It would be great to have a crystal ball right now. I’d most like to get a view of what the North American auto industry will look like in just 12 months. Will GM, Chrysler and major Tier Ones survive as standalone entities? My guess is yes, but with a dramatically reconstituted asset base.One sign of potential changes comes from an SEC filing Feb. 5 from a company called Strattec Security Corp. Strattec and two partners bought a $6.7 million piece of Delphi’s auto partmaking business. Delphi, the former GM unit, announced that its Power Products was “non-core” last October. The business develops and manufactures power lift gates, power deck lids, power sliding doors, and power cinching latches and strikers. Delphi is desperately trying to raise cash to emerge from bankruptcy. Proceeds from the power products sale is a tiny piece of the puzzle, but shows how a new automotive supply industry may be emerging-albeit very slowly-in the USA.
Strattec was formed only in 1995 in Milwaukee, WI, as a spinoff from Briggs & Stratton, which first began developing auto components 100 years ago. The spinoff of the technology into Strattec created more opportunity for the business to raise capital and develop alliances. Strattec is taking over the North American Power Products business from Delphi while partners are acquiring foreign assets.
Here’s what’s interesting: Strattec is affected by the downturn in US car sales and has reduced work force and frozen executive salaries. But it’s still investing in the business. A company with strong technology and management is taking offer the assets of a troubled company, and probably re-investing at the right time. That could be the future of the North American auto supply business.
As an interesting side note, Strattec also disclosed in the 10-Q SEC filing that it is moving a large volume ignition lock housing program originally planned for China to its North American operations in Milwaukee and Juarez, Mexico. That move could boost North American sales by more than $12 million over the next two years.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
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.