The New Assembly [Line]; Navigation; Kid Stuff


Comau SmartCell

The Assembly Line 1908 - 2010

Henry Ford adopted the assembly line method for his plant in 1908.  Since then it has been refined, updated, automated, speeded up, but the basic 1908 concept has not been challenged … until now. 

Comau challenges our basic assumptions with their assembly cell.   In a space not much bigger than a single task cell on a normal assembly line, the Comau SmartCell does all the tasks in one place.   This form of nimble automation can assemble anything and can change what it assembles from day to day.  The efficiencies compared to inflexible transfer lines is amazing.  It makes much of what has been done in the past to improve assembly lines look like expensive patches to a flawed premise.

The SmartCell 2010 -  

The SmartCell is an automated version of the expert assembler and his workbench that the assembly line was designed to replace.  Circumstances have changed enough over the years that it appears that the SmartCell now has the advantage and could become the new way of manufacturing things that might bring manufacturing back to the USA.  Take a look at it and let me know what you think.  Will this be the new way things are made? I will be watching for your comments.

Garmin nuvi 255 WT


I unpacked a new Garmin nuvi 255 WT.  It upgraded the operating system firmware and then the maps when I plugged it into the computer so it could call home      The W means it is the wide screen version.  The T means that it has a an FM receiver built into the cord to get traffic report updates.  The owners manual is 64 pages online at    Off the shelf navigation systems have many of the functions that would be useful in autonomous vehicles, contain road maps of both the USA and Canada, only cost $165, and do it all in a very compact package, about the size of a pack of cigarettes.  Other regions of the world are available for downloading.  The automatic upgrading and updating  feature would be useful in managing 400,000 military ground vehicle navigation systems.

There is a long list of languages that it can speak.  Just for old times sake (think Cold War), I selected Russian as the spoken language, the more modern choice would have been Mandarin.  I was going to take it for a test drive around the 2.2 mile loop behind the barn here to see what the Garmin would measure it to be, but discovered instead that the road has not been plowed.   While this wouldn’t have been a problem for the truck, I was driving the mini-van so I headed back to the barn.   I will keep you posted on further developments as they happen.

This is your chance to let me and the other readers know what is on your mind.  You can use the comments section at the end of the column to let us know what you think. 

TC Tinkers 4-H Store

The club Members have voted to create a business of their own, a 4-H Store to sell 4-H logo products so if you would like to help by purchasing any green things with 4-H clovers on them, let me know.  If you would like to help by being part of the company either as a Member (ages 5 to 19) or as a Volunteer (ages 20 and older) here are some encouraging words from page 3 of the Helpers Guide:

“You do not need to be an entrepreneur or even a business person to assist young people in learning about starting a business.  Guiding youth on their entrepreneurial journey just requires your interest in being with, as well as learning along with, youth involved with this project.  Don’t feel as though you must be an expert in order to facilitate and encourage a group of young people.  Research shows that even just the presence of a caring adult has a tremendous positive impact on the life choices youth will make’”

See also:
Be the e Entrepreneurship Activity Guide for middle and high school youth  by 4-H Council
Be the e Entrepreneurship helpers guide by 4-H Council 
Seeds of Success : Entrepreneurship and Youth  by William B. Walstad 

Keep track of TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club developments by joining their Yahoo NewsGroup at: 

To subscribe to AIMing for Automated Vehicles as a RSS feed: If you are using Internet Explorer to read this page, go to  and add it to your “Favorites” by clicking the little gold star with a green plus sign in your tool bar, then click on “subscribe to this feed…”. To view the feed in the future you go to “Favorites” by clicking on the little gold star and AIMing for Automated Vehicles should be listed there. Click on it and catch up on what is new!


Paul F. Grayson - Chief Engineer
American Industrial Magic, LLC
“small engine and machinery repair”
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club
“Science, Engineering, and Technology”
390 4-Mile Rd. S.
Traverse City, MI 49686-8411
(231) 883-4463 Cell
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club:
CE Magazine:

Posted by Paul F. Grayson on February 18, 2010

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