November/December 2011

Automation by the Numbers


Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a simple way to convert two-dimensional patterns into three-dimensional (3-D) objects using only light. Researchers take a pre-stressed plastic sheet and run it through a conventional inkjet printer to print bold black lines on the material, according to ScienceDaily. The material is then cut into a desired pattern and placed under an infrared light, such as a heat lamp. The bold black lines absorb more energy than the rest of the material, causing the plastic to contract, creating a hinge that folds the sheets into 3-D shapes. This technique can be used to create a variety of objects, such as cubes or pyramids, without ever having to physically touch the material. By varying the width of the black lines, or hinges, researchers are able to change how far each hinge folds. For example, they can create a hinge that folds 90 degrees for a cube, or a hinge that folds 120 degrees for a pyramid. The wider the hinge, the further it folds.



Aircraft Technologies, a manufacturer of toilets for corporate jets, saved $20,000 and four weeks in reduced tooling costs/time for a new model by utilizing NVision's laser scanning and engineering services. "By scanning an existing upper and lower bowl assembly and modifying the resulting CAD models to fit parts that we already had tooling for, we substantially reduced the tooling cost and got the product to market faster," said Mark Riebesehl, owner and vice president of Operations for Aircraft Technologies. The main parts in the new design are the bowl cap, spray ring, and upper and lower bowl assembly. The normal approach to tooling up for a new toilet would have required designing all four parts from scratch and then building a new thermoforming tool for each part. However, Riebesehl noted an existing bowl cap and spray ring from one toilet and an existing upper and lower bowl from another toilet were all close to the new design and would work perfectly if modifications could be made to the upper and lower bowl to make them fit together.

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Mitsubishi Electric Automation made a 19.9% equity investment in the U.S. software company ICONICS. The move enables Mitsubishi Electric to incorporate ICONICS' supervisory-control and data-acquisition (SCADA) software in factory and process automation solutions, primarily for new social infrastructure opportunities in emerging markets. Mitsubishi Electric will also work with ICONICS to develop and market energy management and control solutions for factory and process automation applications in key emerging markets, such as China, Southeast Asia, India and Brazil, which are rapidly developing infrastructure for ground and air transportation, water and waste water treatment, building facilities and more. The company expects sales of factory automation solutions for infra-structure projects in emerging markets to reach $130 million, in the fiscal year ending in March 2014.

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580 million

Emerson Process Management achieved significant milestones in driving the adoption of wireless technologies in refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial facilities around the world. With 580 million total hours of wireless operation across 6,100 networks, Emerson Smart Wireless solutions have gained widespread adoption as they deliver proven performance while addressing critical business challenges. Emerson Smart Wireless technologies have enabled industrial customers to monitor processes in places where wired connections are impractical or where humans shouldn't go. Emerson delivers wireless communications for highly complex operations, including process automation, emissions controls, maintenance, and worker safety, and, in many cases, in very challenging and extreme environments. IMS Research reports worldwide shipments of industrial products that are wireless-enabled are set to grow from an estimated 1.2 million in 2009 to more than 3 million in 2015, at an average annual growth rate of 18%.

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