Release date: 29 January 2021
Episode 42: Ben and Stephen open with more egregious spending. Steve bought a new phone when he said he wouldn’t, and Ben bought another RC car. Ben talks about robotic trends for engineering students in 2021. Steve brings up e-waste and how one researcher is developing biodegradable PCBs. Ben has an article saying Stephen was right about his 2018 robot arm predictions. Steve thinks additive could soon be changing the way aftermarket parts are sold. Ben closes thing to know when becoming an additive start-up.
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Benjamin Moses: Hi everyone and welcome to the Tech Trends Podcast, where we discuss the latest manufacturing technology, research and news. I am Benjamin Moses, the director of technology, and I'm here with...
Stephen LaMarca: Stephen LaMarca, manufacturing technology analyst.
Benjamin Moses: Steve, how's it going? That's a beautiful red shirt you have on today.
Stephen LaMarca: Thanks, man. You too.
Benjamin Moses: We're both wearing red shirts for some odd reason. Today it was a little casual. It's been a busy day with Emilia was actually sick today. So I had to scramble around and-
Stephen LaMarca: I guess, this will be our Star Trek episode.
Benjamin Moses: Where we all die at the end?
Stephen LaMarca: Yes. We're not going to make it.
Benjamin Moses: You know, Galaxy Quest is a very underrated movie. That's one of my favorites Star Wars.
Stephen LaMarca: Is that the danger, danger, danger Robinson?
Benjamin Moses: No, no, no. That's with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver and they play on all of the tropes from Star Trek.
Stephen LaMarca: Gotcha. Sigourney Weaver, Ripley is my hero.
Benjamin Moses: She's awesome.
Stephen LaMarca: Before feminism was cool, Alien with like "Ooh, movies never have strong female characters." Need I show you Alien?
Benjamin Moses: She was great.
Stephen LaMarca: There are many before that too. Yeah, she is really great in that. I saw a meme once on somebody that perfectly summarized Alien and it goes something like this, lady expert tells people that they're doing something unsafe. Those people don't listen to the lady, those people die, lady survives.
Benjamin Moses: That's a great summary of a two and a half hour movie.
Stephen LaMarca: That movie terrified me as a kid.
Benjamin Moses: I don't remember seeing all of it. I've seen bits and pieces, but I jumped right to the second one, Aliens.
Stephen LaMarca: Aliens is great too.
Benjamin Moses: I think I should go back and watch it.
Stephen LaMarca: It's definitely worth revisiting, on the regular. What were you about to say?
Benjamin Moses: Let's kick off the episode. I think you were mentioning something about your phone recently.
Stephen LaMarca: Oh yeah. Well, for the past 11 months how I was telling you that being that we're stuck at home. Stuck working from home, it would be a really dumb idea to go ahead and replace your phone.
Benjamin Moses: Who would do that?
Stephen LaMarca: The only reason... Phones are like all of their processing power, their cameras, their screens are so nice and so advanced today that there's no point in upgrading, especially since the only reason you would upgrade your mobile device is due to the battery going bad. Your battery doesn't hold as much charge anymore. It doesn't last as long anymore.
Benjamin Moses: Or you can't do updates anymore. I found that out.
Stephen LaMarca: Can't do updates anymore. Don't have that problem with a Google phone. If you have a Google phone, you get all the Android updates before anybody else does, which I really like. With the batteries, you get to a certain point where you're like the gauge, the battery level isn't even accurate anymore. On a new phone, you can get the battery all the way down to like 0%. It'll actually say 0% on the screen and that doesn't make sense in my mind, and before it shuts off. As for like with a worn battery, like with my phone, I'll get it down to like 30% and if I get a Snapchat notification, not even opening Snapchat, sometimes just the Snapchat notification will shut my phone off. The battery is that shot. It's that caput. Anyway, I've been telling people and I've been saying on the podcast, don't do it. You're a dummy if you replace your phone in the middle of a work from home pandemic. Last night at 3:00 AM, I went ahead and ordered a new phone.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah. The 3:00 AM big purchase. I like it. That's usually when I do all my-
Stephen LaMarca: Close to $800, 3:00 AM, no big deal.
Benjamin Moses: To be fair, you buy your [inaudible 00:04:10] unsubsidized from the phone companies, right? So it's unlocked phone. It's going to be pretty pricey, which are generally above $500, $600.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. I forget if... I mean, Google does have financing, but-
Benjamin Moses: Sure, sure.
Stephen LaMarca: I can afford it. I don't mean to sound like I'm flexing or anything.
Benjamin Moses: There's two good observations from there, one is that you bought a phone during the pandemic, which is just funny, but it happens. I'm running into issues with my tablet, where the tablet I have is so old. The programs recognize the age of the tablet and won't force an update for individual programs. Trying to update Google Duo, it immediately said your tablet's too old. That was a slap in the face, but that's fine. The second one is social media apps are killers. I mean, both for phone and just useless in general. That's why the second most used type of app on my phone, you could say business applications like email and calendar. That's probably one of the higher ones. Games is probably next category and then social media. If that category died, no one would really be impacted. To be honest, I think our lives would be better if that's actually has gone.
Stephen LaMarca: If you think about it, what are the negative impacts of social media being wiped out? Well, if you remember the main purpose of social media back when Facebook was created, it was to just stay connected with people.
Benjamin Moses: Sure.
Stephen LaMarca: It'd be a lot harder to stay connected with people. Okay. That's your first negative and it's the primary negative, because if you think about it, that was the purpose of social media at least things like Facebook and MySpace, which is not a thing anymore. Guess what, we're fine without MySpace. In some cases we would like to go back because Facebook is so much worse, but the other negative is for people like me who are terrible at remembering people's birthdays, Facebook's got your back.
Benjamin Moses: Facebook, the birthday reminder.
Stephen LaMarca: Yes. Yeah. I'd rather just like sack up and just Steve, how about you just... Everything has a calendar app, how about you just write these things down? There's no shame in texting people right now, "Hey, when is your birthday?" And just entering it right there in your calendar. Do it now, reach out to some people that... You don't need Facebook. You just reach out to some people right now that you care about their birthday and find out. Even if it's your mom, it's terrible if you don't know your mom's birthday. I don't, it's okay because it's what I had Facebook for.
Benjamin Moses: When I first signed up, I think the birthday was optional and then later on they kept on asking me for my birthday. I was nervous about that data in general, being migrated, because you use your birthday for a lot of password resets and medical stuff so I put in a random date that's close to it like November 1st, some random year. When I get notifications on Facebook from people that say happy birthday on that wrong day, then I realize those are the people that don't know me. Like, "Look at this goober."
Stephen LaMarca: Nice. Oh, wow.
Benjamin Moses: I feel bad for them.
Stephen LaMarca: That would really screw me up. I would be one of those goobers, no doubt about it. I got to tell you, when I get new phones, which isn't often, but when I do get a new phone, whether it's a replacement, because something happened to the last one, Google is really good about throwing free replacements at you. When I get a new phone, you have the option to put the phones next to each other and the one will fully mirror the other one, then you can factory reset the other one and send it back. That's really convenient, but I am one of those weirdos that actually likes a fresh start. I'll log into my Google account and I'll manually move things over that I know I want and I'll leave some things be that I haven't touched in maybe the last time I touched that app was when I installed it and it was a mistake. I like to do a manual-
Benjamin Moses: Fresh restart.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. Fresh restart when I get a new phone. I'm thinking, because I'm jealous of you and Russ who don't have Facebook accounts. Some people might judge you guys, but I actually am impressed and I know a few other people that have gone the way of just totally getting Facebook out of their life. I'm thinking when this new comes in, I might delete... I'll probably keep my account up, but I might be done with it. I might be done with it.
Benjamin Moses: It's funny because Facebook keeps trying to get back at me because when they bought Instagram, now it says Instagram owned by Facebook, and now they purchased WhatsApp, which they might be in trouble for. At our church, we started using WhatsApp for our Sabbath schools and now Facebook goes there. They keep trying to get back to me. Their tentacles are reaching me.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. That's really scary.
Benjamin Moses: You mentioned the 3:00 AM purchase. I mapped out my financial hobbies for this year and I'm looking at my next RC car. A quick recap, I have a road going RC car, which is massive. It's almost as big as my real car. It's a 1/6th scale, it's almost two feet... 27 inches long by 12 inches wide. So it's a big guy. The next car I'm looking at is an off-road vehicle. It's like a Baja style. The one I'm looking at it's an open wheel. I was looking at short course truck styles, but this one's fairly big and it's a little bit larger power because it's off-road. So stepping up from a six cell, which is my on-road to the eight cell, which has off-road style. I think most of them are around 30 pounds, so this is almost as heavy as my six year old daughter at this point. It's going to be a problem when I crash into the side of the house.
Stephen LaMarca: Tell me, if I was in that hobby, I'm not going to lie, I think I might make 1/6th scale garage too. Are you going to do something like that?
Benjamin Moses: I was thinking about that because-
Stephen LaMarca: Oh, that would be so cool.
Benjamin Moses: The battery gets crushed on my on-road because I just go full throttle back and forth. So I was actually thinking about making or getting a smaller car that has better battery life and actually getting a tow bed, putting that on the tow bed, driving it to the park nearby, offloading at the driving round and driving back into a garage. I don't know, man.
Stephen LaMarca: Then you're going to need a 1/6 Prius.
Benjamin Moses: Oh man. So many hobbies. So many things I could do. You asked the question about how accurate the scales are. The proportions are interesting because when you scale down to a certain size where you cross the threshold where the mechanics won't quite work out that well. So like the shocks on the RC car are actually, oil shocks instead of gas so when you transition that small scale, I don't think gas works as a very good dampener at that scale, that weight and that size. Then you switch to oil, some kind of fluid gas, but the arrangement is still the same where it's a piston inside of a spring and the on-road car is all fully independent suspension and it's mostly plastic. There's modification that you can do to make it metallic, which is interesting on the manufacturing side because the OEM parts are all plastic injection molded. The aftermarket parts are CNC machine components, probably out of rod. Some of them are casts depending on where you buy it from, but the new trend is to actually buy flat plate, carbon fiber and actually machine your components out of that.
Benjamin Moses: As long as there's a flat plate, like a lot of the strut supports are a lot of the floor base of the cars are flat generally. Those are actually just small garage shops that have a CNC router. Hopefully they're following some good safety protocol for machining the carbon fiber, but they just come into there with a diamond bitten machine away the flat plate and by yourself [crosstalk 00:12:41]
Stephen LaMarca: I don't think there's an excuse to not use a proper composite cutting and mill because, I don't use that stuff, but when I'm swiping through Instagram, I see advertisements for those awesome looking end mills that... It's crazy because you would get a standard conventional end mill, and it kind of looks like a drill bit. In fact when I'm showing people what, back when we were in the office and I would take people who had never seen a machine tool over to the test bed, I'd show them the pocket NC, and they'd be like, "Oh, what's the deal with this gold or bluish drill bit?" I'm like "That is not a drill bit. That is an end mill." You look at end mills that are specifically designed for milling multiple layers of composite, they actually don't look as much like a drill bit, they still kind of have a little bit of the shape, but if anything, it actually looks like a tire tread.
Benjamin Moses: A tire trend, or if you pick a file and kind of wrap it around the cylinder, it's kind of that very high diamond pattern. So it depends.
Stephen LaMarca: The purpose is to not separate the layers of composite to prevent separation, which is really cool, but yeah, hopefully... I got to ask something else, because talking about the scales of the individual components on the RC car, I asked you that question offline before we were recording. So the suspension components and they use oil instead of gas, do they do other stuff like is there remote reservoir on some of the suspension components? They use mono tube or some dual tube dampers, or is that too small?
Benjamin Moses: I think that's too small. I think you can start getting into the size of the molecules, things like that versus the valve size. So most of them are single tube, there are no reservoirs because they're not just... Now when you get into like the really, really big stuff, like RC cars that are 80 pounds like the big foot style RC cars, then you can get that weird threshold where you could do like reservoir cylinders, where you have that much travel in the piston or in the cylinder of the shock where you kind of need that. For the most part, these small guys you've got half an inch of travel at most, even on some of these big ones, maybe an inch of travel. Most of it, it's just clearance underneath. Now you do have like the style of the powertrain can be mimicked to the real thing. So like the off-road one I'm looking, actually like the Baja style or off-road racer where it's got a rear axle because [inaudible 00:15:29] got a rear axle, but it's got a [inaudible 00:15:32] link suspension system in the back so it can articulate kind of in a weird style.
Benjamin Moses: So it replicates pretty close to what actually done in terms of geometry. Of course, some it's plastic versus metal tire rods. It's got things like that. It's got anti-sway bars, but as... Of course little wires instead of an [crosstalk 00:15:52].
Stephen LaMarca: Like a coat hanger, a CMC bent coat hanger probably, as a sway bar. I can only imagine that some of the more upscale and higher end RC cars probably cost as much as a real car, because when you think about it, you're talking about like something scaled down, but also matching the performance of something else. You're probably talking high costs because I can imagine that you're using a lot of Swiss watchmaking techniques to make the small automotive components.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.
Stephen LaMarca: Actually, I'd love to see if there was a Swiss watchmaker that would be willing to change some tooling around to make a little RC car. Not going to happen, never going to happen, but it would be sick.
Benjamin Moses: They do venture in some of the exotic materials. I mentioned carbon fiber, some of the other components are made out of titanium, probably lower grade, like CP 50, CP 40. I doubt they use the alloyed stuff and then some of the high grade steels. They do get into some fairly exotic stuff. I'd say it's fairly cutting edge and they're getting into telemetry data now, too. So the controller that I have will read how much charge is left in the battery remotely.
Stephen LaMarca: That's cool.
Benjamin Moses: Then you can attach your phone to it and you can read your RPMs of your electric motor, how fast you're going. There's a lot of data that's being transmitted.
Stephen LaMarca: Does the controller have force feedback?
Benjamin Moses: No.
Stephen LaMarca: That would be really cool if the electronic steering rack on the car could sense what kind of backlash the wheels were getting and it could send that information back to the controller and you could actually feel it in the knob or whatever it is you use to steer. That'd be wild.
Benjamin Moses: Mine does have a... One last thing I just want to mention, it's got a gyroscope built into the receiver. So if you're going full throttle, everything goes through the receiver, all the commands. So if you go going full throttle, it knows the direction and the current like pitch and yaw. I think those are the rotations. If it detects that one at the back end of starting to slip out, it automatically corrects the steering, so you maintain the same direction basically. [crosstalk 00:18:12].
Stephen LaMarca: That's not trash control. What is that? I think it's either adaptive or automatic yaw control.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah.
Stephen LaMarca: In Gran Turismo, you can actually turn that on or turn that off if you're terrible at controlling slides or oversteer. That was really cool.
Benjamin Moses: That was really fascinating to me. You can adjust that, how strong you want that. All right, less of RC talk, let's get into some articles.
Stephen LaMarca: All right, man.
Benjamin Moses: The first one I actually want to get into is from Robotics and Automation News. It talks about top robotic trends in engineering students for 21. It talks about kind of what the students are going to be looking for, or what are they preparing for as they enter the industry. One thing they talked about, I kind of glanced over it is the cost of robotics really, which I wasn't too familiar with. I didn't know there's a degree in robotics, but congratulations, there is. The first main group of technologies that they're wanting to talk about is human robotic collaboration. We've been talking about cobots have existed for a long time, but this one gets into a little bit more about using artificial intelligence and machine learning. So the robot knows what the human is doing and it can compliment each other. So a couple of use cases that were presented several years ago, where if there is an assembly, the humans doing like half of it, the robot seeing what the human is doing and then completing the tasks that the human doesn't complete.
Benjamin Moses: I thought that was very interesting. So things like that are, that's a very simplified use case, but the integration of human and robotics working together to compliment each other is an interesting use case. The second one they talk about is localization and navigation. This gets into kind of the mobile side of automation and being able to know where you are. So we look at warehouse robots and robots that are outside of the warehouse like security bots and things like that which are a nascent industries. The ability to be self-aware is a thread that lot of machines are picking up on recently now. So the ability for a robot to self describe itself, kind of exists. Being able to draw the data, being able to describe what is doing right now, and then you can add limits to see how far you are about those limits. Now the ability for the robot to describe where they are in relation to something, is pretty important.
Benjamin Moses: When you look at like a robotic arm where the end of arm tooling is, that becomes even more critical being able to verify the position, the accuracy, and having some type of closed loop system that exists outside of the robotic arm itself for verification. Then you get into the mobile side of it so that's a growing trend of being able to locate yourself. The next one is 3D printing. The idea of 3D printing, obviously exist for a long time, but 3D printing on a robot. So the end of arm tooling is you're printing card which, Oak Ridge has done a couple of presentations recently on Spark and a couple of the ones that I've talked about is... Oh, excuse me. The most recent one they talked about is SkyBAAM. They love the acronyms, which it still eludes me how they get to these acronyms. The idea is if you notice on... If you watch NFL or probably some other sports that picked it up where they have kind of like a floating camera on the field, and it's basically controlled by tethers that are on these long poles.
Benjamin Moses: So you're pulling on this tethered to kind of move this camera around. It's not flying around it's on these tethers.
Stephen LaMarca: It's on cables.
Benjamin Moses: Cables. Exactly. So the idea was, if you replace that camera with a printing head, so this case Oak Ridge said, "I want to print a really big structure out of concrete. So can I replace that with a printing head that'll pour concrete through it's nozzle." So they can put these massive structures, all they have to do is erect four pillars or four posts, attach some cabling, I would say I'm still flying a lot, but the idea of a kind of mobile platform to print a very, very large structure exists. So the idea of attaching three printing heads to robots is a growing trend. Then the next presentation they're going to talk about is Medusa, where they have I think, three metallic printing heads where they can all work together. Either they're building one structure together, or they're building different sections of a structure together, and that's fascinating. One of the theories that Tom has been pushing quite a bit is using gravity as your support structure, so don't build up support structure, actually articulate the piece around. So you use gravity to support yourself as you're growing. I thought that was very fascinating to talk about the integration of 3D printing on robot heads.
Stephen LaMarca: Where else have I heard that before? I think we did an article a couple of weeks ago or probably months ago actually. There was something about that recently that probably some researcher got a whole butt load of grant money for just being like, "We could just turn the thing upside down, print upside down and everything would be okay." [inaudible 00:23:30]
Benjamin Moses: The first one we ran across was some Scandinavian country was trying to print a metallic 3D bridge using robots that approached each other. That was a couple years ago and that's fascinating. Hackrod was one of the first kind of bigger companies from Siemens that was looking at creating an automotive platform through general design. So you get a very optimized substructure, and then they would use robots to print the entire structure and I thought that was fascinating too.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. Man, now I'm really bothered that I can't remember what that is.
Benjamin Moses: That's all right. We'll find out for the next episode.
Stephen LaMarca: Definitely the new thing, the new innovation in that article you just mentioned is setting up towers and having your print head run along cables. I can imagine that you would probably want because one of the things that we hear a lot in this industry is making the machine that does the manufacturing, having that be smaller than the part you're producing and you're getting there with that. If you just have like four towers and then high tension cables, you would need some serious high tension cables to support something with enough material that you wouldn't have constantly be reloading it.
Benjamin Moses: Well the feeders are tubes, you only have to hold the weight of just that tube and that head and they're driving the concrete in that tube onto the printing head.
Stephen LaMarca: Interesting. I couldn't imagine like with large structures though, that tube could get heavy, maybe they could do something like you use a standard construction crane. Just to help support some of the weight there.
Benjamin Moses: We can link the Spark interview about SkyBAAM from Oak Ridge National Labs and you guys should definitely check out the video and then-
Stephen LaMarca: I would love to hear it.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Then come back with the questions in a couple of weeks. I recommend watching that. All right. So let's talk about your articles. You got one on, is it was the e-waste?
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, I got two articles on e-waste and some color commentary that I threw in myself, but I'm not going to mention one of the articles just because it wasn't very manufacturing related, but there is at least this week, the news highlighted a huge push towards combating e-waste and just plastic pollution in general. As we know, we've got an insane amount of tonnage of plastics swirling around in the ocean, both floating and that have submerged and sunk down into the depths of the ocean that we haven't really explored that much. Frankly, at this point we might not want to, but all that plastic in the ocean is non-recyclable, which I think there's a Netflix series on the false advertisement of recyclability and recycling plastics, and it's really awful.
Stephen LaMarca: Anyway, the biggest way to combat this is just changing the materials we're using. One cool article that I came across was this lady. I hope she forgives me for butchering the pronunciation of her name, but I think our name is [inaudible 00:27:11], is doing a huge amount of research and has received some serious grant money to develop a... Well she's a researcher, an expert in printed control boards.
Benjamin Moses: Cool.
Stephen LaMarca: Printed control boards, printed circuit boards, PCBs, and she's been given a huge amount of money for this project to develop... At least her goal is to develop a biodegradable media or material that would go into printed circuit boards to replace the conventional materials like Silicon or FR-4. That would be really cool, obviously. Of course, when you make materials specifically plastics that are typically not biodegradable, there are some downsides that we've seen in the auto industry over the past few years. I absolutely recall Lexus and now Porsche as well are using a lot of soy plastics in their wiring harnesses and wiring looms. Lexus is trying to use it wherever they possibly can, but the huge downside to that is two things, premature biodegrading. You don't want to street park your car and especially if you you're locked up at home and quarantined and not really driving anywhere for a couple months.
Stephen LaMarca: You don't want to come outside to your street parked vehicle and find out that half of it has degraded because it's biodegradable. That actually is a serious concern, but another concern that a lot of Porsche owners are a bit up in arms about is that the soy plastics used in a lot of Porsche's wires are apparently really tasty to little rodents. Obviously, the rodent will stop when it gets to the hard metal of a wire, but it eats away at all of the biodegradable shielding. Metal is easy to recycle. It can be melted down and repurposed, but the plastics need to be biodegradable and that's what they did and now they're finding that the rodents will eat away at the wire shielding, and this causes a lot of huge amount of problems that will just only pile up when you have an expensive German car like that. One of the last things you want is to short a a circuit in your expensive ECU.
Benjamin Moses: That is fascinating. Have you seen just the wire harnesses in a car? Just sitting like on a board or anything?
Stephen LaMarca: Yes, I've seen that in some cases, but I've also seen... I can only imagine how insane it is on something like a Porsche because I've seen the bumper taken off, the front and rear bumper taken off of my car. You take off the bumper and then you see no aluminum structural crash bar or support bar, and there's some foam behind it, but a lot of it's air. Behind that bumper, that plastic bumper is a lot of air and a lot of empty space because the other main purpose of that plastic fascia is aerodynamics. I've also shockingly seen a front bumper removed from, it was either a Porsche Panamera or like a Porsche Cayenne and there's so much going on. There's not a lot of empty space in a Porsche. They have mastered packaging and now I understand why they're such a [crosstalk 00:31:29] work on. I haven't touched one myself to work on, and I'm thankful for that, but dude, there is no empty space behind those.
Benjamin Moses: I'll call you when I have to change the engineer air filter on mine.
Stephen LaMarca: I would love to see it. I'd love to see it.
Benjamin Moses: I'm not excited for that, but the point of the amount of wire harnesses on a car, it's incredible. Even like the baseline Hyundai, which is just a four-cylinder engine, has got a gas and a brake and the steering wheel, there's still tons and tons of wiring that's involved. Probably close to hundreds of feet. That's just automotive. When you talk about scaling that to aerospace, now you're running the lengths of the aircraft with wire harnesses, right? Obviously they're probably concerned about their qualification of that material is probably different, but the impact and scale... Then when you talk about where this resides in our membership, companies producing this equipment, I've got this big warehouse where I've got 30 mills and I've got the possibility of food in each of my machines that rodents want to get in and eat them up. That's interesting. It's a problem I'd never considered in the... Probably a lot of people did consider, soya is delicious.
Stephen LaMarca: It would potentially add a few steps to manufacturing because it's never been a consideration before, at least to my knowledge, it's never been a consideration in manufacturing something to need to implement like a pesticide coding into something. So that would be new.
Benjamin Moses: Yep. All right. The next article I've got talks about robotics again. It's from a Nature World, but they talk about the growth in industrial robots. It talks about industrial robots for sale. Why are industrial robots becoming more popular? The reason I like this article, one, it shows how smart you are, Steve. It talks about how some of the things that we've been talking about. It reinforces the industrial adoption of additive as of 2021. The first key element they talk about is easy to use. Now, I wouldn't say it's the easiest thing to do. Obviously a pen and paper is easy to use. It's not to that scale, but the shift on implementing robots nowadays to get the ability to get them programmed and running is easier now. It talks about how easy it is for other industries to adopt their implementations also.
Benjamin Moses: It gets into hospitality, agriculture, healthcare, and that raised my eyebrow a little bit, because when you're talking about automation and robots, it's a big scale, it's a whole variety of things and not these single arm robots that you're going to see in the factory or delta arms. It talks about the broader sense of automation or being able to offload workload and repetitive tasks to a machine. So when you talk about hospitality, having autonomous robots go from room to room, delivering food, delivering towels. Agriculture, using John Deere go to autonomous combines, even healthcare where to cleanse rooms, you've got robots splashing UV light, and decontamination agents in the room. Even seeing like basic stuff of medicine dispensing in healthcare. The ability to get to something that's automated, they make the statement of you don't need a special robotic programmer, which is partially true in some cases and that's growing quite a bit.
Stephen LaMarca: We're getting close to the Matrix, man.
Benjamin Moses: We're getting close to the Matrix.
Stephen LaMarca: Where they're just going to keep us in pods and then there's going to be a simulation that we're living in.
Benjamin Moses: Connected with the ease of use is that the faster deployment. Now, this one I would say it's partially true also where if you buy something off the shelf, something fairly small on the scale that we bought our robotic arm that works off 110 volt system, maybe 240, you can get pretty easily, or even the autonomous systems that can program tasks to, once you get the higher scale that you need like 480 volts or the higher end equivalent, then you get into a specialized power and specialized equipment, safety fencing and things like that. On the smaller scale, getting to I bought a thing and I want it up and running within a couple of days, seems fairly reasonable. Part of that is how the robots are trained. It transitions into collaborative robots, which being able to train a robot, say you're in an office and defining something on a CAD system and then picking and choosing, and then iterating back and forth.
Benjamin Moses: That's one way to do it, but now you've got, I forgot what the exact term is, but basically you move the robotic arm, say, remember this position and then move to the next position. Then you define a series of positions basically on the spot. That process has grown quite a bit. So being able to work faster, collaboratively, faster deployment and being able to work next to each other are really interesting future states for the robotic industry has achieved.
Stephen LaMarca: Right. Dude, I love all of the automation that's come out because of the pandemic like the sanitary robots. I remember when Siemens developed and went from napkin drawing board to employing sanitation robots, sanitation automation in like two days. They rolled that out so fast. Another company that I follow on LinkedIn because of their pedigree in global auto racing, Pratt & Miller. Apparently Pratt & Miller, I don't know if you know, but I haven't been to an airport in forever now, and I know Pratt & Miller apparently has robots across the country in airports that are sanitizing the waiting areas to get on your plane.
Benjamin Moses: That's awesome.
Stephen LaMarca: I would love that just to... It would be the first time I take a picture with a piece of Pret & Miller technology. I'm not quite in France, the 24 hours of Le Mans, but it's good to know that it's coming from the same minds.
Benjamin Moses: You did post an article about robots from CES on one of the tech reports recently and they showed like Samsung's robot loading a dishwasher. I was like, okay guys, let's take it easy. Let's not get that far ahead because that's a pretty complex task.
Stephen LaMarca: No, bring it to me, man. Bring it. I want that.
Benjamin Moses: My dream right now that I'm considering implementing in my house as in like in 10 years from now is taking the wet clothes out of the washing machine and putting it into the dryer. If I could automate that process, you'll have to clean out the dryer filter also, but-
Stephen LaMarca: No. I don't mind doing. See that's where I don't mind doing that. I don't mind doing that. I want a robot to take them out of the dryer and fold them for me. I want the folding done. Don't worry about moving it. I mean, that's too simple. I can do that. I can do the simple things.
Benjamin Moses: I keep forgetting that I have clothes in the washing machine. So it sits there for like up to a day. I want someone else to remind me that. Obviously, I have an app that'll tell me when the washing machine is done, but I would like for a robot to move it and to keep the things moving while I'm away. That's what I want.
Stephen LaMarca: I don't want anything reminding me that I have stuff in the dryer. I have a roommate for that and I hate it.
Benjamin Moses: The next two things they talk about are enhanced safety features. So this kind of connected back to the cobot implementation where you have the ability to embed safety protocols into the robot itself. So you don't have to use distance as a safety mechanism. You can use basically the touch capability and torque sensing on the robot arm itself. Also, there's a whole slew of other safety protocols that are built into automation so you can use light curtains or vision systems that once you're in an automation cell, it knows your proximity in relation to the equipment and it can slow down or speed up the equipment. So it's the collection of all of these things working together, I think where we are today. It's not just one single thing. It's the ability the robot to... As long as we have the correct sensors to react to the environment, that's the big takeaway on the safety features.
Benjamin Moses: The last thing that, Steve you've mentioned quite a bit is the affordability. Cost has come down significantly on say the underlying technology like sensors, motors, kind of the core robotic technology itself has come down in price quite a bit. Now, I am hoping that the end of arm tooling and backend software and logic, hopefully that'll come down quite a bit because I still feel like that there's a lot of custom work that's usually required for end of arm tooling, unless you can use standard grippers and suction cups, but I feel like there's getting to more commodity style of end of arm tooling would be very beneficial. Same with the backend side. Being able to define your logic and your programming, which gets back into the ease of rotation where companies have made significant strides in improving user interfaces for that, but getting to a faster implementation, easier invitation, I think would be very beneficial.
Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely.
Benjamin Moses: What's your next article, Steve? I [crosstalk 00:41:22]
Stephen LaMarca: I've got one more and it's on additive manufacturing in the aftermarket. This was a really cool article to read basically. Additive is always thought of as a prototyping technology and in recent years it's been used more for actual production, but what was a really cool concept that this article brought to light was additive is going to make something possible that we really haven't thought of much before. Let me pose this situation to you. You need something for your car, you need to replace a part because you want to do the work on it yourself and the dealership wants to charge you $300 to install a $50 part that you know you can install yourself in 15 minutes. So you drive yourself down to the dealership, you go to the parts department and you asked for this part, they have it in stock or they don't, and they ship it to you, but they have it in stock, they hand you the part you pay for it.
Stephen LaMarca: You go home, you're on your merry way. What if, instead of all that interaction, you went to your car manufacturer's, the OEM's website, and there was a transaction, you give them money and they send to you... They give you the ability to download for a single use or whatever, a step file and then you take that file to wherever you want if you don't have it yourself, or you have it in your garage and you print the part for yourself.
Benjamin Moses: Right. That'd be cool.
Stephen LaMarca: This article basically was like, dude, that's around the corner. That's not like some future state, like we're on that now.
Benjamin Moses: There's two groups I want to mention. One, on the professional level that I'll share. The Department of Defense is exploring that significantly so being able to print if there's a special nut, bolt, they can print it at a Ford operating base and that's occurring right now. They want to be able to print. They're doing tests, can I print on and they will ship. They're running those theories now. The other thing that I found surprising cutting edge, for some reason probably because of COVID, I've been stuck in the house. I've been watching more YouTube videos on miniature painting. Like Warhammer 40K or small... They're called figurines, I guess. Little guys that are like two inches tall, miniatures, but they spend tons of time painting them. There's a growing market of basically licensing an object that you can print yourself. So the economics and digital licensing agreement, that's all transacted there. It's similar to downloading a video or an audio file for professional services.
Benjamin Moses: So it gives you the license and the ability to print it. Now, I don't know if it's connecting your printer. I don't know if there's limits in the number of prints and all that stuff, but the starting point to have the ecosystem to say, "Hey, I have this thing, world, you can print it, but you got to pay me a license." Those are significant steps that promote that economy that allow people to get there. Sort of like in your use case, I want to print this car part who gets the money for that design and the knowledge? Someone's got to get paid. That infrastructure has to be put in place. First, that'll create the motivation for the industry to say, "Hey, there's a new economy here. Let me get into this." It's right around the corner, Steve.
Stephen LaMarca: It is, we're almost there.
Benjamin Moses: I got to stop watching the miniature painting videos.
Stephen LaMarca: How crazy would it be if advance auto parts or O'Reilly's or NAPA, they become smaller and smaller stores and instead they're more of like a location that has manufacturing as a service specifically for auto parts.
Benjamin Moses: I hope so, man, but I feel that they'll just keep the same size and add more printers. That stuff is not fast.
Stephen LaMarca: It's wild though.
Benjamin Moses: You mentioned the printing. So the last article I want to talk about today is from the Cambridge Independent. They talk about getting into additive as a service. Now this is the one that says five things to know before starting a 3D printer startup. If you're interested in becoming a service where you can ingest models, print stuff for people and send them, this highlights three things. I don't think everyone and their grandmother's jumping out to start a 3D business, but we've hosted a couple of articles from a couple of companies doing assessments or write articles on us about kind of the business side of getting into additive.
Benjamin Moses: There's a lot of questions that you may want to raise before you get into additive and this one kind of has a couple of key bullet points that I want to talk through. One is the material and the article is focusing on plastics. So having your warehouse of plastics, being able to make sure your supply chain for plastics is important, but also if you're considering metals, what is your ecosystem of metals look like? These are very, very specific, very nuanced materials. When you have different grades from different suppliers, it's not like buying Inconel 625 per AMS. 55, 61 or something like that. You're buying a company branded material and that propagates through your ecosystem. So that's kind of the different departure when you compare from raw materials versus 3D printing. Now 3D printing materials I think, is shifting towards standards-based materials, definition.
Benjamin Moses: Once that proliferates into the industry, then they'll be easier, but controlling your materials is important. It's vital. The second is where am I going to store this? I've got this device that is temperature and pressure dependent. You are going to get different shapes, different behaviors on how my printer, especially if you look at plastic printing. I've got this open shell that if my warehouse is say 50 degrees one day, and then 80 degrees, one day, it's going to change how I melt that plastic so that your ambient conditions plays a pivotal role in the type of prints that you're achieving.
Stephen LaMarca: You can have a shelf life on certain materials.
Benjamin Moses: Exactly. That's a fair point.
Stephen LaMarca: Is that already a thing? Is that already a thing in other forms of manufacturing, is there a type of bar stock that goes bad?
Benjamin Moses: Well, it depends. So you've got the environmental conditions that it's in, so if it's non-corrosive, it's like a stainless steel or rust resistant material, you can say that the life of it is theoretically indefinite, but if you've got something like a tube or something like that, where you have to apply a rust inhibitor, you could say if the rust inhibitor is gone, now you've got a rusted piece where you don't want a machine through rust or weld through rust or produce any parts that have rust on the outside. You've got to remove that and assuming the rust hasn't propagated all the way through, that's probably your biggest thing when you look at metals.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. You think about powdered materials for additive, I'd imagine you would run into, it sounds silly, but I'd imagine you'd run into the same problems that you would run into storing a big bag of flour in your kitchen.
Benjamin Moses: Right, right. Yeah.
Stephen LaMarca: That's why they make those bags smaller.
Benjamin Moses: That's a fair point because when you go from wire or larger material to powdered material, now you concerned about inhalation and explosive material. Like aluminum, that's a very, very dangerous as a powdered form. Same with powdered plastics.
Stephen LaMarca: Right. Now you're talking about how much, not only... Sure you might save some money when buying in bulk, but do you have the right safety standards met in terms of storage and how much money is it going to cost to invest in the proper storage parameters and capabilities, I guess.
Benjamin Moses: Thinking back to my old company, that was the biggest challenge I had implementing any new technology, is understanding the safety requirements and overcoming those hurdles. What we were looking at was fairly difficult, so we wanted to in source x-ray capability. Our company were doing a lot of wells and we were going to do subsurface inspection using x-ray. So previously we were sending parts out every day. One duct had five or six wells, we'll send it back and forth to get all those wells x-rayed. Rewire and x-rayed again, we wanted to in source that. Understanding the landscape of the safety requirements for x-ray, took years. Took a long, long time. Now we did some parallel paths of finding equipment, bringing in experts to make sure we're doing it, but there's local state protocols. We had to register with the state that we had this type [inaudible 00:50:24].
Benjamin Moses: We had lead walls. We had special radiation devices on the people to make sure they weren't being radiated. It got down to the nitty-gritty and since we're insourcing, the company became the owners of that safety requirements. Getting all the safety protocols is probably the first thing to wrap your head around before purchasing equipment. That'll tell you whether or not you want to move forward or not. Spend a year investigating what's required to implement this, getting the ENH protocols. Well, the next thing the article talks about is software. So if you're printing or obviously if you're onboarding, what is the workflow of some random dude outside your company providing a model and how do you ingest that in your workflow?
Benjamin Moses: To be honest, I think that's a bigger question in manufacturing in general. We're shifting to the model based enterprise, where your model contains all of your manufacturing data. I would say we've made significant progress, but I wouldn't say 100% there. I think getting to being able to control the CAD data to a single source, single truth is the future state I want to achieve. If I'm a tier three, how do I know I have the same model that my OEM is working towards, same revision, same versions. Basically, verifying that I'm current much as possible. That's a bigger question outside of the article. The article's what is your workflow? How do you print stuff? How do you ingest stuff? If you have a website, if you're going to ingest files through the website. Those are very, very valid question and applicable to all of manufacturing and the last thing that they talk about, which I found interesting, right?
Benjamin Moses: You're starting a company to print, but you only have a certain amount of capability. So what happens if you meet your capacity? They talk about obviously, now you've got outsource. Now you're outsourcing, outsourcing. I thought that was a very interesting point, but it's very valid that you're going to reach a limit to your capacity, what happens when you reach a capacity? What's your plan? Do you want to tell people? You and I have been dealing with firearms for a while, we'll firearms we'll just say. You'll get your part or your firearm in six months, as opposed to two weeks, they just push your due date out, as opposed to increase or outsourcing everything to maintain those delivery date.
Benjamin Moses: I thought that was a fascinating question. What do you do when you reach capacity? That's just a [inaudible 00:52:58] question that is very valid. That was a good, fairly interesting article that hits on a couple of key bullets that I think are very valid questions that you can ask of any technologies that you're going to in source into a new manufacturing facility.
Stephen LaMarca: It's a really thought provoking article advent too, it made me while you were talking, I was pondering the concept of just-in-time manufacturing. I feel like when we were talking about the safety standards that goes into material handling and material storage, could you get around some of that especially with like powdered materials, could you get around some of that if you had just in time manufacturing? Like you didn't have overhead or a backlog of material to use that you could just dump into the hopper when you need it, but like when you get a fresh order, when the order comes down the line, you may start making the parts, you turn around and boom, there's the right amount of powdered material for you ready to use. So there's no storage in hand. I'm sure that's how a lot of manufacturers would have like it in an ideal world, but of course we don't live in an ideal world, so I'm sure some storage is necessary.
Benjamin Moses: Well, it's the truth. Any raw material, right? So even if I'm a subtractive manufacturing house, if the part I'm making is made out of brass, I have to have brass somewhere in my ecosystem. The question is, who's going to hold that brass, right? So you go from this mine that exists somewhere in Asia, where you extract everything to a foundry, that foundry has probably another foundry that they ship it to, to a distributor. There's several layers.
Stephen LaMarca: Refinery.
Benjamin Moses: Yeah, refinery. There are several layers before it gets to a place where you can go to a website and say, buy me this five inch bar of brass. The question is where in that ecosystem is going to reside and who's going to hold that system so that... I think it's a very valid question of controlling your inventory to meet your on-demand needs. It's got a lot of work to do I think.
Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.
Benjamin Moses: Well, Steve, where can they find more info about us?
Stephen LaMarca: They find more... I don't know why I get hung up on this question lately?
Benjamin Moses: Get some notes.
Stephen LaMarca: It's amtnews.org/subscribe. How hard was that? Easy, just amgnews.org/subscribe is how you follow us, or you just go to amtnews.org in general and browse around and look for something that interests you and enjoy.
Benjamin Moses: Awesome. Take care everyone.
Stephen LaMarca: Bye, everybody.