Posts about manufacturing

Wind Turbine Manufacturing in Colorado

Vestas picks Pueblo for plant

Danish wind turbine manufacture Vestas Wind Systems has chosen Pueblo for what it has said is a nearly $240 million manufacturing plant to build the steel towers needed to hold wind turbines aloft, state officials said Friday.

Two weeks ago, on Aug. 15, Gov. Ritter announced that Vestas was building two new manufacturing plants in Brighton. The wind-blade production plant and nacelle assembly factory represent a $290 million capital investment and will bring 1,350 new jobs to Colorado.

Just months before that, in March, the company opened Vestas Blades America Inc., a $60 million manufacturing plant in Windsor, north of Denver, employing about 464 people to build blades for wind turbines. Before that plant was even finished, the company announced in November 2007 that it would increase the plant 50 percent in size, production and employee numbers.

This is a reminder that manufacturing output continues to grow in the USA. In June they received an order for 500 MW in the USA. In October Vestas has received orders for 102 MW of turbines from Italy and 99 MW of turbines from Spain.

Related: Wind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007Wind Power Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity Supply by 2030Home Use Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Toyota Cultivating Engineering Talent

Toyota has a knack for cultivating engineering talent

Toyota now has more than 1,000 York Township employees dedicated to conducting engineering services on vehicles for the North American market. Early on in its expansion project, the Japanese automaker displayed a canny understanding of how to cultivate talent and acquire engineers fresh out of college.

Toyota established a two-year internship program for recent engineering graduates at schools like the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Lawrence Technological University and the University of Wisconsin. At the end of the two-year period, the automaker and the employee reach a mutual decision about whether the employee should continue working there.

Bruce Brownlee, senior executive administrator for external affairs for the Toyota Planning Center at the Toyota Technical Center, has said the company generated a “large pipeline” for engineering talent by leveraging the internship program.

Related: Engineering InternshipsToyota Engineering Development ProcessToyota RobotsToyota k-12 Science GrantsToyota Production System (TPS) management blog posts

Toyota Engineering Development Process

Kenji Hiranabe talks about Toyota’s development process (webcast). Kenji shares a presentation he attended earlier this year by Nobuaki Katayama, a former Chief Engineer at Toyota, and the lessons he learned from him.

The webcast takes awhile to get going. If you are impatient you might want to start at the 6 minute mark. Some thoughts from the talk:

  • The Voice of the Customer is diffuse. A strong concept (for a project – new car for example) is very important to focus thought, listening to voice of the customer is important but must use strong concept to avoid losing focus (due to diffuse customer feedback).
  • Honest face to face communication is important. Bad news first – present bad news first [don’t try to hide bad news – my thoughts in brackets, John Hunter].
  • Everyone must think about cost reduction, many efforts add up to big impact [the importance of reducing waste everywhere].
  • benchmark, not to copy others, but to learn from what others do well.

The webcast includes a nice (though short) discussion of agile management in software development and lean manufacturing (the different situation of manufacturing versus software development). Kenji Hiranabe has also translated several agile and lean books into Japanese including Implementing Lean Software Development.

Related: Kenji Hiranabe’s blogMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationHonda EngineeringEngineering Innovation in Manufacturing and the Economy

Toyota Winglet – Personal Transportation

Winglet Personal Mobility Device from Toyota

Toyota has a long term vision. The population of Japan is aging rapidly. Toyota has invested in personal transportation and personal robotic assistance for quite some time. I must admit this new Winglet doesn’t seem like an incredible breakthrough to me (their earlier iUnit seems much better to me – though I am sure much more expensive too). The interest to me is in their continued focus on this market which I think is a smart move. The aging population worldwide (and others) will benefit greatly from improved personal mechanical assistance.

The Winglet is one of Toyota’s people-assisting Toyota Partner Robots. Designed to contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life, the Winglet is a compact next-generation everyday transport tool that offers advanced ease of use and expands the user’s range of mobility.

The Winglet consists of a body that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user’s position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Meanwhile, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments.

Toyota plans various technical and consumer trials to gain feedback during the Winglet’s lead-up to practical use. Practical tests of its utility as a mobility tool are planned to begin in Autumn 2008 at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) near Nagoya, and Laguna Gamagori, a seaside marine resort complex in Aichi Prefecture. Testing of its usefulness in crowded and other conditions, and how non-users react to the device, is to be carried out in 2009 at the Tressa Yokohama shopping complex in Yokohama City.

Toyota is pursuing sustainability in research and development, manufacturing and social contribution as part of its concept to realize “sustainability in three areas” and to help contribute to the health and comfort of future society. Toyota Partner Robot development is being carried out with this in mind and applies Toyota’s approach to monozukuri (“making things”), which includes its mobility, production and other technologies.

Toyota aims to realize the practical use of Toyota Partner Robots in the early 2010s.

On a personal note, I bought some more Toyota stock last week. The stock has declined a bit recently. Toyota is one of the companies in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.

Related: Toyota Develops Personal Transport Assistance Robot ‘Winglet’No Excessive Senior Executive Pay at ToyotaMore on Non-Auto Toyota

2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention

photo of Joseph Desimone

The Lemelson-MIT Prize awards $500,000 to mid-career inventors dedicated to improving our world through technological invention and innovation. Joseph M. DeSimone received the 2008 award.

His exposure to polymer science led him to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. At the age of 25, DeSimone joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) as an assistant professor in chemistry and launched the university’s polymer program with his mentor Dr. Edward Samulski. He resides there today as the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC, in addition to serving as the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University.

Among DeSimone’s notable inventions is an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide instead of water and bio-persistent surfactants (detergents) for the creation of fluoropolymers or high-performance plastics, such as Teflon®. More recently, he worked on a team to design a polymer-based, fully bioabsorbable, drug-eluting stent, which helps keep a blocked blood vessel open after a balloon-angioplasty and is absorbed by the body within 18 months.

DeSimone’s newest invention is PRINT® (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology, used to manufacture nanocarriers in medicine. At present, DeSimone’s Lab is vested in a variety of projects that also extend beyond medicine, including potential applications for more efficient solar cells and morphable robots. In 2004, DeSimone co-founded Liquidia Technologies with a team of researchers from UNC to make the technology available in the market. Liquidia is using the PRINT technology to develop precisely engineered nanocarriers for highly targeted delivery of biological and small molecule therapeutics to treat cancer and other diseases. DeSimone’s proposed applications for cancer treatment with the PRINT platform was instrumental in UNC landing a grant of $24 million from the National Cancer Institute to establish the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.

“You can do all the innovating you want in the laboratory, but if you can’t get it out of the university walls you do no one any good,” said DeSimone. He instills an entrepreneurial spirit in his students that focuses on the importance of commercializing technology and scientific inventions. One of DeSimone’s greatest accomplishments is his mentorship of more than 45 postdoctoral research associates, 52 Ph.D. candidates, six M.S. theses and 21 undergraduate researchers. Furthermore, he speaks to groups of high school students about the inventive process and encourages them to learn and explore areas that are less familiar to them to broaden their exposure to other disciplines.

A prolific inventor, DeSimone holds more than 115 issued patents with more than 70 new patent applications pending, and he has published more than 240 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

Related: Inspiring a New Generation of Inventors$500,000 for Innovation in Engineering EducationCollegiate Inventors Competitionposts on inventors