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Ben and Steve are excited to go to Automate! Stephen talks about his trip filming in Detroit and the rental car he drove. Benjamin loves clamps but thinks Nano Dimension’s takeover bid for Stratasys isn’t cool ...
Mar 24, 2023

Episode 91: Ben and Steve are excited to go to Automate! Stephen talks about his trip filming in Detroit and the rental car he drove. Benjamin loves clamps but thinks Nano Dimension’s takeover bid for Stratasys isn’t cool. Steve closes with thoughts on companies failing to play nice and follow the rules.

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Produced by Ramia Lloyd


Benjamin Moses:          Hello everyone. Welcome to the AMT Tech Trans podcast where we'll discuss the latest manufacturing technology, research and news. Today's episode is sponsored by the MFG Conference and I am the director of technology, Benjamin Moses here with-

Stephen LaMarca:         Steven LaMarca, technology analyst.

Benjamin Moses:          Steve, how you doing today?

Stephen LaMarca:         Incredible. What a buttery smooth intro, Ben.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah?

Stephen LaMarca:         That was perfect.

Benjamin Moses:          Thanks man. I appreciate that.

Stephen LaMarca:         Not only that, but it also took me off guard too.

Benjamin Moses:          We're having a pre-game banter, pre-game giggles.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's the best.

Benjamin Moses:          I enjoy our prep. It's a lot of fun.

Stephen LaMarca:         Now we have traffic.

Benjamin Moses:          Steve.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yes sir.

Benjamin Moses:          Tell me about Detroit.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay, so I finally got to go on my rescheduled trip to Detroit for a Road Tripping with Steve, season three. This is technically the fourth season because we did mini season for ... Actually it wasn't mini, it was like a full on season.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         But we did a special season for IMTS.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         But season three in Detroit, the underlying theme that we didn't quite like, we don't advertise that it's like an automation season, but it was basically the automation season. Automation and robotic season. And I say that because the four places that we went to, one of which might not be a season three episode, it might be a premier episode rolling into next year and season four, but I'll mention them anyway. But all four places that we visited, Stellantis, Kawasaki Robotics, Lyft, a manufacturing institute. And lastly, but certainly not leastly, Fanuc.

Benjamin Moses:          All your favorites.

Stephen LaMarca:         A lot of my favorites.

Benjamin Moses:          Except for Stellantis.

Stephen LaMarca:         So, okay. Here's the really beautiful thing about that. Going into this trip, I was like, of all of the big three, the American automotive manufacturers, I got into Stellantis. I'm not a Mopar. I respect Mopar-

Benjamin Moses:          I was going to buy a Mopar.

Stephen LaMarca:         ... but I'm not ... you were going to buy a Mopar. That's right, and then their dealership network is junk.

Benjamin Moses:          It's junk, yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         Talking to them, they were like, yeah, we have to slap the wrists of our dealerships a lot. It was so relieving hearing that.

Benjamin Moses:          Definitely.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because even the employees that build the cars, they get an employee discount-

Benjamin Moses:          And they can't buy them.

Stephen LaMarca:         ... and it's substantial. Then they get put on a waiting list because they can't buy them right away. It's really cool. They also get notified from the company when their VIN comes up.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, that's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         And it's like this VIN is yours. This is your baby. This number exists before any component of the car does. But anyway, even them, they struggle. They get the notification. They saw their car get built. It still has to go to a dealership. The dealership, apparently for a lot of the employees, tries to slap on a premium. It was like, no, you can't do this.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         Number one, you're not supposed to do that to anybody. Number two, you're definitely not doing that to one of the people that literally saw this car get built.

Benjamin Moses:          I know this is automation special, so tell me more about that.

Stephen LaMarca:         I would say it was an automation special. The only one that wasn't purely automation ... well Fanuc wasn't purely automation either.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         The only one that was purely automation was Kawasaki. But I even talked about the parts of Kawasaki heavy industries that isn't robotics.

Benjamin Moses:          Can you share a little info from the recording about the technology that you saw?

Stephen LaMarca:         Yes. Oh absolutely. So, all right. Let me get back to Stellantis though. Went into that trip like I'm not a Mopar guy, but I came out of that visit ... I could buy a Dodge Durango or Jeep Grand Cherokee today.

Benjamin Moses:          That's great.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because I've seen it. I've seen it built. I had candid conversations on and off camera with the employees that not only build, but inspect and do the quality control on these vehicles. I'm like, I could trust this vehicle. What was really fun was, even though a lot of them were ... The guy that was leading me around the facility and introducing me to the other people that would be on camera with me, he was like, "Do you want to go to where the engines come in?" I'm like, "Yeah."

Benjamin Moses:          Of course.

Stephen LaMarca:         He was like, "Well, I can't take you to where they mate the engines with the transmissions, but I'll take you to the part of the assembly plant where the engines are literally put on the conveyor belt and come into the building."

Benjamin Moses:          Cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         So it was just like, yeah, just tell me about ... you know more about these engines than I do. We were probably one in 100 of those Pentastar V6, which is a great engine by the way ... Most of the engines that go into the assembly plant are Pentastar V6s, I think with 3.6 liter.

Benjamin Moses:          That sounds about right.

Stephen LaMarca:         V6. That's their, not base model ... it is their base model.

Benjamin Moses:          That's their bread and butter.

Stephen LaMarca:         That's their bread and butter engine, and it's a very high performing engine for just being a little V6. But one in a hundred engines is like a Hemi or Hemi V8, or the one of their smaller V8s. I say smaller, it's still a 5.7, but it just doesn't have the orange painted block to signify that it's Hemi. But they told me I was super lucky because not only did I see a Hell Cat engine.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh man.

Stephen LaMarca:         The 6.2 liter.

Benjamin Moses:          Supercharged.

Stephen LaMarca:         Supercharged 707 horsepower engine go through the assembly line. I saw another Hellcat motor in I think a Dodge Durango SRT track hawk or whatever they call them. I don't know if it was a Durango or a Grand Cherokee.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Saw it roll off the line.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow. Those are rare.

Stephen LaMarca:         My contact who's taking me through the plant is like, "Hey, when you start that up to drive it off the line, do us a favor, give it a little gas in neutral." The guy didn't, but it's okay. I got to hear the burbles.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         I got to hear the purrs of this car. This amazing car. It's first eye-opening hello world in into our lives. I got to hear that things first burbles in an assembled vehicle.

Benjamin Moses:          That's such a fun experience. I'm glad you saw those engines.

Stephen LaMarca:         Outside of the car geek thing, yes, I've been turned converted to a Mopar. I still Chevy and Ford and all of them, but I have my respect for Stellantis now.

Benjamin Moses:          To be fair, the current state of engines are pretty amazing.

Stephen LaMarca:         They are, yeah. You really can't go wrong with any of them today.

Benjamin Moses:          You can't go wrong.

Stephen LaMarca:         But this was my first time at a automotive production plant.

Benjamin Moses:          Cool. It's fun to see how big that plant is too though.

Stephen LaMarca:         Like I said, I also went to Fanuc and Kawasaki and they had more robots, but some of them were demo. Some of them were testing for quality control and stuff. Some of them were being fitted with aftermarket parts that customers requested.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep. That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         Then most of them were wrapped up getting ready to ship out at both Kawasaki and Fanuc. But Stellantis, not as many robots, but they had more than 900 robots in the plant that I was in, and 10 robots per person.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         10 robots per person in a plant that more has more than 900 robots that are all working, by the way, not aren't packaged up, but are actually plugged in and moving and doing things, you don't notice the people.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         It may as well be ... I don't even know why they have lights on.

Benjamin Moses:          Well, to be fair, so they're probably using industrial robots. So the humans have to be outside that space. So you're probably not going to see that, but I agree with you in terms of when you walk around the facility, you're not going to see any human interactions in that type of factory. That's really interesting.

Stephen LaMarca:         It was so cool. But when you did see the people, everybody there knows everybody.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         We hear from a lot of companies that say, oh, one of the greatest things about our company is our company culture. If your CEO has to say that on camera or at a keynote speaker, it might be true.

Benjamin Moses:          It might be. That's questionable.

Stephen LaMarca:         If the company doesn't say it and some of their workers be like, yeah, this is my brother right here. I know my fellow coworkers, I know my fellow workers at the Stellantis, Jefferson North Assembly plant better than I do my own family.

Benjamin Moses:          There's two sides of that.

Stephen LaMarca:         I take them for it. It was a beautiful thing. I've never seen company culture like that.

Benjamin Moses:          It's cool to bring in the family and to have the trust so you know that hey cousin, come help work in this company. It's cool. But also that-

Stephen LaMarca:         They weren't literal brothers. They were brothers in the company.

Benjamin Moses:          I see what you mean.

Stephen LaMarca:         They were brothers in the company.

Benjamin Moses:          I got you.

Stephen LaMarca:         It was incredible.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool to see. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         They actually were family there working at Stellantis.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's just like if your boss, anybody, any of our listeners, if your boss ever says something like, you'll never find another company that has this kind of great company culture, they're lying. It's out there. Probably not just at Stellantis, but give Stellantis a look.

Benjamin Moses:          That's hard for a big company too.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's incredible.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool to see.

Stephen LaMarca:         It was so cool. They welcomed me. That was so much fun. They were like, look at him. They were laughing at me because I was getting so excited, drooling over this Hellcat motor. So that was a big deal. That was the biggest deal for Stellantis for me, was their company culture.

Benjamin Moses:          Cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         Fanuc is a rite of passage.

Benjamin Moses:          Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca:         Visiting them, it's funny, John Tuy was my point of contact who was showing me around there. He's like, "I've only worked at Fanuc for six years, but I've been visiting this facility for 30 years."

Benjamin Moses:          Wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         It was just so cool. I got to come home with some model robots. Which again, I feel like that's a rite of passage because a lot of the old heads around here at AMT, you see plastic Fanuc robot arms on their desk. They had them and now I got them too. I'm kind of pumped about that.

Benjamin Moses:          Tell me about Lyft. I enjoy Lyft. Oh, go ahead.

Stephen LaMarca:         I'm just checking my notes right now because I don't want to forget anything. Yeah, so let's go into Lyft next.

Benjamin Moses:          You want me to describe it?

Stephen LaMarca:         Manufacturing USA Institute?

Benjamin Moses:          You got it.

Stephen LaMarca:         Describe them.

Benjamin Moses:          Okay. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Tell me what I'm going to miss out on, because I'm probably not going to describe them to their best.

Benjamin Moses:          So background, they're a public private partnership and their goal is to forward the advancement of lightweight materials across the board. So it doesn't matter. When someone talks about lightweight materials, they immediately go to aerospace, which is partially true, but they're in Detroit and their goal is to look at that across the entire board. So they have material sciences underneath their belt. They've got manufacturing processes. They've got a bunch of different disciplines underneath the institute where the goal is to ... Let's talk about a car. If you maintain the same power but reduce the weight, you automatically increases efficiency. You need less power to push it along or to accelerate, things like that. So the underlying goal is for a lot of these institutes, depending on what department of government they're under to help improve the efficiency or reduce energy usage across the board. So that's my basic understanding of Lyft, but tell me about your experience.

Stephen LaMarca:         Is Lyft actually the Light weighting Institute?

Benjamin Moses:          It is.

Stephen LaMarca:         They are?

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay. So they do so much more just beyond. They definitely were involved with certainly lightweight materials and a lot of material science.

Benjamin Moses:          A lot of material science.

Stephen LaMarca:         Including ICME.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         I was shown around the facility by ... this is my second time there by the way. I was shown around the facility by two PhDs who were the best people ever.

Benjamin Moses:          Cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because they didn't make me feel like a total dumb, dumb.

Benjamin Moses:          Nice.

Stephen LaMarca:         They actually made me feel like an equal. It was really nice. I'm definitely not.

Benjamin Moses:          Those are the best PhDs.

Stephen LaMarca:         They really are. So Lyft is cool because they do everything involving manufacturing, not just Light weighting. I guess Light weighting is their focus because making stuff lightweight is almost the first target that you go for when advancing a technology is make it lighter.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         As Colin Chapman said, simplify and add lightness. But they do everything manufacturing related under the moon from education to DOD contracts. So the type of people that they work with, and they have come through there, are elementary students all the way up to people who want to reenter the manufacturing industry and want to get involved or want to get taught on how to manually weld or program an automation cell or even an additive machine or work on developing a new alloy for a particular application. They do all of the things.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         I got to see all of that.

Benjamin Moses:          Nice.

Stephen LaMarca:         What was really fun about that visit, I've still never welded before, but I've finally done my first two passes virtually welded.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, that's fun.

Stephen LaMarca:         I got to say I did pretty well. I don't think I would do as well with an actual welder because, as real as it felt, I didn't feel the heat and I could put my hand virtually anywhere and I wasn't wearing all the protected ... I was wearing that mask, but I wasn't wearing gloves.

Benjamin Moses:          Well the mask has-

Stephen LaMarca:         I was like, this would definitely do a lot. I would not be doing as well if I had all of the PPE on and if it was in a louder, darker environment, but I got the concept down, which was cool.

Benjamin Moses:          Good. I think you're getting the basics of welding because it's partial science and partial art because a human involved in that process. So when you get the chance to step up to some-

Stephen LaMarca:         I would love to actually weld because I would even say it requires even more talent than art. Not to say that artists don't have talent, but if you compare to a painter, a painter gets to use some really serious talent to just collect their brush strokes in a way to create a masterpiece. Welders do the same thing, but with a lot of really annoying PPE on to protect them from really dangerous high voltage equipment.

Benjamin Moses:          So there's the voltage plus the UV light that's super dangerous.

Stephen LaMarca:         Oh yeah. If you smell toast, you're going blind. So there's that whole part.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah. Then there's some automation that helps you in that process, but there's a lot of manual. So I do love seeing on Instagram, all the nice welds people do, but also at the same time the bad welds people do.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah. Learning how to weld, doing that virtual weld, even had an AR aspect to it to tell me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         While making the past. I also got to operate a robot, and I was told that everything that you just did elementary school students do. And if they are really good at their class, not just elementary school but middle school, high school students. If they do these classes really well and they get high enough mark, they can come back here and program a manufacturing cell for real.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow. Fascinating.

Stephen LaMarca:         Got to program a robot, mentioned that. Oh, then if you mix welding with a robot and not just for a robot welding, but welding is essentially metal additive manually done.

Benjamin Moses:          Or the other way around.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          That's fine. I follow your logic though.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay. They did a lot with that too. So they had a robot cell with two Fanuc arms, welding material on top of each other. They told me they were doing that to study the integrity, the internal porosity or lack thereof and just the integrity of the metal that they were laying down in their simulate to help bolster and supplement their digital twin simulation on creating new [inaudible 00:17:18], their ICME.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Then it got to the really fun part of that. They showed me a mass spectrometer, the mass spectrometer they have. I got to use a mass spectrometer in college and it was pain in the butt. The machine itself was probably half the size of this room.

Benjamin Moses:          That's a big guy.

Stephen LaMarca:         Before just throwing in ... you don't just throw in material and be like, tell me what's in there.

Benjamin Moses:          Nope, so much prep.

Stephen LaMarca:         You got to grind whatever your material is down into powder, then press it into a pellet, and then they zap a laser through it and then plug in oscilloscope, and you need to calibrate the oscilloscope and line up all of the peaks with the photo spectrum coming through your pellet that has a laser blasting through it and line those peaks up with the atomic numbers of the elements that are potentially in your sample.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep, very manual process.

Stephen LaMarca:         Super manual process. This new machine made it look so easy. It was like, because I was trained or I learned how to use them, an old junkie one in college, I looked at this thing and I felt ... I'm not going to lie. This is a feel good moment. I was like, I knew exactly the information that this machine was spitting out.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         It was a great time.

Benjamin Moses:          Good.

Stephen LaMarca:         I felt really smart going to Lyft.

Benjamin Moses:          That was a solid week.

Stephen LaMarca:         Not in the same way that you feel smart when you go to Walmart. Like the opposite of that.

Benjamin Moses:          That's funny because I've been shopping a lot of Walmart. So before we transition-

Stephen LaMarca:         Then there's Kawasaki. What?

Benjamin Moses:          Before we transition out, what did you drive in Detroit.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay. All right.

Benjamin Moses:          That's important.

Stephen LaMarca:         This was important because when we originally booked the flight, or when we were originally setting everything up, we're like, we're visiting Stellantis. So that's Mopar. We need to get a Mopar vehicle.

Benjamin Moses:          Correct.

Stephen LaMarca:         Dude, rental car companies will do what rental car companies do and they don't know what the word reservation means.

Benjamin Moses:          Nope.

Stephen LaMarca:         So we were supposed to get a Chrysler Town and Country, arguably one of the best minivans on the market.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         When we get there, they were like, "Yeah, we don't have a minivan for you, so we're going to have to give you a mid-size SUV." My film crew director John was like, "Absolutely not. Do you realize how much camera gear we have?"

Benjamin Moses:          Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         That's not going to fit in there.

Benjamin Moses:          No.

Stephen LaMarca:         You're going to be able to get a driver and nobody else because the rest of the space is going to ... we need something big. We need a van. It's like, "I don't know what to tell you. We don't have any vans." Then you need to give us a full size body on frame SUV.

Benjamin Moses:          One of the big guys.

Stephen LaMarca:         And charge us for a van.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because we didn't want the glamour of an SUV. We wanted the space of a van, and the upcharge difference between an SUV and a van is only because the soccer moms need their suburban assault vehicle to raid the soccer field.

Benjamin Moses:          Also, it's tradition to have a van on Road Trip With Steve.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yes, it's supposed to be a van. So I'm just trying to get that of way in case Stellantis is listening. It was supposed to be a Chrysler Town and Country. Ended up being a Chevy Suburban, brand new Chevy Suburban. Now I got to give them credit, Chevy, not Enterprise or the rental car company. The new Chevy Suburban's really nice.

Benjamin Moses:          You had a good time in the Suburban?

Stephen LaMarca:         It was a really nice vehicle. So I'm used to German and American cars. Everybody thinks German cars are super nice, which a lot of them are. But the one thing I can't get over, if the dashboard, a component that you're never supposed to put your hand on, if the dashboard is hard plastic-

Benjamin Moses:          You're not a fan of that.

Stephen LaMarca:         That's gross. I know nobody ever touches it, but make it something nice. Suburban, leather wrapped.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh.

Stephen LaMarca:         My car, which is a cheap car, has soft touch plastic at least. It feels like foam. It pushes in and it's like memory foam.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         Suburban was leather wrapped dash.

Benjamin Moses:          That's fun.

Stephen LaMarca:         That was pretty nice. But even better, the best thing about the suburban-

Benjamin Moses:          All the space.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because I had heard it and I think I'd seen it before, but I had to shove my head under the rear end of the vehicle to see it for myself. Fully independent rear suspension.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, that's new.

Stephen LaMarca:         In a body on frame. SUV.

Benjamin Moses:          That's good.

Stephen LaMarca:         How wild is that?

Benjamin Moses:          That's probably why it made it such a fun ride then.

Stephen LaMarca:         Great. It handled really well. You could feel that it was a quality built vehicle.

Benjamin Moses:          Nice.

Stephen LaMarca:         But it should have been a Stellantis vehicle. It should have been a Wagoner or something.

Benjamin Moses:          Steve, let's move on to our sponsor. Can you tell us more about it?

Stephen LaMarca:         You going to talk about Kawasaki after the sponsor?

Benjamin Moses:          After the sponsor.

Stephen LaMarca:         All right. Swear to God. I'll talk about Kawasaki after this sponsor. The MFG conference. Manufacturing continues to grow at a rapid rate. Stay ahead of the curve at the MFG meeting this April. The MFG meeting is the ultimate gathering of manufacturing technology minds bringing together a community of solutions and solvers. Learn how to keep pace with the growing demand, make lifelong connections and see what opportunities lie on the horizon. Go to AMTonline.org/events to register. MFG, Manufacturing for growth.

Benjamin Moses:          Thanks Steve. Tell me about Kawasaki.

Stephen LaMarca:         Kawasaki Robotics was the last stop in the trip. My favorite thing about Kawasaki, even though I am a Kawasaki fanboy, so I'm already going to fan girl all over them. I'm going to try to keep that bias out. The best thing hands down about Kawasaki, they gave us full creative freedom.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         We didn't have a handler following us around to be like, "Oh, can you not talk about that? Can you not mention this?" They let us do whatever we want. They were even very supportive and like, "Ooh, you should do this shot. It would actually be really funny."

Benjamin Moses:          Cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         So our intro to going to Kawasaki Robotics, we made it seem like I snuck into the facility and I got lost in their warehouse of all of their robots.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, that's fun.

Stephen LaMarca:         So just like Fanuc, they have an entire warehouse of all of the robots that are packaged up and ready to ship out. I got to walk through that part of the facility. I got to walk through that warehouse and I pretended to be lost. I was like, "Hello, is anybody there?" It was all scripted, but somebody yells, "Hey, you're not supposed to be in here."

                                    Then we cut it and the next scene cuts to I'm locked in one of those cages that they put valuables and whatnot. So I'm actually locked up on camera and the door was ... you were able to open it. But it's just really fun. But the best part about that ... I just said that was the best part. The next best part to Kawasaki was their engineer, Brooke. Talking to her was fascinating, but she's a fellow physics major too.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow. That's fun.

Stephen LaMarca:         We got a perfect high five on camera and then we did it twice because they're like, there's no way we just did a perfect high five with one take. So we did it again, another perfect high five.

Benjamin Moses:          Refutable.

Stephen LaMarca:         Anyway, she takes me over to this massive robot arm, bigger than the robot arm that swings around the Corvette at IMTS.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         Kawasaki, their MH15T maybe?

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         I don't know. I don't know the model numbers. It was a 1500 kilogram rated payload robot arm.

Benjamin Moses:          That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         She taught me how to operate it. I got to operate it on camera.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         I was moving it at max speed, which is still pretty slow.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         But it's probably slow because that thing moving is probably so many million newtons of force or whatever. Not really millions.

Benjamin Moses:          Very strong.

Stephen LaMarca:         So much force. For crying out loud, she hands me-

Benjamin Moses:          The pendant.

Stephen LaMarca:         ... the learning pendant, the teaching pendant, and there's two E stops. One on the pendant, one on the controller. We got to deactivate them simultaneously. Then she shows me how to send power to the arm. You have to do it in a special way and then there's a dead man switch on the pendant that you need. You need to apply pressure to it just right. You apply too much and it thinks you're being crushed and you're having a convulsion.

Benjamin Moses:          Wow.

Stephen LaMarca:         So it cuts power. If you let go, it thinks you're dead, so it cuts power. So you got to give it just enough power. It was so cool.

Benjamin Moses:          I do really appreciate layers of safety for equipment.

Stephen LaMarca:         Oh yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          Thought out safety. That's interesting, cool.

Stephen LaMarca:         There was a process. It was a simple process if you're competent, but process of enough that some teenager just wandering into factory can't just start crushing things with the robot.

Benjamin Moses:          They can't figure it out. Awesome, Steve.

Stephen LaMarca:         Really cool.

Benjamin Moses:          That sounds like a heck of a whirlwind.

Stephen LaMarca:         I think it's going to be the best season yet.

Benjamin Moses:          What?

Stephen LaMarca:         I'm serious. I'm not just saying that to to pump numbers up.

Benjamin Moses:          It also gets better and better every year, to be honest. So next year-

Stephen LaMarca:         I don't know, episode one, season one, still my favorite of all time.

Benjamin Moses:          The intro for that season is still pretty-

Stephen LaMarca:         Oh, intro to season two? Yeah, you're right.

Benjamin Moses:          Steve, let's get in some articles.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yes sir.

Benjamin Moses:          I've got one on clamping technology supports high-end parts production. I do like the pun in there.

Stephen LaMarca:         Tell me about clamp.

Benjamin Moses:          The reason I'm bringing this up is it's a call back to when I was a manufacturing engineer and in this week's tech report or one of the tech reports I wrote previously, I was talking about whole technology and how important-

Stephen LaMarca:         Dude, I saw that.

Benjamin Moses:          ... keeping track of your drill bits and keep an eye on holes and stuff like that.

Stephen LaMarca:         Perfect hole.

Benjamin Moses:          It's important, but clamps are pretty important too on your factory. The reason I bring that up is we had some flexible clamps. So the way it improves their throughput is it helped us reduce setup times to go to the newer technologies. So going from flexible systems to quick release clamps or single minute exchange helps us significantly because one of the things we did was getting the machine to align to the clamp properly. So if it's repeatable ... We had to do a lot of manual offsets to get to that state, but if you change the setup around, so you just drop it in basically and then verify, that helped a lot.

We also included runtime. So we would actually do a setup and then put a block of aluminum and then test it out, make sure everything was aligned through that aluminum, and then get to the real part because we're machining high nickel materials, which are very expensive at that time.

Stephen LaMarca:         Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          So the article hits on a couple of key elements here. Cycle times achieved with modern clamping. So they go over the concept of-

Stephen LaMarca:         Are they hydraulically or pneumatically actuated?

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah, exactly.

Stephen LaMarca:         Cool.

Benjamin Moses:          So it's referred to single point, or let me find the term here. Zero clamp technologies.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay.

Benjamin Moses:          So instead of traditionally you would put a piece of block and either hold it on side or hold it on the top and press down. Normally you hold it on the top and press down. You use some toe clamps or something like that, but that limits your exposure on the face. You have to worry about the toe clamps and machine around it.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yep.

Benjamin Moses:          So zero point is you're restraining on the backside, so your entire machine surface is accessible.

Stephen LaMarca:         So it's like vacuum?

Benjamin Moses:          We'll get into that in a second.

Stephen LaMarca:         Okay.

Benjamin Moses:          So there's a couple of ways around that. So if you have a big casting and only a machine, like certain features, you can theoretically use toe clamps, but not in places where you're going to machine. So you can get around that. But in the article, they talk about using a hydraulic or pneumatic actuated fixtures. So a lot of the ones that you've seen have a retention knob on the backside that you actually put into the part and then you'll put it into this clamp that will also position and provide the clamping force. So you're holding on the part on the backside.

Stephen LaMarca:         Fascinating.

Benjamin Moses:          So the article covers a couple of different scenarios, but it talks about how important it is to get to zero point clamping to help improve your setup time, but it improves your machine legalization because you can get past your setup very quickly, changing your dyes or changing your fixtures quickly.

Stephen LaMarca:         Right.

Benjamin Moses:          So there's two ways to look at it. One is being able to use zero clamp features to put your fixture on. So that helps set up time. And then you're obviously changing the parts out or you are using the zero clamp as your fixture. So there's a lot of nuances there.

Stephen LaMarca:         Is it fair to assume that not only does it help your setup time, but it also increases the capability of what you can do with your machine?

Benjamin Moses:          Potentially, yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         The way you're describing this, and I'm thinking about my experience with the pocket NC, one of the reasons why we love the pocket NC so much is because it's five axis. Even though I don't necessarily do five axis machining all of the time, if at all barely, I mostly use all five axis for positioning and moving the part around to make cutting or removing material from various areas easier without having to refixture.

Benjamin Moses:          Exactly.

Stephen LaMarca:         With zero point clamping, you're telling me there's even less of a need to refixture.

Benjamin Moses:          Exactly.

Stephen LaMarca:         So you could, in theory with a three axis machine and zero point clamping or maybe four axis, you could reach all of the areas you would need or be able to with a five access but not zero clamp technology. Do you hear what I'm saying? Does that make sense at all?

Benjamin Moses:          You use the word refixture, that's where the benefit is.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah. Refixturing sucks.

Benjamin Moses:          You basically want access to all the machinable surfaces. So that's a key takeaway.

Stephen LaMarca:         Gotcha.

Benjamin Moses:          It allows the flexibility and, to your point, it allows you to design your manufacturing process so you can be very specific about if you want one machine to do all the features or break it up to have several machines break up the process.

Stephen LaMarca:         Cool. I guess the really only the risk and concern is it as strong as like a table vice.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, let's get into that. So they do have a couple of numbers. So they do go with the scenario of the type of parts that they're using. So they do mention the repeatability of using these clamps. So if you're using it as a part holding device or as a fixture, they talk about using it within repeatability within five microns, which is not bad.

Stephen LaMarca:         Pretty good.

Benjamin Moses:          Being able to [inaudible 00:31:32], and plus the restraining force, they're talking about 25 kilo newtons. Again, it's clamping force, you're bringing it down and it does depend on the knob and the setup, but in terms of being able to hold a part down ... and you're probably going to have a couple of these fixtures so the part doesn't twist and things like that. But in terms of capability, these are fairly robust tools and a lot of them will have a normally off position. So if you lose hydraulics or lose pressure, the cramping force is still restrained.

Stephen LaMarca:         Gotcha. You haven't lost it.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah, exactly.

Stephen LaMarca:         Very cool.

Benjamin Moses:          It's a very good article and definitely worth looking at in terms of how you can be more efficient with your fraction floor. It doesn't require, obviously a commitment towards it, but it's definitely beneficial.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah. That was the main reason we wanted to upgrade Pocket NC versions of the Pocket NC. Wasn't for an extra access, wasn't for higher spindle rpm, even though that would be nice. It was for work holding.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because work holding is will make or break, not just an operation, a product line.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah, absolutely. 100%.

Stephen LaMarca:         That's awesome.

Benjamin Moses:          Steve, I got one more, then I want to get to your article. So this is big in terms of dollars and it's interesting perspective. So Nano Dimension launches a 1.1 billion takeover bid for Stratasys. This has been going through my feed quite a bit and I need your help to kind-

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah, how could it not be?

Benjamin Moses:          Stratasys' big Nano Dimension.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah. They're one of the OGs of additive in the manufacturing industry.

Benjamin Moses:          Can you give me a little background on Nano Dimension?

Stephen LaMarca:         So Stratasys and Nano Dimension, two Israeli companies. Stratasys, like I said, OG when it comes to additive, industrial additive. They mostly work with nylon.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         So polymer additive, but you can't disregard all of the progress that they've made for other companies to come out in the industry. So they're very prestigious and have a high pedigree in additive companies.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         Nano Dimension is a-

Benjamin Moses:          Not quite startup. They're young, youthful.

Stephen LaMarca:         They're young in the sense that my fellow millennials that live in New York are trust fund babies.

Benjamin Moses:          Okay, gotcha.

Stephen LaMarca:         They did not earn their loft that they have in Manhattan. Mommy and Daddy bought it for them.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Nano Dimension is sitting on a ton of money that they need a synonym for swindle, cheated, conned.

Benjamin Moses:          Took.

Stephen LaMarca:         They were able to acquire a lot of funds from VCs. They're sitting on a healthy pillow, bolster if you would, of cash and have used this cash to buy up a lot of companies that they've deemed promising in the additive industry and haven't really done anything with any of it.

Benjamin Moses:          [inaudible 00:34:56].

Stephen LaMarca:         Haven't really done anything with all the money that they're sitting on. Haven't really done anything with the companies that they've bought.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Just, Hey, we've got a lot of money. We've got all of these companies. I don't know what they do. They seem pretty cool, but they belong to us. Look at all my stuff. Look at all my stuff.

Benjamin Moses:          I feel like the Collector in the Marvel universe.

Stephen LaMarca:         This is all my stuff. I own this. I earned this.

Benjamin Moses:          Now they want to spend a billion dollars.

Stephen LaMarca:         The money that mommy and daddy VC gave me, now they're trying to buy Stratasys. Other companies, if not Stratasys, have told them, Hey, don't just attempt to buy a big steak in us without consulting us first.

Benjamin Moses:          Oh, they're doing hostile. Out of the blue.

Stephen LaMarca:         You don't just do that. Well, kind of, sort of. They've done something like that in the past.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure, it's fine business stack.

Stephen LaMarca:         Right now, Nano Dimension ... anyway, let's forget what they're doing because I don't exactly know what they're doing. Nobody does. I'm confident, I'm very confident they don't even know what they're doing. But their stockholders, their shareholders are like, this needs to stop. You've taken our money. We don't know what you're doing with it. You don't know what you're doing with it. The companies that you've bought are like, where do we stand right now? Are we okay? This needs to stop. They've been saying that for a while and now they're like, all right, we're going to vote to have this board kicked. You're draining the swamp, as the conservatives in America to say about the government, about DC. We're draining the swamp.

Benjamin Moses:          That's because DC is below sea level too, in case you didn't know.

Stephen LaMarca:         So they're trying to kick out the board.

Benjamin Moses:          There's a lot of drama.

Stephen LaMarca:         The head of the board, the chair of the board for Nano Dimension has for the past almost week, maybe more than a week, every day has gone on YouTube and done on average an hour long live stream and be like, "Hey, don't listen to our shareholders. It's fake news. Oh wait, if you're one of our shareholders and you got the notification for the upcoming vote to kick us, don't vote, don't vote. It's all fake news. Don't do it." And it's just like, it's comical.

Benjamin Moses:          It's strange. That's why I brought it up. It's interesting to see there's been a lot of mergers and acquisitions past couple years in manufacturing and it's great to see that. Some of it is healthy, some of it is not. This thing is just weird.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's out of control. If I knew more of the investment lingo and exactly ... I'm just giving you my take and I'm pretty sure it's not all that inaccurate.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's a hot mess.

Benjamin Moses:          We'll see what happens in a month or so.

Stephen LaMarca:         Hopefully it's not another SVB. Womp womp.

Benjamin Moses:          Speaking of which, tell me about Octane.

Stephen LaMarca:         Octon.

Benjamin Moses:          I'm sorry.

Stephen LaMarca:         I love Octane. Octon, I don't know so much.

Benjamin Moses:          All right.

Stephen LaMarca:         I'm not saying I don't love them, but ...

Benjamin Moses:          I want to end on a spicy note. Tell me what's going on here.

Stephen LaMarca:         Let's keep it spicy. Let's keep some heat in this. So Octon is a fully independent subsidiary, which I got to show you this press release that they sent out because there's one sentence in the second ... or the first sentence of the second or third paragraph basically says that we're a fully independent subsidiary of 3D systems. Before I go on, Octon ... you screwed me up, man. Octon is a software company that creates software solutions strictly for additive applications.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         They're advertising in this press release. They've come out to say that they've got a partnership with another company. But Octon's MO is to provide software solutions to anybody using additive equipment and using any additive equipment to help them streamline what they're trying to do. Their software solution is cloud-based.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Meaning nothing's kept internal. It goes to the cloud. So immediately, if you're considering using Octon, you've got to be like, okay, how much does my IP matter to me?

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Am I like Protolab? Are people sending me their stuff and I'm just making it for them and sending it back? Then it's not my IP, not my problem.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Then yeah, I'll use Octon. But if I'm an additive equivalent to one of our super secretive member companies that they don't even let their own people tour their facilities. I'm not going to name names, I love them, but that exists.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         It's becoming less common, but you will find companies like that in manufacturing that are very close, hush hush.

Benjamin Moses:          Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         Caterpillar is the same way. They do everything internal and because they're very secure about their IP. Octon, a subsidiary of 3D systems. Let's talk about 3D systems real quick. In recent news, 3D systems was slapped on the wrist with a fine by the US government of a very small, easy to pay off $27 million.

Benjamin Moses:          That's healthy.

Stephen LaMarca:         For violating ITAR regulations.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep, and the reason why we know about that is we used to be participating on export control. We provide guidance.

Stephen LaMarca:         We know a thing or two about ITAR regulations. We definitely have worked our fair share in the EAR export control regulations. Ben and I are of similar common interests outside of work, have purchased our fair share of ITAR regulated items. We know a thing or two about this.

Benjamin Moses:          Correct.

Stephen LaMarca:         3D systems like ITAR, whatever, let's ship it. They were fined $27 million for basically exporting out of the US a dull use good.

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         You can make anything, almost anything with additive manufacturing. Put your mind to it.

Benjamin Moses:          To a place where they shouldn't.

Stephen LaMarca:         Find a random page in the anarchist cookbook and be like, can I 3D print that? You might be able to. So that's why additive is pretty heavily regulated. But to be fair, it wasn't originally. Back when the material processing equipment technical advisory committee for the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry Security, when they had those meetings four times a year, the whole idea initially was we don't want to regulate additive.

Benjamin Moses:          Correct.

Stephen LaMarca:         Because we want it to grow and blossom and develop. Well it has, and now people want it to make their things. Those 3D systems got slapped with that fine. So going back to the Octon story, they're a subsidiary of their parent company 3D Systems, which already has a questionable history on following rules and regulations. Is the parent company to a company Octon that wants to provide a cloud-based software solution for manufacturers that have potentially volatile IP on any additive machine available on the market. 3D systems now potentially, allegedly has access to that machine data.

Benjamin Moses:          Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Of their customers.

Benjamin Moses:          That's the interesting thing through this story arc is that IP and who has access to data, these are all questions that have come up with the cloud technology. I recently talked about manufacturing shift to cloud-based technologies for all their applications. There's a lot of value in that.

Stephen LaMarca:         I'm not saying anything that's bad about the cloud. There's plenty of trustworthy cloud applications.

Benjamin Moses:          But you got to read the terms and conditions.

Stephen LaMarca:         You've got to read the terms and conditions. And even if you do read the terms and conditions, what's to say a company that has a history of not following rules, doesn't obey those terms and conditions?

Benjamin Moses:          So the trust in the company itself.

Stephen LaMarca:         Who knows? Maybe you got a great lawyer and you can make a lot of money off suing them, but just be careful. I don't mean to sound like I have a tinfoil hat on, but you might want to put your tinfoil hat on.

Benjamin Moses:          The takeaway is I think it's worthwhile always investigation of what the cloud architecture actually looks like. Where the data started. It's particularly if you're controlling your IP.

Stephen LaMarca:         Many of these companies are members, are they?

Benjamin Moses:          We did have a conversation a couple years ago, probably just before COVID, when people were exploring a lot more cloud solutions and there's a very big question of where the physical data is actually being stored. So for example, if you're using servers in the EU or China or a controlled country, a [inaudible 00:44:19] controlled country.

Stephen LaMarca:         Oh yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          Then the question of technically you're transmitting data into that country because that's where the data is stored. So understanding what the terms and conditions are, understanding where the storage actually is and trust in the company. I think that is a big thing that we're missing quite a bit in terms of even as a consumer. I kind of trust Google, but at the same time, I know they're analyzing all the pictures I put in Google photos. I don't know if I want that. So there's a lot of questions on how we store data and the trust that we have [inaudible 00:44:48].

Stephen LaMarca:         This is web retail all over again.

Benjamin Moses:          Yes. Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca:         Remember when we first started buying things online?

Benjamin Moses:          All the cookies.

Stephen LaMarca:         We were like, should I really be plugging my credit card information even through my keyboard right now?

Benjamin Moses:          Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         This is a whole nother level.

Benjamin Moses:          Whole nother level.

Stephen LaMarca:         We trust web retailers now. And plus, fortunately, listen to those people that talk all the smack that they want about banks and whatnot. Your credit card is your first firewall.

Benjamin Moses:          True.

Stephen LaMarca:         You can always tell your bank that, Hey, this was a fraudulent charge. Yeah, I did it, but the company's really sketchy. Don't send them the money.

Benjamin Moses:          Yep. See, that was fun. We covered a lot of material today.

Stephen LaMarca:         Yeah, we did.

Benjamin Moses:          Can you tell people where to find us?

Stephen LaMarca:         AMTonline.org/resources. See you there.

Benjamin Moses:          Bye everyone.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
Recent technology News
Episode 119: The Tech Friends miss bread garages and want them back! Elissa reports on some metal 3D printing IN SPACE aboard the ISS. Stephen closes with an announcement that he’s got word on a manufacturing domain-specific LLM on the way!
Episode 118: Ramia is back from her travels in Japan, and the tech friends pick her brain about the trip and her culinary experience. Stephen didn’t appreciate a clickbaity title from a NASA article. Elissa reports that NASA has a new Chief AI Officer.
Episode 117: Speaking of amusement parks last episode, the tech friends will be at MFG in Orlando this year for a live podcast! Ben gets into machine learning for robots. Elissa shares a new found excitement for robot vision ad object recognition.
Episode 116: The gang shares their love for amusement parks. Stephen is happy to announce that there are a lot of testbed updates. Elissa presents further evidence that Elon Musk is dumb. Ben closes with an allegedly new method of 3D printing.
Episode 115: The gang talks about dogs and other furry friends. Elissa reports that Japan’s about to land on the moon. Ben discusses stainless steel corrosion. Stephen closes with an “ICYMI” on everything we may have missed with the Boeing situation.
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