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Articles from 2015 In September


Tesla Introduces New Model X to Cheering Fans

Tuesday night, at a glitzy late-night event that had the feel of a rock concert, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk rolled out the company’s long-awaited, all-electric sport utility vehicle.

Over the applause and cheers of attendees at Tesla’s Fremont, CA, factory, Musk showed off the first production versions of the Model X SUV, which will combine all-wheel drive and seating for seven with an electric powertrain that can take the car from 0-60 mph in as little as 3.2 seconds.

Power of the P90D version of the Model X will be split at 259 HP in front and 503 HP in the rear. A separate version known as the 90D will offer 259 HP for each, front and rear. (Source: Tesla Motors)

”It’s important to show that any car can go electric,” Musk told the crowd. “We showed that you could make a compelling sports car – the Roadster — that could go electric. We showed you could do it with a sedan. And now we are going to show that you can do it with an SUV.”

The introduction served as an important milestone for Tesla. Since unveiling a prototype three-and-a-half years ago at its California design studio and calling for a 2013 rollout, Tesla has delayed the intro of the Model X – first to late in 2014, then again to Tuesday night.

Many of the delays were said to be attributed to engineering complexity, and the nature of the complexities grew clearer at Tuesday night’s event. Musk took more than half an hour explaining some of the car’s new features, including double-hinging falcon wing doors that use sensors for opening in tight quarters, medical-grade interior HEPA filters, adjustable rear seats that sit on “monoposts,” a panoramic windshield, seating for up to seven, and a 250-mile all-electric range.

At the event, Tesla provided specs for two new Model X versions. The P90D performance all-wheel drive vehicle will offer a 250-mile range, with a 3.8-second 0-60 mph time (3.2 seconds with the company’s “Ludicrous Speed Upgrade”). Power of the P90D will be split at 259 HP in front and 503 HP in the rear. A separate version known as the 90D will offer 257-mile range, a 4.8-second 0-60 mph and 259 HP for both front and rear.

Prices for the two versions will be high. Musk did not elaborate, but the 90D has been reported in numerous media outlets as costing $132,000, while the P90D will run $142,000.

Eventually, the company expects costs to drop. On Twitter overnight, Musk added that the base price of the Model X will be only $5,000 more than the Model S, which starts around $70,000. “Lower cost versions coming later,” he tweeted.

The high prices are clearly not deterring customers, however. More than 32,000 potential buyers have reportedly already plunked down at least $5,000 to hold a Model X without ever seeing a production car.

Moreover, the event provided a snapshot of Tesla’s rising popularity. Prior to it, many websites – including TIME, Engadget, TechCrunch, and The Verge — ran stories telling readers “how to watch” the event on the web Tuesday night. The Los Angeles Times reported that “a crowd rushed the entrance of the exhibition hall” prior to the introduction. And during the event, Musk was constantly interrupted by cheers, despite beginning 54 minutes late. At one point, the crowd even hooted and cheered wildly when Musk displayed the car’s cabin air filter.

As of Wednesday morning, praise for the new vehicle has been effusive. Writers at various news outlets called the car “awesome,” “gorgeous,” “stunning” and “dramatic.” Wrote Wired: “Tesla has made the family car cool.”

Click the image below to see more pictures of the Model X.

Tesla’s long-awaited Model X SUV will offer up to 257 miles of all-electric range and a 0-60 mph acceleration time as low as 3.2 seconds. (Source: Tesla Motors)

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 31 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

Tesla Introduces New Model X to Cheering Fans

Tesla Introduces New Model X to Cheering Fans

Tuesday night, at a glitzy late-night event that had the feel of a rock concert, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk rolled out the company's long-awaited, all-electric sport utility vehicle.

Over the applause and cheers of attendees at Tesla's Fremont, CA, factory, Musk showed off the first production versions of the Model X SUV, which will combine all-wheel drive and seating for seven with an electric powertrain that can take the car from 0-60 mph in as little as 3.2 seconds.

"It's important to show that any car can go electric," Musk told the crowd. "We showed that you could make a compelling sports car - the Roadster - that could go electric. We showed you could do it with a sedan. And now we are going to show that you can do it with an SUV."

The introduction served as an important milestone for Tesla. Since unveiling a prototype three-and-a-half years ago at its California design studio and calling for a 2013 rollout, Tesla has delayed the intro of the Model X - first to late in 2014, then again to Tuesday night.

Many of the delays were said to be attributed to engineering complexity, and the nature of the complexities grew clearer at Tuesday night's event. Musk took more than half an hour explaining some of the car's new features, including double-hinging falcon wing doors that use sensors for opening in tight quarters, medical-grade interior HEPA filters, adjustable rear seats that sit on "monoposts," a panoramic windshield, seating for up to seven, and a 250-mile all-electric range.

At the event, Tesla provided specs for two new Model X versions. The P90D performance all-wheel drive vehicle will offer a 250-mile range, with a 3.8-second 0-60 mph time (3.2 seconds with the company's "Ludicrous Speed Upgrade"). Power of the P90D will be split at 259 HP in front and 503 HP in the rear. A separate version known as the 90D will offer 257-mile range, a 4.8-second 0-60 mph and 259 HP for both front and rear.

Prices for the two versions will be high. Musk did not elaborate, but the 90D has been reported in numerous media outlets as costing $132,000, while the P90D will run $142,000.

Eventually, the company expects costs to drop. On Twitter overnight, Musk added that the base price of the Model X will be only $5,000 more than the Model S, which starts around $70,000. "Lower cost versions coming later," he tweeted.

The high prices are clearly not deterring customers, however. More than 32,000 potential buyers have reportedly already plunked down at least $5,000 to hold a Model X without ever seeing a production car.

Moreover, the event provided a snapshot of Tesla's rising popularity. Prior to it, many websites - including TIME, Engadget, TechCrunch, and The Verge - ran stories telling readers "how to watch" the event on the web Tuesday night. The Los Angeles Times reported that "a crowd rushed the entrance of the exhibition hall" prior to the introduction. And during the event, Musk was constantly interrupted by cheers, despite beginning 54 minutes late. At one point, the crowd even hooted and cheered wildly when Musk displayed the car's cabin air filter.

As of Wednesday morning, praise for the new vehicle has been effusive. Writers at various news outlets called the car "awesome," "gorgeous," "stunning" and "dramatic." Wrote Wired: "Tesla has made the family car cool."

Click the image below to see more pictures of the Model X.

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 31 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

Flexible Manufacturing Is Showing Steady Growth Because of Flexible Packaging

Flexible Manufacturing Is Showing Steady Growth Because of Flexible Packaging

The packaging industry is experiencing a steady increase in custom manufacturing of mass produced goods, according to a study released this week at PackExpo in Las Vegas. PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, released a study at the opening of the tradeshow showing that flexible manufacturing continues to grow at a steady pace. The shift to flexible containers is prompted in large part by brand managers seeking to offer custom packaging to major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Walgreens.

The study shows that 68 percent of end-user companies interviewed expect to purchase new equipment, modify existing equipment, or buy used equipment to accommodate flexible packaging. Thirty-three percent of end users expect to increase their use of flexible packaging - versus rigid manufacturing systems - over the next five years. Forty percent of the companies are currently using flexible packaging for upwards of 90 percent of their products.

While the growth in any given year is not staggering, the growth has consistently been in the 4 percent range, and this year it went up a notch. "A lot of end users are already involved in flexible packaging, and we're seen a 5 percent growth this year," Donna Ritson, owner of DDR Communications, a firm that helped with the research, told Design News. "About one third of brands are moving toward it, and 50 percent of brands are now using it in food and beverage."

Brands Are Ready to Spend on Flexibility

Shifting from rigid manufacturing to a flexible model is expensive, but with competitive pressure to keep major retailers happy, brands are beginning to spend. "Cost is a huge consideration in moving from rigid to flexible manufacturing," said Ritson. "Yet one in three companies is increasing capital spending, and two out of three are making changes."

Food products use the most flexible packaging, leading all vertical industries with 57 percent use of flexible packaging, followed by the pharmaceutical industry at 31 percent. The beverage industry uses 25 percent flexible packaging, while 2 percent of household products are currently in flexible packaging. "Brand managers are looking for innovation, and the food service companies are moving the most aggressively," said Ritson. "They're looking for brand differentiation as shelf space gets more crowded."

The shift to flexible packaging continues to be driven by major retailers. It began with Wal-Mart asking for custom sizes. Wal-Mart calculated the exact dollar amount their customers would spend on an individual product. The retailer calculated the exact size the product needed to be to satisfy that calculation and gave it's suppliers the marching orders to produce the exact size. From there it spread to other retailers. "It's driven by end users, and manufacturers are accomplishing it by modifying the end of the manufacturing line," Jim Hulman a business development manager at Bosch Rexroth, told Design News.

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.

AM Now a Major Strategy in NIST Materials Measurement Plan

AM Now a Major Strategy in NIST Materials Measurement Plan

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a five-year strategic plan for its Material Measurement Laboratory (MML). One of the three main areas emphasized in the plan for research support is advanced materials development and advanced manufacturing techniques, including additive manufacturing (AM).

NIST's MML is the national reference laboratory for measurements in the biological, chemical and materials sciences. It is responsible for advancing measurement science, standards and technology to promote US innovation and industrial competitiveness in those three sciences. That context reflects the fact that NIST is a division of the US Department of Commerce. The MML provides both basic science and practical tools for more reliable measurements, as well as new measurements, reference materials and reference data.

The MML's five-year strategic plan lays out its priorities for establishing new measurements science and services that can address emerging needs in the US. It outlines a broad research agenda for measurement science in biology, chemistry and materials science, as well as new initiatives for the institute's standard reference materials and data products. Five goals discussed in the plan are measurement science excellence, measurement service excellence, data science and data management capabilities, strategic partnering, and organizational excellence.

New materials seem to be driving much of this. For example, there's a growing importance of biologically derived materials such as custom-designed proteins, occurring in both manufacturing and medicine. In industry, the increasing use of the materials-by-design approach depends on enough well-tested models and good, reliable data, said laboratory director Laurie Locascio in a news release.

What's especially interesting is that NIST recognizes the importance of AM in developing new materials, in addition to its role in design and manufacturing. AM is listed first as one of five materials science strategies for achieving the measurement science excellence goal. The others are dynamic measurements for materials manufacturing, a foundry for functional materials measurement, infrastructure renewal, and the Materials Genome Initiative.

The plan's AM strategy is to "Develop the material measurement infrastructure that will enable additive approaches to production to prosper and revitalize manufacturing in the US." The plan also states that "Additive manufacturing promises to revolutionize not only how objects are designed and manufactured, but also how materials are specified, processed, characterized, and used." It goes on to say that "MML can play a vital role in enabling the growth and prosperity of this emerging industry by developing an infrastructure of material measurements, standards, data, and models that enable a more fundamental understanding of these processes and the materials and processing variables that influence final product quality."

MML plans to implement this AM strategy by several methods that echo the intent of some project awards made by the Fed-sponsored America Makes. Many of those projects strive to develop not only better processes, but benchmarks, characterization methods, and standards for processes and, occasionally, materials used in AM and 3D printing.

For its implementation, MML will develop four types of measurements, data, techniques, and models. These are 1) measures of precursor characteristics related to the performance of both additive processes and final product properties; 2) measurement methods, data, and models to guide improvement enabling more control over microstructures, properties, residual stresses, and distortion; 3) measurement techniques for the characterization of properties, performance, and reliability of AM-produced materials and microstructures; and 4) measurement tools, data, and models for detecting and understanding the influence of defects in AM processing on product performance and reliability.

This isn't the first time NIST has been involved with AM. Last spring, as we told you, it published a 50-page report, "Measurement Science Needs for Real-time Control of Additive Manufacturing Powder Bed Fusion Processes," containing its finds about powder bed fusion AM.

You can download the MML 5-year plan from this page, or directly at this link.

Ann R. Thryft is senior technology editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 27 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

The Rich Are Getting Most of the EV Subsidies

A new study by economists at the University of California Berkeley has highlighted a fact that many observers had already suspected: The vast majority of electric vehicle tax credits are being paid to the country’s wealthiest households.

Using data from U.S. federal income tax filings the study, ”The Distributional Effects of U.S. Clean Energy Tax Credits” stated that households with adjusted gross incomes in the top 10% receive about 60% of the EV subsidies. “For whatever reasons, electric cars are just not attractive to lower income households,” Lucas Davis, an associate professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, told Design News. “Right now, they’re kind of a niche product.”

The UC Berkeley findings are consistent with previous profiles of electric vehicle purchasers. Earlier this year, TrueCar.com stated that buyers of the Ford Focus EV had an average family income of $199,000 a year, whereas buyers of the gas-burning Focus averaged $77,000 a year. Similarly, buyers of the Fiat 500e electric car earned $145,000, while gasoline-burning Fiat 500 owners came in at $73,000.

According to a 2012 study published in The New York Times, the top tenth of U.S. household incomes start at $140,001. The top 5% begin at $188,001.

The new UC Berkeley study comes at a time when at least two major automakers are working hard to drive down the cost of electric vehicles. General Motors and Tesla Motors both hope to release long-range, sub-$40,000 battery-powered cars in 2017.

EV proponents have long asserted that subsidies will help grow the market, enabling economies of scale to take hold and costs to drop. In that sense, the wealthy are doing their part by driving production volume, they argue.

One of the key suggestions of the UC Berkeley study, however, is that a carbon tax might be a more equitable way of encouraging carbon reduction. That way, wealthy consumers would pay, rather than receiving a subsidy. “We understand that subsidies are politically easier to work with than taxes,” said Davis, who co-authored the study with UC Berkeley professor, Severin Borenstein. “But it looks like this preference for subsidies is coming at a real cost.”

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Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 31 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

[image via ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

The Rich Are Getting Most of the EV Subsidies

The Rich Are Getting Most of the EV Subsidies

A new study by economists at the University of California Berkeley has highlighted a fact that many observers had already suspected: The vast majority of electric vehicle tax credits are being paid to the country’s wealthiest households.

Using data from U.S. federal income tax filings the study, ”The Distributional Effects of U.S. Clean Energy Tax Credits” stated that households with adjusted gross incomes in the top 10% receive about 60% of the EV subsidies. “For whatever reasons, electric cars are just not attractive to lower income households,” Lucas Davis, an associate professor at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, told Design News. “Right now, they’re kind of a niche product.”

The UC Berkeley findings are consistent with previous profiles of electric vehicle purchasers. Earlier this year, TrueCar.com stated that buyers of the Ford Focus EV had an average family income of $199,000 a year, whereas buyers of the gas-burning Focus averaged $77,000 a year. Similarly, buyers of the Fiat 500e electric car earned $145,000, while gasoline-burning Fiat 500 owners came in at $73,000.

According to a 2012 study published in The New York Times, the top tenth of U.S. household incomes start at $140,001. The top 5% begin at $188,001.

The new UC Berkeley study comes at a time when at least two major automakers are working hard to drive down the cost of electric vehicles. General Motors and Tesla Motors both hope to release long-range, sub-$40,000 battery-powered cars in 2017.

EV proponents have long asserted that subsidies will help grow the market, enabling economies of scale to take hold and costs to drop. In that sense, the wealthy are doing their part by driving production volume, they argue.

One of the key suggestions of the UC Berkeley study, however, is that a carbon tax might be a more equitable way of encouraging carbon reduction. That way, wealthy consumers would pay, rather than receiving a subsidy. “We understand that subsidies are politically easier to work with than taxes,” said Davis, who co-authored the study with UC Berkeley professor, Severin Borenstein. “But it looks like this preference for subsidies is coming at a real cost.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 31 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

[image via ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

5 New Adhesives & Fasteners for Airplanes, Satellites, & Electronics

Master Bond's EP21NDCL two-component epoxy system is definitely different: it cures optically clear in thin sections, even though Part A is translucent and Part B is a light amber color. The non-drip compound is formulated for multiple bonding, sealing an

New products for different industries seem to come out in waves. Most of the fasteners and adhesives in this slideshow are aimed at aerospace, including aircraft and spacecraft, as well as electronics and electrical applications. One of the adhesives is actually optically clear, not an easy thing to accomplish, and another passes ASTM E595 testing for NASA low outgassing specifications. The third adhesive is structural and targets larger assemblies with faster cure times.

Our fasteners this time offer novel designs for aerospace assemblies, specifically aircraft designs. Both aim to smooth the assembly process by speeding it up and reducing costs for assembly or rework, and/or reducing tooling costs, as well as improving fastener strength and performance.

Ann R. Thryft is senior technology editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 27 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.

Microsoft Acquires VoloMetrix To Apply Big Data to Worker Productivity

Microsoft Acquires VoloMetrix To Apply Big Data to Worker Productivity

Organizations across industries are constantly seeking ways to make their workers more efficient and productive, but it’s often hard for them to access the type of information about the day-to-day doings of their employees to make this happen.

Enter the emerging organizational analytics field to help solve this dilemma. This type of technology analyzes employee e-mail, meeting schedules and other work data to create relationships and opportunities for worker collaboration for more efficiency. Now it has a chance to go more mainstream with Microsoft’s recent purchase of one of the pioneers in the field — Seattle-based startup VoloMetrix.

Microsoft plans to integrate Volometrix’s analytics solution into its Office 365 suite, said Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president of Outlook and Office 365 and the company’s recently announced Delve Organizational Analytics, in a blog post on Microsoft’s website.

Jha compared organizational analytics to fitness trackers that help people understand health in their personal lives by analyzing personal data and their level of fitness activity. It’s been traditionally difficult to make sense of employee activity and behavioral data to provide similar insight in a workplace scenario, but technology like what VoloMetrix provides can now do that, he said.

“Giving people access to real data and objective, personalized feedback can lead to a virtuous cycle of improvement for both individuals and their company, “he wrote.

Specifically, VoloMetrix extracts and analyzes anonymous, aggregated header-level data from corporate communication systems without compromising employee privacy, according to the company’s website .

Using this data, companies can glean insight into the subject, timing and format of employee collaboration, as well has understand the role and geographic location of the individuals involved. Companies then can provide a holistic map of their communication and collaboration behavior to help make workers more efficient and productive, according to VoloMetrix.

Ryan Fuller, CEO and co-founder of VoloMetrix, said in a blog post that he and VoloMetrix’s co-founders started the company four-and-a-half years ago with the goal of transforming worker productivity through data, transparency, and feedback loops. In the time since, the company has had the opportunity to work with numerous Global 2000 companies to prove that the science of organizational analytics can make companies as a whole and the individuals within them more efficient.

Acquisition with Microsoft will help VoloMetrix bring its solution to the masses, he said. “Our work with customers makes it clear that there are massive opportunities to improve the experience of going to work as well as drive double-digit improvements in organizational productivity,” Fuller wrote. “By joining [Microsoft] we will be able to continue to pursue our shared mission and have impact at a staggering global scale.”

Microsoft did not disclose the financial terms of the deal with VoloMetrix. The company plans to launch an early preview program for Delve Organizational Analytics within the next month, and general availability of the first release of the integrated Office 365 service by the end of the year, Jha said.

Do you think this sort of "people analytics," applying Big Data to worker productivity would have an impact at your office? Share your opinion in the comments.

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 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.

Why Aren't Surgeons Embracing Innovative Medical Technology?

Why Aren't Surgeons Embracing Innovative Medical Technology?

We’ve written about some the latest and most innovative medical technology that's making the lives of physicians easier.

For instance, we told you recently about a tiny robotic wrist developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. that can be used to perform movements that need the utmost dexterity in needlescopic surgery procedures.

New surgical robots like these as well as computer-assisted surgical navigation software are just two of the latest technologies available to make the lives of physicians—surgeons in particular—a little easier.

But some surgeons—in this case, those in the orthopedic field, haven’t been so easily convinced to use them, according to an article by Jamie Hartford in our sister publication, MD+DI. Hartford cited the case of Stryker and its MAKO surgical robotic system, which the company has struggled to sell.

One of the main reasons surgeons aren’t embracing some of these new technologies with open arms is their cost, said Neil Sheth, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania., in the article.

“If the robot costs $1 million, and most guys are doing 20 [surgeries] a year, their hospital isn’t going to buy it for them,” Sheth said. “ And the guys who are doing 600 [surgeries] a year don’t need the robot because this is all they do every day.”

Sheth also said that orthopedic surgeons fear that by using these tools to do their work, some so-called “bad” surgeons will be able to pass as competent ones, which lowers the level of quality of the work that’s being done.

One way to make orthopedic surgeons be more friendly toward technologies that can actually help them do their jobs better is to begin introducing them to medical students before they are even surgeons themselves, he suggested in the article.

“That way, you’re training the next generation of people coming out of medical school, and they may have that in their contracts that if you want me to do knee replacements at your hospital, I need this system,” he said.

 “How To Get Doctors To Embrace Next-Gen Technology.” | MD+DI

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 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.

The Fluid Power Industry Wants to Up Its Manufacturing Game

The Fluid Power Industry Wants to Up Its Manufacturing Game

There is a new intent on studying manufacturing technologies that could drive precision mechanical product making in small lots for the fluid power industry.

“The big change that is going on with fluid power research is adding a focus on manufacturability,” Kim Stelson, executive director of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), told Design News in a recent interview. “The original CCEFP strategy had three thrusts: efficiency, compactness, and effectiveness. Now, we’ve added manufacturability as a key focus, which is greatly increasing our appeal to fluid power equipment companies.”

Stelson said equipment makers are dealing with supply-chain-related issues with providing high-quality products quickly in small lots and that can be easily customized. “None of this really involves innovation in the design of the fluid power components, but everybody in this business makes things, and the new manufacturing direction can make an impact on every company,” he said. The CCEFP is part of the federal National Science Foundation and has an integrated working relationship with the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA).

Stelson said the focus on manufacturing is on precision and small lots. Mass production can achieve precision, but with small product volumes it is difficult to attain at a reasonable cost. The challenge is bringing the kind of precision and economies of scale that are found in the automotive industry to smaller production quantities common with fluid power products. Achieving this could substantially benefit suppliers.

“Another aspect is whether we can improve, through manufacturing techniques, [product] performance using new materials, coatings, surface texturing, and so on. Those are some of the areas we are beginning to address,” Stelson added.

The CCEFP also recently obtained grant from the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech), which is the advanced manufacturing technology program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to complete a manufacturing roadmap for the fluid power industry. A kickoff event occurred at Georgia Tech in August, and the group is now formulating a plan with a road-mapping facilitator. Working groups have been created to address specific problems and concentrate on prioritized areas, with the goal of convening in February 2016 to establish the future direction.

Earlier this summer, the NFPA updated its technology roadmap this year with a focus on manufacturing, following up on the original roadmap it developed in 2009, and it is working with the CCEFP on its road-mapping project. A summary of all documents and projects related to the updated NFPA fluid power technology roadmap is available here.

NIST’s AMTech program incentivizes the formation of industry-led consortiums, providing resources to them for basic and applied research on long-term, pre-competitive, and enabling technology development for US manufacturing. The objective of AMTech is to establish and strengthen technology consortiums while identifying and prioritizing research projects addressing long-term US industrial needs.

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) is also another huge effort moving forward in this area. The federally initiated system aims to establish a networked research infrastructure where US industry and academia collaborate to solve manufacturing challenges. The NNMI consists of research institutes, each of which has a unique focus, but their common goal is to develop, commercialize, and deploy new new advanced manufacturing capabilities and processes.

The innovation hubs, according to the NNMI website, will:

• Develop advanced manufacturing technologies that will "lift all ships," creating, showcasing, and deploying new capabilities that can increase commercial productivity.

• Help businesses that otherwise couldn’t invest in advanced manufacturing research, by bringing together the best talents and capabilities from the public and private sector into a proving ground for cutting-edge technology.

• Build a pipeline of talent that can support advanced manufacturing.

Stelson said there’s still a lot of confusion around the centers and how they work, along with how universities can participate. It’s not likely there will be a fluid power innovation institute, but there might be one with which the fluid power group can join forces, especially if it is funded by the Department of Energy.

If there is a focus on energy efficiency and the group can join forces with HVAC research, which has a similar set of manufacturing challenges, there might be a basis for cooperation, since building a compressor is similar to building a pump, and an air compressor for pneumatics is almost no different than a compressor in an air conditioner.

Research into precision manufacturing has broad potential to affect efficiency and also impact cost, which could help enable replacement of older inefficient equipment. It also seems that this focus could offer performance benefits from using new materials and surface technologies that could spill over into many industries other than fluid power.

Al Presher is a veteran contributing writer for Design News, covering automation and control, motion control, power transmission, robotics, and fluid power.