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Articles from 2021 In May

How to Build a Better System of Cables for Multi-Axis Robots

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Industrial robots are becoming more agile and flexible. As robots technology advances, the supply chain has to respond in kind. You can’t have a robot with greater capability only to be hamstrung by clunky cables. To ensure that cables on industrial robots can be guided in motion safely, easily, and compactly, igus has developed a four-dimensional triflex TRX energy chain.

The cables are placed in the chain in the form of a spiral and are guided safely in the movement with the help of the chain. In addition, the cables and hoses are fastened in place in the middle of the TRX so that they do not leave their position when the chain is pulled.

We caught up with David Sandiland, head of troubleshooting and process improvement in robotics and automation at igus. He explained how cable technology has grown to match advances in robotics.

Design News: How are advances in robotics creating the need for new developments in cables?

David Sandiland: This is a “footprint” change. The reality of new robots and even previously deployed robots are peripheral parts suppliers are all fighting for the same space and that is axis 3.  The majority of retraction systems are mounted to a set of holes at the 3rd axis and oftentimes, the integrator or end-user wants that real estate for junction boxes and valve banks. This is particularly common with material handling robots that have large grippers and need several airlines and sensor cables to originate from a junction point at axis 3. The TRX allows us to offer a form of retraction while not occupying the “high rent” district of the robot arm.

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The TRX system from igus was designed to save space on the third robot axis and ensure a retraction length of up to 40%.

DN: Explain the Triflex R energy chain and how it works.

David Sandiland: Triflex R is a three-dimensional cable carrier that incorporates the benefits of a standard 2-D cable carrier, like bend radius protection and interior separation, but also adds other features like a torsion stop and ball and socket design. The combination of these four features is unique to triflex R and leads to greater cable protection and reduced downtime. A lot of robot cable management is done using a corrugated hose, but the corrugated hose resists bending and twisting. It also does not offer interior separation nor can it be lengthened/shortened or repaired without replacing the entire tube. Triflex R can do all of these things and the bottom line is that it saves customers money in downtime, maintenance turnaround time, and waste.

DN: Since continual contraction causes strain on cable materials, how igus has tested the material under continued stress?

David Sandiland: Banded systems are something that we already use in some of our retraction systems and we have gone through extensive testing to find bands that provide the correct amount of tension as well as a long lifecycle.  We have had banded solutions in our retraction systems for approximately five years now. In the case of the TRX, the bands will behave similarly to the ones in retraction systems. Igus has a large test lab at our headquarters in Cologne Germany. We have several robots and test fixtures that our product development team utilizes to test our new designs. We are currently testing a TRX system on one of our robots and I can say as of today the results are very positive!  We will run this test in-house for several million cycles before we make this available to the market. There are also plans to test TRX in partnership with some of our automotive partners in Europe. Our goal is to have TRX available to the market by the fourth quarter.

DN: How does weight reduction affect robot performance?

David Sandiland: There is a fight for real estate on the robot at axis 3. This is also true when it comes to the payload. Each robot has a maximum payload, and everything that is added to the robot contributes to reducing the robot’s capabilities. When you add peripherals like cable management or junction boxes to a robot, it limits the robot’s available payload when it comes to the size of the tooling and the job that it does. By eliminating the retraction system, you drop the overall weight of the cable management system by as much as 10kg. This is a significant amount when engineers are designing around 40kg or 50kg capacity robots.   

DN: Does this cable development has applications beyond robotics?

David Sandiland: At this point, it is hard to say whether we will see non-robotic applications gravitate towards this solution, but I can tell you that we frequently collaborate with companies on triflex R projects for non-robotic applications. These applications range from amusement park rides to medical equipment to machine tools. With that in mind, I’m sure there will be an opportunity down the road to incorporate TRX into a non-robotic application.

Rob Spiegel has covered manufacturing for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include automation, supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Astronauts Can Roam for Miles in GM's New Advanced LTV Moon Buggy

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Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin loaded the lunar rover with tools and equipment in preparation for the first lunar spacewalk at the Hadley-Apennine landing site. The Lunar Module 'Falcon' appears on the left in this image. The undeployed Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector lies atop Falcon's Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly.

As NASA’s Artemis program prepares for the return to the moon, the space agency has named partners General Motors and Lockheed Martin to provide the first of an expected variety of lunar rovers to support astronauts on the upcoming missions.

This first rover is called the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV), and while no technical specifications are yet available, the contractors do say that it will have a much longer driving range than that of the Apollo-era lunar rovers. The original moon buggies could drive less than five miles from their landing site, but the LTV will need to let astronauts travel much farther.

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An artists' conception of a lunar roving vehicle on the moon's surface.

GM has previous experience from its contributions on the original Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), which included the chassis and metal-mesh wheels for the vehicles that flew on the Apollo 15-17 missions. During the Apollo 15 mission, the LRV drove 17.5 miles in total.

Lockheed Martin has more than 50 years of history working with NASA on deep-space human and robotic spacecraft, including NASA's Orion capsule for Artemis and potential future Mars missions, so it will lead the LTV team. The company has built spacecraft and systems that have gone to every planet and has been on every NASA mission to Mars including building 11 of the agency's Mars spacecraft.

GM is developing leading-edge batteries and electric drive systems for its earth-bound vehicles, and that technology will be helpful for the moon rover too. GM's work on autonomous technology will also be important because the LTV is slated to perform some of its work without a driver.

This will be needed so the rovers, which will be transported to the lunar surface separately from the astronauts, will be able to position themselves in preparation for their drivers’ arrival. The LTV will also be able to provide commercial payload services, delivering those payloads to their sites on the moon, and extend the range and utility of NASA’s scientific payloads and experiments. Astronauts in NASA’s Human Landing System or in lunar orbit aboard the lunar Gateway will be able to use the LTV to conduct science operations without a driver.

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This photograph, taken during the Apollo 15 mission on the lunar surface, shows Astronaut David R. Scott in the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) for the return trip to the Lunar Module, Falcon, with rocks and soil collected near the Hadley-Apernine landing site.

The LTV will need to be hardened against harsh lunar weather, as a lunar day takes a month, leaving the vehicle in the day for two continuous weeks and then in the dark for two more weeks. During those times, temperatures will swing from overnight lows of -280 degrees Fahrenheit to day-time highs of 260 Fahrenheit.

“The biggest difference is, when you design for the Moon and for space applications, the force of gravity is different and has to be taken into account,” said Madhu Raghavan, Global Research & Development Group Manager at GM. “There are extreme temperature swings, and the radiation in space becomes a challenge in terms of systems design. You’re also operating in a vacuum and designing your systems to withstand the shock of the actual launch.”

Here is where Lockheed Martin’s experience will help GM’s design effort. “We’ve led missions to other planetary bodies for decades, building spacecraft that can survive the high radiation environment, cold temperatures, and yet be very light and very reliable,” said Kirk Shireman, vice president, Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin. “This is what we specialize in, and we are more than capable of meeting and exceeding this challenge for NASA.”

Digital tools will be key to providing the necessary durability in a vehicle that is designed as affordably as possible. “Our goal is to build a vehicle that is affordable, that exceeds our customer requirements, and to do it rapidly,” Shireman said. “Digital tools are how we achieve that. We’ve demonstrated already across programs and proposals the speed, affordability and reliability that digital tools enable, and we fully expect to leverage and expand on that experience with this program.”

Heat and cold are challenges for EVs on earth too, so progress dealing with these problems on the LTV project could produce benefits for GM’s EV buyers in the future. “Because the operating conditions are so extreme in space, our work on this project will help us make safer and better batteries back on Earth,” Raghavan said. “The Moon and Mars are, of course, totally unstructured, unlined roads. Designing for that environment will ultimately just make our EV capabilities on Earth that much stronger.”

To project could also help GM attract top-quality engineering talent. Raghavan says that he’s seen a major influx of job applicants for open positions on his project team. “This is the stuff you dream about as a kid in science class,” he said. “People want to be part of this.”

Ivory Lovers may Catch a Break with a 3D Printed Natural Alternative

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In the interests of being more respectful to the world’s animals and protecting the natural environment, researchers have been seeking alternative materials to some of those sourced in nature. One of those is ivory, which has been used for centuries in art and design but is derived from the tusks of elephants and often is taken from the animals in an inhumane way.

Researchers at TU Wien in Vienne have created a new material using 3D printing that can be used to replace ivory to restore works of art and also for other products.

The novel material, called "Digory,” is comprised of synthetic resin and calcium phosphate particles and processed in a hot, liquid state that is hardened using UV rays in a 3D printer.

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Pictured is an object created with a new material called Digory on the right that can be used as a substitute for ivory, and an object created with actual ivory on the left. Researchers at TU Wien developed Digory to replace the material that is sourced from elephant tusks and is illegal to trade.

Substitute Materials

The ivory trade was banned internationally in 1989, leaving people in the fine arts world looking for other materials to restore ivory parts in old objects. Until now, materials such as bones, shells, or plastic were used.

The TU Wien team set out with a challenge to restore a valuable 17th-century state casket in the parish church in Mauerbach, Vienna, said TU Wine’s Professor Jürgen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology.

"It is decorated with small ivory ornaments, some of which have been lost over time,” he explained in a press statement. “The question was whether they could be replaced with 3D printing technology."

Researchers answered that question through numerous experiments to create a new material that could meet a range of requirements for the job, including that the material should not only look like ivory but should also have similar strength and stiffness, said Thaddäa Rath, who worked on the project as part of her dissertation. The material sought for the project also had to be machinable and have the same translucent quality of ivory.

Solving the Problem

Ultimately, the team found the right mixture for the material--tiny calcium phosphate particles with an average diameter of about 7 µm that were embedded in a special resin together with extremely fine silicon oxide powder, researchers said. They then processed the material at high heat in 3D printers using a hot lithography process that builds an object layer by layer by curing it with a UV laser.

To give the material the typical dark lines that run through ivory, researchers touched up the color of the object with black tea using high precision.

The team published a paper on their work in the journal Applied Materials Today.

Researchers believe their Digory material can be a major step forward for art restoration as well as provide an aesthetically and mechanically high-quality ivory substitute for any product without the expense of taking a tusk away from an elephant.

It also demonstrates how 3D printing can be used in art restoration by printing objects in a matter of hours rather than having someone take the time to carve them out of ivory or a substitute material.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

Good Reads: Brace Yourself for the Top 10 Design News Articles in May

Take a look through our big stories for May. It’s quite a selection, from nano-electronic tech on over to a look at the beautiful Bentley. Other hot spots include the consideration of too much time wasted at traffic lights and a gander at the disappearing slide rule.

Rob Spiegel has covered manufacturing for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include automation, supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Friday Funny: Was Your Childhood Dream to be a Roller Coaster Engineer?

When I attend engineering trade shows or conferences, I ask people about their engineering jobs. One day a couple of years ago, a young engineer responded, “I design roller coasters.” Wow! I asked if that had been a childhood dream. He responded that it was the only job he ever wanted and he set out to make it happen by choosing the right schools and meeting the right people.

I’ve had similar conversations with engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and with engineers at NASA’s suppliers. Most recently I spoke with one of the engineers involved in the design and development of the Mars Ingenuity Helicopter. I asked if working on space vehicles was a childhood dream. His answer was similar to the roller coaster engineer: “It’s all I ever wanted to do.”

This summer many of us will be out at the parks riding on the coasters. Remember that the engineer who designed the contraption is living out a great engineering dream.

Rob Spiegel has covered manufacturing for 22 years, 19 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include automation, supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Have You Seen These Amazing Vibrant Trends in Electronic Displays?

The Society for Information Display (SID) hosted the annual Display Week symposium and tradeshow. Now in its 58th year, the event featured an early look at advances in solid-state lighting, OLED, microLED, AR/VR/MR, printed displays, auto tech, e-paper, digital signage wearables, and more.

Like last year, Display Week 2021 was a virtual event. The gallery that follows showcases the top trends from this year’s symposium. A special call-out goes to Sri Peruvemba, CEO at Marketer International, and volunteer at SID, for his insights into the top trends for this year.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

How Are Resistor Values Like French Army Hot Air Balloons From the 1800s?

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If you’ve been involved in electronics for any length of time, you probably don’t give much thought to the various values associated with resistors. By comparison, newcomers to the field are often puzzled as to why we have resistor values like 12 kΩ, 15 kΩ, 18 kΩ, 22 kΩ, 27 kΩ, 33 kΩ, 39 kΩ, and so forth. So why not keep things simple and just have ten kΩ, 20 kΩ, 30 kΩ, 40 kΩ, etc.? The reasoning behind this is actually rather interesting, but first, let’s consider the basics.

When we design an electronic circuit, after performing appropriate calculations, we may decide that -- in an ideal world -- we would like to use a resistor with a value of precisely xxx Ω (where the Greek letter Omega is used to represent resistance in ohms).

One approach would be to handcraft individual resistors with specific values as and when required, but this would be expensive and time-intensive. The alternative is to have access to affordable, pre-constructed, off-the-shelf components. The problem here is that manufacturers couldn’t create and supply every conceivable value and -- even if they could -- the users of the resistors couldn’t afford to purchase all of these parts and wouldn’t have sufficient space to store them.

The solution arrived at by the industry was to adopt a set of standard resistor values. This comes with the added advantage of allowing users to second source their resistors from multiple manufacturers. But now we have the question as to which resistor values should be included in the set.

Now, hold onto your hats because we are about to take a journey back in time. In 1877, a French military engineer called Charles Renard was presented with a poser. At that time, the French army had a bunch (not the technical term) of hot-air balloons that they used to spy out enemy positions and drop bombs on anyone who criticized French cuisine. Before Renard appeared on the scene to keep their balloons in the air, the army was obliged to maintain 425 different ropes, which was a logistical nightmare. Renard was tasked with somehow reducing this number to a more manageable quantity.

People like Renard amaze me because I could never see myself conceiving the things they do. In this case, Renard realized that if a product is to be manufactured in a range of sizes, then one way to minimize the number of different sizes that need to be manufactured or kept in stock is to choose them such that they are roughly equally spaced on a logarithmic scale.

In Renard’s system, the interval from 1 to 10 was divided into 5, 10, 20, or 40 steps, which we now refer to as the R5, R10, R20, and R40 scales. Let’s start with the R5 scale, which can be represented mathematically as follows:

      10(0/5) = 1
      10(1/5) = 1.584... ≈1.6
      10(2/5) = 2.511... ≈2.5
      10(3/5) = 3.981... ≈4.0
      10(4/5) = 6.309... ≈6.3
      10(5/5) = 10

Observe that, since this scheme is based on a logarithmic approach, each new number can be generated by multiplying the previous value by 10(1/5) = 1.584 and rounding as required.

One great thing about the logarithmic approach is that we can repeat it decade by decade. The example above was for the decade 1 to 10, but the same thing applies for decades 10 to 100, 100 to 1,000, 1,000 to 10,000, and so forth. Another cool characteristic of this logarithmic approach is that if we decide to move to a higher resolution scale, then the values from the lower resolution scale also appear in the more comprehensive scale. Take the R10 scale, for example:

      10(0/10) = 1 (Same as for the R5 Scale)
      10(1/10) = 1.258... ≈1.3
      10(2/10) = 1.584... ≈1.6 (Same as for the R5 Scale)
      10(3/10) = 1.995... ≈2.0
      10(4/10) = 2.511... ≈2.5 (Same as for the R5 Scale)
      10(5/10) = 3.162... ≈3.2
      10(6/10) = 3.981... ≈4.0 (Same as for the R5 Scale)
      10(7/10) = 5.011... ≈5.0
      10(8/10) = 6.309... ≈6.3 (Same as for the R5 Scale)
      10(9/10) = 7.943... ≈7.9
      10(10/10) = 10 (Same as for the R5 Scale)

In this case, each new number can be generated by multiplying the previous value by 10(1/10) = 1.258 and rounding as required. The best way to wrap one’s head about this if you are a beginner is by means of a graphical representation, as shown below.

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A graphical depiction of the R5 and R10 scales.

As we mentioned earlier, before Renard appeared on the scene, the French army was obliged to maintain 425 different sizes of ropes in order to keep its hot air balloons in the air. After Renard had come up with his preferred values based on logarithmic scales, this number was reduced to just 17, thereby making him the “toast of the town” with regard to the army’s quartermasters. (Sad to relate, Renard was never again to be invited to a soiree hosted by the rope maker’s guild.)

Renard’s R5, R10, R20, and R40 scales were officially adopted as standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the early 1950s and are employed by various disciplines. In the case of electronics, for example, they are used for such applications as the current rating of electric fuses and the voltage rating of capacitors (e.g., 100 V, 160 V, 250 V, 400 V, 630 V).

Having said all this, Renard’s scales aren’t used for resistors. In 1952, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) defined a set of standard values for different types of components, including resistors. Collectively referred to as the “E series,” this actually consists of the E3, E6, E12, E24, E48, E96, and E192 series, where the number after the ‘E’ designates the quantity of value “steps” in each series. In the case of the E12 series, for example, this could be represented mathematically as follows:

      10(0/12) = 1
      10(1/12) ≈ 1.2
      10(2/12) ≈ 1.5
      10(3/12) ≈ 1.8
      10(4/12) ≈ 2.2
      10(5/12) ≈ 2.7
      10(6/12) ≈ 3.3
      10(7/12) ≈ 3.9
      10(8/12) ≈ 4.7
      10(9/12) ≈ 5.6
      10(10/12) ≈ 6.8
      10(11/12) ≈ 8.2
      10(12/12) = 10

In this case, each new number can be generated by multiplying the previous value by 10(1/12) = 1.2115… ≈1.21. Furthermore, remembering that these values repeat every decade, we can summarize them in a table as shown below.

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A tabular representation of E12 resistor values in ohms.

With regard to the values shown like 3R9, 3K9, and 3M9 in the above table, this is just another way of saying 3.9 Ω, 3.9 KΩ, and 3.9 MΩ, respectively. The problem with using decimal points is that they can be easy to miss and/or they can become obscured in printed materials, in which case 3.9 Ω, 3.9 kΩ, and 3.9 MΩ could easily be mistaken for 39 Ω, 39 kΩ, and 39 MΩ, respectively.

In conclusion, and to answer our original question, it now becomes clear why we work with resistor values like 12 kΩ, 15 kΩ, 18 kΩ, 22 kΩ, 27 kΩ, 33 kΩ, 39 kΩ, and so forth. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Clive “Max” Maxfield received his B.Sc. in Control Engineering from Sheffield Hallam University in England in 1980. He began his career as a designer of central processing units (CPUs) for mainframe computers. Over the years, Max has designed all sorts of interesting “stuff” from silicon chips to circuit boards and brainwave amplifiers to Steampunk Prognostication Engines (don’t ask). He has also been at the forefront of electronic design automation (EDA) for more than 30 years. Already a noted author of over a half-dozen books, Max is always thinking of his next project. He would particularly like to write for teens, introducing them to engineering and computers in a fun and exciting way. For this is what sets “Max” Maxfield apart: It is not just what he knows, but how he relates it to the learner.

AI-Driven Generative Engineering and Atomizing Spray Nozzles? Nice Supplier News

Other news includes a smart function kit for handling and 10 million 3D printed colors and versatile post-processing options.

Virtual Engineering Days Supported by Key Industry Associations

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Informa Markets – Engineering, organizer of Virtual Engineering Days and publisher of MD+DI, reports that the upcoming three-day digital conference and exhibition for plastics, packaging, and manufacturing professionals has gained the support of key industry groups. Keynotes have also been announced. 

The following industry leading associations and advocacy groups are lending their support for the June 15-17 complimentary event:  

"Our team has worked hard to put together an unparalleled keynote and conference lineup to support and advance the manufacturing industry’s future on a global and regional level,” said Suzanne Deffree, group event director, Virtual Engineering Days, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to receive the support from our partners, each of which will promote Virtual Engineering Days to their key members in the manufacturing industry and will be accessible to attendees on the digital expo floor. Together, we can shape a more creative and technology-forward tomorrow.  

"With these partnerships, we have the ability to increase the breadth and reach of our must-attend event and better connect industry leaders that are developing the materials, processes, technologies, and designs needed to manufacture a more sustainable and productive future," added Deffree.  

Virtual Engineering Day Partners

Here's a little more on the industry groups promoting the event:

California Manufacturers & Technology Association. Formerly the California Manufacturers Association, the CMTA works with state government to develop balanced laws, effective regulations, and sound public policies to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs while safeguarding the state's environmental resources. CMTA represents 400 businesses from the entire manufacturing community – an economic sector that generates more than $300 billion every year and employs more than 1.2 million Californians. 

Plastics Industry Association. The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) aims to serve the entire plastics supply chain. Founded in 1937, it has a track record of fostering collaboration between each segment of the industry and evolving right alongside the plastics industry as a whole.    

Society of Plastics Engineers. With more than 22,500 members, SPE aims to support everyone in the plastics industry value chain – whether a scientist, engineer, technical personnel, or a senior executive – and strives to ensure that everyone has the tools necessary to meet personal and professional goals. It provides a forum that generates a strong awareness of issues facing the plastics community to examine potential solutions that will benefit everyone.

Sterilization Packaging Manufacturers Council. The SPMC is a consortium of like-minded companies committed to patient protection by providing sterilization packaging for life-saving medical devices and pharmaceuticals. The SPMC collaborates with supply chain partners and regulators to provide packaging requirement guidance, test methodology clarity, standards development, and user education.

Opening Keynote Presentations Announced 

Virtual Engineering Days will also offer keynote presentations from maxon and TerraCycle and technical seminars from DuPont, Forward Engineering, UpStart Product Development, Medtronic, and more. There will also be a bonus track on packaging education for the growing Cannabis market presented by the Cannabis Packaging Summit and Packaging Digest. 

Don't miss these inspiring keynotes:

Motors in Space: To Mars and Beyond | Tuesday, June 15 at 11 a.m. EDT 

Robin Phillips, Head of SpaceLab at maxon 

There is no denying that the Martian environment can be harsh and unaccommodating to systems made to operate on Earth. Through a combination of standard industrial motors and creative collaboration, technology-forward customizations allow high-precision, long-life motors to make it to Mars and beyond. Robin Phillips, head of SpaceLab at maxon, will discuss how designs must push beyond their limits to offer greater precision while operating in harsh environments—with a no-fail requirement—as NASA and partners push beyond their limits, launching rovers and helicopters to the Red Planet. 

Designing for Sustainable Manufacturing | Wednesday, June 16 at 11 a.m. EDT 

Dr. Ernel Simpson, Executive Vice President, R & D and Technical Innovation, TerraCycle 

TerraCycle Global Vice President Research & Development Ernel "Ernie" Simpson develops solutions for a variety of traditionally non-recyclable waste and is the lead scientist behind the company's invention of a revolutionary recycling process for dirty diapers, cigarette filters, and chewing gum.  With more than 30 years of industrial experience, Ernie spent six years at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development. He was previously employed at DuPont, Xerox Corporation, Rohm and Haas, and Arco Chemicals. 

For more information and to register to attend Virtual Engineering Days, visit   


Virtual Engineering Days Program Unveiled

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Informa Markets – Engineering announced that Virtual Engineering Days, an all-new digital conference and exposition for plastics, packaging, and manufacturing professionals to gain new insights and connect with suppliers, will take place on June 15-17, 2021. The digital event will feature more than 30 free content sessions across four tracks — 3D Printing; Sustainability; Plastics, Processing, & Materials; and Smart Manufacturing and Robotics — as well as a robust showcase of suppliers spanning the Pack, Plastec, Automation Technology, and Design & Manufacturing event brands. The event also includes a track on packaging education for the booming cannabis market presented by the Cannabis Packaging Summit and Packaging Digest.

Virtual Engineering Days aligns with Informa Markets – Engineering’s efforts to provide the manufacturing community more opportunities for education and connection via both virtual and in-person offerings. Following a successful Virtual Engineering Week event at the end of last year, Virtual Engineering Days is the second digital event offered ahead of the upcoming Informa Markets Engineering West event, which includes Plastec West, that will take place Aug. 10-12 in Anaheim, CA.

“We are thrilled to offer another touchpoint for professionals to gain valuable education on timely topics as well as meet and network with innovative suppliers from across the nation at Virtual Engineering Days,” said Suzanne Deffree, Group Event Director, Informa Markets – Engineering. “We look forward to bringing crucial education on trends and technologies impacting a broad spectrum of manufacturers.”

Here is a small sampling of some of the session highlights of particular interest to plastics professionals and those in the automotive and mobility, medical, and packaging end markets.

Robin Phillips

To Mars and beyond

There is no denying that the Martian environment can be harsh and unaccommodating to systems made to operate on Earth. Through a combination of standard industrial motors and creative collaboration, technology-forward customizations allow high-precision, long-life motors to make it to Mars and beyond. During a keynote presentation on June 15 at 11 a.m. EDT — Motors in Space: To Mars and Beyond — Robin Phillips, head of SpaceLab at maxon, will discuss how designs must push beyond their limits to offer greater precision while operating in harsh environments with a no-fail requirement.

Dr. Ernel Simpson

Designing for sustainable manufacturing

Sustainability presents a unique and urgent challenge to engineering and manufacturing, but it also offers opportunities, particularly around packaging and materials. In a keynote on June 16 at 11 a.m. EDT, Dr. Ernel Simpson will discuss the creation of sustainable products and processes that conserve energy and natural resources. Simpson will draw knowledge from his current position as Global Vice President of Research and Development at TerraCycle and his 40 years of industrial experience at companies including Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical and DuPont.

Focus on medical packaging

Rod Patch of Johnson & Johnson and Jennifer Benolken of DuPont are part of an all-star panel discussing the latest hot topics for medical device packaging on June 15 at 3:15 p.m. EDT. They will interview top industry experts on issues like innovation and collaboration, accomplishments in test methods, and regulatory standards. Participants include Dan Burgess, Boston Scientific; Thierry Wagner, DuPont; Jordan Montgomery, Medtronic; and Geoff Pavey, Oliver HCP.

Pellet-based 3D printing

Pellet-based 3D printing allows users to print real materials, opening up a variety of unique medical applications. During this session on June 16 at 11:45 a.m. EDT — Medical Applications with Pellet-Based 3D Printing – Highlighting Implantable Materials and Pharmaceuticals — Arburg's Gerry Berberian will highlight unique applications enabled by his company’s Freeforming technology. Balaji Prabhu of Evonik and Dr. Sheng Qi of the University of East Anglia’s School of Pharmacy also will share their experiences and results achieved when printing with their own materials.

Adam Halsband

Automotive trends driving opportunities for plastics industry

Part of the Plastics Processing & Materials track, Adam Halsband, Managing Director, Forward Engineering North America, will lead a session on June 16 at 1:45 p.m. EDT addressing how new automotive requirements are driving increased opportunities for the plastics industry. Thanks to the electrification of powertrains and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), the automotive industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift in customer and technical requirements. Customer expectations and vehicle use cases are shifting dramatically, creating new opportunities and challenges for the next generation of light vehicle design, development, manufacturing, and assembly. Chief among those challenges is the ability to meet all of the customer and technical requirements within the available design space. Halsband will highlight the trends driving new requirements for the automotive industry and focus on exciting new design, material, and manufacturing process technologies that are leading the shift in vehicle material mix and paving the way for new applications of plastics in the vehicle.

Tony Radoszewski

What's ahead for the plastics industry?

COVID-19’s impact on the US economy has been far-reaching, but the utility of plastic in virtually every industry remains unchanged, and the material will be even more important in the future. In a session titled, An Outlook for the Plastics Industry: Politics, Policy & Economics, Tony Radoszewski, President and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), and the association’s chief economist, Perc Pineda, will discuss how industry is providing novel solutions to energy, transportation, construction, agriculture, and electronics. Yet despite its necessity to modern life, plastic faces perception problems, because of the same properties that make it the material of choice for so many applications. Lightweight and resilient, plastic flies in the air and floats on the water, making environmental sustainability and recycling top priorities for consumers and plastics companies that serve them. The session is scheduled for June 15 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

Featured exhibitors at the virtual event include Formlabs, Protolabs, Sonoco Alloyd, Canon Virginia, and Boston Microfabrication, among many others. See the complete schedule and exhibitor list at the Virtual Engineering Days website.