It’s that time of year again, when many publications are making
predictions about the year ahead. Those discussions invariably focus on
the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing and a dozen other topics for
which much has already been written.
Rather than tell you things you already know, this article provides insights and predictions regarding lesser known technologies such as self-assembling machines, which are expected to have a profound impact on our lives.
We also explain why you need to keep your eye on that guy down the street who is always making stuff in his garage. He is what we call a “Maker” and he (or she) has valuable perspectives regarding where new technology is headed.
What are Makers?Some Makers are professional engineers, programmers and technicians. Others are skilled hobbyists who invent things from their home. Makers are often the first to apply new tools and technologies that are later adopted by industry.
Closer Than We Think!
How would one dismantle an
internal combustion engine? Most
people would unbolt it piece-by-piece.
However, a much faster way is to use a diamond saw and slice the engine like a loaf of bread. You just cut through the entire motor, creating a series of cross sections that reveal all of the internal parts.
Now, suppose you wanted to build a complex machine? Simple. Just reverse the process! By fusing together layer upon layer of additive material you’d end up with a fully functioning machine that essentially assembled itself.
Maker Perspective - Makers are already doing this with models. Using 3-D printers, they have created self-assembled cars, clocks and other working machines. These things come right off the print bed complete with rotating gears, sprockets, levers and even the coil springs that power these devices. Industry Perspective - Many engineers and scientists agree that self assembly will be the way that much of our manufacturing will be done in the future. However, there are some issues to work out, including:
1. Multi-Material Printing - To build something as complex as an automobile engine, 3-D printers would need to print simultaneously in a number of different materials, including metal, rubber, ceramics and so forth. Some 3-D printers can print multiple materials now, but more development is required in this area.
2. Better Durability - The materials developed for 3-D printing continue to improve every year and it won’t be long until 3-D printed parts match the strength and durability of those created by conventional manufacturing. 3. Tighter Tolerances - The selfassembled machines that Makers create are built with very loose tolerances, which is necessary to prevent the individual parts from fusing together during the printing process. However, in a real car engine, pistons, axles and bearings would require extremely tight tolerances. One possible way to achieve this is discussed below, using a process known as 4D printing.
Advances in nano biotech have
resulted in materials that can be
programmed to change shape
over time, or when an external
stimulus is applied. These “smart”
materials can be used for 3-D
printing, in a process known as
To achieve the tolerances required of an automobile engine, smart materials could be programmed to shrink over a brief expanse of time. A catalyst could be applied to “freeze” the components at exactly the right stage in the process to achieve the required tolerances between parts. The day when we can print a self-assembled car in our garage may be closer than we think. Researchers at MIT’s Self- Assembly Lab are working hard to resolve outstanding issues.
BIM Takes Flight
Industry observers predict that
the worldwide BIM market
will grow at a CAGR of 21.6%,
generating revenues of $11.7 billion
Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems make use of 3-D models to assist in facilities management. Everything from computer servers to plumbing fixtures can be depicted as 3-D models, along with information related to each device. The system can provide component data such as vendor, date of installation, material composition, dimensions and more. A computer interface displays this information on a desktop PC or portable device.
BIM is also useful for making purchasing decisions. Prior to buying an item, a 3-D model of the product can be downloaded from the manufacturer and examined to ensure that the product meets buyer needs in terms of fit, form and function.
AR Goes Mainstream
Augmented Reality (AR) uses a
special type of display that blends
real world images and virtual
images together. One of the first
commercial uses of AR is for BIM
For example, wearing VR headgear, a construction engineer can look at a building and see superimposed diagrams that reveal where electrical wiring, heat ducts or plumbing is installed.
Maker Perspective - Many Makers are avid video gamers who were among the first to use AR headsets. It wasn’t long before the business community recognized the value of this technology and adopted it for themselves.
Industry Perspective - Analysts predict that by 2017, 40% of large manufacturers will have adopted virtual simulation to model their products, optimize facilities management and monitor manufacturing processes.
Investing in 3-D
Increasingly, companies rely
on 3-D models for use in CAD,
3-D printing, BIM applications
and more. Spending time and
resources to create 3-D models
is a good investment in that
the models created for one
application can be converted
easily for other uses.
Note that BIM 3-D models
are valuable corporate assets,
provided that your company
actually owns the models. If you
hire an outside firm to build your
BIM system, make sure your
contract states that your company
retains ownership of the models
that are created for you.
3-D models can be “repurposed”
for use in many applications
• 3-D Printing
• Video Productions
• Corporate Advertising
• Virtual Tours
• Still Photography
• Augmented Reality Applications
View Our Demo!To show our readers how 3-D models can be used for multiple purposes, we created a virtual tour of FIS corporate facilities. This “cinematic” production was created with relatively little effort, thanks to having BIM models to work from.
Click here to see the demo.
Adventures in Legoland
Many engineers entering the
workforce today were introduced
to product design through a
modular system called Mindstorm.
The educational program was
developed by the Lego® company
in 1998 and remains in wide use
Mindstorm uses special CAD programs and modular components (e.g. lego bricks, servos, and sensors) that enable students to create everything from programmable robots to prototypes of their product ideas. In addition to Mindstorm’s success in elementary and secondary schools, over 500 universities around the world use Lego robots in their engineering courses.
Mindstorm provides students with a good foundation for learning professional CAD programs such as SOILDWORKS®.
Maker Perspective - Many makers became Makers thanks to the education they received using lego design systems. Today, Makers continue to use these systems for prototyping their ideas.
Industry Perspective - A growing number of manufacturers recognize that using modular components can speed product design and manufacturing, enabling them to get their products to market more quickly. Personal computers use modular components and provide a good example of the success of this approach.
3-D Meets CNC
New manufacturing systems are
available that can do both 3-D
printing and CNC machining
using a single machine and
control interface. Using this
system, part of a component
can be manufactured through
“subtractive” machining and
difficult geometries on the same
part can be built with “additive”
Maker Perspective - Makers have long used hybrid 3-D approaches to achieve desired results. For example, by using a 3-D printed part as a mold pattern, they can cast stronger parts made of highstrength industrial materials.
Industry Perspective - Companies are beginning to see hybrid manufacturing as a way to “ease in” to 3-D printing, which is still an evolving technology. One company, Siemens, offers a system for programming, validation and post processing for hybrid manufacturing.
Bright Future for Fiber Optics
Bandwidth demand has
experienced exponential growth
since 1983 and there is no end
in sight. Fiber optics is the only
technology on the planet that
can keep up with the world’s
insatiable demand for bandwidth.
Here are some recent
developments that are driving
bandwidth demand, which in turn
drives demand for more fiber
Fiber To The Antenna Cell towers are straining to meet the bandwidth needs of millions of customers who are using an increasing number of mobile devices.
Data traffic over mobile phones and other portable devices is increasing 53% per year and more Fiber To The Antenna (FTTA) installations are required to provide high-bandwidth backhaul for these wireless systems.
Fiber To The Home Another solution to the bandwidth crunch is to bring high capacity fiber closer to the end user. Localized wireless systems are not subject to the same bandwidth limitations that constrain larger cellular networks.
Internet of Things Millions of sensors are being installed in everyday items ranging from traffic lights to household appliances. Wireless networks will be required to feed sensor information to data centers for processing. Once again, fiber will provide the backhaul.
Industry analysts expect IoT market size to grow from $130.33 billion in 2015 to $883.55 billion by 2022, representing a CAGR of 32.4%.
5G Wireless 5G will be the new wireless standard within a few years and will provide cellular customers with 1,000 times more bandwidth per unit area. Guess what’s providing backhaul? Fiber!
Internet Gaming According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI), Internet gaming traffic will grow sevenfold from 2015 to 2020, a CAGR of 46%. Globally, Internet gaming traffic will be 4% of consumer Internet traffic in 2020, up from 2% in 2015.
Virtual Reality Cisco also reports that globally, virtual reality traffic will increase 61 fold between 2015 and 2020, a CAGR of 127%.
Video on Demand Video on Demand (VoD) traffic will nearly double by 2020, according to Cisco. The amount of VoD traffic in 2020 will be equivalent to 7.2 billion DVDs per month.
4K Video Video streaming already accounts for most of the bandwidth consumption on the Internet, and the new 4K Video standard will require even more bandwidth. According to research from Akamai, only 21% of U.S homes have enough Internet bandwidth to stream 4K ultra HD.
Consumer Behavior Recently, cable companies upgraded millions of set-top boxes. Their customers can now record and store dozens if not hundreds of movies and record up to six stations simultaneously. As a result of these upgrades people are now engaging in “bandwidth binging.” Instead of just recording shows they want to watch, they now record shows they think they might want to watch in the future.
All of this just goes to show that as soon as networks are upgraded and more bandwidth becomes available, people and applications will quickly gobble it up.
As a result of this insatiable appetite for bandwidth, capital investments in fiber infrastructure is expected to reach a staggering $144.2 billion between 2014 and 2019, according to a report from The International Telecommunications Union (ITU).