Monday, December 18, 2017

Bionic Boots Prove The Potential in Amateur Manufacturing

Keahi Seymour shows off his years-long creation at the Worlds Fair Nano (via Inverse)
For lessons in the patience required of entrepreneurship, look no further than Keahi Seymour. All the way back in 2014 at the Maker Faire, Seymour was showing off his bionic boots prototype to interested spectators and potential investors alike. At the recent Worlds Fair Nano in New York City, Seymour was still at it, giving demonstrations to curious onlookers and interviews to assigned press. From a shortsighted perspective, Seymour's invention, boots that mirror an ostrich's muscle structure to achieve speeds up to 25 mph, can be seen as a market burnout. While able to be purchased on Amazon, the product does not seem to have picked up speed from any major capital investment since Seymour's demonstration in 2014. If he has any major buyers looking to assist his goal of three price-tiers for different customers, Seymour hasn't been forthright about it.

In the bigger picture, however, it would be wiser to view the gigantic potential in Seymour's design. The current prototype, the X17, is made out of a variety of carbon composite materials: materials that become cheaper over the years as more efficient methods are developed in making them.  Not to mention, as more and more urban areas realign their transportation landscapes to compensate for overpopulation and an automated future, the less a vehicle takes up shared space on the road, the better. The X-17 not only has the advantage of shifting from roads to sidewalks, but the user doesn't need to look for a parking spot, or even find a place to lock it up. They can store these boots in the office.

Of course, any potential product needing expensive materials such as titanium and carbon fiber will be a pretty penny to bring to mass retail. Seymour has claimed in an interview with Inverse, though, that he sees lower price grade versions of his bionic boots being made with cheaper materials. He has also said in the past the same power can be replicated using traditional parts such as springs and actuators. These are not above the realm of an average American manufacturer, and Seymour is convinced this X-17 is ready for just that. If his boots are, indeed, introduced into the consumer transportation and leisure market, it may be one of many oncoming trends of crowd-sourced robotics coming to fruition.

You can track updates from Seymour about his bionic boots here at his website.

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Virtual Reality Hits the R&D Lab

Through many eras, the toys of past, with advances in technology, often turn into the tools of the present. Nowhere is there a better current example of this than the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Normally associated with entertainment culture and the gaming world, VR/AR tech has found a valuable role in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

In a recent announcement, global firm AECOM and tech corporation HTC, pledged to jointly develop and produce virtual reality technology designed for mass architecture, engineering, and construction efforts. Although the announcement revolves around HTC's Vive software and brand new VIVE-FOCUS headset, exclusive to the Chinese market, it is indicative of a trend the US has shared for some time.

US manufacturers have already demonstrated not only an openness towards VR integration, but real-time transformation, as well. In a survey back in 2015, PWC found roughly one-third of manufacturers had planned or were already adopting VR/AR equipment for their daily product development and design. The use is only increasing, so much so that North American companies like Fleetway Inc. employ virtual reality for all its marine and navy architecture concept designs.

Ford Motors was utilizing VR even back in 2012
The advantages of VR/AR in manufacturing exist in the cost and time effectiveness. Creating VR models an engineer can interact with reveals potential design and application flaws that would cost tremendous amounts of money and effort even at the prototype stage. In addition, demonstrations for potential investment partners are exponentially more informative and impacting than a PowerPoint presentation.

As a new industrial model adapts to smart data and lightning-fast information exchange, simple but efficient development and research will be crucial. VR/AR technology was once thought of as a novel way to spend free-time, but it may soon prove invaluable to the serious business of moving America into 21st century manufacturing. 

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