Slashdot: How Everyday Things Are Made

Found this on today’s Slashdot… I’m sure everyone here on ChiefDelphi would find this stuff interesting:

OckNock writes "The Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing at Stanford University in conjunction with Design4x has released online courses on design and manufacturing that include over 4 hours of streaming video (Flashplayer required). Some of the topics include airplanes, crayons, and waterjet cutting.

It’s not quite online courses in the sense of MIT’s OpenCourseware, but it’s interesting nevertheless. It’s a bunch of videos that show the industrial processes involved in making things we see around us every day - in short, shows what FIRST is training us for.

This past summer, I went to Munich. What’s in Munich besides beer and a drinking age of 12 (think Octoberfest), you ask? Cars. Cars as in Mercedes, BMWs, Porches, etc. We stopped by the BMW museum and signed up for the BMW factory tour. It was amazing - they walked you through the entire production line from the shaping of the parts to welding the frame together to painting to final assembly to testing. Seeing a two-story robotic arm effortlessly lift an entire car frame and perfectly position it so two more two-story Matrix-esque robotic welding arms weld specific joints with sparks flying is an amazing site to see, especially because every car on the assembly line contains certain options that others don’t (BMW none-too-modestly advertised that it is extremely rare to see two identical BMWs come off the assembly line). All the tour needed was Carl Orff’s O Fortuna playing in the background. Anyways, what I’m getting at is that for us students, the way that the manufactering process works is quite interesting, and with 4+ hours of streaming video, that site is a day-waster (in the good way ;-))

Oh, and the intro to the site opens up with Henri Mancini’s Magnificent Seven Theme =DDDDD

I have to agree it is pretty cool to see it all happen. It is even cooler to be on the team that ‘makes’ it happen.

Then again it is what I do everyday for a living, programming the automation that builds cars & trucks.

On a side note I was watching a show on the latest roller coasters and it was interesting to see they run the identical controls systems as we do in the auto industry. The Allen Bradley Logix 5000.

*Originally posted by Matt Reiland *
**I have to agree it is pretty cool to see it all happen. It is even cooler to be on the team that ‘makes’ it happen.

Then again it is what I do everyday for a living, programming the automation that builds cars & trucks.

On a side note I was watching a show on the latest roller coasters and it was interesting to see they run the identical controls systems as we do in the auto industry. The Allen Bradley Logix 5000. **

A lot of roller coaster controls are handled by the firm Consign AG of Switzerland, for what it’s worth.

That must have been pretty cool to see. I find most industry amazing, just being able to mass produce things autonomously seems like a gigantic feat. Scarier yet, what happens when manual labor is minimally required, if at all?

*Originally posted by Aignam *
**That must have been pretty cool to see. I find most industry amazing, just being able to mass produce things autonomously seems like a gigantic feat. Scarier yet, what happens when manual labor is minimally required, if at all? **

I was told that at car factories like Honda and such, everything is completely automated - automated to the point where there are a total of 3, 5 people on duty there just to make sure the place doesn’t burn down or anything like that (yeah, the number’s probably exaggerated, but if you think back to the time of Henry Ford where assembly plants employed thousands, well, thats one of the consequences of industrialization).

Anyone see the Animatrix short, “The Second Renaissance”? Wasn’t the whole idea that humans developed AI, to do this kind of menial tasks, and then the AI got bored with said menial labor? :stuck_out_tongue:

Sorry, you know someone was going to say it sooner or later :).

*Originally posted by SuperDanman *
**I was told that at car factories like Honda and such, everything is completely automated - automated to the point where there are a total of 3, 5 people on duty there just to make sure the place doesn’t burn down or anything like that (yeah, the number’s probably exaggerated, but if you think back to the time of Henry Ford where assembly plants employed thousands, well, thats one of the consequences of industrialization). **

Well, there is a HUGE amount of automation in the plants but the people are definitely not gone,
and I can’t see them leaving any time soon. Automation doesn’t make sense in every aspect of the
assembly of products. For instance, the welding of a vehicle in the old days required lines of people
to lug around huge spot weld guns with a cable over their shoulder carrying 1000’s of Amps of current
for resistance spot weld, hitting the right number of welds in the exact location all day long is next
to impossible. Now for that, a robot is perfect, it can do it all day, no breaks, 3 shifts and the output
is exactly the same every time. Laying beads of sealer and painting the vehicle is exactly the same.
Lifting heavy loads are also not a problem for most robots, Now head over to General
Assembly where the interior gets put in and things are different. The supplier gives you a box of say wiring
harnesses in a big box. Getting a robot to pull a part out of a box that isn’t perfectly organized
starts the problem, then getting it to install something like that ups the ante even more. Automation
is only as smart as the programmer and there are limitations to what is cost effective and what isn’t. Our
current robots are good at repeating the same task over and over, they are not good at figuring out on their
own how to pick up a part then orient it correctly then put it in, there are systems with vision that can
do just that, but the price goes up VERY quickly. There will always be a group that has to maintain the
equipment also, unlike the Terminator it doesn’t last forever.

Most plants still employ 1000’s of people to make vehicles at rates up to about 80/hr.

Once again, Matt and I have alot in common.

Designing assembly lines, designing automated equipment, and integrating automated equipment into assembly lines is what I do here at Delphi-Delco Electronics in Kokomo.

I am a mechanical designer, and I have had the opportunity to design mechanical systems for producing automotive electronics (mostly circuit boards in an aluminum box, simply put). I do this by designing assembly cells, or fixturing inside of a previously designed assembly cell, or integrating someone else’s equipment to a production line. I have been doing this for 12 years.

When I started at Delphi, we were trying to automate everything. One of our goals was to have a “lights out” factory floor where the operation would run without any operators whatsoever. Over the years, our mindset has changed. As Matt said above, automation is needed for many things, but it is not the answer for all production lines. We need it for accurrate placement of chips or parts onto a circuit board or precisely placing underfill gel next to a flip chip, but we don’t need it for simple screwdriving, odd form placement, and packaging.

Actually, we have decreased the amount of automation in our production lines dramatically over the past 2-3 years. Delphi has become quicker and more flexible over this time, and we are required to be more “lean” in our production techniques. This means to us that we need to manufacture our products with the least amount of manufacturing cost. In some cases, this means to fully automate a process (using a chip-shooter to populate a circuit board), while in other cases it means using an operator to run a part through a test-and-assemble operation.

Operator jobs are still needed. Automation is needed in some areas, but not all. It is a waste in many areas of manufacturing.

If you want to learn more about this subject, do a google search for “Lean Manufacturing”, or add a “Delphi” in there for more stuff we are doing in that area.

Andy B.

*Originally posted by SuperDanman *
**Oh, and the intro to the site opens up with Henri Mancini’s Magnificent Seven Theme =DDDDD **

Oh, and the Magnificent Seven soundtrack was by Elmer Bernstein. :slight_smile:

*Originally posted by gwross *
**Oh, and the Magnificent Seven soundtrack was by Elmer Bernstein. :slight_smile: **

…and he’s also responsible for the theme song used on National Geographic.

*Originally posted by SuperDanman *
**I was told that at car factories like Honda and such, everything is completely automated - automated to the point where there are a total of 3, 5 people on duty there just to make sure the place doesn’t burn down or anything like that (yeah, the number’s probably exaggerated, but if you think back to the time of Henry Ford where assembly plants employed thousands, well, thats one of the consequences of industrialization). **

Many companies (namely the Big 3) have standard design rules that incorporate Human Interaction. Be it pushing a button after a gravity conveyor so the next step happens, or just be there in case a machine breaks down.

At Comau Pico, all of our designs MUST incorporate a spot so that if a machine breaks down, production can continue, even if it’s considerably slower. While robotic automation is getting more and more reliable, people still need to be around to supervise the robots. I don’t think there are any “lights out” rooms in existance (at least none I’ve seen or heard of).