A story in today’s Wall Street Journal suggests that Toyota may eventually need to buy its Prius batteries from China. The newspaper claims that China “controls 95% of the world’s supply of rare earth” metals and that Beijing has drafted a policy that would shrink the country’s annual export of them. Reportedly, the Prius incorporates about 12 kg of lanthanum in each of its batteries. Chinese officials have said they don’t plan on hording rare earth metals, but are trying to get manufacturers to set up facilities in China.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.