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DARPA Pays $3.5 Million For New TechShops and Secret Reconfigurable Factories 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the redesigning-construction-methods dept.
pacopico writes "Businessweek reports that DARPA will pay for the creation of two new TechShops in Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh. The $3.5 million deal includes 2,000 TechShop memberships for military veterans and will have DARPA employees performing top secret work at night. 'The project is called iFab. For a month, a given factory might use dozens of machines to make parts for helicopters. Then you reboot the software controlling the machines, and out come the parts for the drive train system in a tank. The Darpa workers at TechShop will try to figure out which tools and methods can be used to rewire factories in this fashion.' Maker mayhem."
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DARPA Pays $3.5 Million For New TechShops and Secret Reconfigurable Factories

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  • Adaptable factories? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wiegeabo (2575169) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:16PM (#40093567)

    So...a factory that can more quickly and efficiently adapt to changes in demand? That can, instead of needing mass layoffs or closing up shop entirely, reconfigure their processes and retrain employees (increasing their skill sets if they ever need different future employment) to produce different things? Moving suppliers one level closer to being able to swiftly and effectively respond to the economic climate?

    And all this research is only going to cost $3.5 million or so?

    If they can make this work, and can be spread to other US suppliers, that $3.5 million investment will be paid back in no time in economic development. Hell, if it's a significant enough improvement, it could eventually help revitalize the US manufacturing industry by significantly upping our competitive advantage.

  • Meh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:40PM (#40093835)

    Sounds like standard CNC capabilities.

    When I was working for Boeing, a decade ago, they were transitioning from fixed jig assembly to laser coordinate measurement driving floor mounted hydraulic positioning equipment.

    The benefits were:
    1) No more huge jigs. Need to adjust a setting? No need to mod the jig, just tweak the s/w.
    2) Eventually, each assembly line could handle any model. Just punch a button and the jacks position themselves to hold any body section.
    3) Everything was modular, floor mounted and relatively compact. Union problems? Just load your production equipment into a couple of shipping containers and move it to a more hospitable environment. Any large building with a flat floor will do.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @06:03PM (#40094105)

    Yes, but there are a ton of things that many factories can be re-tooled to make in a hurry.
    The amount of military gear rapidly farmed out to general industry in world war 2 is amazing.
    Even Singer Sewing Machines company produced Norton Bomb sights and rifle parts.

    Just about any big steel fabrication plant can produce trucks, and light armored vehicles,
    and any electronics fab can be cut over to producing battle field electronics, and aircraft
    avionics.

    There far more to military gear than helicopters and tanks.

    The combat rifles of WWII for US forces were produced by many different companies.

    M-1 CARBINES MANUFACTURED DURING WWII

    Rock-Ola Music Corporation (ROCK-OLA)
    Standard Products (STANDARD PRODUCTS)
    International Business Machines (IBM)
    Quality Hardware (QUALITY HARDWARE)
    National Postal Meter (NATIONAL POSTER METER)
    Saginaw (SAGINAW DIVISION,GENERAL MOTORS)S.G.
    Saginaw (Grand Rapids) S'G'
    Underwood-Elliot-Fisher (UNDERWOOD)
    Winchester (WINCHESTER)
    Inland (INLAND DIVISION, GENERAL MOTORS

  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @07:02PM (#40094755)

    Darpa was originally called ARPA. Advanced Research Project Agency. The problem is the civilian government kept cutting it's budget because civilians don't' need advance research(see Tea Party and current science trends in America for a scary example)

    The DOD worked with ARPA to fund it by renaming it to DARPA. DARPA got to do all of it's cool stuff only now they advertise to the congress critters as Defense so it doesn't get budget cut.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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