By Jennifer Ferrero

Robots are being used in many manufacturing companies in Washington.

Robots are being used in many manufacturing companies in Washington.

Today at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference, new technologies were the buzz in a session called “Manufacturing Innovations: Technologies on the horizon.” The primarily goal for these companies in innovating and automating processes is to reduce costs.

The newest innovations per the three presenting companies were:

  • Robotics
  • Composites and use of different materials and investment in R & D
  • Nano-metals


Kyle Jefferies, project manager with ElectroImpact shared new information about how they use industrial robots in their manufacturing production.

The value the robots, through a significant investment in development, allows them to create new products at a lower cost with more efficiencies. Robots can work on high tolerance drilling and can automate composite structures, with little waste.

Investment in R & D and use of composites

Brian Coxen of LMI Innovation shared that they are going the extra mile in their company for innovation growth. They have invested in their R & D work and work with partners to continue to expand.

Current initiatives of LMI:

  • Advanced Gage Reduction – To shape large fuselage sections using lasers – the challenge is both in the accuracy and the shape of the product. Through innovations they can now shape, mill and bond the part within one process; driving down the cost of direct labor.
  • Automation – Traditionally aerospace has been less invested in automation (as opposed to the automotive industry). But now the costs are going down for robotic equipment, which is making it more affordable to experiment with automation. Some automative items are: material handling, polish, deburr, paint, scribe, material removal, composite layup, and pick and place.
  • Composite materials and structures initiatives – these materials work with in an automated model.
  • Additive manufacturing – 3D printed hydroform, PVT, Inspection, tooling, parts manufacturing

When to innovate, Coxen said they ask the question, “We monitor very carefully, where do we jump in here?”

Modumetal and the use of nanolaminated metals

Christina Lomasney, president, co-founder and CEO of Modumetal shared about the use of nano-laminated metals- which creates a material with completely different properties with the same raw materials.

The use for the metals:

  • They are lightweight and can be used in making airplanes
  • They can contribute to better products

The chemical composition and the microstructure of the materials can be manipulated to create all new products. They are configuring the “chemistry and micro-structures of the materials,” said Lomasney. In traditional manufacturing, heat is the form of energy that transforms the metal – with Modumetal, they create new structures using electricity, not heat.

In closing, using new technologies, like robots, new materials and techniques – innovations are leading Washington’s manufacturing strategy.