AMT Tech Trends: Happy 2020
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Release date: 23 January 2020
Ben and Steve are back for another year of manufacturing nerd babble! The boys both believe automation will keep manufacturers honest. Steve has a big announcement and plans for the tesbed in new year. Ben talks about NASAs partnerships in developing composites. Stephen mentions the grandfather of AI and autonomous robotics. Ben brings up metrology and calibration.
Benjamin’s Linked In www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-moses-b13b44a2/
Amateur Machinist Blog swarfysteve.blogspot.com/
Music provided by www.freestockmusic.com
Benjamin Moses: Hello, everybody and welcome to the TechTrends podcast where we discuss the latest manufacturing research and news. This week’s episode is sponsored by MT360. MT360 has a great conference in Santa Clara Convention Center May 12th through the 14th, where we have presenters on transformative technology. We talk about implemented use cases and partnerships for implementing technologies. We have a bunch of cool companies there. We have HP Additive, IBM Watson. Nvidia’s going to be there talking about their sweet AI tools and new manufacturing stuff they’re going to be getting into. Vamana, Haidenhain, Drive Capital, and a ton more, again, at Santa Clara convention center May 12th through the 14th, 2020; go to MT360conference.com. Awesome.
Benjamin Moses: I am Benjamin Moses, the director of manufacturing technology, and I’m here with-
Stephen LaMarca: Stephen LaMarca, manufacturing technology analyst.
Benjamin Moses: Steve, it’s been awhile. It felt like that pause in there.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s been a while, and we nailed our titles right away. It’s going to be a great year.
Benjamin Moses: It’s 2020.
Stephen LaMarca: Happy 2020.
Benjamin Moses: Welcome to the future.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes.
Benjamin Moses: Are you excited for 2020?
Stephen LaMarca: I am. I’m really excited for 2020, can’t wait to tell you why.
Benjamin Moses: There’s so much talk of “when I was younger. 2020 was the future.” I’m like, “Get ahold of yourself, man.” We’ll stop talking about that. It’s already worn out on me.
Stephen LaMarca: It is, yeah.
Benjamin Moses: We’re only a couple of weeks into it, and I’m tired already.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s been 20 years since … well 19 years since 2001.
Benjamin Moses: 2001.
Stephen LaMarca: 2001: A Space Odyssey, and people were predicting things like HAL. Still hasn’t happened yet.
Benjamin Moses: He’s not going to happen. We’ll see. Okay, before we get into the test bed and the articles, there’s a couple of things I want to talk about. One, it’s kind of play in the mysteries universe but also thought about does automation make you a better engineer and company?
Benjamin Moses: At home on the consumer side, I have a robot vacuum cleaner, straightforward. It’s nothing new. It’s been around for a bunch of years, which is my technology adoption plan: wait for a bunch of years and then jump on the bandwagon, like it’s brand new.
Stephen LaMarca: Home automation.
Benjamin Moses: I noticed that for it to run properly, I’ve got to put away all the toys, make sure there’s no shoelace, make there’s sure no scrunchies laying on the floor. It’s going to get sucked in. It’s going to send me a notification. I’m going to yell at someone at home for leaving their stuff around. But the fact is it requires you to put away all your stuff on the floor before it vacuums, so it doesn’t destroy itself. I’m wondering if the process to automate something, does that improve the quality, either of the part itself or of the discipline required to achieve that?
Stephen LaMarca: You know, it’s funny that you mention that, and I think it does. I mean, I would think that it would keep a manufacturing cell operator technician honest. Doug, AMT’s president, talks all the time about how his wife, Mary, hires cleaners for their place, and he finds it so ironic that you have to clean your house before the cleaners can show up to clean your house.
Benjamin Moses: So you’re not embarrassed.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s the same thing with a robot. It’s not just for embarrassed’s sake, but they can only do so much. You have to make sure you lay a good clean foundation for it.
Benjamin Moses: That’s a good [crosstalk 00:03:14].
Stephen LaMarca: Automation probably does keep cell technicians honest.
Benjamin Moses: The discipline is a good foundation. The other use case I have noticed obviously in the business world of setting up phone calls, so instead of emailing back and forth, I’ve got an automated tool that you can see my calendar online. I just block stuff out. It’s not super transparent, but it says when I’m available. But the key is I’ve got to maintain that schedule, otherwise people are going to run into errors when they book stuff.
Benjamin Moses: I think that’s the other key side of automation. One, going into it is the discipline to maintain it, but on the backend is things going to fail. Things will go wrong. Do you have a plan of, okay, when this robot goes down, or in my case, when this robot cleaner explodes or the calendar doesn’t work, is there a tool or mechanism for it to recover accordingly?
Stephen LaMarca: Wow. Yeah.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, so my calendar tool does. You can propose a new time. The vacuum cleaner has a bunch of safeties built in, so if the suction gets backed up or if there’s a clog, it shuts down. So, that’s something to consider. If you’re reliant on one manufacturing cell, you probably need a backup plan when that thing’s going down, not if.
Stephen LaMarca: Does the robot vacuum cleaner have a mass airflow sensor?
Benjamin Moses: I don’t think it does. I think the motor just overheats and says, “That’s enough.”
Stephen LaMarca: Oh yeah, there’d be sensor in the motor. That makes sense.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, [inaudible 00:04:36] temp sensor. Tell me about the test bay, man. It’s 2020; what are we doing this year?
Stephen LaMarca: Well, let me tell you what’s going on, something that me being pessimistic about it never thought would happen. We’ve got our cobot. The cobot arrived.
Benjamin Moses: What? We got cobot [Crosstalk 00:04:49].
Stephen LaMarca: It’s a second Christmas.
Benjamin Moses: Pop some champagne.
Stephen LaMarca: Robot arm is here along with some other goodies that also arrived that I ordered before our holiday break. But yeah, the robot’s here. I’ve got a good timeline of tasks that are coming up.
Benjamin Moses: Before you get into that, since it arrived … It did it arrive a couple days ago.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes.
Benjamin Moses: Is this the most exciting electronics purchase you’ve received?
Stephen LaMarca: You know-
Benjamin Moses: [crosstalk 00:05:21] Electronics guy.
Stephen LaMarca: Looking at it numbers-wise, it’s the most expensive thing, piece of electronics. I’m not a PC gamer, so while a lot of … I know a lot of people that have spent 10K on a gaming PC. I’ve never done that. I’ve never even been close to that. Plus I prefer … I’m a console gamer. I know, boo me. But being just shy of 10K, yeah, this is the most expensive piece of tech I’ve ever bought other than a car, which doesn’t count. Yeah, and when you compare it to the Pocket NC-
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, I was going to ask which is more exciting.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s virtually twice the price of the Pocket NC, and again, we’re just talking price. Now, technologically speaking, the Pocket NC, a five-axis desktop mill.
Benjamin Moses: Fairly advanced.
Stephen LaMarca: Really advanced. Five, 10 years ago, five-axis is … Everyone’s like, “Five-axis is the future.” It’s a foundational future, and it’s still pretty … I wouldn’t say five-axis is futuristic anymore. It doesn’t get a lot of publicity as much as it certainly used to. But a collaborative robot, we have a seven-axis collaborative robot at the office.
Benjamin Moses: That’s cool.
Stephen LaMarca: That’s huge, and that’s a serious long-term evolution. I mean, I’ve said it time and time again that I don’t think robots hardware-wise are going to get too much more advanced than they are now. Collaborative robots are here to stay and they’re not going to develop too much more. The next steps with robotics is probably going to be AI implementation, and we can do that. We have a collaborative robot. So yeah, I think this is the biggest thing that we’ve invested in.
Benjamin Moses: Awesome. That’s exciting.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s really awesome.
Benjamin Moses: What do we have coming up since we’ve just … We literally just unboxed it this week.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes, literally unboxed this week. The next steps are just laying out the workbench and installing, mounting the robot to the workbench. The workbench is seven-gauge steel, which is almost a quarter inch, really a fifth of an inch, but nobody says that, quarter-inch steel that we have to drill through six bolts, so we can bolt the robot in the center of the workbench so it’s stable and it can do whatever we’re going to do with it. We don’t want it to fall over. It’s expensive, obviously.
Benjamin Moses: We want it to be able to reach future stuff, so if we have automated stock retrieval connecting to the Pocket NC, even just vacuuming the pocket NC, retrieving material, it’s got to be able to reach all that.
Stephen LaMarca: We got test the reach and stuff. But before all that, it’s the hardware install. Second step, what comes after hardware install with any piece of high tech, software install. We got to be able to run it somehow. And that’s both the control on our computers, so I got to have the thing, the software running on my computer. Sharb is going to need the software running on his computer so he can implement MTConnect on it and whatnot.
Stephen LaMarca: After that we got to test and verify the motion, actually test the reach, test some of the features of the robot, see how much it can articulate, then automate something, actually come up with a simple program for it to automate, and lastly, the duration test, see for how long it can repeat an automated cycle. Let’s start with a half hour. Then next would be a jump to an hour and then see if we can let it run a cycle over lunch, not being around it, then seeing if we can set it up before going home for the day and come back the next day in the morning, see if it’s still running properly, doing its cycles. And then let it go for a weekend, and that would be our first dive into lights out manufacturing.
Benjamin Moses: That’s going to be awesome. One thing I just thought of while we were going through this is might need some signage if we’re going to run it by itself, just to let the team know around us that, “Hey, this is running. Contact Steve.”
Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely. Yeah, need some signage.
Benjamin Moses: Need some signage.
Stephen LaMarca: We definitely needed signage for the Pocket NC.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, the cell.
Stephen LaMarca: [crosstalk 00:09:41] That this is a collaborative robot-
Benjamin Moses: I’m not worried about that.
Stephen LaMarca: … and there’s new standards about it, but still, it’s a good idea, just “Please don’t touch.”
Benjamin Moses: Yes. We work in an office. Let’s minimize contact with the robot.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes.
Benjamin Moses: Awesome. I’m really happy that, one, the robot came in and they delivered, and we get to move forward for this year, and we can move on with our … continue our growth of a factory, so hopefully-
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. This robot, I have a feeling … It’s going to be more than 50% of this year’s experiments and blog posts will be robot related if not entirely about the robot.
Benjamin Moses: It’s going to be amazing. I got a couple of articles here, and you got one too. The first one I wanted to get into is composites. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about composites.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes.
Benjamin Moses: NASA … this is from Inside Composites, got the skinny from Inside Composites, of course … is funding a software company that’s currently used in designing fish rods, skis, cell phones, electronics. Now, before we take a step back, NASA has been doing a fair amount of work in taking what’s been done in consumer goods and the world around it and how does that apply to space.
Benjamin Moses: What they’re doing is using a grant through the small business technology transfer, STTR, to develop high-fidelity modeling of deployable structures made from high strain composites. What they want to do is things like booms, things like arms that are made from composites. They want to improve the accuracy of how they’re modeling that on the design side so they can, again, improve the life of how they’re implementing that. So, things like skis, if I have skis or a fish rod, if I replicate that or scale it up to what NASA wants to do on a space shuttle, you could see similarities from a fishing rod to a big boom or some structure in space.
Benjamin Moses: What they’re doing is this company has a great partnership with Purdue, the research group out of Purdue. They feel that they can innovate quicker through collaborating through this small company and developing faster FEA tools for composites. So, I thought it was really fascinating. Walk me through your article, Steve.
Stephen LaMarca: Shockingly, I find it strange that Forbes has some pretty awesome manufacturing industry related news. But Forbes had this article that came up on tech trends called 12 AI Milestones, and number one is Shakey the Robot. This article only talked about number one, Shakey the Robot, so I assume … and I did do a Google search to make sure there were no other articles. I have a feeling this is the first article of a 12-article installment. It’s by Gil Press of Forbes and talking about Shakey the Robot.
Stephen LaMarca: When I was at CES, while I was walking the aisles of CES, especially the robotics section, CES was crazy. It was absolutely crowded, and everybody cuts you off. Especially if you’re looking around while navigating CES, you’re going to get cut off, because you’re not paying attention to the road. You’re not watching in front of you. One of the people or objects that cut me off, sure enough, was this robot, an automated rolling … what looks like a mobile workstation, but nobody was pushing it. It was just driving down-
Benjamin Moses: Just scooting by.
Stephen LaMarca: Cut me off, man. Just like every other person, this robot comes in, cuts me off.
Benjamin Moses: Just blending in.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, they’ve got the AI down, because that thing knows when to take advantage of people not paying attention.
Benjamin Moses: That’s awesome.
Stephen LaMarca: Anyway, so I’m watching this video that is linked in this Forbes article to SRI, Stanford Research Institute, and it’s about this robot, the grandfather of autonomous robotics, Shakey. The robot’s name was Shakey, and it’s because there was this early implementation of what was an early robot arm on top of exactly what I just described at CES, this mobile workstation rolling around but nobody pushing it. It was moving by itself, and that’s what Shakey is. But instead of CES 2020, this was in the 1960s.
Benjamin Moses: That was a long time ago.
Stephen LaMarca: This was 50 years ago. I did my math wrong, 60 years ago, close to 60 years ago.
Benjamin Moses: That’s close enough.
Stephen LaMarca: I was just baffled that that was a long time ago, man, and CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, was exhibiting this now.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, that’s interesting.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s just a huge callback.
Benjamin Moses: I do like that article, actually. It gives us a timeframe of when the early, the grandfather of this technology existed and where we are now. It’s kind of easy to see it. That’s cool.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. When I started here and 3-D printing was all the rage, it still kind of is, but when I started here four plus years ago, I remember looking up additive manufacturing, did a Wiki search. Somewhere in Wikipedia, the additive page, it will say that, “Oh yeah, additive manufacturing started in the ’80s.” And I’m like, “What?”
Benjamin Moses: It’s been around for a while.
Stephen LaMarca: That’s a long time, man.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, absolutely. The last article I wanted to get into was a little bit of calibration, a little metrology.
Stephen LaMarca: Awesome.
Benjamin Moses: This is calibration through the eyes of an engine builder, so a company that’s making modified engines for racing or street performance. They mention, “Calibration is a fact of life.” They’re machining parts, they’re modifying parts, and then the important takeaway from this article is the importance of calibration of your inspection equipment. There’s a broad spectrum of inspection equipment that they use, so they could be doing functional testing, so they have flow meters. They have linear gauges. They’ve got calipers. There’s a couple of things that they mention here, and the couple of things that they talk about of why would you want to calibrate something? It takes a piece of machinery that you’re using away from the factory floor, right?
Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.
Benjamin Moses: But the thing related to this is preventing errors. So you’re inspecting something to try and catch an error or seeing-
Stephen LaMarca: Preventing errors and minimizing uncertainty.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, exactly. These pieces of equipment is basically machinery, right? It gets used a lot. It gets beat up and there’s wear, so this piece of measuring equipment will break down at some point. The question is did you catch it before it started allowing discrepancies to go through the manufacturing floor?
Benjamin Moses: In the article they talk about a lot of their peer group does a calibration once a year, which is fine. The thing that you’d want to consider is how are you managing that risk? If you do yearly checks, if it fails halfway through the year, you’ve got six months of potentially discrepant product. So, you’ve got assemblies, in this case engines, that could go bad early because of poor fitment. The question is, one way to mitigate that risk is do frequent checks. Instead of doing a full-on calibration where you take it into a metrology room in a controlled environment and check it back to a NIST traceable piece of inspection block, have the operator check it on a gauge pen or some other piece of equipment just to verify that, “Hey, I know this thing is probably correct. Let me double check my tool that can wear,” doing that on a daily basis. I mean, we have warm-up procedures for mills and things like that [crosstalk 00:17:21].
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, machine tools.
Benjamin Moses: There’s no reason why you can’t have a quick spot check and a start-up procedure for measuring equipment.
Stephen LaMarca: Right. That reminds me, so one of the other new toys that we got at the beginning of the year was … well, we got another ball and mill, which is exciting. But the other thing I went ahead and splurged on, because we had some excess budget from last year that I should have spent and I didn’t, but I bought a new pair of calipers for the test bed and these fresh Mitutoyo calipers that were awesome. I didn’t go all in and get the absolute top of the line model, because the prices can get really ridiculous.
Benjamin Moses: For what we’re doing, yes.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, for what we’re doing, but the cool thing is I wanted digital calipers that I didn’t want to have to worry about accidentally leaving on and having to change the battery after only using it once or twice, so got these solar powered calipers that every time you turn them on, and they turn on automatically, but every time you turn them on, they recalibrate. Every time you send the calipers back to zero, it recalibrates. Every time you change the unit of measurement from millimeters to inches or inches back to millimeters, it recalibrates.
Benjamin Moses: Fascinating.
Stephen LaMarca: It’s really fascinating. It sometimes catches me off guard. It’s like, “What’s wrong with these things?” because you want to measure something right away and it’s like, “Wait, hold on.” And then it’s like, “Okay, calibrate. Ready to go.” It does every time.
Stephen LaMarca: When you think about it, the other pair of calipers that I love … I’m glad I got these new ones because these other ones are almost an antique now, and they work so well. I don’t want them to break, so I kind of want to take care of them a little bit, because they were a gift. Geez, I forget the brand but it’s a Swiss made brand of caliper, and they’re analog, and I have misread the dial before. I’ll be honest. But every time I use those, when you send them back to zero, you got to turn the little analog dial to make sure it’s recalibrated. You want to make sure it’s zeroed properly. And this thing does it by itself.
Benjamin Moses: I’ve got a set of calibers I use at home that I’ve had since … let’s see, when I started working … probably from 2002-ish, I’ve had since then. To the same degree, it zeroes pretty regularly. It’s fairly consistent, but the needle is bent a little bit. That’s the reason I took it from work is because the needle was bent. I was like, “These guys aren’t using it,” so I took it home. For what I’m doing at home it works great, but-
Stephen LaMarca: Those blades can bend too.
Benjamin Moses: Sure. They could.
Stephen LaMarca: That’s why you’re supposed to use that carrying case or protective case.
Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Quick heads up to the audience, if you see Steve, ask him about the issues he had when he first received the calipers.
Stephen LaMarca: Oh my God.
Benjamin Moses: Let’s not get in the podcast. I think we’ll save that for an in person impromptu.
Stephen LaMarca: That’s so embarrassing, so dumb.
Benjamin Moses: I think that was fairly entertaining. Awesome. Steve, this was great.
Stephen LaMarca: This was fun. It’s good to be back.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, so how would they get in touch with us?
Stephen LaMarca: You can check me at my blog, Adventures of an Amateur Machinist. The website link is swarfysteve.blogspot.com. Again, the link will be in the bio and the description below.
Benjamin Moses: And they can find me on LinkedIn.
Stephen LaMarca: And Twitter, right?
Benjamin Moses: Let’s keep it at LinkedIn for now.
Stephen LaMarca: LinkedIn.
Benjamin Moses: All right, thanks. This was awesome.
Stephen LaMarca: Goodbye everybody.
Benjamin Moses: Goodbye everybody.