Tim Cook’s political comments during today’s MSNBC interview touched on a number of areas, ranging from the government’s immigration policies and handling of DACA, to U.S. job creation, and his views on Apple’s handling of controversial content in apps and services usable on the company’s products. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
For many companies, 3D printing isn’t just for creating prototypes in resin, but also for building fully functional working parts in metal, as Jessica Twentyman explains.
One of Europe’s largest 3D printing factories is set to open in the UK in September this year, thanks to a £27 million investment announced last week by German industrial group, Siemens.
Siemens UK plans to set up the specialist facility in Worcester, already home to its specialist additive manufacturing unit, Materials Solutions, in which it acquired a majority stake back in August 2016. The new facility will be a focal point for collaboration between Materials Solutions and Siemens UK’s Digital Factory smart manufacturing division.
“This significant investment underlines our belief that there is huge potential for innovation and growth within the additive manufacturing sector,” said Juergen Maier, Siemens UK chief executive. “It is also the next step towards achieving our ambition of pioneering the industrialisation of 3D printing, and demonstrates how we are leading the way in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
As part of the UK government’s plans for a new industrial strategy, Mr Maier recently led a review in which senior executives from British industry pledged to retrain one million workers in exchange for a state-backed national plan to promote the adoption of digital technologies – such as 3D printing – across the manufacturing sector.
The Siemens UK announcement marks a major milestone in the uptake of 3D printing in metals by manufacturing businesses. 3D printing – or ‘additive manufacturing’ (AM) – is now widely used by companies in the sector for building prototypes in resin for design purposes, but it’s now increasingly possible to print parts in metals that are ready for use in industrial applications.
Siemens’ Materials Solutions business is a pioneer in the use of a technology called selective laser melting (SLM), which uses powerful lasers to melt metal alloys to build high-performance metal parts.
It has clients in sectors such as aviation, automotive, power generation, and motorsports, and has already notched up considerable success in 3D printing gas turbine blades. Siemens UK plans to increase its fleet of metal 3D printing machines from 15 to 50 over the next five years.
Other companies also have their eye on metal 3D printing, as several announcements during March demonstrated.
At Indian IT services company Wipro, chairman Azim Premji opened a new centre for the technology in Bengaluru for its additive manufacturing arm, Wipro3D. Last year, automaker Ford, led a $ 65 million investment round in metal 3D printer company Desktop Metal, a Burlington, Massachusetts start-up valued at more than $ 1 billion. And Additive Industries, a Dutch company that supplies metal 3D printers to the likes of Airbus, Alfa Romeo, and automotive/aerospace components company GKN, announced plans to open a UK development centre at an undisclosed location.
In Auburn, Alabama, GE Aviation will this year use 3D printing to produce more than 34,000 fuel nozzle injectors for what the company says is the fast-selling jet engine in commercial aviation history, the LEAP. The engine is made by CFM International, a 50/50 joint venture of GE and Safran Aircraft Engines of France. The 37-strong fleet of metal 3D printers at GE Aviation’s Auburn plant is expected to grow to 45 by the middle of this year in order to handle demand.
And there’s no sign that the uptake of metal 3D printing will cool off anytime soon. According to recent research from New York-based Profshare Market Research, additive manufacturing with metal powders is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent to reach $ 1.7 billion by 2025, up from around $ 365 million last year.
That’s good news for suppliers of metal 3D printers, which include 3D Systems, Arcam, Desktop Metal, EOS, Markforged, Renishaw, Sciaky, and Stratasys.
While 3D printing has sometimes proved to be slow and frustrating for small-scale users, it was always clear that its long term potential lay in the smart production of engineering parts and other large-scale industrial applications. So it is exciting to witness the birth of a new industry at last.
In the future, ever more complex but precisely engineered innovations will be possible, and in the long run the smart money will be on the IP – the schematics for items, rather than the items themselves. In itself this will link through to other technologies, such as digital twins, and create a new type of manufacturing and supply chain ecosystem; one that is more personalised, localised, and automated (PAL).
OLED superseded LCD because it’s brighter, has better color saturation, and is more power-efficient. microLED is expected to replace OLED within the next few years for the same reasons – it improves on all three of those factors.
I don’t believe that Apple’s ‘secret manufacturing facility‘ for microLED screens indicates any desire or plan on Apple’s part to move into large-scale component manufacturing, but I do think it’s a very smart move.
I suspect there are three reasons Apple has established the facility …
A pair of images posted to a Chinese blog on Saturday purportedly offer a first look at Apple’s next-generation "iPhone X Plus" handset, a 6.5-inch device rumored to see release later this year. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Turing Robotic’s CEO says the company isn’t done. But it’s definitely hit another significant roadblock in its quest to bring some fun alternative handsets to the market. The Finnish phone maker’s story so far is one of delay after delay, and now it’s announced, via Facebook post, that it’s suspending manufacturing. Read More Mobile – TechCrunch
Make way for the onshore revolution. Transformation expert Sean Culey joins our writing team and explains how the rise of the Personal, Automated, and Local (PAL) value chain uses AI, the IoT, and robotics to shift manufacturing and supply chains to where the customer is, rather than where labour is cheapest.
Ever since the financial crash a decade ago, investment has increasingly moved from speculation in financial products to supporting technologies that transform the way we capture and supply against demand.
Until this shift took place, progress in these areas was linear and deceptive; now, as the money flows in, it is poised to become exponentially disruptive.
On the upswing
This upswing of the ‘S’ curve of digital disruption is happening because of a clustering together of a number of different technologies that will transform the supply chain; new approaches that improve efficiency, eliminate intermediaries, and reduce waste.
These include autonomous vehicles, collaborative robots (cobots), 3D printing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and smart home hubs.
But that’s just the familiar hype. While media chatter about these technologies has been growing louder, fully operational versions have already entered the workplace.
The smart machine
The key is not to look at these technologies as individual innovations, but to instead step back and view them as interconnected components of a smart machine.
Seen from this perspective, it becomes apparent that this combination of technologies enables the automation of an entire end-to-end supply chain.
This combination of intelligent machines, software, sensors, and AI, creates what I call the ‘PAL’ value chain: one that is Personalised, Automated, and Local to the end-consumer.
PAL is the next evolution of the way we market, produce, and deliver goods; leaving the industrial age of mass production/marketing of commodity products behind, and moving to a chain of value-added services.
Let’s look at each link in this chain and examine the implications.
Goods are becoming increasingly customised to the needs of individual consumers, or to consumer niches. Three technology groups enable this personalisation:-
Artificial intelligence and the introduction of sensors throughout the supply chain
This is allowing companies to monitor systems and understand data at a granular level, resulting in the ability to manufacture products based on demand signals, rather than long-term forecasts.
This increase in our ‘sense and respond’ capability means that rather than produce large quantities of product in advance and push it to market en masse (a wasteful, slow, and monolithic approach), final production can be delayed until actual sales demand is received. This creates a more sensitive, pull-based model.
The shift from physical to digital products and sales platforms
Digital products have the benefit of having a marginal cost of almost zero, incurring virtually no production, storage, and distribution overheads – and no waste. This creates a seismic shift of power from the producer to the consumer.
The creation of electronic marketplaces has also enabled vendors to deploy machine learning algorithms that track and monitor viewing and buying habits, so that rather than creating a single shop for everyone, they can effectively create a personalised shopping experience for each customer.
New manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing
These enable companies to produce new types of products, rethink the production process, avoid the pitfalls and expense of subtractive manufacturing, and make things on demand to unique specifications.
For example, footwear companies such as Adidas (see video below) and Nike are already able to make a single pair of trainers to a customer’s required colour and style, rather than mass-manufacture the shoes and ship them to retailers in their millions.
Adidas’ automated, cobot-staffed Speedfactories are opening throughout the world, moving production closer to local customers. (See below for more on localised services.)
The company is even planning to offer personalised orthotics that are 3D printed, based on digital photographs of customers’ feet.
Autonomous vehicles and smart robotics will increasingly replace the need for manual labour to carry out repetitive tasks, such as production, picking, packing, and shipping.
Meanwhile, blockchain, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and chatbots can carry out and track repetitive information-processing tasks, such as the recording and administration of all physical and financial transactions, and resolving customer queries.
In the long run, each of these machines and algorithms will be managed not by human hands and brains, but by AI systems, using predictive and prescriptive analytics to determine demand and reschedule supply automatically.
All of this automation will enable manufacturers to produce goods where the consumers are, rather than where the cheap labour is.
Many manufacturers have long misunderstood the total cost of offshoring their production, focusing only on the unit cost of labour, without realising the additional transportation costs, lead times, storage requirements, and quality issues that arise – not to mention the environmental impact of slow, monolithic production.
The cost advantages of using robots to make products on demand, and in smaller quantities, is becoming more and more pervasive, and stands to create an ‘onshoring’ revolution. Manufacturing is coming home, but not in the guise of old-style factories.
To support localised production facilities, a micro-logistics network, using warehouse robotics and autonomous delivery methods (drones and delivery robots) is also being developed to satisfy consumer demand for same and next-day delivery.
Meet your new PAL
To witness the PAL value chain in action, one only needs to look to e-commerce behemoths such as Amazon and Ocado. But it’s important to look behind the headlines and see what’s really happening there.
The Amazon shopping experience is increasingly personalised to each customer’s needs, with artificial intelligence systems making a series of recommendations based on previous purchases – and those of other customers with similar buying patterns.
Amazon is also increasingly extending the number of ways it can engage with customers. Perhaps the most innovative of these is its Alexa-based Echo and Dot range.
While masquerading as a smart speaker, these products link Amazon’s retail, fulfilment, and Web services operations via a new domestic platform that enables customers to order anything from tiramisu and toilet paper to taxis and takeaways, simply by speaking.
Behind this platform and Amazon’s ecommerce site sits an increasingly automated end-to-end supply chain. The management of this supply chain, including the purchasing, placement, and picking of products, is increasingly carried out by machine-learning-based planning and scheduling systems.
Finally, in order to meet its Prime Now one-hour delivery promises, Amazon is developing a series of localised, micro-logistics hubs in urban areas, with Uber-style on-demand delivery drivers. But this is merely an interim solution until Amazon rolls out its new autonomous, electric delivery robots to compliment the orange Kiva bots and other systems that already operate in its fulfilment centres.
Amazon’s plans in this area include flying delivery drones, as well as ‘mothership’ concepts – autonomous vans loaded with smaller delivery robots that make the last-stage deliveries. There are even patents for airship fulfilment centres that hover over urban areas and despatch drones to customers’ houses.
However ambitious (and legislatively complex) some of these proposals may be, the underlying principle is simple. The PAL model represents a totally connected supply chain, with demand and supply signals passed automatically up and down the chain, with multiple points of value generation for consumers and corporations alike.
This is fantastic news from a sustainability perspective, especially as goods are increasingly made on demand, reducing excess production, transportation, storage, and waste.
However, it will also see a supply chain increasingly devoid of human labour; managing the fallout from this will be one of the major challenges of the next decade.
Internet of Business says
Seeing manufacturing and supply chains logistics as a single machine-like system, as Culey does, might seem like a futuristic concept, but many companies are already taking over entire markets using this strategy. The key is to be imaginative and bold: have the courage to consider dismantling a monolithic system and replacing it with something smarter, localised, and more efficient in each territory – a global grid of granular services, and one that your customers may prefer. Which brings us to the human element. Amazon is automating faster than any other company, and yet it has created 100,000 new human jobs in recent years, while the US automotive sector is reported to have created 230,000 new jobs in 2016, the same year it purchased 60,000 robots. So it is not as simple as ‘one robot in, 15 people out’. The future is about niche expertise and transferrable skills – and about entirely new types of business that will create new human jobs. Creating valuable work for humans: that’s the real challenge.
Internet of Business is proud to say that our Internet of Manufacturing event kicked off in style today at the Westin Grand in Munich, Germany.
The event runs for three days until 8 February, and features an unrivalled line-up of thought leaders, industry luminaries, and interactive roundtables, including speakers from HPE, MIT, Lego, Sennheiser, Volvo, SAS, TIBCO, Pilkington, and Hitachi, among many others.
Foxconn, Apple’s primary iPhone assembler and the company’s biggest manufacturing partner, reported December revenue that was up 50 percent year-on-year, largely driven by iPhone X orders. The strong performance was enough to put Foxconn’s revenue up 8 percent on the year, reversing a trend of falling revenue for the company.
The strong results, which indicate healthy iPhone X demand, are a cause for hope for Apple watchers ahead of today’s earnings announcements. Recent reports have suggested that Apple has had to cut iPhone X production thanks to sluggish sales, but those rumors don’t line up with Foxconn’s explosion in revenue.
Over at Seeking Alpha, Mark Hibben extrapolated from the “unusual” pattern of revenue showed by Foxconn to work out iPhone X sales and revenue:
“On the basis of Hon Hai’s revenue bump, I estimate that Apple sold approximately 16 million iPhone Xs in the December quarter, for revenue of $ 17.2 billion. This puts the rumored production cut back to 20 million in calendar Q1 into perspective. If Apple sells 20 million iPhone Xs, this represents a net increase compared to calendar Q4, and a 16.6% cutback in production compared to a 24 million/quarter run rate.
Although some may see the 16 million in iPhone X sales as a disappointment, I believe that iPhone X sales have been largely additive to normal iPhone December revenue. Based on Hon Hai’s calendar Q4 revenue, which has been closely correlated with iPhone sales for the past few years, I have concluded that iPhone revenue will be about $ 70.3 billion, a y/y increase of 29%.”
While supply chain rumors have painted a negative picture of iPhone X sales for the last two weeks, most of the third-party sales data weve seen has been positive for Apple so far. Recent data from Kantar suggested that the iPhone X cracked the top-three bestsellers list in every important market, and was even the best-selling device in urban China.
Right now, most of the pessimism about Apple’s earnings is related to supply chain rumors that Apple has cut its iPhone X orders for Q1 2018. It’s possible that there’s a smidgen of truth to that — for example, Apple might’ve over-ordered in Q4 2017, causing that bump in Foxconn revenue — but it’s worth remembering that this has not been a normal iPhone production schedule. Apple’s manufacturing partners had to produce three new iPhones last year, rather than two, and the delays and yield problems with the iPhone X could have caused irregularities in the supply chain, which some industry watchers could interpret as problems.
Luckily, we don’t have much longer to wait. Apple reports its earnings after the markets close this afternoon, and we’ll finally be able to call the iPhone X a success or a failure.
In addition to prototyping, manufacturing companies are increasingly looking to additive manufacturing on 3D printers as a way to build production components, too.
With manufacturing of production tools reduced from six weeks to just two days and tool production costs slashed by 40 percent, additive manufacturing is really paying off for French aircraft design and manufacturing group Latécoère.
So much so, in fact, that engineers at the company, which works with aerospace giants including Airbus, Bombardier and Dassault, are starting to explore the idea of using 3D printing in the creation of production parts.
Earlier this month, Latécoère announced that it was using 3D printer technology from Stratasys for both rapid prototyping and production tooling. Using 3D printers as production tools is often referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’, because these machines lay down layer after layer of a given material to create a ready-made object, as opposed to the ‘subtractive’ business of cutting, drilling and hammering material away.
Either way, the adoption of this technology has been “transformational”, according to Simon Rieu, composite and additive manufacturing manager at Latécoère’s R&D and innovation center. “Additive manufacturing has integrate seamlessly into our design and production process and has seen us enjoy improved lead times, reduced costs and enhanced efficiency,” he says.
In future, the company plans to 3D print final production parts for planes from Airbus, Boeing and other leading aircraft manufacturers, such as air duct housing components, for example. When 3D printed, these components could be produced more quickly than using traditional production methods – plus they’d be lighter, too, which is significant because an aircraft that weighs less also uses less fuel on flights.
Currently, only 29 percent of manufacturers are using 3D printing for production parts, according to a recent survey sponsored by manufacturing technology company, Jabil. But as 3D printing becomes more efficient and can be carried out using a wider variety of materials, the company expects this figure to climb. In fact, nine out of ten of the manufacturers surveyed said that they expect to grow their use of 3D printing for production parts in the next three to five years.
For now, the use of 3D printing is limited for most manufacturing companies – and, more specifically, limited to the prototyping process. In other words, it’s used to make mock-ups and test versions of components so that designs can be tweaked before final versions are produced. In Jabil’s survey, seven out of ten respondents say they use 3D printing for prototyping.
But either way, manufacturers are hardly sitting on the sidelines, watching the evolution of 3D printing. They are already using the technology – more than eight out of ten use 3D printing in some way today. “This is encouraging as it means that manufacturing companies are already looking for opportunities to integrate additive manufacturing within their established processes,” says Jabil. The aerospace and medical device industries, incidentally, are leading the way here.
Over time, this suggests that 3D printers will become integral parts of the smart factory set-up – just another form of connected device, capable of receiving instruction and reporting on their status, activity and performance over the Internet and boosting manufacturing productivity and efficiency in the process.
Additive manufacturing is bound to come up as a topic at our Internet of Manufacturing event, taking place in Munich on 6-8 February 2018. Attendees will get the chance to learn more about how connected technologies open up new paths to increased productivity and profitability for industrial companies.