Thursday, April 10, 2014

Robots Poised to Replace Manual Labor

In an interview recently with The Verge, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Robert Atkinson had this quote in response to how the US should handle the dilemma of automation investment at the expense of jobs:

"That's not really what our choice is...I think our choice is continued erosion of our manufacturing capabilities and the jobs that go with it, or a more revolutionary transformation."

Therein lies the sticking point.  Despite the positive trend in manufacturing jobs and operations moving back stateside, most experts agree the elements that make up traditional manufacturing- namely a labor-based supply chain- are slowly becoming an unworkable model.  Technology is the chief reason for this, as automatic labor has now become 50 percent cheaper than human labor (McKinsey Report, Sept. 2012).  And as The Wall Street Journal recently  covered, Google's partnership with Foxconn in developing new robotics is going to take advantage of this disparagement on an unprecedented scale.

 With a focus on electronic assembly, Google aims to build an all-robotic labor force.  Google also specified it intends to use automation in competing directly with Amazon's manual labor (Don't let the recent PR hype around drones fool you: Amazon's manual labor is still the driving force behind the company).  This is truly heading into unchartered waters, but if we're to look back on the past hundred years of technological advancement, it's pretty good odds that those waters are inevitable: robots will be a major part of factory labor, on every level, in almost every sector.

This really comes down to that "revolutionary transformation" Atkinson spoke about.  The issue is no one knows what that transformation is going to be.  What does an employment landscape without traditional manual labor look like?  How can you keep an economy going without it?  There's a real risk that if the US isn't prepared with ways of transitioning low-wage workers to new jobs of the future, the country will be stuck with a massive and permanent unemployment class- or worse, the entire economy collapses.
Robots are rapidly replacing traditional manual labor.

However, with the right kind of thinking (re:outside the box), it is also entirely possible we discover whole new jobs and industries as this new century continues.  Last year, Scott Winship made a valid point in an article regarding the long-term perspective of technology replacing labor.  He argues that of course, there is a correlation between insecure low-wage jobs and workers not given the opportunity to accrue employment skills.  While it would seem technology would only box in those low-wage workers and take even more opportunity away, he notes: "In all five decades from 1950 to 2000, the share of workers in high-wage jobs rose faster than the share in low-wage jobs, but the pattern was reversed from 2000 to 2007."

We've had technological improvements, specifically in computers and automation, since the early 20th century.  Yet, not only was employment unharmed overall, it had improved in wages up until the beginning of this century.  That's because up until then, traditional labor was being buoyed by technology; it's only the last decade that it's been surpassed by it.  So technology itself is not the culprit: it's the lack of investment by everyone, public and private, in manual labor that can complement said technology.  How to address this?

There's no smoking gun yet, but an updated education effort on the national level, a greater emphasis on thought-based jobs, and a willingness to rethink what should and shouldn't be a "job" in the 21st century, could all be a good start.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.




Monday, April 7, 2014

Rotor Clip Scores AS9100 Certification

Rotor Clip has taken another step in its goal to continuously improve its products and processes and increase overall customer satisfaction by recently meeting all the requirements for an AS9100 certification.

Rotor Clip can now offer the Aerospace industry a “one stop” shop for tapered, constant section and spiral retaining rings, wave springs and self-compensating hose clamps.

In addition, the industry has at its disposal a technical engineering staff to advise on the most economical way to use its products including suggestions on the best type, dimensions, material, finishes and packaging to use for a particular application.

According to Sara Mallo, VP of sales, the certification is good news for Aerospace customers looking for additional sources for these products.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on offering choice to our customers in the type of retaining rings they purchase,” she said. “We’re now pleased to offer the same type of choice to the Aerospace industry.”

Mallo noted that the process of applying for the AS9100 has been “extremely positive,” enabling the company to uncover key areas of improvement and a greater command of our manufacturing processes.

“What we have learned through the AS9100 process is how to take our current lean thinking and improve upon it to provide our customers with an exceptionally high level of quality, reliable products delivered when and where they need them.”

The certificate reads that Rotor Clip”…has established and applies a quality system for the manufacture of tapered section, constant section and spiral wound retaining rings; Truwave® coiled flat wire wave springs (single and multi-turn); Rotor Clamp self-compensating hose clamps, in accordance with customer and industry specifications.”

For more information, contact Sara Mallo at sales@rotorclip.com.


Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Tesla Experience

Craig Slass waits to test drive a Tesla Model S with son, Jacob.
I have to admit I didn’t expect much when Craig Slass, Co-President of Rotor Clip, asked me to join him for a test drive of the Tesla Model S electric car. I was expecting to encounter a “work in progress,” a vehicle whose technology was promising but not quite there.

I was in for a surprise.

The exposed chassis of the car on display in one of the two show rooms in New Jersey, The Mall at Short Hills (the other is located at the Garden State Plaza Mall), was stark. There was a cylindrical shaped motor that drives the rear wheels and a few assemblies up front, but that’s it. The vast space between the front and back are for batteries. Hood and trunk are storage spaces. It’s hard to believe this vehicle could function with so few components.
Jacob Slass stands in front of a Tesla Model S chassis.
 Most of the space is devoted to the batteries.

Craig got behind the wheel and after a brief orientation from Owner Advisor, Andrew Chae, eased the car out of its mall parking space and into the traffic of nearby JFK Parkway. I was sitting in the back seat with Craig’s son, Jacob. The car was stylish and comfortable with a lot of the bells and whistles you’d expect to find in a new vehicle.

But it was the handling and power that most impressed me. The acceleration was smooth and quick, driving me into the seat like a plane about to take off. It was hard to believe the car delivered that kind of power without relying on an internal combustion engine.

We cruised across Columbia Turnpike and into the nearby town of Livingston. Craig had no trouble weaving in and out of traffic, passing at will (which is his way) calling on a burst of speed now and then that was worthy of any luxury car on today’s market.

When we returned, Craig sat down with Andy and reviewed the cars options including colors, sun roof, interior materials as well as other stats. These included:   236 miles on a single charge; three hours of charging time for every 100 miles from your home charger; or, 20-30 minutes for a full charge at a charging station. (It doesn’t cost you a cent—that seemed impressive).


The batteries will last about 8-10 years; you can choose to replace them at that time which would run about $10,000.

Our test drive was on the heels of New Jersey’s ruling barring Tesla from selling its cars direct to consumers through its two mall locations. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, said the fault lies with the State Legislature, “…which says if you want to sell cars in this state, you must go through an authorized dealer.”

“My job is not to make the laws, it's to enforce the laws. And Tesla was operating outside the law,” he said.(http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/03/chris_christie_blames_njs_controversial_tesla_ban_on_state_legislature.html. NJ.Com, March 18, 2014.)

Regardless of who is to blame, Tesla must cease selling cars directly to consumers as of April 1.

Sales of the battery-powered vehicle, priced from about $70,000, totaled at least 22,450 last year, based on figures previously released by Palo Alto, California-based Tesla. According to the company, this exceeded its sales target of 21,500. (www.Bloomberg.com, January 15, 2014).

Right now, it’s only a small part of the transportation puzzle, but one that’s expected to grow. As Craig Slass noted, “Tesla is the future and we have to support them.”

Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lima Billboard's Example



It's been a year and by now, you might have read about University of Engineering and Technology in Peru researchers' innovative way of combining marketing with true engineering genius in their Lima-based billboard that pulls water from thin air.

Peru has always suffered from a lack of moisture, making it at risk for drought conditions.   But its water conditions have worsened.  As this article from Time states:

"Because it sits along the southern Pacific Ocean, the humidity in the city averages 83% (it’s actually closer to 100% in the mornings). But Lima is also part of what’s called a coastal desert: It lies at the northern edge of the Atacama, the driest desert in the world, meaning the city sees perhaps half an inch of precipitation annually (Lima is the second largest desert city in the world after Cairo)."

The city relies on water that trickles down from the Andes, specifically glacier water.  However, with the effects of global warming, this water source evaporates faster and faster as years go by, eroding the supply for the fifth-largest city in the Americas.

A quick diagram of how the Billboard works.
The Lima Billboard, therefore, isn't just some marketing ploy that can draw foreign investment for the school's engineering department.  It may serve as a way for all cities to adapt to what is clearly going to be shifting weather patterns that will destabilize current societal infrastructure.  While those in the eastern regions of the US may scoff at the notion of moisture being scant, the western part of the country sees its real damage in the agricultural industry, the desertification of the Southwest states, and the ongoing coastal drought.  Traditional irrigation methods may not be as useful nor reliable as they once were, and the increasingly more difficult need to keep water in massive urban centers is becoming evident as one of the primary concerns of the 21st century.   Here's hoping in another year, every major city in the Western US has a billboard such as this.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lockheed Martin teams with Victorian Wave for largest Wave Energy Project Ever Attempted


Wave energy gets less print than Wind, Solar, and Biodesiels combined, yet is widely considered the most reliable renewable source, as well as the source with the most potential (which might have something to do with the size of the planet's oceans).

Planned location for Lockheed Martin and VWP's
wave energy field using NJ-based OPT's Powerbuoys
Lockheed Martin's recent contract to work with Victorian Wave Partners in developing the largest wave energy project to date is encouraging, and it's also way past due for this type of investment.  To reiterate: wave power derives energy from the surface motion of the ocean.  That is not only a more reliable, and consistent source of energy than wind or solar (the never-ending rhythm of the tides is a better bet than the world's wind front patterns, obviously), but because the turbines live underwater, it's also quieter and less of an eyesore.  The enormous damage wind turbines can do to real estate value by obstructing views are a non-issue with wave energy.  

While the project is going to be established in Victoria, Australia, Lockheed Martin and VWP plan to use energy harvester technology from the New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies.  The company's PowerBuoy converters are projected to eventually generate an initial amount of 2.5 megawatts, but eventually get to a peak power phase that generates enough energy for over 10,000 homes.  As the video shows below, they're easy to establish,  can be monitored with realtime smart data, and are extremely cost-efficient:


This is an encouraging project not just for the world of renewable energy, but the prospects of American-owned energy sources as well.  If the Victoria experiment goes smoothly, and generates the projected energy, it will serve as a needed template for similar endeavors that take advantage of America's two ocean coastlines.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

MIT Alliance in Singapore Creates Self-Driving Golf Cart


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's biggest joint research center is SMART, or the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology in Singapore.  The centre recently enjoyed a visit from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who expressed his state's interest in making tech-level improvements in infrastructure a priority. However, it's SMART's latest collaboration with researchers from nearby National University of Singapore-not their high-profile guests- that should be garnering the most attention.

Led by one Professor Emilio Frazolli, SMART-NUS researchers dubbed the Future Urban Mobility

SMART's autonomous golf cart is taken for a test drive.
photo: Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology
Research Group (FM IRG) just unveiled the latest advancement in automated vehicles; a self-driving golf cart.  While not a vehicle that one would actually drive on an average city street, it is, however, a significant step in the evolution of automated driving for a few reasons: one of which being its navigation system doesn't use GPS.  “GPS data sometimes has a tolerance of 10 to 50 meters, which is not enough for urban environments,” explained one of the team's members, Zuo Bingran.  And so, bearing an array of map data processors and laser sensors that span 270 degrees, the SMART golf cart is completely independent of satellite technology.

More impressive, perhaps, is the framework within which the joint project was intended to be made.  The vehicle is part of a larger goal for FM IRG of creating not merely automated vehicles, but a tightly orchestrated system for these vehicles to drive on, whereby human control would start at the beginning and end of a trip, but cease on highways, or high-volume roads, during "peak hour".  They call the policy "first mile-last mile", and it may be the first step in integrating the recent design fantasies of research groups and proponents of a worldwide automated vehicle system with the practical realities of individual autonomy.  It's hard to imagine people wanting to give up complete control of self-navigation- unless, of course most of their commuting involves long bouts of traffic and redundant routes.  That experience is all but assured for everyone with rising population numbers.  With all evidence pointing towards computers making better split-second decisions in risky driving situations, why not let them take over the hard part of being attentive during mundane, start-and-stop traffic?

Whether the greater public will go for such a concept (and even if so, it's going to take a long, long, time to put it into effect) remains to be seen.  But MIT and SMART are doing the right thing by creating designs not in a vacuum, but in a context of a renovated system that must exist in some form if any of us have any hope of getting from a point A to a point B in the not-too-distant-future.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Hospital Building Eats Mexico City Smog

The urban landscape is changing, slowly but surely.  Overpopulation, pollution, and climate change issues are the prevailing priorities right now.  And as American infrastructure turns over for the next century, experts would do well to look all over the world for improvements.

Right now, there's no better example of how innovative designs can tackle sustainability issues than the facade of the Torre de Especialidadesis (Manuel Gea Gonzalez Hospital) building of Mexico City, Mexico.  100 meters long with tiles coated in titanium dioxide (TiO2), the facade creates chemical reactions with any nitrous pollutants that come in contact; most of which are from automobile emissions.  The pollutants are subsequently broken down into harmless CO2 and water vapor, meaning this hospital building effectively cleans the air for its inhabitants and neighbors.

While there may be long-term problems of maintenance, the rewards for this kind of environmental tweak are sneakily abundant.  Not only is the hospital creating a cleaner atmosphere for its patients- saving them time and space in the long run- but give it five, ten years; any long-term study that shows drops in related issues such as asthma, plant growth, medical diagnoses, will herald this kind of architecture as necessary civic infrastructure:


As the video states, natural UV rays act as a catalyst for the chemical reaction, and the tiles neutralize the equivalent of pollution from 1000 vehicles per day.  Comparing that to the average traffic in Mexico City, it's a drop in a bucket.  But imagine 20 buildings such as this.  Or 50.  Or one on every major intersection.  Cost and bureaucracy is an always an issue, but ideas like this have to be thought of on a large scale if they're to have any real impact at all.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.