CSAIL Director Daniela Rus discusses future of manufacturing at World Economic Forum meeting in Davos

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The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos brings together the world's brightest minds to discuss global issues in business, economics, technology and much more.

At this year's event, CSAIL Director Daniela Rus spoke about the changing role of automation in manufacturing.

From a WEF blogpost written by MIT President Rafael Reif:

Rus explained that automation in manufacturing is lagging because many manufacturing applications require the design of new robots and custom tooling, which takes years. Today the car industry automates approximately 80% of its assembly because it has repeatable, and high-volume, processes. Rus compared that with the build process for commercial airplanes, which has only about 30% automation –and to the build process for electronics such as cell phones, which has only approximately 10% automation. Why are their automation rates so low? Because these products are highly customized, with a short life cycle and relatively low volumes, or are highly complex.

Rus thus posed this further question: how can we enable automation for small and middle-volume manufacturing and for industries where the set-up time for automation is large and the product lifecycle is small?

As Rus sees it, a good opportunity lies in using computation to automate just-in-time design and fabrication of specialized tooling and robots. This capability has the potential to eliminate the fixed points of traditional manufacturing and to enable the creation of one robot for every task. Configuring an assembly line requires tooling and processes.

Rus presented a roboticized solution to that problem: imagine if, when the product changed, a worker could rapidly reconfigure the line by doing something as simple as pushing a button. In response, a computation engine would compute the tooling and configuration needed to create the new product, fabricate the tools, and configure a new assembly line. The manufacturing future imagined by Rus is compelling, and opens up exciting possibilities.

Read the rest of President Reif's blogpost here: http://bit.ly/1f27pGc