Additive Manufacturing—Machine, Materials, Software

Talking with the Blake Teipel, CEO of additive manufacturing developer Essentium, at Rapid + TCT last week, he emphasized the core of the company’s offerings—Machine, Materials, Software. I summarized the show last week. Following are details from the company’s press releases. They include high-performance materials and a new printer, and electronics manufacturing.

First was announced the introduction of Essentium PEKK, made with Arkema 6002 Kepstan resin. This ultra-polymer offers high heat and chemical resistance and mechanical strength to meet the performance requirements of aerospace and industrial applications.

PEKK shares most of the performance attributes of PEEK but has a lower crystallization rate and can therefore be treated as an amorphous polymer. This means it is less affected by the cooling process once the part is 3D printed, thereby minimizing warping. PEKK maintains the flame smoke toxicity ratings for FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) compliance while offering improved resistance to chemical attack compared to PEI materials. PEKK has an extrusion temperature between 340 and 400°C. 

The new material extends Essentium’s open additive ecosystem by allowing manufacturers to scale and meet the requirements of their specific applications with tested and certified materials of their choice. Essentium PEKK ensures manufacturers can quickly produce parts that meet their industry’s reliability, repeatability, and performance standards.

The Essentium HSE 280i HT 3D printer demonstrates how the industry’s first true independent dual extruders (IDEX) machine gives manufacturers the ultimate machine tool to 3D print at scale.  The system is independent on both the Y and X-axis, enabling manufacturers to 3D print multi-part builds at industrial speeds, even for parts with complex geometries.

Said Brandon Sweeney, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of R&D, Materials and Co-founder, Essentium Inc.: “Industries such as aerospace and automotive want AM to give them speed to parts without sacrificing quality. By providing an open additive ecosystem with a range of high-performance materials such as PEKK combined with the powerful capabilities of the HSE 280i, industry players now have a unique opportunity to rapidly produce complex parts for harsh and extreme environments on-demand. These AM innovations are game-changing for manufacturers who are driven by improvements in efficiency and time-to-market opportunities.”

Electronics Manufacturing with Industrial-Scale 3D Printing

Essentium, Inc. showcased its work with electronics manufacturer VIRTEX to achieve significant efficiencies, cost-savings, and time-to-market gains. Serving customers across aerospace, military, medical, and other industrial sectors, VIRTEX needed to create large volumes of custom fixtures for circuit boards and electronics placed in plastic enclosures. The fixtures were machined using traditional methods, but the lead time and cost would be unsustainable as production scaled. VIRTEX needed a 3D printing solution that could deliver the speed and agility to meet the demand for 3,000 fixtures per month and a build volume to accommodate 18″ x 6″ parts. 

VIRTEX worked with Essentium to explore the possibilities of deploying AM to create custom fixtures that could perform as well as the machined counterparts. Using the Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSETM) 3D Printing Platform and Essentium PCTG material, VIRTEX could print the set of fixtures in under two days, reducing the lead time by almost two weeks. For the same fixture order that cost $5,000, the 3D printed part was $30, reducing the cost by 99%.

Said Ian Denefe, Manufacturing Engineer at VIRTEX: “The flexibility of additive manufacturing was one of the biggest benefits for us. The fact that we could reverse engineer existing fixtures, print them quickly, and rapidly modify them or replace them made it an ideal solution.”

Said Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO of Essentium: “As additive manufacturing goes mainstream, it is increasingly possible to manufacture crucial parts at speed and scale not previously seen. Given its greater design freedom, accelerated time to market, and significantly lower tooling costs, AM is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to meet the demands of electronics manufacturers. We will continue to work with customers like VIRTEX to unlock innovative new possibilities in electronics design and production.”

Universal Robots Showcases Innovative Applications at Fabtech 2021

My last post before absconding for vacation included an overview of Fabtech 2021—the first trade show I’ve visited in two years. Aside from the additive manufacturing area, the next most active area for me was collaborative robots. Much of the activity concerned welding. People at the Universal Robot booth told me that smaller companies have trouble hiring welders. The smaller cost of these robots plus speed from delivery to production make them an attractive alternative.

Universal Robots used FABTECH 2021 as the launchpad for new cobot applications including heavy-duty water-cooled welding, hardfacing, plasma cutting, and flexible machine loading. 

UR cobot-powered systems were mainstream at FABTECH with numerous OEMs and UR+ partners actively selling MIG, TIG and plasma welding and cutting solutions, making it one of the fastest growing market for UR cobots.

“For 40 years, robotic arc welding evolved incrementally”, says Joe Campbell, Senior Manager of Applications Development and Strategic Marketing at Universal Robots. “Collaborative arc welding is the first disruptive technology to hit the robotic arc welding market since the introduction of DC servo powered robots,” he adds, attributing the rapid market traction to several key drivers including significant shortage of welders, increase in high mix/low volume production, and the fact that cobot welders are easy to deploy, quickly producing parts with improved quality and consistency.

Heavy-duty welds are now possible to perform with cobots as Vectis Automation becomes the first UR partner in North America to develop a water-cooled cobot-based welding system in a new version of its Cobot Welding Tool. The solution is now not only compatible with Miller welding equipment but can be integrated with Lincoln and Fronius welding equipment too. 

Vectis Automation also pioneers the use of a UR cobot for hardfacing, the metalworking process where harder or tougher material is applied to a base metal. The company debuted new UR cobot powered plasma cutting as well, featuring Vectis’ Cobot Cutting Tool with Hypertherm PowerMax able to perform complex cuts on 3D shapes and large structures for a fraction of the cost of a tube laser. 

The UR booth also hosts new solutions for automated machine tending, featuring the new VersaBuilt CNC Mill Application Kit for manufacturers seeking a plug-and-play approach to CNC milling automation. Versabuilt’s UR+ Application Kit comes with all components pre-assembled and designed to successfully get the CNC mill and the UR10e cobot working together, automating the loading and unloading of parts into the mill. The VersaBuilt Kit requires no programming experience with easy-to-use automation software that allows the machinist to simply enter part dimensions and CNC milling program numbers to get the application up and running. 

Universal Robots’ ActiNav combines intelligent vision and real-time autonomous motion control with Universal Robots’ e-Series cobots. ActiNav combines real-time autonomous motion control, UR cobots, vision and sensor systems in one seamless Application Kit that solves the bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. At FABTECH, ActiNav picked metal parts randomly jumbled in bins and correctly insert them into a machine. Powering ActiNav is the new enhanced version of UR’s best-selling UR10e cobot now featuring 25% more payload capacity with the ability to lift 12.5kg (27.55lbs).

When it comes to the grippers picking up parts in automated loading and unloading of machine tools, as well as handling of ferromagnetic raw materials, gripping with magnetic grippers has proven to reduce cycle time and increase production. SCHUNK has addressed this industry need with the new EMH gripper, the world’s first electrically activated, 24 V permanent magnetic gripper with integrated electronics. The new EMH gripper will be showcased in seamless integration with a UR cobot at UR’s FABTECH booth alongside the new UR+ product, the AOV-10 Axially-Compliant Orbital Sander, from ATI Industrial Automation that is the ideal robotic solution for surface preparation and finishing. With built-in compliance, the AOV-10 is well-suited for many different robotic application types—even those that require a light touch. 

Fabtech, My First Trade Fair In Person in Two Years

It is nice to be back. Like riding a bicycle, there was no relearning required getting back into the trade show routine. Only difference for me was I drove from home (now in the northwest Chicago suburbs) in a little over an hour rather than the 4-1/2 hours from western Ohio.

There were many exhibitors. Fabtech is a metal working show with the addition of an additive manufacturing section. The show filled most of the south hall of McCormick, a big chunk of the north hall, a little of the east hall main floor, and most of the second level of the east hall for the additive technology show and conference.

I’ll be posting press releases of relevant companies later. I’ll summarize the experience here.

I learned in the additive hall that there are three major players—Markforge (which actually had a booth in the south hall), Essentium (where I got a half-hour with the CEO), and Stratasys (probably the first one I knew about a few years ago). These companies provide materials, machines, and software. Each has a slightly different emphasis from the others. I had a sense that they are beginning to get connected—as in connected to the rest of manufacturing and to the enterprise.

One company showed micro products. Tolerances of parts has gotten very good. I ran across the beginnings of “Manufacturing-as-a-Service” ideas. These machines being digital can and do collect amazing amounts of data.

Robots were my focus in the Fabtech part of the show. Especially cobots, where I spent some time in the Universal Robotics booth. Much more later, but the new thing with cobots is welding. An application previously reserved for the big six-axis machines, many welding applications are perfect for the smaller cobot. One company building on to Universal Robotics’ cobot claimed it could bring in a cobot welding system in the morning and have it in production after lunch. I believe them. I have seen how easy these are to set up and get started.

A company called Simpac builds presses. It has developed an XR application for iPads and similar devices that lets a tech virtually walk through the press, see through an exploded view to find the recalcitrant part, and then find part numbers of replacement parts. They’ve used it as a run-off, buy-off tool in these Covid reduced travel days.

Enterprise software was represented. I talked with the Epicor people. Wiser Systems has a location tracking product with an internally developed wireless mesh network. And automation companies Beckhoff Automation and Bosch Rexroth were also there. More in a later post.

Traffic was decent through the show floor. I don’t think many exhibitors were greatly disappointed, but they would have liked more traffic. With the first time back and Covid reappearing, I’d consider the show a success. But Covid has impacted a conference I was slated to speak at which is now going virtual. Oh, well. 

Attend Trade Fairs In Person

Tomorrow I will drive to downtown Chicago, well to McCormick Place anyway, to attend Fabtech and Rapid–two SME trade fairs. We’ll see how my muscle memory goes.

Speaking of trade fairs in person, I’ve sat on this news release from IMTS for a few weeks due to too much to do.

The news release proclaims IMTS 2022 to occupy all buildings of McCormick Place.

IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show unveiled the floor plan for IMTS 2022.

“IMTS 2022 will once again occupy all four buildings and all levels of the McCormick Place campus, as well as continue co-locating with the HANNOVER MESSE USA show in the East Building,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president and CXO at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS. “The demand for in-person events is starting to surge. We credit this enthusiasm to our ability to remain digitally connected with the manufacturing technology community throughout the pandemic with such online platforms as IMTS spark and the IMTS Network.”

IMTS 2022 runs from Sept. 12-17, 2022, and is North America’s largest manufacturing technology event; it attracted more than 129,000 registrants in 2018. In addition to unveiling the floor plan, which is available on IMTS.com, IMTS also launched a new logo and a redesigned website.

The newly redesigned IMTS.com website improves the visitor experience through a clear delineation between IMTS 2022 show-related information (the floor plan, exhibitor and conference information) and a large and growing body of content.

“IMTS spark, the IMTS Network, and our Supply Chain initiative generated thousands of hours of original video content and hundreds of stories during the pandemic. Our new site structure archives and organizes that content,” says Michelle Edmonson, senior director – events and content, AMT.

Robotics, Vibration, and Water Systems News

Today is another “wrap up a bunch of products” day. It’s been a hectic couple of days where I was on a panel with the ZEDEDA Transform event live on the Web (I’m sure it will be ondemand shortly) while today Don Pearson of Inductive Automation interviewed me for an Inductive podcast. Below are two robotic announcements looking forward to new applications, a reliability oriented vibration sensor, and a water system.

MASS Robotics Partners with Procter and Gamble

MassRobotics helps create and scale the next generation of successful robotics and connected devices companies by providing entrepreneurs and innovative robotics/automation startups with the workspace and resources they need to develop, prototype, test and commercialize their products and solutions. It has launched a new partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G) to collaboratively explore technologies around automation and manufacturing-related applications.

The goal of the partnership is to develop ideas to improve productivity, drive increased value for consumers, accelerate agility from more automation, and allow more flexibility in meeting the manufacturing deadlines of customers. In addition to exploring and accessing innovations from resident startups, MassRobotics’ overall community will help P&G remain on the cutting-edge of the robotics and automation industry and more closely collaborate with existing P&G robotics partners in Massachusetts.

MassRobotics is the result of the collective work of a global group of engineers, rocket scientists, and entrepreneurs with a shared vision to create a strong, vibrant robotics and IoT ecosystem. 

MiR Introduces Two New Robots

Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), the global market leader in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), launched its most powerful robots for transporting pallets and other heavy items around manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and logistics centers. The MiR600 and MiR1350 robots, which can lift up to 600 kg (1322 pounds) and 1350 kg (2976 pounds), respectively, are designed to safely and efficiently perform material handling tasks in challenging industrial environments.

The industrial and protected MiR600 and MiR1350 are the market’s first Ingress Protection52-rated autonomous mobile robots, which mean their components are protected and can tolerate dust and water drops.

New AMRs optimize all logistics—inbound, production and outbound

The larger MiR600 and MiR1350 are ideal for autonomously transporting heavy loads of materials and goods in:

• loading bays

• production and assembly areas

• warehouses

• material delivery areas

Like MiR’s other AMRs (MiR100, MiR200, MiR250, MiR500 and MiR1000), the MIR600 and MIR1350 navigate smoothly and safely among people and other transport equipment in dynamic surroundings. Sensors, 3D cameras and the latest laser scanning technology ensure 360-degree vision for precise and safe navigation and operations. The new AMRs are designed to comply with the industry’s latest safety standards, including ISO 3691-4 and ANSI/RIA R15.08-1-2020.

Fluke Reliability introduces the Fluke 3562 Screening Vibration Sensor system

Fluke Reliability introduces the Fluke 3562 Screening Vibration Sensor system. With its batteryless technology, long-range sensor-to-gateway communication, and ability to connect up to 1,000 sensors to a single gateway, the Fluke 3562 is a “set it and forget it” solution that can operate continuously, even in hard-to-reach places. 

When used with the recently released Fluke 3563 Analysis Vibration Sensor for critical machines and LIVE-Asset management software, maintenance teams now have a comprehensive solution for virtually every asset in the plant. The vibration screening system enables maintenance teams to spot machine faults before catastrophic failures happen, avoiding costly downtime. 

The Fluke 3562 Screening Vibration Sensor draws power from a machine’s heat or the light in the room using innovative thermoelectric or photovoltaic energy harvesters. The technologically advanced sensor screens overall vibration levels, temperature, and humidity, as well as trends the nine highest FFT peaks by magnitude. 

The Fluke 3562’s unique features: 

Batteryless technology — With either a thermoelectric or photovoltaic energy harvester, the sensor requires minimum upkeep over a longer period of time, reducing costs and labor. 

Flexible wireless network capabilities — The wireless gateway has triple network connection capabilities — Wi-Fi, LTE, and Ethernet — so it’s adaptable for any facility.

Scalable and long-range — With long-wavelength signals and the ability to connect up to 1,000 sensors, the Fluke 3562 can be placed further from the gateway, allowing sensors to be installed in more hard-to-reach areas.

KETOS Unveils Updates to its Smart Water Intelligence Platform

Addressing global water management issues, KETOS, Inc., a water intelligence innovator, announced enhancements to its award-winning, cloud-based KETOS Smart Water Intelligence Platform. Key updates include improved user experience and workflow management, greater flexibility to configure customer-specific instances, scalability to support larger concurrent users numbers, the ability to handle larger data sets, and more sophisticated analytics and reporting capabilities.

Bringing water intelligence to customers across agriculture, industrial and municipal operations, KETOS combines software, hardware, and predictive analytics to automate water monitoring and testing. The holistic solution helps solve water efficiency and quality challenges with real-time data and mission-critical insights.

Measuring over 25 water quality parameters, KETOS offers water operators a fully integrated, EPA-compliant solution with intelligent hardware, stable connectivity infrastructure, an interactive software platform, and actionable data. 

KETOS Smart Water Analytics enhancements support operational stability and business continuity efforts across its customers, offering predictive maintenance with zero labor hours required for water operators. Users now have access to improved graphical view enhancements, instant notifications, enhanced calendar-based test scheduling, push mobile notifications, and more.

Additional updates include:

• Vertical-focused analytics including reporting comparisons and correlation between parameters; 

• Improved flexibility  and overall user experience; and

• 24/7 remote support.

AI and Edge Top Today’s News Stories

I have four news items today. A couple are AI related and a couple more along the Edge. All concern developing products with the latest tech. ABB, Micropsi, IOTech, and ThinkIQ.

ABB to deliver artificial intelligence modeling for data center energy optimization in Singapore.

ABB has signed up to a pilot study with ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (STT GDC) to explore how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and advanced analytics can optimize energy use and reduce a facility’s carbon footprint.

Singapore-headquartered STT GDC, which is one of the fastest growing global data center operators, is leveraging the digital transformation expertise of technology leader ABB as it bids to become net carbon-neutral by 2030.

ABB is conducting the pilot in two phases, beginning with initial data exploration, modeling, and validation, studying historical data to establish how digital solutions would impact existing operations and energy use. Once proven, it will be followed by AI control logic testing in a live data center environment. STT GDC aims to achieve at least 10 percent in energy savings from its cooling systems, which is the largest consumption of electrical power in a data center after IT equipment.

The ABB team is currently developing AI-based optimization models for the entire data center cooling plant, including the upstream chiller and distribution systems. The AI project is also unlocking new opportunities for efficiency improvement at a granular level within the data center. STT GDC will be able to use AI-generated insights, leveraging cutting-edge ABB Ability™ Genix for industrial analytics and AI, to track and analyze data generated by monitoring systems in the data center, and better facilitate dynamic cooling optimization.

Micropsi Industries’ AI-driven Control System Speeds Complex and Precise Robot Training and Deployment

Industrial and collaborative robots learn to perform camera-guided movements more quickly with the latest version of Micropsi Industries’ MIRAI robot control system. Using artificial intelligence (AI), MIRAI enables robots to flexibly react to variances in their tasks in real time by learning from humans. Variances in position, shape, surface properties or lighting conditions are a common challenge for robotic automation of machine tending, assembly or test applications. With MIRAI’s new “positioning skills” feature, giving examples of quality movements to the robot has become much easier, and the robot will generalize and understand what to do much more quickly.

With the new feature, MIRAI customers will notice quicker set-up times, down from 2-3 days per skill to about three hours. In addition, robot speeds have increased, which also enables shorter cycle times.

Companies wanting to use a robot to perform precise and complex skills—such as gripping and inserting a bendable or soft component, like a cable, into differently arranged sockets—would primarily use the MIRAI controller at the first and last decisive centimeters of a manufacturing step. 

With MIRAI, preparing robots to perform tasks that include variances requires a human worker to guide the robot arm several times through typically occurring scenarios to show the robot to its destination, such as sockets in which freely hanging cables need to be inserted. A machine learning process then derives a motion intuition for the robot from the given examples. For a robot that is not required to follow specific paths to perform its task, MIRAI users can deploy the new positioning skills to teach the robot to find the destination even faster because a human worker needs only to show MIRAI the surroundings of the target with the camera. The robot then independently searches for the shortest path to the object.

IOTech launches Edge Builder to manage edge systems at scale 

IOTech, the edge software company, announced the launch and availability of Edge Builder, its end-to-end management solution for edge systems. Edge Builder provides a comprehensive, flexible and open solution that simplifies and automates the management of edge systems at scale. 

To ensure that Edge Builder addresses the market opportunity, IOTech has been working with a number of key partners and potential customers during the development phase of the product. 

Designed to meet the specific needs of edge systems, Edge Builder provides light touch provisioning and complete lifecycle management for both edge nodes and their applications. Currently it supports the deployment and management of containerized applications at the edge and in the future will also support the deployment of native binary applications.

Edge systems are managed from a centralized Edge Builder controller that can be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud. Platform independence for both the managed nodes and the cloud environment on which the controller is deployed ensures flexibility and choice for Edge Builder users. 

Edge Management at Scale -Solving the Big Problem in the IoT Room

ThinkIQ Enhances SaaS Platform with Stronger Connectivity, Analytics and Visualization

ThinkIQ, a pioneer of digital manufacturing transformation SaaS, announced major enhancements to its SaaS Manufacturing platform. The new offering strengthens the company’s leading Transformational Intelligence Platform and provides more powerful and simplified modeling technology to allow for faster time to solution, better analytics and visualization, and higher performance data processing.

Many transformational intelligence platforms are either pure developments tools or are restricted to the feature set that is delivered with the platform. ThinkIQ’s latest enhancements deliver the best of both worlds with strong model integration combined with an extensible development platform that bridges the gap between traditional, on-premise OT technologies and strong could-enabled analytics.

These capabilities can be applied to any manufacturing and supply chain application and are particularly well-suited for hybrid, continuous and batch processes.

ThinkIQ’s SaaS Manufacturing cloud-based platform simplifies the creation of web-based applications and leverages the strengths of the Internet of Things, Big Data, Data Science, Semantic Modeling and Machine Learning. The platform collects data across the operation (existing and IIoT sensors) to provide actionable real time insights (e.g., identify correlations and root causes, traceability and yield issues, etc.). It creates a new level of capability beyond what independent disconnected operating environments can provide today.

To learn more about ThinkIQ, visit our website.