Articles in Category: Product Developments

Global automotive giant Volvo is currently taking part in a European Union research project which involves replacing the various cables in trucks with wireless sensors.

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The result is expected to be a dramatic reduction in the amount of copper and plastic used. Every year the Volvo Group should be able to dispense with around 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) of cabling, which is the equivalent of 18 metric tons of copper and 33 metric tons of plastic.

Volvo is saying goodbye to miles of cabling in its truck division. Can IoT sensors replace all that expensive copper and plastic? Source: Volvo.

Volvo is saying goodbye to miles of cabling in its truck division. Can IoT sensors replace all that expensive copper and plastic? Source: Volvo.

“The savings could amount to a large number of hours, sometimes even days. In the factory, the cables are awkward to handle and time-consuming to fit in the right place,” said Jonas Hagerskans, a development engineer at the Volvo Group. “The wireless sensors are much simpler to install. The cables are also sensitive to dirt and rust and prone to faults. By replacing the cables with wireless sensors, it is possible to prevent all the potential cabling faults. When trucks come into the workshop for repairs, identifying faults in long cables that are difficult to access is very time-consuming. In the future, our customers could get their trucks back from the workshop more quickly.” Read more

Dutch 3D printing technology firm MX3D is close to beginning construction on its stainless steel, 3D-printed pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam.

We wrote about the bridge and its design in 2015. MX3D Co-Founder and CMO Gijs van der Velden recently explained to me at the Autodesk University trade show in Las Vegas where the project is at and why they expect construction (via giant welder robots who will weld individual parts “printed” in mX3D’s facility together) to start in early 2017.

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“We’re at the point where we’ve printed every critical part of the bridge and all we need is approval from the engineers,” van der Velden said. “Our design is quite elaborate and all the diameters change everywhere and we use 3D printed parts. We’re getting pretty close and once they approve we have agreed with the City government that once we do a full load-bearing test it will be acceptable. It’s not the normal procedure but the city was very helpful in accommodating us.”

The bridge, which will be made of stainless steel 316 alloy, will be installed in a public park in Amsterdam and cross one of the city’s famous canals.


One of the stainless steel supports of MX3D’s 3D-printed pedestrian bridge that will soon be assembled and welded together in Amsterdam. Source: Jeff Yoders.

“(We chose 316 stainless) because it’s highest grade standard and not too expensive,” van der Velden said. “We want to make this technique available for other professions — other than aerospace (where it’s already being used) — so, we want to work in steel, stainless steel, bronze, aluminum.”

After winning a silver medal at the London Paralympics in 2012, German cyclist Denise Schindler wanted more at the Rio games last Summer. More comfort.

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Paralympian Denise Schindler and her silver and bronze medals from the Rio Summer Paralympics. Source: Jeff Yoders

Paralympian Denise Schindler and her silver and bronze medals from the Rio Summer Paralympics. Source: Jeff Yoders

Schindler, a native of Germany’s Bavarian region, had her right leg amputated below the knee after she was in a tram accident when she was three years old. She took up competitive cycling at 18 (she’s now 30) and has been racing at the top level for the last six years.

She won silver in the women’s road race at the London Olympics in 2012. At that Olympics, Schindler wore a carbon-fiber racing leg on her residual limb that cost $12,733.20 (€12,000) to produce and… it still didn’t work right. She got a large abrasion that caused her a great deal of pain during competition even though she was able to finish all of her races.

Lighter, But Stronger and More Malleable

The answer was a polycarbonate prosthetic with a lighter, web-like “smart lattice” structure that Schindler spent two years working with Paul Sohi — an Autodesk engineer, maker and start-up evangelist — on designing and 3D printing with Fusion 360. The resulting limb, the “Real Leg Racing Leg” only cost about $2,652 (€2,500) to produce and, thanks to rapid prototyping and 3D printing, was tested much more extensively with design iterations simply created via “printing” iterations of it. It fit much better than the carbon-fiber, traditional manufacturing process one. Schindler was the first person to compete in an Olympics with a 3D-printed or additive manufactured prosthesis. Read more

For some time now, a debate over the use of rebar, specifically or Glass-Fiber Reinforced Plastic (GFRP ), instead of other forms of steel reinforcement, has been on in Asian industry circles.

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Recently, two events seemed to inflame this ongoing debate. Galvanized rebar was part of the topics taken up for discussion at an international meeting on galvanized steel in India, while a research report, released about the same time, talked of the latest trends in the market in the increased use of GFRP rebar.


Galvanized steel is the gold standard for construction rebar such as this rebar web waiting for a concrete pour. Can glass-fiber reinforced plastic seriously compete? Photo: Jeff Yoders.

The second international galvanizing conference in Kolkata in eastern India saw participation from a cross section of zinc and alloy industries, including the U.S. Delegates talked about ways to expand the zinc market in India and also how to use zinc in automobile industries, fertilizers, and in rebars.

Zinc in Construction

The Indian Government is showing some interest in the role of zinc in building important infrastructure such as bridges. India’s demand for galvanized steel structures will keep rising because of its growing infrastructure. Steel becomes rust-proof (or corrosion resistant, as the industry says) when coated with a layer of zinc, hence galvanization. If done properly, galvanization extends the useful life of rebar and other products for decades. Read more

Well, this is kind of embarrassing.

Four months after the U.K. defiantly voted to leave the E.U., that same organization and currency bloc has awarded $11.5 million (£9.6 million) in regional development funding to back a highly experimental new wave power project based at Hayle in northern Cornwall called Wave Hub.

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Indeed, so key is the E.U. contribution that Carnegie Wave Energy, the company behind the project, is now confident it will be able to complete the first phase, a 1-megawatt trial facility due to be connected to the national grid in 2018.

The plan is this would be followed by a second phase intended to deliver 15 mw by 2021. Slightly embarrassing in that the E.U. regional development funds are intended to “strengthen economic and social cohesion” across the EU, not what slightly over half the U.K.’s voting population voted for, but there you are.

Wave energy has promised much and delivered almost nothing for decades. Two Scottish firms, Pelamis and Aquamarine, have both gone into administration in the past two years, as firms struggle to develop economically viable technology. Carnegie’s differs in that it operates underwater rather than on the surface, protecting it from breaking waves. The firm says it needs only a 1 meter (3 feet) swell to generate power, a state the sea delivers almost every day of the year off the cost of Cornwall, renowned for its Atlantic breakers and home to Newquay.

It’s said by some to be the capital of European surfing. The technology is therefore closer in some respects to tidal power than traditional wave power technologies and should require lower maintenance and offer a longer operating life than previous surface positioned wave designs.

An artist's impression of the proposed new Wave Hub off Hayle, Cornwall © PA, taken from the FT

An artist’s impression of the proposed new Wave Hub off Hayle, Cornwall © PA, Source: FT.

Bizarrely, Carnegie Wave Energy is not even a British firm, they are Australian but as the CEO, Michael Ottaviano, is quoted by the Financial Times as saying, Australia is blessed with an embarrassment of energy resources “so there has not been strong incentives for new technology.”

The U.K., and indeed Europe as a whole, is not so fortunate and, driven by a commitment to decarbonize the region, it’s willing to back new technologies if they show sufficient promise. In total, Wave Hub’s Hayle project will cost some $72 million (£60m) and should, all being well, start delivering power the national grid within two years.

The development of natural gas and hydrogren technologies is a focus of research at Voestalpine AG‘s new DRI hot-briquetted iron ore facility near Corpus Christi, Texas.

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“We are hoping to run blast furnaces with hydrogen instead of coal and coke,” said Dr. Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chairman and CEO. “Development of such technology will take a 20-30-year time frame, but I am convinced we’ll hit that target.”


This blurry “art shot” of Voestalpine’s 450-foot HBI production facility signifies that this will be a “think piece” about research, smog and environmental sustainability. Or Jeff took this from the bus. Jeff seriously took this from the bus. Source: Jeff Yoders

Natural Gas and Natural Hydrogen

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the potential of converting natural gas (the fuel material for Voestalpine’s iron ore reduction tower) to hydrogen to decarbonize dirty production processes. Voestalpine’s head and environmental heart certainly seem like they’re in the right place, but what might be advantageous, for the U.S. and South Texas, is the jobs that that research will bring. Read more

Allegheny Technologies, Inc. shares tumbled 15% Tuesday after the Pittsburgh-based specialty metals producer reported a larger than expected third quarter loss and missed analyst revenue estimates as well.

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The company lost $530.8 million, or $4.95 per share, vs. a loss of $144.6 million, or $1.35 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Sales fell 7% to $770.5 million. Analysts had expected the company to report an adjusted loss of 10 cents per share and revenue of $822 million.

ATI also announced the permanent closing of the idled Midland stainless steel melt shop and finishing operation in Beaver County, Pa.

It also permanently closed its Bagdad plant in Gilpin, Pa., whichemployed about 225 people. It produced grain-oriented electrical steel prior to the start of the six-month lockout of union workers in August 2015. Midland employed around 250 workers.

“The decision helps provide clarity to some of the people who had hoped that there would be a restart,” ATI spokesman Dan Greenfield said.

In December, the company announced it was mothballing both facilities with the possibility that they would reopen if market conditions for those products improved.

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Richard Harshman, ATI’s chief executive officer, said that has not happened. He announced the move as part of the company’s third-quarter earnings statement.

It may be strong political lobbying or maybe a perception that the industry is crucial for economic development, but the aerospace and shipping industries have certainly avoided the worst of environmental regulation over the last decade or so.

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The energy and heavy industry sectors have borne the brunt of what some would call over-regulation. But that’s all about to change. 191 Countries gathered in Montréal last week to adopt a global market-based system to tackle the rise of carbon emissions from international air travel an article in the Telegraph explains.

Offset Market

Under the new deal, airlines will be expected to offset their emissions growth after 2020 by buying “offset credits” in line with their carbon footprint, the terms of the agreement layout. The carbon costs are expected to incentivize the industry to develop lower carbon fuels and more efficient technologies, according to the newspaper. Read more

Regulators have begun an investigation into imports of rebar from three countries and the World Steel Association believes the global sector’s long crisis will end next year.

Rebar Anti-Dumping

Today, the Commerce Department announced the initiation of anti-dumping investigations of imports of steel concrete reinforcing bar (rebar) from Japan, Taiwan, and Turkey, and a countervailing duties investigation of imports of the same merchandise from Turkey.

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The investigations cover steel concrete rebar, which is used primarily as a structural agent to increase concrete structures’ resistance to tension, compression, temperature, and/or shear stresses.

The International Trade Commission will rule by November 4, initially, on whether or not the rebar imports and being dumped and subsidized.

World Steel Association Believes Crisis is Easing

The global steel sector crisis that prompted high profile plant closures and job losses last year is easing, with demand set to grow this year and next, the World Steel Association told its conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

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In 2017, it expects global steel demand to grow 0.5% year-on-year to 1.510 billion metric tons while this year, Worldsteel sees demand up 0.2% to 1.501 billion mt.

How anyone can even contemplate bringing such a freakish looking robo doll into their home I cannot imagine. Not since “The Conjuring,” a 2013 film about a possessed doll called Annabelle, has quite such a scary looking item been released on the unsuspecting public. What was Toyota thinking?

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What am I talking about? Toyota’s 10-centimetre (4-inch) tall talking robot called Kirobo Mini, which will be sold in Japan from next year for $392 (¥39,800) and claims to have the intelligence of a five-year-old.

Source Financial Times

Kiroboo Mini. Source: Financial Times.

The idea of the robot is that it is supposed to provide an emotional connection, maybe particularly relevant for Japan’s aging population bereft of company, Kirobo is said to be able to learn phrases and recognize facial expressions with a built-in camera and sensors. A veritable helper robot with a personality.

Artificial Creepiness

The firm is heavily into artificial intelligence although they do not suggest Kirobo will go that far, yet, rather they are building on the platform built by Sony with their Aibo robotic dog; Toyota will be partnering with Vaio, the personal computer company that was spun off from Sony. Vaio’s plant in Nagano prefecture is also where Sony’s Aibo robotic dog was formerly produced.

As anyone who has lived with a five-year-old in the house will confirm, they can be the most manipulative and capricious of individuals. One hopes Toyota’s programmers do not take the “abilities of a five-year-old” too far or Kirobo may be rather more of a handful than Japan’s elderly but lonely seniors can cope with.

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You wonder if Toyota has their target audience right, sure domestically in Japan their demographic may be crying out for such a product but internationally one could imagine plenty of single people living in rented accommodation who cant have animals would find something to talk to and have talk back an improvement on Siri. If they would just change that face….