MM: Smartflower Solar; Robots Teaching Robots

In this episode of Manufacturing Minute, powering your world with a truly smart flower and robots becoming teachers.


Residential solar energy use is growing in the U.S. and with Tesla recently announcing it is taking preorders on its fairly inexpensive solar roofing tiles, things are sure to heat up even more. But Tesla isn’t the only company bringing a solar product to the U.S. market. Let’s meet smartflower POP, the 12-petal, 194 square-foot structure with the output equivalent to a 4.0 kWh fixed rooftop array, from the Austrian company SmartFlower energy technology and Boston-based Energy Management, Inc. 

smartflower is a fully integrated, all-in-one solar system that can live anywhere. Designed to be a plug-and-play system, smartflower makes solar simple. All it takes is a quick setup by one of the company’s installers and you’ll be producing clean energy for your home or business. And if you ever have to move it, smartflower can be easily packed up and moved to a new site.

Smartflower automatically unfolds as the sun rises and its intelligent tracking system avoids the major limitations of traditional solar, making it 40 percent more efficient. Once the sun goes down, it folds itself back into a secure position while it waits for sunrise. 

Smartflower also includes smart cleaning, cooling and safety features. These features improve efficiency over traditional rooftop panels by brushing dust off panels to produce up to 5 percent more energy; rear-vent hot air to keep it cooler and able to deliver 5 to 10 percent more output; and monitor adverse weather conditions in order to fold into a secure position until conditions improve.


Will consumers and businesses pick up on more widespread solar energy use with smartflowers? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

Robots Teaching Robots

The days of programming robots, one at a time, to learn a task may soon be in the past. 

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have developed a way to have robots teach each other. The C-LEARN program allows humans to teach a robot a task using a 3D simulation, basically holding its hand with the click of a mouse. That robot can then pass what its learned on to a robot buddy.

Using this method, researcher taught a two-armed robot Optimus how to pull a tube out of a tube. Optimus was then able to “teach” the task to the much larger, bipedal robot Atlas.

Researchers say the system’s success come from demonstration combined with an existing knowledge base provided prior to training. 
So far, the robot-to-robot knowledge transfer as only been done in a simulator. But the research is promising. In the future the technology could allow a manufacturing robot, who’s learned to do a task more efficiently, to pass the information on to all the other robots in the facility, saving time.


Do you think robots learning from each other could be beneficial on the factory floor? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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