Analytics & Data Manufacturing

Manufacturers Struggle to Turn Data Into Insight

While many types of factory equipment produce real-time production data, the data is short-lived and little-used. (Image from Sight Machine client site.)

Let’s tone down the hype about the Industrial Internet of Things. While the concept shows promise—building smart machines that use sensors and Internet connectivity to improve performance and catch problems—the far more pressing opportunity is learning to make better use of the mountains of data that factories already generate each year, data that manufacturers today often discard after a production run or store unexamined.   More

Manufacturing

Tahoe-Reno Will Be the World’s Battery Capital

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Tesla's $5 billion Gigafactory will be worth nearly $100 billion to Nevada over 20 years, according to the state's Governor Brian Sandoval and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who announced plans to build the lithium-ion battery plant in the northern part of the state in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. In return, Nevada is expected to allow Tesla billions of dollars in tax breaks.   More

Jobs Manufacturing

People Are Still More Adaptable Than Robots

The Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics may not displace as many middle-class jobs as feared.

The media and pundits have exaggerated the threat robots present to human workers' livelihood, claims labor market scholar David Autor. Reporting on ideas Autor presented at a recent bankers' conference, New York Times writer Neil Irwin sums up the argument: "Even as computers have gotten better at rote tasks, they have progressed far less in applying common sense."   More

Learning Manufacturing

Inventing Outside of the Box

Steven Norris, an editor at Gearburn—a Cape Town, South Africa website chronicling "the latest gadget news from around the world"—admits to being endlessly amused by "staggeringly cool technology videos" that reveal how designers transform ugly tech devices into "eye-pleasing shapes." As a favor to those who share his fascination, yesterday Norris shared 13 videos "of incredible inventions that show off their makers' insane intelligence." His picks? We agree they're all staggeringly cool, but suggest that their inventors are likely quite sane geniuses.   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing

Panasonic Will Help Tesla Crank Out the Gigawatt-hours, but Where?

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Tesla Motors and Panasonic confirmed this morning that they will cooperate on the construction of a large-scale lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. Five states in the running to host the $5 billion Gigafactory expect an announcement of its location after the market closes today. Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas are the hopefuls to house the facility, which is expected to comprise up to 10 million square feet over 1,000 acres.   More

Global Tech Manufacturing

Electronics Manufacturers Bet Big on Vietnam

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Attracted by low labor costs and other advantages, global electronics manufacturers invested billions in Vietnam over the past few years. As they continue to build new factories in 2014, Vietnam’s economy will benefit from the influx of foreign capital, talent, and technology. A small player in the global electronics supply chain just a decade ago, Vietnam exported $38 billion in devices and components last year, according to data from the International Trade Center. Although this pales next to the $560 billion shipped by China, the world’s leading producer of electronics, Vietnam now ranks as the 12th largest electronics exporter in the world.   More

Manufacturing

Innovation Hubs Are Accelerating American Manufacturing

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There’s a renaissance underway in American manufacturing. Even as rising wages and energy costs in China are leading more U.S. companies to bring manufacturing stateside, economic indicators point towards real industrial progress. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly Report on Business shows that 15 of 18 manufacturing industries grew in June, and a composite index based on five industry indicators shows a steady expansion in manufacturing for the 13th consecutive month.   More

Manufacturing

Programming Trees to Self-Destruct Could Save Energy

(Image via Shutterstock)

Mother Earth could benefit from the degradation of, oddly enough, one of her own, as scientists search for ways to deteriorate trees in order to improve industrial processes. New research shows that by weakening the walls of plant cells we can render them more susceptible to deconstruction during industrial processing, making procedures like pulping, paper-making, and biofuel production less wasteful and more energy efficient. To degrade plant structures, researchers redesigned the polymer that fortifies plant cell walls, lignin, using high heat and alkaline treatments to weaken bonds between molecules.   More

Analytics & Data Internet of Things Manufacturing

Techonomic Top 5: Predicting War with Data, Biological Manufacturing, the IOE Economy, and more

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Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Manufacturing

This Manufacturing Technique Will Make 3D Printing Seem Old-School

Cell image via Shutterstock

Getting living organisms to do our manufacturing work for us may be the next big shift in materials science. This Quartz article explains how it becomes not inconceivable that in the nearish future we will have biological materials helping us assemble solar panels, for example, or possibly helping work with a variety of different non-biological materials. The ability of living cells to help assemble non-living ones is a big breakthrough the article reports on. It suggests that future capabilities might even include things like tape that repairs itself biologically if it detects that its adhesive is weakening. Wow.   More

Manufacturing

China’s Auto Export Drive Sputters in Detroit

(Image via Shutterstock)

A slew of year-end news about China’s auto industry is shining a spotlight on the tough times that domestic car makers are facing not only at home but also abroad as they grapple with tough competition and other market factors. Domestic nameplates like Geely, Chery, and BYD have steadily lost share in their home market over the last few years to big foreign names like GM and Volkswagen, but posted strong export gains as they looked to overseas markets to partly offset the declines at home. But now even the export picture is looking bleak, with the latest word that no Chinese car makers will attend the industry-leading North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Events

A Technoskeptic’s Take: Makers Are Suckers

Stewart Brand at the Techonomy 2013 conference near Tucson, Ariz.

Do-it-yourselfers with access to advanced tools and technologies are poised to democratize manufacturing, enable a bottom-up industrial revolution, reinvent retail, even remake America—at least that’s been the optimistic take. Evgeny Morozov offers a contrasting negative view on the so-called Maker Movement. In the context of a historical summary of the Arts and Crafts movement in early 1900s America, Morozov, a Belarus-born writer and Harvard history of science PhD candidate, suggests that modern "makers" are unwitting corporate pawns.   More

Manufacturing Startup Culture

Tesla’s Elon Musk to Would-Be Innovators: Just Try

Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick was in Texas this week to interview super-magnate Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial marvel behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Their wide-ranging conversation was part of the opening keynote at this year’s Dell World, held Dec. 11-13 at the Austin Convention Center. Kicked off by Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell, Thursday’s keynote delved into Tesla’s rapid but sometimes rocky evolution, from the electric car company’s early struggles to get financing to its current market capitalization of over $18 billion.   More

Techonomy 13 Manufacturing Techonomy Events Video

180° Shift: (Unfortunately) Not Everyone is a Maker

Jordan Brandt discusses his role in the growing maker movement. Watch video and read the full transcript here.   More

Manufacturing

Sensors Take a Big Step Closer to Human Touch

A smartphone screen can detect where it’s being touched. But the SynTouch sensor works the other way around: It detects what it is touching. SynTouch LLC, a Los Angeles-based startup that began in a University of Southern California lab, has developed what it says is the first sensor that enables robots to replicate human touch. The company has been named a 2014 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for its main product, the BioTac, a fingertip that can sense force, temperature, and vibration—in some cases more accurately than a human finger.   More

Global Tech Manufacturing

Techonomy’s Kirkpatrick Moderates CFR’s 3D-Printing Panel

It's hard to believe you can manufacture your own toys and tchotchkes—not in a factory, but in your home. But companies including MakerBot and Solidoodle are already making it possible, selling low-end 3D printers to consumers for as little as $499. The printers spray liquified powders in thousands of layers to form almost any imaginable shape. And industrial models can even "print" objects made out of Titanium, glass, and many other materials.   More

Manufacturing

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson on Maker Culture

Etsy represents a new way of connecting handcraft makers to buyers, but it's rooted in an age-old tradition. As Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson put it, "We represent something really fundamental about humanity: the making of things." At our Techonomy Detroit conference, Dickerson explained what draws people into the maker movement, and how it's going global.   More

Manufacturing

Rodney Brooks on Cars as Robots

How many people have operated their own robot? A lot more than you might think, Rethink Robotics founder and CTO Rodney Brooks would say. "I tell everyone, 'You're driving around inside a robot, and 10 years from now it's going to become an even smarter robot,'" Brooks told us at our Techonomy Detroit conference. "Cars are the epicenter, actually, of robotics." Brooks also elaborated on how easy-to-use robots are in a position to transform the manufacturing industry, making it more efficient, more localized, and less generic--a potential boon for cities like Detroit.   More

Manufacturing

Roboticist Rodney Brooks on How Automation Helps Makers

Rodney Brooks, founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics, joined us at our Techonomy Detroit conference to talk about the intersection between robotics and the maker movement. Robots like Rethink's Baxter offer small industries a tool to make workers more productive. But because Baxter operates on a software platform, it also benefits from users who think of new functionality and specializations for the robot. "There's going to be some kids out there who come up with some ideas that we would never have thought of in a million years," Brooks said. Those users may in turn use Baxter for smaller scale, maker oriented production.   More

Business Manufacturing

Quirky Brings Innovation Expert Doreen Lorenzo on as President

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The Manhattan-based invention machine Quirky just became a little more inventive. Former frog design President Doreen Lorenzo joins the four-year-old product development company as president today. Lorenzo, known for transforming frog into a global innovation firm during her 7 years as president there, was a speaker at the Techonomy conferences in 2011 and 2012.   More