Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mini industrial robots

Here's a desktop sized industrial robot arm. Couple this with a 3D printer, and a specialised set of manipulators; you suddenly have an automated way to remove, package and ship 3d printed goods.

There's already conveyor belts, and drones to automate delivery of burrito sized packages.

When you look at the car manufacture industry in Australia, it becomes extremely frustrating to have these two ends of the spectrum - multiple million dollar industrial scale high precision tooling with large costs to change and high labour costs to operate are clearly on the way out.
Flexible tools of lower quality but cheaper implementation are much more likely to become more widely useful - the fact you can spit out something of this size and accessibility on kickstarter indicates you could probably tackle the next tier up in a similar way to introduce cost savings.

This process can recursively apply, to a point - tools able to build slightly more accurate or better versions of themselves, with reduced labour imply the removal of scarcity - anyone can take a low level tool, and in enough generations, achieve a high level of automation and industrialisation.

What bugs me is why it seems like no one is investing in this. If Australian manufacturing is important, why aren't we propping up the smallest end of the ecosystem to seek automation efficiencies? Why can't we deliberately seek to break up cartel behaviour by making it trivial to produce components like medium to high quality ball bearings in your garden shed?

Arguably, the economies of scale might make individual ball bearings not worth it, but there must be other similar components useful in everything from cars to skateboard wheels to land mines.

Springs are another good candidate. If machines can already produce up to 2,000 springs per hour, why can't we automated the rest of the process (loading raw stock, QA, and delivery). 
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