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AMT Tech Trends: Tech Forum

Episode 44: Stephen and Benjamin go over some of their favorite highlights from AMT’s 2021 Technology forum. Steve mentions a partnership between one of his favorite audio companies and one of his favorite additive companies.
by Benjamin Moses
Mar 01, 2021

Release date: 26 February 2021

Episode 44: Stephen and Benjamin go over some of their favorite highlights from AMT’s 2021 Technology forum. Steve mentions a partnership between one of his favorite audio companies and one of his favorite additive companies. Ben closes with how the massive amounts of materials used in wind turbines are recycled.

- techcrunch.com/2021/02/18/sennhe…mized-headphones/ - cleantechnica.com/2021/02/23/wind-…can-be-recycled/

MTConnect www.mtconnect.org

Music provided by www.freestockmusic.com


Stephen LaMarca: Hello everybody, and welcome to the AMT Tech Trends podcast. I am your host, Stephen LaMarca, AMT's technology analyst, and I am here with-

Benjamin Moses: Benjamin Moses, the director of technology for AMT. How are you doing today, Steve?

Stephen LaMarca: That was so fun. We totally switched roles right there, man. That was nice.

Benjamin Moses: I guess you're in charge now.

Stephen LaMarca: I wouldn't say all of that. So let me answer your question, how am I doing today.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm doing very well today. I am tired. Today was an exciting day. It was the second and final day of AMT's 2021 tech forum, which started Monday. We took a break Tuesday, which was smart because there was a lot of information to take in on Monday and there was even more information to take in today. But really fun time. We had some great panelists, or not panelists, but presenters.

Benjamin Moses: Yep.

Stephen LaMarca: I had some awesome co hosts, which is nothing out of the ordinary. But yeah, the co hosts, I'll even start with them.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: Rebecca Kerfus, Thomas Feddleman? Feldhousan, that's it.

Benjamin Moses: Yep.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know why I wanted to say Feddleman, but Thomas was great. They were all great. Kyle-

Benjamin Moses: Salabi.

Stephen LaMarca: Salabi, yeah. Those guys out at Oakridge National Lab. They were great. I could not have done it without them. It was a really fun time. Naturally I am pooped because it's now 2:30 in the afternoon and we got going at 9:00AM. It was essentially an industry trade show from the comfort of my own home. Up early and mind racing all day. So naturally I am tired.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, it's funny when you mention that. Hosting an event can be mentally draining and we did it for four hours.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, and I didn't even have the hard part. I was just introducing people and fielding the questions in between presentations. It was fun. It was a great presenters. It was an awesome time.

Benjamin Moses: Why don't we hit some of the highlights there. I feel like we should definitely let the audience know some of the highlights from the tech forum.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure. So let's look at the schedule first. What are my notable highlights? I know you've got three presenters that you want to touch on and my three presenters. I'll start with, on the first day, it was a blast talking with Jason Jones, the co founder and CEO of Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: It was really fun putting two faces to something that I've been talking about and have been referencing forever. I even told Jason, once we were done on Monday, I was like, "Dude, I use your info graphic literally all the time." Families of additive manufacturing-

Benjamin Moses: It's not just his. He's on a committee that helps define [inaudible 00:03:18].

Stephen LaMarca: Right, but they kind of have their little logo on the infographic.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, okay.

Stephen LaMarca: Sure, it might be by ASME or whoever it was, but they were working closely with Hybrid and Hybrid may or may not have funded it. I love that infographic. It's very informative, go figure, for an infographic. But Jason Jones, it was cool getting to put a face to him and his company.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: And in his presentation, I got to see what their actual product looks like. I finally got to see what the tool is that goes into the tool holder or that goes into the spindle on a conventional CNC machine but allows a conventional CNC machine to do something that you could only do traditionally in a 3D printer.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: That was wild. I've heard of this before. Hybrid is nothing that new. Additive is certainly not new, but I had never seen it before and I finally got to see it through a screen.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, see the actual integration. Plus the diversity of heads. So the idea of having interchangeable heads for additive, so it's not just the end mill. So you're changing an additive head that's in a tool holder, but [inaudible 00:04:38] has right angle drives, you've got some deep pockets. So you can do internal surfaces, external surfaces, and then go back in machines.

So there was one question where, if you're growing a large part and then you don't have line of sight anymore, how would you do that? The idea of printing, then machining, then printing again. I was like, that's very simple, but you wouldn't have that idea until you had that problem.

Stephen LaMarca: It was also really cool that, sure, you think it was the company that pioneered ... or at least I think they pioneered Hybrid Manufacturing, the marriage of both additive and subtractive manufacturing. So go figure. But it was really cool that they're not a one trick pony, obviously.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: But I got to see that. They don't just have one type of printing head to go into a CNC machine. They've got multiple different types, multiple different families of additive manufacturing that they can adapt a conventional CNC to.

Benjamin Moses: That's true.

Stephen LaMarca: Then they also have the tools for finishing, the laser hardening after you print a layer. They had a tool specifically for that.

Benjamin Moses: That's cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Like you said, the right angle stuff too. The other great pleasure of Jason's presentation was, while it's a great topic and everyone has questions and everybody wants to talk about it, as I was watching that presentation, I was coming up with ... As I was watching all of the presentations, I was coming up with questions to ask the presenters. It seemed like every time was like, oh, this is something I want to ask Jason.

Five seconds later, he answers it. It was like he was reading my mind. Just a fantastic presenter.

Benjamin Moses: I really like how he was testing out some new technology. Obviously it was a digital conference. So instead of just having a presentation and your camera on the side, his presentation was a camera with images of the presentation overlaid with his face. So I thought it was a very interesting way to present it. Of course, Jason has a face for camera work.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: It worked out really well, so I thought that was very innovative of creating a new way to engage digital audience.

Stephen LaMarca: I haven't seen anybody use Prezi for a presentation since Academia. Even still, it was rarer there. People in industry have been using PowerPoint slideshows forever now. Maybe with some animation in between the slides, like a fade in and fade out.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: But it was really nice seeing his really clean Prezi. It was just really well done on his part. My next one, our old colleague Lu Zang, who's now over at Machine Metrics.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: He's the lead data scientist over there. I was like, oh man, this one is going to be really thick and heavy and in the woods with the content he's covering.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: But it was fascinating, and also it was a breath of fresh air and kind of like a love letter to me because it was basically his entire presentation was totally physics based. It was like, you don't need to buy all of these sensors and all of this extra hardware to pull extra data from your machine. You can use simple physics and equations that have been around for hundreds of years now to calculate the data you're looking for based off of the sensors you're already pulling.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: That was really cool.

Benjamin Moses: That was a very good summation of the presentation is using what you already have and applying what you know about physics. The applications or the scenarios you kind of walked through are predicting a failure.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: So there's either a step change in a signal that's already on ... a sensor that's already on a machine, or there's a pattern of signals before that failure occurs, and it's a matter of determining those patterns and recognizing those patterns. So getting to high frequency data was important. There's a lot of nuances that are very, very valuable, but also the idea that you don't need machine learning. You don't need artificial intelligence.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: You need some basic math and understanding of how statistics work to get to, hey, this thing is changing the frequency of this signal. There's going to be a failure. So I thought that was very intuitive and it makes a lot of sense in manufacturing.

Stephen LaMarca: I want to say it was such an ivory tower kind of boomerang moment, but it was really funny and insightful because he was just like, you don't need all ... Like you said, you don't need all this machine learning and AI.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: You know you can get all the answers you're looking for with good old math and science.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. To be fair, everything has its place.

Stephen LaMarca: And maybe a really fast internet connection.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, that's fair. So I thought that was good. It was a good kick off of, hey, let's do a lot more with what we have.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. Then today, we had some awesome presentations today. I'll let you bring up Yon Denice from Lockheed Martin. We love that guy and he loves us. Right after him, we had John Burg, the founder of Asida.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: It was another breath of fresh air having him present because he's been ... he warned us in advance. He was like, this presentation is only going to be 20 minutes. I don't have that much to talk about. But the knowledge bombs that he dropped on us was you can have a cutting edge technology by taking a bunch of traditional technologies and simple tasks and just doing them right.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: The sum of a bunch of small tasks executed perfectly is the equivalent of implementing the latest and greatest of what cutting edge, state of the art technology has to offer. That was really fun.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, I do like ... We've been-

Stephen LaMarca: [inaudible 00:11:01].

Benjamin Moses: Eyeing subtractive manufacturing through robotic arms. Oakridge did an experiment of the opposite. They added additive heads to robotic arms. The non contact or low contact stuff. Robots do great, but what happens if you have to start imparting cutting forces?

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: So they're building into this hardened construction steel. One of the questions at the end is how accurate or how repeatable and obviously what kind of challenges you can maintain. Yes, he responded very intelligently in that what is actually needed. We have this construction beam that needs holes. It could probably be off an eighth of an inch. So all that [inaudible 00:11:43] can be used in the hole and how it's formed. They're using some machine vision also to make sure they're locating and make sure everything is in the correct place.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: So it's a very advanced application of it, but it's a very fundamental understanding of what is actually needed in the application space. So I thought that was a good combination.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. The discussion afterwards kind of compared and contrasted what he was doing with an automation cell, robot automation cell, to what can already be done with a really fancy, multi axis, multi spindle, multi tasking CNC machine. But what was cool about that was you can have the most advanced CNC machining center in the world.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: But your part can still be screwed up if you have to fixture it more than once.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: If that fixturing is done by a human being that doesn't do it perfectly and can't measure it perfectly in that confined space and semi dangerous environment within a machine tool and closure, then the parts may as well be scrap. Sure, the CNC machine itself can do a perfect job at doing that material removal, but what was cool about his automation cell was, sure, a robot isn't as rigid as a CNC machine, but if you have to re fixture ... if you let the refixturing in all the other processes be done by a robot and there's no human intervention other than the idiot standing behind the control ... not idiot, but the technician standing behind the controller, then everything is going to be done infinitely more consistent.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: When you have more consistency, you have higher quality. When you have higher quality, you have less scrap and you have less downtime. Then, all of the sudden, by doing simple tasks right, you're moving at four times the speed of everybody else.

Benjamin Moses: The idea of the civil tax also. Yeah, when you're cutting that beam, obviously you could have a bridge bell or something like that where you can have tons of space. The idea of access technology was brought up too, so the idea of ... yeah, the smallest motor you probably could put on is this 20 horsepower motor, when you obviously need 10. You've got all this additional structure that's needed to achieve an accuracy which you don't need also.

So it's very interesting balance of technology that you want versus technology that's available.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: And the opportunity. So yeah, you could flip ... Like that robotic arm. You could flip that robotic arm to do something else later on.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: You could change that head. They had interchangeable heads on it too, so I thought-

Stephen LaMarca: At the end of the day, you still bought a FANUC robot arm. You can take it off the track and use it for whatever else you want. But to your point, what was really cool, and not just for John Burgs presentation, but the entire tech forum, we get lost easily in the latest and greatest technology and we go back to traditional technologies quite often. With all this machine learning and AI and advanced automation techniques and machine vision, stuff like that, it's cool in that the recurring theme amongst almost all of the presenters and their presentations in this tech forum was, "Guys, there is such thing as too much."

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, exactly.

Stephen LaMarca: Only use what you need.

Benjamin Moses: What you need, yeah. That was a very good takeaway overall.

Stephen LaMarca: It was lean technology.

Benjamin Moses: Getting back to Yonda Nice from Lockheed.

Stephen LaMarca: The nice guy.

Benjamin Moses: The talked about the digital twin, so the idea of a 3D or an electronic representation of something physical is basically the foundation of the digital. I think that was the big takeaway. We stared understanding the separation of I've got a cad model, is that just a digital twin? It's not a digital twin until you have a physical representation of that. I think that's where the disconnect is. If I have a cab model of an airplane, they're-

Stephen LaMarca: That's not a digital twin.

Benjamin Moses: They're labeling it as a digital prototype, which is completely fair. You haven't made the airplane yet, so you have no idea what it actually looks like in real space. I know there's an iso group working on it to help standardize use cases. We wrote an article about kind of the different scenarios of connecting your 3D representation or your digital representation with the physical space. That's where marrying those data points up is kind of interesting. So, that was a very interesting look of where Lockheed was headed.

How you're storing the data came actually ... very interesting discussion at the very end, because Yon had some very, very strong opinions of where you want to store this physical data.

Stephen LaMarca: He did.

Benjamin Moses: So if I measure the part, do I want to store it in the PLM system, do I want to store it in the MES system? Where do I want to store this massive amount of data and [inaudible 00:16:49].

Stephen LaMarca: I believe Yon said no.

Benjamin Moses: He said no to everything. He said don't put it in these systems. I think the one thing I took away from that is they have their own lifecycle. So the PLM system, how you're storing your cad data, your product management, your versioning, that has its own ecosystem or its own lifecycle. MES system has its own desire and needs or controls for that data set. The data that you're capturing has a different set of needs.

So if its a quality data that has its own lifecycle, so if they're doing flight critical hardware, which obviously Lockheed is, you may be required to restore that quality data for the entire life of that aircraft, which could be 30-40 years. So collecting your digital twin data or your physical data, storing that into separate databases and then doing associations to your cad systems or your digital data is the approach I think Yon was looking for. Don't try and cram into your existing systems. They just don't work.

The example he had was how you store apples versus how you store beer. He used oranges, but I think in more relevant cases, apples versus beer. Yeah, you could theoretically force to put it in one place, but they're going to behave differently. One is going to spoil faster than the other, but if they have their own correct container, their life will be much more appreciated. So I thought that was a good talk from Lockheed and where they're headed on the digital twin.

Stephen LaMarca: Who else did you like?

Benjamin Moses: Air proofing-

Stephen LaMarca: Other than all of them.

Benjamin Moses: It's hard. When you have more than one kid, it's hard to have a favorite, but everyone has a favorite.

Stephen LaMarca: That's right.

Benjamin Moses: The other one I liked a lot was air proofing, so the idea of kind of validating that, hey this thing is correct. So FANUC, Josh person gave a talk on air proofing versus inspection. So you inspect, you verify something that you made it to what you promised. Basically that's the short of inspection. Did you make it to the print. Air proofing is a little bit of a blurred line between the two where you want to make sure you did something correct before you move on to the next step. So inspection versus air proofing, they're slightly different than this particular talk where you wanted to make sure that say the orientation of a specific widget was correct in the processing line, or the widget is on the assembly before it moves to the next step in the process.

He wanted to mitigate the risk of accumulating scrap cost as you built up your manufacturing assembly. So I thought that was a very interesting talk of how you build an artificial intelligence algorithm using machine vision, using their built in tools. I thought it was very interesting that they have the user interface to say, yes, this widget is in the correct orientation. Take a picture of it and tag it as yes or correct. Also teach it, hey, this thing on the backside, these are wrong. If you see this, this is wrong.

He kind of glossed over some of the statistics involved with that, the confidence intervals and how many data points you need to train the model. But I thought it was a very interesting approach on where that data is stored and how quickly it is to trade the model. Kind of the bare minimum and kind of the process to monitor the initial stages of it. So if you've got 10 data points, the machine will tell you how confident it is on that calculation after a certain model so the operator can keep watching the confidence.

If it's high enough, he can forget it at some point. But obviously, if it's low enough, then the human has to intervene. So I thought that was a really interesting talk on air proofing from Josh.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, air proofing was cool. I was aware of air proofing, but I wouldn't say I was comfortable with the concept of it.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: That was nice. That was something totally new for me that wasn't necessarily new for the conference.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: So it was good getting to learn it.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. So we recorded everything and we planned to publish all the presentations and videos afterwards. For those who didn't get a chance to hear that, we'll give you a way to find that and catch up on these presentations at the end of the podcast.

Let's get into some articles, man.

Stephen LaMarca: All right, my first article, let me cue it up. I did this last night. I found this awesome article from Tech Crunch actually. It was news that Sennheiser, one of my favorite companies as an audio file, is partnering with Form Labs, one of my favorite companies in additive manufacturing.

Benjamin Moses: Cool.

Stephen LaMarca: You've got to love them all, but I have a special connection with Form Labs because I visited them in Southey. I'm just kidding. They're not in Southey, they're in Cambridge. They'll kill me if I keep saying that. It was fun visiting them, but what's really cool is Sennheiser is partnering with Form Labs to use their additive manufacturing technology, their 3D printing technology, specifically their photo polymerization technology to produce a perfect custom fit for their customers.

Benjamin Moses: Okay, cool.

Stephen LaMarca: This honestly isn't new, other than the partnership between Sennheiser and Form Labs is new, but other smaller and much more expensive ... I won't necessarily say premium because honestly Sennheiser is almost as premium as it gets-

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: ... when it comes to audio technology, both for professional and personal.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Let me get into why it's not that new. There is a special type of headphone, really earphone, called an IEM, an in ear monitor.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Professional IEMs are perfectly fit for the customer, whoever is buying them. The customers are typically musicians.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: That's where you kind of hint at that in the term monitor. They're not called headphones. They're called monitors.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: The main difference, when you're at least shopping around for a good set of headphones, is if they're called headphones by the company or by the website you're buying it from or whoever, if it's called headphones, it's customer grade stuff.

Benjamin Moses: Yes.

Stephen LaMarca: But if it's called monitors, and this is a really weak rule of thumb that probably doesn't hold true anymore, but if it's called monitors, that's studio quality stuff that will give you the most accurate playback of whatever it is that you're listening to.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: To get into the weeds a little bit more about that, I promise I won't be long, is a lot of headphones. A lot of consumer grade headphones are made to sound a little bit more bright and a little bit more exciting than the actual perfectly accurate playback or recording, or perfectly executed playback of whatever the master recording was of that musical artist. But anyway, musicians use IEMs while they're on stage, so they kind of double as earplugs.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: So when you're at a concert, or a musician is playing at a concert and the volume is cranked up way loud, and they're standing next to speakers and breaking guitars over amplifiers, they're not blowing their eardrums out because it's plugged their ears. But at the same time, they can still hear exactly what they're playing because those headphones, those monitors, are playing to them. Now, that's typically really expensive technology.

An example of a company that makes in ear monitors for professionals is Ultimate Ears, which is a small company that was recently bought out by a big company. I want to say a few years ago. They were bought out by Logitech, but Ultimate Ears has been ... They started with sending the customer ... A customer would call them up and be like, "Hey, I want a pair of your IEMs."

Benjamin Moses: Yep.

Stephen LaMarca: They'd be like, "All right, give us money and we're going to send you a mold kit. You're going to shove this stuff in your ear and let it sit and dry, and then send it back to us. Then in a couple weeks, like six weeks, we'll send you a pair of IEMs that fit your ears perfectly." It's been molding traditionally. The customer would send back the mold of their ear. The company like Ultimate Ears would take that mold, recreate an IEM, and a lot of that was handmade stuff.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Then later, I want to say less than five, 10 years ago, Logitech, owning Ultimate Ears, they started ... because it's very customer base and, when customers are spending a lot of money on a quality product, they also want comfort too.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: High quality is often seen as a luxury good in some cases, and people who buy luxury goods want maximum comfort than shoving a big old glob of whatever to get a mold of your ear. Not comfortable.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: So what Ultimate Ears did was take a bunch of pictures of your ear, we can get enough measurements based on that alone with our fancy picture scanning technology. Then over here we'll 3D print it and then we'll send you back again, in four to six weeks, a couple weeks.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: The problem with that was, sure, the picture scanning works great and the 3D printing technology is there and works great, but 3D printing, and additive manufacturing in general at the time, was still relatively low quality in terms of surface finish.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: So even though you were skipping the discomfort of producing those IEMs by taking a picture or a couple pictures instead, you still had the step of having to do a lot of hand finishing to get the product right.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: Reason why Sennheiser has finally got into this niche market of the audio file world and is doing it with Form Labs is because using that photo polymerization is probably the easiest way, at least using resins, is the easiest way to get a perfectly smooth surface finish on your print. That means less hand finishing to finish up the product, and you get to turn it around to customers who are spending a lot of money and probably want their product as quickly as possible.

So it's a match made in heavy. Like I said, this is nothing new in terms of technology, but it's nice to see two companies I'm very heavily emotionally invested in having a nice partnership. If everything goes right, I might actually be able to afford something.

Benjamin Moses: I really like the idea of buying pro consumer grade stuff, so like Sennheiser.

I've loved them ... I've used them professionally for quite a while. In a lot of cases, I ended up using Surer because they're very similar but a little less expensive.

Stephen LaMarca: Really? I feel like Surer is more expensive.

Benjamin Moses: No, no, no. Definitely not.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know, man. I can show you a pair of headphones that I would have loved to have from Surer, but I'm not spending $1000 on headphones anytime soon.

Benjamin Moses: Sure. Sennheiser broadened their reach down there, producing pro consumer grade equipment. The idea of customized pro consumer grade equipment is very fascinating to me. In fact, I could do that large scale. It was very interesting and enough to put their name behind. So a lot of their new products are fairly mature when they come out. There's a first run where you're like, oh that's the first one. They could be failures. Sennheiser stuff, when their first one comes out, it's robust.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So it's very interesting to see how popular this is and paves a way for the [inaudible 00:29:45] in the future. Do you have any custom stuff? What's some of custom that you own?

Stephen LaMarca: I've got custom tailored suits.

Benjamin Moses: Oh yeah, that's right. You did buy-

Stephen LaMarca: Jackets and stuff. Do I have anything custom? Other than tailoring, not really. Actually, when I was much younger, my dad got me my first set of golf clubs. I'm terrible at golf. The actual golf clubs actually had custom molded grips on them.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: It didn't do any good.

Benjamin Moses: That's not going to help you.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm so bad, but he just wanted me to be athletic and he got this.

Benjamin Moses: Parents, man. They want what they had. The article I've got is from Clean Technica. It's an interesting article on kind of the ecosystem of materials. I've been keeping an eye on end of life for a lot of products. What happens when a car is done? You take it to the junk yard, they separate it, something gets recycled. Batteries is a new thing for me. What happens when all these pure EV vehicles, when their end of life occurs, what do we do with all this caustic material that's in batteries?

This article is talking about wind turbines. I'm a big fan of renewable energy if it could be done at scale. Wind turbines are interesting to me because there's a lot of open fields in the US. The US is massive. I forget how big the US is. There's a lot of places where a 500 foot tall wind turbine makes a lot of sense.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: I live in a place where that doesn't make any sense, so I'm very interested in how to get renewable energy in this setting, in an urban setting. So if you're able to deploy a field or a farm of wind turbines, it makes a lot of sense to have these big turbines. The article talks about the composites used to make these turbines. Once they get to end of life, a big portion of that could be recycled, be reused. 85-90%, the article quotes, can be used for ... can be recycled.

I think that's the entire system. So the base, the blades ... not the blades actually. The generator. The blades are very interesting. There's a lot of composites in the blades themselves. That's the one key element that they've been struggling to recycle or reuse in the future. So the article talks about there is a multi company project that they're finding ways to recycle the composite blades themselves. I find that very interesting because, on the tech forum, we heard a talk about 3D printing composites.

So what happens end of life of a composite? I'm assuming it just goes right in the junk yard or the resin and the carbon. I don't know what you could do with that afterwards.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So this project being led by these ... I think same companies, [inaudible 00:32:52] consortium to figure out what to do with these carbon composite blades. Right now they have three ideas. The first is looking at a way to shred the blades. Once you have it shredded, then you can use it back in the manufacturing process as a mulch material if you needed to.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: I've seen mulch carbon fiber before. That's an interesting application.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh wow.

Benjamin Moses: The second is, after you have it shredded, using that in concrete, reinforcing the concrete through the composite. I thought that was pretty fascinating. Then finally using the composite, again, just recycling, using that material. They mentioned some type of process to reintegrate that broken down composite into new parts. So that's a very interesting look. You say, okay, wind turbines, how big are big ... but that is a lot of material if you look at the blades themselves on these massive turbines. So closing the loop on end of life for these renewable energy sources is very interesting, and I think a lot more emphasis will be put on that, especially when you look at the consumer appetite for understanding that things are a little more green, a little more environmentally friendly.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: So that was a very interesting look. The impact of manufacturing is you then have to be processing these parts in different ways at the end of life. So you're probably going to have to process carbon composites at some point or figuring out how to reuse this different material in the process, which may not be a huge impact, but at some point it's going to reach the new system.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. I think it's worth mentioning and potentially reiterating that every now and then I hear a dumb argument about, "Oh, wind turbines are bad because you can't recycle them. Once they go bad, it just goes into a landfill. It's a lot of waste." When that's simply not true.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: You think about the components that make up a wind turbine. There's nothing in a wind turbine that can't be reused. It's just a big electric motor on top of a big dumb shaft. It's like the only thing that's difficult in terms of recycling is just that it's a lot of material.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: It doesn't matter how green a car is versus a diesel truck. At the end of the day, a diesel truck has a lot more material. It's just a lot more material. I don't want to get into the batteries. I understand the argument that batteries and EVs are wasteful and that we haven't found a way to recycle battery technology yet, at least not a good one, or at least find a recyclable material that makes a good battery.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: But it's almost as dumb as the people who also make the argument that wind turbines are bad because they slow down the rotation of the earth. I've legitimately heard that from somebody I know before.

Benjamin Moses: Wow.

Stephen LaMarca: I just got dumber.

Benjamin Moses: I feel bad for you, Steve. I would cut that person out of my life. Speaking of which, a side tangent. The car that I have is a hybrid, so it's got a battery and internal combustion. I'm really happy for that technology. I think it's matured a long way. I feel like going pure one way or the other is kind of a mistake. I feel like you're missing out on a lot of opportunity there. So the combination of the two I feel like is a winning combo.

But also, Porsche said, "Batteries aren't necessarily the future. We can develop a synthetic fuel that significantly reduces emissions where we can keep internal combustion around forever. We just need to switch fuels." Basically use the same ecosystem because you can transport around, make this fuel that doesn't contaminate there.

Stephen LaMarca: Right.

Benjamin Moses: A lot of eco friendly talk.

Stephen LaMarca: [crosstalk 00:36:54].

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, a lot of-

Stephen LaMarca: Especially, they definitely want to keep internal combustion engines around. Not because their name was made off of producing sports cars, but just because they just invested a lot of money, as we talked about last podcast ... I think we talked about this last podcast, with their 3D printed pistons.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Then they were like, "Yeah, these 3D printing pistons, they're not going to be around at least for the next 10 years." It's like, dude, internal combustion engine vehicles might not be around for the next 10 years, so you better hope that internal combustion stays around or you find some renewable combustion fuel.

Benjamin Moses: I can see the guy that is pushing that project sweating under his collar. He's like, please stick around.

Stephen LaMarca: Right. But before we move on to the next article, I think it's worth mentioning too that I think one of the big problems with batteries is a similar problem that we're seeing with additive.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: It's that we just need more standards.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: We get hung up on things like ... you think about conventional batteries, like AAs and AAAs and D batteries and C batteries. When was the last time you changed those types of batteries in anything? Probably not for a while. I don't know what you do with batteries, but probably not for a while. I think that kind of puts a bad taste in some people's mouth, but you have to remember those are disposable batteries.

Benjamin Moses: Sure.

Stephen LaMarca: We're now finally at this elevated level of thought and education that batteries are something that are not to be disposable.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: You should not be fiddling with disposable batteries because they can't go anywhere. We need of focus on maximum life, rechargeable batteries.

Benjamin Moses: Right.

Stephen LaMarca: The one thing that old conventional batteries, like AAs and AAAs have is that they're standardized. It's a standard size. You should be able ... EVs would have taken off way more. Teslas and Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts and Prius are already really popular on US roads, but they would be even more so popular in the Prius. The latest Prius might not even be a hybrid. It might not even be an electric vehicle if battery standards were taken more seriously.

If an electric vehicle could pull into a Shell or an Exon station and, instead of plugging into some dumb Tesla super charger, to hell with charging it.

Benjamin Moses: Let's change the whole battery.

Stephen LaMarca: Pull the car over like a bay. The discharged battery is dropped out of the vehicle, an automated system moves a fresh battery underneath it and installs a freshly charged battery. That way there's no ownership over the battery. You may have to charge ... the refueling cost might be the rental for the battery, but it's easy to swap out because then you wouldn't have to worry about this problem with taking an hour to charge your car when a gas car can refuel in less than a minute.

Benjamin Moses: There is a company ... I did read there was a company in China that was trying to do that with all the local indigenous electric vehicles there. That didn't pan out too well for that company. I understand the problem statement now because getting over the hurdle of trying to charge something quickly and having a non proprietary solution.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah.

Benjamin Moses: I think that's one of the business models that they first pushed is kind of in their own solution so then they could sell their batteries or have their own ecosystem for charging and stuff.

Stephen LaMarca: I'm not saying that there can't be a different brand of battery, but there should be the automotive equivalent of a AA.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, I wish.

Stephen LaMarca: It's a crime that it's not.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah.

Stephen LaMarca: Who's guilty is probably big oil, but we don't need to get into that.

Benjamin Moses: That's some drama, Steve. All right, man. I think we covered quite a bit of material today. How can they find more info about us, but most importantly if they missed the tech forum today, how can they find out the info about the tech forum.

Stephen LaMarca: All right. As always, you can learn more about us by going to www. ... nobody uses www. Just go to AMTnews.org/subscribe, if you want to be continually updated with what we have to offer, both with podcast releases, episode releases and weekly tech report releases. But for those that are already subscribed or will go to subscribe to AMTnews.org, if you missed the tech forum for whatever reason, you weren't able to be there or you straight up didn't know about it, if you're subscribed to AMTnews.org, we will make sure that you get the notification when the recording of the AMT tech forum is available. So you'll at least get to catch up on it.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Thanks, Steve. That was awesome.

Stephen LaMarca: You're welcome. Thanks man. Have a good one everybody.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Manufacturing Technology
Benjamin Moses has worked in the design and manufacturing world for aerospace components for 16 years, developing new products and implementing new an ...
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