An automated factory capable of solving its own problems is currently running on Rod Spencer's kitchen table. Granted, the live-steam generator is only 4-ft across. But the miniature generating plant, complete with a butane-fired boiler, a live steam engine and electric pumps, operates entirely through systems integration software written by Spencer and several of his Raytheon colleagues. The package automatically combines physical equipment characterization as well as the operation intents of the factory--what the plant produces under what conditions. The Spencer compiler assembles and simplifies physical relationships, resulting in fast, compact, and reliable real-time software control. Spencer says, "Today's automation often means inflexibility. The cost for reprogramming stands in the way of adapting to changes of equipment and experience." The system starts with a blank computer screen. Inputting a bar code triggers characteristic charts for each piece of factory equipment, feeding information into the data set. This includes data such as flow, pressure, and temperature. "If we add a new pump, we click on the web site of the pump's manufacturer and download performance specifications," Spencer says. The operator then "superimposes the process intent" and the system does the rest. Like an engineer, the software can effectively teach itself to solve problems on its own. He says, "This allows the fast inclusion of the single most important aspect of automation...operational experience." Spencer acquired the sole rights for his creation last year and is currently trying to secure the $4 million in capital needed to launch the project. He will initially focus on the semiconductor and printed circuit-board industries. VOICE/FAX (603) 424-4028.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.