American technology and innovation have always been the envy of the world. Perhaps not since the founding of the nation two and a half centuries ago, when we were cut off from the factory production in Europe and forced to produce our own goods, has there been such motivation and drive to increase our domestic output. In the United States, billions of dollars are spent annually on research and development. For decades Congress has encouraged it and tax law has provided research and development tax credits to companies carrying out this research. The law periodically expires but, independent of who controls the House and Senate, there has always been bi-partisan support to renew the law and the credits continue. Research and development lead to innovation and innovation is a hallmark of American ingenuity. Companies in the United States spent about 500 billion in research last year. One could assume that most of this was eligible for federal tax credits which is in part why companies and like Google, Apple and Amazon often pay such a small amount in income taxes.
There are a dozen or more organizations, groups and events called "Made in America". Momentum is building and BOTH membership and participation are growing. Individuals and companies want to be a part of the growing movement. These organizations were already alive and growing before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States this year, but the virus has fueled the flames of the patriotism and self-sufficiency.
As the spread of the corona virus accelerated, the need for medical personnel as well as medical equipment and supplies accelerated. At Optimation, where we design and fabricate manufacturing lines, we were contacted dozens of times with requests to participate in increasing the production of the necessary equipment and supplies. We became engaged in discussions for manufacturing ventilators, face masks, face shields and hand sanitizers. We remain engaged with many of those opportunities, but the immediately identified needs are the short-term ones. As we learn from this pandemic, we need to think about longer term strategies. We need to find improved uses of technology and identify and manufacture items that can more effectively be used by medical communities, and in some cases by the community at large. We had the experiences of SARS, MERS and Ebola to learn from and we knew a great deal about pandemics, but the world was not well prepared for COVID-19. There weren’t enough hospital beds and there was a shortage of equipment. There was a huge scramble for ventilators and at the urging of governments a dozen or more companies jumped into the manufacture of ventilators, but what other equipment might have been valuable? With lessons learned from our current situation can we use to prepare for the next pandemic. It’s a good time to look for new opportunities and to develop new equipment to help the medical community be more effective.
In 1492 nearly everyone thought that the world was flat. Ships who ventured too close to the edge of the earth would fall in an abyss to their death or be eaten by large dragon like creatures. Columbus overcame all of that and the earth became round. That truth became foundation for a long time. But fifteen years ago Thomas Freidman published his book The World is Flat. It was the Financial Times Business Book of the Year in 2005 and sold millions of copies. It is because the gospel of global trade. In the book Friedman laid out the basis of offshoring, outsourcing and supply-chaining. Business owners read the book and accepted that the future was a global economy with both essential parts and essential products manufactured in all parts of the world, most dominantly in China. Six months ago, predictions for manufacturing trends during 2020 included more globalism with acceleration of Industry 4.0 technologies to make things faster, smarter and of higher quality. Predictions anticipated the growth of analytics, robotics and additive manufacturing. We couldn’t see, even then, that globalism would soon be dead. The flat world of Friedman would be disrupted even more quickly than the flat world of 1492 was disproved by Columbus.
As we navigate our new reality of Covid-19 we have come to appreciate how small virus particles can infect any of us and how important cleaning and sanitation is. In a similar way to how viruses can “contaminate” our bodies stainless steel contamination can be a real problem in applications that require clean corrosion free surfaces. This is frequently a requirement in labs as well as food and pharmaceutical plants. Stainless steel, when fabricated correctly provides excellent corrosion resistance. When misapplied this will not be the case. Precautions must be taken to prevent contamination of stainless steel surfaces during fabrication. This is possible with the proper precautions when done in a shop in controlled conditions, and more difficult when installation is carried out in a project field location.
There’s a lot of celebrating that happens every year on Pi Day. Included are images of raspberry, apple or pizza in a variety of formats. This has been going on for over 30 years, ever since a 1988 when a physicist named Larry Shaw selected it because the numerical date (3/14) represents the first three digits of Pi. By coincidence March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. On March 12, 2009, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing March 14, 2009 as the first National Pi Day. To the best of my knowledge it passed with a very broad bipartisan vote. Everyone loves Pi. But this is all very recent history. Knowledge or Pi existed millennium before Pi Day, or Einstein or congress. Wikipedia gives some historical context on who and how Pi was first introduced. In 1707, a Welsh mathematician, William Jones, was the first to use the Greek letter pi (π) to denote the constant ratio, but it was decades later before this came into common popular use. There are references to Pi from the Greeks in 2000 B.C. and on Babylonian tablets around 1800 B.C. It also shows up on an Egyptian papyrus about 1650 B.C. But archaeologists believe that the oldest clear recognition of Pi may come from the pyramids of Giza. The great pyramid was built about 2500 B.C.
Topics: For Fun
FIRST Robotics competition is coming back to Rochester next week. The FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional will be held at RIT on March 13th and 14th. If you have never been to one you need to go. A FIRST Robotics competition is like nothing you have ever seen before. It is all about technology and engineering and computer software and learning. It is also filled with loud music, cheers and teams of motivated and energized high school students working as teams to overcome obstacles. It won’t only be happening in Rochester. This is a worldwide movement. Nearly 4000 teams from 28 countries will be competing. Over a hundred thousand students will be part of more than 100 regional, district and championship events. Countless mentors and coaches from colleges, universities and industry volunteer long hours to help the teams organize and construct. FIRST is hardcore technology on steroids designed to motivate and inspire students to get engaged in STEM and follow engineering of high-tech trades professions. FIRST makes technology into a sport. While fast paced and competitive, it also has a unique value-based culture. They call it "Gracious Professionalism".It embraces competition but rejects trash talk and replaces it with respect for other teams.They call this "Coopertition", emphasizing that teams can cooperate and compete at the same time.
It’s that time of year again. The New York State budget is in the planning stages and efforts to have parts of it be pro-business or pro-manufacturing need to be made now. March 3, 2020 is Manufacturing Lobby Day. Those who have an interest and can find the time will go to Albany to meet with their legislators. Local trade and manufacturing associations participating in the March 3 lobby include the Rochester Technical and Manufacturing Association (RTMA), The Manufacturing Alliance of New York and the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY). These groups and others will be going to Albany on March 3, 2020 to advocate and lobby for reforms that can improve the business and manufacturing environment. It is important for our state legislators to hear from their constituents.
Getting employees to follow the rules, even rules that keep them safe, is difficult. For some segments of the population is seems impossible. Everyone knows, for example, that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous, and against the law in most states. But a large percentage of the population continue to talk on a handheld phone while driving anyway. This is even more true of texting and driving. And accidents and deaths continue.