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Mechanical Engineering. 2017;139(10):32-37. doi:10.1115/1.2017-Oct-1.
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This article explores the concept of digital twins and reasons why manufacturers prefer digital replicas of products, machines, processes, or even entire factories. A digital twin models the robotic line with such high fidelity that the engineer can do all this in the virtual world. Digital twins are the foundation of tomorrow’s smarter workplace. A factory’s digital twin must be robust enough to capture those changes, plus all relevant data from each operation. Smart factories, such as GE’s Brilliant Factory and Siemens’ competing Industrie 4.0, need both types of digital twins—product and process—to work. Digital product models contain each component that goes into a product, from screws and welds to plastic shapes and machined metals. Digital twins also support greater automation. As artificial intelligence (AI) systems learn more about specific machines, they will use their digital twins to help engineers run plants more efficiently. AI can analyze it to see if a screw is loose or a bearing is starting to fail. The better the AI knows the machine, the more accurately it can predict when that failure is likely to happen.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2017;139(10):38-43. doi:10.1115/1.2017-Oct-2.
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This article discusses advantages of artificially intelligent (AI) systems and future of machine design. Advances in AI, combined synergistically with other technologies such as cognitive computing, Internet of Things, 3D (or even 4D) printing, advanced robotics, virtual and mixed reality, and human–machine interfaces are transforming what, where, and how products are designed, manufactured, assembled, distributed, serviced, and upgraded. The research and related activities may ultimately result in the development of self-repairing, self-healing, self-adaptive, self-reconfiguring systems—and products that ‘operationally improve’ themselves. Instead of depreciating in value and capability, such products could improve over time. In time, the role of the human engineer may be that of a director rather than of a producer. Much of the technical aspect of engineering will be moved to the machine-based design system, just as one need not be able to operate a slide rule or complete an isometric drawing to be a successful engineer today.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2017;139(10):44-49. doi:10.1115/1.2017-Oct-3.
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This article explores the application of 3D printing technology in cost-sensitive industries such as consumer products and power systems. Metal printing offers advantages such as the ability to reduce parts count, assembly time, and weight while creating complex internal and external geometries that could not be made any other way to manufacturers in almost every industry. 3D design also makes it possible to customize medical and dental implants for each patient. Industrial product designer Keith Handy used the flexibility of 3D printing to redesign the system. Instead of putting the device above the chain, he built a tunnel-like part that the chain could pass through. Euro-K, a Berlin-based firm that develops small energy converters, created a burner that could do both. 3D printing enabled Euro-K to optimize the burner’s geometry to handle gaseous fuels and difficult-to-burn liquids like fuel oils, a byproduct of alcohol distillation, while reducing size. The article concludes that as new competitors enter the 3D printing arena, systems will grow better, faster, and less expensive. In addition, most important of all, engineers will be standing by with lots of new and surprising ways to take advantage of 3D metal technology

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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