There seems to be a growing trend of industry pros stressing about missteps in the media’s representation of manufacturing. It seems that somehow we’ve lost sight as a developed society that “technology” and “manufacturing” don’t go hand in hand – that somehow “technology” exists as consumer gadgets in our pockets assembled by who knows in the cheapest place we can source and that’s it.
Some say we should “develop the technology” so others can “make the technology” …completely ignoring the fact that it takes technology to make technology.
What’s worse, we’ve forgotten to teach our kids that all of it is really cool stuff that’s worth pursuing as a career.
So, in honor of the #industryiscool meme that’s been trying to gather steam on Twitter and everywhere else, I’d like to present you with 5 super-cool, super-hi-tech things in manufacturing – from just the past couple weeks:
1. 24-Hour Solar Power System: Pass the Salt, Please!
What happens when you cross a concentrated solar power system with molten salt heat storage? Why, solar power for vampires, of course! Researchers at MIT are positioning their new solar power system as a lower-cost alternative to the choices that already exist. It’s a concept that could help improve small communities in a forward step towards the use of clean energy.
Making cleaner energy more practical for smaller communities – you know, the type of communities most of us live in – what’s not cool about that?
2. Hi-Tech Flying Drones: 3D Printed To Order
After 20 years of development, it seems 3D Printing is finally starting to hit a decent stride. Recently more than ever, it seems people are finding real and useful ways to employ it.
Take this 3D-printed unmanned aircraft recently developed and launched by a team at the UK’s University of Southampton. Before 3D printing technology, custom drones like this would have cost too much to leave the engineers imagination. Now they could go from the drawing board to flight in a matter of days.
UAVs are techy-awesome-cool enough. This makes the whole process simply amazing.
3. 3D Planes Are Cool. 3D Printers in Space are Cooler.
That’s right. 3D printing. In space.
Imagine that the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission had a 3D printer create the parts needed to fix their ship. An article on Canadian Manufacturing suggests the whole ordeal might have been “considerably easier” if they had, and goes to talk about how we really are 3D printing in space today.
Tell me, what’s not cool about spacemen and high-tech machines that can replicate functional objects from a pile of practically-dust in zero gravity? That’s right… N O T H I N G.
4. Sense Heightening Gloves
Here’s some amazing work of medical engineering genius – vibrating gloves that can increase your fingertips’ sense of touch. According to Wired, the gloves have been designed to slightly vibrate, effectively boosting the wearer’s fingertip sensitivity.The technique builds on prior research that has taught us adding some white noise can improve such things as; balance, sight, hearing and touch.
Sense-heightening gloves could easily be adapted in the medical field to assist individuals suffering from a loss in sense of touch.
They could just as easily be employed in the manufacturing industry for the highly-skilled, bionic stuff-makers of the future – or, at least, high-precision jobs requiring a heightened level of manual dexterity today. Either way, it’s still really cool.
5. Smart Robot Learns to “Learn as You Go”
A robot that can perform highly technical tasks? That’s smart. One that can adapt its prior knowledge to solve new problems? That’s amazing.
According to a recent PopSci article, a team of Japanese engineers and roboticists designed a robot with “a kind of self-replicating neural technology … that enables it not only to perform tasks but also to learn as it goes.” In other words, this new robot can essentially think about what it knows already and apply that learning to solve a new problem. When it realizes it doesn’t have the prior knowledge, it tells you so.
Robots have always been the poster-children of “cool” as far as science and manufacturing go, but this takes it one step further. But don’t take my word for it, watch for yourself as the self-teaching robot figures out how to chill a glass of water.
I only posted 5 here, but in less than a week’s time I found at least a dozen articles about how cool industry really is. Not that you need to tell me twice – I’m the one who works in a factory that produces high-precision industrial blades for everything from processing timber to pitting cherries.
That said, I realize how much I’m preaching to the choir with many of you who read this blog – of course we know how much skill and passion and smarts and plain-old-hard-work goes into making stuff – for most of us, it’s what we do.
I only hope we can continue the “remind the world how great/honorable/important manufacturing jobs are” trend on twitter & beyond, whatever hashtag or handle we choose to represent our cause.