Category Archives: Point of View

Robots Reach for New Roles in Manufacturing

In nearly every business and government sector across the globe, robots are handily making work easier and more consistent. They help assemble cars, perform operations and explore planets. In manufacturing, robots traditionally have been assigned to large tasks that require only gross movements, like painting, picking and placing. Now, however, they are able to handle fine movements and to work literally shoulder-to-shoulder with humans on complex projects.

So far, robots have been performing tasks that humans could do but that would be time-consuming, boring, hazardous or difficult for mere human hands. As we look to the future, we should anticipate that robots—networked with the Internet of Things (IoT)—will become much more progressive in their capabilities. They will become smarter, more dexterous and more reconfigurable, assuming new stature in the manufacturing ecosystem. Here are a few ways that robots are likely to evolve in the not-so-distant future:

  • Robots will become lighter and more portable, so that they can be used more flexibly for a variety of tasks and on multiple assembly lines. The results will be a much more agile and less expensive manufacturing infrastructure and an increased ability to customize smaller runs by moving robots around and programming them for short-term duties.
  • Robots will become increasingly agile, able to manipulate smaller components in more complex ways. They will begin to transform the concept of “assembly” into the concept of “craftsmanship,” with much more sensibility toward fine details.
  • Robots will become increasingly smart, able to learn to some extent from their past activity and predict work flow. They will begin to show the kinds of intelligence we see in today’s Internet, in which previous choices and actions help guide future actions toward desired goals and quality.
  • Assembly-line robots will connect to the Internet of Things so that they will be able to request parts when supplies are low and request replacements for parts they determine are damaged before those components are installed into products.
  • Through the Internet, robots will communicate with each other to simplify and accelerate just-in-time production. Going beyond ERP, robotic “peer-to-peer” communications will enable an assembly plant robot to notify a supplier robot when a particular work cell has deviated from the planned production schedule or a supplier to tell the assembly plant that it has run into problems, all in real time.
  • Researchers currently are taking advantage of artificial intelligence capabilities in robots to train them when to say “no” to a human command. The robots are being taught to speak up when they receive a command that could be dangerous to humans or cause damage in the facility, based on logical arguments that developers are implanting in the robot’s software.

If all these prospects seem impossible, remember that many of us said the same thing about the Internet and email a generation ago. Chances are we’ll come to rely just as much on robots in manufacturing as they become an essential part of the industrial infrastructure.

 

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Consumers Want More Affordable Technology-Inspired Gifts This Holiday Season

With technology products entering the market at an ever-increasing pace, every day seems like a holiday, a time to buy the latest gadget or work-saver. So the traditional holiday season becomes a time to focus even more closely on the amazing range of new tech devices becoming available, like those being offered by New Kinpo Group (NKG).

NKG product design labs and manufacturing facilities are the places where “emerging technology” first emerges and where consumer trends often begin. This year, those trends favor highly affordable devices that are responsive to consumer demands for lower price points, along with the ability to customize a wide range of products. With such customization, consumers in effect are creating gifts of their own using their own technology.

One remarkable development that is stimulating consumers to create and personalize products on their own is the emergence of 3D printing for homes and schools. NKG subsidiary XYZprinting produced the first affordable line of consumer 3D printers and now leads the global market in 3D printer shipments.

The latest affordable 3D printing device from XYZprinting is the $199 3D scanner, which allows anyone to scan three-dimensional objects for 3D printing and customization. The scanner turns physical objects into digital replicas that can be modified in size, shape or other dimensions for 3D printing by using a computer.

More customizing is on its way with tabletop, do-it-yourself robots from NKG. Teens and adults alike now can build their own humanoid robots and program them to carry out commands that can be created and edited with software available as a tablet app or through a remote control. Each of these small robots is equipped with 18 powerful servo motors, allowing for the programming of human-like movements. Consumers even can create their own designs for the robot’s armor and use a 3D printer to produce other unique parts for their robots.

Wearable devices, which largely originated as technology related to sports and leisure, now are evolving more toward overall health, a more customized use that helps individuals reach personal health goals. Rock Health reports 17 percent of the U.S. population already is tracking a key health factor in a mobile app. Much of this tracking now is shifting toward wearable devices, from wristbands to smart watch. Additionally, 63 percent of those who have purchased wearables say they did so to become active, and 42 percent did so to lose weight.

For youngsters, the line between learning and play always has been vague, but now the difference becomes nearly indistinguishable as they learn to make their own tech play items. XYZprinting STEAM offers an online curriculum exchange program for incorporating 3D printing into the classroom. Many youngsters will be building some of their own holiday presents—from drones and model rockets to robotic-type toys—using what they learn from these classes and employing 3D printers.

For adults, the Maker Movement extends the evolution of learn/play to people who become 3D printing artisans, with new products produced cost-efficiently.

In all, this holiday season will be spiced up by affordable trends and DIY devices that let anyone become a maker and that make our lives more connected.

 

How Intelligent Manufacturing is Changing Global Industries

3D printing is gaining popularity globally, and for good reason. The versatile technology is being used across industries including the healthcare, education and automotive sectors. Accordingly, the Boao Forum for Asia, a prestigious forum for government, business and academia leaders, has taken notice.

The conference, which highlights compelling areas of discussion year after year, featured a session called “3D Printing, Digital Manufacturing & the 3rd Industrial Revolution,” focusing on trending topics related to 3D printing and intelligent manufacturing.

Our very own Simon Shen, chairman of XYZPrinting, participated in the discussion.
“There are many things in our daily lives, such as mugs, plastic shoes, toys and cell phone cases that are produced by factories that merely involve three to five stages of simple production processes,” said Shen. “Those processes may be more likely replaced by 3D printers.” 

While the transition is probable, it won’t happen overnight. “There is still a long way to go for the industry to develop technology that allows people to produce sophisticated products such as smartphones or laptops, and more material suppliers will be joining the market as well,” said Shen. “XYZPrinting will continue to focus on material development and introducing different materials to the market.” Wei Miao, Chinese Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, joined the conversation as well.

“The development and application of information communication technology (ICT), especially the integration between ICT and manufacturing industry, will become the trigger of the Third Industrial Revolution,” said Miao. “The Chinese government will encourage and support younger generations in China to become creators.” Miao’s statement on supporting the maker culture in China ultimately fits the vision of XYZPrinting. 

“Although only a few things can be realized through DIY, the cost for 3D printers is comparatively lower nowadays, so people can create the things they want or even start a business with a 3D printer. From this perspective, younger generations can buy a 3D printer to create something they desire,” added Shen. 

The da Vinci Junior 1.0, which was displayed at Boao, is a prime example. The 3D printer by XYZPrinting is designed for general consumers and was displayed during the session. The product has a compactdesign, weighing only 26 pounds, but with a robust size of 5.9” x 5.9” x 5.9” and is available for $349.99at Amazon.com, Newegg.com and BestBuy.com.