Robots helping small businesses scale craftsmanship

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are starting to employ autonomous machines in collaborative and even artistic ways, and that may point to a new chapter of artisanal and small-batch manufacturing in the U.S. this report looks at an example of a TLAC, a 2D and 3D design, print, and publishing shop in Toronto, Canada, that creates books for self-published authors.


Advanced Robotic Systems: The Manufacturing Labor Force of Tomorrow

The automation industry is seeing a shift in its labor force. As many current workers get ready to retire, a younger workforce has yet to arrive to take its place. In response to this shortfall, the advanced robotic market has grown significantly. Advanced robotic systems and collaborative robots are taking center stage at a time when manufacturing industries need them the most. This is a report based off some findings by the Boston Consulting Group and others.


Interstellar Drones

In a recent article on the website, DailyMail, the development of extraterrestrial drones is discussed. On a distant Jupiter moon, Europa, there is believed to be oceans. NASA scientists and engineers are working to develop submersible drones that can gather data and detect microbial life by operating in these icy waters. A major requirement for these drones will be for them to operate autonomously and manage their own resources. Only time will tell if these drones will accomplish the mission NASA hopes for.

3D Printers and Embedded Electronics

In the article “Engineers 3D Print First Fully Functional Drone With Embedded Electronics & Aerospace-Grade Material”(—aerospace-grade-material&  a recent 3D printing innovation is explored. Normally, embedding electronics in 3D prints is a challenge due to the high temperatures used during the printing process (160C). However, Philip Keane, an NTU PhD candidate, modified and embedded commercial grade electronics at key stages throughout the printing of the drone. The drone design is able to support 60kg of suspended weight, and “stands as the first fully operational quadrocopter to be 3D printed in ULTEM 9085 – a high strength, lightweight FDM material certified for use in commercial aircrafts – all in a single step”. While it does state in the article that the “entire process proved to be meticulous”, it did have a successful ending. In total, printing the drone took 14 hours, with 3 individual pauses to embed the necessary electronic equipment. Now that embedding electronics within 3D prints is an option, what future innovations are coming? Only time will tell.

Smart Bulbs at Risk?

In a recent article on the website,, the idea of cybersecurity for smart light bulbs is discussed. With regard to ZigBee and Z-Wave protocol, researchers have found major security flaws in smart light bulbs. Tests conducted on Phillips Hue light bulbs showed that they were able to be ‘infected’ with a code that can spread from lightbulb to light bulb. This is done by having a drone fly within a close proximity and transmit to the light bulbs and then control them remotely. How will companies in the IoT business combat these potential security breaches? Will this slow the growth of the IoT industry? What negative impacts will be felt?

Big Data Analytics Creates a Smart Supply Chain

In the article Benefits of a Smart Supply Chain, the author introduces the concept of big data being used advantageously in a manufacturer’s supply chain.  Big data analytics is widely accepted as a superior way for manufacturers to predict demand and understand customers, but big data analytics can also be used on the warehouse floor to save money.  The smart factory concept is one in which the entire manufacturing area is connected by sensors via the IoTs.    In the supply chain, big data is allowing manufacturers to predict bottlenecks, avoid machine failure, and reduce replacement part inventory via predictive analytics.  This Industry 4.0 holds the key to manufacturers staying competitive in a global marketplace.

The concept of Industry 4.0, run by smart factories, was actually introduced in Europe as recently as a few years ago.  To stay competitive in the global marketplace, manufacturers will have to adapt at least in some way to this new Industry 4.0.  Interestingly, a recent study indicated that 92% of manufacturers in the UK do not understand Industry 4.0 processes, but 59% of manufactures recognize the impact these new processes will have on the sector.  Using the UK as a representative sample, it certainly appears that the manufacturing industry as a whole needs to technologically transform and educated itself.  Those who stay ahead of the curve will reap the benefits of more efficient, smarter processes, while those who do not risk losing money.

The specifics of Industry 4.0 includes the big data analytics to design a smart supply chain.  A smart supply chain can avoid many of the traditional supply chain problems such as supply bottlenecks and machine downtime.  Bottlenecks can be avoided due to the fact that a connected factory shares data with other parts of the supply chain so production can be eased or intensified based on data from the factor combined with data from down the supply chain.  Furthermore, a smart supply chain can use predictive analytics to shutdown equipment and processes before the fail.  In this case, there is less downtime.  The sensors on these processes can be programmed to monitor equipment and order parts prior to equipment failure so that excess replacement inventory is not need thus saving money.  With all of these advantages, the smart supply chain managers will invest in the smart supply chain to keep their manufacturing processes ahead of the curve an competitive in a global environment.

What will need to happen to educate those in power at manufacturing companies so that the transition to smart processes happens?

Will these smart processes create or destroy jobs?

Will they transformation to a smart factory decrease or reverse the decay in the manufacturing industry as a whole?




3D Printing Our Way to Space

The article “The Possibilities of Weight Reduction with Additive Manufacturing” ( reviews a partnership that Atos, a Spanish digital solutions company, and Materialise, a 3D printing services company in Belgium, have formed. These two companies how to partner up to improve current technologies within the aerospace industry. The first initiative they took was to improve a mounting piece that is generally used to attach heavy and large structures to satellites. They were able to reduce the weight by utilizing lattice structures to form a strong, yet hollow per component which weighed 70% less! Amazingly enough, the material they 3D printed was titanium, which is known as the “best performing metal for AM technology”.