BROUGHTON, UK—Like a cartoon space alien with a dome-like skull, an Airbus Beluga transport plane arriving from Madrid drops from the sky above this village 200 miles northwest of London and taxis to a stop with its front end tucked inside a large building off the runway. Its bulbous forehead pops open to disgorge massive wing panels—98 feet long and 20 feet wide—that will soon be assembled by sophisticated robots and about 800 people into the largest carbon-fiber composite wings now built for commercial aviation.
One way for a manufacturer to enter a new market is through acquisition. However, one downside of the strategy is that the manufacturing assets you acquire do not always mesh perfectly with how you like to do things.
Wire stitching for book binding has been an industry standard since Thomas Briggs invented the wire stitcher in 1896. Over the years, manufacturers began adapting the process to other industrial applications.
Engineers at a major manufacturer of portable electronic devices had a problem. They needed to rivet a small, thin electrical contact to the device’s charger subassembly, but how could they head the tiny rivets—0.02 to 0.03 inch in diameter—without crushing the assembly?
DETROIT—Robotic glove technology developed out of a partnership between General Motors and NASA for use on the International Space Station is finding new life on Earth in health care, manufacturing and other industrial applications through a licensing agreement between GM and Bioservo Technologies AB, a Swedish medical technology company.