Austin has been senior editor for ASSEMBLY Magazine since September 1999. He has more than 21 years of b-to-b publishing experience and has written about a wide variety of manufacturing and engineering topics. Austin is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
It has witnessed the production of some of the most iconic vehicles in history. It's also a veteran of two world wars and the Great Depression. And, it played a pivotal role in American labor history. Ford Motor Co.'s iconic manufacturing complex on the banks of the Rouge River in Dearborn, MI, has seen it all.
Carbon-fiber composite materials have been the darling of the aerospace industry in recent years. But, metal still plays a critical role in commercial and military aircraft, especially for applications that involve high temperatures or high stresses, such as engines and landing gear.
Recently, a startup Italian car company called XEV launched a two-seat electric vehicle. When it goes into production at a plant in Jiangsu, China, next month, the LXEV will become the world's first mass-produced printed car.
Traditionally, assemblers use semiautomated or manual tools to drive screws. While that technology is still used for some fastening applications, more manufacturers are investing in robotic screwdriving.
Robots have always struggled to match human touch. But, recent advances in sensor technology now enable machines to process the sensitive forces needed for delicate assembly tasks, such as placing, inserting and tightening parts.
Ever since the Wright Brothers first took to the sky 115 years ago, powered flight has depended on propellers and other components. But, a team of aerospace engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a silent, lightweight aircraft with no moving parts.
Once upon a time, color vision technology was limited to large manufacturers with big budgets and lots of in-house technical expertise. But, recent advancements in cameras, lighting and software have made color vision more affordable, less complex and easier to use on assembly lines.
Most R&D activity in the auto industry these days is focusing on electric power trains and autonomous vehicles. But, efficiently assembling those products tomorrow will depend on harnessing state-of-the-art production tools and processes today.