Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Highlights from the 2010 Emerging Technology Center at IMTS 2010

Here is my Summary of the  
2010 Emerging Technology Center at IMTS 2010

Heading into IMTS 2010, our hopes were extremely high for the ETC. Lots of planning and hard work went into the ETC this year putting together the 3-D Theater, as well as the technology-specific pods, which included Cloud Computing, MTConnect, Additive Technology, and Micro/Nanotechnology.

 Above is a photo from the ETC's 3D theater.  NOTE: Yes, it is a boost to one's ego to see yourself up on a big screen :-)  I had to take this photo for my parents.  I am constantly competing with my sister who has a bachelors degree, two masters degrees and a Ph.D. 

Cloud computing was really about educating the attendees about cloud computing and specifically its benefits in manufacturing. The standard question was, “I have heard about cloud computing, but what the heck is it anyway?” If I could tell someone was pressed for time, I would simply ask a series of questions to drive home the point:

Above is one of the many large posters we had in the ETC.

Cloud Computing Demo App at IMTS ETC
  • When you Google something, do you know specifically what city the serves are located where your search query is being run? Do you care? The answers were, of course, “I don't know and I don't care. I simply want me results to come back to me quickly.” I would then ask, “would you rather have a small nuclear power plant in backyard that you owned and managed or would you rather just pay for what you use from the electric company?” The answer was, as expected, “I just want to pay for what I used and not worry about it”. I would then tell them, “That is exactly what cloud computing is all about. You are using large servers, that someone else runs and worries about, you pay for exactly what you use and you simply get the results you want back.” Cloud computing is important for manufacturing because it allows companies to avoid all the issues associated with running their own data center and simply pay for what they need – when they need it.
Above are the software apps in the MTConnect section of the ETC.
Above is the machine tool and devices part of the HUGELY popular MTConnect demo app

What was the very cool part of the MTConnect demo was that you select the machine tool or device to monitor and then select the app to monitor it with.  This really demonstrates the true value of MTConnect - Different Devices, Common Connection.

Above is one the large MTConnect posters

The number of attendees and exhibitors that stopped by the MTConnect area in the ETC exceeded our wildest expectations. There were times when four of our MTConnect experts were all talking to different individuals/groups about MTConnect and there were others waiting. It was GREAT! Time flies when you are busy all day discussing such a game-changing protocol that is both open and royalty free. MTConnect's slogan is, “Different Devices, Common Connection”. That summarizes the enabling technology that is crucial for radically improving productivity in manufacturing. We had a great application running in the back of the booth showing 22 machine tools and devices that were speaking to eight different software applications all using MTConnect. You would simply select the machine tool or device, select your software app of choice and then watch as the software app would talk to the MTConnect enabled machine tool and display monitoring information. I believe that when we reflect back on MTConnect years from now, IMTS 2010 will be viewed as a tipping point for MTConnect-enabled software applications.

September 16 was a huge day for MTConnect when the OPC Foundation and the MTConnect Institute announced a joint Memorandum of Understanding. The essence of the announcement was that OPC and MTConnect will cooperate in developing standards called MTConnectOpcUa. MTConnectOpcUa is a set of companion specifications to ensure interoperability and consistency between MTConnect specifications and OPC specifications, as well as the manufacturing technology equipment, devices, software or other products that implement those standards. There were tons of questions and interest in this announcement. This MoU is a huge win for manufacturing interoperability.

Above is a great example of additive technology. The completely interlocking gears, of different colors, that actually spin, were made from the ground up ONE LAYER at a time.  This is a great example of something that COULD NOT be made by any other process.

The additive technologies and the micro/nanotechnologies fall into the “how do the do that?” category. I simply can not do justice to either of these technologies with the written word. What I really liked about both displays was the hands-on nature as well as the large posters that were dispelling common myths about the technologies. The classic myth on additive technologies is that it is only being used for prototypes. As I was told and shown, this is an absolute myth! This really is the future for custom manufacturing and you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that. There are many additive examples today in the medical industry.

The above is a micro machine tool that is making a 3 micron cut.  That's right, a 3 MICRON cut.

Above is the Veeco device I discuss below.

Easily, the most amazing part of the ETC was the micro and nanotechnology section. I particularly enjoyed the Veeco display showing one of their products that scans in 3D. This technology is used for non-contact surface measurement of variety of products. Veeco says on their web site that typical products that are measured using their products would be ophthalmic lenses, medical devices and tools, high-brightness LEDs, semiconductor devices, through-silicon vials and trenches, solar cells, and precision machined parts. Watching a tiny machine tool make cuts at 3 microns was pretty amazing as well.

What a show be without a red Tesla?

The 2010 ETC was the best ever and I already can't wait to see what 2012 IMTS will hold for the ETC!

NOTE: This text will also appear in the IMTS Insider.