Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Jetsons: A Modern Reality?

When it comes to changing trends and technologies in society, we are often faced with this question of what the future holds. This is certainly the case for the automotive industry, as many people tend to fantasize or poke fun at how we are getting closer to entering the reality of the 1960s television show, The Jetsons. This animated series alluded to the idea that the future of mobility would entail flying vehicles and human-like robots. Although we are not quite at the point of levitating vehicles, the automotive industry has proven decade after decade that it is indeed a continuously innovating sector in the market.

With the exception of other automotive companies that have previously released hybrids, the Toyota Prius made headlines in 2000 as the first four-door hybrid sedan in the United States. This was a significant moment in the automotive industry as it created a major conversation among consumers and of course within the industry itself as to how prevalent these sustainable vehicles would become. As a result, the introduction of hybrid vehicles shed light on the alternative sources of power for operating a vehicle. Now, seventeen years later, companies such as Tesla have continued on this trend set by Toyota with the emergence of their fully integrated electric vehicles.

As the US market continues to prevail through the transforming evolution of automotive technologies, it is appropriate to reflect on what the future of driving may hold at last. Scott Corwin, a managing director with Deloitte Consulting LLP, has great insight on this transformation, as he leads the Future of Mobility initiative. In his in-depth article, The Future of Mobility: How transportation technology and social trends are creating a new business ecosystem, Corwin highlights five converging forces of automotive transportation and mobility.

These converging forces include; maturing powertrain technologies, lightweight materials, rapid advances in connected vehicles, shifts in mobility preferences, and the emergence of autonomous vehicles.

Maturing Powertrain Technologies. The emergence of battery operated vehicles will tremendously help to lower emissions by eliminating the use of gas, while offering higher energy efficiency. It’s important to note that the consumer will generally have a high value on the vehicle’s energy efficiency above many other factors.

Lightweight Materials. Advances in chemistry and physics, have proven the ability to eliminate a significant amount of weight for vehicles. For example, Corwin pointed out that the Ford F-150 truck eliminated six hundred pounds by using aluminum rather than steel, while still ensuring safety for drivers.

Rapid Advances in Connected Vehicles. With a plethora of cars on the roads nowadays, safety for drivers is a main concern, especially during extreme weather conditions. Fortunately, the advances in connectivity among vehicles help detect other cars, as well as infrastructure. These are known as vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V).

Shifts in Mobility Preferences. The rise of smartphone applications, such as Lyft and Uber have changed the mobility preferences among Millennials. As a result, this generation doesn’t value owning vehicles, as they have acquired a pay-per-use mentality. For example, “nearly 50% of Gen Y consumers like using a smartphone app for transport.”

Emergence of Autonomous Vehicles. What once seemed to be a technology of the future, self-driving vehicles have now become a reality. Although they are not exactly on a mass-scale production, there are areas where this technology has tremendously improved the driving experience. Generally one of the most significant challenges for drivers is  parallel parking. For example, the BMW i3 has a parking assist option where the car will autonomously park on its own. However, for fully autonomous vehicles, Corwin explained how long-haul trucks could help send and receive products faster by eliminating the driver. This is the result of cutting out mandatory rest stops, thus making the delivery or pickup more time efficient.

NOTE: Rotor Clip will soon be launching Clip Chat, a podcast series that will cover the changing landscape of the manufacturing industry, hosted by Co-owner Craig Slass. Our podcast premier will cover the future of mobility, as discussed above. Check out our Facebook and Twitter page for more details.

 Evan Slass is a Digital Marketing Communications Specialist for Rotor Clip Company.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Endolite’s Linx Prosthetic Limb Takes Home Best in Show Award

For those who are born without, or lose a natural limb understand the obstacles and challenges that are ahead in their daily lives. In the wise words of Charles Darwin, all living organisms, including humans face the scientific evolutionary fact of ‘survival of the fittest.’ That said, as humans are the most advanced life-forms on Earth, we have adapted not only through a biological evolution, but also through technological advancements. In other words, the ability to manufacture and continuously innovate high-end prosthetics is evidence that we are an adaptive race that combines technology with our biological needs.

On June 13, Endolite’s Linx system, a lower limb prosthetic technology, received the highest honors at the 2017 Medical Design Excellence Awards in New York. Not only did Endolite receive the Gold Medal Award in Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Products category, but they were also named out of forty-five finalists, the Best in Show Award. The medtech industry award show was based on  the following criteria: Design and Engineering Innovations, Functional (User-Related) Innovations, Benefits to Overall Healthcare, Benefits to Patients and Market Differentiation. By fulfilling each of the judged criteria, Endolite, a US branch of the Blatchford Group, shed light on their 125 year devotion to the designing and manufacturing of cutting edge prosthetics.  

In light of their most recent accomplishment, Linx is the first fully integrated, microprocessor-controlled lower limb system, helping above-knee amputees. According to Endolite, the Linx ankle talks to the knee at a rate of 400 messages per second, which gives lower limb amputees the ability to live a more active and independent lifestyle. This particular prosthetic limb functions by combining four microprocessors and seven situational awareness sensors, as a means of collecting data on the individual user’s day to day activity and their terrain. As a result, all of the data collected is used to help the prosthetic limb adapt in order to mimic a human limb tailored to that particular patient. This means that over the course of a day, the Linx system will adjust over 2000 times in order to adapt to both the anatomical body structure, as well as the surrounding environment.

Endolite’s success stems from the acknowledgement that quality prosthetics are vital for long term musculoskeletal health. Therefore, after being awarded with the highest honors as a top of the line medtech company, it is apparent that they value constant innovation through their engineering front. By developing high end devices that mimic the response time to a human limb, Endolite strives to give amputees the ability to walk or run, while also eliminating pain. Other prosthetic devices tend to create discomfort and pain to the patient, considering they do not easily adapt to the individual user or their surrounding environments. For example, sixty one percent of lower limb amputees often experience chronic back pain after 2 years of the amputation. As a result, this puts stress on the rest of the body as it can lead to both osteoarthritis in the knee and/or hip, as well as increased energy expenditure on the heart.

Overall Endolite, is revolutionizing the prosthetic industry one bionic step at a time.

Evan Slass is a Digital Marketing Communications Specialist for Rotor Clip Company.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Winning Engineering Students Look Forward to Careers in Manufacturing

Our 2nd annual Ring-A-Majig contest ended with a team of four engineering students from East Carolina University taking the top prize. Their winning entry, a model railroad hand cart, featured a design that incorporated several retaining rings as the fastening method, as well as a wave spring used to activate the braking system.

Members of the winning team included Erik Panarusky, Sam Poindexter, John Rayner and Zachery Rogers. Professor Ranjeet Agarawala served as the team’s advisor.

Winning Design: Model railroad cart is held together by retaining
rings and features a wave spring as part of the braking system.
In addition to a cash award, the students received an all-expense paid trip to Rotor Clip to tour our manufacturing facility and to attend the Atlantic Design and Manufacturing Show in New York, where they exhibited their winning design.

The pulse of manufacturing is quickening and our winning students are part of the excitement that has been building around manufacturing as a career. They look forward to working in companies that utilize the latest technology and practices to produce tomorrow’s breakthrough products.

“Manufacturing plays such a vital role in the world today, and having knowledge and training of up to date processes, automation, seems to be extremely important,” noted Eric Panarusky. John Rayner characterized manufacturing as a “viable career option for a young person.”

“With the advances in manufacturing technologies, 3D printing and robotics specifically,” he continued, “now is as good a time as any for a young person to be getting into manufacturing.”

The students also weighed in on their tour of Rotor Clip, which was for most the first time they had ever been in a manufacturing facility. Zachery Rogers was impressed with the smooth process flow of the factory “…from prepping raw materials to be stamped or coiled with machines, to the packaging of the clips using the plastic wraps (shrink wrap), or the wires (Rings On Wire).”

Eric Panarusky noted the advantage to actually seeing a factory in action versus learning about it in a classroom.

“It can be hard to grasp the scale and interactivity of design and manufacturing until you see it in person,” he said. “I felt the tour was most beneficial in the way of showing how each individual person and machine played a vital role in the entire operation.”

“Seeing this company producing as much product as they’re producing in house was awesome,” added Sam Poindexter. “Looking into the process of how everything is done at the company really gets me interested.”

The trade show was also a first for our students and they were happy to take part in it.

“The trade show was a fantastic opportunity to see current and future advances in manufacturing technologies,” said John Rayner. “Some of the things companies are working on are simply amazing and young people are at the forefront.”

Eric Panarusky was impressed by the diverse companies at the show and the range of products they exhibited.

“It made the workforce I'm hopefully about to enter seem less daunting,” he said, “especially because it made the job market and specific areas of work appear very, very, broad.”

The experience gave Zachery Rogers a basic understanding of what companies are looking for and how they showcase their services. “(It) has helped me understand how companies interact with one another,” he concluded.

We have been heartened and encouraged by the response to our contest, both by the quality of the work submitted and by the promise it holds for the future of manufacturing in our country. We wish our winners luck in their job endeavors and look forward to seeing what creative designs students submit for our 2018 contest.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Spray On Memory-An Aerosol Can Filled With Ones & Zeros

Researchers at Duke University created a new “spray on” digital memory device. Although far from being used commercially, the proven concept shows the potential this amazing break through in technology may have on our future.

The “spray” is made of silica-coated copper nanowires encased in a polymer matrix, which can be dissolved in methanol, creating a liquid that can be sprayed through the nozzle of a printer onto a surface. Yes, there is a 3D printer that is used like an aerosol can.

Duke researchers 3D printed a series of gold electrodes onto a glass slide. Then printed, or “sprayed”, the copper-nanowire memory material over the gold electrodes, and lastly printed a second series of cooper electrodes.

To demonstrate, the researchers connected the 3D printed device to 4-programmed LEDs, which became illuminated in various combinations depending on the program.

Where would this spray on material be used? Researchers are looking at Radio-frequency identification tags (RFID), most notably used in tracking inventory. RFID tags electronically store information and when scanned provide limited information, i.e., the product was stored here, picked up at this time, and delivered at this time. With spray on memory, a consumer can see the inventory information, along with the temperature the product was stored in and for how long, or how the product was handled, which would be great for medications, or a perfectly preserved bottle of wine.

Or for golf enthusiasts, imagine having this printed onto your personal golf balls or clubs to track speed, elevation, distance, wind resistance, or to find your ball when you slice it into the woods.

What’s more, the spray-on memory can be re-written with no limits. While conventional memory devices might last only a few years, the spray-on memory has the ability to store data for a decade without degradation.

The current storage space of the spray-on memory is equal to a 4 bit flash drive. That is essentially the computer power of using your TV remote or programming a coffee maker. However, still in its infancy, the spray-on memory technology will only develop to become better and more efficient.

Vincent Rodgers is a Marketing Communications Specialist for Rotor Clip Company

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NASA Chooses Finalists For Deep Space Exploration Habitat

Hot off last year's successful results, NASA's public-private joint program, Next-STEP has just announced its newest aim to enlist private manufacturing for deep space exploration.

Next-STEP 2 will feature a competitive contract model for six companies chosen by NASA: Bigelow Aerospace LLC, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corp, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks, and Boeing. These companies will provide prototypes from a shared grant of $65 million provided by NASA, along with up to 30 percent of their own money to added developmental costs.

Deep Space Habitat Prototype
Whereas the previous objective of 2015's Next-STEP included "commercial capabilities in low-orbit" (basically, airliners in space), this year's criteria focuses fully on developing a habitat environment for humans to survive the long time and conditions of deep space travel. The resulting technology could significantly advance NASA's well-publicized goal of astronauts reaching Mars by 2040. From NASA's press release detailing the endeavor:

"The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing, and to help define overall system functionality, These are important activities, as they help define the design standards, common interfaces and requirements while reducing risks for the final flight systems that will come after this phase."

 In essence, all six companies will have to find innovative ways to develop new designs of deep space habitats that will be subject to rigorous testing and risk assessment. Afterwards, NASA will almost certainly tweak whatever final prototype they choose, which will serve as the basis for the next generation of an increasingly interesting landscape of deep space exploration.

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

"UFO" Houseboat Brings the Tiny House Concept To The Ocean

Off-the-grid lifestyles seem to be all the rage these days, and the tiny home trend is a an excellent reflection of this. Having a small, sustainable habitat has become more and more enticing to younger generations looking for cheaper alternatives to traditional homes, even if it means a bigger price tag up front. Italian-based company Jet Capsule , however, has taken this movement to a whole new level.

Sea level, that is.

The company, which manufactures yachts, has designed plans for a pod-like concept home that floats in the ocean. This "Unidentified Floating Object" will not only include 322 square feet of livable area, but also an off-the-grid energy apparatus including onboard solar panels and wind turbine as well. The fiberglass pod would include a fresh water generator, a vegetable garden on its outer rim, and an economic, slide-out kitchen. While it can cruise on its hydrojet propellers at a rate of 4 miles per hour, the pod's elastic anchor system ensures it won't capsize in stormy weather, provided it's docked in shallow water.
Jet Capsule's Floating Pod design
includes panoramic viewing of
underwater sea life.

One could see an issue if a vessel that moves this slowly had to gamble long distances with the risk of an approaching storm. Nevertheless, while it may not be an impervious home, many interests of the future dovetail with this design. The prospect of living off the grid, with the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, can appeal to all generations, whether green-minded or in retirement mode. And while the prototype Jet Capsule is promising currently demands a total of $800,000, the owners project the model could cost as low as $200,000.

More than a standard yacht, but less than your average home.

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wazer Desktop Waterjet Cutter Debuts at TechCrunch

At the recent TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield event, San Francisco-based Wazer debuted something that could very well revolutionize the small business world: a desktop waterjet cutter.

Image result for wazer printer
Wazer sets its desktop cutter at $6,000 for small business budgets
What was once considered appropriate for hobbyists now takes a different meaning in the context of the maker, DIY movement. The machine has a 12" x 18" bed and can even have its noisiest component (the pump) stored in a separate room. These features make it ideal for small businesses who, while they may have low volume orders compared to franchises, still need to produce original products faster than the speed of hands.

The major advantage of Wazer's product is the surprising effectiveness water and sand has compared to other laser and plasma technology in cutting. The machine issues a stream of water and garnet at a pressure somewhat less than industry standard but at different speeds, depending on the choice of raw material. While Wazer's cutter sacrifices a tiny bit of precision, it can make accurate cuts through one inch of almost any material provided. Steel is no issue, but even paper can be carved in creative methods without dissolving. In addition, the variety of possible materials even gives Wazer's product an edge over current 3D printing methods for start-ups looking to create prototypes. As Wazer CEO and co-founder Nisan Lerea says to TechCrunch:

"The problem with 3D printing,” says Lerea, “is that you’re making something out of relatively fragile plastic. With water jet technology, you can create prototypes out of the materials that will be used in the final products. If you need limited production runs, you can even do small-batch manufacturing with this machine, which doesn’t work with most 3D printing technologies.  
 Although the owners- who began this project as an academic experiment at Penn Engineering- do not believe water cutting will reach beyond niche markets. they have a very clear vision as to who those markets will be. “One of our test users is a jewelry maker who creates beautiful pieces out of coins,” Lerea continues. "Each piece she makes costs $5-600. The problem is that it takes her forever to make each piece. We can help her make more jewelry with better consistency, faster.”

Wazer's Kickstarter goal of $100,000 is all but in the bag, and as it centers on a resource more and more finite in a world of droughts and environmental instability, it would be interesting to see if the company ever considers plans to integrate resuseable water in its models.

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