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Yes, you read that right. I assert we will need to miniaturize our products’ burden on buildings while having bigger experiences and faster delivery times which requires stronger materials. 

Remember Ironman’s super-cool digital screens inside his ocean-side lair? Well today, thyssenkrupp announced that our service technicians will use HoloLens technology in its elevator service operations worldwide.

There is no getting around it. If your building is two stories or hundreds of feet, you are going to need an elevator. You have to meet the American Disabilities Act codes but what you don’t need is a complicated elevator system to travel just a few feet.

The term “smart city” can be open to interpretation. Here are a few prerequisites established a few years ago.  A smart city uses technologies to be more intelligent and efficient when using resources.

thyssenkrupp is currently putting the finishing touches on the installation of 30 elevators and 2 escalators that will serve 52 floors at River Point, a new office tower located on a prime piece of property overlooking the Chicago River.


So what exactly is additive manufacturing?  Well let’s break it down. The word manufacturing brings up images of casting and welding metals and assembly lines. The word additive, in this case, means to build an object by adding ultrathin layers of material one by one. So additive manufacturing simply means we are printing in three dimensions folks. 

Additive manufacturing can be used by companies like thyssenkrupp and at home by anyone.  Companies apply additive manufacturing with industrial-size machines that can be as large as a refrigerator or even a room. They utilize a multitude of options and printing materials like plastics, metals and ceramics.  The consumer machines you and I would use are about as large as a smallish microwave oven.

One notable case to date is the jet engine fuel nozzle designed and fabricated by General Electric.  The company plans on fabricating more than 100k parts with additive manufacturing by 2020.  This is impressive because it shortens the time it takes to get new designs into the market (a fuel nozzle can be printed in days to weeks versus months for traditional methods).  But we don’t make jet engines, we make elevators and technology transcends all industries…but does it do it viably? We are looking as ways to introduce the technology into our business; such as: eliminating physical inventory by saving 3D files and printing on demand.   Other considerations include making components lighter by optimizing the structure for strength, and shortening time to market by using printed prototypes during the development process, etc.  It is important to note that this manufacturing method will be complementary to traditional ones...not the demise of them.

Now what’s in it for you and me? We are no longer limited by what objects we can find online or in a store.  If you can dream it, you can make it.  With today’s home printers the technology is still fairly limited and there is a trade-off between aesthetics, customization, and functionality (functionality trumps all in my book but hey, I’m an engineer.)  The way it works is you come up with an idea for something you want or need. To protect my furniture, I needed a coaster for my game-day beer. How do I communicate the design in my head to the 3D printer?  I used 3D design software even free versions are available). or a 3D scanner (these are also available but can cost about $1000.)

The process is as follows. I open Tinkercad’s online interface and drag a cube shape to start.  I then stretch the size to 4” x “4 inches because my beer glasses have a wide base and shrink it to ⅛” in height.  I add some lettering,“GO BIG RED,” because I’m a Nebraska fan – and save the file.  Next I print my new coaster on my desktop printer at home or I could send to Shapeways, and they will print it for me. 

If I start this project early enough, this should be no problem with the assistance of my three-year- old who is a really reliable alarm clock.  I can protect my furniture from the attack of condensation by kick-off! –

Michael Bray is the senior field innovation manager,RIC Atlanta. Email him at michael.bray@thyssenkrupp.com

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