How The Robot Revolution Affects the Manufacturing Business
Since the inception of the assembly line , manufacturers have continually searched for ways to improve their efficiency.
In the past few decades, robots have taken over some of the functions of human workers, mostly in repetitive, routine tasks. This has caused alarm for some who are worried about robots taking their jobs.
So how exactly is the robot revolution changing the manufacturing business? Here's what you need to know.
The State of the Robot Revolution
Last year, an 11-inch armless robot named Jibo — a so-called “social robot” — became the latest example of a clear phenomenon: Whether we care to admit it or not, exponentially smarter and more capable robots are coming soon. In truth, they're already everywhere we look: in our planes, in our cars, in operating rooms, next to us on assembly lines, in the military, and on the last mile.
As more robots appear, a new product architecture and more computing power become essential. In 2015, Gill Pratt, who oversaw robotics technology at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), said “robot capabilities had crossed a key threshold.
Improvements in electric energy storage and the exponential growth of computation power and data storage had enabled robots to learn and make decisions informed by the experiences of other robots.” Does that sound frightening? Robots learning from other robots? In a sense, it leads to a larger consumer interest because the smarter robots are, the more helpful they are to humans. The consumer market will approach $100 billion in the coming years.
Today, most of the world's robots are used in factories. What's different is that those robots are smaller, more observant and more cooperative than their predecessors. Venture capitalists are flooding the robot market, which means we will be seeing more of them in our distribution centers and warehouses soon. And it's not just manufacturers who are utilizing robots. Companies from retailers to hotels are implementing the use of smarter machines.
So, not only will more robots become available, the manufacturer of the units, all of their parts, and their internal chips and other technology will greatly affect the robotics industry.
The Changes Wrought By Bots
The upcoming “robot revolution” will change the global economy over the next two decades, cutting the costs of doing business, as machines take over jobs like caring for the elderly or flipping burgers.
Robots can already perform manual jobs, such as vacuuming the living room or assembling machines. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) means computers and robots are improving their ability to “think”. They are on the verge of being able to perform analytical tasks once seen as requiring human cognition.
This begs the question: what jobs could eventually be taken over by machines? Bank of America Merrill Lynch's analysts predict the following jobs to be at risk:
A San Francisco-based start-up called Momentum Machines has designed a robot that would replicate the hot, repetitive tasks of the fast-food worker: shaping burgers from ground meat, grilling them to order, toasting buns, and adding tomatoes, onions, and pickles.
Relatively low-skilled industrial workers in rich countries have become used to competing against cut-price employees in cheaper economies. Replacing workers with machines can cut jobs by up to 90%. Cutting processes such as die cutting is typically done via machine.
Bespoke financial advice seems like the epitome of a “personal” service, but it could soon be replaced by increasingly sophisticated algorithms that can tailor their responses to an individual's circumstances.
Some 570,000 “robo-surgery” operations were performed last year. Oncologists at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have used IBM's Watson supercomputer, which can read 1m textbooks in three seconds, to help them with diagnoses.
Merrill Lynch predicts that the global personal robot market, including so-called “care-bots”, could increase to $17 billion over the next five years, “driven by rapidly ageing populations, a looming shortfall of care workers, and the need to enhance performance and assist rehabilitation of the elderly and disabled”.
Manufacturing Robots Running off Humans?
Should workers be concerned about the infiltration of robotic workers? While the US and Canada have lost more than 6 million jobs to overseas outsourcing, the majority of job losses in both countries was due to machines replacing humans.
The facts, however, tell us that over the past two decades, inflation-adjusted U.S. manufacturing production has grown nearly 40 percent. While there may be fewer jobs, more is getting done. Manufacturing employees have better education, are better paid and produce more valuable products — including technology that allows them to be more productive.
In the past few years, there have been millions of jobs remaining unfilled in the manufacturing sector. The aging workforce is not being replaced by younger workers. Youth are more interested in other work.
There are other issues to consider as well: Robots are safer. They are reliable. They are more ethical than using exploited labor overseas. They're incredibly cost-effective, with manufacturers seeing return on investment in 12 months or less. Robots allow manufacturers to focus on innovation. This creates new jobs that require and build a more educated, highly skilled workforce.
So, will a robot take your job? Possibly. But, in return, workers of the future will likely find more meaningful work, for better pay. But there is also a distinct possibility that more white-collar jobs will be taken by robots with AI.
Jobs in Jeopardy from AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) will also change the face of employment. Digitaltrends researchers found jobs that AI could handle that we humans would never dream of handing over to a machine.
While genuinely bespoke legal work still requires humans, A.I. can help perform tasks ranging from legal discovery (the pre-trial process in which lawyers decide which documents are relevant to a case) to creating contracts. They can even argue parking fines and handle divorce proceedings.
If you want to go into law, study a combination of law and computer science. You could advise on how best to turn laws into algorithms or investigate the legal framework around new technologies like self-driving cars.
Data Entry Clerks
Given the enormous amount of data generated every day by companies and individuals, data entry clerks won't be going anywhere. But, by its very nature, this repetitive and boring job seems designed for a robotic worker or AI. You can snag job security by learning about data science or how to oversee machines doing the data entry.
News organizations could use bots to generate sports reports, or they could try to use AI for more in-depth investigative journalism. Bots could be the hired researcher human journalists always dreamed of, able to pull up statistics and find interesting patterns in data.
Fleets of autonomous vehicles are going to have a huge impact on human service drivers, and autonomous trucks will mean the same thing for long-haul drivers. While the technology for autonomous vehicles is nowhere near perfect, taxi drivers and chauffeurs might want to consider furthering their education in a new field.
You wouldn't think a robot or AI would do well in a sweltering kitchen, right? IBM's Chef Watson can generate new recipes from scratch using an astonishing knowledge of taste chemistry and flavor pairings. And robots like Miso Robotics' burger-preparing Flippy can prepare meals and serving them at speeds human chefs struggle to achieve.
AI gives financial analysts a run for their money. Computers can see patterns and initiate trades faster than even the quickest human analyst. The future for this industry will be in becoming a “quant”: someone able to combine knowledge of the financial sector with computer science and math are highly sought after to help develop the algorithms which increasingly drive this field.
Chatbots can convincingly deliver a script – just like a human. But, one A.I. company, Mattersight, uses voice recognition to determine the personality type of customer service line callers and connect them to humans with a similar personality type.
AI has algorithms to diagnose diseases, computers are being used to recommend the best cancer treatment, AI pharmacists fill prescriptions, wearable AI devices help treat physical disorders, and there are even robots carrying out surgery. But, for the most part, humans will still be needed in medicine. Immediate future technology augments human physicians and healthcare workers rather than replacing them.
There's no doubt that manual labor jobs that once required humans are now be done by robots. Robots can work nonstop without getting tired. But, robots do lack manual dexterity, a skill that requires a human worker. We see this in factory work most often.
Cambridge Industries Group runs a large factory in China. Their goal is to replace 2,000 of its 3,000 workers with machines in the coming year. Shortly after that, it wants the operation to be almost fully automated, creating what's called a “dark factory.” They want to switch the lights off and leave the place to the robots.
But, during a recent test, one of the packaging line robots stopped working, stopping the entire production line and costing the companies thousands. So even CIG acknowledges that replacing humans with machines is not foolproof. There are dozens of companies throughout Asia that hope to replace humans with robots for ultimate cost efficiency.
Introducing throngs of robots cannot be done overnight. That much is clear from the struggles faced by a $130 billion Taiwanese manufacturer named Foxconn. In 2011, the founder said he expected to have a million robots in his plants by 2014. The challenge proved much more difficult than originally thought, and just a few tens of thousands of robots had been deployed within three years.
Chinese robot companies and research institutes have managed to develop industrial robots fitted with a fork-like appendage that can perform routine factory work at terrifying speeds. But factory bots don't begin and end with China.
Rethink Robotics in Boston created a pair of flexible and intelligent industrial machines. The products require very little programming and are equipped with sensors to help them recognize objects and avoid hitting people.
Robots have their place in many manufacturing companies all over the globe. It's time for us to accept them as part of our global economy.
Manufacturing Industries being affected:
Air Handling Equipment
Bulk Material Handling
Plant & Facility Equipment including, Electronic Enclosures, Industrial Ovens, Industrial Lasers, Part Washer, Plastic Pallets, Mezzanines, Tube Forming Machinery, Tension Control Products, Work Benches, and Vacuum Cleaners.
Environmental & Paper - Printers & publishers, recycling, tape and label manufacturers, cardboard, corrugate and tubes.
While many will continue to fear robots and AI for the damage they can do to the job market, when businesses are able to save money with cost effective machinery, they have more resources to higher more skilled workers.
The robot revolution is inevitable. Humans in manual labor jobs need to prepare for adding new skills or starting a whole new career.
Industrial Air Pollution Clean-Up Is On Its Way In 2018
Since 1955, the United States government has recognized the need for legislation to clean up air pollution. Subsequent revisions to the initial legislation strengthened the laws regarding allowable amounts of car emissions, factory smog, and other sources of air pollution.
The most recent version, The Clean Air Act of 1990, tackled five areas: air-quality standards, motor vehicle emissions and alternative fuels, toxic air pollutants, acid rain, and stratospheric ozone depletion.
But now, in 2018, it isn't just legislation and governments fighting air pollution. Private inventors, corporations, and other organizations are harnessing the technology that can aid in cleaning our air all over the world, along with recognizing that some advances in technology are creating more air pollution and combating it with air filter and filtration systems, dust collectors, industrial vacuums, industrial blowers, air compressors, pulverizers, vacuum pumps and many other products.
Technology Is Causing Air Pollution
While it's true that technology is being used to clean up air pollution, it's also been the primary cause.
No technological wonder has caused more air pollution than the horseless carriage. Nearly half of Americans—150 million—live in cities that fail to meet federally designated air quality standards. Cars, vans, trucks, and (think dump trucks, lift trucks and backhoes) are the primary sources of such pollution, which includes the release of excess ozone, release of particulate matter, and release of other smog-forming emissions.
Air pollution health effects need to be taken seriously. Bad air increases respiratory disorders like asthma and bronchitis. Air pollution also increases the risk of life-threatening health conditions, such as cancer, and burdens health care systems with substantial medical costs. Particulate matter alone is responsible for up to 30,000 deaths a year.
Industrial pollution is another primary source of air pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution levels from 1990 to 2008 increased 14 percent. This trend mirrors the number of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in the air. Air pollution has serious effects on the health of the planet and its population.
Factories pollute the air mostly through fossil fuel emissions. Fossil fuel emissions include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. While these are naturally-occurring substances, the extremely high levels of emissions are the main concern. Industrial methods also emit manmade emissions of fluorine-containing gases like hydrofluorocarbons.
As an example, the Bulk Material Handling market is huge and air pollution is inherent in its processes. Bulk material handling is the process of packaging, processing and/or transporting bulk materials in preparation for shipment or sale. Bulk materials include dry materials like wood chips, cereals, coal, loose stone and gravel, ore and sand, as well as mixed wastes. Bulk handling material equipment can be made up of all kinds of individual pieces of equipment, depending on the application a system serves. Typically, though, they are composed of a mixture of stationary and moving equipment. Some examples of stationary bulk material handling equipment include: screw conveyors, conveyor belts, pneumatic conveyors, industrial mixers, industrial dryers, vibratory feeders, industrial scales and load cells and palletizers. Some examples of commonly employed moving or mobile equipment include: mobile hopper loaders and unloaders, shuttles, moving floors and various shuttles. To complete a bulk material handling system, systems may also be integrated into large structures, such as storage facilities integrated with mezzanines and storage racks. Bulk material handling, however, is not confined strictly to the land. Rather, bulk material handling systems are used all the time when loading and unloading cargo ships. In fact, increasingly, a type of bulk material handling equipment called the continuous ship unloader is replacing the gantry crane in ports around the world. Common examples of bulk cargo include grains (rice, wheat, maize, oats, barley, rye, etc.), gravel, coal, cements, dry edible agricultural products (livestock feed, peanuts, flour, seeds, raw or refined sugar, starches, etc.), iron, bauxite and petroleum or crude oil.
Aerosols are another significant source of air pollution There are many countries, starting with the United States, which are making significant progress in cutting down on air pollution that is directly related to aerosols.
How Technology Has Helped Decrease Air Pollution in Recent Years
Thankfully, we've already made some steps toward cutting the amount of air pollution, and it's critical that we continue to do so.
The environmental effects of air pollution mean the destruction of oxygen producing plants and damage to long-term forest viability, deterioration of nutrients in the soil, toxins making their way into the food chain, killing and damage of aquatic life in streams, rivers, and lakes, and nitrogen overload in coastal estuaries leading to oxygen depletion and harm to fish and other aquatic animals.
Reducing air pollution has so many benefits! Clean air increases timber and crop yields, and better visibility conditions in 2010 in selected national parks and large cities had an impact of saving $34 billion.
Solar energy has been an alternative source of electricity for decades, though it is not widely used. Sunlight that reaches Earth's surface provides, “…10,000 times more energy than we consume, and solar power aims to harness this force.” Solar technologies use sunlight captured through solar cells to provide electricity for heating, cooling, and even running small electronics like a calculator.
Researchers have determined that if we covered only 0.1 percent of the Earth's surface with efficient solar cells, we could replace all other forms of energy. University researchers around the world are trying to develop advanced solar arrays using nanotechnology. Their hope is to harness the sun as our primary form of energy.
The EPA, since the early millennia, has mandated significant reductions in emissions from newer cars, vans, trucks, and non-road engines like those used in construction, agriculture, and industry, as well as trains and marine ships. They called for these changes using standards that combine cleaner fuels and cleaner engine technologies. Since the EPA began regulating through the 1970 Clean Air Act, emissions from all types of vehicles have been reduced from 90-99%.
This led to the development of the electric car and hybrid vehicles. They were first made noticeable by celebrity owners, but now the everyday drivers' worries about increasing gas prices and the damage fossil fuels have on the environment, have created a demand and market for hybrids.
Sales of hybrid cars like Toyota's Prius, doubled in January 2006 compared to the year before, with nearly 16,000 cars sold. Hybrids are built with smaller gasoline engines, electric motors, and rechargeable batteries. They deliver outstanding gas mileage and create far less air pollution than traditional vehicles.
In newly built plants that use coal as fuel, builders must install control devices that “capture up to 98 percent of the sulfur dioxide and in many cases 90 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions, relative to uncontrolled levels.”
Clean technologies are being introduced and old tech is being improved. Though catalysts, scrubbers, and low-VOC paints and coatings were not used in 1970, they have been proven to be effective and are widely deployed today across industries.
Some examples include:
- Selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
- Scrubbers which achieve 95 percent and even greater SO2 control on boilers
- Sophisticated new valves, seals and leak detection equipment, including cameras that can see leaks, for refineries and chemical plans
- Low or zero VOC paints, consumer products and cleaning processes
- Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)-free air conditioners
- , refrigerators, aerosol sprays and cleaning solvents
- Water and powder-based coatings or plating to replace petroleum-based formulations
- Market penetration of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and clean fuels
- Routine use of continuous monitoring technology that provides data more quickly
- Multi-pollutant monitors that helps us to better understand the complex nature of air pollution
New Technology to Control Air Pollution
One of the newest technologies to spring up recently is artist Daan Roosegaarde's Smog Free Tower. Roosegaarde traveled to Beijing in 2014, and from his hotel room on the 32nd floor, he could not see the city. “It was all gone,” Roosegaarde says. “The city was completely covered with smog.”
Now, he is on tour with the world's largest, and most impressive, air purifier. The Smog Free Tower will make bubbles of clean air wherever they are placed. Roosegaarde hopes his product will raise public awareness of the dangers of air pollution.
Through ion technology, the Smog Free Tower and Static Eliminator attracts and absorbs small pollution particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — and blows out clean air, leaving a 75% improvement in the air quality. Residues from paint finishing equipment in the manufacturing environment can also produce an abundance of pollution particles.
The tower is seven-meters high and cleans approximately 30,000 cubic meters of air every hour, the equivalent of “a small neighborhood a day,” notes Roosegaarde. One of its most positive qualities is that it requires only 1,400 watts of power — no more than a tea kettle.
Since the late 1990s, the EPA has required industrial plants to lower their emissions. This led to scrubbers. These pollution reduction devices are capable of removing toxic substances from exhaust streams or may neutralize them into harmless or even recyclable substances.
Another industrial pollution reduction option is Baghouses. These are filtration structures that have been retrofitted to power plants across the country. They catch fine particulates—tiny levels of soot, dirt, and chemicals that damage lungs and create smog. Baghouses are like huge vacuum cleaners. They are lined with fabric filter “bags” that are routinely cleaned or replaced.
Another type of air pollution reduction device is Bioreactors. This differs from the large-scale devices used in most industrial plants because “scientists are experimenting with tiny, simple living organisms called cyanobacteria that eat polluting carbon dioxide (CO2).” While most living organisms could never survive a smokestack, these algae flourish in the sweltering temperatures of industrial chimneys.
So, researchers designed “bioreactors.” These window-screen membranes are teeming with cyanobacteria and will be installed into power plant smokestacks in the near future. The light needed to sustain the algae would come from fiber- optic cables streaming light across the membranes. The algae will grow inside the chimneys while gorging on CO2 exhaust.
Finally, we can look to a technology that is already up and running: Biodiesel. This fuel alternative comes from any vegetable oil—including recycled vegetable oil from restaurants—and can power most diesel-engine vehicles without modification.
Since 2005, 75 million gallons have been sold in the United States, and many government vehicles use it as fuel. While it burns 78 percent cleaner than oil-based diesel, it is twice as expensive, and availability is scattered. Although only a fraction of US vehicles run on diesel, new fuel-efficient models on the market continue to gain in popularity.
What WE can do to Clean Up Air Pollution
As consumers, we can help by encouraging companies to use the clean air technologies available to them. These companies and corporations are in the business of making money. If consumers stop buying their products because they aren't taking pollution seriously, they will go down the drain themselves.
We can also help by investing in alternative energy options like wind, solar, and hybrid vehicles. Such investments would not only help in reducing pollution of all kinds, but ultimately, these investments will pay for themselves and save money for Americans in the long-term. We have the power to make positive changes in air pollution!
Tariffs and Trade Wars
One of the key ingredients to maintaining a positive global marketplace is collegial trade between countries. Many partnerships are strong and create a win-win situation for all concerned parties.
But, there are still many countries who cannot come to an agreement about the ratio of imports to exports between the nations. These disagreements can escalate into imposed tariffs and the beginnings of a trade war.
So why should we be concerned about tariffs and trade wars? Here's what you need to know.
What Is a Trade War?
A trade war occurs when nations enforce quotas or tariffs on imports and foreign countries retaliate in a similar fashion. As it intensifies, a trade war stymies international trade.
A trade war can begin when a nation tries to protect domestic industry and create jobs, and at times it can work in the short-term. But long-term, a trade war costs jobs and dampens economic growth for everyone. It can also generate inflation because tariffs raise the prices of imported goods.
America's last major trade war happened after imposition of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which increased 900 import tariffs from 40-48%. It was supposed to support U.S. farmers whose land had been devastated by the Dust Bowl, but it resulted in higher food prices for Americans who were already crippled by the Great Depression.
America's trade partners at the time hit back with their own tariffs and global trade fell by 65%, worsened the depression, and contributed to the beginning of World War II.
After Smoot-Hawley, the country suffered tremendously. The general public had little understanding of tariffs or trade agreements.
What Is A Tariff?
A tariff is a tax on imported or exported goods, and funds collected by tariffs are called a duties or customs duties. Tariffs can often be utilized by governments to create revenue or to protect domestic industries from cheap goods made by the competition such as in Industrial Ovens, Clean Rooms, Hose Reels to Linear Actuators, Brushes and Plastic bags.
Two types of tariffs are typically used.
According to investinganswers.com, “Ad valorem tariffs are calculated as a fixed percentage of the value of the imported good. When the international price of a good rises or falls, so does the tariff. A specific tariff is a fixed amount of money that does not vary with the price of the good. In some cases, both the ad valorem and specific tariffs are levied on the same product.”
Unfortunately, taxes on imports and exports make foreign goods more expensive for consumers, which causes a decrease in imports, a decrease in supplies, and an increase in the price of the good.
Some economists will posit that the subsequent higher consumer prices, higher producer profits and revenues, and higher government revenues show that tariffs are a way to transfer money from consumers to the government. However, most economists argue that tariffs restrict free market ideals and divert resources to domestic businesses that are less efficient than overseas manufacturers.
This inevitably leads to conflicts between specific countries.
Countries in Conflict
The escalation of any trade war from threat to reality affects global supply chains, increase costs for businesses, as well as consumers, and impact global stock markets, which are already volatile due to the anticipation of a lengthy trade fight between the United States and other global trade partners.
In July of 2018, the US and China started attacking each other with tariffs. U.S. tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products took effect, changing a war of words between China and the US into a full-blown trade war.
The United States' 25% duties affected products such as water boilers, X-ray machine components, airplane tires and various other industrial parts. China immediately implemented retaliatory tariffs on its $34 billion list of goods issued in June of 2018, including Electric Heaters, Electric Transformers, Check Valves, Solenoid Valves and Flow Meters.
President Donald Trump has stated that another $16 billion in tariffs are expected to be implemented soon. The President said he is ready to impose additional tariffs on $500 billion in Chinese goods, if Beijing retaliates. And the trade wars don't stop with China.
President Trump also threatened to impose a 20% tariff on European cars coming to America if the European Union doesn't eliminate its trade barriers.
The European Union has stated that America's trading partners could retaliate against approximately $300 billion of US exports if the president decides to impose tariffs on automobile, imports from around the globe.
These types of spiraling trade conflicts threaten to derail a recovering global economy, according to the World Trade Organization. In May of 2018, the US government launched an investigation, into imports of automobiles, known as Section 232, meant to determine whether specific imports are a danger to US national security.
According to cnn.com, “The European Union has said the US investigation ‘lacks legitimacy, factual basis and violates international trade rules.' And it has argued that new tariffs on autos would damage the American economy.”
But, there is hope on the trade horizon. President Donald Trump has stated that the United States and the European Union have begun a "new phase" in their relationship, stating that the two large economies would start negotiating immediately, working toward "zero tariffs" on industrial products, and further collaboration on energy concerns.
President Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to work toward an agreement that included zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies for the non-auto industrial goods.
Economists have stated that, among the issues under consideration, tariffs on imported cars could be a huge threat to the U.S. economy. Juncker agreed that the two leaders would continue to negotiate and were reconsidering existing tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Key details of the arrangement have not been disclosed, but the leaders did agree not to impose further tariffs while negotiations continue - this would help stop a trade war between Europe and the United States.
As reported by CNBC, “. . . it could have been a hell of a lot worse. They agreed to keep talking. Considering how bellicose Trump was when he said ‘tariffs are great.' I think this was the best outcome you could have hoped for,” said Greg Valliere, global strategist at Horizon Investments. “The reaction from Republicans on Capitol Hill has been so hostile to Trump's tariff proposal, that that maybe was a factor in them agreeing to keep talking.”
As the world focuses on impending trade wars, consumers are left wondering how this will affect prices and supply and demand for internationally produced goods.
How Does Trade War Affect Me?
The main way trade wars affect consumers is in consumer goods pricing. The current trade war has already increased the prices of consumer goods made of aluminum and steel. Domestic manufacturers that are dependent on imported raw materials are responding to the higher costs. Since they lose profits when tariffs are imposed, their only choice is to cut jobs.
But, the tariffs allow domestic producers of that product to adjust their prices. Their prices would be lower than those who use imports to produce their goods. This would result in more orders from local customers and a need to add jobs to meet the demand.
As a result of the announced tariffs, several U.S. industries were affected. Mid-Continent Nail in Missouri was forced into layoffs because steel prices were too high for them to turn a profit.
Harley-Davidson is moving some production overseas to avoid retaliatory European Union tariffs.
The Maine lobster industry is suffering from Chinese retaliatory tariffs on U.S. harvested seafood. California cheese makers are already seeing their markets in China and Mexico disappear, Wisconsin auto parts producers are experiencing a reduction in profits, and the U.S. bourbon industry has also been hit hard by tariffs.
Foreign tariffs on U.S. exports make them more costly, and U.S. exporters may have to take drastic steps to remain competitively priced, including layoffs. If their steps fail, they may even go out of business.
Long-term, trade wars stifle economic development and create layoffs as foreign countries retaliate. There are millions of U.S. workers whose jobs rely on exports – and they could get laid off.
Here is what some major manufacturers are saying:
Andrew Smith from LSP Industries “We've had a decrease in production”.
Jenni Gillet fromTyler Madison “No tariffs from Taiwan! Still waiting to hear what Korea and China decide to do. Most companies in the wire rope industry have implemented price increases of 4-5%”.
Todd Kritzer fromKady International “Stock items now seem to be running out for several weeks. The unpredictability of these items is backing up machine and broaching shops and is making it difficult for us to quote accurately”.
Bruce Weaver fromGreat Lakes Engineering “Small increase of about 5% on aluminum and we hear more are coming through”. Metal Etching
Paul Beezhold fromEsma Inc “We had an increase of 15% on one item and 5% on another while 3 remaining items had no price increase”. Ultrasonic Cleaners
Dave Leeney fromSag Harbor Industries “This morning we got a 9.5% increase from Cosmo due to a raw material tariff”. Electric Coils
Doug Colliver fromWestern Roller Corp. “Our steel vendor has been passing along tariffs for the past 2 months and we have been absorbing the costs.”
Russell J GreerFCP Mezzanines Inc.
“FCP has experienced steel tariff cost related increases of between 20-35%.
These increases have made many projects outside the approved budget. Customers are having to delay initiating projects until they can get the increased budget approved. While many projects have been delayed, the overall demand for mezzanines has remained strong.”
Jude Masters American Urethane, Inc.
“We have seen continuing pricing pressures.” Molded urethane and Urethane Rollers
Steve Cellary Ford Fasteners. Inc.
“We have not heard anything from our customers yet, but that could change soon. Right now, we are only knowing what is published in the news and we don't have any more to offer. The reports are saying that our products are affected by the new tariffs.” Screw Machine
Steve Talan Talan Products Inc.
Bernie RockovichRemaly Manufacturing Company, Inc.
Jeff Folkins Sag Harbor Industries, Inc.
“Wire pricing has been rising”
While a short-term trade skirmish can help domestic industries, protracted trade wars weaken domestic industry, which creates a decline in the quality of products and removes the incentive for manufacturers to innovate and create new or improved products.
While trade wars are messy and have long-term repercussions, the goal is ultimately to maintain fair trade between nations. Trade is a key element in economic stability and trade wars affect the health of the economy.
Regardless of which nations engage in trade wars, their actions ultimately affect the everyday consumer with fluctuating prices for goods and services. The instability caused by trade wars has as much potential to damage an economy as it does to ultimately create a better economic situation for the nations involved.
3D Printing Is Hot…And It's Only Going To Get Hotter
We often think of 3D printing as a new technology with futuristic implications, but we rarely stop to consider how far it's come or where it could be in another few years.
3D printing was invented by Charles Hull in 1984, and in the ensuing 34 years we have developed ways to scan and 3D print objects in real time and have even begun one of the most science-fiction endeavors yet–3D printing human organs.
Still, 3D printing has yet to reach its full potential, and that's a good thing. With everything we've achieved and all the breakthroughs still being made, it's only a matter of time before niche achievements carried out under perfect laboratory conditions become repeatable (and affordable) options for 3D printing hubs across the globe and currently being used in valves, gears, containers, switches and power cords.
3D printers offer us a look at how computer and software technology can create meaningful changes in hardware by revolutionizing the design and physical creation processes often with plastic. Here's a look at where 3D printing is in 2018 and where it's headed in the future.
Printing Organs, Saving Lives
For a while, the talk of 3D printed body parts was nothing more than theoretical science fiction. Sure, some researchers had figured out how to use a semi-organic material in a 3D printer and had even activated some living cells that replicated on the formed compound to create something like a real liver in a petri dish.
But in the last few years, things have progressed dramatically. In recent years, scientists have 3D printed a replacement foot for a duck, a new jaw for an elderly woman with a bone infection, and a few early clinical trials have shown success using the next-generation of 3D printing to replace people's own failing organs using CAT scans for shape and their own cells as a source of DNA to bring the organs to life.
This process is referred to as 3D bioprinting by industry insiders, and it is enjoying widespread adoption and funding that promises to further accelerate progress towards fully-functioning bioprinted organs that can be used instead of transplants from organ donors.
Research labs have already begun to use 3D bioprinted organs to conduct medical tests, which both reduces the need for animal testing and legitimizes bioprinted organs as more successful clinical studies show that the organs are a suitable replacement for naturally-sourced human organs.
A medical device company recently created a 3D printed bionic ear that combines the external structure and an internally-wound hearing aid that offers both a lifelike prosthesis and advanced hearing aid technology that is aided by its integration into the silicon-based external ear.
This sort of integrated manufacturing promises to change and improve all prosthetic-style devices by making more lifelike prosthetics more capable than ever before and eliminating many processes such as laser cutting, roll forming, and deburring.
All of today's 3D-printed implants and prosthetics are more like fully-customized inorganic prosthetics than living and breathing organs, but the line is quickly blurring as more firms make more progress towards printing exact replicas of human organs and activating the tissues using grafts or samples from patients.
Today, 3D printing delivers extremely customized synthetic implants like new mandibles, duck feet, and components of external prosthetics that used to require intensive shaping by hand that was more art than science.
The ability to work with multiple materials and use highly-accurate measurements means that 3D printers will be welcomed in virtually every medical field as materials science catches up to the software and hardware behind 3D scanning and printing especially in regards to fibre drums and metering pump technology and pressure sensing or load sensing and molding technologies.
Just as with creating body parts, the only limit to 3D printing is how sophisticated the materials science is and how large of a 3D printer you have access to. 3D printers are increasingly utilized in art installations and one-off niche problem-solving applications as they allow manufacturers to create highly specific or esoteric components like flexible couplings without requiring customized tooling in a traditional manufacturing setting. Larger manufacturer-sized systems may even have unusual components such as a pressure gauge or transducer.
At this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, a 3D printing and construction startup called ICON upped the ante on 3D printing by 3D printing a complete home in real-time on the grounds of an event.
The home is made of a concrete compound and can be 3D printed in under 24 hours for $4,000. Even with such nascent and proprietary technology for large-scale 3D printing, the results are impressive.
The company aims to use this technology to transform affordable housing options, and its first endeavor is building a neighborhood of 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador. As time passes, ICON and other large-scale firms will continue to perfect 3D printing at the commercial scale, and it's only a matter of time before we see the booming prefabricated housing field and the 3D printing field intersect to further drive down construction costs while bringing high-design architecture to every lot and budget size.
And when it comes to complex architectural designs or engineering challenges, 3D printing will push the envelope far beyond today's formed and reinforced concrete. These materials triumphs will lead to changes in both high-design flagship projects and repeatable, affordable construction in developing nations and expensive urban areas alike and impact the material demand for graphite and enclosed products.
It will also transform the imbalance of skill and labor demand in many areas, thus reducing development barriers from recently-growing urban areas that typically see dramatic increases in construction costs as the labor pool becomes occupied by the largest and highest-bidding contracts.
Just as tooling costs for certain components can make architectural sketches cost prohibitive, if not impossible, to bring to reality, remanufacturing small parts for out-of-production devices is often impossible once the assembly lines are shut down and the tooling is lost forever. Manufacturing costs such as heating and equipment such as electric discharge machining, and enclosures will be greatly lessened.
For fans of niche hobbies or uncommon objects, 3D printing has brought life back to countless thousands of previously ‘obsolete' items that were likely missing one part that kept them from being usable.
From brake cable housings on vintage bicycles to ink cartridge clips on antique typewriters to membrane switches, 3D printing can enable serious archivists and amateur hobbyists to complete their projects and reduce manufacturing waste and functional product obsolescence.
Similarly, micro manufacturing enables a new generation of consumer goods to be produced on-demand, allowing for both increased customization and reduced inventory or resource waste.
One of the simplest and most ubiquitous examples of 3D printing in the mainstream mico manufacturing world is custom phone cases that allow you to order a case for virtually any modern cell phone with any color combination or design that you choose. Some companies may even develop systems to automate the ordering, manufacturing and shipping process for products like ball screw slides.
Cell phone and other small tech device cases are an ideal candidate for 3D printing, because they typically employ easy-to-print materials like silicon or plastic, are in high demand thanks to a booming global consumer technology industry, and are not a good candidate for large inventory due to the rapidly-evolving nature of the smartphone, tablet, and laptop industries.
3D printing helps to reduce waste and keep pace with ever-changing trends and consumer demands in this and many similar fields.
The Future of 3D Printing
The 3D printing industry is projected to nearly double from a 2018 total of $12.8 billion to over $21 billion in 2020, which indicates that its adoption and applications are still spreading rapidly.
Many major conventional manufacturers have already partially or completely transitioned from conventional manufacturing and inventory to 3D printing and ‘digital inventory' models which allow them to create products on-demand while virtually eliminating tooling and prototyping costs.
The potential of this manufacturing model allows for far faster design and testing phases, ongoing product updates, and increased product ‘lifespan' thanks to the ability to create replacement or updated parts without maintaining a physical inventory or active assembly line involving conveyors, lifts, pumps, balers, and CNC.
As commercial demand for 3D printing technology increases, it will continue to drive further improvements in available technology while making devices more affordable to a wider range of industries and businesses. Much of the technology for creating futuristic-sounding 3D printed products exists today but requires affordability and widespread adoption to become viable.
Alongside this progress in the commercial and consumer-facing 3D printed product realm, the medical field will continue to make advances towards transplant-ready 3D-printed organs, which many consider to be the ultimate realization of this technology.
The intersection of computer software that models and designs given goods, printing hardware that can turn these models into reality, and materials science that will continue to push the envelope of what's possible in 3D printing will move us towards a future where 3D printing is less of a novelty and more of a given across manufacturing and medical realms.
Engineering: There's Much More To It Than You Think
We'll be honest: this article is going to primarily appeal to those who love engineering. Is that a small group of people? Probably. But engineering is critically important, if you've ever considered a career in engineering, this article is for you.
Engineering is the field of science concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, structures, and machines, and modern engineers use their skills for simple machines, computer technology, and building satellites.
Engineering is an occupation with extremely wide reach. Engineering covers many fields and many skills. Engineers are scientists, designers, inventors, builders and thinkers. They work to improve the state of the world, magnify human capability and make everyday life safer and easier.
Engineering requires a specific skill set:
- Understanding and practice of the scientific method
- Social, cultural and economic awareness
- Exceptional mathematics skills
- Awareness and competence in biology, chemistry, physics and other areas of science
The many fields of engineering give us machines and devices that help us in our daily living, and engineers of all stripes make things work and then improve upon the original. Engineers use creativity and invention to design solutions for global issues.
The Many Types Of Engineers
The reason many people are attracted to engineering work is because of the variety of tasks and environments available to them.
Originally, engineering had four disciplines: chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and each discipline had several branches. Now, those branches have become their own disciplines.
Aerospace Engineers work on aircraft, aerospace vehicles and propulsion systems. They are in research and development for new planes, helicopters, jets, gliders, missiles and spacecraft.
These engineers work on conserving and developing the world's natural resources including soil, land, water, forests, and rivers.
Biomedical Engineers work with physicians, doing research and development to improve health care and medical services.
Chemical Engineering examines the ways raw materials can be changed into useful commercial end products. Researching the properties of raw materials, design and development of appropriate machines, pumps, valves, gaskets, seals, orings, and ongoing evaluation of operating processes are all duties of a Chemical Engineer.
Food Engineers design and develop equipment and production systems such as using a heat exchanger and stainless steel tanks and tubing to create a custom fryer, and engineering processes that increase the shelf life of food while maintaining its integrity and nutrition.
Petroleum & Petrochemical Engineering
Engineers in this field explore, discover, harvest, use and improve oil and natural gas. They are constantly researching and testing new, safer, more economical methods of removing oil and gas from the earth.
The equipment that produces our millions of life-saving medications is designed and operated by pharmaceutical engineers.
Process Control Engineers create and maintain computer software and systems made to control the quality and quantity of products during manufacturing such as running aindustrial parts washer.
Production Engineers make certain equipment in production facilities is maintained and operating at peak level such as electric hoists, boilers, heat exchangers, blowers, dryer systems and hydraulic presses.
Civil Engineers design infrastructure, including dams, pipelines, bridges, roads, towers and buildings.
GEs provide information on how the rocks and soil beneath a planned structure will behave under pressure.
Hydraulics (Water) Engineering
The stresses of nature on buildings are the concern of Structural Engineers. They must also consider human traffic, motor vehicles, and other creators of wind, vibrations, and instabilities.
Transport Engineers design, test and improve transportation systems, including traffic intersections, train lines, and other veins of transportation within populated areas.
Coastal and Ocean Engineering
Coastal and Ocean Engineers work at the border between land and the sea, in the open ocean, and understand the dynamic natural environment.
Electrical Engineering includes electronics, computer systems, telecommunications, and electrical power. Electrical Engineers design and build machines and systems that create, transport, measure, control and use electrical energy through cords.
Environmental Engineers assess the impact a project has on the air, water, soil and noise levels in the surrounding environment.
Industrial Engineers draw upon specialized knowledge and skills in mathematics, physics, physiological and social sciences to optimize the use of human and material resources for the most efficient outcomes in industry.
Marine Engineers design, test, and improve machinery and equipment used at sea. This can include propulsion units, electrical systems, refrigeration, air conditioning, cargo handling and domestic services equipment.
Materials Engineers test how materials behave when under pressure, heated, or joined with other materials such as magnets, lubrication liquids, fiberglass, o-rings and plastic tubing or rubber tubing.
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineers turn energy into motion and power. Mechanical Engineers design, create and improve systems and machinery used for domestic, industrial and public use in such areas as shredding, infrared heating, mobile lifts, sandblast equipment, machine repair, linear actuators, solenoid valves, linear slides, packaging, finishing equipment and other work areas.
Minerals and Metallurgical Engineering
These engineers /turn raw material into valuable products; for example, they turn bauxite into aluminum. After all, the right metal makes a spring much more effective. These engineers use different treatments to process materials efficiently, using physical or chemical separations and metallurgical processes.
Mining Engineers work with geologists to plan and execute the extraction of ore and mineral deposits, along with the extraction of non-metals like coal and uranium. They have to find the safest and cheapest way to remove the minerals from the earth.
Resource Engineering is about the development and use of natural resources. This includes the development, control, and conservation of water resources, soil conservation, and other land and pollution concerns.
Risk assessment by this type of engineer involves analysis based on chemistry, physics and other aspects of a project. They identify potential hazards, how likely those hazards are to occur, and what response should be made in the event the potential hazard becomes a reality.
Software Engineers design and modify software systems to support our businesses, transportation hubs, and even our digital games and social media.
Any one of these engineering disciplines can lead to a successful, long-term career.
Engineering involves many specialties and there are many opportunities for employment. Each of the disciplines listed above needs many specialists to work in the field effectively, like aeronautical engineers, agricultural engineers, automotive engineers, biomedical engineers, and many more.
Following is a snapshot of what one can earn with a career in engineering:
Engineering Occupation Average Annual Salary
Aerospace Engineers $107,700
Architectural & Engineering Managers $138,720
Biomedical Engineers $91,760
Chemical Engineers $103,590
Civil Engineers $87,130
Computer Hardware Engineers $110,650
Electrical Engineers $95,780
Environmental Engineers $86,340
Health & Safety Engineers $84,850
Industrial Engineers $85,110
Marine Engineers $99,160
Mechanical Engineers $87,140
Mining & Geological Engineers $100,970
Nuclear Engineers $104,630
Petroleum Engineers $147,520
Ship Engineers $74,600
(All data from the BLS, ABET, & NCES)
Future Engineering Challenges
Despite our society's advancements, there are still engineering challenges facing the engineering field. Among these challenges are the following:
- Upgrading the United States infrastructure
- Educating first world engineers to solve third world problems
- Promoting green engineering to improve sustainability
- Identifying viable alternative energy solutions
- Rethinking how cities are designed and function
- Making STEM more appealing to young students
- Safeguarding data and wealth from cyberattacks
- Addressing climate change through engineering
- Feeding the growing world population through bio-engineering and agricultural innovation
- Improving health and well-being through life sciences, nanotechnology, and bio-engineering
To address these challenges, we need more students to join the varied disciplines of engineering as soon as possible.
Engineers of the future need to be good decision-makers who protect the environment and enhance the quality of life on Earth. They must also work well with others in making the best decisions when interdisciplinary projects are attempted.
As a result of our changing world, new disciplines of engineering are emerging:
Earth Systems Engineering
This type of engineering seeks to acknowledge the complexity of world problems and encourage the use of more holistic approaches, rather than simply seeking a single solution for a problem.
Engineering for Developing Communities
As the needs of the developing world for engineering solutions continues to increase, engineers in the industrialized can contribute to the relief of the hunger, injustice, exploitation, and pain of people trying to survive around the globe.
As the population continues to expand globally, engineers may have the keys to improving life for those who suffer in poverty, with disease, and without basic machinery to make life easier.
From our first practical artists and builders, to today's computer geniuses, engineers have defined how we live our lives, make our contributions to society, and utilize our innate talents and skills.
Their contributions to society can be seen all around us. It is the future of engineering to take these machines and processes to places where the people have never dreamed of such technologies.
Trade War with China will hit OEM manufacturers first
As trade relations between China and the United States deteriorate, OEM manufacturers and their metal suppliers are caught in the middle.
Who is affected first?
Jim Netti from Metalmen Sales says “when the possibility of tariffs were announced, many buyers, concerned about the security of their supply chain and motivated by the desire to purchase at pre-tariff prices, rushed to place orders for the existing inventory. And price in effect (P.I.E.) clauses were put into place lending an air of discomfort.
As a result, there are many manufacturers who are unable to source for production, or must wait long lead times, or must pay premiums.”
Metals such as stainless steel, nickel, copper, aluminum, tungsten, titanium come in many different forms. Typically when referring to industrial metals, suppliers will include a number of products like bars, foils, plates, rods, sheets, rolls, strips, wires and various other forms like aluminum extrusions, wire cloth and stainless steel tubing. Suppliers frequently offer customized solutions as many types of metals can be manipulated to fit particular specifications. Many steel service centers will first feel the effects of the tariffs.
What segments of the OEM market will bear the brunt of the price increase and the resulting revamping of resources?
Metal industries affected
CNC & Waterjet Cutting
Metal Forming industries affected
Grey Iron Castings
The far reaching impact to the OEM market will be significant in regards to pricing and inflation, supply shortages, and growth and employment for the OEM manufacturing industries. A quick resolution to the trade imbalances will solve many unseen economic manifestations that will occur due to these structural artificial impediments to the overall economy.
- by Mike Meiresonne, IQS Directory
PENDING CHINA TARIFFS HAVING A CHILLING EFFECT ON SPOT PE PRICES ON RESINS FOR PLASTIC Molding Manufacturers and Companies
FIRST, LET’S REVIEW THE Plastic Molding Processes
Plastic processes differ greatly in both the way they form plastic products and in the shape and structural integrity of the products they manufacture. Plastic molding processes vary greatly in cost. High end plastic molding processes, such as rotational molding and injection molding, provide precision three dimensional plastic parts with structural integrity and impact resistance few other processes or materials can provide. On the other end of the spectrum, rotomolding, vacuum forming, blow molding and dip molding processes offer very affordable options for long runs and mass production of containers and household commodity items. A wide range of plastic materials are molded through these processes, although some processes are more effective with certain polymers than others.
Injection Molded Plastics
This is one of the most common forms of plastic molding, and the process can range widely in cost, depending on the complexity of the part being molded and the materials which are used. Injection molding produces three dimensional, solid parts with mid to high strength and is unique in plastic molding processes, as it can produce relatively complex shapes. Advanced injection molding techniques include insert molding and reaction injection molding (RIM); insert molding dies contain a solid object, such as an electric coil, around which the molten plastic is injected, creating an encapsulated object. Reaction injection molding combines a liquid resin thermoset polymer (typically polyurethane) with liquid polyisocyanate, which acts as a reagent within the mold, causing the polymers to expand and form bubbles (either open or closed cell foam), filling the mold.
Plastic extrusions are formed similarly to the way injection molded plastics are formed, although extrusions are formed through an open die. Plastic resins such as PVC, acrylic, polypropylene or ABS are fed through a hopper into the extruding barrel, which shears and melts the resin, pushing it through the open die to form a profile or shape. This profile is immediately immersed in cold water to set the plastic; the profile is extruded continuously, passing through the die, through cold water tanks and onto a sawing table, where pre-specified lengths are cut. Most common products are plastic tubing / and plastic tanks.
Plastic Blow Molding
Numerous products are made from blow molding. Any consumer item that has a three-dimensional shape and is hollow, such as and plastic tanks and CD and carrying cases, is manufactured using the blow molding process. Blow molded products are capable of holding a variety of substances such as herbicides, pesticides, cosmetics, and automotive oil. The plastic utilized for these processes are all thermoplastic resins. They include acetal, polysulfone, polyamide, polystyrene, butadiene styrene, Barex, polyvinyl chrloride (PVC), and high and low density polycarbonate.
Dip molding plastic is one of the simplest means of molding plastic and, like blow molding, is capable of producing a large number of parts or products at low cost. The dip molding process serves in one of two manufacturing capacities: to create whole flexible or rigid products such as rubber gloves, condoms and plastic caps; or to coat pre-manufactured products such as wire racks, wire cable and plastic coated handles.
Polyurethane is a material that is valued for its uses in “memory foam” products due to its flexibility and rigidity. Polyurethane is also a valuable material for products such as solid plastic forms, polyurethane rods, urethane wheels, urethane brushings, and urethane sheets. Urethane rolls is another common product with American Urethane being a leader. Polyurethane moldings have an excellent reputation for their high performance. Their longevity is greater than that of plastic, and are more impact-resistant than rubber. It also has elastic memory, reduces noise, and is resistant to heat and chemicals. It possesses many of the good qualities of metal, rubber, and plastics, and is capable of forming strong adhesive bonds with most plastics and metals.
Rotational plastic molding is capable of achieving plastic parts with more strength and structural complexity than any other plastic molding processes. Unlike other plastic molding methods, rotational molding produces a relatively low volume of parts in what are typically short runs, due to the amount of time and equipment required for rotational molding. Rotationally molded plastics may not be mass produced like blow molded, dip molded or thermoformed parts, and this process is typically reserved for complex or high-performance parts such as plastic figurines and military-spec rackmount carrying cases.
Vacuum formed plastics are used as faceplates and semi-flat components in a wide range of industries, particularly in electronic equipment such as fax machines, keyboards, phones and home appliances. Also known as thermoforming, or pressure forming, the vacuum forming process begins with stock plastic sheets rather than polymer resin pellets; these sheets are heated until the polymer reaches a flexible temperature, then they are vacuumed into an open mold, causing the heated sheets to “thermoform” to the exact shape of the die mold beneath. Twin sheet thermoforming is commonly used to create large and precision application parts such as hot tubs and interior wall panels for aerospace, but thermoforming is also a highly cost-effective means of producing three-dimensional plastic packaging. Blister packs, clamshells, plastic covers, plastic trays and other plastic packaging can be produced for low costs at high runs by vacuum forming.
In the creation of fiberglass-reinforced plastic products, fiberglass molding is the most frequently used process. Fiberglass is made when molten glass is extruded through very fine openings in a tool. This extrusion process produces threadlike formations in the glass that are later put through heat treatment or pressing and mixed with plastic resin.
Obviously, the plastic molding industry is a large segment of our economy and consumers and suppliers will be affected by the increases in cost from these tariffs.