WESTEC 2017 — the premier West Coast manufacturing event — opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. WESTEC showcases the latest in machinery, metrology, design, digital, 3D printing, and engineering expertise.
“We are happy to be back in Los Angeles,” said Jeff Krause, executive director and CEO of SME, at the ribbon cutting. “Manufacturing is growing and expanding in California, the state alone has 1.3 million people employed in the industry, and California has always been an incubator of new manufacturing ideas. The scale of the state’s manufacturing industry and innovation reflects the impact of the city’s brand of creativity and innovation.”
“Los Angeles is great manufacturing hub and has been for decades, and the Los Angeles area can drive the manufacturing industry forward,” said Douglas Woods, president of AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology. “We are delighted to be a partner with SME, and at WESTEC 2017 there are great products and innovations to see, and educational and networking opportunities too.”
Approximately 9400 people, including more than 1000 students, attended WESTEC 2017. Attendees had opportunities to network, attend educational sessions and luncheons, and visit more than 400 exhibiting companies at the event.
Manufacturing influencers spoke throughout the three-day event. Just some of the topics discussed focused on IT and OT influences, which are driving present and future manufacturing, inspiring the next generation of manufacturers, and advances in transportation technology.
Anirban Bhattacharyya, associate partner of digital strategy, cognitive process transformation, digital operations and cognitive manufacturing at IBM, presented the keynote: “Why Cognitive Matters in Manufacturing.”
“The core characteristics of a cognitive system are understanding, reasoning, learning and interacting,” said Bhattacharyya. “A cognitive manufacturing system understands data — structured or unstructured, text based or sensory — in context and meaning at high rates and speeds and volumes. The system has the ability to reason and form hypothesis, make considered arguments, and prioritize recommendations, helping humans make better decisions.”
Learning includes ingesting and accumulating data from every interaction, and the system is trained by experts who enhance scale, thus, it gets better over time, according to Bhattacharyya. “Systems respond and communicate with people in a natural way, which allows for cognitive solutions.”
Cognitive manufacturing is playing a role in reshaping the manufacturing workforce. “The workforce is becoming completely digitized,” said Bhattacharyya. “The skills set for cognitive learning is for technicians to understand processes and to walk the floor for cognition. They need to have the ability to explain what is happening internally. They also need passion, interest, understanding, and insight. They need to learn about and understand the data and analyze a spreadsheet.”
Another keynote presentation by Justin Fishkin, chief strategy officer of Local Motors, focused on “Industry Transformation — Reinventing How Vehicles are Built.” Local Motors printed the first 3D car and has leveraged co-creation, crowd-sourcing, and microfactories, transforming the way vehicles are designed and built. The company is focused on low-volume manufacturing of open-source vehicle designs using multiple microfactories and a co-creation SaaS platform.
Co-creation, where branded product companies and their customers work together with solvers, designers and engineers to accelerate product and technology development, plays a key role at Local Motors. Next comes open innovation, which includes crowd sourcing and co-creation with the community on its crowd-powered SaaS Platform.
The company hosts challenges, brainstorms, and asks for feedback from its customers. Anything can be solved with a community, according to Local Motors. An example of co-creation in action is the Urban Mobility Challenge in Berlin that Local Motors hosted in 2015. The Challenge asked Local Motors’ co-creation community to tackle urban mobility issues. Many users submitted ideas to the Challenge, and Edgar Sarmiento’s idea for an urban mobility system was picked.
Local Motors then took the winning entry — renamed Olli (originally named Berlino) — from idea to proof-of-concept in less than four months, utilizing direct digital manufacturing (DDM) and 3D printing technology.
“Olli is a people mover and logistics vehicle all in one,” explained Fishkin. “This is the world’s first self-driving shuttle. It is for specific markets like college or university campuses, airports and theme parks.”
Local Motors recently launched a new challenge with IBM focused on making a vehicle that can be used by all riders, regardless of ability or disability.
Cutting Tool Cost Myths
During the session “Brew & View: Dirty Little Secrets about Cutting Tool Cost and Performance,” Stas Mylek, senior product specialist at CNC Software Inc., developer of Mastercam, exposed three tool cost myths, and how users can evaluate tool life, material removal rates, and cost and performance data to be more productive.
According to Mylek, the three most common tool myths are using tool price as a gage, cutting inventory costs, and not talking to the CNC programmer about purchases. But what is the secret about tool costs? “It’s not about price, it’s about performance,” said Mylek.
“Instead of using tool price as a gauge, you need to factor in tool life; and instead of cutting inventory costs and job profitability you are better off spending money on quality tooling,” explained Mylek. “By doing this you will see profit go up.”
It is also important to talk with the CNC programmer about purchases since they have benchmark data. “They have their finger on the pulse as far as manufacturing materials and creating production, which you need,” said Mylek.
Skills for Space Industry
Besides keynote presentations and networking opportunities, the second day of the event offered a luncheon with a panel discussion about the technology and skills for today’s space industry. Many of the luncheon attendees were students studying aerospace engineering.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Atkins, deputy, generation and ops division, launch enterprise directorate of the US Air Force, kicked off the panel discussion by talking to students about how they must conduct a job search with tenacity.
“Companies want to see hunger and passion in potential employees,” said Atkins. “Yet, when you are right out of school and working at your first job you can’t expected to be steering the company’s ship right away. But there will come a time when you can start steering the ship. Imagine the skills you will have when you graduate from school, plus the skills you will have once you have five years of experience at a company. You will be able to make big impacts at a company with all this experience.”
Panelists discussed how important it is for engineers to be able to work with the craftsmen that are building planes.
“The engineers have the vision and the craftsmen build it,” said George Bugg, aircraft program manager of Stratolaunch. “If you can work with your hands, see the big picture and execute the plan that is great. I worked with machinists while in college, and it’s very important to get this type of hands on experience — it’s very important to understand what it takes to have a precision weld and understand what a CNC machinist does. If you can understand and relate to all others you are working with, you will be so much better off.”
During Tuesday’s evening Welcome and Networking Reception, it was announced that WESTEC, September 24 – 26, 2019, will have a new location — Long Beach, CA.
“WESTEC in Long Beach is a tremendous opportunity to center the event in the heart of Southern California’s manufacturing landscape,” said Debbie Holton, vice president of events and industry strategy at SME. “Aerospace, defense, consumer products, medical, energy, and automotive are all strong industries in the region and Long Beach is a location that serves them well.”