Adam Conner-Simons’s picture

By: Adam Conner-Simons

Laser cutting is an essential part of many industries, from car manufacturing to construction. However, the process isn’t always easy or efficient. Cutting huge sheets of metal requires time and expertise, and even the most careful users can still produce huge amounts of leftover material that go to waste. The underlying technologies that use lasers to cut edges aren’t actually all that cutting-edge: Users are often in the dark about how much of each material they’ve used, or if a design they have in mind can even be fabricated.

With this in mind, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have created a new tool called Fabricaide that provides live feedback on how different parts of the design should be placed onto their sheets—and can even analyze exactly how much material is used. 


Fabricaide: a tool for less wasteful laser-cutting

Denis Bergeron’s picture

By: Denis Bergeron

From the earliest days of radioactivity research, radiation and cancer therapy have gone together like peas and carrots. But Zach Levine covered peas and carrots in an earlier blog post, so I will focus on radiation and cancer therapy.

Shortly after Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the high-energy electromagnetic radiation he called “X-rays” in 1895, their cell-killing power was recognized and harnessed to treat cancer. Similarly, within a few years of the Curies’ discovery of the radioactive element radium, doctors were deploying the energetic particles it emitted to treat skin cancers. By the 1910s, more powerful X-ray tubes were producing beams that could penetrate deeper into the body to treat all sorts of tumors. This “external beam therapy” was on its way to becoming the standard for radiotherapy, largely supplanting radium-based therapies.

Elizabeth Benham’s picture

By: Elizabeth Benham

Each year during national Weights and Measures Week (March 1 to 7), we celebrate the contributions made by the weights and measures community to ensure accuracy and fair competition in commercial transactions based on weight or measure. This year’s theme, “Measuring Up to the New Normal,” was especially meaningful because 2020 will be remembered as one of the most unusual years we’ll likely experience in our lifetimes. The year highlighted how a common challenge can positively transform how we do business.


Weights and Measures Week commemorates the signing of the first U.S. weights and measures law by President John Adams in 1799. Marble bust by artist Daniel Chester French.

This year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recognized the contributions made by the weights and measures community to sustain equity in the marketplace. Equity in the marketplace takes the effort of many people and institutions.

Silke von Gemmingen’s picture

By: Silke von Gemmingen

The global pandemic has radically impacted the supply chain and logistics industry, making the need for robotic automation more urgent than ever. With more than 70 percent of labor in warehousing now dedicated to picking and packing, numerous companies are gradually investing in logistics automation. But what happens when robots must handle an unlimited number of (unknown) stock-keeping units (SKUs)? These companies need a fast, reliable, and robust way to automate picking and placing a large variety of objects.

This challenge was taken up successfully by the Dutch company Fizyr. The computer vision company based in Delft focuses on enabling robots to pick unknown objects even in harsh logistics environments. The result is an automated vision solution that enables logistic automation in various conditions and applications, like item picking, parcel handling, depalletizing, truck unloading, or baggage handling. To complete the system with the optimal hardware, Fizyr integrates compact, robust Ensenso 3D cameras in combination with high-performance GigE uEye cameras from IDS.

Ayman Jawhar’s picture

By: Ayman Jawhar

Product management as we’ve known it up until now—as a limited function or role—is effectively dead. However, viewed as a culture, product management is thriving. I predict “product culture” will be central to the future of work in digital economies. Yet knowledge workers, executives, and business educators unfortunately remain indebted to the old paradigms of product. They’re lagging far behind.

That was the argument I made in my previous article, to which quite a few readers took offense, with comments like:
“IT folks should stop complicating product management as if they were the first people to discover it!”
• “Disingenuous. Product function is an evolution, not a revolution.”
• “This is a good example of the nonsense published about the product.”

These strong sentiments were welcome because they’re a reminder that, in scientifically rationalizing work, we have forgotten how deeply personal and subjective it is. We also limit the power of collective work if we treat it only as a virtual assembly line between functions, roles, and organizational matrices.

Esteve Garriga’s picture

By: Esteve Garriga

There are many important issues to be considered in the food industry, such as consumer tastes, environmental impact, and economic aspects, but the most important is food safety.

Although current food safety management system (FSMS) certification schemes around the world are highly effective, I believe it’s desirable to have a single agreed-upon FSMS certification that would harmonize various scheme requirements. Such a system would help reduce the auditing burden for companies that are certified to several FSMS schemes.

The most widespread FSMS certification schemes

In 1996, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) was created by UK retailers (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and others) to harmonize food safety standards across the supply chain. The first edition of the BRC Global Standard (BRCGS) for Food Safety was issued in 1998, and is now in its eighth edition. Since then, sector-focused standards have been published covering different stages in the food supply chain (e.g., storage and distribution, packaging materials). Today, more than 28,000 sites are operating under such schemes worldwide.

Mark Schmit’s picture

By: Mark Schmit

During the Sept. 18, 2020, session of the “National Conversation with Manufacturers,” our three West Coast manufacturing leaders on the panel kept coming back to their critical need for skilled workers.

The conversation was one in a series of 11 virtual listening sessions hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP). The purpose of the listening sessions was learning how small and medium-sized manufacturers across the country have been handling the near-term jolt from the Covid-19 pandemic and preparing for success in the long-term.

Multiple Authors
By: Lucca Henrion, Duo Zhang, Victor Li, Volker Sick

One of the big contributors to climate change is right beneath your feet, and transforming it could be a powerful solution for keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

The production of cement, the binding element in concrete, accounted for 7 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. Concrete is one of the most-used resources on Earth, with an estimated 26 billion tons produced annually worldwide. That production isn’t expected to slow down for at least two more decades.

Given the scale of the industry and its greenhouse gas emissions, technologies that can reinvent concrete could have profound impacts on climate change.

Andrew Schutte’s picture

By: Andrew Schutte

Industrial engineers design, develop, test, and evaluate integrated systems for managing industrial production processes. Functions include quality control, human work factors, inventory control, logistics and material flow, cost analysis, and production coordination. These and other facets are usually part of the job description when being hired.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 10-percent growth rate among industrial engineers from 2019 to 2029, the attrition rate is anecdotally just as high; that equates to 100-percent attrition in a decade. Nowhere is the dissatisfaction and attrition of industrial engineers as great as in the engineer-to-order manufacturing space.

Yoav Kutner’s picture

By: Yoav Kutner

Like business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce, business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce allows customers to purchase parts and supplies via an online portal. The difference is that in B2B ecommerce, both the customers and suppliers are businesses, and the customers may or may not be the end users of the product being purchased. In addition, a B2B solution needs to let customers submit a request for quote (RFQ), negotiate, and do more of the back-and-forth that occurs in business transactions.

Despite the fact that purchasing is done online—a digital solution for many B2B online platforms—a lot of the back-end processes are still done manually, not much differently than in a brick-and-mortar business. An online order might need to be copied and pasted into an Excel spreadsheet or even an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, for instance. Ditto for getting customer information into a customer relationship management (CRM) system or generating quotes. This manual back-end work keeps both customer and supplier from operating efficiently, introducing errors into orders, or even delaying orders.

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