Make Mine Special: Sales of custom solutions may be
flattening out after years of rapid
Over the past few years, engineers have increasingly shunned standard, one-size-fits-all systems in favor of custom solutions, says Dr. Eberhard Veit, director of product and technology management at Festo, the German-based pneumatics giant. Speaking at a press conference in December at its headquarters in Essenlingen, Germany, Veit pointed out that the volume of custom solutions (as a percent of total sales) nearly doubled (from 46 to 65 percent) in just the past seven years. He defines a custom system as one that is based on standard components assembled together in a modular fashion to create a unique solution. With the number of individual types of valves, actuators, drives, terminals, and other components that Festo offers now surpassing some 15,000 in total, Veit says the number of ways that these components can be combined together to make a complete system is practically endless. "Engineers now have more choices than ever at their disposal, which can be daunting in its own right," he says. He adds that Festo has made the design process a bit easier for engineers by intentionally designing many of its components to be modular and therefore more easily mixed and matched into a system design. Will the trend continue? Veit sees a leveling off now in the growth of custom solutions, contending that "There is a practical upper limit, and we are probably getting close to that limit today."
According to a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the factors in the collapse of the original World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, was the reduction in the yield strength of the steel reinforcement as a result of the high temperatures of the fire and the loss of thermal insulation.
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Robots are getting more agile and automation systems are becoming more complex. Yet the most impressive development in robotics and automation is increased intelligence. Machines in automation are increasingly able to analyze huge amounts of data. They are often able to see, speak, even imitate patterns of human thinking. Researchers at European Automation
call this deep learning.
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