As we wrap up the year, we want to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful, safe holiday season and happy New Year. This has truly been an extraordinary year for Machine Design.
Join us as we look back at our 2023 cover story series.
The Space Economy Takes Shape
Building on past innovations to develop current technologies turned out to be a common thread among the articles curated for our January/February issue. The idea that a rocket could be floated through the Earth’s atmosphere via a stratospheric balloon filled with hydrogen gas was not new, but one Canadian startup is working on disrupting the space launch industry by using a stratospheric balloon to bypass 99% of the atmosphere without depositing black particles into the ozone. The company, SpaceRyde, aspires to be a space transportation company that builds interplanetary logistics infrastructure.
The DfX Advantage: A Blueprint for Better Product Development
DfX, explored in the March/April issue, is a set of best practices intended to analyze the way a product has been designed with the intention of optimizing the product development cycle. These principles force design and engineering teams to manage risk in the development of the product by considering important manufacturability factors and making changes to the design before a component reaches the shop floor. “Design, by nature, is chaotic in that you have to come up with ideas to solve problems," according to Titu Botos, CEO of Neuronic Works, a design engineering and manufacturing company that casts a Design for Excellence (DfX) lens over product development. “That’s the fun part of design,” he said. But to make sure that you produce good-quality products and achieve the intended outcome, that creative energy needs to be funneled through a filter. Good quality design, Botos reasoned, can be delivered by taking previous experience and boiling it down to a checklist.
The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Industrial Grade AI
At the same time as our fascination and fear of trending generative AI systems heated up, manufacturers were recognizing the practical potential machine learning and other AI techniques are bringing their processes in line with AI advancements (May/June issue). So much so, that it was a core topic at Hannover Messe 2023, the international tradeshow for industrial transformation back in April. “AI really helps to make those design cycles faster, and the output—fingers crossed—better,” said Boris Scharinger, senior innovation manager, Siemens, said during a presentation. The objective for Siemens has been to reach “industrial grade,” a term he coined to refer to the output quality of AI solutions. “We could all be driving autonomous cars, but if I look at you, no-one here today arrived in an autonomous car,” he said. “Why is that? Because we don’t trust that bloody thing yet. If we don’t trust it yet, we all need to work as much as the automotive industry does on the autonomous car to make AI industrial.”
Dark Factories: Finally Ready for the Spotlight?
Sometimes referred to as lights-sparse or lights-out factories, the concept of a dark factory revolves around the development of fully automated production facilities that run 24/7 without human intervention. The July/August issue explored manufacturing automation through the lens of the dark factory. The subtext: Are we there yet? The short answer to that question is: Hardly. But that shouldn’t hold innovators back from querying what the transformation of the assembly line might look like with scarcely a person in sight.
The State of Sustainability: Engineering’s Multi-Pronged Mission
For the Sept/Oct 2023 issue, we invited subject matter experts to highlight the sustainability dimensions to their solutions. Contributors were convinced no single measure can accomplish the comprehensive enhancements necessary to secure a sustainable future. Adithi Murthy’s contribution to the sustainability theme involved driving down energy costs and consumption by using smart sensing technologies to update system design. For Eryn Devola, sustainability should never be a “bolt-on solution.” Instead, embracing a data-driven, digital twin methodology made sense because it carries domain knowledge to every decision made throughout the product lifecycle and ecosystem. These leaders understood the implications of being contributors of global emissions. And because they’re also problem solvers, they’re willing to navigate speedbumps that stand in the way of improving overall environmental performance.
Spotlight on Emergent Technologies: The Next Generation of Productivity Boosters
Given the proliferation of AI-enabled products, it is reasonable to expect advanced machine-learning models will unlock new applications and bolster performance parameters in unimagined ways. Some of the more rugged algorithmic-driven tools showcased in the November/December issue demonstrate that manufacturers are just beginning to discover they can work with AI specialists to develop custom models to power their machinery. The wide range of applications suggest an ultimate quest to overcome bottlenecks and thereby improve productivity and flexibility.
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