The U.S. Air Force Looks To Advanced Manufacturing To Keep Existing Aircraft Flying And Develop Next-Gen Capabilities
What if there were Olympic events that weren’t physical, but were focused instead on completely geeking out on super-cool breakthrough technologies for real-world aerospace and defense challenges? Even better, what if they offered prize money totaling nearly a million dollars?
Now there are just such events, thanks to the U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO). In fact, participants in five such Olympic “sports” (or Technical Challenges, as the RSO calls them) have already been competing over the past few months. Those competitions will culminate when the winners are announced during next week’s four-day Advanced Manufacturing Olympics. This virtual conference runs from October 20-23, and features technology demonstrations, expert speakers from both industry and the military, virtual networking opportunities, and the awarding of prized for those Technical Challenges mentioned above.
“RSO is working to revolutionize sustainment, while building an agile supply chain for the future,” said Nathan Parker, Deputy Program Executive Officer at the RSO. “Originally, we were planning to hold this inaugural event outside Salt Lake City, Utah. But then Covid hit, so we’ve taken the whole thing virtual.”
Event speakers will include military officials such as Barbara M. Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force; General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force. Other speakers featured are Sebastian Thrun, founder of Google X; Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA astronaut; and Brad Kesolowski, NASCAR Cup Series driver and founder of Kesolowski Advanced Manufacturing.
The five Technical Challenges began with an
SVP and CIO at Oshkosh Corporation. Connecting machines and employees with technology and data to enhance safety, quality, and efficiency.
What Is Digital Manufacturing?
Digital manufacturing, also referred to as Industry 4.0, is an integrated approach to manufacturing, bringing together physical machines, data and human beings to transform the manufacturing process. As a key component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digital manufacturing uses sensors, connectivity and advancements in analytics and machine learning, propelling industries forward in a digital age.
This type of manufacturing offers an enticing opportunity for companies. By harnessing digital technology and applying it to existing manufacturing processes, companies can advance productivity in competitive markets while reducing costs. Through the capabilities of digital manufacturing, the potential to improve safety, be proactive in quality and increase operational efficiency has reached new heights.
A workplace equipped with digital manufacturing solutions to improve safety conditions ultimately boosts productivity. Prioritizing the safety of employees and utilizing technology to enhance their experience is a cost-effective solution with endless benefits.
• Smartphone utilization: A smartphone can become a safety tool in the workplace. For instance, companies may consider developing mobile applications to collect safety incident reports quickly and accurately, including near-miss data. Software solutions collect data and help simplify the process, leading to more reporting. Additionally, this data can help highlight areas of opportunity to improve safety in the future.
• Wearable devices: Wearable technology can also aid in workers’ safety on the manufacturing floor. For example, the Kinetic Reflex is a wearable device used to analyze posture and alert the user when they are performing high-risk movements. This safety component reduces lost workdays from injury. Other tools, such as smart wristbands and helmet clips, take similar steps to prevent injuries while keeping workers engaged in their safety.
Ask Stefan Jockusch what a factory might look like in 10 or 20 years, and the answer might leave you at a crossroads between fascination and bewilderment. Jockusch is vice president for strategy at Siemens Digital Industries Software, which develops applications that simulate the conception, design, and manufacture of products like cell phones or smart watches. His vision of a smart factory is abuzz with “independent, moving” robots. But they don’t stop at making one or three or five things. No—this factory is “self-organizing.”
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“Depending on what product I throw at this factory, it will completely reshuffle itself and work differently when I come in with a very different product,” Jockusch says. “It will self-organize itself to do something different.”
Behind this factory of the future is artificial intelligence (AI), Jockusch says in this episode of Business Lab. But AI starts much, much smaller, with the chip. Take automaking. The chips that power the various applications in cars today—and the driverless vehicles of tomorrow—are embedded with AI, which support real-time decision-making. They’re highly specialized, built with specific tasks in mind. The people who design chips then need to see the big picture.
“You have to have an idea if the chip, for example, controls the interpretation of things that the cameras see for autonomous driving. You have to have an idea of how many images that chip has to process or how many things are moving on those images,” Jockusch says. “You have to understand a lot about what will happen in the end.”
This complex way of building, delivering, and connecting products and systems is what Siemens describes as “chip to city”—the idea that