The Super Soldier

This is like science fiction – it’s a battle suit of armour that could amplify a soldiers strength and endurance by up to 20 times.

The Buffalo News

Rex Jameson bikes and swims regularly, and plays tennis and skis when time allows. But the 5-foot-11-inch, 180- pound software engineer is lucky if he presses 200 pounds –that is, until he steps into an “exoskeleton” of aluminum and electronics that multiplies his strength and endurance as many as 20 times. With the outfit’s claw-like metal hand extensions, he gripped a weight set’s bar at a recent demonstration and knocked off hundreds of repetitions. Once, he did 500.

“Everyone gets bored much more quickly than I get tired,” Jameson said. Jameson –who works for robotics firm Sarcos Inc. in Salt Lake City, which is under contract with the U. S. Army –is helping assess the 150-pound suit’s viability for the soldiers of tomorrow. The suit works by sensing every movement the wearer makes and almost instantly amplifying it.

The Army believes soldiers may someday wear the suits in combat, but it’s focusing for now on applications such as loading cargo or repairing heavy equipment. Sarcos is developing the technology under a two-year contract worth up to $10 million, and the Army plans initial field tests next year.

Before the technology can become practical, the developers must overcome cost barriers and extend the suit’s battery life. Jameson was tethered to power cords during his demonstration because the current battery lasts just 30 minutes.

Alabama House passes bill to regulate hauling of steel coils on trucks

We’ve talked before (1, 2, 3, 4) about steel coils falling off trucks, and legislative attempts to reduce the frequency (training) and severity (speed limits in some areas) of these incidents.

NewsFlash – al.com

The Alabama House has passed a bill that increases penalties for truckers or trucking companies that do not properly tie down large steel coils.
The House voted 99-0 to pass the bill that would fine a trucking company up to $10,000 for not properly tying coils on the backs of trucks. Drivers could be fined up to $5,000. Those violating the law would also face up to one year in jail.

Rio Tinto agrees to buy Alcan

More consolidation in the mills, this time aluminum.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd/Plc has agreed to buy Canada’s Alcan Inc. for $38.1 billion to create the world’s biggest aluminum producer, the two firms said on Thursday.

Rio, the world’s second-biggest miner, said it would pay $101 a share in cash, 13 percent above Alcan’s closing price in New York on Wednesday and 33 percent above a rival $28.8 billion cash-and-shares bid for Alcan from U.S. group Alcoa Inc.

Manufacturing – Dying by a Thousand Self-Inflicted Wounds

A guy I know, George Keremedjiev, wrote this in the latest Metalforming Magazine. The entire article is much longer, and you really should read it, but I can’t quote the whole article here. But the core paragraph is reproduced here.

America does not like to make things anymore. We, as a people, have for the most part lost that wonderful essence at our core called manufacturing.We seem only to want to make money without doing the hard work. And if we can make money faster by eliminating manufacturing from our national experience completely, so be it. Consequently, we no longer grow manufacturing companies through investments in skills and technology; we simply cut costs.

Make It Metal

A shout-out to the folks at the Precision Metalforming Association, our professional association. They publish an interesting magazine and now a pretty good web site called metalforming.com.

For a while now they’ve also run a directory of metal formers and stampers called Make It Metal. It’s oriented towards people who are looking to find a metal stamper or former to make parts for them. You can search by metalforming process, and, if you don’t know what the processes are, you can click through them and get a little introduction to each.

But as a slide former, I often get requests to quote where only some of the parts are correct for my process. Sometimes I’ll help the buyer to find sources for the other components I can’t make. Where do I go? Make it Metal. Check it out.

the federal government does not care about good jobs that pay good wages

Canadian Labour Congress

Canada lost 35,000 manufacturing jobs between January and February. This staggering one-month decline pushes the cumulative loss to 250,000 since Canadian manufacturing peaked in November 2002.
Most of February’s devastating decline took place in Quebec, which lost 33,000 manufacturing jobs.

Presidential Hopeful Rep. Duncan Hunter: U.S. Multinationals Have Become Chinese Corporations

From an interview with Manufacturing News

Ronald Reagan […] said there is no such thing as free trade if one side is cheating. What we’ve done is we have acquiesced to cheating. That was manifested in the split in the National Association of Manufacturers. The big guys said, essentially, we don’t mind the one-way street because we’re on the other end of the street. We are Chinese corporations for practical purposes. That is the essence of what their conversation was to the domestic manufacturers, and hence the split.

For practical purposes, many of the multinational corporations have become Chinese corporations. They like the fact that they are subsidized by their new government, which is China, and that they’re able to push American products that are made in the United States off the shelves.

Major work stoppages idle fewer workers

San Jose Mercury
About 70,000 workers missed days on the job because of labor disputes last year, only about one-fourth as many as a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The change reflects the more powerful position of employers, high anxiety among workers and new labor strategies, according to labor veterans and analysts.
The number of those who missed days because of work stoppages was 273,000 in 1996 and had grown to 394,000 by 2000.
‘Employers have a much stronger hand in the workplace,’ said Stewart Acuff, organizing director at the AFL-CIO. ‘People are afraid to strike and afraid to join unions’ because of the imbalance of power.