Metal Fabricated Parts

When pharmaceutical manufacturer Biogen Idec planned a new headquarters building in Boston’s growing Kendall Square tech center, they knew the construction and program needs of the 325,000-square foot, five-story project would be a challenge for the architects, engineers and general contractor selected.

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Cambridge, the suburban Boston municipality Kendall Square is located in, had a zoning requirement that all projects stay under 75 feet. That meant architect Spagnolo, Gisness and Associates had to cut its original plan for a six-story building down to five stories.

Biogen had its own needs, too. The company wanted to break down barriers between its management and employees and encourage collaboration among its scientists and researchers through the architecture of the building.

Open Office Plan

The new global headquarters has no private offices, just individually designed workstations called “I spaces” and common “huddle rooms” for private phone calls or spontaneous meetings. The company scrapped telephone landlines for employees, who are issued laptops and headsets.

Panels in the ceilings and floors can be brought down to add soft walls and subdivide rooms for smaller group collaboration.

“The idea was to bring everyone together, no separate offices for executives or private areas for senior management, everyone has the same office in the open floor plan,” said Malisa Heiman, senior associate in the real estate and site planning for Biogen.

Construction Manager Consigli Construction co-located with SGA and several of the project’s subcontractors during the design stage of the project. All mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractors were on board during design meetings.

By using 3D building information modeling Consigli and SGA were able to design and deliver a composite slab system with steel trusses. All trusses were prefabricated, some smaller with penetrations and spaces for mechanical systems in beams.

One Less Floor

Consigli and SGA were able to shave the entire mechanical floor off the building and achieve the 75-foot zoning height required by putting the mechanical systems in the steel frame. With the utility floor squeezed into the building’s steel frame was completed seven months early and $2.3 million under budget. Biogen took occupation in late 2013. The artifact handed over for facility management was a 3D model.

“We demanded detail early one. The level of coordination allowed fabrication to start more quickly,” said Andy Deschenes, director of project services and innovation at Consigli.

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Autodesk recently released its 2016 software portfolio of design, engineering, and construction products.

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The 2016 suites for buildings and civil infrastructure projects are the Autodesk Building Design Suite, Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite and Autodesk Plant Design Suite.

The biggest change is that each design suite now includes Autodesk ReCap, a laser scanning and large image processing program that allows project teams to capture existing conditions and directly import them into a 3D model.

The Revit Building Information Modeling platform also has new rendering engines. The “Mental Ray” rendering engine that has been used since Revit 2008 has been replaced by Autodesk Raytracer and Rapid RT in the 2016 version. This can mean, in some cases, a leap from 2 hours for a detailed rendering to 3 minutes.

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409 is often considered “the barely stainless steel,” or affectionately the most humble of the stainless steels. Stainless steel must have a minimum of 10.5% chromium to be stainless steel. 409 Contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium, thus the moniker barely stainless steel.

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In addition to minimal chromium content, 409 stainless has three additional properties that make it an attractive product for substitution: it is the lowest cost stainless, it has good oxidation resistance and excellent formability.

Middleweight Corrosion Fighter

According to AK Steel, 409 gets specified where oxidation and corrosion requirements go beyond carbon steel and some coated steels. North American Stainless suggests, “it is not as resistant to corrosion or high-temperature oxidation as the higher-alloyed stainless steels (430 or 304), but it is still far superior to mild steel and low alloy corrosion resisting steels and most coated mild steels.”

And not to ignore the other main US producer of 409, Allegheny Technologies explained its usage in automotive mufflers, “The good fabricability of this alloy, combined with its basic corrosion resistance and economy have significantly broadened the utility of ATI 409HPtm stainless.”

As most MetalMiner readers know, alloy substitutions in stainless steel have typically occurred when an alloying element such as nickel has increased in price. When nickel becomes volatile, manufacturers have sought options with less nickel or no nickel that have sufficient properties to make the final product without compromising quality. Both 304 and 316L are readily available and could be considered the path of least resistance in terms of specifying stainless steel; however, in some cases, these alloys may exceed the necessary properties for the final application.

Most consider 304 or 316L the “old standby” grades, but that thinking contains a few misconceptions. For example, stainless is stainless because it has at least 10.5% chromium (some would say 11% chromium), not because it contains nickel. Stainless can be both magnetic and non-magnetic. In commercial food service equipment — NSF specifies, for food zones, stainless needs to have a minimum chromium content of 16% and has nothing to do with whether or not it is magnetic.

Compliance Alloy

In the early 2000s, product substitution meant a new push to inform the manufacturer that type 430 has 16% chromium and is, thus, NSF 51-compliant. In many cases, a transition occurred in which buying organizations switched from 304 to lower nickel-bearing grades such as 301 or 201 before the switch to 430 occurred. In cases in which 430 could not be substituted for 301 or 201, the next wave of substitution came from higher-chromium ferritic grades such as 439 or 441. Both alloys were developed for the automotive market in which weldability and formability were necessary along with added corrosion resistance from the basic 409 automotive grade.

In residential appliances, the major manufacturers became reticent to move to magnetic stainless grades due to a perception that magnetic equated to not “real” stainless steel.

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Gilbane, Inc., recently released its Spring “Building for the Future” construction economics report and predicted that even if new starts growth were to turn flat for rest of 2015 (which is not expected), starts already recorded over the past 12 months indicate spending for nonresidential buildings in 2015 will increase 15% over 2014, the best growth since 2007.

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Nonresidential new starts have been increasing at an average of 16% per year since a post-recession low was reached in 2012.

The Gilbane report states that nonresidential building starts from April 2014 through February 2015 reached the best three-month average and best six-month average since July 2008 this month.

The construction industry is, by far, the largest consumer of steel products worldwide. Approximately 100 million tons of steel is produced annually in the US. More than 40 million tons of that is delivered to the construction industry. The next largest industries combined (automotive, equipment and machinery) do not consume as much steel as construction.

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According to a recent report from the Freedonia Group, worldwide demand for copper is expected to advance 4.7% every year to 37.2 million metric tons in 2019. It also says the Asia-Pacific region is expected to see the fastest annual gains, led by increased output in China and India.

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Electrolytic refining of primary copper will be the primary method of production in these countries, but recycled scrap will account for a larger share of total refined copper output.

Construction Spending in India, US

Outside the AP region, the Freedonia report says advances in construction spending would also fuel copper demand in North America, particularly in the US, where early signs of building construction activity significantly increasing exist. This is followed by Western Europe which could see a “moderate increase” in copper demand since construction and manufacturing output there is expected to climb at a below average speed.

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This is our last post on exponential technologies (see part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4 and part 5).

The first industrial revolution came with the increasing use of the steam engine and hand production methods gave way to machines and assembly lines. The second industrial revolution came with the use of mass production, wherein you can make anything inexpensively as long as you make a million units of it.

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The third industrial revolution is happening now, with digital manufacturing, wherein a new product design does not require a new factory to be made.

So What is 3D printing?

Think of an inkjet printer, these machines convert what’s in your computer (digital instructions) into printed text (two-dimensional object). A 3D printer does the same thing, but it adds a vertical dimension, permitting the creation of three-dimensional objects.

Think about what has happened since we invented the inkjet printer, only about 60 years ago. Instead of handwriting/typing a book page by page, we can now design the whole product (a book) digitally and manufacture it (print it) in minutes. And an ever bigger change occurred as we had access to the internet and inkjet printers became exponentially cheaper. Now, in the 21st century, you can design (or download) any 2D product (text, images) and manufacture it (print it) in your own house, without the need of a factory.

We will see the same evolution with 3D printing, an exponential technology beginning to disrupt a portion of the $10 trillion global manufacturing industry.

In the near future, each of us will have a 3D printer at home. Let’s say you want to buy a new chair, you won’t have to go to a store and buy it, not even buy it on amazon and get it shipped to your house. You will just go online and download the digital design, totally customizable to perfectly fit your house’s needs, then make (print) the chair yourself.

For a more specialized item, like a car, you will go to a 3-D printing service provider to make it and ship it to you, just like you go to an ink provider when you want to print things like banners, calendars, business cards etc. Take a look for example at shapeways, the company has set up a 3-D printing marketplace, turning people’s designs into realities and also offering instant route to market.

How to 3D Print

These days, there are many different types of 3D printers in the market, from smaller than a pigeon to as big enough to print a house. These machines can print over a hundred different materials ranging from nylons and plastics all the way to biological materials to make living tissues and eventually whole organs.

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The federal government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly dry again. Remember when we played this game last year?

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Friday said, “we ought to be embarrassed as a country” about the state of the nation’s infrastructure, as lawmakers once again scramble to beat a May 31 deadline for extending federal transportation funds.

A Patch for the Patch

Lawmakers have talked about passing a $10 billion patch to extend transportation funding until the end of the year, but Foxx said temporary extensions are not sufficient enough to address the nation’s infrastructure needs.

“We ought to be embarrassed as a country,” he said after an appearance at a Washington, D.C., Metrorail subway station in Northern Virginia.

Foxx has a point as last year’s fix for hundreds of millions of dollars in highway, bridge and public works projects was supposed to give lawmakers time to come up with a comprehensive solution to funding the steel, concrete and underground pipe and tunnel work necessary to ensure safety of our rapidly aging infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund is currently funded only by gas taxes and a user fee that hasn’t been adjusted since 1993. The fund runs out of money on May 31.

Manufacturers Urge Long-Term Fix

Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, recently wrote in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Op-Ed that, “the cycle of short-term fixes already is damaging our economy. States already have pulled back on hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of investment amid uncertainty over whether Congress will pay its trust fund tab. That hurts job creation right here in Wisconsin, among our state’s many manufacturers, contractors and workers in related industries.”

Slater and AEM urged Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the influential House Ways and Means committee, to push for a 5-year, fully funded fix for the trust fund rather than another short-term extension.

“Ryan has begun to float a short-term extension to buy himself more time to craft comprehensive tax reform legislation — a laudable goal — which he says would account for highway investments,” Slater wrote. “But the safety of America’s roads and bridges shouldn’t depend on the fate of tax reform, which faces an arduous path forward on Capitol Hill.”

Congress has three weeks to act.

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A few weeks ago I had dinner at a friend’s. The floor ended up kind of messy so I offered to sweep the floor in gratitude for the delicious meal.

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But that wasn’t necessary because my friend had a vacuum-cleaning robot. I had heard about these robots before but never thought they would work so well. I was impressed.

The robot, with sensors built in, was able to avoid every obstacle in the house and recognize the dirtier areas so it could stay longer in those. Finally, when the robot finished cleaning it automatically came back to its spot to recharge itself. This little vacuum-cleaning robot has become exponentially better and cheaper during the past few years and today even a cat can drive one of these.

I have No Need of a Protocol Droid

But this is just a pretty basic robot. Today, robots come with simple user interfaces. Take, for example, Baxter, a two-armed robot with an animated face to create friendlier interactions with humans. The robot doesn’t need complicated code programming, it just learns through guided imitation, allowing line workers to “coach” the robots. Moreover, with the exponential growth of artificial Intelligence (AI), putting robots through their motions will soon be replaced by simply having a conversation with them. Robot & Frank is a movie that I think describes pretty well what robots with AI will look like in the near future.

Furthermore, we are also seeing exponential progress in robotics’ agility and mobility. Thanks to AI and a new generation of actuators and sensors, robots of all sizes and modes of mobility are already in the marketplace. Now robots can run, crawl, climb or even fly like a bird.

During the past few decades, advances in robotics were relatively slow as they were basically run out of university labs or programs funded by governments, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) robots above. That all changed about two years ago when Google announced the acquisition of eight robotics companies and Amazon is already getting into the drone business. Robotics can only grow faster now that the big players are in the game.

I’m Sorry, Dave, I’m Afraid I Can Do Your Job

Robots are already replacing humans in the supply chain. Foxconn (a Chinese manufacturer for Apple’s iPhone) has a fully automated factory operating in Chengdu. The company has been annually adding 30,000 industrial robots to its factories.

As chips and sensors get cheaper, there will be fewer reasons to hire humans when robots can get the job done. Robots don’t take vacations, nor time for lunch or sleep and they can work an assembly line for as little as $4 hour.

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CloudDDM is currently operating 100 high-tech 3D printers running 24 hours, 7 days a week in UPS’ Global Supply Chain Solutions Campus in Louisville, Ky. CloudDDM’s founder, entrepreneur Mitch Free said just three employees: one for each of the eight-hour shifts, can oversee the entire operation. UPS handles packaging and shipping of parts and prototypes created using CloudDDM. Free said the facility can turn around orders that typically take a week to complete in 24 hours.

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“We offer a strong value proposition to design teams who need to iterate quickly, those who produce products in low volume, those who want to customize products on demand as well as the spare parts replacement market,” Free said. “Our customers require high-quality parts with structural integrity, the consumer-grade 3D printers would not be adequate for their needs. Further, our customers trust us to make sure their proprietary data and the details of their next generation product are secure.”

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Although stainless steel demand is expected to grow moderately this year, service centers are flush with inventory which is putting pressure on US mills.

Why Manufacturers Need to Ditch Purchase Price Variance

Combined with successive months of declines in nickel prices, service centers are only purchasing what is absolutely necessary. Both domestic mills and Asian mills have robust North American inventories, a stark contrast from a year ago when lead times went beyond the standard 6-8 weeks, causing service centers to seek alternative sources.

Technical Issues Hurting Mills

Another exacerbating factor in last year’s supply was Outokumpu’s technical issues with its cold-rolling mills and a lack of alternative domestic supply led service centers to seek other sources. With lead times extended, the domestic mills were able to pass through several base price increases in 2014.

With higher US base prices and the strength of the US dollar, Asian imports did not subside. Asian producers need other markets for their surplus material as Chinese demand is weak and both Europe and India have taken anti-dumping actions against China.

End market demand is strong for automotive,​ residential​ appliance and food service/food processing equipment. The only market that appears to be suffering is energy which is due to the low price of oil. Stainless demand is decent according to many sources and stainless base prices will remain under pressure.

Inventory Backlog

The North American market​ ​is ​saturated with inventory​ ​so​ lowering the base price will not spur on demand. Until service centers reduce their inventory backlogs and nickel prices start to improve, service centers will not buy, regardless of price. Service centers need to focus on getting their inventories in check before they resume anything resembling regular buying patterns. ​​Unfortunately, the mills are under pressure to book capacity which oftentimes leads to acts of desperation.

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