Friday, November 21, 2014

6 ways 3d printing is transforming lean manufacturing

One of the key technology trends in the manufacturing sector at the moment is 3d printing, or additive manufacturing. It has been recognised as a potential industry game changer due to its innovative nature but also because of its lean characteristics. 3d printing has the capacity to reduce waste, save time and thus save money and in a sector, which is constantly being challenged in those areas, it’s no wonder it’s garnering a lot of attention.

SEE MORE: The future of lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing best practice and 3d printing go hand-in-hand. Manufacturing Global finds out why.

1. Easier prototyping
Prototyping in its traditional sense is a wasteful process and one that is prone to errors. It involves drilling, cutting and removing materials, which is also very time consuming and labour intensive. Furthermore, prototyping is often outsourced to a third party, which results in marked up prices and delays. 3d printing provides an alternative solution, which is less expensive, less wasteful and quicker. Manufacturers are also more likely to complete this process in-house.

2. Easier customisation
Manufacturers constantly have to adapt to changing consumer demand and the days of one-size-fits-all are behind us. 3d printing gives manufacturing companies much greater flexibility because it does not require molding and cutting like traditional methods – 3d printing machines can also be easily reconfigured so each product on the same production line can vary as needed. The ability to customize the production line allows manufacturers to diversify and meet consumer demand, while running a leaner operation.

3. Greater creativity and efficiency
3d manufacturing allows for greater flexibility and thus creativity. Due to the fact it is cheaper to ‘take risks’ and create new products, manufacturers are experimenting more, which in-turn leads to new processes, products and greater levels of innovation. 3d printing gives manufacturers creative freedom to design while still in the concept stage, before a prototype even enters the equation. As a result, they are wasting less time with trial and error, which is traditionally associated with prototyping. They also reduce the amount of materials that fall by the wayside, and they make much more efficient use of their time.

SEE MORE: How to achieve process excellence using lean and six sigma

4. Improved consistency
Once properly programmed, a 3d printer can create a consistent product time and time again. Not only does this improve product quality, but will also ensure complete efficiency along the production line.

5. Reduced lead times
Inflated lead times are anything but lean. Wasted time often results in corner cutting further down the production line, which in-turn leads to wasteful mistakes. Due to the consistent nature of 3d printing, manufacturers know what to expect and can set more accurate and reduced lead times.

6. Lower prices
Manufacturing firms are constantly under pressure to produce goods at lower prices. 3d printing makes this possible owing to a reduction in the number of steps required to see a product from concept to production. 3d printing also reduces the amount of material needed. Those savings of both time and material can be passed onto the end consumer.

Abigail Phillips -

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is An AC Or DC Drive Right For You?

The debate between direct current and alternating current isn’t confined to the pages of history, and between the renowned thinkers, Einstein and Tesla. The debate is still prevalent on the plant floor when the choice whether to utilize an alternating-current (AC) drive or a direct-current (DC) drive arises. In an effort to more clearly highlight the differences between the two, here is a breakdown of some of the advantages and disadvantages of AC and DC drives.

Alternating-Current (AC)
There are a few significant benefits to the use of AC drives. First, AC drives require very little maintenance and upkeep. One reason for this, is that AC drives do not have brushes, so there are never issues with motor brush wear and the inconvenience and cost of replacements, as well as the resulting downtime. They are also typically a more cost effective motor option, due to their size and more simplistic design.

The speed of operations is important to consider when choosing a motor. The AC drives are particularly effective when working with higher speeds, such as 2500 rpm or higher. The AC drive also provides more controlled acceleration, as well as allowing for adjustable operation speeds and adjustable torque.

The AC drive is not without disadvantages, however. The most significant being difficult speed control and control complexity. An AC drive is not able to operate at speeds less than one third of the base speed. Therefore, the speed necessary for a motor is an extremely important factor to consider when deciding between an AC drive and a DC drive.

Direct-Current (DC)
Some of the most notable advantages to using a DC drive is high starting torque, control over a wide range of speeds, quick starting, stopping, acceleration, and reversing, as well as accurate step-less speed with constant torque.

Also according to Joliet Technologies, “DC regenerative drives are available for applications requiring continuous regeneration for overhauling loads. AC drives with this capability would be more complex and expensive.”

When choosing a DC drive there are also some important potential pitfalls to consider. DC drives are often high maintenance, requiring care for various parts such as the mechanical interface, the commutator and the brushes. They are also particularly vulnerable to dust, as well as physically more cumbersome – thus, making the location of the motor a very important factor to consider. Location is also extremely important in regards to DC drives because some areas could prove quite dangerous. For example, DC drives cannot operate in explosive hazardous conditions because of the risk of sparking around the brush.

Industrial motors are crucial for many manufacturing enterprises, so selecting the right drive for unique and specific applications is extremely important. The two common options are AC drives and DC drives, however, it is important to distinguish between them. AC drives and DC drives are very different and better suited to different applications.

Maura Falk, Associate Editor, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operations

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fake 'Super Meat' Is Better Than the Real Thing?

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) – Beyond Meat, maker of plant-based "chicken" and "ground beef," will aim for the heart of the carnivorous market with a soy-protein-based hamburger patty called the Beast Burger. Beyond Meat Founder Ethan Brown says their meatless products taste and feel like the real thing and they believe they can revolutionize the way we eat. Bloomberg's Sam Grobart reports for "The Year Ahead: 2015" 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Drivers Should Get Used To Cheap Gas

Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Those low gas prices on station signs aren't going away soon, the government says.

In a dramatic shift from previous forecasts, the Energy Department predicted Wednesday that the average price of gasoline in the U.S. will be below $2.94 a gallon in 2015. That a 44-cent drop from an outlook issued just a month ago.

If the sharply lower estimate holds true, U.S. consumers will save $61 billion on gas compared with this year.

Rising oil production, particularly in the U.S., and weak spots in the global economy have led to a sharp reduction in oil prices over the past four months. Not seeing much of a change ahead, the government cut its forecast for global oil prices next year by $18 a barrel to $83.

As a result, U.S. drivers will pay on average 45 cents less for a gallon of gas next year compared to this year. Based on expected gasoline consumption, that's a savings of $60.9 billion.

That may not seem like a lot in the context of a $17.5 trillion U.S. economy, but economists say it matters because it immediately gives consumers more money to spend on other things. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

"It would be a reversal of the trend over the last few years where consumers can't stretch a dollar far enough," says Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo.

Quinlan says the price of gasoline is one of the three big drivers of consumer confidence, along with stock prices and the unemployment rate. "Lately all three are moving in the right direction," he says.

After falling for 48 straight days, the average gasoline price in the U.S. is $2.92, the lowest since December of 2010, according to AAA. That was also the last full year when the average came in below $3 a gallon.

While it's not unusual for gas to hit its low for the year in late fall, the government is now saying that these prices aren't just a low point, but instead will be the norm next year.

Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department's statistical arm, attributed the lower pump prices to lower prices for crude oil and weak fuel demand. The EIA did hedge its bet on lower oil prices though, as it cautioned that OPEC could cut production in order to push prices higher.

The global price of crude has fallen by $35 a barrel, or 30 percent, since late June and closed at $80.38 Wednesday.

Oil production around the world has been strong in recent years. A boom in the U.S. has pushed domestic production up 70 percent since 2008. At the same time, demand for fuels is growing more slowly than expected in Asia and Europe because of weak economic growth.

The U.S. economy is faring relatively well, but more fuel-efficient cars and changing driving habits are keeping domestic gasoline demand low. The EIA expects demand to fall slightly next year despite the lower pump prices.

The EIA also slightly lowered its prediction for growth in U.S. oil production because lower prices will force some drillers to cut back. Production is expected to reach 9.4 million barrels a day in 2015, down from a previous estimate of 9.5 million barrels per day. Still, that would be an increase of 4 percent over this year and the highest domestic crude production since 1972.