“All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and playing around with things.”
– Stephanie Kwolek, American chemist and inventor of Kevlar
1. EVs Need Gears Too!
Back in my day, Tesla Motors wasn’t publicly traded, and the company was thought to be vaporware. Their first concept car for the first-generation Roadster teased a gated TWO-speed manual transmission! Sadly, the stick shift didn’t make it to production, and we soon would learn it didn’t need to. Fast forward to today, and you have people running around, spewing psychobabble like “eVs DoN’t NeEd GeArS!” False! Joel Neidig and 100% torque at 0 rpm would beg to differ. They need gears. Gears of the highest quality at that! Just not gears for shifting.
2. Hi-Fi CNC
“Oh great! Steve’s sharing another expensive hobby of his again. Hide your wallets!” I know, I know. I have a problem. Like all worthy hobbies though, it circles back to manufacturing! ... BTW, these people make a $3,700 wireless speaker (only use Bluetooth if you hate quality audio). It’s their least expensive system. Don’t shoot the messenger. The redeeming quality is Linn Products makes their ultra-premium highest-end products on quarter-million-dollar machines in fully automated multi-million-dollar manufacturing cells. They sound good too.
3. Wireless On-Machine Inspection
Remember back in the day, like the late ‘90s and through the 2000s, when everybody was starting to embrace wireless everything? Could be making a comeback! “Measuring on the machine tool, whether for workpiece inspection, temperature, or tool control, is a valuable source of information in the machining process. With this data, workpieces can be controlled before, or even in between, machining. In this way the quality of products can be assured, and measurement results used to flexibly improve production – for example through automatic part alignment. These small improvements accumulate to improve production efficiency. A wireless scanner could remove bottlenecks by taking inline measurement for in-process enhancements away from CMM machines. In modern production, manufacturing often must stop until the results come in. This new wireless laser scanner provides quick measurement on the machine tool, and the results are quickly sent to relevant areas of the production, such as quality engineers or production managers.”
4. Colonizing Mars with 3D Printing Robots
We’re able to reach Mars. That’s not a big deal anymore. Get over it. But what do you do when you get there? Well, you’re gonna need shelter, water, food, and probably air. I don’t know. I’m no spaceman. Oh, you’ll also want to evolve to weather the extreme swings in temperature and high levels of ionizing radiation. Evolution doesn’t work that fast, so file these problems under “shelter.” You know what is evolving rapidly though? ROBOTS! Send ‘em! Give ‘em some additive tech so they can print us shelter while they’re up there waiting for us. Boom. There’s half our problems solved! Thanks, Zebro!
5. Robot Machining
One of the first wild concepts I remember hearing about in my first year in this industry was the desire for a machine tool capable of making a part larger than the entirety of the machine itself. I was so new at the time, I needed it to be explained to me why a part larger than the footprint of the machine making it was fantasy. This has always been a “want” in the industry, and to this day, it still is! This is where we are with respect to achieving this goal. Spoiler alert: We’re not there yet, but this is a HUGE step forward!
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