July 4 Automation and Robotics News — Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–July 4, 2010

Highlights: Robot lifeguards, automated spa, dealing with budget cuts through automation, robot spies, robotics virtual summit, upswing for robotics industry…

All articles are available by clicking Archives:


It's Emily to the rescue... (Credit: Hydronalix)

Robot lifeguard Emily is no ‘Baywatch’ babe

Leslie Katz ·  Tue Jun 29 2010

Remote-controlled contraption called Emily can locate distressed swimmers and ferry them back to shore–or give them something to hold onto until human help shows up.

Robotics meet origami in self-folding sheets

Leslie Katz ·  Tue Jun 29 2010

Thanks to scientists at Harvard and MIT, programmable electronic sheets can now fold themselves into shapes that any origami aficionado could appreciate.


China labour unrest to accelerate automation trend

Moneycontrol.com – Jun 28, 2010

“The automation equipment industry is growing very, very fast. Sensors, frequency converters, conveyor belts, pneumatic systems, power tools — you name it …

Salem Public Library moves to more automation

By Barbara Curtin • Statesman Journal • July 2, 2010

The Salem Public Library plans to buy two DVD dispensers and one additional self-check machine in order to serve the public with a smaller circulation staff. The City Council approved the purchases in hopes of increasing library efficiency,

Riverton residents question library automation

Press Herald -Kelley Bouchard – Jun 22, 2010

PORTLAND – Riverton residents pleaded with city officials Monday night to keep a staffed Portland Public Library …

Automation takes over spa services at My Resort

Cathryn Creno – Jun. 21, 2010 The Arizona Republic

If Jane Jetson had been a spa girl, the 1960s cartoon character probably would have frequented someplace like My Resort Tanning and Spa.  All of the pampering at the Ahwatukee Foothills and Scottsdale salons is automated. Massages, facials, teeth whitening and full-body steam treatments are done by machine. There’s no need to chitchat or appear in your underwear in front of anyone. And no one at My Resort hints around for a tip.

Automation’s Future

Automation World -Gary Mintchell – Jul 1, 2010

Well, we have a number of companies that develop, manufacture and sell products and services in what could be called automation. There are magazines that …

Iran unveils human-like robot: report

AFP – 12 hours ago

TEHRAN — Iran has developed a new human-like walking robot to be used in “sensitive jobs,” government newspaper Iran reported on Sunday. …

New era of “robot” spies will test privacy

Reuters UK -Myra MacDonald – Jun 25, 2010

“Once you go over to data mining you are essentially handing the process over to robots, who roam through this material looking for patterns of suspicious …


Adept Technology Furthers Commitment to Sustainable and Green Production With Validation of Adept Quattro Energy Savings

Adept Technology, Inc. Posted 07/02/2010

Adept Quattro™ s650HS Robot Provides Significant Energy Savings and Sustainable Manufacturing Practices for Critical Production Processes

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Adept Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq:ADEP), a leading provider of intelligent vision-guided robotics and global robotics services, today announced it has further demonstrated its commitment to green and sustainable manufacturing through developing energy conscious solutions such as the Adept Quattro robot for production systems ranging from safely processing food to reducing the costs associated with manufacturing solar cells. Energy consumption has consistently ranked as a top consideration when companies select and implement capital equipment. Recent benchmark tests validate that the Adept Quattro, which was originally designed with energy conservation in mind, consumes up to 35% less power over delta or SCARA robots.


Lizard robot swims through sand
by Markus Waibel » 02 Jul 2010, 08:38
In a video reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, researchers at Georgia Tech in Atlanta have shown a robot that can swim through sand. Like the salamander robot you may remember from previous interviews with Auke Ijspeert (including an earlier Talking Robots interview), this robot’s morphology and locomotion pattern are modeled after that of a real lizard. However, while previous research for movement in water or air could rely on detailed dynamic models, no such models exist for sand which can behave as both, a solid and a fluid


Robotics Virtual Summit Available On Demand

Access to online exhibit hall, resource center, keynote addresses and feature presentations available at no charge.

By Robotics Trends 06.30.2010

Access to online exhibit hall, resource center, keynote addresses and feature presentations available at no charge. Event focused on autonomy, mobility and navigation in robotic systems. Robotics Trends announced that access to the inaugural event in the Robotics Summit Virtual Conference and Exposition Series, Autonomy, Navigation, and Mobility Solutions, is available on demand and at no charge at <http://vshow.on24.com/vshow/robotics>http://vshow.on24.com/vshow/robotics.

Getting Back on Track: Service Robots 2010

The robotics industry is getting back on track!

Sales slump in 2009 – Strong recovery in 2010 – Further growth expected in 2011 and 2012. The IFR Statistics Department presented the preliminary results of the annual statistics on Industrial Robots on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, in Munich at the AUTOMATICA. In 2009, with about 62,100 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide slumped dramatically by about 45% compared to 2008, one of the most successful years. But in the first quarter 2010 the sales skyrocketed worldwide by more than 50% compared to the first quarter 2009.

NYT: Supply Chain for iPhone Highlights Costs in China


A Foxconn factory in Guangdong Province. The company, a major Apple supplier, is looking to cut costs.

Published: July 5, 2010 in the New York Times

SHENZHEN, China — Last month, while enthusiastic consumers were playing with their new Apple iPhone 4, researchers in Silicon Valley were engaged in something more serious.

They cracked open the phone’s shell and started analyzing the new model’s components, trying to unmask the identity of Apple’s main suppliers. These “teardown reports” provide a glimpse into a company’s manufacturing.

What the latest analysis shows is that the smallest part of Apple’s costs are here in Shenzhen, where assembly-line workers snap together things like microchips from Germany and Korea, American-made chips that pull in Wi-Fi or cellphone signals, a touch-screen module from Taiwan and more than 100 other components.

But what it does not reveal is that manufacturing in China is about to get far more expensive. Soaring labor costs caused by worker shortages and unrest, a strengthening Chinese currency that makes exports more expensive, and inflation and rising housing costs are all threatening to sharply increase the cost of making devices like notebook computers, digital cameras and smartphones.

Desperate factory owners are already shifting production away from this country’s dominant electronics manufacturing center in Shenzhen toward lower-cost regions far west of here, even deep in China’s mountainous interior.

At the end of June, a manager at Foxconn Technology — one of Apple’s major contract manufacturers — said the company planned to reduce costs by moving hundreds of thousands of workers to other parts of China, including the impoverished Henan Province.

While the labor involved in the final assembly of an iPhone accounts for a small part of the overall cost — about 7 percent by some estimates — analysts say most companies in Apple’s supply chain — the chip makers and battery suppliers and those making plastic moldings and printed circuit boards — depend on Chinese factories to hold down prices. And those factories now seem likely to pass along their cost increases.

“Electronics companies are trying to figure out how to deal with the higher costs,” says Jenny Lai, a technology analyst at CLSA, an investment bank based in Hong Kong. “They’re already squeezed, so squeezing more costs out of the system won’t be easy.”

Apple can cope better than most companies because it has fat profit margins of as much as 60 percent and pricing power to absorb some of those costs. But makers of personal computers, cellphones and other electronics — including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and LG — deal with much slimmer profit margins according to several analysts. “The challenges are going to be much bigger for them,” Ms. Lai said. Most other industries, from textiles and toys to furniture, are under considerably more pressure.

One way to understand the changes taking shape in southern China is to follow the supply chain of the iPhone 4, which was designed by Apple engineers in the United States, sourced with high-tech components from around the world and assembled in China. Shipped back to the United States, the iPhone is priced at $600, though the cost to consumers is less, subsidized by AT&T in exchange for service contracts.

“China makes very little money on these things,” said Jason Dedrick, a professor at Syracuse University and an author of several studies of Apple’s supply chain. Much of the value in high-end products is captured at the beginning and end of the process, by the brand and the distributors and retailers.

According to the latest teardown report compiled by iSuppli, a market research firm in El Segundo, Calif., the bulk of what Apple pays for the iPhone 4’s parts goes to its chip suppliers, like Samsung and Broadcom, which supply crucial components, like processors and the device’s flash-memory chip.

In the iPhone 4, more than a dozen integrated circuit chips account for about two-thirds of the cost of producing a single device, according to iSuppli.

Apple, for instance, pays Samsung about $27 for flash memory and $10.75 to make its (Apple-designed) applications processor; and a German chip maker called Infineon gets $14.05 a phone for chips that send and receive phone calls and data. Most of the electronics cost much less. The gyroscope, new to the iPhone 4, was made by STMicroelectronics, based in Geneva, and added $2.60 to the cost.

The total bill of materials on a $600 iPhone — the supplies that go into final assembly — is $187.51, according to iSuppli.

The least expensive part of the process is manufacturing and assembly. And that often takes place here in southern China, where workers are paid less than a dollar an hour to solder, assemble and package products for the world’s best-known brands.

No company does more of it than Foxconn, a division of the Hon Hai Group of Taiwan, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.

With 800,000 workers in China alone and contracts to supply Apple, Dell and H.P., Foxconn is an electronics goliath that also sources supplies, designs parts and uses its enormous size and military-style efficiency to assemble and speed a wide range of products to market.

“They’re like Wal-Mart stores,” Professor Dedrick said. “They’re low-margin, high-volume. They survive by being efficient.”

The world of contract manufacturers is invisible to consumers. But it’s a $250 billion industry, with just a handful of companies like Foxconn, Flextronics and Jabil Circuit manufacturing and assembling for all the global electronics brands.

They compete fiercely on price to earn small profit margins, analysts say. And they seek to benefit from tiny operational changes.

When a company is operating on the slimmest of profit margins as contract manufacturers are, soaring labor costs pose a serious problem. Wages in China have risen by more than 50 percent since 2005, analysts say, and this year many factories, under pressure from local governments and workers who feel they have been underpaid for too long, have raised wages by an extra 20 to 30 percent.

China’s currency has also appreciated sharply against the United States dollar since 2005, and after a two-year pause by Beijing, economists expect the renminbi to rise about 3 to 5 percent a year for the next several years.

“It takes 3,000 procedures to assemble an H.P. computer,” says Isaac Wang, an iSuppli analyst based in China. “If a contract manufacturer can find a way to save 10 percent of the procedures, then it gets a real good deal.”

Contract manufacturers like Foxconn are now searching for ways to reduce costs. Foxconn is considering moving inland, where wages are 20 to 30 percent lower. The company is also spending heavily on manufacturing many of the parts, molds and metals that are used in computers and handsets, even trying to find larger and cheaper sources of raw material.

“We either outsource the components manufacturing to other suppliers, or we can research and manufacture our own components,” says Arthur Huang, a Foxconn spokesman. “We even have contracts with mines which are located near our factories.”

Many analysts are optimistic the big brands will find new innovations to improve profitability. But within the crowd, there is growing skepticism about China’s manufacturing model after years of pressing workers to toil six or seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.

“We’ve concluded Hon Hai’s labor-intensive model is not sustainable,” says Mr. Wang at iSuppli Research. “Though it can keep hiring 800,000 to one million workers, the problem is these workers can’t keep working like screws in an inhuman system.”

This type of low-end assembly work is also no longer favored in China, analysts say, because it does not produce big returns for the companies or the country. “China doesn’t want to be the workshop of the world anymore,” says Pietra Rivoli, a professor of international business at Georgetown University and author of “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.”

“The value goes to where the knowledge is.”

Bao Beibei and Chen Xiaoduan contributed research.

Roxanne Amico on Art: Whose Story, What Story. . . & Those Significant Minorities

by Roxanne Amico Friday, June 18, 2010 at 8:34am

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 4 of 5 This was more painting than scratching.... I mostly got the terror painted in...

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of my work as an artist and as an activist. I’ve never been able to do one without also feeling pulled to do the other. And fortunately, I learned in the nick of time that I need not do one without the other, and actually should do both. I say this is fortunate because in general, I think we live in a culture in which we learn that a relationship between art and social justice is not possible, a lie which silences our muse and our community voice, which can kill the creative life force. But the role of an artist and an activist are directly related to being a human being —–>Particularly IN the context of a culture that functions to dehumanize us. One of the ways we get dehumanized is by the fact that the stories we hear are primarily the stories of those who have the biggest megaphone (radio / newspaper / TV), etc., and those who have the strongest financial relationship with those forums, dominating the commons.

In a nutshell, mega-corporate mainstream news *gives* us a voice and story, telling us what to think and say and do, in complete disregard for the needs of people (humans and nonhumans) and communities of life. I believe *this* is THE bottom line on the importance of art and social action of *any* kind. Our work to survive, thrive, and shape a new culture is, in large measure, to wrestle back OUR OWN stories of our lives, of our loved ones, of our histories, of the landbases that sustain us and the living communities on those landbases.

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 1 of 5 This was the 1st one I did, which I didn't like, so I started making scratch board....

I think we can see this everywhere, such as the story of the oil hemorrhaging in the sea bed floor being lied about (as those who work to tell about the carnage of the victims are threatened with / arrested), and we can see it with the story of the flotilla murders, and we can see it with Afghanistan’s “newly discovered mineral wealth”, and we can see it in Iraq, and we can see it in every instance in which there are crimes being perpetrated by the state and corporate partnerships, wanting only their version of the story to be told, heard, remembered…. This is pretty basic media analysis 101, but I am often reminded how few people actually understand this dynamic of the importance of story in life… It’s also well expressed here, when Derrick Jensen makes the point that we are all propagandists, but says much more: “…really means reducing us from active participants in our own lives and in the lives of those around us to consumers sucking words and images from some distant sugar tit…” http://www.endgamethebook.org/Excerpts/3-Civilization.htm

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 2 of 5 This one and the next one are made from scratch board. (crayon or wax on cardboard, painted with black ink, and then the image is scratched away...)

During an interesting exchange with a friend in another thread in another note, about an entirely different topic, I found a section of a book I’m reading that shows the relationship between creative work and social and environmental justice work… Below is that excerpt, which drove home what the role of art and action are in my life, and what I intend to give to the world as a human being.

From Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery :The Aftermath of Violence — from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, from the chapter on Stages of Recovery:

“Most survivors seek the resolution of their traumatic experience within the confines of their personal lives. But a significant minority, as a result of the trauma, feel called upon to engage in a wider world. These survivors recognize a political or religious dimension in their misfortune and discover that they can transform the meaning of their personal tragedy by making it the basis for social action. While there is no way to compensate for an atrocity, there is a way to transcend it, by making it a gift to others. The trauma is redeemed only when it becomes the source of a survivor mission.”

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 3 of 5

“Social action offers the survivor a source of power that draws upon her own initiative, energy, and resourcefulness but that magnifies these qualities far beyond her own capacities. It offers her an alliance with others based on cooperation and shared purpose. Participation in organized, demanding social efforts calls upon the survivor’s most mature and adaptive coping strategies of patience, anticipation, altruism, and humor. It brings out the best in her; in return, the survivor gains the sense of connection with the best in other people. In this sense of reciprocal connection, the survivor can transcend the boundaries of her particular time and place. At times the survivor may even attain a feeling of participation in an order of creation that transcends the ordinary reality. Natan Sharansky, a prisoner of conscience, describes the spiritual dimension of his survivor mission:

“Back in Lefortovo (prison), Socrates and Don Quixote, Ulysses and Gargantua, Oedipus and Hamlet, had rushed to my aid. I felt a spiritual bond with these figures, their struggles reverberated with my own, their laughter with mine. They accompanied me through prisons and camps, through cells and transports. At some point I began to feel a curious reverse connection: not only was it important to me how these characters behaved in various circumstances, but it was also important to *them*, who had been created many centuries

Exxon - Valdez Oil Painting 5 of 5 This was the most successful painting of the series of five... More a collage-painting, it's got many layers of paint and transparency and emotion painted and glued in, and this one expresses the grief as well as the fear and rage of imagining being buried in oil and unable to breathe or swim or eat... My painting changed a lot after this experimental period... Oh, and one of the things I was thinking about at the time was how the color red was so narrowly characterized in our culture as a color of violence or anger. I did some research and learned it's not that way in all cultures. In other cultures, red is revered for its associations to sexuality, to women's power, to blood and the life force being given and taken away. I became interested in how, in India, the Hindi culture embraces the Goddess Kali as the feminine force, and so I worked to bear that in mind as I painted the personification of what I was feeling, using my own self-portrait. There's a progression here of five paintings...

ago, to know how I was acting today. And just as they had influenced the conduct of individuals in many lands and over many centuries, so I, too, with my decisions and choices had the power to inspire or disenchant those who had existed in the past as well as those who would come in the future. This mystical feeling of the interconnection of human soul was forged in the gloomy prison-camp world when our zeks’ solidarity was the one weapon we had to oppose the world of evil.”

Herman continues:

“Social action can take many forms, from concrete engagement with particular individuals to abstract intellectual pursuits., Survivors may focus their energies on helping others who have been similarly victimized, on educational, legal, or political efforts to prevent others from being victimized in the future, or on attempts to being offenders to justice. Common to all these efforts is a dedication to raising public awareness. Survivors understand full well that the natural human response to horrible events is to put them out of mind. They may have done this themselves in the past. Survivors also understand that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. It is for this reason that public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action.”

“Survivors undertake to speak about the unspeakable in public in the belief that this will help others. In so doing, they feel connected to a power larger than themselves….”

You can find Roxanne Amico’s work and passionate writing and you can hear her on the radio through her web site.  About herself she writes: “I’m an artist and an activist: a visual artist, a writer, an independent audio & radio producer, with an online radio podcast… following my heart and using my gifts and resources to save: this planet I love, its people, and this life I love. The reason for life is to share our lives with one another. I want whatever I do to facilitate that for others to do the same. Here is my website, where you can learn more about my art, read my writing, and hear my shows ..: visit http://www.spiritmorphstudio.com

Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman, M.D., quoted above

I Need To Create A New World — Art/text by Diana Berek

Click this link to open the pdf: I need to create a new world

. . .i need to create a new world. . .