Robots are increasingly taking over industrial manufacturing roles.

Titans of Industry: how robots are changing manufacturing

 

We’ve looked at the future of an industry with mining in space, but here’s a sci-fi idea that’s very much a part of the present: robots.

In South Korea alone there are already more than 400 robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees. The International Federation of Robotics estimates that 1.3 million industrial robots will be installed worldwide in factories between 2015 and 2018. What does this mean for the human role in industry, and how will this affect the need for anthropocentric safety features like non-slip flooring and handrails?

Human and robots competing in the workplace 

Increased industrial automation may change what roles humans play.

Robots are taking on new roles, and this is affecting what jobs are available for people. In 2014 Port Botany in Sydney automated its cargo handling, cutting 180 jobs in the process. And earlier this year the BBC reported that Foxconn, a supplier to Apple and Samsung, had replaced as many as 60,000 workers  with robots. The World Economic Forum predicts that technological change will lead to a net loss of more than five million jobs worldwide by 2020.

A shared workspace

Humans and robots are not entirely incompatible in the workplace. The robots traditionally used in the automotive industry are large, powerful and crude – good for heavy lifting, but not suited to delicate tasks. Not to mention, they are dangerous to be around, with heavy, fast moving arms that could easily strike an unaware person who got too close.

But a Renault plant in France is now using smaller, more agile robots that can do finer, more detailed work. The Wall Street Journal reports that these robots are designed to be ‘collaborative’ – that they are able to work safely and closely with people. These robots have a variety of technology including cameras and sonar that they use to detect nearby humans and avoid moving in ways that would come into contact with them.

Traditional automotive robots are large, powerful and dangerous to be around.Traditional automotive robots are large, powerful and dangerous to be around.

The role we play may change

The increase in industrial automation may lead to a shift in human roles in industrial settings: Rather than actively manufacturing, the role of human workers will be one step removed, installing and maintaining the robots that do the actual labour. We still need a human focus in industrial settings. No matter the level of automation, factories and manufacturing plants continue to have roles for humans and workplace safety remains an issue that companies need to be aware of.

Whatever the scale of robotics in your workplace, your human staff are still the core of your productivity, and the ergonomic measure of how you build your factory or plant. Keep them safe and stable with Locker Group’s range of industrial flooring and products.

Bad building call: The danger of cutting costs

Bad building call: The danger of cutting costs

 

More often we see builds go ahead using alternative imported products. Does this create a risk that your quality and aesthetic expectations may not be met? Today, the race to get things done cheaply is too often compromising quality. We’re seeing time and time again builders choosing to go with imported products, which, though they offer price advantages, may not comply with quality assurance or building standards that local providers offer.
The disadvantages of using cheaper imports

In early 2015, an architect designing a publicly-funded government building worked with Locker Group to detail an aesthetic external cladding using expanded metal mesh. However, after the construction went up for tender, the building company that won the job attempted to undercut Locker Group, disregarding the fact that the architect had specified them.

Despite Locker Group sales manager Ian Dunstan going out of his way to service the client, they decided to use an alternative product imported from China based on price. Going for a cheaper imported option turned out to be a very bad call. “We explained to them because of the particularly sensitive nature of this job, the product needed to be good,” Ian said, “You can’t really treat this facade like anything else and just slap something on because it will look terrible.” However, that was exactly what the builder did, admitting to Ian that he’d “gone in really cheap with this project and couldn’t afford to buy locally.”

The build went ahead and according to Ian, “These guys effectively had no idea what they were doing.” “They brought in some imitation products from China, imported them on pallets, and just used a couple of self-tappers to screw them on the side of the building.” After seeing the finish himself, Ian saw major misalignments in the panels, unsupported ends, colour inconsistencies, insubstantial clamping, and even bowing panels. “It is just a mess,” Ian stated.

The decision to go with this alternative supplier meant forgoing the expertise and support that Locker Group would have provided during design, engineering and throughout the installation. The final product does not meet the designer’s intent, this choice essentially spoiled the visual appeal of the building.
Although this case is mainly a visual issue, we are seeing how these thrifty decisions are impacting the buildings and the lives of those who reside in them. Back in November 2014, firefighters responded to a terrible fire that was rapidly engulfing the 23-storey Lacrosse Building in Docklands.

The Melbourne Fire Brigade soon found that the extent of the blaze was intensified by some cheap imported external cladding, which did not comply with combustibility standards. Locker Group strives to remain competitive in the global market. As Ian explained, the services and support necessary for top-quality Australian-made architectural products definitely outweigh any cheaper import if you are thinking about total value. And it’s this notion that budget-seeking builders are failing to understand. ‘We just want to make sure we are comparing apples with apples,” said Ian. “In many instances, it’s chalk and cheese.”

How are modern sculptors using metal products to make art?

The artistic potential of perforated metal

 

While metal sculpture is a long-standing tradition (bronze sculpture was popular in the Renaissance, for example), the industrial age has given artists new materials and techniques to work with. How are modern artists using metal to create? And with the line between art, building and commerce blurring, what role can architectural products such as ours play?

Abdul Qader al-Na’ib’s scrap metal sculpture

Abdul Qader al-Na’ib, a 24-year-old artist in Baghdad welds together pieces of found scrap metal and used car parts to create robots, vehicles and animals. Na’ib gets his metal by scavenging at the dump or in the street where people have thrown things away. Working in scrap metal for just a couple of years, Na’ib now has sculptures on display in schools and ministries, and has opened a workshop where the public can admire and purchase his pieces.

Na’ib likes the medium of scrap metal not only because it is unique, but also because it reduces waste.

“I liked the idea because I wanted to do something different and I wanted to do something to serve the society,” he told Reuters.

The industrial age has given sculptors new materials to work with.The industrial age has given sculptors new materials to work with.

Richard Serra’s steel plate creations

Richard Serra is an American artist who makes large-scale abstract sculptures from steel plate. His 2006 piece “Sequence”, for example, is 67 feet (20 metres) long and weighs more than 200 tonnes. His work has received mixed reactions; his 1981 piece “Tilted Arc”, a 12-feet high and 120-feet long steel wall through the middle of Federal Plaza in New York, received numerous complaints from locals. After a drawn-out court case, the piece was dismantled and removed less than 10 years after it had been installed. The Guardian called it “one of the most controversial works of public art of the 20th century.”

Serra’s later sculptures have been more well received, and his work was celebrated in a career retrospective at New York’s Moma in 2007.

Jeff Thomson’s corrugated iron animals

New Zealander Jeff Thomson has been using corrugated iron for sculpture since the 1980s, creating animals, letterboxes and other common objects. Perhaps most famously, he covered a Holden station wagon in the material. His work has a sense of humour and play to it, and he has engaged everyday New Zealanders with public works such as populating Auckland’s Albert Park with a herd of corrugated iron elephants in 1985. Thomson has used other materials such as wire netting and plastic, but it is his corrugated iron work that is most well known.

Pic-Perf images can be small enough to hang on the wall, or big enough to cover the building.

The artistic potential of Pic-Perf

Pic-Perf is an architectural product that sits on the threshold of structural and visual art, allowing you to recreate any image with perforated holes in a metal sheet. It has practical applications such as making partitions, balustrades or sunscreens, but it can also be used for purely aesthetic purposes like signage or decoration. Pic-Perf images work on the same principle as half-tone printing, with the size of the holes determining the tone of the image. The technique can be used on different materials and with different finishes, letting you choose an end result that suits your needs.

Pic-Perf images can be made small enough to be hung on the wall like a traditional piece of art, or big enough to cover that entire wall and the rest of the building. The perforated metal sheets are long-lasting and can be relocated, so art created as an installation doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to its original setting.

Many of Locker Group’s range of products have applications that go beyond the purely functional – they can be used to create striking sculptural art as well. Or better yet, create something that combines both aspects. Products like Pic-Perf can be used for practical features like screening that are also aesthetically pleasing and make beautiful settings.

If you’d like to talk about how our products can be used to achieve functional, stunning architectural features, please get in touch today.

What safety equipment will miners need in outer space?

Space mining: The next giant leap for an industry

 

Space mining is a pulp sci-fi idea that isn’t far from becoming a reality, as increasingly companies and now countries are taking it seriously. Asteroid mining could begin within the next few years, so it’s worth thinking about what this new industry might look like. Locker Group is heavily involved with traditional, earthbound mining, but what sort of role could our products play on the final frontier?

The new space race

Earlier this year, Luxembourg announced it had a fund of 200 million euros devoted to helping space mining initiatives. Luxembourg’s economy minister Etienne Schneider has said that the country wants to be in the world’s top ten spacefaring nations. The fund is a step towards encouraging companies to choose Luxembourg as a base of operations.

If there’s no difference between up and down in space, there’s no need for somewhere to stand.

One company that has taken up the offer is Deep Space Industries, an asteroid mining company that has announced plans to run a test flight next year, with the intention of launching its first space mining exploration mission before the end of the decade. Based on what Deep Space Industries has revealed, the company’s mining exploits at least will be done by unmanned drones and robots, but it’s hard to shake the image of something more spectacular (Armageddon and Tintin loom large in the imagination), transplanting the idea of mining as it exists here on Earth but with space suits and more lasers…

We’ll leave the rockets and drones to others, but if mining in space did take place in manned facilities, what Locker Group products would they potentially need? We look at a few of the ways our equipment could help:

Flooring

For zero-gravity situations, flooring isn’t much of an issue – if there’s no difference between up and down then there’s no real need for somewhere to stand. But what about miners working in a reduced-gravity setting, such as on the moon or a large enough asteroid? For them the need for secure footing, although different from that in today’s terrestrial mines, is no less important.

In the Australian mining industry, more than a fifth of the serious injury claims made between 2007 and 2012 were caused by falls, trips and slips. This is enough of a cause for concern as it is, without the added difficulties of dealing with the unfamiliar physics of reduced gravity and no atmospheric resistance. Keeping a firm grip as you navigate gantries or walkways is made easier by one of our non-slip industrial flooring products.

Handrails

For similar reasons, handrails will be important safety equipment in our hypothetical space mine. These provide not only a secure grip for miners to hang on to, but also a place to tether themselves so that if something does go wrong and they find themselves adrift, they’ll be able to pull themselves back to safety.

Space mining is a sci-fi idea that's becoming a reality.Space mining is a sci-fi idea that’s becoming a reality.

Screens

The sun can be uncomfortably bright here on Earth, but that glare will be far worse out in space without any atmosphere to diffuse it. A partial solution would be a sun screen like our Atmosphere facade or wire mesh curtains, which reduce the impact of direct sunlight without too much of an obstruction to visibility. These are used on Earth for a range of industrial and architectural applications, and their affect on heat and light management would almost certainly have an application in a space mining setting.

Space mining is still a little way off, and by all accounts it won’t look like mining as it does today. In the mean time, Locker Group will continue its focus on what it does best – supplying safety equipment and architectural products for use here on Earth.

If you’d like to talk about how some real-world applications of Locker Group safety products could help your business, please get in touch today.

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