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Reader Submitted: Liberate Your Smartphone from the Hassle of Headphone Wires with AirLink

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-08-18 03:11

AirLink by NeorbLab is a Bluetooth jack adapter that wirelessly connects headphones to smartphones. Thanks to its built-in Bluetooth module, AirLink adds Bluetooth capability to any stereo device.

View the full project here

How to Hand Drill Holes in Stone and Concrete

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-08-18 03:11

A star drill is a specialized chisel used to make holes in stone, concrete, and masonry.  Drilling holes with this tool involves hitting it with a hand-held sledge, slightly rotating it, and then hitting it again. Do this enough times, and you will eventually create a hole.

How to use a star drill. It's hard to find a photo of one of these things, much less a video.

You can still buy star drills but few people today would consider using one, not when electric rotary hammers are available for drilling concrete and masonry. A rotary hammer uses a motor and gears to replicate the hit/turn/hit/turn action of a star drill. Only it does it faster and with less reliance on muscle.  The pneumatic rock drills used for mining do more or less the same.

Star drill tips.

Interestingly, rotary hammer bits frequently have the same cross shaped tips as the star drill—but made from carbide instead of hardened steel.

In between the invention of the star drill and that of the modern rotary hammer were some interesting manual solutions. The person who devised the hand-powered machine in the video below had a sense of humor or was extremely literal in his thinking—along the lines of "if drilling holes by hand requires a hammer then doing it with a machine must require them too".

A manual rock drill designed by a literal minded inventor. 

In spite of being manually operated, the machine in the video below has more in common with the modern rock drill or rotary hammer. Where it differs, aside from being human powered, is the way the blow is directly transferred to the back of the bit. In today's rotary hammers the drive piston never actually touches the back of the bit holder. Instead, the drive piston drives a second piston (flying piston) forward on a cushion of air and it hits the back of the bit holder.

A manually operated rock drill.

The gif below was pulled from an animation of an older DeWalt electric rotary hammer. Mechanisms vary from tool to tool but what it shows is illustrative of what happens in nearly every modern machine. The drive piston is separated from the flying piston by a cushion of air, which prevents the motor from being damaged by isolating it from vibration that would be transmitted back from the bit.

GIF of the hammering mechanism of an older DeWalt Rotary Hammer. Note the space between the drive piston on the right and the flying piston in the middle. The drive piston never touches the flying piston while the flying piston drives the bit forward by mechanically striking the back of the tool holder.

You Have Less Than 3 Days Left to Get a Discounted Lifetime Membership to Public Goods

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-08-18 03:11

Public Goods is the tiny company hoping to make a huge impact on our personal finances. Entrepreneur Morgan Hirsh's mission is to manufacture common household consumables—shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning products, et cetera—and sell them directly to the consumer at cost. By eliminating middlemen and retailers they can sell, for instance, a $12 bottle of shampoo for $3.25. (The company profits not on the products themselves, but on membership fees--$12/month, or $96/annually.)

The company also claims their products are as natural as possible:

Savings aside, what matters most are the quality of our products. We began with obsessive formulations, vetted by the most discerning people we know. It took us over a year. We visited over 100 skincare labs. We consulted with experts. Hired the most reputable chemists. And we think you will really like the result: healthy products, naturally scented, cleanly designed and packaged.

Public Goods is currently running a wildly successful Kickstarter that's garnered $552,481 pledged on a $20,000 goal. And it's no wonder why: They're offering lifetime memberships for just $69 (or $79 if the 124 slots left at press time run out).

The campaign ends this Friday, August 18th at 8pm EST. After it wraps lifetime memberships will no longer be available, and you'll have to go either monthly or annually if you want to sign up.

Here's the price list for the items they're planning to launch with, which you'll be able to order a la carte "as soon as 15 days after this Kickstarter campaign is over:"

Shampoo 8oz $3.25
Shampoo 12oz $3.75
Conditioner 8oz $3
Conditioner 12oz $3.5
Moisturizer $3
Bar Soap $2.75
Liquid Soap 8oz $3.5
Liquid Soap 12oz $4
Deodorant $3.5
Razor Handle $11
Razor Blades (x4) $3
Toothpaste $4.5
Toothbrush $3.5
Shaving Cream $3.25
Lip Balm $1.25
Sunscreen $3
Toilet Paper $7.75 (6 thick 2-ply rolls)

You'll need to do a little math to determine whether or not it's worth it for you. I went over my Amazon orders for the past year and here's what I found:

- I'm paying $0.44/roll of toilet paper on Amazon vs. Public Goods' price of $1.29/roll
- I'm paying $3 per tube of Colgate toothpaste vs. Public Goods' $4.50
- I'm paying $0.60/bar for Dial soap vs. Public Goods' $2.75
- Public Goods' shampoo, however, is less than half of what I'm paying now
- PG's razors are nearly 50% cheaper as well.

So, whether or not you'll see a savings by going with Public Goods all depends on how much you order each year. Happy calculating!

Design Job: Your Career is Coming Full Circle: Design Infini is Seeking a Junior Automotive Wheel Designer

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-08-18 03:11

Assist the President and Director of Design in creating unique and innovative automotive wheel concepts that align with the company’s brand. Confer with clients to ascertain their needs, establish design specifications, and present to President and Director of Design. Prepare sketches and other illustrations of new automotive wheel concepts and submit to President and Director of Design for approval. Research materials and manufacturing requirements to assist President and Director of Design in ascertaining cost estimates and production limitations.

View the full design job here

Currently Crowdfunding: Notable Kickstarter Projects of the Week

Core 77 - Fri, 2017-08-18 03:11

A roundup of Kickstarter projects currently crowdfunding for your viewing (and spending!) pleasure. Go ahead, free your disposable income:

Rollbe is a compact circular measuring tool that allows you to measure in straight lines and on curved surfaces by rolling the device from point to point. One reddit user brings up a valid argument about the price and the measuring device's DIY potential. Would you rather pay $20 or make this yourself?

Feastfrom is a simple but effective line of cooking utensils designed with campers in mind. While the full collection features two sizes of spatulas and a set of tongs, we're most interested in tongs' clever nesting design—great for camping and tiny living spaces.

Honestly this VR outfit just looks fun as hell.


What’s the Best Computing Architecture for the Autonomous Car?

Design News - Thu, 2017-08-17 04:41

As the autonomous car evolves, automakers face a complex question: How to enable self-driving cars to process massive amounts of data and then come to logical and safe conclusions about it.

Today, most automakers accomplish that with a distributed form of data processing. That is, they place intelligence at the sensors. More recently, though, that’s begun to change. Many engineers now favor a more centralized form of data processing, in which simple sensors send raw unprocessed data to a powerful central processor, which does all the “thinking.”

To learn more about distributed and centralized architectures, Design News talked with Davide Santo, an engineering veteran of Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor, and now the director of the Autonomous Driving Lab for NXP Semiconductors. Here, Santo offers his views on the topic.  

Davide Santo of NXP: “It’s clear to me that there needs to be a centralized function for the planning phase – planning means path-finding, maneuvering and motion trajectory.” (Source: NXP Semiconductors)

DN: Let’s start with definitions. Could you define distributed and centralized autonomous vehicle architectures for us?

SANTO: It dates back to a definition proposed by the US Department of Defense Laboratories in 1999. Essentially, that definition was limited to sensor fusion. Distributed meant that every sensor node knew what every other node was doing. And centralized meant that there was only one central point that collected all the information and created the sensor fusion map.

DN: There’s also a solution that’s a hybrid of those two electrical architectures. How does that work?

SANTO: The hybrid concept is a middle solution. There’s a central unit that works at a higher abstraction level. And there are domains. The domains can work geographically, for example, in the front and back of the car. Or they can be based on cameras and sensors.

DN: What’s been the primary solution to date?

SANTO: Up to now, systems were distributed because there was not a real centralized solution in the market. But today, because of the computing capabilities of companies like Nvidia, it’s entirely possible to do a centralized architecture.

DN: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a distributed architecture?

SANTO: The advantage might be that you don’t have to bring in a huge amount of data. You don’t have the problem of carrying data in a secure and efficient way from the edge to the center. And you can effectively put things together in the most cost efficient way.

The negative aspect is that you have to distribute the information simultaneously and synchronize it across all the nodes. And this has become practically impossible when you exceed three or four nodes.

DN: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a centralized architecture?

SANTO: You get the best possible information. If you don’t touch the data, don’t modify it, don’t filter it at the edge, then you get the maximum possible information.

The disadvantage is that your center becomes a monster. It’s huge. You have to move data from as many as 12 cameras with four megapixels each, so you’re moving gigabytes. And you have to move radar data, so you’re moving gigabytes again. You end up having this huge amount of data that comes in at a high frequency rate, and it has to be processed. Your machine at the center is non-scalable, and when you don’t scale, you can’t offer capabilities for the long term, which will be needed in automotive.

DN: As we move closer to actual vehicle autonomy, is one or the other starting to emerge as a leader?

SANTO: It’s clear to me that there needs to be a centralized function for the planning phase – planning means path-finding, maneuvering and motion trajectory. It’s not the end-to-end (centralized architecture) that Nvidia wants to have. We’re still going to have to have intelligent sensors that can reduce the bandwidth and optimize the cost somewhere between the edge and the center.

DN: So you’re suggesting that the hybrid architecture is the future? Does NXP see this as the solution?

SANTO: In the future, we believe hybrid will be the path because there is always the need to process close to the sensor, whether it’s for cameras, or antennas for radar, or cloud point analysis. At the same time, there will always be a need for a centralized place where all the local maps will be brought together to complete the centralized model.

DN: What does that mean for the future of automotive sensors?

SANTO: The sensor will become a little less intelligent, but it will not be a stupid sensor. It will definitely keep on doing important operations.

It’s very naïve to think we can do everything centralized. There’s so much you can do to make the sensor better and more useful for Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 [autonomous] vehicles.

DN: Wouldn’t it be in the automaker’s best interest to go with a distributed system? That way, a lot of the development work could be offloaded to the suppliers.

SANTO: That’s exactly right. The question is, does the OEM want that? How does the OEM control a completely distributed system? They don’t. It puts them totally in the hands of the Tier One, with no chance of controlling it themselves.

The problem is it’s very difficult to control a distributed system. In order to make it work, you need to agree on languages, formats, protocols, and networking. It’s super tough. If the OEM could force their suppliers to do all that, they’d have a good life. But I doubt they can force all of the Tier Ones to do the same type of modeling, the same type of mapping, the same type of algorithms. The Tier Ones need to compete, and to do that, they have to offer differences.

DN: As we approach Level 5, will a standard be necessary?

SANTO: I hope for it. It happened in avionics. But for the automotive market, it’s going to be tougher. A little bit of agreement is needed, but it’s probably not feasible today.  



Prince Posthumously Gets His Own Pantone Color

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

Yesterday Pantone announced they've collaborated with Prince's estate to give the late artist his own official color. Unsurprisingly, it's a shade of purple.

It's called "Love Symbol #2," in reference to the symbol Prince temporarily went by in the '90s following a contract dispute. Writes Pantone,

The (naturally) purple hue, represented by his "Love Symbol #2" was inspired by his custom-made Yamaha purple piano, which was originally scheduled to go on tour with the performer before his untimely passing at the age of 57. The color pays tribute to Prince's indelible mark on music, art, fashion and culture.

Prince had commissioned the piano in preparation for the aforementioned tour. On Prince's Twitter account, which is still up, you can see his excitement at receiving it:


— Prince (@prince) April 12, 2016 ">

R.I.P. Prince.

Secretly Snap Your Selfies (and More) with this Necklace-Turned-Spy-Camera

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

There are enough quirky "found thing" necklaces out there for this one to pass as nothing more than a piece of jewelry ironically moonlighting as a camera—which is exactly what Brooklyn-based designer Olivia Barr wants you to think. In reality, it's a real-live piece of tech that's perfect for the hipster Harriet the Spy in all of us.

View the full content here

Reader Submitted: MESA: A Portable Task Light that Won't Blind You

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

MESA is a portable light that operates on the simple principle that light should shine where you're looking and not in your eyes. MESA's revolutionary form factor provides directed light without glare so you can see indoors and out. MESA is tall enough to work under and short enough to see over, making it ideal for almost any situation.

View the full project here

The Sewbot, a Fully Automated Sewing Machine, is Cool. It's Also Bad News for Garment Workers

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

This is one of those things that's technologically impressive and socially terrifying.

CNC technology has spread into most areas of manufacture. One large component with CNC operations is "hold-down," or affixing the material firmly in place so that the business end of the tool can work it precisely. Hold-down has been solved with rigid materials, but flexible things like fabric provide a problem. Fabric puckers and shifts as it's being manipulated. This is why there's still a demand for human seamsters/seamstresses around the world. The human eye, coupled with trained hands, can make the constant microadjustments necessary to feed fabric through a sewing machine.

But now even the job of seamstress is on the verge of being erased. An Atlanta-based company called SoftWear Automation has harnessed machine vision and robotics to create the Sewbot, a fully-automated garment-producing machine:

That video above was shot nearly two years ago. SoftWear Automation now says the Sewbots are ready for prime time, and last month they signed an agreement with a Chinese company, Tianyuan Garments, to set up a fully-automated T-shirt production line based in Little Rock, Arkansas. According to China Daily,

"From fabric cutting and sewing to finished product, it takes roughly four minutes," said Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments. "We will install 21 production lines. When fully operational, the system will make one T-shirt every 22 seconds. We will produce 800,000 T-shirts a day for Adidas."

Tang said that with complete automation, the personnel cost for each T-shirt is roughly 33 cents. "Around the world, even the cheapest labor market can't compete with us. I am really excited about this," he said.

Those who are pro-American-manufacturing might also be excited: American technology turning the tables, and stealing Chinese jobs? Well, yes and no. Tianyuan's Little Rock factory will create just 400 jobs "in time." I'd wager it takes more than 400 conventional seamsters/seamstresses to manufacture 800,000 T-shirts per day.

Viewed from an America-vs.-China perspective, yes, American technology is siphoning away Chinese jobs and creating several hundred American ones. But from a global perspective it is of course a net loss of jobs.

The larger picture is that technology is now supplanting workers around the world who are trained in performing a task that was previously impossible for a machine to accomplish. In many regions, a person with little education but good manual skills could earn wages, however paltry, by filling demand at a garment factory. That opportunity will evaporate.

As Sewbots proliferate, SoftWear Automation and companies like Tianyuan Garments will undoubtedly profit. What will happen, we wonder, to the would-be seamsters/seamstresses?

Further reading:

"Sewbots prepare to take millions of jobs off humans in clothes manufacturing sector," Robotics & Automation News

After "Game of Thrones" Capes Revealed to Be Ikea Rugs, Ikea Releases How-To Instructions

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

Here's a 10-second clip of "Game of Thrones" costume designer Michele Clapton revealing where the capes of the Night's Watch come from:

Apparently folks were titillated that Ikea rugs were the source material.

So too was someone at Ikea, who then had whomever's in charge of producing Ikea's assembly directions create one for the cape:

Yanks are out of luck; the Skold sheepskin rug pictured above isn't available in the 'States. (The image is from Ikea's Australian website.)

The Ripple Rug: Carpet + Velcro = Successful Product Design for Cats

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

To non-pet-owners this may seem like a silly application, but this is actually a very clever use of materials. It's got the simplicity of a student design project but the business brilliance of a shrewd marketer. The Ripple Rug is simply two pieces of carpet, one filled with random holes and with a baker's dozen of small Velcro strips. Here's what that yields:

The company says the carpet is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and can be washed with regular soap and water. At $40 a pop it seems a bit pricey vs. the BOM, but I suppose if your feline scratches this up rather than your couch then it's money well spent.

<b>Makita LS1019L Miter Saw</b>

Core 77 - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:41

Makita recently announced the LS1019L, a new 10-inch sliding compound miter saw with cutting capacity similar to that of many 12-inch models. Among its more notable features are a dual inlet dust collection system, a bevel lock that can be accessed from the front, and a slide mechanism that allows the saw to be used against the wall.

On most sliding miter saws, the motor is attached to rails that slide back and forth through linear bearings. This configuration prevents you from working with the machine against the wall because the rails stick out the back when the motor is pushed in.

Makita's new saw can be used against the wall because because the motor slides back and forth on fixed rails. The only other slide miter saw with this feature is the Festool Kapex

As with the Kapex, a knob at the front of one of the slides allows users to change bevel settings without having to reach around back.

In order to collect more of the cutting dust, the saw has two inlets instead of the usual one. The upper inlet is in the usual place, attached to the motor housing behind the blade guard. The lower inlet is at table level directly behind the slot through the fence.

A dust collecting vacuum can be connected to a port at the rear of the lower inlet, which connects by hose to the upper inlet. When working without a vacuum it's possible to replace the upper inlet hose with a fabric collection bag. Additional features include a laser cut indicator, table extensions, and an upper fence that removes for bevel cuts.

The saw has a direct drive motor (geared all the way), so there's better power transfer and no possibility a drive belt will break. As the exploded parts diagram shows, there is a belt but it's for bevel lock. The lock knob turns a shaft inside the upper rail, which uses a belt and pulleys to turn the bevel lock mechanism below.

How the bevel lock mechanism works.

As for what the new Makita saw can do, it will cut 12" material at 90° and 8 1/2" material at 45° on the flat, 6 5/8" crown nested, and 5 1/4" material vertically against the fence. The saw miters 0-60° left and right and bevels 0-48° in both directions.

The fixed rails and sliding motor are a throwback to the radial arm saw, which until the late 1980s was the machine of choice for wide crosscutting. It fell out of favor after the introduction of the sliding compound miter saw (SCMS), which was smaller, lighter, and safer to use. The SCMS could cut wide material—not as wide as could be cut with a radial arm saw but wide enough for the tasks performed at many shops and construction sites.

I don't know why the first SCMS (an 8 1/2" Hitachi) had a fixed motor and sliding rails instead of fixed rails and a sliding motor. Whatever the reason, this configuration was used in every SCMS built for the next 20+ years. It was not until the introduction of the Festool Kapex and now the Makita LS1019L that we had sliding saws that could be used against the wall. It's a small thing, but it makes a difference when you work in tight quarters.

Underwriters Laboratories Releases Cybersecurity Standards for Industrial Control

Design News - Thu, 2017-08-17 02:18

As more than most software applications available today are comprised of open-source components, organizations must be especially vigilant to implement rigorous software supply chain management systems and procedures to mitigate the potential risk from third-party applications. Thus, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has developed a set of cybersecurity standards – UL 2900-2-2 – specifically designed for industrial control systems (ICS).

The standards were developed to offer testable cybersecurity criteria for third-party software and to validate the security claims of software vendors. The goal is to help mitigate cybersecurity concerns for manufacturers, vendors, and their customers through the UL Cybersecurity Assurance Program (UL CAP) that utilizes the new UL 2900-2-2 standard for ICS. In addition, UL has ongoing research partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS ICS-CERT) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA ICS) to help mitigate industrial IoT cyber risks.

UL has a long history of developing cybersecurity standards, so the latest efforts are a matter of identifying new needs in in the ICS market. “We felt there was a need for UL to step into this space and address the risks of cybersecurity, since many of our clients are industry vendors,” Ken Modeste, global principal engineer for UL Cybersecurity, told Design News. “We’ve been involved in the space since the 1990s. In the last 10 years, it’s been growing into wireless security and IT security systems.”

The goal was to make the standards broad enough to address security in control systems across multiple industries. “One of the challenges is how to secure the supply chain – to provide a foundation of security across the board. We started looking at the fundamental problem. After polling agencies and experts, we recognized that software is the predominant cause of security,” said Modeste. “If we could address the security of software, it would be applicable to industrial systems. So, we started to do build a foundation based on software and see how we can affect the software during the security design of software.”

The Continual Update Process

Cybersecurity is always a moving target. UL built this into the standards, so they will be updated as changes in the security environment change. “We’re in a continuous feedback mode for continuous improvement. There is no silver bullet or magic way to solve the problem,” said Modeste. “In the past, people have tried for gradual solutions, but that didn’t satisfy industry. We started adding and building on the foundation in order to make it harder and harder for a bad actor to circumvent control systems.”

UL created standards that are designed to adapt to developments in the security environment, a function that is consistent with updates that software vendors provide. “The standards are continually updated. Vendors are producing products, but those products are not static. They make revisions and updates,” said Modeste. “The vendor adapts, so they roll out any new changes. We take that into consideration. We look at how to ensure your vendor is doing the due diligence.”

By adhering to the standards, users can be assured their vendors are providing ongoing updates to security. “In practice, what we’ve seen is that if the vendor adopts these standards, it becomes part of their independent best practices and shows they’re doing the right thing,” said Modeste. “The adoption of these standards demonstrates to their clients that they’re adapting and they have third-part validation of that adapting.”

Ongoing UL Cybersecurity Standards

UL began publishing standards for the ICS providers last year. “We published a series of standards in 2016. We published more this past summer. We started three years ago as we worked is an advisory the Obama Administration,” said Modeste. “We met with several agencies with the government, DHS being the biggest one. We partnered with various agencies, including DARPA. We also include several consultants and utilities.”

The standards come out of UL’s Cybersecurity Assurance Program) UL CAP, which offers third party support to allow users to evaluate both the security of network-connectable products and systems, as well as the vendor processes for developing and maintaining products and systems for security.




While the standards apply to a wide swath of industries, including medical and buildings, the core work was done for manufacturing. “The standards are focused on the manufacturing community, to help them build good design into their products,” said Modeste. “That means the vendor takes into consideration the flaws and weaknesses that a hacker may use to attack. The standards don’t specifically say they should identify and notify the user. Instead, it makes the product robust enough to product itself. The software in the products will be trained to detect and take action.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

Image courtesy of Underwriters Laboratories.


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How Trump&#039;s Manufacturing Jobs Council Fell Apart

Design News - Wed, 2017-08-16 14:08

President Donald Trump has decided to disband the council of his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. The announcement came Wednesday morning, amidst a large exodus of the council's membership in response to the President's comments regarding a recent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, VA. By Tweet, the president said:

Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017

As of Wednesday, several members of President Trump's Manufacturing Jobs Initiative had departed including: Kenneth Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck; Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank; Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing; Richard Trumka, of the AFL-CIO, along with Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO's deputy chief of staff; 3M CEO Inge Thulin; and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

In a blog post, Intel's Krzanich explained his departure, saying:

“ I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. ... I am not a politician. I am an engineer who has spent most of his career working in factories that manufacture the world’s most advanced devices. Yet, it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible. Promoting American manufacturing should not be a political issue.”

Under Armour's Plank, echoed Krzanich's sentiment, expressing a desire to focus on technological innovation over political entanglements. In a statement released by Under Amour, Plank said, “We remain resolute in our potential and ability to improve American manufacturing. However, Under Armour engages in innovation and sports, not politics ...” In the past year Under Armour has gained attention for applying 3D printing techniques to shoe design and manufacturing.

Paul, of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, tweeted about his departure, saying, “... it's the right thing to do.”

I'm resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it's the right thing for me to do.

— Scott Paul (@ScottPaulAAM) August 15, 2017

President Trump's Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, first announced back in January, was supposed to be a think tank, bringing together the most prominent business leaders in American manufacturing to tackle the problem of creating job growth in the manufacturing sector. At its inception the council boasted CEOs from companies including Tesla, Ford, Dow Chemical, Dell, Lockheed-Martin, and General Electric among its 28 members. However over the course of the year the council had been steadily dwindling, with the largest exodus coming this week.

The first major blow to the council's membership came in June when Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the council in response to President Trump pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Musk, a known environmentalist, tweeted:

Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017

Other members had left the council for more benign reasons. The departure of Ford CEO, Mark Fields, coincided with his retirement from the company in May but his spot had not been filled since then.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with manufacturing executives at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. From left are, Trump, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, Ford CEO Mark Fields, Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, United Technologies Corporation CEO Greg Hayes, and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn. (Image source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

An Exodus Sparked by Protest

During the weekend of August 12 several white supremacist groups, including the KKK, and those that identify with the conservative Alt-Right movement, descended on the city of Charlottesville, Va., to protest the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The gathering, called the largest white supremacist gathering in at least a decade by several media outlets, attracted large groups of counter-protestors, as well.

Tensions between the two groups culminated on August 12, when 20-year-old Ohio resident James Alex Fields Jr. drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors, seriously injuring 19 people and killing one, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a resident of Charlottesville.

The President Responds

There was an outcry for the President to speak out about the violence in Charlottesville, and to condemn the white nationalist groups behind the protests. But many felt the President's response, which said the violence was on “many sides,” was, at best, an inadequate response and, at worst, an implicit condoning of white supremacy.

What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.#Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/DB22fgnu6L

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017

“Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either,” the President told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

At that same conference, when asked why he believed CEOs were leaving the manufacturing council, the President accused members of the council of being at odds with his plans to reshore more jobs back to the US:

“Because [these CEOs] are not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you're talking about, they're outside of the country. ... We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they are leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside and I've been lecturing them ... about you have to bring it back to this country. You can't do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That's what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.”


Before he announced its disbandment, the President's remarks were looking to have a long-standing effect on his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, as companies were likely looking to distance themselves from President Trump and his remarks, which many feel are racist. In a reaction to the first wave of CEOs leaving the council, activists took to social media, starting the hashtag #QuitTheCouncil to urge more business leaders to exit.

While he did not cite #QuitTheCouncil as part of his decision to leave the manufacturing council , 3M CEO Inge Thulin, was among those targeted (and later praised) by the hashtag:

Retweet if u want them to #QuitTheCouncil!@3m@MichaelDell @JNJNews @CampbellSoupCo @WhirlpoolCorp@JeffImmelt@Boeing@generalelectric

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) August 15, 2017

Thulin announced his departure Wednesday morning, saying in a statement released to news outlets:

“Sustainability, diversity, and inclusion are my personal values and also fundamental to the 3M Vision. ... I joined the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative in January to advocate for policies that align with our values and encourage even stronger investment and job growth – in order to make the United States stronger, healthier, and more prosperous for all people. After careful consideration, I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals. ...”

Symbolic or Impactful?

It is unclear whether the dissolution of the manufacturing council will have an impact on Trump's efforts to grow jobs in the US manufacturing sector. Some analysts have called the council little more than a symbolic gesture that was unlikely to have had any long-term impact on American manufacturing to begin with. Other analysts have credit Trump as a driving factor behind a spike in reshoring in 2017. However other factors including labor costs and lack of skilled workers overseas are also playing a significant role as more advanced technologies in industries such as automative and electronics hit the market.


Chris Wiltz is a senior editor at Design News covering emerging technologies including VR/AR, AI, and robotics.


Helping SMEs Harness the IoT Via PLM

Design News - Wed, 2017-08-16 02:11

The Internet of things (IoT) is becoming the way of the world and because of it, there are now more components being manufactured and more intricate design chain challenges than ever. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will have to learn to trust data and analytics, where once they relied on people. To truly embrace this digital transformation, manufacturers need to step out of their comfort zones to learn new habits, acquire new disciplines, and implement organizational transformation that extends to their supply chain. 

For small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), this may be a bit of a challenge. Turning to their product lifecycle management (PLM) system to manage backend activities typically stored in customer relationship management (CRM), issue tracking, and data collection systems -- as well as all the supply chain activities associated with procurement -- can help SMEs take advantage of the IoT like larger companies.

PLM’s Role in Leveraging Big Data

PLM technology provides a system to centralize product data, standardize business processes and streamline communication of information across distributed product development teams. It helps to shorten development cycles, improve quality and cut the time-to-market by enabling access to current and accurate product data. Anytime. Anywhere. 

To aid in the development of more complex, smart device-enabled products, PLM software has evolved from the backbone for managing multiple discipline processes, product documentation, complex BOMs, and engineering changes, to capturing downstream activities such as manufacturing planning, quality processes, and product and customer/field-level feedback.

PLM is capable of integrating data on both the front end and back end to support a bigger picture  and better-designed products. The amount of data interaction that engineers are going to need is increasing, especially since the domains of the design and engineering environments are no longer silos unto themselves. Data points related to product performance and efficiency can now be shared with the rest of the organization. Products are getting more complex by adding electronic and software components, and increased digital customer interactions bring forth even more information and opportunity.  

Some of the PLM vendors that cater to SMEs have taken the steps to build simple-to-use tools to leverage data and communications in new and more meaningful ways. Let’s face it, communication continues to be the cornerstone of product development, manufacturing, and support. Meetings, emails, and phone/conference calls are important aspects of any team that builds products. It is all about transparency and finding the best ways to get everyone on the same page. Capturing these discussions and associating them to product records provides all personnel with the visibility to understand the full impact their products have had on user, consumers, and customers. Understanding this impact has a direct influence on product features and quality for future designs and updates/upgrades.

Embracing Customer Input

Customer feedback is commonly used throughout the product development process to ensure that the end product is something that solves a customer’s problem or fulfils a need. The companies that can intertwine product development and customer feedback will be the ones that reap strong competitive advantages, have sticky customer loyalty, and earn raving customer advocates. The best business decisions are based on data, not hunches. And this is especially true as the IoT adds an extra layer of complexity with a higher volume of customer feedback from both the consumer and products. Too many times, business owners’ and executives’ decisions are made based on inaccurate data.

Customer feedback is the holy grail of tangible data. It allows the product engineering team a better ability to gather real insight into how their customers really feel about the product or service. Bill Gates put it best when he related that a company’s most unhappy customers are actually the company’s greatest source of learning. 

The Role of Communication Tracking Within PLM Systems

If a large percentage of customers suggest a product feature or want an additional customer service channel, it has now become possible to capture this information using PLM. PLM provides a communication platform to capture issues, feedback, and discussions from internal resources, customers, suppliers, and devices. Tracked items can automatically associate customer feedback to product records and translate to quality items and/or engineering changes/ECOs. This improves product development, quality, and timelines. Such systems can even provide product data links to internal and external feedback that makes the process easy and highly intuitive.

PLM systems have gotten smarter and many offer an efficient pre-filtering process before an issue becomes a quality item (such as a corrective action, nonconformity, process, change, etc.) or introduces product changes (ECOs).  There is now a way to conduct closed-loop processing of PLM-related issues as well as non-PLM related ones. 

It can also deliver a user with a blogging environment to encourage additional communication. Often it can help manage and route help tickets as well as track help ticket closure. Most importantly, it builds solutions and develops a more in-depth knowledge base to address common questions and problems for the purposes of improving product design and corporate policies.

Better Products Come from the Communication Loop

SMEs are coordinating 75% or more of their supply chain activity outside their four walls, using data derived from tapping into such areas as IoT, mobility and cloud-based technologies to achieve a more collaborative PLM framework, according to Frost & Sullivan. The results can deliver positive impacts in the design and engineering of products. This information SMEs are now tapping into is providing greater data accuracy, clarity, and insights, leading to better decision-making. 




Extending PLM capabilities to include downstream processes, data sharing and analytics improve insights into customer requirements and make use of product performance data in real life. With PLCs, sensors, and smart devices improving and becoming more affordable and efficient, there are now more opportunities to track and research how devices are performing and how customers are experiencing products in all industries. Meaningful data gathered from customers, devices, suppliers and multiple departments internal to an organization, can seamlessly be filtered and leveraged throughout PLM processes to create better-engineered products.


Chuck Cimalore is president and CTO of Omnify Software, a company that designs, delivers and supports product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions for the Electronics OEM and Electronics Manufacturing Services industries. He is a graduate of Worchester Polytechnic Institute.

Image courtesy of Omnify Software.


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