotter the catalytic converter is the more efficient and cleaner it is. So there's that. Also, I mentioned Car and Driver at the beginning of this before you introduced what we were talking about because when I was an undergrad I remember geeking out about ... BMW was experimenting with let's get rid of the belt-driven alternator entirely.

Benjamin Moses: Fore sure.

Stephen LaMarca: Let's convert the heat from exhaust gases into electricity.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, cool.

Stephen LaMarca: This is not a new concept. There are ... Is it a metamaterial or is it ... There are materials that can take high temperatures. Can take heat and convert it into electricity.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And BMW wanted to wrap one of these around like a catalytic converter and be like, "Oh, this is not just a cat anymore, now it's also the car's alternator." The problem is they couldn't get enough heat out of the engine.

Benjamin Moses: Got you.

Stephen LaMarca: It was because the heat would simply ... You get to a certain point of exhaust gas temperatures that not only are you melting stuff like 02 sensors and air oxygen sensors, but the heat is too high for your heat shields to keep it in.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: So it just it wasn't effective. This may reintroduce that ... That test, those experiments by BMW were mothballed, they were shelved. And with this new material which is awesome, they could be like "Oh, it's time to start working on this again because now we've got a means to do this." But also, I mentioned you want your ...

Another reason why you want this coding is you want as much heat as possible in your exhaust gases but you do not want that heat bleeding into the rest of your engine because then you have your cooling attempts going up, you have your oil temps going up, and then those are degrading because they can't do their job as well as they can because now the heat's going too high. So this, something like this, will allow the exhaust gases. If you coat your exhaust pipes in this, it will allow the heat to stay in and not just stay in but also increase. Because if it's good enough of an insulator it will help the temperatures get higher than they normally would be on their own. And you're keeping all that heat out of other components that you don't want to get hot.

Benjamin Moses: Definitely. And that's underlying the takeaway on nerding out on this new material is that if their own management is all about keeping things that you want hot, hot, and keeping those you want cool, cool. And it's keeping them separated, right.

Stephen LaMarca: Because you get higher performance by keeping some things hotter and you get better durability by keeping other things colder.

Benjamin Moses: Definitely.

Stephen LaMarca: The problem is all of those components are really close to each other. So if you have something like this to separate them and it's really effective, then people like us get real giddy.

Benjamin Moses: Definitely. And I'm wanting applications of, can I put this on a insert? Can I put this on a cutter?

Stephen LaMarca: Can I put it on a header?

Benjamin Moses: Can I do this myself? Can I ... I think there's industrial applications. This could be a consumable where-

Stephen LaMarca: And if you put the same metamaterial that I mentioned that converts heat into electricity, you put that on a phone-

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: And then you put that ... This material on the phone, not only will your phone feel as hot when you're working it really hard but it will keep that heat in the phone, which if you separate it properly because you don't ... Obviously, you don't want some components of the phone getting hot, but you do want this metamaterial that converts heat into electricity, You want that getting hot. You put this coating around that, we could have phones that have a lot longer battery life without even improving the battery.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: It's just thermal management.

Benjamin Moses: Also man, I'm glad we geeked out about low thermal conductivity materials. It's been a while. I had to do some research on this. It was fun.

Stephen LaMarca: I do want to see ... I will be looking up after this the comparison of 0.1, this-

Benjamin Moses: 0.1.

Stephen LaMarca: That this material is. 0.1 to what is the equivalent of ceramic coating?

Benjamin Moses: Definitely.

Stephen LaMarca: But 15 Inconel was 15. That's incredible.

Benjamin Moses: That's not bad.

Stephen LaMarca: Wild.

Benjamin Moses: Where can they find more info about us, Steve?

Stephen LaMarca: AMTonline.org/resources. You can subscribe to the weekly tech report there and you can also see what our other previous podcast episodes were.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Go watch the Olympics.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay, bye.

Benjamin Moses: Bye.

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Benjamin Moses
Director, Manufacturing Technology
Recent technology News
Ben and Steve wrap up their thoughts on the Tokyo Olympics. Stephen starts a discussion with Benjamin regarding “made in the USA.” Ben transitions to cybersecurity and cyber-physical attacks on the manufacturing industry.
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.
Episode 52: Stephen tears off into a rant about self-checkout and how without it we wouldn’t have curbside pickup at grocery stores. Benjamin shares some vehicle performance data from his recent road trip to Tail of the Dragon. Ben then introduces ...
Episode 51: Ben and Steve share their pre-college manufacturing and tradecraft education and experiences. Stephen claims Boston is the new Switzerland in terms of precision manufacturing. Benjamin talks about the precision of manufacturing electric...
Episode 50: Ben and Steve are excited to be going back to the office soon! Benjamin tries to open with an article on printing crack-free tungsten, but Steve keeps interrupting with random facts about one of his favorite elements. Stephen compares Tesla...
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