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Articles from 2015 In April


9 New & Notable 3D Printers: From Desktop to Industrial

Some of us have been waiting for this -- the big build volume production version of Stratasys' Objet multi-materials 3D printer. Unveiled in April at Hannover Messe 2015, the industrial scale Objet1000 Plus 3D Production System adds extra-large print size

Several of the new and noteworthy 3D printers in this slideshow are breaking some boundaries. Three of them include the number "1,000" in the product name, indicating that the longest dimension is 1,000 mm. That doesn't sound like much, but it's nearly 40 inches, which used to be considered downright humongous in a commercial or industrial 3D printer.

Some of the others have broken other kinds of boundaries, such as using multiple heads, new metals printing techniques, printing new materials, or working with high-profile development partners to ensure very high-quality parts and controls. A couple of the machines are desktops, one is an enormous industrial end-production machine, and most are commercial or industrial printers that fall in-between in machine size and build volumes.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Vulcan & Atlas V Rockets Will Fly on 3D-Printed Parts

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Free 3D Printing Database of Industrial Machines & Materials

Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 25 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, machine vision, and all kinds of communications.

Design engineers, New England's premier design & manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Challenges for Embedded Technology Designers in the IoT

Challenges for Embedded Technology Designers in the IoT

The momentum behind embedded intelligent connectivity continues to increase at a phenomenal rate as a result of the Internet of Things. Technologies are becoming connected across multiple devices, platforms, and networks, creating a web of communication that is revolutionizing the way we interact digitally with the world. It is changing interactions with our environment, communities, and homes; with each other; and even with our own bodies.

Due to this widespread proliferation of technology and its use in some very sensitive systems (utilities, aerospace, defense, automobiles, healthcare, financial and banking, retail point-of-sale, etc.), we should actually be designing for the Internet of TomorrowThis IoT is the advancement of the Internet of Things, in which secure solutions exist across every touch point, from the end node to the gateway to the cloud -- producing a highly secure version of the Internet as we know it today.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: IIoT Blooms with Applications and Possibilities

Whatever we choose to call it, it is estimated that the population of wireless connected devices will reach 25 billion by 2020, according to the Gartner Group. Embedded technology engineers face growing and changing demands -- demands which fall into three broad categories:

Launch Challenges

Challenges of time to market and time to revenue are nothing new to embedded system designers, and those challenges will only accelerate when designing for the IoT. Some of the systems and applications needed to support those billions of additional devices predicted for the year 2020 are only in the dream stage today. 

This places a premium on such aspects as component integration and fabrication flexibility, if designers and their companies are to gain and maintain market share in the fast-developing segments of the IoT space. In their zeal to hit aggressive market windows, designers also need to remember that some of these applications will have long working lifespans (the average American car is on the road for more than 11 years, for example), which make updates and relaunches major design considerations.

Design Considerations

Designers will continue to face tradeoffs. There is the need for small form factors in device, energy efficiency, and performance. Delivering real-time response capability, expected by consumers in their accelerating quest for "instant gratification," is a challenge. Designers will need to pack more processing power into smaller and more portable devices while extending battery life in order to achieve market success.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: The 5 Biggest IoT Adoption Issues

The solution requires entire scalable processor families, from ultra-low-power, low-cost solutions to processors that provide maximum performance and are highly configurable. In order to meet these IoT challenges, processor families will need instruction-set upward compatibility and performance efficiency to complement a wide variety of different IoT uses. Higher-performance system buses and caches for internal and external memories will also be common requirements.

Software Flexibility and Integrity

Gartner Group estimates that the majority of apps in the market by 2017 will be from companies less than 3 years old; these companies will likely have app, functionality, and/or domain expertise but will not necessarily know how to implement and update their software in the IoT environment, how to engineer tight security into their apps, or how to control costs as they climb the curve to profitability.

Part of the attraction to the IoT is its promise of flexibility and adaptability, as devices, users, and applications flex and grow to meet new market needs. End applications must be adaptable, having the capability to change and expand through simple-to-administer software updates, including over-the-air firmware updates and data storage needs that leverage large external memories. Software compatibility across processor lines and the ongoing growth of a supporting ecosystem of developers and support will also be needed to fully exploit the IoT.

What happens when your home security system is an end node? Your car? Your bank account? The point-of-sale system at your favorite retailer? The sensitivity of these systems drives an expectation that end devices will be secure from malicious attacks, leading to greater integrity requirements, to ensure that devices operate as expected. But to fully secure the IoT, security must be implemented at the end node, gateway, and cloud levels and within each device at each level. It begins at the hardware level within each connected device.

Finally, to meet the needs of mass markets, overall system costs must continue to trend downward over time, through the use of efficient design techniques and taking advantage of mass production efficiencies.

Conclusion

As time progresses and the number and variation of connected devices and applications grow, there are certain to be adaptations of SoC designs that leverage a wide range of processor configurations. Performance demands are not going to stop, and are likely to accelerate. Embedded solutions that are scalable, high-performance, and expandable will be play a key role in supporting the Internet of Tomorrow.

To learn more about the adaptable technology designed to ease the challenges embedded engineers face in the era of IoT, download the whitepaper Exploring the ARM Cortex-M7 Core: Providing Adaptability for the Internet of Tomorrow.

Donnie Garcia is Kinetis MCU product marketer for Freescale Semiconductor.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Reshoring Nets 10,000 New Jobs in 2014

Reshoring Nets 10,000 New Jobs in 2014

Ten years ago, the US was losing 140,000 jobs each year to outsourced manufacturing. In 2014, the counter trend of bringing manufacturing back to the US has resulted in a net gain of 10,000 jobs, according to the Reshoring Initiative Data Report: Reshoring and FDI Boost US Manufacturing in 2014.

The report was produced by the Reshoring Initiative, a group that tracks the balance of outsourced manufacturing and manufacturing that has returned to the US. According to the report, more than 60,000 manufacturing jobs were brought to the US by reshoring and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) combined in 2014, representing a 400% increase since 2003.

This increase in jobs coming back to the US is matched against a smaller number of manufacturing jobs that are leaving. The report notes that only 30,000 to 50,000 jobs were offshored to other countries in 2014, resulting in a net gain of 10,000 or more jobs that year. The report asserts that the steady decrease in the number of jobs lost, capped by a net gain last year, is building confidence that reshoring and FDI are important contributing factors to the country's manufacturing rebound.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Reshoring is Happening, but so Is Outsourcing

The report constitutes a turning point in the outsourcing movement that shifted millions of manufacturing jobs to Asia and other low-cost manufacturing locations during the late '90s and early 2000s. "We say the bleeding has stopped, but the country should still be on life support," Harry Moser, president of the Reshoring Initiative, told Design News. "We still have a $600-billion-per-year trade deficit that represents about four million manufacturing jobs, and maybe eight to 10 million total jobs."

As for the industries that are reshoring, the report shows a number of sectors. "There is a good mix of high- and medium-tech products including surprising amounts of textiles and apparel," said Moser. "I suspect that the job mix is shifting moderately up-skill from the average current US mix because more automation is often required to make reshoring competitive."

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Reshoring Will Continue as US Manufacturing Booms in 2015

The reasons companies gave for reshoring their manufacturing were varied. Government incentives, the skilled US workforce, the value of a Made in USA label, and automation topped the list in 2014. As for the corresponding downside of outsourcing, companies cited lower quality, long lead times, high freight costs, and rising wages as reasons against offshoring.

New plants go to the cheap states

The data also indicates that reshoring was strongest in the Southeast US and Texas, a trend consistent with the Boston Consulting Group's forecast that indicated those areas would lead the way in becoming competitive with China for manufacturing goods for the US market. This is consistent with the trend of manufacturers building new factories in states with lower wages, lower taxes, and right-to-work laws.

The data for this report comes from the Reshoring Initiative's Reshoring Library of more than 2,000 published articles, privately submitted reshoring case studies, and some other privately documented cases. The report provides data and analysis in 13 different categories ranging from the number of manufacturing jobs lost to offshoring, and reasons cited for reshoring, to a breakdown of data by industry, country, region, and state. It also includes an international summary of cases reshored to other countries.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine, Chile Pepper.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Consider Human Factors Early in the Product Design Cycle

Consider Human Factors Early in the Product Design Cycle

As today's product design cycles are held to tighter schedules and budget constraints, it's becoming even more critical to consider human factors up front to catch and fix problems during the initial development stages, when it's faster and less costly to do so. Overlooking human factors at the beginning of the design cycle could lead to poor user experience, a decrease in effective product performance, and an increase in safety risk to the user.

Set Human Factors Goals

Human factors analysis is the study of the interactions between humans and the products, systems, and processes they use. The first step in incorporating a good human factors process into your development program is setting specific goals for your product's design. These goals should include a product that:

  • Is safe to use
  • Performs effectively
  • Optimizes usability and user experience.

When done correctly, a good human factors process not only creates a safer product for your customers, it also improves your product's overall performance and customer experience. As a result, your products will be more sought after than your competitors and give your company a market advantage.

Define All User Profiles, Environments, and Requirements

The next step is to describe all potential user profiles for your product, along with all user environments and user requirements/interfaces.

Before defining these specifications, the best practice is to seek out primarily input from actual users, not just gather input from the development team, and to always look at the product through the users' eyes. Typical descriptions for user profiles can include anthropometric body measurements, age levels, visual/audible acuity, and levels of user training/education. Typical specifications for user environments can include temperature, humidity, lighting, noise, nearby distractions, and space considerations.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: How to Ensure Long-Term Success with Risk-Based Product Design

Write user requirements/interfaces in terms of what users sense and how they respond when interacting with all functions of your product. Also, perform an initial user risk analysis at this stage to uncover and mitigate any known safety issues.

Perform Initial User Analysis and Evaluations

After defining user characteristics, it's important to quickly gather human factors data and feedback on initial design concepts. Some commonly used human factor analysis and evaluation methods are to:

  • Visit the User Environment - Going to the actual user environment and witnessing first-hand how a product is used is very helpful and can uncover additional, unanticipated user requirements not previously identified.
  • Use Focus Groups - Interactive groups and subject matter experts can be used to evaluate your design concepts and provide meaningful feedback and data.
  • Review Standard Design Guidelines - Review existing published human factors guidelines (ANSI, FAA, and others) to learn previous best practices on specific areas of your product.
  • Create Quick Mockups and Working Prototypes - Fabricate and constantly create simple mockups and rapid prototypes to optimize your design through continuous usability testing and refinement.
  • Perform Computer Simulations - Use computer simulation technology in virtual space to model human beings interacting with your products.

Remember, whatever combination of methods you choose, it is important to involve actual users early and often in the design cycle. This will quickly improve your product's usability and help your design become safer and more error-tolerant.

Validation Testing

Before releasing your design to the marketplace, demonstrate that human factors goals were achieved by performing validation testing on a production-level product. Testing should be done by actual users under real-world scenarios and conditions, with specific pass/fail criteria clearly defined beforehand.

Considering human factors early in the design cycle not only leads to safer, more effective products, it can also improve your business' bottom line, since intuitive, easy-to-use designs are the product of choice in today's highly competitive marketplace.

What human factors methods have you successfully used during product development and how has your organization effectively incorporated human factors into your design cycle? Please share your perspective of human factors design in the comments section below.

Greg Jung has more than 25 years of experience designing medical equipment and electro-mechanical products for a wide variety of industries. He also served in various project management roles and has led global, cross-functional development teams for a wide variety of programs. During this time, he developed several award-winning and patented product designs. Greg holds bachelor and master of science degrees in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

How Biomimicry Is Having an Impact on Sustainable Design

Biomimicry is one of the hottest trends in design right now, spanning engineering disciplines and inspiring inventions that emulate nature, which has been solving design problems many years before scientists began to.

Biomimicry first came to prominence after Janine Benyus published a book titled, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature in 1997, and in addition to using the method to solve design challenges, scientists also are using it to solve some of the bigger sustainability problems we face due to misuse or abuse of natural resources.

Cas Smith is a biological engineer at Terrapin Bright Green, a consulting firm that specializes in green and sustainable design. For his master’s thesis in engineering science and mechanics at Pennsylvania State University, he designed a solar cell that uses drastically less material to absorb and convert light into electricity at efficiencies similar to conventional solar cells, something he achieved by studying the physical characteristics of leaves.

Smith continues to explore how biomimicry can inform sustainable design in his current role at Terrapin. He said that while it’s still a concept in its early stages, biomimicry already is making its way into commercial products and applications and having an effect on design.

In fact, Terrapin has compiled a list of 101 biomimicry-inspired products that are in development or already in use on the market. These products span the applications of materials science; energy conversion and storage; optics and photonics; thermoregulation; fluid dynamics; and data and computing systems.

Smith took some time to discuss biomimicry and its implications for and relationship with the quest to solve some of the world’s sustainability issues in an interview with Design News.

Design News: What is the key focus of your work today?

Cas Smith: After completing my master's project, I wanted to gain more experience on the business side of technology development. I now work at Terrapin Bright Green, a consulting firm that among other things works with companies, academic researchers, and governmental organizations to transition biologically inspired technology into the market. I am still acting as a biological engineer in this consultant role while serving as the project manager on Terrapin's largest project focused on biomimicry/bioinspired innovation.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Biomimicry Center Emulates Nature to Solve Design Challenges

DN: How did you become interested in biomimicry?

Smith: My introduction to biomimicry grew out of a lifelong interest in "making things better." Part of my adolescence was spent traversing forests and other landscapes where I was taught to live by the motto "leave things better than you find them." That stuck with me. When I reached college, I knew I wanted to use engineering to address the big, global problems out there. About the same time, I was gifted Janine Benyus' Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by a friend and I discovered my university's biological engineering program. I devoured the book, switched out of my mechanical engineering curriculum, and never looked back. It was one of those moments where things just clicked for me on a deep level. Biomimicry offered a way to merge my engineering skills and the desire to create products that are sustainable, which comes from an awareness of how connected our industries are to the greater environment.

DN: Biomimicry seems to be a real hot button right now in design, although it seems like something pretty obvious that makes a lot of sense. Why do you think there is so much interest and application of this model now?

Smith: I think designers in all disciplines have an inherent want to make things that are "good." And I think the surge in interest around "sustainability" and "eco" and "green" in the past two decades really got a lot of people excited. Turning to biomimicry can be a natural progression for a designer. Who wants to reinvent the wheel when it's already been created, implemented, and refined over millions of years? That's what people see in biomimicry. They also see a design pathway or research and technology development pathway that -- with the correct intention -- can lead to sustainable products, which is another key component of the biomimicry paradigm. And, I'd like to note, biomimicry doesn't necessitate sustainability. You can find yourself astray if you aren't focusing on the right questions during the design process. A good catchall to repeat throughout the process is, "Will this design create conditions conducive to life?" which is a riff on something Janine and her company espouse. They have a great toolkit to help ask more pointed questions, questions that are project-specific. Part of the services Terrapin offers includes these guidelines.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Software Is Using Biomimicry to Optimize Part Design

DN: What are the key benefits of bio-inspired engineering?

Smith: Bio-inspired engineering enables a designer or manufacturer to create products that use less material and energy. Depending on the implementation, bio-inspired technology may also make use of biology as a means of manufacturing (living material as a thing to build with and the machine to form it). This has been done for years in industries such as pharmaceuticals, vitamins, and fragrances -- not to mention breweries -- and is being reimagined for a wider range of products today. Some of the most interesting work is focused on materials we use globally and extensively: building materials and food. Utilizing biology in this way does not fall within the boundaries of biomimicry (it's often deemed 'bioutilization') but does strive for the same endpoint: products that are built using less material and energy and that fit within the wider material flows of our ecosystems.

DN: Biomimicry seems to be something that can be applied across multiple engineering disciplines. Do you agree or are there ones -- such as electrical, mechanical -- to which it is better suited?

Smith: Definitely. The many engineering disciplines are just people's way of exploring the bounds of what's possible, exploring the limits of physics and its manifestations -- chemistry, geology, biology, etc. This is what evolution has done too: explored the limits of how things can operate, function, live on our planet. And the creatures that evolved to use resources in clever ways are the ones that have stuck around the longest.

DN: I've spoken with some biomimicry proponents who believe that this engineering model could help solve some of the problems humankind is facing in terms of its destruction or degradation of the natural world, because it will inspire people to look at nature differently and therefore respect it more. Do you agree?

Smith: I am optimistic that biomimicry and other forms of bio-inspired engineering can help solve some of humanity's problems. But I believe that an engineering mindset alone cannot solve every problem: being cognizant of varying cultural norms is -- I believe -- very important. Including the women and men who study these aspects of society will be important for designers as they try to solve the big problems out there.

As for the specific problem of environmental degradation, I think biomimicry offers a great way to educate decision makers and end-users about the importance of the "natural world," specifically the importance of maintaining biodiversity and -- what you could call -- abundance in nature. However, I think biomimicry and bio-inspired engineering in general could be used to ill effect. It could be used to create conventional materials and products that fit within our current systems, [such as] polymers that are just as resistant to biodegrading; paints, dyes, and resins that are just as toxic to us and our fellow organisms; products that are mish-mashes of materials that won't biodegrade or that can't be recycled. It will require a certain intention by designers and manufacturers, an intention to make things that create abundance through their manufacture, use, and end-life rather than scarcity and toxicity. I believe we can accomplish this. Overall, I think continued and increased education is important. It's how we continue the conversation around biomimicry -- how new discoveries from the basic science world are constantly inspiring the bright minds of designers and manufacturers. It’s important also how we maintain biodiversity -- that is, have a large enough group of citizens care deeply for other organisms to the point that we consider them when making decisions as mundane as our grocery store choices to decisions important as city planning.

Editor’s Note: Cas Smith will be the chair of a Q&A session “What’s Really New in Materials for 3DP and AM” during Atlantic Design & Manufacturing, June 9-11, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and NYC. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

How Additive Manufacturing Is Making Injection Molding Cooler

How Additive Manufacturing Is Making Injection Molding Cooler

Plastic part manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce cycle time and get more productivity out of their injection molding machinery. One of the longstanding constraints in injection molding production has been cooling time. Removing parts from the mold before they have cooled induces warping or shrinking. But wait time works against productivity.

Another constraint has been cooling channels drilled straight through the metal blocks of injection molds using CNC machining. While coolant is passed through the channels to cool the mold and draw heat away from the part after it has been injected, the efficiency of that cooling process is limited by the conventional straight-line drilling that's used for the channels.

But if those cooling channels could more closely conform to the shape of the part, the cooling process could become more efficient and faster. According to Tober Sun, manager for the technical research division at software provider Moldex3D, a typical production cycle for a plastic part is 30 seconds to a minute, but cooling takes more than half of that cycle time.

Thus, he says conformal cooling has emerged as a practice, which is being aided by advances in additive manufacturing. With a conformal cooling channel design, the toolmaker can use an additive process to lay down the mold one layer at a time, fashioning the cooling channels along the way and curving them to any desired shape.

According to plastics consultant Robert A. Beard, "a typical cycle-time reduction range for a properly engineered, conformally cooled mold is 20% to 40%." Such savings can lead to much greater productivity, especially in high-volume plants producing millions of parts.

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Injection Molding Adapts to a More Interconnected World

Many industry observers associate conformal cooling with laser sintering, in which a solid object is printed by melting metallic powder using lasers. Sun told Design News that he prefers the broader term "additive manufacturing," because of the widespread perception that sintered molds are not as strong as machined molds.

"It's not really sintering anymore. I prefer to call it remelting," as it produces a solid metal object, he said. Sun stresses that additive manufacturing technologies are now handling very strong and durable materials, such as stainless steel and titanium, which compete well with machined molds. "Strength is no longer an issue," he contended.

Sun recognizes that the added design effort and the use of additive technologies will increase the cost of mold development. But injection molds are expensive to start with, as they usually cost anywhere from $30,000 up to $1 million. The true economic concern shouldn't be the comparative cost of conformal molds versus traditional molds, Sun insists, but the trade-off between the added cost of the conformal mold versus the savings in cooling time on the production line. "The mold is quite unique and expensive, but you are using that single mold to make millions of parts. So it's important to increase the efficiency of that mold."

Moldex3D makes one of the simulation solutions that designers are using to create molds with conformal channels. The company's Moldex3D Designer solution includes a Cooling Channel Design (CCD) module.

Such applications aren't simple by any means, as cooling channel design is an optimization task with a multitude of factors to consider: the shape of the part; the temperature of the plastic; the speed of the coolant; and the thermal characteristics of the mold, the plastic, and the coolant -- not to mention the amount of cooling time the manufacturer is trying to shave off. CCD is said to allow the designer to enter a set of parameters and then generate an optimal conformal cooling design that can be edited and incorporated into the larger injection tooling design.

Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Executives Need to be on the Hook for Cyber Security

Executives Need to be on the Hook for Cyber Security

Are top executives getting a pass on cyber security responsibility? Eric Anderholm, CEO of Sergeant Laboratories, a cyber security firm, believes so. He notes that when the CIO is asked what happened after a breech, the answer is usually, "We don't know." Anderholm notes that answer is often viewed as acceptable, particularly when the CEO is loath to admit that he or she wouldn't understand the clear answer.

Anderholm is convinced that corporate leaders won't be able to get a grip on cyber security until that start to view it as any other security. They certainly wouldn't accept "we don't know who they are" if the breech were a physical intrusion. "When there's a breech most people don't know how it happened, so it's easy to lay blame on some nefarious overseas government, but the breech usually occurs because the organization has weak security," Anderholm told Design News.

When Anderholm visits with a new client, he is continually surprised by the lack of knowledge corporate leaders have about the status of their data. "They don't even know how many machines they have running," he said. "When we hear about 'an attack from overseas,' we're skeptical. We believe it's their weak security, even though they always think it's someone else's fault."

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Not Even Air-Gapped Computers Are Secure

As an example of weak security -- as opposed to brilliant hackers -- Anderholm points to the National Security Agency's experience with Edward Snowden. Anderholm says it should have been easy to spot Snowden as a spy. "The NSA should have been monitoring their data. Snowden was acquiring 10 to 20 megabytes a day, and if they had been watching their data, they would have seen the terabytes of data getting downloaded from outside," said Anderholm. "They should have seen this happening when terabytes of data were being collected by someone who wasn't a data analyst."

Security clearances for data

Anderholm believes corporations could develop security clearances for cyber data much like the security clearances for sensitive information on paper. "The government has been using security clearances since World War II. Organizations now have to look at their data and determine what data is important, what data would create a profound risk if it were released," said Anderholm. "You have to know where your data is sitting, where it's going, and who has access to it."

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Power Plants Have Big Cyber Security Problem

Anderholm likens the process of protecting data to auditing. You have to know who's been touching this data, who's been using it, and whether that use is appropriate," he said. "The people on the network have a lot of important data, and everyone forgets about the data. They have no idea that substantive data is just sitting there. That's a problem. The first step to protecting it is to stop blaming people from overseas."

Anderholm believes effective cyber security requires a shift in perception. "Data is getting managed like it's bolted down. The IT department needs to manage it like accounting and ask these questions: Where's the data? How many devices do I have? Who's touching the data? When was the last time it was audited, and how do I know what I hear is real?" he said. "Companies that ask those questions will have a competitive advantage because they won't experience breeches."

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine, Chile Pepper.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Poison Frog Skin Inspires Coating for De-Icing Planes

Arizona State University (ASU) recently opened an entire cross-discipline research center devoted to biomimicry. So it’s no surprise an ASU mechanical and research engineer there recently used this design method to come up with new coating for de-icing planes that can conserve the amount of antifreeze currently used by airports.

ASU researcher Konrad Rykaczewski was traveling in Panama last year where he saw a poison dart frog, which inspired him to come up with a new coating for de-icing planes, a subject he’d been working on since 2012.

A strawberry poison dart frog like this one inspired ASU engineer Konrad Rykaczewski to come up with a new coating for de-icing planes.

At the time, Rykaczewski was struggling with a problem with the new coating he’d designed that consisted of a textured surface that contained a small amount of oil -- a so-called slippery liquid infused porous surface (SLIP), or lubricant impregnated surface -- that is supposed to repel anything that comes in contact with it.

“The problem that I found with it was that during frosting most of the oil drained into the frost, essentially ‘breaking’ the coating,” he explained in an interview with Design News. “So unfortunately, SLIPS were not a silver bullet for anti-icing.”

MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: Software Is Using Biomimicry to Optimize Part Design

While he’d encountered poison dart frogs in zoos before, he’d never looked very closely at how the “poison” part of the frog works. Encountering the frog in the wild, however, inspired him to explore this method. “Seeing the frog in Panama motivated me to find some literature on the subject,” he said, discovering that a frog has two layers of skin -- one that stores the poison, and an external layer. “The functionality of poison release on demand was exactly what I wanted to do with antifreeze, and having a two-layer skin instead of a single textured layer was a clever way to do that.”

It took about a year of work in the lab to see if the frog’s way of storing and secreting poison was a sound one for his de-icing method, Rykaczewski said. It turns out it was, with a twist in design to add two layers of coating that have varying wetting properties. “The top one somewhat gets temporarily switched when frost or condensate is on it to release the antifreeze,” he told us.

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This allows the coating to use antifreeze only when it’s needed, conserving antifreeze and minimizing waste, Rykaczewski said. This differs from how anti-icing coating is administered to aircraft now, either with a shower of antifreeze on planes as they sit on the tarmac prior to a flight, or a continuous dispensing of antifreeze on smaller planes as they fly. “Antifreeze can be expensive and airports have limited supplies,” he told us. “So often flights get grounded because the airport ran out of the antifreeze. By emulating behavior of a frog, our coating conserved antifreeze by using it only when it is needed.”

He and his team are continuing their work on the coating by seeking to understand fundamental thermofluidic processes to come up with an optimal coating structure, he said. “We are also working on scalable ways to manufacture a more durable version of this coating on a larger scale,” Rykaczewski added.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and NYC. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.

Aluminum Extrusion Increases Options to Optimize the Supply Chain, Part 1

Aluminum Extrusion Increases Options to Optimize the Supply Chain, Part 1

Is extruded aluminum gaining traction as a mainstream OEM choice for designing, engineering, and producing component parts? Plotting progress along a standard change-management trajectory shows the alloy and the technique marching through the awareness and understanding phases and moving solidly into adoption territory.

In fact, depending on the market sector and application, aluminum extrusion frequently is an institutionalized supply chain approach to optimizing design and engineering, reducing manufacturing costs, and accelerating time to market.

Aluminum is approximately one-third the weight of iron, steel, copper, or brass. Extruding aluminum to concentrate or add strength precisely where needed creates "strength-to-weight" performance that is giving the method a more visible supply chain profile. Across a spectrum of vertical markets and areas that include making components easier to handle and less expensive for shipping, or lightweighting when weight reduction is a priority, aluminum has become a material of choice for many OEMs.

Design versatility, lower-cost tooling, and customization options inherent in aluminum extrusion create advantages that set higher expectations for what is possible. From the perspective of enhanced component performance, extrusion enables cost-efficient execution of complex features and ever-tightening tolerances. Total-cost-to-produce-innovations that optimize manufacturability, streamline assembly, and reduce lead times also make aluminum extrusion a manufacturing method of choice.

Critical advances in alloy formulations, combined with ongoing extrusion process innovations, are the core factors promoting aluminum as a key influence in manufacturing. Replacing carbon with Kevlar to prevent markings and tailoring quench systems to the extrusion thickness for balanced cooling are examples of why aluminum extrusions have become more cost competitive, more cosmetically appealing, and capable of tighter tolerances. But fully evaluating extruded aluminum for new or expanded roles that influence supply chain efficiency, effectiveness, and economics requires a 360-degree view of manufacturing.

Design and Engineering

An optimal product development environment gives OEM product designers and engineers the freedom to innovate on quality, precision, functionality, and performance while optimizing manufacturability to lower total cost and compress lead times. Aluminum extrusion's versatility -- especially when combined with the market- or application-specific expertise of an extruder's design, engineering, and manufacturing specialists -- promotes holistic and forward-thinking new product development outcomes.

Complete development-stage solutions for manufacturing consider a component's essential functions plus the interactions with and its impact on other parts. The total cost of production plus performance against requirements for aesthetics, durability, and weight also drive competitive advantage.

These are some examples of extrusion-powered design and engineering deployed to meet product development challenges more effectively than alternative manufacturing methods.

  • A single extruded profile can replace rolled shapes riveted together, resulting in higher strength while eliminating joining costs. A designed extrusion can also eliminate welded assemblies, reducing cost while increasing strength and accuracy. Welding aluminum weakens the mechanical properties of the weld joint. It can be costly, and sometimes not possible, to regain welded component strength using artificial aging.
  • Extruding a component to exact size and shape can reduce or eliminate the cost of secondary machining operations.
  • Extrusion profiles can be made to precise or standard dimensional tolerances, according to the specifications critical to specific component features. Applying only the critical-to-function tolerances to the print reduces manufacturing time.
  • The flexibility inherent in extrusion methodologies greatly enhances the ability to apply design-for-manufacturability principles, such as leveraging final-shape or near-net-shape production to reduce cost.
  • Differing material properties enable product designers and engineers to specify the aluminum alloy best suited to a component's critical design absolutes, functional needs, estimated annual usage, and secondary manufacturing operations. Alloys like 6063 and 6005A, for example, extrude at faster rates than 7000-series alloys. The majority of aluminum extrusions utilize 6063, but new, leading-edge alloys produce stronger, lighter extrusions. Aluminum-lithium is an emerging alloy that is 7% to 10% lighter and up to 50% stiffer than conventional aircraft alloys. Certain 6000-series alloys are easier to bend for use in marine applications, while 2000-series alloys accommodate secondary machining processes better. Alloy specification also can have a significant effect on surface finish.

Chemical Industry, Environmentalists Unite on Toxic Substances Control Act Legislation

Chemical Industry, Environmentalists Unite on Toxic Substances Control Act Legislation

The EPA is responsible for chemical safety issues, and it does so under the auspices of the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which is considered to be sufficient by almost no one. Environmentalists often decry the law as too vague and permissive, while the chemical industry criticizes it as too cumbersome, contrary, and restrictive. Nearly everyone agrees that the TSCA needs an overhaul.

In some cases, individual states have taken it upon themselves to pass preemptive laws that are more restrictive than the TSCA -- California is a standout example -- which has left manufacturers with a patchwork of state and federal regulations to follow. This complexity costs them money and leaves them at risk of non-compliance, and they face the ludicrous task of manufacturing and marketing products with different formulas within the country.

In an effort to update the TSCA, Congress has introduced two bills with similar goals. In the House, the TSCA Modernization Act was introduced by Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ). That bill is currently with the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. In the Senate, the similar but more comprehensive Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was introduced by co-sponsor Senators David Vitter (R-La) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

The Senate bill would alter the TSCA in several notable ways. It establishes a risk-based prioritization process for testing chemicals for safety -- 25 high-priority chemicals in particular -- and strengthens deadlines for evaluation. It also clarifies that cost considerations can't be considered a factor in determining the safety of a substance, and codifies rules regarding confidential business information claims. The bill explicitly mandates that chemicals cannot be manufactured until the EPA has approved them.

Both the House bill and the Lautenberg Act have attracted broad support from chemical industry interests. The American Chemistry Council has gone on record supporting the legislation, as has the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

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Dan Newton, senior manager of chemical risk management policy and advocacy for SOCMA, told Design News the organization is confident of the passage of both bills, though there are some parts that SOCMA believes could benefit from clarification.

"There are a few areas we would like to see improved," he said. "One major area has to do with preemption, and that ties in to the 25 chemicals that are listed as high priority. The House bill avoids that issue by maintaining preemption, as it is under the status quo. We would support some specific workload requirement, but we're not sure exactly what that looks like." (Small adjustments would likely be made during the reconciliation of the two bills before final passage.)

Some environmental groups have criticized the Lautenberg bill's rule that would prevent states from preempting federal regulation even on substances that have yet to be subject to federal regulation. SOCMA says these concerns are overblown, because the scope of the preemption rules are very narrow.

"It's important to understand that preemption would only occur for a particular use for that chemical," Newton told us. "It doesn't mean that all uses would be preempted. It's a really narrow scope. I think that's one thing that's getting lost."

It's a common opinion in the chemical industry that a strengthened TSCA, with enhanced authority, will require some changes to state preemption rules. In the long run, Newton said, a better TSCA would provide states with confidence in the federal law and eliminate the need for state preemption.

Not all environmental groups are opposed to the new bills. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has offered its support of the Lautenberg Act, noting that, "After years of denial, many companies are now willing to accept more regulation to secure a predictable system that restores consumer confidence in the safety of their products."

The EDF has stated that given the sheer number of chemicals today, the challenge of regulating chemicals is far too big for product companies, retailers, or states to handle on their own.

"We need a robust national program, rather than the current piecemeal approach that leaves many without any protections whatsoever," the group said.

Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. and began her long career as a technology and science writer and editor at Appleton & Lange, the now-defunct medical publishing arm of Simon & Schuster. Later, as the editorial director of telecom trade journal Customer Interaction Solutions (today Customer magazine) she became a well-recognized voice in the contact center industry. Today, she is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing and technology, telecommunications, and enterprise software.

Design engineers, New England's premier design and manufacturing event, Design & Manufacturing New England, will take place in Boston, May 6-7, 2015. A Design News event, Design & Manufacturing New England is your chance to meet qualified suppliers, get hands-on with the latest technologies, be informed, and expand your network. Learn more here.