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NOVEMBER 2019 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 95 has over its behemoth competitors. Embrace change and take additive technology to heart; it will give small companies a fighting chance in an increasingly brutal business world. To end, I would like to offer my take on Yo- gi's opening observation: "The future will nev- er be what it used to be, so embrace change." FLEX007 Joe Fjelstad is founder and CEO of Verdant Electronics and an international authority and innova- tor in the field of electronic intercon- nection and packaging technologies with more than 150 patents issued or pending. To read past columns or contact Fjelstad, click here. In today's factories and warehouses, it's not uncom- mon to see robots whizzing about, shuttling items or tools from one station to another. For the most part, robots nav- igate pretty easily across open layouts. But they have a much harder time winding through narrow spaces to carry out tasks such as reaching for a product at the back of a cluttered shelf or snaking around a car's engine parts to unscrew an oil cap. Now MIT engineers have developed a robot designed to extend a chain-like appendage flexible enough to twist and turn in any necessary configuration yet rigid enough to support heavy loads or apply torque to assemble parts in tight spaces. When the task is complete, the robot can retract the appendage and extend it again, at a different length and shape, to suit the next task. The appendage design is inspired by the way plants grow, which involves the transport of nutrients, in a flu- idized form, up to the plant's tip. There, they are convert- ed into solid material to produce, bit by bit, a supportive stem. Likewise, the robot consists of a "growing point," or gearbox, that pulls a loose chain of interlocking blocks into the box. Gears in the box then lock the chain units together and feed the chain out, unit by unit, as a rigid appendage. The researchers presented the plant-in- spired "growing robot" recently at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Ro- bots and Systems (IROS) in Macau. They en- vision that grippers, cameras, and other sen- sors could be mounted onto the robot's gear- box, enabling it to meander through an air- craft's propulsion system and tighten a loose screw or to reach into a shelf and grab a product without disturbing the organization of surrounding inventory, among other tasks. (Source: MIT News) Flexible yet Sturdy Robot Is Designed to 'Grow' Like a Plant greater interest, I encourage you to read my se- ries "The Occam Files" on my LinkedIn page. Conclusion In conclusion, today's additive electronics manufacturing is poised to deliver on promis- es made long ago. It is a way to deliver to the consumer the most precious of all in this phys- ical world of ours: time. Time may itself be in- finite, but everything else in life is finite. If a manufacturer can develop and deliver a prototype product faster than their compe- tition, they will own the market, even if only temporarily (big companies tend to steal ideas if they are good enough as industrial icons Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both correctly observed and arguably did themselves). Speed is the only defense the small innovative company

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