About Angelo Gentile

A marketing communications writer for Proto Labs, Angelo puts together our monthly Eye on Innovation post among other regular blog features. He has previously worked as an automotive editor, business journalist, magazine editor and corporate communications professional.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Self-Driving Tractor Harvests Interest from Ag Industry

The latest innovation in tractors for the modern farm “features everything but the farmer,” muses a recent headline in a story from Bloomberg News about an autonomous tractor concept from CNH Industrial.

“As Detroit carmakers and Silicon Valley tech giants vie to bring driverless cars to U.S. roads, one of the world’s largest tractor makers is looking to do the same down on the farm,” Bloomberg reports.

This self-driving tractor, a Case IH Magnum prototype model from CNH Industrial, was revealed for the first time last month at a farm equipment show in Iowa.
Photo: Wall Street Journal

At a farm equipment show in Iowa in September, CNH Industrial (Case IH/New Holland) revealed its Autonomous Concept Vehicle, which drew strong interest from those in attendance.

The cabless, self-driving tractor—a Case IH Magnum prototype model—is equipped with cameras, radar, and GPS, enabling farmers to remotely monitor planting and harvesting via computer or tablet from their homes, barns, fields, or pickup trucks. A second concept model, the New Holland T8 NH, includes a cab, so that the tractor can be operated either by a driver or in autonomous mode.

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IMTS Showcases Manufacturing’s Diverse Landscape

Amar Hanspal, attending his first ever International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, tweeted that the event “is a digital manufacturing Disneyland.”

And really, it’s hard to argue with that assessment, based on the sheer numbers of attendees (more than 100,000 over the week-long event), exhibitors (over 2,000 companies), seminars, and innovative ideas being featured.

Tony Holtz, left, technical specialist for Proto Labs, discusses rapid overmolding at the International Manufacturing Technology Show Thursday in Chicago.

A stunning variety of participants are visiting the show: Company presidents, chief technology officers, engineers, designers, software developers, entrepreneurs, and college and high school students. This variety showed in the diverse wardrobe: Those in jackets and ties walked the same exhibit halls as those in flip-flops and shorts.

Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, showed up to tour the Association for Manufacturing Technology’s Emerging Technology Center, which featured research and development projects from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Those projects included a 3D-printed SUV and the “additive bionic human,” showing additive manufactured medical implants and body parts.

Various special focus areas showcased 3D printing/additive manufacturing, machining, controls and CAD/CAM, fabricating and lasers, and more.

At the Proto Labs booth, staffers answered an array of questions, including queries about our new rapid overmolding service, the trend of using 3D printing for production parts, and the finer points of five-axis machining, another new Proto Labs service.

EYE ON INNOVATION: ‘Smart’ Backpack Geared For Travelers, Students

More than 35 million Americans are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend. Plus, more than 77 million schoolchildren and college-age students will be getting ready to return to classrooms. The omnipresent backpack—great for traveling and for students—will likely be along for the ride.

These days, backpacks are doing more than just carrying your stuff. Take the iBackPack, which will enable you to connect to the internet, charge your devices, and track your location.

Photo Courtesy: iBackPack

As Gizmo Times reports, the iBackPack includes:

  • Tesla-style battery systems
  • Personal Wi-Fi hot spot that connects to 3G/4G networks
  • Retractable power USB cord
  • GPS tracking system
  • Bluetooth proximity locator—making it easier to find your bag in airports or other crowded locations
  • Bluetooth speaker system
  • Multiple USB connections to charge multiple devices at once.

Storage compartments abound to keep laptops, smart phones, tablets, and documents secure. Plus, it’s water and abrasion resistant, and TSA- and Department of Transportation-compliant.

Photo Courtesy: iBackPack

The product’s crowdfunding success at Indiegogo has been over the top, with nearly $700,000 raised, which is 892 percent of its original funding goal. Funding also has come from Kickstarter and other sources.

Several models of the product are expected to be available by December, ranging in price from $170-$350.

Eye on Innovation is a monthly look at new technology and products.


THE SHORT LIST: See You at Trade Shows This Fall

Look for the Proto Labs booth at various trade shows this fall. Here’s a brief roundup of where you’ll find us:


IMTS-Chicago-Sept. 12-17

The International Manufacturing Technology Show at Chicago’s McCormick Place is the largest manufacturing show in the Americas and will feature more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and over 114,000 registrants. Visit us at booth N-72 throughout the week. Proto Labs staffers are also presenting at the conference:

  • Jonathan Bissmeyer, Senior Quality Engineer: “Designing for the DMLS Process,” 1:15 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12, Room W192-B.
  • Greg Thompson, Global Product Manager: “Designing for Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Sintering,” 3:30 p.m., at the Additive Manufacturing Conference (co-located with IMTS).

    At a recent trade show in New York, Proto Labs staffers found time for a photo. From left, Eric Utley, Jenna Nyman, Abby Christensen, Kory Dirnberger, and Charlie Johnson.

MD&M-Minneapolis-Sept. 21-22

Medical Design & Manufacturing at Minneapolis’ Convention Center is the region’s largest medical technology event, with 5,000 industry professionals expected to attend. See us at booth 525.

As part of the show’s programming, Rich Baker, Proto Labs’ Chief Technology Officer, will present, “More Than Prototyping: Digital Manufacturing’s Role in Industry 4.0,” at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. Baker also will participate in a panel discussion on “3D Printing: The Brave New World of Manufacturing” at 11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 22.

Device Talks-Boston-Sept. 28

Now in its fifth year, this gathering of medical technology professionals will include a day of workshops, panel discussions, and networking at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf.

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EYE ON INNOVATION: GolfBoard Designers Take a Swing at New Approach to Golf Carts

Our search for innovation has led us to the golf course. Well, it is summer after all.

The makers of GolfBoard claim it is the greatest invention in golf since the graphite shaft and is forever changing the way golfers experience the game. Hyperbole aside, it does look like a fun alternative to riding a golf cart.

The GolfBoard is powered by a lithium-ion battery, and is a fully electric vehicle that golfers basically stand on and steer. Designers incorporated front and back gear boxes that provide power to all four wheels, plus a proprietary “Spring Deck” technology that uses flexible spring plates that provide a smooth ride. The GolfBoard also includes an industrial-grade electric motor and fully enclosed drivetrain for reliability and low maintenance.

More than 200 U.S. courses now offer GolfBoard rentals, and the product has been winning awards, including Best New Product Award at the 2014 PGA Merchandising Show, and the 2016 Best Club Transport Award from Golf Digest Magazine. The magazine calls it “a combination of electronic snowboard and golf cart” that “provides a bit of a workout for those feeling guilty about not walking.”

Beyond the golf course rental market, GolfBoards sell individually for $6,500.