Robotics Design: What Are the Biggest Challenges and Opportunities?

The field of robotics design is advancing quickly, and the possibilities for the future are exciting, albeit not without its share of challenges.

Innovations in Robotics

Though industrial robotics have been around for decades, advances in robotic programming, design and construction have opened applications in less obvious areas.  Robots are showing up in applications as varied as the military to surgical robotics to robots that will vacuum your house.

Recent advances include a bomb-defusing robot. RE2 Robotics is in the second development phase of an Underwater Dual Manipulator system that will dismantle explosives underwater for the US Navy.  Once complete, the revolutionary robotic arm will be able to go where other bomb robots cannot reach, such as under bridges or piers, and it will be controlled remotely from dry land. The system’s applications may even extend beyond bomb disposal in the future, such as providing repairs for offshore oil and gas rigs.

Another cutting-edge innovation is the robotic bat named B2 that mimics the primary flight characteristics of real bats. B2’s advanced design, which is the brainchild of researchers at the University of Illinois and Caltech, has the potential to be the first thorough methodology for reverse engineering of the complex flight mechanism of bats. The bat-inspired aerial robot will be more energy efficient than existing aerial robots. Its possible applications include supervising construction sites and performing tasks in places people cannot go, such as inspecting Fukushima nuclear radiators that have dangerous radiation levels for humans.

Challenges to Widespread Application

These amazing, novel designs, though, present design challenges that are common to even the oldest robotic applications.  First, the range of motion and articulation can cause sealing problems.  Combined with the EMI shielding challenges that the onboard electronics require, this can present quite the engineering task.

Further, many of the new robotic systems are much more modular and compact, allowing for easily piecing together components to achieve the ultimate functional goal.  Modular and compact systems can be much more difficult to seal and shield, and can become a mechanical engineering nightmare fairly quickly.

Finally, the quest for better batteries is a challenge facing the industry, but one in which progress is occurring in leaps and bounds.

Looking to the Future of Robotics

The market for robotics will develop more smoothly by tackling the above-noted barriers rather than avoiding them. The next five years will see more companies emerging to find solutions to the difficult issues of industrial automation, predicts WT VOX. However, having the knowledge and insights to provide viable fixes is complex, and it will require robotic designs that are reliable and repeatable.

At Vanguard, we have a good deal of experience in the robotics industry.  Vanguard’s expertise in sealing and EMI shielding make us uniquely positioned to work closely with companies developing robotic systems.

Posted on: May 22nd, 2017 | Posted in: Robotics

It Really Is A Small World After All

One of the challenges commonly encountered by an engineered products company of our size is adequately supporting our customers around the globe.  This has become more of an issue over the past couple of years as many companies work on a single project simultaneously in multiple locations.  It is not unusual now for an engineering team to be located in Northern California, Texas, India, and China, all working on different aspects of a project, but requiring quality engineering and supply support in each location.

Vanguard has had the extreme good fortune of working with the highest quality representatives and distributors around the world for many years.  Long ago, we were on the cutting edge of establishing technically competent partners in nearly any location to support our customers.  Domestically, many of our one dozen representatives have been our partners for nearly thirty years.  A similar statement can be made of our 10 international partners spanning from Scandinavia to the Far East and Australia.   We have established extensive production capabilities at our joint venture operation in Japan.

As the markets continue to grow, we continue to work with our partners to further expand our coverage.

In the meantime, we’d like to thank our partners for their excellent support, and encourage all of our customers and potential customers to take advantage of their outstanding applications skills.

Posted on: May 8th, 2017 | Posted in: Uncategorized

How 5G Wireless Technology Will Power Our Future

4G versus 5G

To begin with, 4G and 5G don’t actually stand for any specific definition of capabilities – they merely stand for 4th Generation and 5th Generation wireless technology. They do, however, require that certain standards be met to use the branding.

4G is actually a combination of two standards, with LTE Advanced being the primary standard followed. An upgrade of the LTE standards bumped the data speeds from a peak upload of 50 Mbit/s and a peak download speed of 100 Mbit/s up to a peak upload of 500 mbps and a peak download of 1000 mbps.

The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), a group that has overseen cellular communications standards since the third generation of wireless and put forth the LTE and LTE Advanced standards, has already established specifics for potential 5G technology. Among these are latency under one millisecond, the capability of delivering a 1 Gbps downlink to start and multi-gigabit downlink in the future, and improved energy efficiency to improve battery life and reduce power drain across the grid.

The Aim of 5G

5G aims to improve integration of technology and the Internet of Things, as highlighted by Ericsson’s CEO, Hans Vestberg. This means having localized networks that are service-aware, and can prioritize situation and connection based on the urgency of a device – changing latency and connection speed to meet specific needs.

As mentioned above, improving the efficiency is a major aim as well, as data communication uses a great deal of power. Being able to reduce pings when data is not necessary, or increase them at peak usage, can make new technology only use large amounts of power when necessary. This reduces the hassle on consumers of constant recharging, and can reduce the cost of use over the life of a device.

Also, 5G systems will tend to be much more localized than the current 4G systems.  This means that instead of the hulking wireless towers you see, or the towers disguised as “Frankentrees” in order to make them “blend” into the background for 3G and 4G systems,  the 5G systems will consist of many more “mini-cells”,  some of which could be the size of a current at-home router and located at various points around the neighborhood or countryside.  This will greatly increase the coverage, and reduce the unsightly presence of large scale cellular installations.  Also, it will increase amount of data that a system as a whole will handle by paring down the amount that each individual point will need to handle.

Once fully implemented, it is likely that true 5G systems could replace hardwired telephony, hardwired cable TV, and hardwired internet service.  AT&T, for instance, is exploring the potential to use 5G systems  to replace all of its DSL services, allowing them to offer a complete package of TV service, 5G internet, wireless, and home phone services.  5G implementation would also allow carriers to offer “true” unlimited data plans to their home customers.

Potential Timeline and Problems Facing 5G

Still in its trial period, 5G wireless certainly appears to be a few years off. Even optimists are expecting that initial specs will be completed by late 2018, with Phase 2 specs completed in 2020. That being said, AT&T has made the bold move of announcing rollout of 5G technology in Austin and Indianapolis by the end of 2017.

What this means for tech companies and consumers is the potential for better communication and automation. Of course, the big hurdle that 5G faces is adoption – the cost to upgrade will be substantial at the beginning and, if it is anything like 4G, the time from inception to commercial use could be 5-6 years.

Design Challenges For 5G Base Stations And The Future

Because the base station systems will be shrunken in size and spread around in higher numbers, in addition to operating in a broader spectrum of high and low frequencies, there are numerous challenges for the enclosure design engineer to overcome.  Many, if not most, of the systems will be located outdoors, and must provide robust moisture sealing and EMI shielding in a small package.  Because of their proliferation, the systems must provide performance with low maintenance and low cost.  These requirements make these systems ideal applications for our Ultra-Vanshield and Microbridge shielding gaskets.

We’re excited to continue our involvement in the telecommunications industry in the “5G future” with our unique capabilities, and look forward to expanding our work with them in the future.

Posted on: April 25th, 2017 | Posted in: Ultra-Vanshield Dual Elastomer Shielding Gaskets

Vanguard Products Achieves ISO 9001:2015 Status

Since its inception and implementation in 1992, the ISO 9000 standard has been the most globally recognized and utilized quality standard. ( History And Improvements Of ISO 9000) The standard has had many evolutions since its beginnings as the BS 2570 standard, but the overall goal has been consistent:  to ensure the quality of an end product by establishing institutional preventative actions and requiring documented procedures for the production of the product.

 

Even though Vanguard Products had been utilizing these principals for decades in the production of our products, we realized early on that formal impartial third party recognition to the ISO 9001 standard was important to illustrate our commitment and history of producing quality, consistent products.  As a result, we have achieved and consistently maintained our ISO certification for over 10 years.

 

Updated ISO Certification

ISO 9001-2015 Certification

Recently, a new version of the standard has been implemented that adapts the specification to the changing new manufacturing environments which are driven by the complex supply chains, global competition and economies, and instantaneous information access.  These requirements are detailed in the new ISO 9001:2015 standard, and include:

 

  • The establishment of robust management systems
  • Increased top level management involvement and alignment of quality strategies with the overall business strategies
  • Implementation of a risk based quality management system to act as a preventative tool and provide opportunities for continuous improvement

 

These new attributes allow potential customers to be confident that an ISO 9001:2015 certified company has performed the necessary due diligence to service their needs on a quality, timely, consistent, and long term basis.

 

As we move past our 50th Anniversary year into the future, we at Vanguard have quickly embraced this new standard and are pleased to announce that we are one of the early manufacturers to incorporate these philosophies into our quality management system and to achieve ISO 9001:2015 certified status.  View our ISO 9001:2015 Certification

 

We look forward to applying our consistent quality philosophy to your engineered elastomeric needs in both our general rubber and EMI shielding products.

Posted on: February 21st, 2017 | Posted in: ISO Certification

Understanding the Importance of EMI Shielding in Medical Devices

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) are disturbances generated internally or externally that affect electrical circuits through induction.  They can affect all types of electrical equipment and can come from both natural and man-made sources. The disturbance can cause equipment to malfunction or even stop working.

In everyday life, EMI isn’t a problem that requires us to be all that concerned, as a large number of consumer electronic products are well designed for minimization of the effects of EMI.

Medical devices can be a different case, however.  Historically, these types of devices are difficult to shield from EMI, and the companies that are producing these products have had great difficulty satisfying both the FDA and FCC with respect to EMI issues.  When medical devices are affected, it can be damaging and even life threatening. For example, a ventilator can change breathing rate causing a patient distress due to EMI. Things as simple as cell phones, solar magnetic storms, thunder storms, and even ignition systems can cause problems with EMI. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has acknowledged the problem and sought to find solutions as well as informing the public about the problems associated with EMI in medical instruments.

The good news is that shielding can help protect sensitive devices from EMI. While this is a good idea for any type of electrical equipment, it is imperative for high-tech devices that are used in medical scenarios such as hospitals and laboratories. Vanguard Products Corporation manufactures EMI shielding products and general rubber products to help with EMI concerns.

Vanguard’s EMI shielding products are used to reduce EMI exposure to electronics and equipment in conjunction with proper enclosure design. Applications currently include blood analyzers, DNA analyzers, and other laboratory type of equipment.

Visit us at the 2017 MDM West/Electronics West/Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show, booth 3378 at the Anaheim Convention Center from February 7-9 to see how we can help minimize EMI shielding issues in your medical electronics.  http://www.vanguardproducts.com/whats-new.html

Posted on: February 1st, 2017 | Posted in: EMI Shielding Gaskets, Medical Devices

Wrapping Up 2016 with a 50th Anniversary Celebration

2016 was a milestone year in many ways, and for us, it marked 50 successful years in business. For half a century now, we’ve been providing full service manufacturing and engineering services to industries as diverse as electronics, construction, food and beverage production, and more. Over the years our capabilities have grown, and our commitment to quality has never wavered.

From the humble beginnings in the family basement in the 60’s to our sophisticated manufacturing today, it is interesting to look back at some of the things that our company has been involved in over the years.

In the last 50 years, Vanguard has:

  • Worked with our customers to bring air conditioning, lighting, and electricity to the world
  • Brought quality coffee, wrinkle free clothes and various other innovations to the marketplace through our work in the small appliance industry
  • Helped advanced the defense of the US with our work with the military and military contractors, including work on Marine 1, the President’s helicopter
  • Aided in the exploration and commercialization of space travel with our work on the International Space Station and the various commercial launch companies. We’ve also been involved in the pursuit of the next frontier–Mars
  • In the medical arena, we’ve worked with our customers to develop implements for cranial surgery, provided products for various surgical implements to decrease recovery time, helped develop products that allow children with respiratory ailments and paralyzed patients to breathe easier, and provided cutting edge products that allow children and adults with severe diabetes to lead more normal lives. Additionally, we’ve done substantial work in the medical analytical field from blood to DNA analysis.  We’ve also provided numerous products to our customers in the dental and vision care industries to improve safety
  • Manufactured products used by our customers to aid the booming cellular and computer industries
  • Worked with our customers in the green energy fields in the development of efficient solar power systems and electric vehicles
  • Added style to the fashion industry and theater through our work on Broadway sets and fashion jewelry
  • Provided key products to allow clean water to be brought throughout the world
  • Supported farming through our work with suppliers to the agricultural and dairy industries
  • Helped the hobbyists around the world in their leisure time endeavors, from RC cars and planes, to hunting and fishing, to canoeing and paddleboarding, to beer making and virtual reality gaming
  • Along with our customers, developed new innovative products for the food services industry

 

At Vanguard, though it is good to look back, we are always focusing forward. In the next year, we will be pursuing our ISO-9001/2015 certification, and looking to new markets and applications. We are looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring!

Posted on: December 19th, 2016 | Posted in: Uncategorized

Keeping Up with REACH Restrictions in the Chemical and Material Sector

Across the globe, regulations continue to change to meet the growing need for safety in the chemical and material market. The European Union, through its European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), has adopted the REACH regulation, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. Though REACH came into being back in 2007, regulations have continued to evolve as more chemical research and information becomes available. If a substance’s risk is deemed unmanageable, it can be banned.

Chemicals LabelFor manufacturers, importers, and downstream users in the European Union, the burden is on these companies to ensure the products they are working with or handling follow REACH guidelines. There are a couple of categories to be especially mindful of – Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), and Substitute it Now (SIN). SVHCs include carcinogens and mutagens, and  toxic bioaccumulative agents. Over the years, the list of SVHCs has grown from about a dozen original chemicals to include 163 different substances, most of which are found in shrink boot adapters, backshells, resistor fixed single-surface mounts, and other products.

The SIN list includes a staggering 830 substances that are commonly found in resistors, power management products, wires and cables, rubber and plastics, and many EMI shielding gaskets. All together, we can expect to see about 1,000 substances on the REACH substance list in the coming years.  Inclusion on the SIN list indicates that ECHA has determined that these materials may be harmful, and it is, more or less, their warning to designers to try and avoid the inclusion of these materials in their product, as it is likely that they may be moved to the SVHC list at some point in the future.

In addition to REACH regulations, the EU mandates that all electrical products meet RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) regulations. Notably, this restriction limits the amount of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium in electronic devices.

Therefore, it’s important for manufacturers to select materials that comply with REACH and RoHS regulations. Even if the manufacturers themselves are not in the European Union, it’s important to consider the needs of potential customers around the world during product development.

At Vanguard Products, we take great pains to insure that products in both our EMI shielding gaskets and in our general rubber goods are fully compliant with the current SVHC and RoHS restrictions.  We also have a vision toward the future by limiting our use of substances that are on the SIN list, as they are highly likely to be restricted at some point in the near future, causing our customers potential issues and expensive requalification.

For example, Nickel/Graphite has been promoted extensively in the EMI/RFI shielding community for use in electronics products.   With an eye to the future, we have avoided using this type of material in our Ultra-Vanshield product line, as it would appear to be targeted in the near future by ECHA for reduction or exclusion, as numerous nickel compounds are currently on the SIN list.

In many tubing applications, “rubbery” plastics, such as PVC, commonly need to include significant amounts of plasticizers that have been included on the SVHC listing in order to achieve their rubber-like feel.  These plasticizers can be dangerous as they can leach into the fluid flowing within the tubes.  Our Vansil and Vanprosil  silicone products do not need to include these plasticizers, and as such, are more easily compliant to the SVHC regulations.

The bottom line is that when choosing materials and specifying products, it is important to keep in mind not only the current restrictions, but what the future holds.  Selecting Vanguard Products for either rubber applications or EMI shielding applications makes that task much easier.

Posted on: November 2nd, 2016 | Posted in: REACH Regulations

Should We Be Worried About the Safety of Wireless Electronic Accessories?

With the newest phone releases still getting mixed reviews in terms of functionality, one aspect that’s important to consider is safety. The biggest change arguably is the abandonment of the standard earbuds in favor of wireless ones – getting rid of the headphone jack altogether in the new model.

For most people, the biggest drawback to this change is the increased possibility of losing your earbuds. But for those of us who work in the electromagnetic shielding field, there’s the question of possible health risks associated with these wireless accessories.

With most mobile devices, we have the option of using a wired headset with headphones and microphone that allow us to communicate without holding the actual device so close to our heads. Though the radiation emitted from these devices is minimal, there’s little way of knowing the long-term effects of low-level exposure implanted so close to the brain. Now that the wired headset are phasing out, users will have to choose between holding the phone to their ear, or using Bluetooth ear buds – but are they any safer?

According to a few sources, the risks associated with wireless earbud use are the same as those with any other listening device – potential hearing loss if the volume is too loud, and distractions while walking or driving. The researchers so far contend that there is no increased risk of cancer from this type of radiation exposure. In fact, they argue that using the wireless Bluetooth option actually reduces the amount of electromagnetic radiation exposure as opposed to having the phone directly against your ear.

However, this is far from an open and shut case. The Environmental Health Trust has published a number of pieces examining the effects of electromagnetic fields on mammals. Researchers found that in addition to disrupting sleep patterns, wireless radiation in combination with exposure to other carcinogens can increase the risk of cancer development. So while on their own, electromagnetic fields may not cause cancer, they may contribute to more cases in individuals who are exposed to other factors – and with so many potential carcinogens in the air and even in our food already, adding another susceptibility can be a major problem.

With conflicting reports about the safety of these types of products, it’s important to consider appropriate shielding measures in electronic devices. Our Ultra-Vanshield products are used by manufacturers to limit the electromagnetic radiation emitted from common electronic devices such as computers and telecommunications equipment. Though we can’t say that this solves the possible problems associated with cellphones and Bluetooth devices, we will continue to do our part to improve the safety of consumer technology. In the meantime, we’ll continue to research this topic and work to solve noted problems.

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 | Posted in: Ultra Vanshield Sponge Product Line

What’s New with NASA’s Orion Project?

By now, most people are aware that efforts are underway to bring humans out of low Earth orbit, past the Moon, and on to Mars. But few people are aware of the extensive research and testing that goes on behind the scenes to ensure the safety of astronauts on those future missions. In order to make the trip a reality, new technologies must be designed to cope with the harsh environment of outer space.

One of the most important components of a space mission is the spacecraft itself – and a trip to Mars requires a very special craft. As such, NASA has been working with Lockheed Martin and other vendors to develop this spacecraft, called Orion.

The Orion crew capsule resembles early crew modules from NASA’s history, taking on a conical shape. It will be mounted on a rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which will propel it into space.

One of the biggest hurdles of space flight is getting through Earth’s atmosphere and being exposed to high heat and radiation during the journey. For this reason, it’s critical to conduct extensive research and testing to determine the right material combinations for this type of mission.

Not only is it important for the craft itself and its occupants to be adequately protected, but the electronic systems must also be taken into consideration. It’s therefore necessary to select electromagnetic (EM) shielding to guard against disruptive electromagnetic frequencies. And, similarly, it’s important to consider the possibility of electrostatic discharge (ESD) impacting the circuitry, and to find reliable ESD protection.

As a supplier of EM and ESD shielding materials, Vanguard Products is proud to have a role in ensuring a safe mission for the Orion team. We look forward to watching the project’s progress and eventually sending humans on long-distance flights through space, knowing that we had a hand in that success.

Posted on: August 15th, 2016 | Posted in: aerospace grade o-rings, EMI Shielding Gaskets

The Importance of Non-Leaching Materials in Water Treatment Applications

Now that we’ve reached the start of summer, one thing that’s on most people’s minds is water. Whether you’re heading to the local pool or reaching for a cool beverage, this time of year, you can never seem to have enough water. But how can municipalities ensure the safety of their water?

Any water that’s accessed through a tap has already undergone extensive processing. Wastewater and drinking water treatment plants go through billions of gallons of water every day. But even as bacteria and contaminants are filtered out, there’s still a concern of other pollutants leaching into the water from the system itself. To combat this issue, it’s important for treatment systems to use non-leaching materials, including silicone tubing and seals.  Even after the water reaches your home, there are several places where harmful contamination can be picked up from places in your homes. PVC, a commonly used material for piping and flexible tubing, has been known to leach concerning chemicals, and several countries in Europe are moving to ban its use wherever possible. Unlike metal pipes that can corrode or leach heavy metals into the water, silicone offers a safe alternative even when exposed to high temperatures.

And after processing, silicone materials are often used in other applications. In laboratories, for example, there is always a need for high-purity water for medical and scientific purposes. Any contamination at all could throw off results, so employing a system that won’t introduce foreign particles is essential. And of course, standard drinking water must also be kept clean to keep residents healthy. Recent headlines have shown the dangers of old water infrastructure leading to lead contamination throughout the country – which is why it is so important to take stock of all of the materials throughout the water supply chain.

Even in household filtration systems – including water and ice dispensers in refrigerators – any time water is being brought from one location to another, consider the materials being used during transport. Silicone is a safe material that can fill many roles in the water processing sector.

Posted on: June 9th, 2016 | Posted in: food grade o-rings, Silicone Tubing