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Intelligent Machines for Tomorrow’s Factory

September 17th, 2014

While robotics has long been part of the modern industrial factory, recent innovations by engineers are helping intelligent machines make the manufacturing process more efficient and less costly. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the European Union embarked on the SkillPro research project with the hope of reducing manufacturing changeover times in factories.

Let’s take a closer look at their progress.

Improving Changeover Times for Small Production Runs

Currently, it takes too much time to switch around the manufacturing process at a factory when beginning a production run for a new product. In many cases, the preparation and setup actually take longer than the actual manufacturing run itself. KIT’s SkillPro project looks to improve things through the use of intelligent machines.

Thomas Maier, Managing Director of KIT’s Institute for Information Management in Engineering (IMI) commented on the project’s goals. “Machines equipped with additional intelligence and communicating with each other are expected to significantly reduce the changeover time,” said Maier.

These machines are able to automatically recognize changes to parts through the use of optical sensors. This will greatly reduce the programming time necessary to perform changeovers between production runs.

Factory Robots communicating with each Other

Smart machines in the SkillPro project are also able to communicate with each other when a new part is built and needs to be transported from one step to another in the manufacturing process. A mobile robot then ferries the part to the next machine.

The SkillPro project has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing of the niche products typically produced at small to medium-sized enterprises. Robotic manufacturing is no longer the sole domain of large automobile conglomerates. The research project hopes to be completed by the end of next year; a mid-period evaluation report proved successful for the KIT engineers.

If the SkillPro project is the kind of engineering-driven manufacturing innovation that inspires you to take your career to its next level, talk to the staffing experts at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering recruiting agencies in the Seattle metropolitan area, they can provide both the insight and the Seattle engineering job listings to further your engineering career. Schedule some time with The Talley Group today.

Automotive Engineering – Pays to be Green

September 14th, 2012

When an economy suffers, sometimes car purchases are the first thing to go off of the budget. For the first time since 1950, Toyota will be reporting its first major operating loss. And as a whole, North American auto production dropped 62.2% in January, the lowest monthly total in 18 years.

So what is an automotive engineer to do? What industries should they be keeping on their radar?

Go green.

While automotive sales as a whole dropped 3%, the hybrid market sales continue to increase. New hybrid vehicle registrations rose 38% in 2007 according to data released by R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive marketing research company. And that was five years ago.

With gas prices climbing steadily over the past few years, more car buyers are looking for more miles per gallon for their buck. Long gone are the days of carefree gas-chugging Hummer driving and production. Today consumers are looking for safe, reliable gas sipping vehicles.

Terry Woychowski, a General Motors executive, believes that the car needs to be reinvented through green design, removing automobiles out of any environmental equation. Instead of traditional internal combustion systems, vehicles are being moved by electricity, through highly technological and economic systems.

For those looking into the engineering field, this could be another golden era of invention, changing the automotive culture. Companies will be looking for engineers with strong backgrounds in electronic control systems, battery technologies and lightweight materials.

For many potential automotive and environmental engineers, this could be considered their dream job. Not only is it a great engineering challenge, but it’s also providing a better outlook for the future of the environment and economy. Designing a car that lowers family gas prices can truly help those struggling to make ends meet.

General Motor’s E-Flex Performance Engineer, Nina Tortosa, deals with a lot of pressure in her emerging field. But she knows the benefits outweigh the stressors. Tortosa is focused on developing the next plug-in car, which will run 40 miles without using any gas. She is working on perfecting the Chevy Volt, a car released this fall, which is getting a huge buzz. The Volt is powered by an electric motor, which draws power from batteries. The batteries are recharged by a very small internal combustion engine.

Tortosa acknowledges the importance of the engine, but also reminds engineers to take another look at aerodynamic design. She spends up to eight hours a day in a wind tunnel, trying out different concepts to reduce drag on a vehicle. The reduction in drag results in a better fuel economy.

Contact The Talley Group for the best positions in new green technology, and you may be able to be a part of the next great automobile invention.

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