Sunday, October 18, 2015

Product Line

Ideally companies should have clearly targeted and well positioned products. However over time their product line start to mass up. After some time every body gets used to this situation and things become more and more complicated. Here in this text, I propose that simplifying the product line is beneficial for almost every company. It is independent of the sector and applicable to services sector as well.

An example can be given for consumer electronics. These products become more and more complex every day. Therefore they require serious engineering to be perfected. Today's product development approach however spends less and less time on every product designed.  The end result is buggy products.  The companies try to produce as many different products as possible with minimal effort. Their product line become so fuzzy that even the top managers of the company cannot tell you their product line without looking at a paper and clearly state their targeted audience.  If a company would like to get the highest market share from their targeted customers. They should have pinpoint targeted and well designed products. This requires attention and focus. It is like a sniper shot vs machine gun shooting. If you don't have infinite number of ammunition you should target and shoot like a sniper.

One last recommendation on customer retention.  The products and even services can be made modular.  This allows the company to widen their target audience without complicating their product line.  Additionally it would allow the consumers to update their product continuously. Buying a module is cheaper than buying the whole product. This also satisfies consumers need for shopping and buying something new. Instead of buying a whole new product every couple of years. They buy modules every couple of months.  Update able products have longer life span. Therefore the company producing them improves their customer retention and brand royalty.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Synergy, Audit and Control

The companies need these divisions synergy, audit and control, to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Audit and control division checks employees work against ethics and company policies.  Most companies focus on results and leave employees free on how to achieve them. Some do the opposite and treat employees as robots. These two approaches should be balanced. Becoming too cumbersome is a death certificate for the firm.  The employees should have freedom on the way they do the work. On the other hand corporate processes and procedures should be followed.  It boils down to these policies. If they are not carefully developed (e.g. unrealistic) employees come up with their own versions.  When these policies are developed properly, its audit and control divisions responsibility to monitor and report employees' compliance with the policies.  For the company to march forward, the employees should be harmonized. Additionally, the work done should be irrelevant of the person doing it.  When people start doing the work freely, any replacement within the workforce result considerable drop in efficiency and increases the adaption times of the new employees.  Ideally the work done should be clearly stated on the procedures and not depend on the person doing it.  This becomes more important as the company grows.  Therefore, audit and control division's work is very critical.  They also allow upper management to focus on the future.  In a typical organisation, upper management spend too much time on daily work, leaving very little time for them to think on future work. When audit and control division work properly the upper management can rely on their employees on daily work and can spend more time on future strategies.

Synergy is a division almost mo company have.  It is however crucial for all companies.  The main objective of this division is to increase the collaboration between different departments. Usually every department has their own goals and they rarely overlap with each other. Synergy departments duty is to increase this overlap. Define, monitor and report the interaction level between departments. If necessary update processes and procedures. Develop performance measurement values promoting the synergy between the departments.  Organize educational meetings to clarify the operation of almost every department to one another.  This would widen the employees view point.  Finally, synergy improves the company's efficiency and effectiveness as well as innovation capability.

Corporate Organisation

The global competition and fast changing market conditions force companies to be more competitive and innovative else they go out of business.

The companies are made of employees. Therefore who is currently working for the company is very important for its future.  The firms need adequate number of employees who are criticizers.  If this number is not enough one should not expect ground breaking innovation from the firm. These criticizers should be in all levels including the upper management.

Starting from the lowest corporate hierarchy, there should be employee surplus. At the lower end, the surplus should be low and at the very top it should be the highest. These excessive human resources are necessary for the following reasons:

-  Employees need time to develop innovative ideas, ideas that would improve current processes and procedures. There should be enough time for them to make analysis.

- As you move upper in the corporate hierarchy developing strategies become more important. Every employee can contribute to the strategy. The upper management has advantage because they usually have broader vision as well as more experience.  Therefore they need more time to develop strategies as well as lead process and procedure improvement projects.

- The companies need continuous improvement on their processes and procedures. This requires relevant employees spending time on analysis of current conditions and improving them. Most companies have limited number of employees with good knowledge of the work. This limitation coupled with under employment results poor analysis of internal projects. Experienced people are usually overloaded, which makes the inexperienced people making the analysis for the project. Reducing the project effectiveness. This can be overcome by adequate excessive human resources.

- The problems need root cause analysis which is time and labor intensive. A company with overloaded people can hardly spare time and resources for this. Therefore inappropriate solutions to the problems cause other problems and increase the stress level within the company.

- Most work environment stress is a result of overloaded people. Which effects employee health  and reduce their efficiency.

Excessive human resources approach does not mean the companies should not develop projects to reduce work force. Such projects are important for companies competitiveness. The idea is that even after work force reduction there should be some excessive force left for doing the extra work stated above.

Finally, employees make up the company therefore the companies should pay attention on hiring them as well as firing them. Firing as well as hiring is important for the firm. One rotten tomato can spoil the hole basket.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A New Index for Electronics 2.0

I believe on modular electronics and standardization of connectors, peripherals and batteries. In order to speed up this trend there can be an index created to show the level of standardization of a product.

The index value can be calculated based on the following criteria:
- Easy serviceability of the product (battery, display, charging adapter, ...)
- Number of standardized vs propriety connectors
- Standardized serviceable parts (battery, display, connectors...)

The objective of this index is to motivate manufacturers to use more standardized parts for their products. Standardization of battery for example. It would have been nice if we had standard LiPo battery dimensions like we did for Alkaline batteries. Another example would be standardization of charging adapters. At the moment USB interface is the main charging interface for small electronic devices. However a broader standard would be more beneficial for the electronics industry.

This index should also be valued by the consumer which would force the manufacturers to increase their index value.

Some of the benefits of standardization of product components and peripherals:
- Less money spend on the product. (You don't have to pay again and again for the charging adapter, the battery, connecting cables; you pay for the phone or the camera. You keep using the other peripherals stated above.)
- Another expression of the above statement: More percentage of the money you spend on the product goes to the real value adding part of the product. The product itself not the peripherals.
- Less environmental waste. (Our homes are filled up with cables and charging adapters. With every new product purchase we get new cables and charging adapters and battery)
- Possibility of better build standard equipment (Better build charging adapters and cables. At the moment manufacturers bundle cheaper peripherals with the product in order to reduce the sales price of the product.)
- Easy serviceability and availability. (If you are travelling and need a replacement peripheral, it may be impossible for one to find a propriety peripheral.  However standardized peripherals could be easily found.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perpetual Filament Printing


Almost all the end user 3D printers use filament plastic as the raw material.
End user printers are mainly based on CNC devices which are quite mature in design.  Therefore, the most critical part of additive manufacturing systems is deposition of just the right amount of material at right location. The location precision can be guaranteed up to an acceptable level.  However material deposition cannot be controlled precisely at the moment. This results in low quality output for end user 3D printers.

For high quality printing the followings need to be improved:
- Filaments must be made of homogeneous raw material
- Filaments must have consistent diameter

The quality of raw materials mainly depends on the manufacturer. The coloring materials used in the filament also affect the quality of print.  For high quality outputs, one needs to fine tune the extrusion settings every time the filament role is changed.

Filament diameter inconsistency can be compensated by using filament compensation electronics.  The extrusion speed can be adjusted based on the filament shape.  The filament shape can be determined using hall-effect sensors.  For further detail you can check Motate128 Stepper Motor Control System. It was discussed in Filabot's forum under filament compensating electronics topic.

Another important topic on 3D printing using plastic filaments is sustainability.

For sustainability it is important to recycle the plastic. In order to obtain a nice looking print, one needs try couple of times.  The end result is a lot of discarded faulty prints.  I propose a new index for 3D printing "Discarded Plastic Ratio (DPR)".  An example of a DPR would be: “With the current technology, 100 gr of plastic used in order to print, 40 gr of usable object.  So the DPR of the printing is 60%“.  After using the printer for some time, it becomes really important to recycle the waste.  There are projects going on to resolve this problem.  Filabot is the first successful filament manufacturing device developed for the end user.  Additionally there is a perpetual plastic project.  The idea sounds good.  However, I find it quite impractical to melt different plastics into one and form a filament.  The filaments produced this way would be unpredictable in behavior.  The print quality would suffer.  Also the chemical fumes coming out of such filaments may be health hazardous.  In my opinion, the recycling of plastic is a complex process and therefore should be handled with a recycle center.  On the other hand, recycling of defective 3D prints is a more feasible solution for perpetual plastic printing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

3D Printer Raw Materials

3D printers utilize different types of raw materials. Following are my personal thoughts on two different raw material types.

Filament ABS, PLA:
- Mainly used in RepRap derivate printers.
Pros:
Relative low cost printer design. Utilizes low cost extruders. Printed objects have continuous layers, improving rigidity and smooth look.  Depending on the nozzle width, the build speed can be considerable increased in trade off lowering the detail of final object.

Cons:
Uniform and perfect circle filaments are required for high quality results.
Difficult to align layers. Difficult to control the extruded plastics thickness. Bubbling may occur.
Supporting the design is not that easy, either another extruder is required with a water soluble plastic is used or the gap can be filled with loosely build plastic.  Stringing is also another problem.
The object printed would deform while being printed due to temperature differences. The bottom platform can be heated and the extruded plastic is hot, however the plastic in between is exposed to the ambient temperature. Due to these temperature differences warping is inevitable depending on the shape of the object. Heated platform is required for larger ABS prints.


Powder Plastic (I don’t know the exact plastic composition):
- Mainly used in high end 3D printers.
Pros:
Plastic powders unlike filaments can have higher tolerances in manufacturing. No support material is needed while the powder serves as the support. No heated platform is required. Less warping occurs due to less temperature deviation. Consistent printed unit volume results in consistently high quality prints. Parallel processing can be easier to implement compared to filament based printers.

Cons:
Higher cost of printer design. Laser sintering, thermal print heads or inkjet technologies are utilized in these printers making them difficult to develop for low budget startups.
Unless multiple lasers are used printing object with laser sintering is slower compared to large nozzle filament printers. Because focused laser beam can only melt small regions compared to large size of nozzle. It is expensive to manufacture very fine plastic powder (2-3 micron).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Suggestions on Future 3D Printer Design

Current printers utilize circular extruders. These extruders have a fix width. If you would like fine details on your print you should use extruders with small nozzle size (I use the term nozzle size for the nozzle opening diameter). The downside of this is it takes a longer time to print the object while only small amount of plastic can be extruded at a given time. If you would like to shorten the print times and do not require detail on your print you can use extruders with larger nozzles.
One possible question comes to mind, “Is it possible to have an extruder with variable nozzle size?”.
A continues variable nozzle is complicated and therefore not feasible at the moment. However it is possible to have an extruder with two nozzle sizes. While printing, the printer can alter the nozzle size, either fine (0.25 mm) or bold (1.00 mm). For further detail on this subject you can read the paper   “Variable fused deposition modeling - concept design and tool path generation”.

Here are my suggestions on the extruder design:
The plastic extruder opening can be rectangular instead of being circular. One side of the rectangle can be controlled to adjust the size of the opening. With this method it is more feasible to achieve variable fused deposition system. Additionally it is possible to add channels on the nozzle to color the extruded  plastic. Special ink should be used to color the hot plastics outer surface. The ink should stay intact with the plastic even after it is cooled down and shouldn’t peel off or wash out with water. Most probably the ink used will make the surface of the plastic dull instead of shiny. However it is just a guess.

Another major change I propose, is on the plastic feeding system. The printer should use raw ABS or PLA as a granule. There will be two stage plastic feeder. First one will move raw plastic to the melting chamber. The second one will push the melted plastic from the chamber to the nozzle at a variable speed.  The trick is how to design the second stage. Most probably if it were easy it would have been implemented.
The main advantage of using granular plastic is that they are widely available and cheaper than the filament plastics used at current 3D printers. Additionally the quality of printers would be independent of the plastics shape. On the other hand filament plastics should be perfectly round and consistent in size in order to get high quality prints.