Rebecca Jacobson’s picture

By: Rebecca Jacobson

To many people, a measurement sounds mundane, like marking ticks on a ruler or reading the line on a thermometer. It’s a piece of data. And they tend to think that improved measurements look like finer and finer ticks on a ruler—which doesn’t seem very exciting.

But making new measurements is more than just making finer marks on a ruler. To measure something is to understand it, pull it apart and see how it works. New measurements can unlock possibilities that even scientists never thought of when they started out.

Perhaps there is no better example than the optical frequency comb. Very simply, this device is a ruler for light. Yet it’s so much more than a ruler.

Radio waves, microwaves, visible light, X-rays, and infrared are all part of a spectrum of electromagnetic frequencies. They’re all waves, traveling at the speed of light, but the distance between the peaks of those waves can be kilometers apart, like some radio waves, or nanometers apart, like visible light and ultraviolet.

Jason Maderer’s picture

By: Jason Maderer

New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology finds that elephants dilate their nostrils in order to create more space in their trunks, allowing them to store up to 5.5 liters of water. They can also suck up three liters per second—a speed 50 times faster than a human sneeze (150 meters per second/330 mph).

The Georgia Tech College of Engineering study sought to better understand the physics of how elephants use their trunks to move and manipulate air, water, food, and other objects. They also sought to learn if the mechanics could inspire the creation of more efficient robots that use air motion to hold and move things.

While octopus use jets of water to move, and archer fish shoot water above the surface to catch insects, the Georgia Tech researchers found that elephants are the only animals able to use suction on land and underwater.

The paper, “Suction feeding by elephants,” is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Dawn Bailey’s picture

By: Dawn Bailey

‘We didn’t get here on our own,” said Brian Dieter, president and CEO of Baldrige Award-recipient Mary Greeley Medical Center (MGMC), speaking at the 32nd Baldrige Quest for Excellence Conference. “We think we are very much better as a result of having learned from [other Baldrige Award recipients and state and local quality award winners]. At some point, we hope there is someone in the audience today who will say we learned something of significant value from Mary Greeley Medical Center, and we can stand on their shoulders in the future.”

MGMC, a 220-bed acute care, municipal hospital, located in Ames, Iowa, certainly has posted outcomes and processes to learn from.

To be the best

MGMC, which serves a 14-county area, has a simple vision: To be the best.

Chuck Werner’s picture

By: Chuck Werner

Manufacturers should routinely ask themselves: “How do I know what my problems are?” The old-school way to answer this question was based on having the resources to produce spreadsheets of operational data and the expertise to analyze the data and understand how to respond.

This does not describe most small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). They are often resource- and talent-challenged. But these conditions also are what should make adopting manufacturing execution systems (MES) so attractive to SMMs. Using an MES helps companies focus on defining, measuring, analyzing, and controlling what is actually driving the business. An MES will deliver a more holistic and detailed report of how production impacts finances.

It also provides the equivalent of expert-level resources to review operations in real time and make recommendations—but without the cost of expert-level resources.

manufacturing execution system

Felipe Monteiro’s picture

By: Felipe Monteiro

Bringing innovation inside an established firm, even one that has created novel ideas in the past, is not as simple as just purchasing bundled external knowledge and expecting it to work wonders at headquarters right away.

Enel CEO Francesco Starace’s mandate was to create long-term sustainable value for all stakeholders. For the energy giant to incorporate novel products and ideas from outside its own business units, chief innovability officer Ernesto Ciorra used open innovation, which required systemic changes in the culture and structure of the multinational. Ciorra’s innovability teams—blending innovation with sustainability—were integrated into each business line.

These teams were just a jumping-off point. As I detail in a recent case study, next, the firm began pulling external innovation into the company with a crowdsourcing innovation platform. Using “Open Innovability,” thousands of “solvers” were able to contribute solutions to important challenges. Instead of thinking outside the box, the company invited people from the outside to consider problems in ways that hadn’t yet been considered.

Matt Fieldman’s picture

By: Matt Fieldman

This article is the sixth in a monthly series by the the America Works initiative. As a part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches, and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development.

V’principe, da. In Russian, it means, “In principle, yes.” In reality, it means, “No. Not a chance. Nyet.

Rich Tree’s picture

By: Rich Tree

Following any tech transfer project, the subsequent startup of the manufacturing line is almost always full of challenges. The goal is to start up as soon as possible once the project is completed but also to achieve steady-state throughput as quickly as possible after the startup begins. This type of startup is what is called a vertical startup.

In practice, vertical startups are rare because management teams typically focus their attention on having the facility and the equipment qualified in time to meet the process qualification milestone. The consequences of this thinking is that a broad range of workstreams are often neglected or receive inadequate attention although they are critical to startup. Workstreams like staffing, training, procedure development, supply chain, analytical methods, etc. must all be ready to go by this important milestone. The result can be like having perfectly tuned race cars lined up on the starting line of a Formula 1 race, but with untrained drivers, little gas, unpracticed pit crews, and no spare parts.

UC Berkeley NewsCenter’s picture

By: UC Berkeley NewsCenter

High-power laser pulses focused to small spots to reach incredible intensities enable a variety of applications, ranging from scientific research to industry and medicine. At the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center, for instance, intensity is key to building particle accelerators thousands of times shorter than conventional ones that reach the same energy. However, laser-plasma accelerators (LPAs) require sustained intensity over many centimeters, not just a spot focus that rapidly expands because of diffraction.

To achieve sustained intensity, the BELLA Center, at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), uses thin hollow structures, or “capillaries,” containing a plasma to transport the pulses of light. BELLA Center scientists have been pushing toward longer and longer capillaries as they strive for higher beam energies with their LPAs.

Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s picture

By: Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, which supplies smart manufacturing technologies to giants from Volkswagen to Boeing, has unveiled HxGN Robotic Automation, pioneering robotic programming and control software that enables nonspecialist quality professionals to program industrial robots to perform fully automated quality inspection.

The platform enables manufacturers to equip greenfield factories or retrofit existing production lines with state-of-the-art autonomous optical inspection cells, accelerating time to market by eliminating historic bottlenecks while providing more complete data direct from the production line as products are made.

Emily Newton’s picture

By: Emily Newton

Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular. The consumers interested in buying them generally want to know answers to questions such as: Is the car’s battery an explosion or fire risk? Will its useful life match or exceed the vehicle’s? Will the battery charge as fast as promised? Can it consistently perform within the stated range?

EV battery tests can determine those things and more, giving potential purchasers and current owners more peace of mind. However, researchers, engineering professionals, and manufacturers must continually develop better battery tests. Here are some specific reasons why.

Better battery tests could bring standardization

Lithium-ion battery usage spans far beyond electric cars. It extends to products ranging from power tools to laptops and many other familiar products. When researchers examine a battery’s electrochemical performance, they usually focus on three parameters:

Open-circuit voltage: The battery’s maximum voltage with no current flow
Resistance: How much a battery’s materials interfere with the current flow, causing voltage drops
Capacity: The total charge a battery stores

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