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Welding Innovation Improves Manufacturing Versatility

A new friction stir welding technique gives manufacturers the ability to weld complex, three-dimensional shapes.

Friction stir welding (FSW) is a technology that has crept quietly onto the scene over the years with a niche play in the aerospace industry, welding aluminum components together. FSW was developed in 1991 by The Welding Institute and consists of an innovative mechanical principle—heating two adjoining pieces to their plastic state by plunging a rotating tool head into them and mixing them together.

The FSW technique offers several advantages over conventional welding methods, including lower cost operation since it requires no consumables, a more consistent/stronger weld, and a better quality weld due to the weld being formed at a lower temperature.EADS-welding

The Airbus Group is on the forefront of this technology and developed a new head design that is proving to be a game changer. The technology is called DeltaN FS and consists of both mechanical and controls related innovations. The DeltaN FS technology features a compact head with a stationary shoulder, the piece used to support and guide the rotating tool head. Continue Reading →

Adding Senses to Robots Multiplies Manufacturing Value

Advancing technologies have given robots the ability to adapt to the environment around them, greatly increasing their value in production applications in manufacturing.

Watching a robot in action is a pretty cool thing. A six-axis robot can perform moves that are as good, or better, than the human arm, and it can do it fast! We regularly wow students on facility tours who get to see our robot demos in action, zipping from one position to another. I imagine this is the case for automation professionals as well. When touring a manufacturing facility and catch a glimpse of a robot in operation, I eagerly await the opportunity to stand in front of it and watch it do its thing. Maybe this is just my reaction. Am I the only robo-geek out there or do you feel the same?

Unfortunately, more often than not, I am let down by what the robot is actually doing: the same thing over and over, following the same path at the same speed. Beyond the initial wow factor generated by a lot of motion and maybe an innovative end-effector (end-of-arm tool), robots are not really doing anything very cool or providing the value they could be if they were to leverage advancing technology. Continue Reading →

The Perfect Maintenance Storm

As the skilled workforce ages and with few recruits to replace them, manufacturers are facing difficult decisions about how to maintain their automated systems.

A perfect storm is coming, and questions remain as to how U.S. manufacturers are going to navigate it. Manufacturers realize they need to automate to remain viable in today’s manufacturing environment, but with an aging workforce, fewer trade-skilled people entering the industry, a drive to minimize the costs associated with keeping a maintenance staff, and more and more complex automation technologies being implemented, it begs the question: How are these automated systems going to be maintained?

Nearly 12 percent of the workforce was comprised of folks 55 years and older in 1990. That number grew to 19.5 percent in 2010, and is expected to grow to 25 percent in 2020, according to an August 2013 Cornell University study. Couple that with the fact that unemployment levels are not rebounding to pre-2008 levels and it suggests that we are already feeling some swells of the storm. Continue Reading →