April 8, 2014
Highlights for fabricators from the past week’s Web articles—a possible capital spending boom; GE’s big plans for the ‘Industrial Internet’; invisible technology in development; a Washington fabricator does it better; and a Ford Bronco’s (not that Bronco) 12-year journey.
Among today’s Fab Top 5 items published on the Web in the previous week are stories about a capital spending boom that may be on the horizon; an Industrial Internet touted to revolutionize machine performance; developments in “invisibility” technology; how prospective shop buyers decided they could do it better; and a gearhead’s 12-year journey to restore a 1971 Ford Bronco.
Thinking about buying new equipment? Apparently you’re not alone. As noted in a Fortune article by Shawn Tully, Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist for Charles Schwab & Co., argues in a new report that a number of prominent signs are pointing to the start of a robust corporate investment cycle. Sonders says the “kindling” is there.
“As Sonders details in ‘A New Machine: Is a Capital Spending Cycle Imminent?’, corporate capex never rebounded after the 2008-2009 financial crisis. It now stands at just over 12% of national output, compared with around 13.5% of GDP in 2007.” And Sonders noted that the long period of underinvestment appears to have taken its toll on corporate efficiency.
”The aging of America's plants and machinery attests to the years of neglect. The average age of America's aircraft fleet is 10.3 years, a record. For manufacturing facilities, it's 23 years, surpassing the previous peak 68 years ago, and non-residential structures are only about the same, long-in-the tooth vintage.”
Sonders offers three reasons for optimism: CEO confidence is on the rise; surveys show that companies plan to spend more on capex in 2014 than in any of the past three years; and lending from banks is surging. Hold on to your hard hats: A capital spending boom may be coming; www.finance.fortune.cnn.com
Those wind turbine towers on Illinois flatlands may look simple, but there’s much more to them than meets the eye. According to a Forbes article published April 4, the 22,000 towers manufactured by GE worldwide are covered in tiny sensors that stream tens of thousands of data points to a cloud-based platform every second. GE data engineers in Silicon Valley study the inflow, calculating how to alter output, remotely changing the speed or pitch of the blade to capture the maximum amount of wind, fine-tuning the turbines according to the atmosphere.
Software developments will make it possible for a turbine to communicate with other units to obtain the information it needs to keep operating—no humans required. According to the article, “companies are wagering billions on what they call the “Industrial Internet,” the deep meshing of the digital and mechanical worlds using data collected from industrial machines to adjust and automate machine performance.” Imagine the applications. GE’s Next Billion-Dollar Bet: The ‘Industrial Internet’; www.forbes.com
It seems that more and more things we once thought were purely in the realm of science fiction are coming to fruition. A recent development that falls in to this category is a University of Central Florida professor Debashis Chanda’s project that could lead to the creation of invisibility cloaks. It’s all about light, reflection, and perception—controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye. The nanotransfer printing technique creates metal/dielectric composite films, which are stacked together in a 3-D architecture with nanoscale patterns for operation in the visible spectral range. Control of electromagnetic resonances over the 3-D space by structural manipulation allows precise control over propagation of light. Following this technique, larger pieces of this special material can be created, which were previously limited to micron-scale size. UCF professor’s project could lead to creation of invisibility cloaks; www.orlandosentinel.com
Have you heard the one about a father and son who traveled to Walla Wall, Wash., to buy a well-known archery company and changed their mind when they thought “this is something we could do better on our own?” Father Chuck and son John Reali started their own company, Real Axis Machining, in Battle Ground, Wash. John said that by “doing better,” he’s referring to the shop's ability to help customers with everything from programming to machining metal and parts to assisting with intellectual property issues such as trademarks and copyrights. It helps when you have degree in electrical engineering and material science, an MBA, and a Juris Doctor (law) degree from the University of Notre Dame, as John does.
Father Chuck came out of retirement to help. He had years of experience as general manager and vice president of Vancouver Aluminum Co.
The shop makes archery equipment, a product that has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to Hollywood blockbusters like “The Hunger Games,” but also machines, fabricates, and welds various other products. Battle Ground company does it better on their own; www.thereflector.com
Two brothers with one-way plane tickets to Texas on a mission to buy a rust-free truck, that’s how it started for Jeff and John Kari of Scandia, Minn. “We were looking for a 1967 or 1968 Chevy shortbox, but none were in the price range for the condition we wanted,” said John, who was quoted in an article on Truckinweb.com.
Then, on the day before we needed to leave Texas with something to get back to work on time, my brother, John spotted a 1971 Bronco in the local classifieds. We looked at it and the decision was that this is the vehicle we would drive back to Minnesota.” That was in 1998 What happened next was a rebuild that took 12 years to accomplish&mash;12 eventful years. The moral of the story is never lose sight of the goal, no matter what curve balls life throws you. 1971 Ford Bronco – Guiding Light; www.truckinweb.com