Author: Rich Novicky

Clearing a Path to Innovation

One of the best ways to clear the obstacles that stand in the way of innovation is to support the growth of innovation ecosystems, such as those that are currently being developed by the 14 Manufacturing USA Innovation Institutes that have sprung up around the country in the last five years.

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Divergent 3D Enters Strategic Partnership with SLM Solutions Group

LOS ANGELES & LÜBECK, Germany—Divergent 3D recently announced that it has entered into a strategic development partnership with SLM Solutions Group, a manufacturer of 3D metal printing equipment. SLM Solutions Group will work closely with Divergent to develop specific hardware and software to accelerate scaling of the patented Divergent Manufacturing Platform™ for cost-effective, high-volume production of vehicles. This includes the development of 3D metal printing machines that will be incorporated into Divergent’s advanced manufacturing platform. Divergent 3D has invented a patented software-hardware platform that is enabled by 3D metal printing and is said to radically transform the economics and environmental impact of designing and manufacturing complex structures, such as cars. SLM Solutions Group is engaged in the development, production, and distribution of selective laser melting systems, which create three-dimensional objects from metal powders. Additive manufacturing has long been used throughout the auto industry for small-scale pilot programs focused on developing individual 3D printed components for production. Divergent 3D and SLM Solutions, in contrast, are partnering to transform the process of designing and manufacturing overall vehicle structures. The objective is to build lighter, structurally safe, more cost-efficient, and environmentally responsible automobiles. “We are very impressed by the rapid development and implementation of Divergent 3D’s technology in the automotive sector,” said Hans-Joachim Ihde, chairman of the supervisory board and founder of SLM Solutions Group, in a press release. “By working together...

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Elite Aviation Products Announces Corporate Roll-Up Into Elite Aerospace Group

TUSTIN, Calif.— Elite Aviation Products (EAP) and its sister company, Elite Engineering Services (EES), have completed their corporate rollup into their new parent company, Elite Aerospace Group, according to a formal announcement made by Dustin Tillman, CEO of Elite Aviation Products. “From day one, it has been our primary mission as a company to provide a service experience unlike any other supplier in the aerospace industry,” Tillman stated in a press release. “Part of that mission is providing auxiliary services in addition to our manufacturing business, including engineering services, logistics and integration, and financial services, to name a few. This is the pathway to truly becoming the integrator our customers need now more than ever.” In addition to EAP and EES, three new entities have also been created under the Elite Aerospace Group umbrella: Elite Logistics & Integration, Elite 360 Technologies, and Elite Financial Services. “By providing this wide array of solutions under one roof, we are revolutionizing the way OEMs and others within the supply chain do business,” stated COO Zeeshawn Zia, also in the release.  “The aerospace industry is facing a crisis. There simply isn’t enough capacity to keep up with the unprecedented demands of the marketplace. By creating a new type of all-inclusive business model, we are bringing a new level of efficiency into the supply chain and capitalizing on the tremendous opportunity at hand.” Elite...

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Greenbrier Builds 100,000th Intermodal Double Stack Unit at U.S. Manufacturing Facility

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore.—The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. produced its 100,000th intermodal double stack unit at its U.S. manufacturing facility in January, the company announced in a press release.  The milestone achievement began more than 32 years ago at Greenbrier’s flagship production and design facility, Gunderson LLC, based in Portland, Oregon. Greenbrier spearheaded the design of double stack railcars, which were introduced in North America in the mid-1980s to haul intermodal containers, and has reportedly built “more than half of all intermodal double stack railcars in operation today.” “Gunderson has been a pioneer in railcar design since Greenbrier’s 1985 acquisition of this legendary manufacturing facility, in operation since 1919,” said Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman, in the press release. “Building 100,000 intermodal double stack units is a significant achievement for Greenbrier. It is the result of years of hard work and dedication provided by our American workforce at Gunderson, which includes many employees who have worked in this facility in Portland for multiple decades. Greenbrier’s manufacturing history began with the intermodal double stack railcar at Gunderson in 1985.  Greenbrier is proud to build intermodal double stack railcars in America—work that supports more than 1,000 highly-skilled jobs in Portland.” Double stack technology is said to have revolutionized long distance freight transportation by railroads by enabling a freight train of a given length to carry roughly twice as many containers, sharply reducing...

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Spatial Using Mesh Technology from Distene to Improve CAD-to-Solver Process

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—Spatial Corp. is incorporating 3D mesh technology from Distene S.A.S. into its 3D modeling software development toolkits (SDKs) to improve the CAD to solver process for analysis and simulation, the company announced recently. Spatial, a subsidiary of Dassault Systèmes, provides 3D software development toolkits for design, manufacturing, and engineering applications across multiple industries. The improved product, 3D Precise Mesh, not only accelerates time to market, but also automates the process while improving the overall quality of the resulting generative design, Spatial Corp. said in a press release. Through this partnership, Spatial extends its current mesh offering of 3D Mesh with 3D Precise Mesh,  which is reported to bridge the gap between CAD and simulation/analysis. In the past, end users have resorted to iterative meshing, analysis, and design processes that can take weeks to complete. “We were looking for a lightweight meshing component to be used in all our finite-element-solvers and decided on components from Distene,” said Oleg Skipa, of Dassault Systèmes, in the release. “Their Tetrahedral meshing technology represents the de facto industry standard.   We also use Spatial’s 3D ACIS Modeler for our 3D geometry kernel. Crucially, these two technologies interface extremely well. Spatial can leverage this mesh technology and provide an integrated solution for customers.” The self-contained meshing component can be easily integrated into a software application, providing end users with access to a solution that can...

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Sanmina Develops High Speed Flex and Rigid Flex Circuit Assembly Capabilities for Aerospace Applications

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Sanmina Corporation’s Backplane and Cable Division has developed new flex and rigid flex circuit assembly capabilities for military and aerospace electronics equipment, the company announced recently.  The new technology combines the latest laminates, high performance mil-aero connectors, and Sanmina’s advanced circuit fabrication technologies, the company said in a press release. Sanmina, a manufacturer of complex  electronic, optical, and mechanical products, offers system design and manufacturing in AS9100C certified circuit facilities. Flex and rigid flex circuits have been used as a cost effective interconnect system in mission critical defense and aerospace equipment for many years. As these systems evolve and data rates increase, performance requirements for interconnect become more demanding. Flex circuit laminate materials have also evolved and, with Sanmina’s advanced processes, can now be used with these high speed connectors in demanding applications. Sanmina’s new flex and rigid flex circuit fabrication technology is said to deliver data rates up to 10-15 gigabits/second, while permitting a smaller form factor with less weight at a lower cost. “Sanmina is proud to offer new technology to our customers that helps increase performance and reduce the size and weight of advanced military and aerospace products,” said Alex Scroppo, senior vice president, Backplane and Cable Division, in the release. “We are pleased to be able to provide a complete technology and manufacturing solution to our defense and aerospace customers, a combination of services we believe to...

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Design-2-Part to Host America’s Largest Contract Manufacturing Show Ever

May 1, 2017 – When the doors open next week for the Greater Chicago Design-2-Part Show attendees will be treated to the largest all contract manufacturing event ever held in the United States. Design-2-Part Shows (D2P) has announced that exhibit sales have just reached 300 companies eclipsing their previous record of 299 set in 2001 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The show will be held May 10 & 11 at the Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. In addition to the record 300 exhibitors, D2P reports that 120 companies are new to this show and were not in last year’s event. Design-2-Part Shows, America’s premier design and contract manufacturing tradeshows, provide manufacturing engineers and purchasing personnel the opportunity to meet job shops and contract manufacturers face-to-face to source custom parts, components, services, and design. Exhibiting companies will be showcasing their design-through-manufacturing services featuring more than 300 product categories for the metal, plastics, rubber and electronics industries. “There is a lot of excitement building up for this show,” said Jerry Schmidt, President of Design-2-Part Shows. “In addition to the booth sales record, we are encouraged by the potential record attendance that our shows are on track to set for the year.  We have held three shows so far in 2017 and each show has had an attendance increase over the previous year. The attendance numbers and the buzz on the...

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Planning Ahead: 7 Benefits of Manufacturing in the U.S.

More U.S. companies are looking to near-shore or re-shore their manufacturing, whether it be in response to recent trends or to efficiently introduce new products to market. Other companies that haven’t offshored—from growing startups to established product manufacturers with new parts manufacturing needs—are seeing the value in local manufacturing and foregoing opportunities to offshore their new production projects. There are many benefits to manufacturing in the United States, whether that involves moving production that had previously been offshored, or starting new production programs in America. While planning for future manufacturing projects, here are seven benefits of U.S. manufacturing to take into account: U.S. manufacturing creates jobs U.S. manufacturing creates jobs for Americans. Perhaps it sounds obvious, but there is no way to understate the value of any company that keeps its roots in the United States and hires U.S. citizens for fair and honest work. And while overseas manufacturing may ultimately result in a lower-priced end product, who will purchase that product if no one has a job? U.S. manufacturing saves costs on deliveries Overseas shipping can be exorbitantly expensive, while shipping within the United States is often quite reasonable, even for large shipments. Overseas shipping also creates a greater room for error, misunderstanding, delays, and problems. Domestic shipments arrive more quickly The sheer difference in the distance a product must travel to get from any destination in the United States, versus the...

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What Does ‘American Made’ Mean to You?

The words ‘Made in the USA’ are becoming increasingly relevant for reasons ranging from pride in workmanship to protection of corporate and national security interests. Here’s a look at some of the forces that are driving companies to keep their manufacturing close at hand. By Mark Shortt It’s a pretty dynamic landscape for American manufacturers today, much of it being spurred by enabling technologies, economic uncertainties, and agile business strategies that can quickly adapt to changes in market forces and customer demands. There’s also a new administration in place that figures to alter the landscape in significant ways. Amid all the new developments, it’s useful to hear what people in the thick of the action think. With that in mind, D2P reached out to manufacturing leaders—executives, entrepreneurs, and advocates—to hear their insights on the current state of U.S. manufacturing, as well as a number of issues relevant to the industry. What’s the State of American Manufacturing Today? Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), gives it a passing grade, saying that “it’s doing okay, broadly speaking,” but faces significant challenges. While the automotive sector has been a real bright spot, leading the economic rebound from the Great Recession, there have been ongoing challenges with respect to global competition, he said in an interview. “In particular, firms that are in direct competition with China have, I think,...

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Custom Washer Manufacturer Zeroes in on Quality, On-Time Delivery

Brewster Washers has been turning out precision washers, discs, and shims for nearly 100 years in central New Jersey, where ‘Made in America’ was never in doubt. By Mark Langlois When Salvatore Freda Jr., touts the benefits of “Made in the USA,” he’s speaking from a New Jersey manufacturing plant with 98 years of experience in making parts for the defense, aerospace, and commercial industries. “Made in America gives you that good feeling, being an American and supporting other Americans who are working just as hard as you to support their families and support their employees,” said Freda, president of Brewster Washers, a Fairfield, New Jersey-based manufacturer of precision washers, discs, and shims, in an interview. “It’s almost an unwritten guarantee. Because it’s made in America, you have a quality product.” Brewster Washers makes parts for OEMs that have used them in everything from guidance systems to the Space Shuttle and the Mars Rover. The company stamps the parts using sheet material according to the customer’s blueprint. “Our biggest strength and the reason why we have been in business for 98 years is that our quality and on-time delivery is paramount to our success,” Freda said. “We take pride in having zero defects and 100 percent on-time delivery.” For Freda, the quality that comes with Made in the USA is evident throughout a national web of manufacturers and suppliers....

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Switching to Cast Polyurethane Parts for High Impact, High Wear Applications

High-performance polyurethanes combine the advantages of plastics, metals, and ceramics with the resiliency of rubber parts  By Del Williams Although design engineers have traditionally specified parts made of rubber, plastic, or steel when durability is required, many are considering a new alternative for the most demanding, high-wear, abrasion and impact applications: cast polyurethanes. Cast polyurethanes, also broadly referred to as urethanes, are tough, elastic materials that combine many of the performance advantages of high-tech plastics, metals, and ceramics, along with the resiliency and flexibility of rubber parts. Unlike their closest counterpart, rubber, which is prepared as sheets or loaves before being molded in a high pressure press, urethanes can be poured as a liquid mixture into less expensive, low pressure molds. Using this technique, complex mold cavities can be filled without high-pressure molds and presses. This provides a multitude of advantages, not the least of which are lower tooling and production costs than both rubber and plastic molding, and lower material cost than metals and ceramics. In terms of performance, cast polyurethane parts are often lighter in weight than ceramics or metal alternatives, are not brittle, and will not crack like plastics under stress or extreme temperatures. To be sure, cast polyurethane parts are not new. Nonetheless, awareness of the potential for this type of material has largely remained under the radar. This can be attributed to several factors, not...

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Manufacturers’ Success is All About the Workforce, Says Industry Leader

A Minnesota executive has practical advice for CEOs on how to build a strong manufacturing company By Mark Shortt Steve Blue is president and CEO of Miller Ingenuity, a Winona, Minnesota-based company with a rich history of manufacturing railroad parts and products that protect railway workers from potentially fatal accidents. A man whose company’s products are aimed at saving lives, Blue apparently knows a thing or two about saving, building, and leading strong companies, too. Under his leadership, Miller Ingenuity (www.milleringenuity.com) has reportedly grown by more than 400 percent while executing a corporate rebranding and ramping up international sales in North and South America, Asia, Europe, and South Africa. Blue is also the author of the recently released American Manufacturing 2.0: What Went Wrong and How to Make It Right, a book that draws on Blue’s management experiences and historical perspective to lay out an inspiring vision for revitalizing the U.S. manufacturing sector. The book details 7 Values of Ingenuity™ — innovation, excellence, commitment, community, teamwork, respect, and integrity—as a foundation for success. In a recent phone interview, Blue offered his perspectives on American manufacturing while sharing his insights on the nation’s workforce and how companies can execute a plan to scale up their manufacturing operations in response to changing economic realities. Following is an edited transcript of our conversation. D2P: Steve, we’re interested in your insights from two...

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Honey, I Shrunk the Circuit

Sandia research could improve defense electronics, electric vehicles, and electrical grids ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Sandia National Laboratories researchers have shown it’s possible to make transistors and diodes from advanced semiconductor materials that could perform much better than silicon, the workhorse of the modern electronics world. The breakthrough work takes a step toward more compact and efficient power electronics, which, in turn, could improve everything from consumer electronics to electrical grids. Power electronics are vital for electrical systems because they transfer power from its source to the load, or user, by converting voltages, currents, and frequencies. Sandia’s research was published last summer in Applied Physics Letters and Electronics Letters and presented at conferences. “The goal is to be able to shrink power supplies, power conversion systems,” said electrical engineer Bob Kaplar, who leads a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project studying ultra-wide bandgap (UWBG) semiconductor materials. The project explores ways to grow those materials with fewer defects and create different device designs that exploit the properties of these new materials that have significant advantages over silicon. The project is laying the scientific groundwork for the new UWBG research area, answering such questions as how the materials behave and how to work with them. It also will aid Sandia’s broader work through developments, such as compact power conversion by using better semiconductor devices. “Understanding the science helps lead toward that second goal,” Kaplar...

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Silicon Valley-Based Foundry Noel Technologies Expands Facility, Adds New Wafer-Processing Capabilities

New lithography, deposition, and measurement tools increase foundry’s capacity and capabilities in serving microelectronics companies  CAMPBELL, Calif.—Noel Technologies has expanded its wafer-fabrication facility in Silicon Valley by adding square footage and installing additional equipment that is said to boost its production capacity by 25 percent. The specialty semiconductor foundry performs process development and substrate fabrication for a variety of high-technology industries. By adding  an i-line lithography system with 0.35-micron resolution, a top-down CD scanning electron microscope (SEM), and more plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) tools, the 20-year-old company has increased its range of foundry services for customers in the semiconductor, MEMS, bio-medical device, sensor, and LED markets. “We perform many wafer-fabrication services integral to the development of the newest micro- and nano-electronic products,” said Leon Pearce, founder and chief technical officer of Noel Technologies, in a company release. “As a manufacturing partner located right in Silicon Valley, we offer chip designers a local foundry solution to shorten their R&D cycles and reduce their time to production.” Noel Technologies is strategically positioned to provide integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) with a bridge from lab ideas to fabrication. The company bills itself as a full-service foundry that combines state-of-the-art process modules with the engineering expertise needed to help customers move seamlessly from custom design to device manufacturing. All front-end wafer processing is performed in-house under the supervision of Noel Technologies’ experienced process...

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Memory Card Connectors Designed to Save PCB Space

HARRISBURG, Pa.—A new 3-in-2 card connector developed by TE Connectivity (TE) is characterized by a space-efficient design that enables SIM and micro SD card connectivity in mobile phones, tablets, ultraportable devices, and personal computers. The card connector has two cavities, providing the flexibility to accept either two SIM cards or one SIM card and one micro SD card. This design feature is reported to save about 20 percent of PCB space over other combination-type card connectors. TE Connectivity’s new 3-in-2 card connector uses an anti-buckling contact design that is said to facilitate more robust connections by preventing damage to cards during insertion and removal. Its space-efficient design incorporates a push-pin type feature with a mechanical lock function.  According to TE, improved co-planarity control across the connector helps ensure fewer defects and easier soldering during the manufacturing process. “Device manufacturers want high density and the ability to provide flexibility to their end users,” said Tommy Yu, product manager of Data and Devices at TE Connectivity, in a company release. “Our new 3-in-2 card connector provides both. Our engineers have designed a smaller, more robust connector that improves connection reliability and enables more compact mobile...

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Intersil Rolls Out Small, Isolated RS-485 Transceiver for Industrial IoT Networks

MILPITAS, Calif.—Power management and precision analog technology specialist Intersil Corporation has introduced what it calls the industry’s smallest isolated RS-485 differential bus transceiver. The high-speed ISL32704E is designed to provide 4Mbps bidirectional data transmission for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) networks. The ISL32704E RS-485 transceiver is reported to deliver excellent electromagnetic interference (EMI) and common-mode transient immunity (CMTI) in a small, 4mm x 5mm QSOP package that is 70 percent smaller than competitive devices. It also provides 600VRMS of working voltage, according to the manufacturer. The ISL32704E RS-485 transceiver exploits giant magnetoresistance (GMR) technology to provide galvanic isolation that keeps the communication bus free from common-mode noise generated in electrically noisy factory and building automation environments. It is well suited for the equipment-to-bus interface in IIoT networks that connect programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to instruments, robots, motor drives, data acquisition, and digital I/O modules. The advantage of Intersil’s ISL32704E GMR isolation over other isolation technologies is its low radiated emission and low EMI susceptibility, Intersil says. In addition, its GMR isolation does not require the elaborate encoding schemes found in capacitive and transformer-based isolators that use RF carriers or pulse-width modulation (PWM) to transfer DC and low frequency signals across the barrier. According to Intersil, the ISL32704E offers 80 percent less power consumption than competing devices because it doesn’t use current hungry power transfer coils or transformers. Its 20mA supply...

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Is a Stretchable Smart Tablet in Our Future?

EAST LANSING, Mich.—Engineering researchers at Michigan State University have developed the first stretchable integrated circuit that is made entirely using an inkjet printer, raising the possibility of inexpensive mass production of smart fabric. Imagine: an ultrathin smart tablet that can be stretched from mini-size to extra-large. Or a rubber band-like wrist monitor that measures one’s heartbeat. Or wallpaper that turns an entire wall into an electronic display. These are some of the potential applications of the stretchable smart fabric developed in the lab of Chuan Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. And because the material can be produced on a standard printer, it has a major potential cost advantage over current technologies that are expensive to manufacture. “We can conceivably make the costs of producing flexible electronics comparable to the costs of printing newspapers,” said Wang. “Our work could soon lead to printed displays that can easily be stretched to larger sizes, as well as wearable electronics and soft robotics applications.” The smart fabric is made up of several materials fabricated from nanomaterials and organic compounds. These compounds are dissolved in solution to produce different electronic inks, which are run through the printer to make the devices. From the ink, Wang and his team have successfully created the elastic material, the circuit, and the organic light-emitting diode, or OLED. The next step is combining the circuit and...

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