Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manufacturing IS Technology


Gears, levers and other trappings of a steampunk contraption? Maybe you think of cartoon inventors like Maurice, Belle's father in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, with his coke-bottle goggles and bumbling attempts at various rudimentary forms of mechanical tinkering.
As manufacturers of linear slides and rotary guides, we know the importance of basic components, the bearings, gears and tracks that move things from one point to another. But these are only the building blocks for more advanced systems, which are poised to shape the future of the industry as well as the rest of the world.
3D printing technology is a manufacturing process
(photo credit: The Verge 2013)
It is likely that you have encountered or overheard some of the newer "buzzwords" that have been introduced to many laypersons, many of which were created in order to parboil complex cutting-edge innovations or indicate advancements beyond the cursory realm of simply "manufacturing". Today, you're more likely to hear words and phrases like "mechatronics", "advanced manufacturing", and "additive manufacturing", than simply, "manufacturing."

Maybe manufacturing has become a "dirty word," associated more with "dirty, dumb, boring [and] cheap" labor, as Bishop-Wisecarver Group CEO Pamela Kan poses in a post she wrote recently for GE's Ideas Laboratory. Perhaps the word "manufacturing" has become semantically outdated, which indeed justifies the industry's attempts to come up with contemporary lingo to more accurately describe the field in a way that makes sense.

When taken in accurate context, modern manufacturing is comprised of the latest and greatest innovations of our time. Surpassing the low-tech and common connotations of antiquity, modern manufacturing, both present and future, is high-tech: manufacturing is technology.

The Wall Street Journal published a piece last month that highlights this important definition. The article highlights the 11 areas of technology identified by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that will push manufacturing into the future. These emerging technological fields should be the focus of research and development in the U.S., the group says. So what are they?
  • Sensing, measurement, process control
    Manual processes: our past,
    but not our future?
  • Materials design, synthesis and processing
  • Digital manufacturing
  • Sustainable manufacturing
  • Nanomanufacturing
  • Flexible electronics manufacturing
  • Biomanufacturing
  • Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing)
  • Industrial robotics
  • Advanced forming and joining technologies
Kan mentioned before that it is a shame manufacturing has become a dirty word. However, with the exponential advancement of modern technologies (aka manufacturing), it's no problem to start making our language more specific to dispel whatever outdated notions the public still has about manufacturing being a thing of the early Industrial Revolution.

Changing the language can influence the national conversation in a way that encourages the next generation to choose careers in manufacturing and influences public policy to favor conditions that promote manufacturing innovation.

A number of emergent technologies
that apply to manufacturing

What do you think about the language we use to describe manufacturing? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tweets of the Week: A Manufacturing Renaissance, Life of an Inventor and DIY 'Blinking Eyes'

We loved the varied conversations we had this week, ranging from the future of manufacturing to application stories of linear and rotary motion systems and articles about teen inventors and DIY makers. Here's a short list of highlights. Stay in touch in the days ahead at @BWCnews!

1. White House Makes Case for Manufacturing Renaissance via Ideas Laboratory: "Nobody really doubts that manufacturing has been a bright spot in the economy," White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling told an audience at a Brookings institution lectureThursday. "But people do raise the issue ... is the focus on manufacturing appropriate public policy? Is it really promising in light of globalization and technology trends, and is what we're seeing in the last couple of years just a normal, cyclical recovery that doesn't represent any structural or competitive advantage for the U.S.?" Via @IdeasLaboratory.

2. Bishop-Wisecarver Videos via YouTube: If you haven't stopped by our YouTube channel, you're missing out on a ton of great stuff, including event news casts, product demos, how-to's and company updates. One of our favorites is a video series of interviews with our founder, inventor Bud Wisecarver. Check it out. Via @BWCnews.

3. Make Your Own LED "Blinking Eyes" via Dr. Lucy Rogers: One of our favorite tweeps and scientist extraordinaire also dabbles around as a maker, a hobbyist. We love this latest project of hers: A pair of spooky blinking "eyes," which she instructs how to recreate with some wiring, lights and a bunch of ping pong balls. Love it! Via @DrLucyRogers.

4. Linear Motion Systems in the Medical Industry via BWCnews.Blogspot.com: Read about how our LoPro® Linear Motion System guides a coil-winding machine in the medical industry used to make high-quality coils. Via @BWCnews.

5. Meet the 17-year-old Who Make a Cheap, Brain-Powered Prosthetic Arm via Fast Company: If you want something enough, you do the work. That's a truth reaffirmed by teen inventor Easton LaChappelle, who set out to make a better prosthetic arm, one attune to the will of the mind. Read his incredible story here. Via @FastCompany.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why is STEM Education So Important to the U.S.?

Science. Technology. Engineering. Mathematics. These are the building blocks of a sound education, the foundation for productive citizenship and social contribution. STEM promotes ideas and innovation. STEM equips our future workforce with the critical thought and mental ability to take on skilled jobs that promote economic growth and technological advancement. But the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do.

America ranks 52nd in the world in the quality of math and science education. A recent survey found that just 2 percent of American high schoolers knew what a computer scientist's job entails. And 61 percent expressed no interest in a science or technical field.

Though programs like FIRST Robotics, NASA and trade organizations including the National Association of Manufacturers have campaigned long and hard to raise the public profile of STEM careers and classes, there's a long way to go.

Companies like ours, manufacturing-engineering firms with a longstanding history of technological breakthroughs, have a responsibility to make the field appeal to the next generation. The next batch of interns, of science fair entrants, they're the ones we will employ not too many years from now. What can we do to pique their interest?

"The United States was founded in a culture of curiosity, creativity and a can-do spirit," says Theresa Maldonado, of the National Science Foundation Division of Engineering Education and Centers, in a press statement. "Today's conversation is about helping students realize the connection between STEM and that enduring spirit. STEM education is vital to enable anyone and everyone to contribute, in his or her own way, to the great future of our country. Empowerment is the first step, and the National Science Foundation is here to support inspiring approaches to success."

We stand with Maldonado on that point. And we do our best to live up to it by not only supporting programs like FIRST (#OMGrobots) and local science fairs, by accepting interns and mentoring up-and-coming tinkerers and makers.

To illustrate the importance of STEM, we designed an infographic on the topic, highlighting the perks of securing a job in the manufacturing-tech field. Take a look at it right here!

[ What's one way your company is promoting STEM education?] Tell us in the comments!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tweets of the Week: Space Probes, Giant Robots and Teen Inventors

We culled through our tweets (and yours!) this week to pick out some of our favorite links and things. Here's what rose to the top this week. For more, keep up with the action at @BWCnews!

1. NASA Recovers Kepler's Reaction Wheels via NASA.gov: NASA's planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope already identified more than 3,000 planets. But on May 7 it stopped working when two of its four reaction wheels failed. Since then, the team has been working to fix them. Read more on NASA's Kepler mission website about the space agency's progress on fixing the wheels, which control precision pointing to aid in collecting data about other planets. Via @NASAKepler.

2. Teen Develops Flashlight Powered by the Human Hand via Design News: This 15-year-old Canadian girl invented a "hollow flashlight," which harvests energy from the heat of the human hand. Check it out. Via @DesignNews.

3. 3D Printer Made Almost Entirely From LEGO via Tech & Facts: Another whiz kid created an additive manufacturing machine from LEGOs, turning child's play into something remarkably high tech. Kudos to the curious, the makers, the young scientists! Via @IEEEorg.

4. A Minutes of Motion — Rotary Motion Guide via YouTube: There are endless possibilities for this ring and track assembly, called the HepcoMotion® PRT2 Precision Ring and Track. It's a rotary motion system that comes in stainless steel, is low-friction, flings away debris and includes a clamping brake. What can you build from our rotary motion solutions? Via @BWCnews.

5. Giant Robot Storms San Diego ComicCon 2013 via YouTube: Watch MythBuster's Adam Savage geek out over a talking Transformers-style robot Wired Magazine unveiled at the SoCal comic book, science fiction and costume convention. It's incredible! Via @Wired. (It's so cool, we just have to post the video here ... enjoy!)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Top Five Tweets of the Week: Workplace Safety, Joys of Manufacturing and Mechanical Motion

Happy Friday, readers! We spent the week chatting about manufacturing news, engineering innovations and trends of a recovering economy. Here's a look at some of the people and topics that stuck out for us this time. Don't forget to follow us for future updates at @BWCnews!

1. Tips to Create an Accident-Free Work Environment via Creative Safety Supply: The biggest hit to production loss in a company are accidents, according to this blogger. If someone gets hurt, equipment gets damaged and processed ground to a screeching halt, everyone loses.
Here's a useful list of tips for how to avoid accidents in the first place. For starters: Train early, train often. A well-prepared workforce reacts smarter and clean up quicker. Link via @MikeWilsonCSS.

2. Teens Discover the Joys of Manufacturing via ABC Newspapers: Summer's here and that means, for those still in school, summer camp! Here's a recap of one such educational camp at Anoka Technical College for teens looking for more manufacturing know-how. Story via @AmericanControl.

3. Hydrogen-Powered Cars, Coming to a Highway Near You via Engineering.com: Typical counterparts to fossil fuel-powered cars are the hybrid and electric. But more auto-making giants are starting to invest in hydrogen fuel cell research. In fact, some hydrogen-powered cars may hit the consumer market by 2015. Story via @EngineeringCom.

4. Kinetic Great Sculpture Illustrates Concept of Mechanical Motion via Linear Motion Tips: As manufacturers of liner slides and rotary guides, we're obsessed with movement. Guided motion technology: That's what we do. So we got a kick out of Design World's post on this kinetic gear sculpture, a beautiful construction of moving parts. Post via @DesignWorld.

5. Q&A With Tom Chen, Applications Engineer via BWCnews.blogspot.com: We recently posted a blog about one of our engineers, Tom Chen, who holds more than 10 years of experience working with motion control, factory automation and laboratory automation. We'd like to thank Kyle at @ToyotaEquipment for re-sharing this post!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Q&A With Tom Chen, Applications Engineer

While a recent addition to the team, Tom Chen is no stranger to Bishop-Wisecarver. Having been part of the BWC team in the past as a Test & Automation Engineer, Tom was rehired in the Applications Engineer role, where he is able to help customers with their designs and engineering applications. "My favorite thing about being back is that it's like being part of a family," said Chen. "It is really great to be here," he shared with us.

Tom is a seasoned engineer with
 a wealth of experience
Question: Why did you want to be an engineer?

TC: I like to find solutions to problems. I like to build mechanisms and machines that are cool and that can move fast.

Question: Who was your biggest influence in becoming an engineer?

TC: My father, who was a mechanic, and also my uncle, who was an electrical designer. Another uncle also inspired me as well; he was a software programmer. Other influences include Caroll Shelby, Burt Rutan, and Ben Franklin.

Question: Where did you go to school?

TC: I attended college at Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California.

Question: What kind of job experience did you have before joining the Bishop-Wisecarver team?

TC: I have over a decade of experience in motion control, laboratory automation, and factory automation. As far as motion control goes, I’ve been an Applications Engineer for a manufacturer of servo motors, stepper motors, and controllers.

I’ve also worked as a R&D Design Engineer, where I worked on automation and robotic systems for magnetic resonance analyzers.

Working with factory automation equipment, I filled the position of Electrical Controls Engineer making automated corrugated paper factory equipment using PLC, HMI, pneumatics hydraulics, motors, sensors, and conveyor systems.

Question: Have you had any internships?

TC: I had a six month internship at a bio-tech company where I worked on the DNA analyzer which used an automated x-y-z robot to map the entire human DNA.

Question: What is your area of expertise?

TC: Really, my specialties include motion control, linear actuators, and robotics. That is a huge part of the reason I was so glad to come back to Bishop-Wisecarver.

Question: What do you enjoy most about being an engineer?

TC: I really enjoy helping others to find solutions, as well as creating machines which make things run more efficiently and quickly.

Question: What's the most rewarding thing about being an engineer?

TC: I would have to say that hearing about uses of motion systems and automation in amazing machines is far and away the coolest part of this job.

Question: What is the toughest application you have worked on?

TC: Once, I worked on a custom product for a Detroit car manufacturing company. That was very difficult!

Question: Any advice to aspiring engineers?

TC: Writers write. Machine builders build. Don’t limit your imagination.

Questions for Tom? Email him at  tomc@bwc.com to learn more about how we work with manufacturers to engineer, manufacture, and build linear and rotary motion solutions, custom complex assemblies, and optimal embedded intelligence systems. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Reflections from the Ninth Annual Contra Costa Science
& Engineering Fair, 2013

From March 21-23, 2013, 391 students along with 261 projects competed in the Ninth Annual Contra Costa County Science and Engineering Fair (CCCSEF) which was held at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California. In the Fair, high school students were challenged to compete with their recent science projects and were then judged by local supporters of the event. Bishop-Wisecarver Group was one of the gold sponsors of the event, along with local businesses such as the Contra Costa Water & Waste Water Agencies, Eichleay Engineers of California, Galaxy Press, and Shell Oil.
Bishop-Wisecarver's Ben Domingo judges CCSEF 2013

Applications Engineer Ben Domingo was selected by Bishop-Wisecarver to represent the organization at this event, and Ben was excited to participate in the evaluation and judging of the projects the students presented.

“It is a great experience to see kids convey such enthusiasm towards science and engineering, and the level of detail and research that is evident in their projects is pretty impressive,” Domingo shared with us following the event.

The high school students competed in six categories: Behavioral Sciences/Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Math/Computer Sciences, and Physical Sciences, and were further divided based on grade level: Junior Division, grades 7-8, and Senior Division, grades 9-12.

The CCCSEF Fair is an event that endeavors to stimulate interest and enthusiasm in science. It also provides the opportunity to give public recognition to students for their achievements and to encourage them to enter careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Additionally, the Fair affords parents and the community an opportunity to examine scientific investigation products and the communication skills of students in our schools today.

In the morning, the judge teams evaluated the assigned student’s project boards, and in the afternoon, they interviewed the students. The student's commitment to the project is carefully evaluated, as is the level of research and extent of innovation.

Students were judged based on both the poster boards which they presented on their project, as well as the interview that they conducted on their work. The following criteria were used to evaluate both aspects of each project:

Poster Board
 • Creative ability
 • Citations/background research
 • Experimental design (non-engineering)
 • Engineering (Structures Projects only)
 • Data analysis
 • Skill
 • Clarity

 • Creative ability
 • Scientific thought or engineering goals
 • Thoroughness
 • Effort
 • Clarity

“I would definitely participate in this event again,” said Domingo. “It is not only a great opportunity for Bishop-Wisecarver to be involved in, but the energy and depth of thinking that goes into this type of activity aligns directly with my hope that young people can gain greater exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math. These are cutting edge fields, and I’m glad we are promoting them within the community.”

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tweets of the Week: From STEM to STEAM, Relying on Robots and Fun with Perpetual Motion

Happy Friday, everyone! We hope your Independence Day celebrations were full of fireworks, fun and family time (and and food ... lots of delicious food). We've been looking back at all the conversations we had on Twitter this week, ranging from white paper shares on linear slides and rotary guides to blogs about the changing perception of manufacturing and the need for more skilled labor in the workforce. Here are a few standout tweets, including links to the tweeps who originally shared them. Follow us for more at @BWCnews.

1. Why America Needs More STEAM Power via PamelaKan.Blogspot.com: Advanced manufacturing needs more than just a workforce educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They need a working knowledge of the arts, too. Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan blogs about this changing shift in the way experts view education. Art, they say, develops out-of-the-box logic and the ability to think in multiple dimensions — exactly the kind of mindset that's increasingly needed in the field of additive manufacturing, right? (Follow Pamela at @peekan).

2. Our Youth, the Future Depends on Them via FIRST Robotics: Our friends at FIRST Robotics sent out a newsletter highlighting the various successes of teachers and students in their robotics education programs. Find more robotics-related tweets by following them on Twitter at @FIRSTweets.

3. Why We Will Rely on Robots via Product Design and Development: Sensationalists talk about how robots will replace humans in the workplace, putting skilled manufacturing workers out of a job. But really, robots are more on pace to become helpful collaborators, a tool to enhance output for people in manufacturing and engineering. Read how here. Also, follow PD&D at @PDandD.

4. UtiliTrak Linear Guides Run Parallel via BWG: Have an application that requires parallel linear guides? You might be interested in this application story about an inventor who used UtiliTrak to build a patient lift for ambulances. Follow Bishop-Wisecarver Group on Twitter at @BWG_Diversity.

5. 9 GIFs That Make Perpetual Motion Machines a Reality via Gizmodo: You know the overbalanced wheel and perpetual water wheel? These contraptions move on and on until ... well, friction has its way with motion and all comes to a stop. But at least online, through the magic of looped video we call GIFs, these perpetual motion inventions can move on and on and on in perpetuity. Enjoy! And for more interesting tidbits about technology and invention, follow Gizmodo at @Gizmodo.