Laura Putre

So That Happened: Sliding into Manufacturing, the Death of Engine Noises?

Nov. 2, 2022
IndustryWeek editors look at those issues and GE Appliances self-driving trucks on city streets and detecting ear infections with headphones.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.

The End of Internal Combustion Engines? Not So Fast

It’s interesting times for suppliers to the rapidly morphing automotive industry. With more than 100 years of history, the internal-combustion-engine propelled vehicle presents few surprises for manufacturers who feed the ICE supply chain. Not so in the still-evolving electric vehicle market, where new technologies are continuing to find their feet, and where the number of moving parts is magnitudes less than in a traditional car. What this shift means for the continued existence of some traditional vehicle suppliers, particularly Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers, is the subject of much angst and likely will continue to be so for some time as the EV market matures.

Eaton Corp. has its feet, and products, in both the EV and ICE camps. The manufacturer is focused on upside potential. “Eaton is very exposed to internal combustion engines, and we have parts that go into fuel tanks and valves and things like that. So there is a risk to a portion of our business,” said Scott Adams, president of the manufacturer’s eMobility division, during an EV panel at IndustryWeek’s recent Manufacturing & Technology show. However, when it comes to EVs, “We actually have more content opportunity per vehicle than we do with our legacy or traditional product. So the net effect for us is upside and growth.”

Other vehicle suppliers’ future success will fall along the spectrum and not just because of the shift to EVs, Adams predicted. Inflationary pressures and inevitable market downturns will also take their toll; some suppliers won’t make it. “We see it every cycle,” the Eaton executive said.   

Oh, and by the way, EVs and traditionally powered cars are not mutually exclusive—and likely never will be, Adams said. “Sometimes people think about EVs and the ICE, or internal combustion engines, as kind of binary, and it's not. They're going to coexist, probably forever, regardless of what is said in some countries and states and so forth, because certain applications are just better with fuel.”

Jill Jusko

3M Young Scientist Winner Invents Headphones to Detect Ear Infection

Kids these days! While many are glued to video games, others are out inventing things to make the world better. 

Case in point is 14-year-old Leanne Fan who was recently named the 2022 winner of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

She created Finsen Headphones, an antibiotic free, low-cost option to detect and treat a mid-ear infection using machine learning and blue light therapy. While a finalist, Fan worked with Dr. Ross Behling, a research specialist in the corporate research material laboratory division at 3M to transform her idea from concept to prototype.

Fan hopes that the use of these headphones can reduce the reduce the number of children who suffer from hearing loss by up to 60%. 

Here is a video of her explaining her project.

—Adrienne Selko

Manufacturing for Kids: Playgrounds to Careers

We’ve heard all sorts of ways to make manufacturing cool for young people, from focusing on high-tech STEM elements to stressing career paths. But what about slides and swings?

MAGNET, the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing extension program agency, opened a new facility last week in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland, a primarily Black community with a history of economic blight. The gleaming tech center, filled with manufacturing tools, bright meeting rooms and training centers, also features two community-oriented features outside—a mural featuring Black inventors and manufacturing pioneers and a playground that stresses STEM while also being a lot of fun.

MAGNET CEO Ethan Karp said a line of kids who lived in a nearby housing tower would get off the bus every day and line up along the fence to cheer on the construction workers building the playground. The site, a former school, was abandoned for years and there were holes in the slides at the old playground but it still got a lot of use. During a ribbon-cutting ceremony (highlighted by East Cleveland’s Shaw High School’s marching band drum line), small children from the neighborhood pressed their noses to the windows to see if there was a cool playground inside to match the one outside.

Karp says none of this is accidental. Making the MAGNET center cool for young kids will create fond associations with it when they’re a little older and tour the center in middle and high school.

Bill Swan, a talent program specialist at fittings manufacturer Swagelok, said they plan to have an apprenticeship program at the center with 16 students—high school juniors and seniors. Swagelok could take a lot more students, but they have to find the students to enroll in the programs first.

“This is the gap,” said Swan who grew up on 79th and Hough.

Laura Putre  and Robert Schoenberger 

Head out on the Highway

Well, maybe not the highway, but city streets at least. In January, we wrote about GE Appliances, a Haier company, using Einride autonomous vehicles on its massive Louisville, Kentucky, campus to move heavy components between various buildings on the site.

Last week, officials took the training wheels off the trucks and let them leave the campus. The test drive on public streets didn’t stray more than a block from the the company's Selmer, Tennessee,  campus, but it shows the potential to maybe one day have self-driving trucks shuttling parts between facilities that aren’t on the same piece of property.

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