Billy's Blog

On Billy's Blog, Billy Hurley, Digital Editorial Manager, writes stories about new and innovative achievements in design engineering, from industrial robots and autonomous vehicles to 3D printers and see-through solar cells. Along with other Tech Briefs writers and editors, Billy shares his opinions, poses questions to readers, and finds the fun, interesting, and unexpected stories behind today's leading-edge inventions.

Auto Slump Impacts Robotics Market

The declining fortunes of the U.S. automotive industry have had a direct impact on the robotics market. The latest data from the industry trade group Robotic Industries Association (RIA) saw robotic sales decline 30% in unit volume and 43% in dollar volume the first nine months of 2009.

Robot sales to...

Technology and Common Sense

With all the technology available to us today – iPods, smartphones, camcorders, portable computers – it is not hard to imagine people fully immersing themselves in their gadgets and various forms of media. But is technology causing people to become too self-absorbed? We asked readers this question in our Question...

Predicting the Weather on Mars

Over the years, I have learned not to place too much trust in weather forecasters. On a number of occasions, the forecasters have either underestimated or overestimated the severity or timing of predicted storms, or failed to predict weather events altogether. So I read with interest a story discussing NASA...

Software Obsolescence

I have never rushed out to purchase the latest version of a software release. As long as my current software is running my programs smoothly and not experiencing constant freeze-ups, I’d rather not bother with the arduous process of backing up my data and hoping the new software does not stall midway through installation...

Robots as Personal Assistants

The increasing presence of robots in industrial applications has been well documented. But robotic technology advances are also trickling down into the consumer market, creating a similar boom in the demand for personal robots. That is the conclusion of a new study by ABI Research titled “Personal Robotics 2009:...

A Smarter Electric Grid

A stark reminder of our country’s outdated infrastructure is the sight of uniformed utility company personnel canvassing neighborhoods to read electric and gas meters in homes and businesses. For many residents, this means having to arrange access for meter readers. I have circumvented this issue by doing my own...

MEMS Industry Fueled By New Technology

Like other sectors, the market for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) stagnated during the economic downturn. According to a report by market research organization Yole Developpement titled “State of the MEMS Industry 2009 Report,” sales of MEMS-based products are slated to reach $6.9 billion in...

Robots Doing the Dirty Work

The days of human beings sweeping floors, guarding plants, and doing other mundane or hazardous tasks could someday become a thing of the past. Service robots are increasingly being called on to perform these tasks, according to a new study from industry intelligence organization The Robot Report.

According to...

Keep Innovating!

Although this is the last entry for my Design & Manufacturing Midwest show blog, I want to encourage all of you to keep innovating, and to let me know what new products and technologies you’re working on that may be inspiring to someone at next year’s show.

Here are the last couple of products I wanted to let you...

Quality Counts

As my post-show coverage of Design & Manufacturing Midwest winds down, the focus is on quality. A number of products were on display that promise to help engineers make the right design decisions, and then ensure that their products are top-notch.

Autodesk showcased its Digital Prototyping solutions, including Moldflow...

Were You at D&M Midwest?

I met a lot of people at last week’s Design & Manufacturing Midwest show, and I saw a lot of innovative new products. I’ve had the chance to share with you what I saw last week from the show floor, and this week as we do a final wrap-up. What about you? If you were at D&M Midwest – or any of the five...

Streamlining PC Board Production

Given increased time-to-market pressures, design engineers are caught in a never-ending quest to streamline design and production processes. The challenges are formidable: proprietary or incompatible software, poor design tools, incomplete parts documentation, equipment issues - all can slow down prototyping and...

More New D&M Midwest Products

Last week’s Design & Manufacturing Midwest event in Rosemont, IL, was a hotbed for new product introductions to the industrial, medical, automation, assembly, and design areas. Here are more new products you should know about in case you missed the show.

Optical Gaging Products introduced the Focus...

Post-Show Week Begins

As attendees and exhibitors get back to business following last week’s Design & Manufacturing Midwest event, there are still a lot of things to talk about in my post-show blog this week.

After sifting through stacks of new product sheets and press kits, I’ve found that one week was not enough to cover all...

Wrapping Up a Busy Week at D&M Midwest

It was a busy and invigorating week at Design & Manufacturing Midwest, with new product introductions, a surprising keynote address, and presentations highlighting innovative applications.

And speaking of applications, the show featured an Innovation Briefs Theater, which showcased presentations...

D&M Midwest Ending on a High Note

After yesterday’s inspirational keynote, I was determined to find more innovative new products on the show floor, and I found them. So, before Design & Manufacturing Midwest wraps up this afternoon, I wanted to let you know about a few of those new products.

Horner Advanced Products Group...

Inspiration and Innovation at D&M Midwest

This morning, I began the second day of Design & Manufacturing Midwest by attending an early keynote session, which was free. I expected to get what I paid for. Instead, I heard an inspiring entrepreneur who is passionate about how businesses, both large and small, can save the planet and be profitable...

Design & Manufacturing Midwest: It’s On!

Design & Manufacturing Midwest – and its five co-located shows – kicked off this morning with a number of exhibitors showing brand-new products for the first time. Attendees are crowding the aisles to see the latest in electronics, medical, design, materials, assembly, and automation products and...

Countdown to Design & Manufacturing Midwest

Tomorrow at 10 am Central time, the Design & Manufacturing Midwest expo opens its doors, giving you the opportunity to see the products and services on display by more than 400 exhibitors. I’ll be at the show – and covering the week’s five other co-located shows – reporting live each...

Pack Your Walking Shoes for D&M Midwest

As promised in my blog yesterday, I have a sneak peek at a couple of new products that will be on display next week at Design & Manufacturing Midwest, as well as a preview of some of the can’t-miss special features in the exhibit hall.

Celesco Transducer Products (Booth 646) will be showing its...

Live! From Design & Manufacturing Midwest

It’s mid-September, and that means it’s time for Design & Manufacturing Midwest (formerly National Manufacturing Week) and its five co-located shows, which kick off next Tuesday at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. A must-attend event for manufacturers, the show features the...

Recalling September 11, 2001

Today, September 11, 2009, marks the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Various events are being held in cities and towns all over the country to commemorate the event, many honoring the 3,000 people who died in the attacks. The day undoubtedly remains a difficult one...

App Art

As the editor of an engineering magazine, I get to see all of the latest cutting-edge technology the moment it hits the streets. On average we get anywhere from 20 – 30 new product announcements a day, all of which must be evaluated on their merits. Most of the products are designed to satisfy some need, solve some problem, or...

The Rights of Airline Passengers

Flight delays are nothing new to airline travelers. Congested runways, inclement weather, aircraft problems - all of these factors can trigger delays that could easily run into hours. But after several recent incidents where airline passengers were stranded for six hours, the call to legislate a "passenger bill...

Who Benefits From "Cash for Clunkers"?

The U.S. Senate is now deciding on whether to approve an additional $2 billion in funding for the government's "Cash for Clunkers" program. Should the Senate approve, President Obama is certain to approve extending the program, designed to replace old gas-guzzling vehicles with more fuel-efficient ones, by...

Re-Inventing the Number

I had the opportunity to meet with an old friend of NASA Tech Briefs last week. Allen Razdow, who many design engineers may know as the inventor of Mathcad and the co-founder of MathSoft, was in town to talk to me about his new company and his new venture, a sort of “Wikipedia for numbers.”

The company, True...

Computer Program Warns Weary Drivers

Although less publicized than alcohol, driver fatigue is a major contributor to auto accidents in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 56,000 sleep-related road crashes occur annually in the U.S., resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. According to the...

Good News, Bad News

You know that old adage, "I've got some good news and I've got some bad news"? Well, that pretty much sums up this year's Semicon West, which was held last week at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Semiconductor West is the semiconductor manufacturing industry's annual trade show and technical conference. As such, it's a...

Walter Cronkite, Friend of Space Travel

Walter Cronkite, arguably the best-known and respected television news anchor of the past half century, died last Friday at 92. Cronkite left an indelible mark on the face on television news journalism, covering many of the main events and interviewing many of the world’s key leaders shaping the 20th...

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