• Benjamin Moses

AMT Tech Trends: The Entropy Is Real

Updated: Aug 21

Release date: 14 August 2020


Episode 31: Stephen went to a race car factory! The testbed robot final has a gripper, too bad we can’t use it yet. Ben talks about flexible ERP systems. Stephen announces the Army’s first additively produced… wrench? Meanwhile Ben brings up that the Air Force is printing gaskets! Stephen also mentions that Jaguar has teamed up with HP so they can print replacement parts for the long-out-of-production E-Type. Benjamin closes with vendor managed inventory.


- www.imts.com/show/newsletter/in…=1018&start=1&cat= - www.dvidshub.net/news/375039/army…provisioned-part - 3dprintingindustry.com/news/u-s-air-…-usaf-174251/ - www.tctmagazine.com/additive-manufa…e-custom-parts/ - www.imts.com/show/newsletter/in…=1038&start=1&cat=


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Transcript:


Benjamin Moses: Hello everybody, and welcome to the Tech Trends podcast where we discuss the latest manufacturing technology research and news. Today's episode is sponsored by IMTS. Rebuilding supply chain starts now. IMTS is building a knowledge warehouse to rethink, re-engage, and re-establish manufacturing and supply chain.


The past few months have unveiled underlying issues with the supply chain and it's time to discuss these problems and how to move forward. Please visit imts.com/supply-chain for more information. I am Benjamin Moses, the Director of Manufacturing Technology and I'm here with?


Stephen LaMarca: Steve LaMarca, the Manufacturing Technology Analyst.


Benjamin Moses: Steve, long time no see, man. How are you doing?


Stephen LaMarca: Good. Doing all right, doing all right. Glad to be back. I do love traveling though, I'm not going to lie.


Benjamin Moses: You do? You miss traveling?


Stephen LaMarca: Probably shouldn't be traveling as much as I am, but I've been really safe, wearing my ask everywhere.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: You guys will see when the IMTS Network videos come out that all of my interviews have been with a mask on.


Benjamin Moses: That's good.


Stephen LaMarca: I've even been, before one of these trips, and I've had two so far, one to New England which I talked about I think our last two podcasts, and I just got back from North Carolina from visiting a NASCAR race shop.


Benjamin Moses: Nice. I like North Carolina. It's a fun trip.


Stephen LaMarca: North Carolina is really nice. Everybody from North Carolina and South Carolina tell me to avoid South Carolina, which isn't very nice.


Benjamin Moses: That's rude.


Stephen LaMarca: But I've got a friend in South Carolina, I think it's just fine. I love it.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, I've been wearing my face mask everywhere.


Benjamin Moses: Good, good.


Stephen LaMarca: Going to these places, keeping social distancing. My camera crew has had to remind me a few times, they're great. But yeah, finally back.


Benjamin Moses: Tell me what happened down there. Give me some hot takes about your trip.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh, man. I've already said too much by saying it was a NASCAR race team. Actually, not even a race team, teams would be plural, and it's a builder and provider.


Benjamin Moses: Sure.


Stephen LaMarca: Which they're all from North Carolina so I didn't give away too much already. But went to this awesome shop, and it's really an advanced manufacturing technology facility.


Benjamin Moses: Awesome.


Stephen LaMarca: It's not just some speed shop. They've literally got the highest tech there and they're a full-on facility.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: They make everything there with exception to tires, which are sponsor-provided, and the wheels which have to be standardized. This is where I'm failing because I know more, I feel bad as an American saying this, but I know more about Formula 1 and Le Mans, the World Endurance Series Championship than I do NASCAR.


But in those race series, those teams and cars, they all use the same fueling systems, just to make sure everybody's being as efficient as everybody else. Because there's restrictions on how much gas you can burn and whatnot. But going to this place was really cool. Even though it's an advanced manufacturing facility, I was shocked to see a bit of a lack of robot arms.


Benjamin Moses: Sure. I mean, they're not running high volumes, right?


Stephen LaMarca: No, they're not.


Benjamin Moses: It's a high-mix, low-volume type shop.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. And they do need specialty technicians, they need humans with everything.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: But being that it is low-volume like you said, they're not an assembly line, they're not pushing out dealership vehicles that are going to sit on the showroom forever, they're pushing out...


This is a really cool fact, they build motors that are made to last one race. And what's really cool is they were explaining that a perfect motor blows up in victory land.


Benjamin Moses: That's funny.


Stephen LaMarca: After it's already crossed the finish line, it blows up before it's turned off. If you manage to turn it off, if the driver manages to turn off the motor and it still lasts beyond the race, it's overbuilt.


Stephen LaMarca: It's overbuilt. Or it wasn't being pushed hard enough.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: They want it to blow up as soon as it crosses the line pretty much. And I was like, "That's cool. I can't imagine how some of the manufacturers feel about that, but whatever."


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. It's funny also that you mention with automation, you mentioned that they're probably not running high volumes, which would be beneficial for automation, but there's also benefits that they need the skilled labor supporting their machines.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.


Benjamin Moses: So running lights out or running under other conditions where automation would be beneficial, or taking the operator away from the machine is probably not the best situation for those type of parts.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. When I had to go back to find one of the technicians there, I missed him because I remembered at the last second that, "Oh man, I got to get him to sign his release form that he's giving us permission to have him on camera."


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: And my tour guide, my host, tells me, "Oh, don't worry. He's going to be here till 2:00 AM anyway."


Benjamin Moses: All right.


Stephen LaMarca: So they're not doing lights out, they're working all hours of the day over there just to make some race components. And they make the majority of the car, like I said.


Benjamin Moses: That's cool.


Stephen LaMarca: That video is going to be really fun. Even though a lot's going to be redacted, it's going to be a fun video. One of the things that's redacted and one of the beauties of leaving their name out and people who showed me around is I can talk about this now because you don't know who they are, but the fuel cell was one of the coolest things. I know a racing fuel cell is like a balloon, instead of it being like a gas tank like in a road car.


Benjamin Moses: A rigid form, right? You're talking about a flexible-


Stephen LaMarca: A rigid form, exactly. It's more of like a really thick balloon, a bladder that fills up as you put gas in it. And that helps keep your fuel under pressure.


Benjamin Moses: Right. Or collapses as you burn gas.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. And it also helps keep it in place when you're going around high-Gs. Well, I saw another technology used, they basically take this corrugated plastic, you've seen poster board before that's made out of corrugated plastic sheets-


Stephen LaMarca: ... And they basically take a big stack on that and then they use four-axis waterjet, they have a four-axis waterjet-


Benjamin Moses: Sure. That can tilt the head. Right.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. A tilting head waterjet cutter that cuts these big corrugated plastic blocks down to fit exactly in the fuel tank. And that basically provides a high-density baffling system within the gas tank to keep the gas from sloshing around, to keep it in place as you're cornering or accelerating or braking heavily.


Which was really cool, because I'd never seen that before. So that was something new that I saw and something certainly different from a bladder. And bladders are known to be relatively unsafe.


Benjamin Moses: Sure. So they have a big square fuel cell that they just fill up with these corrugated plastics.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. For all intents and purposes, the fuel tank is like a conventional car's fuel tank, they just put a big old thing of corrugated plastic in there to keep everything in place.


Benjamin Moses: That's a simple solution. That's cool.


Stephen LaMarca: And I was also asked before I headed down there to pester them about their wind tunnel, to ask them about their wind tunnel, which may have been a joke from somebody at AMT for me to tell them, I forget who, but I digress. I asked about the wind tunnel and it was like, "Oh, we don't have one. Well, we don't have a physical one."


Benjamin Moses: Okay.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh, before I even talk about that, let me lead into this by saying that all of the machines in this facility, well, most of the machines in this facility are not paid for by the race team or the race shop, they're all provided by the sponsors. They're like, "Here's our latest and greatest machine tool, use this to win races."


Benjamin Moses: That's awesome.


Stephen LaMarca: "And it will pay us for it."


Benjamin Moses: Value of sponsorship.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, the value of sponsorship, exactly. But one of their sponsors, Siemens, when I asked about the wind tunnel they were like, "We don't have a wind tunnel. Siemens takes care of that for us."


They use this thing called the digital twin or whatever, and I'm like, "What!? You guys are using digital twin technology to..." Forget doing a physical wind tunnel, why have a wind tunnel when you can have a perfect digital replica of your car and simulate it that way? So that's wild.


Benjamin Moses: That is wild.


Stephen LaMarca: And I think the first racing team to actually do that was Haas Formula 1.


Benjamin Moses: You think so?


Stephen LaMarca: Because in Formula 1 they're really strict about wind tunnel testing.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: They're like, "You can only do two days' worth of wind tunnel testing." And then only some of the engine manufacturers like Ferrari and Mercedes Benz, they have wind tunnels but they're not allowed to use them.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: Well, I think Gene Haas and his Formula 1 team, they were like, "Well, we have this little thing called the digital twin." I think they were actually the first to do that, but whatever. It was cool hearing that.


Benjamin Moses: And it is funny that you mention that because getting [inaudible 00:09:45] in a wind tunnel, for something that large doing full-scale wind tunnel testing, is really, really difficult. I went to University of Maryland and they had a full-size wind tunnel. I was in the aerospace track.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh wow.


Benjamin Moses: And they had that thing booked up for years on end just doing-


Stephen LaMarca: No way.


Benjamin Moses: ... Car testing, race car testing, doing Formula testing.


Stephen LaMarca: Wow.


Benjamin Moses: So back then, I graduated college 2001, they would ship up their NASCAR, they would wheel it in. They'd probably do it during night hours, not because of the energy usage but because they don't want people looking at it.


So they would wheel it in at night, do their testing and then take it out. And to your point, it was very limited testing that they physically could do because one: that wind tunnel was booked up, but also because of regulation so they can kind of level the playing field, and not companies spending tons and tons of money on dev time.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.


Benjamin Moses: But that's fascinating. Oh, speaking of which, I was going to ask you, so if our podcast was sponsored, what kind of sponsor would Steve LaMarca like to receive [crosstalk 00:10:43]?


Stephen LaMarca: Oh man. Well, you know I'm a big metrology buff.


Benjamin Moses: You are?


Stephen LaMarca: So I would like a metrology company. I would definitely want an American metrology company but also, you got to give it to Mitutoyo too. But I think a cool one like Starrett or Starrag, I think those are both two different companies.


Benjamin Moses: [inaudible 00:11:07].


Stephen LaMarca: They're both in metrology and I think they're both American too, so one of those guys. I'd love to have some more calipers, I don't think you can have enough of them.


Benjamin Moses: Sure.


Stephen LaMarca: I love my Mitutoyo calipers.


Benjamin Moses: And that is the next step for the testbed too. So we have been talking about-


Stephen LaMarca: We do want metrology.


Benjamin Moses: ... Now that we've got that robotic arm up and running, we should talk about it a little bit.


Stephen LaMarca: Ooh, yeah. If we got Renishaw to sponsor us, or ZEISS even, to sponsor us, then we wouldn't need to worry about setting aside a big old budget for a CMM or a Renishaw Equator, something like that.


Benjamin Moses: I mean, our budget's pretty cheap, so [crosstalk 00:11:43].


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. We'll never have anything like that, no. We'll never have anything like that. We would need a sponsor for that. That's why I'm just saying, you're asking me about sponsors, that's what I would want a sponsor for, so we don't have to spend money on that.


Benjamin Moses: That's a good plan.


Stephen LaMarca: Ooh, let me think.


Benjamin Moses: What would Steve LaMarca like to receive free goods on?


Stephen LaMarca: Okay. I still want another device for our testbed. I'd want a Bridgeport and I would want-


Benjamin Moses: We can't get the Bridgeport in our office.


Stephen LaMarca: I don't care. I also want a Mazak INTEGREX i-100ST capable of closed-loop gear manufacturing.


Benjamin Moses: That's not getting in the office either.


Stephen LaMarca: Okay.


Benjamin Moses: Or your apartment.


Stephen LaMarca: Then I want to be sponsored by the watch company JLC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, because Antoine LeCoultre is one of my heroes in watch-making and in manufacturing because he invented the Millionometre, which is the first device, not the micrometer, it was the first device that was capable of measuring a micron.


Benjamin Moses: Wow, that's cool. [crosstalk 00:12:54]


Stephen LaMarca: And in all the old European cars, you'll see the dials. English cars, they're typically made by Smiths. But Jaguar and Aston, those old dials in the dashboard are actually made by Jaeger, which was the dial-making company that merged with LeCoultre, the Swiss watch-making metrology company.


When they came together they were like, "Why don't we make watches? We have the best technology to measure the parts going into them." And then that watch company became known as the watchmaker's watchmaker. And they started building all of the movements that went into the bigger companies that make Rolex look like Timex, like Patek Philippe, like Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, those are all the top-dollar watch companies.


And they, back in the day, they don't so anymore and they're trying to cover up this history because everybody's trying to go in-house, but back in the day, and when I say back in the day, I mean at the very least, 10 years ago, they were buying movements, the little motors that power the watch.


For a mechanical watch, instead of having a computer chip and a battery and a little electric motor to drive the hands, with mechanical watches it's two gears and a bunch of spring... no, two springs and a bunch of gears that drive the hands. And Jaeger-LeCoultre was the brand that made a lot of the movements for the top-dollar companies.


Benjamin Moses: That's cool.


Stephen LaMarca: I'd love to be sponsored by them, JLC baby.


Benjamin Moses: So I see, but that's going to be a dream that won't happen.


Stephen LaMarca: It's not going to happen but as long as I got it out.


Benjamin Moses: You got it out of your system.


Stephen LaMarca: [inaudible 00:14:30] talking about it.


Benjamin Moses: So let's talk about the testbed. I briefly brought that up.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh yeah.


Benjamin Moses: There's some new updates, even though we haven't been able to go in the office yet. We're still working from far apart.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. At midnight last week, some day last week at midnight, I get a text message and I wake up, look at my phone, got a text message from DHL China saying that, "You have a package on the way. It's going to be there Friday in the afternoon."


Benjamin Moses: Cool.


Stephen LaMarca: And I'm like, "That's oddly specific." So I got my mask and I got cleaned up to leave the apartment for a day, and I went over to AMT, went over to the office, waited for DHL to show up. I never saw them so I decided to go up to our ninth floor suite, went up there, it was already there.


Somebody who worked at the building, one of the porters or somebody received it, signed for it, because it was signed in my name, so they signed my name, and then left it on the reception desk. And so I got it, walked it over to the work bench, cracked it open and did my unboxing, we've got our gripper.


Benjamin Moses: Wow, that's amazing.


Stephen LaMarca: The xArm has a gripper, we've got End-of-arm Tooling finally. And it was cool unboxing it. My first thing that kind of ticked me off a little bit was, and I've since learned that UFACTORY has changed the finish on their robot arms. And I can't stand soft updates.


Benjamin Moses: Sure.


Stephen LaMarca: You know the plastics company, accessories company, Magpul?


Benjamin Moses: Sure.


Stephen LaMarca: They list their updates. When they change a design even the slightest bit, they'll say, "Oh, this is Gen 3. The last one was Gen 2, now we have Gen 3." xArm didn't do that but they kind of changed everything without telling people. And Pocket NC was also really good about that, because they've got the V1, the V2.


Benjamin Moses: Those are functional changes.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. They're functional changes.


Benjamin Moses: Is the End-of-arm Tooling, is that a functional change or is that a visual change?


Stephen LaMarca: It's cosmetic.


Benjamin Moses: Okay.


Stephen LaMarca: UFACTORY has since changed all the xArms and xArm accessories to a gloss white-


Benjamin Moses: Oh, okay. [inaudible 00:16:50].


Stephen LaMarca: ... When the Kickstarter was a matte white.


Benjamin Moses: Sure.


Stephen LaMarca: And so now I've got this matte white robot arm with a glossy white end effector and it makes it look aftermarket now. Which, I mean, there's nothing wrong with that but I'm just nitpicking, and that's what I do best.


Benjamin Moses: So tell me about the tool. I haven't seen it myself. Can you describe it? What does it look like?


Stephen LaMarca: So yeah. We've got, I think you said it earlier, a pincher type, a two-joint-


Benjamin Moses: Two-prong, yep.


Stephen LaMarca: Or two-prong gripper essentially, that clamps down on whatever you're trying to grab and then moves it, picks it up and moves it. But what's really cool is that mounts directly to the end of the arm on the robot, on the xArm 7, and it's got the right cabling and it's a very neat plug-and-play system.


I didn't get a chance to plug it in and test it yet, but everything looks really clean. But what's really cool is where it connects to the end of arm, there's a bracket, and it doesn't need a bracket, it will fit directly on, but the bracket holds the camera. And I've totally forgot, oh snap, the gripper comes with a vision system too.


Benjamin Moses: Ah, so excited to try that out.


Stephen LaMarca: So we've got a lot, that's a huge upgrade for a robot. Actually I haven't even told [inaudible 00:18:15] yet. So he's going to be excited and want to come back to the U.S. for reasons other than eating beef.


Benjamin Moses: Good luck with that. That's really exciting [inaudible 00:18:23].


Stephen LaMarca: But yeah, we got a lot of it... I can't wait. I unboxed it, I looked at everything and then I left. I didn't get a chance to play with anything.


Benjamin Moses: How dusty was the testbed?


Stephen LaMarca: You know it's really clean in the office.


Benjamin Moses: You know this is funny because every factory I go to always has an inch layer of dust on all their equipment.


Stephen LaMarca: Really?


Benjamin Moses: I mean, maybe not the high-end shops that you go to but all the factories that I visit are just filthy. Okay, let me rephrase. So it's really difficult to get to the top of the machine to dust, or places that [inaudible 00:18:53] ladder, rafters, things like that. It's really difficult.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. There are some grimy places on some machines, but I love that, when a machine really starts to build some patina. But you're right, this last place, this racing factory, they showed me their oldest machine which was a CNC machine, they had some other manual machines in another room, but they showed me their oldest CNC machine and that thing was mint.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah, yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: And it's not that it hadn't been used. They're just really particular about keeping the place clean. I thought we were touring McLaren. Nope, it's a NASCAR factory.


Benjamin Moses: It's part showroom too, so I mean their factory is-


Stephen LaMarca: No, no, no, no.


Benjamin Moses: I mean, [crosstalk 00:19:33].


Stephen LaMarca: We saw the showroom, we didn't even get to see the showroom because they had some of their super secret stuff in the showroom. Because it's closed down because of COVID.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: So they're using their showroom as a storage space.


Benjamin Moses: That's cool.


Stephen LaMarca: They were like, "You can't be in the showroom, because we have stuff that's uncovered right now in there and you can't look at it, we can't risk it being seen."


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. That's an exciting past two weeks, past week [crosstalk 00:19:55].


Stephen LaMarca: It was a month.


Benjamin Moses: A month.


Stephen LaMarca: Pandemic. It's been an exciting pandemic.


Benjamin Moses: Let's talk about some supply chain.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, dude. Tell me what you got.


Benjamin Moses: I got a couple of articles on supply chain. So I found one on supply chain technology, which actually is something that AMT has been getting into.


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: Pandemic and all these problems, country shutting down and every manufacturer being put on hold, we found out that there are problems with supply chain. Which if we take a step back, if you're in supply chain, this is not new to you.


Supply chain and sourcing and logistics is really, really difficult. And we're not talking about consumer goods, so if I buy something on Target and I get a shipping label and I get tracking information automatically. This is a layer beyond that. So if I've got to connect my ERP system to engineering data to a thousand different suppliers, it's a really, really complex system of digital information and physical goods.


And the article here talks about steps to move forward and how we get past the problems that have existed for a long time, and get to a better state in supply chain logistics. And this focuses on a little bit of the knowledge awareness and behaviors, but also a little bit more on the technology. So it talks about a couple of key elements, one is being flexible with your ERP system.


So as a business, your enterprise resource planning tool is your foundation of where all your business systems connect to. So it has your salary, no, it has your workforce information, it's got your work centers, it's got your supplier lists and things like that. So it's your single repository for basically trying to run your business.


Now everything cascades from there, so if you got your engineering data that you actually need to control in your PLM systems, you've got your supplier portals, you've got your manufacturing execution systems to create routers and control your processes that way.

But in the end, the article mentions that having a more flexible ERP system is super beneficial in that as the environment changes, being able to add APIs or connect to different APIs so you can draw information or push information from your ERP system is super important as we move forward. That other systems we've had, and the past system I worked for and I've used in the past since I was in manufacturing many ages ago was very static, as in to get an update was a six to 12-month process to get a new module, a new widget.

And then if you want to connect to anything external, now you got to vet that system, it was an even longer process, to the point where it's better to have a human pull information to a spreadsheet from one system, pull information to a different spreadsheet, and manually merge it and figure things out. That was the process that we went through over and over again. The human was involved in collecting data and transferring data back and forth.

Getting to a state where the ERP systems are a little more flexible where you can add APIs and do push-pull with the data, it would be significantly beneficial as the environment changes. So that's one really interesting point.

And I agree with that, being able to drive everything back to the single truth is something that I've been really, really interested in. And there's significant gaps in sourcing logistics on trying to achieve that.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.


Benjamin Moses: The other thing that they talked about was reinventing digital strategies about the whole supply chain, looking at being able to use data to accurately predict on how you source and how you drive your supply chain logistics. So using the data that you have and bringing that into a better forecasting model.

So most forecasting models that I've used is you look out a year, the OEM will tell you, "Yeah, we want to build 10 airplanes this year, 20 airplanes this year, 30 airplanes next year." That's all based on a prediction that someone has told investors and they've cascaded down to engineering, and that's never accurate, it's always wrong.


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: Something always slips.


Stephen LaMarca: It's some promise by a venture capitalist.


Benjamin Moses: Exactly. So getting to stay where you're 60% accurate is a huge increase. We used to buy raw material, so the titanium tubes that we used to buy was 52-week lead time. Can you imagine that? You've got to find the size, the length and the amount of raw material that you need a year before you even consider processing it.


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: So getting to a state where you're more accurate about how much of that material you want to consume and when is significantly beneficial to how you run your business.


Stephen LaMarca: And can you imagine trying to get that now?


Benjamin Moses: Forget about it. And the last thing that they talked about was being able to discuss or handle more secure lines of communication, faster and more secure lines of communication. We talked about, on the digital side, handling data through the ERP system and using the data for more accurate forecasting; but in the end, you're going to have some connection from the digital to the physical world.

I got to ship a part, I physically have to take something out of inventory, put it into a box, put it on DHL China and ship it to me. And they get into some technologies that will be beneficial; for example, 5G is right on the edge of being more commercialized and being useful, being able to communicate faster.

Which I think is interesting on warehouse logistics and internal uses there, but also creating a secured channel of communication outside of your four walls, potentially using things like blockchain, which is on its kind of infancy but there are some projects that are moving blockchain out of the testbed environment into more commercial real estate.

But being able to accurately predict when I've got my widget or doodad, these are big things too, right? You've got things that we're putting on boats, you have big machinery that you're putting on a trailer which you want to track and understand when is it going to get here so I can make sure my riggers are here in place, down to the minute, right? Make sure all the equipment's moved out of the way.

So I thought the article was really interesting, breaking down supply chain and the technologies that are relevant and useful to the business of, "Hey, there's plenty of low-hanging fruit that we can optimize in supply chain and let's move forward with that."


Stephen LaMarca: Right. And I think a good example of that, at least from the way I can process all of this, is how AMT recently handled going from our regular desk phones, which are essentially useless amongst this pandemic since we're all working from home, but at the same time we still need our desk phones and whatnot.

So now our awesome IT department has switched us to Vonage, which is now on our computers and can send the call directly to the cellphone we're using.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. So they're going to cellphones. Yeah, absolutely. It's being able to go to flexible environments like that.


Stephen LaMarca: This is an example of that, right?


Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: That's awesome.


Benjamin Moses: It's very similar. Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: Cool.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. What's your article that you want to get into?


Stephen LaMarca: Oh man. So the first article that I got is the army, let me cue up the title. Where is it? I got it right here. The army completes first additive manufacturing provisioned part.


Benjamin Moses: I want to know the part too. I know the part, I just want you to say it, it's so funny.


Stephen LaMarca: Let me just paint the picture first. The U.S military has had some seriously advanced manufacturing capabilities for a long time now.


Benjamin Moses: And to be fair, U.S. defense product and design manufacturing is cutting-edge.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, absolutely.


Benjamin Moses: Leading-edge technology. There's nothing wrong with-


Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.


Benjamin Moses: If you're involved with defense [inaudible 00:28:06], you're doing some cutting-edge stuff.


Stephen LaMarca: The microprocessors that are in our smartphones came out five years earlier to be put into JDAMs and the most advanced missiles possible.


Benjamin Moses: Yes.


Stephen LaMarca: And now they're in our phones. So the army to do something a little bit simpler, I guess, they've taken all of their additive machines and they finally have given the green light to their first additive part to be used across the military, which is a tool, essentially just a little wrench that will be used to adjust the front sight on the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is a light machine gun.


Just to paint more of a picture, front sight posts have always needed some... on most weapons, have always needed to be adjusted using some funky tool.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: This is nothing new. It's not a unique tool.


Benjamin Moses: No.


Stephen LaMarca: It's just the M249 is a little bit different. But making a tool like this does not necessitate the use of additive.


Benjamin Moses: I'm glad you said that. I think you described it well. It's a front post, right?


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: And the tool that they made is basically a T-handle that you can use as a [crosstalk 00:29:38].


Stephen LaMarca: It's a T-handle wrench.


Benjamin Moses: Right. It's got a special castle cut at the end that you can engage the post. Yeah, it's literally a [crosstalk 00:29:46]


Stephen LaMarca: It's so you can adjust your elevation on the front sight.


Benjamin Moses: Yes. And [inaudible 00:29:52] to grow this additively for some reason. A frontline operator could probably make this out of...


Stephen LaMarca: Oh man.


Benjamin Moses: If they had a Bridgeport, they could easily make this.


Stephen LaMarca: You could make this with a Bridgeport. You could absolutely.


Benjamin Moses: I could make this with a Bridgeport.


Stephen LaMarca: I've never even touched a Bridgeport and I think I could make one with a Bridgeport.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: Hey man, it was taxpayer dollars, we're going to-


Benjamin Moses: I feel bad because the army does have some really, really complex equipment.


Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.


Benjamin Moses: The light armored vehicles that they have, the heavy armored vehicles. I mean, those are cutting-edge stuff. They have some really sophisticated optics, they have needs of maintaining their diesel engines, these are really complex machines.


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: I just feel really bad-


Stephen LaMarca: And to be fair, the military in general; sure, a lot of money is thrown at them and a lot of technology is thrown at them, but to get anything done at that level of government, they have to jump through so many hoops.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah, yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: This is a plus.


Benjamin Moses: Pat yourselves on the back [inaudible 00:30:55].


Stephen LaMarca: [crosstalk 00:30:55] at least something being made.


Benjamin Moses: Good job, U.S. army. [inaudible 00:30:58].


Stephen LaMarca: It's going to go into service too, which is kind of cool.


Benjamin Moses: That's kind of cool.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, I guess it won't be long now until they're using additive machines to repair heavy armor on the main battle tank, like on an Abrams or in Strykers.


Benjamin Moses: I would love to see, there was a company that I talked to a long, long time ago; what they're doing is high-volume additive parts, so as you grow, parts additively. Usually the problem is the volumetric flow rate, trying to grow a certain volume per minute is pretty low for most additive parts. What they're doing is significantly 10X times what the other machines could do.


Stephen LaMarca: Right.


Benjamin Moses: A couple of projects that they got into was actually repairing, like you said, repairing military equipment. So they had launch rails for F-15s, [inaudible 00:31:51] that were getting damaged. And what they'd do is they would excavate that big portion of the rail, regrow it, and then machine it down as opposed to replacing the whole rail.


Stephen LaMarca: Right. And Autodesk had been doing that forever at their San Francisco Tech Center.


Benjamin Moses: Cool.


Stephen LaMarca: Not forever, but they've been doing that for a while using additive to regrow broken screws on boats.


Benjamin Moses: That's cool.


Stephen LaMarca: The propellers. It's not called a propeller of a boat, it's called a screw, but just to make sure everybody knows what I'm talking about.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Because if you mention screw, for a boat, I mean that's several feet in diameter, that's a big boy.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. And when one of those blades gets chipped or sheared off, what better use than additive?


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. And I do remember a couple of use cases of when I was back at Eaton, I visited a facility in Arizona. When we were buying a machine, we toured another manufacturing place, and they're doing repair on centrifugal compressors. Small guys, like turbo chargers for cars and stuff.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh nice.


Benjamin Moses: First they're doing weld repairs and they're looking at doing additive at some point where they manually weld repair it and then come back and finish machining it, but basically the same principle.


Stephen LaMarca: Right, right. I really want to see additive being used to patch armor though. I think that would be cool.


Benjamin Moses: That would be cool.


Stephen LaMarca: It's got to be easier too.


Benjamin Moses: We'll see.


Stephen LaMarca: At least than a screw on a ship.


Benjamin Moses: The article I've got, it actually is another military article and is about additive also.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh baby.


Benjamin Moses: So today is going to be military additive day. It's about the U.S. Air Force. So the Air Force engineers have gotten to the first engine test for the first 3D-printed part. And it's a pretty simple part to be fair, it's an anti-ice gasket.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh cool.


Benjamin Moses: To aid the engine in sub-zero environments, which is actually very, very important.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. No, that's a huge deal. De-icing?


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. The engine that they're using it on is for the really large aircraft, so it's really important that it's being able to handle these different environments. Which to be fair, I mean, if you look at it a couple of different ways, one: if the aircraft is stationed in subarctic, sub-zero environments, but also any time you take off and get into suborbital atmosphere conditions, it is sub-zero. Even normal flying.


Stephen LaMarca: Or even if a fighter jet is in a prolonged dogfight and at a constant level of high-G maneuvering, icing is a huge problem there. And we're not talking about cakes.


Benjamin Moses: And the cool thing about this, the longevity of military aircraft are getting longer and longer. So they have these really old aircraft that they're able to retrofit, and the drawback that they have is of course, these are originally done on paper that have been modified over time so the original drawings are lost.


What they did is actually reverse-engineered the gasket and then printed it. So I found that very interesting that they're able to extend the life of these amazing aircraft significantly with these parts that, one: they reverse-engineered, which is great, and then they're able to confidently print these parts for these engine testing.


And they also highlighted a couple of other tests that they've done for the F-15 and F-16 also where they've 3D-printed some covers and also some other non-critical hardware for the B-2 bombers.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh, wow.


Benjamin Moses: So permanent covers for mounting accessories and things like that in the cockpit they found very beneficial. So the underlying problem statement of, "I've got this really old thing that I have difficulty sourcing because we've been producing for so long, the company's probably gone out of business and I don't have drawings, let's reverse-engineer it."


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.


Benjamin Moses: Okay, now reverse-engineer. I have a 3D model, now how do I make this? It's fairly difficult to ramp up a new process for a part that hasn't existed for a while. You got to send it out to vendors, you got to figure out the manufacturing process from there. So getting to, "Hey, let's print it and then machine that finished part," was a really interesting use case. I like it.


Stephen LaMarca: Oh yeah. Have I got an example for you on that last case you touched on. My final article is HP 3D-prints an E-Type.


Benjamin Moses: Oh, nice.


Stephen LaMarca: That's not the title at all. That was my note, my mistake.


Benjamin Moses: That's your hot take. "They printed the whole car."


Stephen LaMarca: But as you were saying with something's been out of production forever, there's no blueprints that anybody can find on it. And to take it and even step further with something like an English sports car like a Jaguar E-Type, not only has it not been in production for a very long time and not have any CAD files on it and absolutely need to be re-engineered, but we're talking about a hand-fitted automobile that parts are likely... I mean, I'm sure the English claim they're interchangeable between vehicles, but if you've been around English automobiles, you know they're not interchangeable between vehicles.


Benjamin Moses: Right.


Stephen LaMarca: And additive is a perfect application for making a quick repair part or a custom part for the restoration of an old English vehicle. And HP has got onto the whole additive train, they've been on the additive train for a while now. But it's really cool that HP has decided to partner up with Jaguar and help them restore some of their older models that I guess some customers are crazy enough to come back to them with and be like, "Can you fix this?"


Benjamin Moses: That's an expensive fix, but if they want to keep that Jaguar running... Which to be fair, I really do like the Jaguars of the late '80s, late '80s, early '90s, the small, slim...


Stephen LaMarca: Really?


Benjamin Moses: Well, my friend had, not friend friend, but someone that I knew had a Jaguar, wow, that's probably the most expensive car I've ever sat in. They're just fond memories when I was younger.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, I hear you. No, but one of my favorite things is the car in particular that they're talking about in this article is an E-Type Jaguar.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah, yeah.


Stephen LaMarca: And the E-Type Jaguar is arguably the most beautiful car, and a lot of people share this mentality that it's the most beautiful car ever conceived.


Benjamin Moses: Wow.


Stephen LaMarca: It's the only automobile to be in The Museum of Modern Art.


Benjamin Moses: Wow.

Stephen LaMarca: And Enzo Ferrari has gone on record for saying the E-Type Jaguar is the one car he wished he had designed himself.


Benjamin Moses: So just to describe it, it's got a slender, long front end, with a two door-


Stephen LaMarca: Real long front end.


Benjamin Moses: Yeah. That's a cool looking car. That is a beautiful car.


Stephen LaMarca: It's absolutely, and totally hand fit. So again, additive is going to be perfect for doing anything that some particular technician would have to spend days on hand-filing away, just print it once and it's done.


Benjamin Moses: Yep. The last article I wanted to talk about was VMI. Steve, do you know what VMI is?


Stephen LaMarca: Virginia Military Institute.


Benjamin Moses: Well, that's true. But for this article [inaudible 00:39:18]...


Stephen LaMarca: Different one?


Benjamin Moses: It's vendor-managed inventory. And the reason I bring this up is, back to the previous supply chain article, is that managed inventory is super difficult. And I've done a couple of interviews with some supply chain and logistics personnel people, and one of the key drivers for how the company handles suppliers is managing their inventory.


Not just raw goods, you've got partially finished goods, you've got assemblies, all that is working capital that is no longer available because you've purchased these goods. Which we should need at some point, but if your throughput's low enough, this inventory is going to hang around for months at a time, which you could use that money for buying new machines or hiring people.


So I thought getting into technologies that help businesses move forward, VMI is a really interesting approach where you connect your operating system so you can be able to have a third-party manage inventory for you. And it's kind of beneficial, right? Depending on when the transaction occurs.


So there's three things to keep in mind for VMI, you've got: where is inventory, the inventory location; who owns it and when do you own it; and demand of visibility. So you could have the inventory sitting at your facility, but you don't pay for it until you take it out of the bin. That's that super ideal case. So having the inventory at your location and someone else managing how often they replenish it and when the transaction occurs, that's really beneficial to help you reduce your costs, it would also streamline supply chain.


So do you want to manage the half-inch bolts that you're using to attach [inaudible 00:41:03] vices and all your tooling and all your consumable tooling and all your vices? Is that something did you want to pay someone to do or have someone else manage that's part of their daily routine?


It gets into the data involved and connecting your system so you can communicate back out, so you can see the demand, so the vendor can see your demand, and understanding the workflow between these different operations to help you better optimize your cash flow for your business.


It's something that I talked about often, it's kind of [inaudible 00:41:39] in the background of how you manage inventory and what you want to be managed internally versus externally. But the underlying thing is do you have the technologies available to help support getting to some type of VMI.


Stephen LaMarca: Right. You know what's really cool about that, is now that you've explained it and explained the article, that was one of the last things that race shop, that NASCAR race shop showed me while we were down there, was they took me over to, and I've seen this at a handful of facilities before, but they took me over to a big, what looks like a vending machine, where a technician comes over, they swipe their card, they've got a fob that tells them who the technician is, what tool they need, what machine they've been using, and all of the specs of the parts that have come off of that tool that they've been running.


And what's cool about this inventory management system that they had at this shop was it looks at all of that data, the data coming from the machine, the data coming from QA/QC on the parts that they just ran, and the vending machine, if you would, that provides the tooling, can actually suggest a different tool if needed.


Benjamin Moses: Oh. That's interesting.


Stephen LaMarca: Which I thought was really cool.


Benjamin Moses: That's fascinating.


Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.


Benjamin Moses: That is definitely living in the future.


Stephen LaMarca: It really is.


Benjamin Moses: When you have your vending machine talk back to you.


Stephen LaMarca: I mean, I don't think it actually talks back, but I think it puts them in contact with somebody, it'd be like, "You might want to try this tool."


Benjamin Moses: Oh, one thing I want to bring up, I really like the idea of recommendation engines. I think that what they're mentioning is a really cool use case for a recommendation engine, basically an algorithm that's looking at different constituents and says, "Hey, this other thing is similar to what you use or this other than might be better." I ran into an issue where I was getting some really interesting recommendations on YouTube all because I clicked on one video and I thought-


Stephen LaMarca: I was just thinking about YouTube.


Benjamin Moses: ... "This recommendation engine is too aggressive." And I feel bad because it's a video where like, "I don't think I should show [Deepa 00:43:52] this, this is not appropriate. If Deepa sees me looking at this video I got to clear my history." Luckily YouTube allows you to clear your history.


Stephen LaMarca: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Benjamin Moses: I feel bad.

Stephen LaMarca: Jeez, Ben.


Benjamin Moses: It's nothing inappropriate, nothing where I feel bad, but I'd feel bad because Deepa would look at me differently if she saw me watching this.


Stephen LaMarca: Fair enough. Fair enough.


Benjamin Moses: So Steve, where can they find out more info about us?


Stephen LaMarca: They can find more info about us by going to amtnews.org. They can sign up for the weekly tech reports at amtnews.org/subscribe, and at amtnews.org you can also find the podcasts that we post that we've just recorded, as well as if you're... You can find our podcast searching for AMT Tech Trends on any of your favorite podcast apps.


Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Thanks, Steve. And today's episode was sponsored by IMTS. Please check out imts.com/supply-chain for more information about rebuilding supply chain. It was a great episode. That was a lot of fun, Steve.


Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.


Benjamin Moses: All right. Bye everybody.


Stephen LaMarca: See you everybody.