I receive many pitches every day. Many just don’t fit my interests. How could I pass up this one? “Just as Airbnb helps millions of people around the world instantly find a great place to stay for the night. What if car makers could use a similar model to easily order and manufacture lightweight 3D printed parts?”
So, I bit. And wound up with an interview with CEO of Xponential Works/Vice Chairman of Techniplas Prime Avi Reichental. His LinkedIn bio includes “parallel entrepreneur, board director, futurist, venturist, inventor, philanthropist”. He’s a busy guy. Wonder how he found time to chat with me.
In short, what is a supplier to do when it needs extra capacity but its capital assets are expensive—as in a large injection molding machine? On the other hand, what if you are a small supplier and have trouble landing consistent, long-term contracts leaving you with excess capacity?
Using digital technologies for communication, design, production, and quality, the two companies can link. The larger company with long-term contracts and capacity needs forges an agreement to “rent” the machines of the smaller company.
Geography becomes a second benefit. OEMs like having suppliers close to the plant. The Tier 1 has the flexibility to find a partner within desired range of the customer’s plant and use digital technology to send drawings, production orders, and other required documentation to the new remote plant.
As Reichental explained, “We have factories, associates, platforms, quality management systems, and brand recognition. Our problem is how to become agile and deliver on-time plus expanding our sales. We’re in a capital intensive industry. The answer was to extend to a group of smaller companies who don’t have the systems required by the OEMs but they have assets. We have created the equivalent of one additional factory per year by adding partnerships with these smaller companies shipping the equivalent of 1,000 tractor-trailers of product per month. Plus we now have the advantage of localizing production to the customer.”
Not stopping with injection molding, Reichental and his team have extensive additive manufacturing (3D printing) expertise. He adds, “Now we are layering additive/3D printing capabilities. Now there can be one-click to request, upload, get instant quote, through the cloud, process the order, get the manufacturing design, delivered physically by approved supplier with approved supply chain.”
Techniplas Prime has introduced a new approach to its e-manufacturing that is enabling the production of 40 million parts per year for BMW, Daimler, Ford, and other top auto manufacturers, or the equivalent of 1,000 truckloads of car parts per month, without the need to open a single new factory.
Five years in operation, it has revenues above $80 million out of parent company’s $500 million and is the fastest growing segment of the company. They proved it out internally before going out to 3rd parties. OEMs want to work with fewer suppliers. Techniplas Prime serves as aggregator for many suppliers so that OEM only needs to interact with it.
XponentialWorks is a venture investment, corporate advisory and product development company, specializing in artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, and the digital transformation of traditional businesses. As a curator of leaders in Industry 4.0, the firm has built a unique ecosystem that unites the forces of early-stage companies with the experience and deep market knowledge of mature companies. XponentialWorks invests in and mentors the growth and success of promising early stage companies and acts as an edge organization for the benefit of larger, mid-market companies undertaking digital transformation.
Reichental concludes, “In the end, business innovation is more important than technology innovation.”
I’ve been writing about how IT companies are taking their powerful compute platforms to the edge. Here is a balance view from an industrial network switch company combining LTE with Ethernet and embedding HMI/SCADA. Interestingly, it includes Node-RED and MQTT support.
ORing has released a new industrial dual 4G LTE M2M IoT gateway that includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard. The industrial-grade design is compliant with requirements of IEC 61850-3.
The new gateway has built-in 8-port Gigabit Ethernet with 4×10/100/1000Base-T(X) and 4xGigabit SFP Combo ports. It also includes Ignition Onboard and Ignition Edge Onboard, for easy use of the powerful, web-based Ignition platform for human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Node-RED is also onboard, along with support for MQTT and other protocols. The Gateway is AT&T-certified and can be purchased with a bundled SIM card and LTE data plan.
The company has extensive experience in switch and wireless product design. ORing’s products have been deployed in surveillance, rail transport, industrial automation, power substations, renewable energy, and marine applications.
Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with numerous tools for building solutions in HMI, SCADA, and IIoT.
“We’re very pleased to see Ignition and Ignition Edge as part of this new product from ORing,” said Don Pearson, chief strategy officer for Inductive Automation. “Digital transformation is a big undertaking, and end users will certainly appreciate ORing making things easier for them.”
“We at ORing are very excited about the release of the innovative IGMG-P83244GC+-D4G IoT Gateway,” said Angus Shih, president of ORing Industrial Networking Corp. “This impressive technology includes the Ignition SCADA features and AT&T LTE cellular technology. This all-in-one gateway can provide powerful VPN cellular routing capabilities with database storage, Ignition, and Node-RED functions in one box to make IoT and SCADA applications deployment easier than ever before. It can also connect with Ignition servers and the most popular cloud platforms, including AT&T Dataflow, to build flexible edge-to-cloud IoT systems.”
Do you want to devote your life and engineering talents building social websites designed to trick people into giving you their personal data so that your company can sell it and the founder and his friends become billionaires? Or, would you rather do something significant, forging abundance, engineering the big challenge to help people survive and thrive?
I miss spending a week of my Augusts in Austin, Texas. No, not for the 105 deg F outside and 65 deg F inside the convention center. It was for National Instruments’ NI Week user conference. Some of the brightest engineers I knew worked there or were customers and the pursuit of solving big engineering challenges was palpable.
NI now focuses on instrumentation for solving those big challenges. Being out of my normal area of coverage, they don’t contact me anymore. But it’s still a cool company. Infected a little by “big company disease”, but still cool.
I thought about that while reading the latest Abundance Insider Newsletter from Peter Diamandis. This guy is crazy—crazy smart, that is. If you aren’t receiving the newsletter and following him, click here and start getting it. You may not totally agree, but it’ll blow your mind for sure.
Diamandis originated the X Prize to encourage accomplishing big, hairy, audacious ideas.
Here are some examples from the latest newsletter and a bonus thrown in from a podcast.
What: Siemens Gamesa is now leveraging the Earth’s surface for a future of energy abundance. The large-scale renewable energy technology manufacturer has just begun operations of what it claims is the world’s first electrothermal energy storage system. Already, Siemens Gamesa has turned a section of volcanic rock into a massive organic battery, capable of storing up to 130 megawatt-hours of energy for a week. The company additionally reports that its electrothermal energy storage system is significantly less expensive than conventional storage solutions. If we can begin to harness organic material for energy storage, how would this influence the modern-day power grid and storage solutions?
Why it’s important: Renewable energy has long been promoted as an alternative solution to fossil fuels and other contemporary sources of energy. However, their oft-cited limitation is that of energy storage. If Siemens Gamesa demonstrates the successful scale-up of its sustainable solution to the storage problem, pervasive implementation of renewable energy sources would become a much more feasible option, and long-term implications would abound. If communities could soon store energy beneath their homes for extended periods of time, how might this influence real estate values and opportunities for expansion? What new microgrid networks and local economies would arise?
City of the Future?
What it is: Long in the works, Sidewalk Labs’ plan to build out a high-tech utopia on Toronto’s waterfront is now out. While still subject to a thorough public vetting process — principally by government-appointed, non-profit partner Waterfront Toronto — the plan outlines an urban model for integrated smart cities of the future. Dubbed “the most innovative district in the world” by Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff, the pitch’s most pioneering components include autonomous vehicle networks, ubiquitous public Wi-Fi, an 89 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, and countless sensors for collection of “urban data” to optimize civil engineering decisions.
Why it’s important: Already, Sidewalk Labs’ comprehensive plan has been projected to help create 44,000 jobs and generate $4.3 billion in annual tax revenue. Sidewalk Labs has additionally stated it will spend $1.3 billion on the project with the aim of spurring $38 billion in private sector investment by 2040. Beyond the targeted district, however, a materialized smart city plan could become an ideal testing ground for next-generation breakthrough technologies and automated ecosystems that provide seamlessly delivered public services and predictive routing.
What it is: A team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has made extraordinary headway in the field of high-tech prosthetics, creating a bionic arm that functions smoothly without a brain implant. Previous robotic prosthetics required a patient to undergo high-risk, invasive surgery for a brain implant to achieve maximum robotic mobility. This arm, however, bridges the gap between seamless function and non-surgical bionics. In one instance, it was shown capable of following a computer screen cursor in real time without exhibiting the jerky motions and intermittent delays typical of other non-surgical mind-controlled prosthetics.
Why it’s important: This innovation represents a fundamental leap in the age-old mission to enhance the quality of life and autonomy of individuals who have lost a limb. By improving prosthetic quality at significantly diminished risk, non-invasive bionics no longer require patients to risk their health to enjoy long-term use of a high-functioning, mind-controlled limb. As brain-computer interface (BCI) technology continues to surge forward, we are quickly charting the path to a future wherein responsive prosthetics will serve countless uses, from limb replacement to assistive aids in any number of industries and professions.
Repurpose your Chem E (or other) Degree For Greater Good
In an interview on TechNation with Moira Gunn, Neil Kumar, CEO of Bridge Bio and a Chem E , talked of reflecting when he was in school that the traditional industries that employed Chem Es were on the decline—Oil & Gas and Plastics. So he looked around and focused on biopharma. He noted that many of the startups in that market were engineers with a Chem E background. His company has developed a new model for addressing genetically-driven diseases affecting a small number of patients.
Is it time to start thinking bigger about the contribution you can make to society (and yourself and family)? Instrumentation, control, automation, data—these are all technologies and skills that can lead to a better life than trapping people on their smart phones in an app that sucks you dry.
Industrial Automation. I guess sometimes it’s good and sometimes not. Tesla had difficulty ramping up production on its low-end vehicle. Elon Musk blamed automation for his problems. Well maybe it was vaguely automation. But maybe they tried automating too much, or they automated things they shouldn’t have. Maybe Rockwell Automation now has a place he can drive to to learn more about automating production.
While I was traveling, Rockwell Automation released some news. I had to seek clarification on some. Here are two interesting items.
The first piece of news concerned Rockwell Automation opening an 8,000 square-foot Electric Vehicle (EV) Innovation Center at 111 North Market Street in San Jose, California, within its Information Solutions development facility. The center will provide live manufacturing demonstrations, hands-on trials utilizing new technology and events showcasing collaboration with industry experts and Rockwell Automation partners.
Upon first glance I thought maybe it was getting into the EV business. Actually it is bringing its experience and products from “Detroit” building cars to Silicon Valley building cars—just with different power trains.
Utilizing augmented and virtual reality modeling, the EV Innovation Center provides automotive start-ups and established manufacturers an environment to learn new technologies and standards, enabling them to deliver electric vehicles to market faster, with less risk and at lower cost.
The Center features not only traditional Rockwell products, but also features partners such as its FactoryTalk InnovationSuite powered by PTC, Eagle Technologies’ battery pack assembly machine, and FANUC robot technologies.
Other partners featured include Hirata, a turnkey assembly line builder, provides an assembly cell that demonstrates electric drive unit assembly and testing; Emulate 3D, Rockwell Automation’s simulation software, helps to prototype and test machines before they’re built; teamtechnik performs functional testing to confirm performance before building the drive into the electric vehicle.
“With growing global consumer demand, electric vehicle companies are challenged to meet aggressive production timelines,” said John Kacsur, vice president, Automotive and Tire Industries, Rockwell Automation. “We established the Electric Vehicle Innovation Center to expand their possibilities and get their products to consumers quickly and at the lowest possible cost, while operating more efficiently.
The second Rockwell news concerns its partner Claroty and cybersecurity services. To help prevent incidents and combat the unpredictable threats that cause them, industrial companies around the world can now manage cyber risk in their operations using the Rockwell Automation Threat Detection Services powered by the Claroty threat detection platform.
“A scary aspect of security threats is what you don’t know about them – what techniques they’ll use, what attack vector they’ll leverage, what vulnerabilities they’ll exploit,” said Umair Masud, manager security services portfolio, Rockwell Automation. “Our Threat Detection Services combine our innate understanding of industrial automation with Claroty’s trusted OT network visibility. The services can give companies peace of mind by protecting not only one facility but their entire supply chain from unpredictable threats.”
The Threat Detection Services help safeguard connected operations in three key ways:
- Identify and Protect: Identifying all industrial control networked assets, and their vulnerabilities, to help companies know what to protect
- Detect: Monitoring networks for not only known threats but, more importantly, anomalous traffic or behaviors to alert companies of a security incident – possibly before it even happens
- Response and Recovery: Developing plans for containing, eradicating and recovering from attacks to keep operations running or more quickly return to a fully operational state
The Claroty threat detection platform creates an inventory of a user’s industrial network assets, monitors traffic between them and analyzes communications at their deepest level. Detected anomalies are reported to plant and security personnel with actionable insights.
“The Claroty platform, used within the Threat Detection Services, can accelerate a company’s journey to more connected and digitally driven operations,” said Amir Zilberstein, co-founder and CEO, Claroty. “Most critically, the platform can help companies detect and quickly respond to threats that bypass their security controls. But it can also give companies a deeper understanding of their industrial assets and improve their ability to keep operations running.”
Antonio Neri, HPE CEO, announced during his keynote address to HPE Discover Las Vegas 2019, that the company was moving toward “Everything as a Service”—a consumption-based model within the next three years. Wait, isn’t this a company that sells boxes? Lots of power inside the boxes, but still. Most of the conversations for the rest of the week reinforced this strategic direction.
From the press release, “HPE will offer entire portfolio through a range of subscription, pay-per-use and consumption-driven offerings, in next three years transitioning the company into an as a Service company over time.” The concept will work out as a service contract with the customer with built-in verifiability as a default. It will offer a low level of granularity.
In the industrial automation space, the reaction differed among competitors and customers when Inductive Automation (note: one of my sponsors) began with its version of pricing for its original HMI/SCADA software. Some 15-16 years later, it seems to be doing well. Actually well enough that in the past year a couple of competitors have announced their responses.
When we discussed Edgeline IoT during the arranged Influencer Coffee Talk—Tom Bradicich, HPE vice president, for years has been a visionary evangelist regarding data generated from the processes, aka the Edge. I met him during his stay at National Instruments where he received industrial grounding after his IBM days where he promoted the concept of “Big Analog Data.” He told us that now he has moved from being a visionary to being an historian. These ideas are now adopted, not just theory. When asked about owning data from manufacturing, he said unequivocally that IT will own the data.
Manufacturing applications are not core to HPE, but we did get a lot of play during Discover. I gave a brief discussion of the manufacturing “demo” in my first post. It was one of the first stands on the exhibition floor. A mock up of a conveyor system with stations formed the layout of the exhibit. The system began with design, continued through assembly, looked at packaging, switched a little into predictive maintenance and troubleshooting of the line, then a quality station.
Two partners sill be immediately recognizable by regular readers—PTC and ABB. The design station featured Creo CAD from PTC along with Windchill PLM. The next station was guided assembly featuring PTC Vuforia augmented reality helping guide assembly along with PTC ThingWorx connecting data from the IP-enabled screwdriver (torque, presence, number of screws per assembly, and the like). An ABB dual-armed robot deftly prepared a box and inserted the product. Later on was another station using PTC’s Vuforia and ThingWorx.
At our 5G Influencer Coffee Talk, executives noted that 5G is still in process, but HPE Aruba is working on it. That is, 5G along with WiFi 6. Before long, there should be some interesting Aruba wireless products. 5G holds great potential for communicating things as well as people. We discussed the difficulties and potentials for handoffs from WiFi to Cellular and back. Could this be a better/faster SCADA? It’s build for today’s cloud not older computing architectures like LTE is.
During our security Influencer Coffee Talk, technologists from HPE discussed silicon-rooted trust. HPE makes its own ASIC that assures only authorized firmware is running on the device.
Finally, more thoughts relevant to manufacturing and production in industrial use cases. As “Dr. Tom” Bradicich told us during his session, data is created at the edge, so need the ability get at the data at the edge. Therefore the concept of move data center from cloud to edge. This is actualized by a partnership of HPE, ABB, Rittal, and PTC. There is sort of a “data center in a box”, although the box is actually a rack.
While I was checking the “box” out on the show floor, the representative from Rittal told me that customers at a recent conference in Monaco complained that it was too much work to install equipment at the edge. But this data center in a box concept overcame that objection.
On last tidbit for thought. HPE has a platform called NonStop—a very high availability compute platform. We spotted on in an Edgeline rack. The HPE statement held that it is inventing the market for high availability converged OT, not following. I wonder what applications this could disrupt.
This week is IT week in my study of how IT and OT are coming together. I am in Las Vegas at the annual Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) customer conference called Discover. This rather long post looks at many of the announcements that show how far HPE has come in its expansion into manufacturing.
An interesting point (and you can see some pictures on my Twitter feed @garymintchell) is that there is a manufacturing demo at the entrance into the show area this week. It demonstrates partnerships with PTC (CAD, augmented reality, and IoT), ABB (robotics in this case, more later), along with video and predictive maintenance analytics.
Following are summaries of a number of announcements at this very busy event that have an impact on manufacturing technology and use cases. HPE calls the Edge—meaning basically not in the servers.
Things announced included new edge solutions, research labs, and programs to simplify and accelerate Intelligent Edge adoption, enabling customers to create unique digital experiences and leverage analytics and machine learning to adapt to changes in real-time.
The new offerings and programs include:
- Major enhancements to Aruba Central, the only cloud-based platform that unifies network management, AI-powered analytics, user-centric service assurance and security for wired, wireless and WAN at the edge.
- Integrations and new turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions, delivered with ABB, Microsoft, Rittal, and PTC, enabling real-time intelligence and control in industrial environments.
- The Intelligent Edge and IoT Center of Excellence (CoE) and Labs, part of Hewlett Packard Labs, to develop and commercialize new capabilities and technologies that accelerate customers’ and partners’ Intelligent Edge journey.
Research suggests that over the next decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) and related data growth has an economic potential of up to $11 trillion per year. To capture this potential, organizations need to implement an Intelligent Edge, an architecture that is fully connected, secured, distributed and autonomous. However, to scale the Intelligent Edge across the value chain, organizations need solutions that secure and simplify deployment and management, converge operational technology (OT) with IT and address the lack of skills and funding.
“The edge has emerged as the new center of the digital universe, opening up opportunities for organizations to create new digital experiences and gain competitive advantage,” said Keerti Melkote, founder and president, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Today, we announce innovations that will enable our customers to capitalize on these experiences and opportunities by dramatically simplifying, securing and accelerating the deployment of the Intelligent Edge.”
Unified cloud-based platform
Siloed network management solutions are creating complexity and increasing time to remediation. To accelerate IT operations and allow IT professionals time to focus on innovation, Aruba is making significant enhancements to Aruba Central. With these enhancements, customers will benefit from AI-powered network analytics, improved security and user-centric assurance for wired, wireless and WAN edge infrastructures from a single point of control. Significant advancements include:
Advanced AI-powered analytics and assurance capabilities based on Aruba NetInsight and User Experience Insight allow IT professionals to resolve infrastructure problems quickly before they impact the organization. Now integrated into the Aruba Central cloud-based platform, Aruba’s Analytics and Assurance capabilities deliver IT professionals a way to quickly remediate intermittent network issues while also proactively identifying how to optimize customers’ infrastructures to ensure optimal experiences.
Software-defined branch (SD-Branch) and SD-WAN, managed on Aruba Central, is now enhanced with improved branch management and orchestration capabilities to centrally define business-intent policies to meet the hybrid cloud connectivity needs for distributed enterprises and reduce operational costs. The new SD-WAN Orchestrator in Aruba Central makes it easier for IT professionals to deploy flexible and secure overlay topologies in a large-scale edge infrastructure, connecting thousands of branch locations with multiple data centers. Aruba Virtual Gateways now available for AWS and Azure, combined with orchestration, cost-effectively extends network and security policies to workloads running in the public cloud. The new SaaS prioritization feature not only enhances the performance of SaaS applications but also provides visibility about the end-user experience for business-critical applications, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.
Integrated in Aruba Central, Aruba ClearPass Device Insight provides IoT visibility and security via a single pane of glass, employing automated device discovery, and machine learning-based fingerprinting and identification. Used in conjunction with Aruba ClearPass Policy Manager and Aruba’s dynamic segmentation security capabilities, networking and security teams can automate unique policy enforcement down to each device and user.
New network management workflow enhancements are integrated into Aruba Central to accelerate device provisioning with an automated mobile app to deliver network health views and troubleshooting across all locations allowing IT to focus on delivering the needs of the business.
Flexibility in how to obtain and support edge infrastructure
To provide organizations more flexibility and choice in how they obtain and support their edge infrastructure, Aruba solutions are also available via HPE GreenLake for Aruba a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) subscription-based offering.
Turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions
In industrial environments, the Intelligent Edge requires an intricate interplay between sensors, actuators, networks, applications and infrastructures from edge to cloud. It also involves unique challenges including harsh environmental conditions, intermittent network connectivity and lack of qualified on-site staff. Consequently, such deployments are often costly, slow and vulnerable to security and reliability problems. To simplify, accelerate and secure deployments, HPE is launching pre-integrated turnkey edge-to-cloud solutions in collaboration with key industry partners:
The integration of ABB Ability Smart Sensor technology with Aruba access points is designed to deliver a scalable, high-performance wireless connectivity solution for operational technology (OT) equipment such as motors, mounted bearings and pumps. This allows industrial companies to capture valuable data and insights from their equipment to proactively monitor their condition and performance, and plan maintenance in advance in order to avoid costly and disruptive downtime.
Jointly developed by ABB, HPE, Microsoft and Rittal, the Secure Edge Data Center for Microsoft Azure Stack is the industry’s first enterprise-grade edge appliance for Microsoft Azure Stack, enabling real-time intelligence and action in harsh industrial environments, while providing seamless integration with Microsoft Azure. The appliance provides IP55-rated environmental protection, cooling, redundant power supply and distribution and automated management – allowing customers to run pre-configured, high-end enterprise applications in locations such as factories or oil rigs.
HPE Edgeline IoT Quick Connect dramatically simplifies the convergence of OT and IT, enabling customers to monitor and control OT equipment such as machines or motors in real time. Jointly delivered with Microsoft, HPE Edgeline IoT Quick Connect is based on the HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform, which connects OT devices, the HPE Edgeline EL300 Converged Edge System and Microsoft Azure IoT, a collection of cloud services to connect, monitor and control IoT assets.
Fast Start Condition Monitoring enables customers set up condition monitoring within 90 days to deliver performance and availability of their OT equipment. An end-to-end solution implemented by HPE Pointnext Services, Fast Start Condition Monitoring is designed for customers who want to get started quickly with condition monitoring, but lack the skills to do so. HPE Pointnext Services help define use cases, OT data sources and workflows, and implement pilots for proof of value, based on HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, the HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform and PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform.
The newly established Intelligent Edge and IoT CoE & Lab provides critical capabilities and technologies to HPE’s partners and customers to accelerate Intelligent Edge adoption. It will guide partner activities, M&A and research in the following areas:
- Knowledge transfer to HPE’s channel partners to accelerate market adoption of the Intelligent Edge with the Channel to Edge Institute (CEI), a program which helps HPE’s channel partners gain the required expertise to effectively recommend, sell, implement and manage Intelligent Edge solutions for their customers. The CEI provides training on Intelligent Edge use cases and business cases and will deploy joint go-to-market programs with HPE’s channel and ecosystem partners.
- Research programs to drive rapid commercialization of Intelligent Edge technologies that simplify edge-to-cloud management and OT-IT convergence and enable new use cases – this includes, among others, a unified provisioning, policy and security management across wired networks, Wi-Fi and 5G; the next generation of HPE’s first-of-a-kind HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems and HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform; and real-time video analytics for quality, security and customer experience applications.