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Boeing’s robotic and human workers join up to start production of 777X jets

Boeing workers sign 777X banner
Boeing workers sign a banner celebrating the start of production for the 777X jet. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

EVERETT, Wash. — With the rat-a-tat-tat of a robotic riveter, Boeing celebrated the official kickoff for production of its next-generation 777X wide-body jet.

Today’s ceremony brought more than 200 members of the company’s 777X and a busload of journalists to Boeing’s 40-02 Building, where Boeing will assemble the support structure for the carbon composite wings.

The climax of the celebration came when a laser-guided robotic arm drilled a hole into the carbon fiber layer for a 105-foot-long wing spar and its stiffener, and then loudly installed the first fastener as workers applauded.

“We’re turning the chapter,” Jason Clark, vice president of 777 and 777X operations, told the crowd. “This is a change in the history of how we manufacture, how we assemble and how we fly our aircraft.”

The 777X production process builds upon lessons learned from the 787 Dreamliner program, which has shifted Boeing toward greater automation and wider use of lightweight carbon fiber for components.

“This is four years of work, really focused energy from the team, to get to this point,” Clark told reporters after the ceremony.

Boeing’s two 777X variants, the 777-8 and 777-9, are designed to carry between 350 and 425 passengers. That stretches well beyond the 396-seat capacity of Boeing’s biggest current-generation 777. The new jets are expected to be 20 percent more fuel-efficient as well.

In the four years since the 777X was announced, Boeing has received 340 orders and commitments for the planes — including 20 planes that are part of a $13.8 billion Singapore Airlines deal signed today at the White House.

President Donald Trump said the deal should create as many as 70,000 jobs in the U.S. “Otherwise we’ll cancel the order,” he joked. (It’s not exactly clear where the president got that number, but it may relate to total employment at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, or perhaps to a job multiplier effect.)

Boeing already has done some test assembly work for the 777X, including work on a “static” plane that’s being put together strictly as an on-the-ground rehearsal and won’t be flown. In contrast, the spar that started going through the assembly process today will be part of the first jet to go through flight tests.

The company says the jet should be through final assembly sometime next year, with flight tests due to begin in 2019. The first 777X delivery is scheduled for 2020. List price is $379.2 million for the 777-8, and $408.8 million for the 777-9.

Spar assembly robot
Workers gather around tail
Robot on the job
Boeing team

Wing spar creation

Paul Clark
Autoclave
Autoclave

The 777X is bigger than the 787 Dreamliner, but it picks up on a lot of the technologies pioneered by the smaller plane, ranging from wider windows to a common layout for the flight deck and the cargo handling system.

Boeing says it has improved the production process as well.

“The process is largely changed. … What these robots are doing is something different than we’ve done before. The way we’re locating parts is something we’ve not done before in this capacity,” said Boeing manufacturing representative Paul Clark. “It’s just kind of a reboot of the system from the ground up.”

Terry Beezhold, vice president and chief project engineer for the 777X at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the production process has also been made safer for the people building the plane.

“That’s really tough work to do, ergonomically,” he told reporters.

Read more: Find out what happens when robots team up with humans for Boeing’s 777X

The showcase for the upgraded production system is Boeing’s 1.3 million-square-foot Composite Wing Center, the billion-dollar facility where the carbon-fiber wing components for the 777X are being fabricated.

Even as the first official wing spar was getting its first fastener installed, another wing spar was taking shape inside an automated fiber placement machine. Perry Moore, who leads the integrated product team for the 777X wings, said they’re the largest single-piece spars ever produced.

The way hasn’t always been easy. “During those months of seemingly endless planning, it definitely seemed at times like we were never going to get to actually build this airplane,” Boeing’s Paul Clark said.

But Clark also said the changes put into place for the 777X have given the century-old company a new spring in its step.

“Coming to work right now feels more like working for a startup than working for a 100-year company,” he said, “except we’re working for a startup that has 100 years of knowledge and skill behind it.”

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Get paid for being healthy: Wellness rewards platform KrowdFit raises $3.8M

KrowdFit CEO Jim Miller.

KrowdFit is raising more cash for its wellness rewards platform that offers people money in exchange for practicing healthy habits.

The Bend, Ore. startup just reeled in an additional $3.8 million from existing investors, KrowdFit CEO Jim Miller told GeekWire. The money will be used to grow its product development team and partner integrations.

KrowdFit launched in 2010 after Miller, a longtime entrepreneur who previously ran a Visa rewards program for his former startup uTANGO, saw an opportunity to create a service that rewarded users with cash for being healthy.

The company’s platform engages users by having them log their exercise, step, eating, and sleep activity throughout the day with a wearable tracker. Each time an activity is recorded, users earn entries to various cash giveaways that are mostly funded by monthly membership fees, in addition to KrowdFit’s own contributions. The weekly, monthly, and quarterly cash prizes range from $125 to $5,000 and are rewarded at random.

KrowdFit makes most of its revenue from corporate clients, though it does work with individual buyers. Miller said the company has seen “significant” growth in new corporate accounts, up 250 percent from last year. KrowdFit also offers a “budget neutral” employee wellness program for spending-constrained clients.

There are plenty of other startups that have created wellness reward and incentive platforms — Limeade and EveryMove (acquired in March) are two from the Seattle area — but KrowdFit differentiates itself with the crowdfunded reward system.

KrowdFit employs less than 10 people but plans to grow its team as a result of the new funding.

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Funko IPO could top $245M, more than doubling initial estimate for Pop! figure maker

Funko’s new headquarters in Everett, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Tim Ellis)

Funko more than doubled the amount it is looking to raise when it goes public to a maximum of $245.3 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Everett, Wash. maker of the popular Pop! figurines first filed paperwork for an initial public offering earlier this month, with the maximum price listed at $100 million. As it has traveled down the road to become a public company Funko has given more details about pricing.

Today’s filing shows that Funko, which will trade on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “FNKO,” plans to offer 13,333,334 million shares priced at $14 to $16 a piece, which translates to between $186.7 million and $213.3 million raised. Funko will offer underwriters an option to purchase an additional 2 million shares, which would bring the total price to more than $245 million.

Funko becomes the second Seattle-area company to go public this year, joining technology-powered real estate brokerage Redfin. Funko is not a tech company. It is a leader in geeky retail, and its products are sold through more than 2,000 U.S. retailers. It works with traditional brick-and-mortar sellers like Walmart and Target as well as Amazon.

Inside Funko’s Everett, Wash. headquarters. (GeekWire Photo / Tim Ellis)

The 19-year-old Funko calls itself a “leading pop culture products company,” and its most recognizable products are the Pop! figures, which encompass everything from star athletes to iconic film and literary characters.

Funko did $426.7 million in net sales in 2016, bringing in a profit of $26.88 million, according to financial records within the IPO documentation. Though the company also revealed that it is carrying $319.1 million in debt, and it needs to continue generating cash flow to make payments. The company said it will use some of the proceeds from the IPO to pay off debt, but did not give an exact figure.

The pop culture heavyweight has been growing extensively in recent years, and it just opened a brand new headquarters in its hometown of Everett. Earlier this year, it acquired London-based Underground Toys Limited, which develops and manufactures merchandise from geeky brands like Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, and Doctor Who.

“Our business is built on the principle that almost everyone is a fan of something and the evolution of pop culture is leading to increasing opportunities for fan loyalty,” the company wrote in its IPO documents. “We create whimsical, fun and unique products that enable fans to express their affinity for their favorite “something” — whether it is a movie, TV show, video game, musician or sports team. We infuse our distinct designs and aesthetic sensibility into one of the industry’s largest portfolios of licensed content over a wide variety of product categories, including figures, plush, accessories, apparel and homewares.”

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Banner day for Little Rock, Ark., as city flies ‘no thanks’ message to Amazon over Seattle

Little Rock banner
The group Love, Little Rock flew a banner over Seattle directing people to a website with its letter to Amazon. (Twitter Photo / @jeremypbeasley)

The city of Little Rock, Ark., has plenty of love, but none for Amazon.

A group called Love, Little Rock flew a banner over Seattle on Monday letting the tech giant know that it wasn’t interested in being one of the 238 places that submitted a proposal to be home to the company’s second headquarters.

“Hey Amazon. It’s not you. It’s us,” read the message towed behind a small plane, visible in photographs on social media. A website URL on the banner offered more clues about what was up at lovelittlerock.org.

Visitors to that site found a letter and video spelling out why Little Rock went from being “all over it” when it came to interest in lobbying for HQ2, to realizing “it would probably never work out between us.”

The letter called Amazon “smart, sexy, and frankly, incredibly rich” but said that it would be a “bummer” to concentrate a workforce of 50,000 people in the capital city, with its population of around 200,000.

“Our lack of traffic and ease of getting around would be totally wrecked, and we can’t sacrifice that for you,” the letter said.

The stunt makes no mention of the fact that Arkansas is home to Walmart — Amazon’s big competition when it comes to controlling America’s retail landscape. The New York Times wrote last month about how the nation’s largest private employer is doubling down on the state, and rebuilding its headquarters there.

Here’s the video and full letter:

Hey Amazon. We need to talk.

It’s not you, it’s us.

We know, we know, when you originally sent out your offer for cities to send in proposals for your future HQ2, we were all over it.

After all, you’re Amazon. You’re smart, sexy, and frankly, incredibly rich. And thanks to ourbooming business environmenttech-savvy workforce, diverse, creative culture and flourishing downtown, there are a lot of reasons why we’d be great together.

But when we started really thinking about what our future would look like, we realized it would probably never work out between us.

You want 50,000 employees for your new campus. We have a sizable, resourceful workforce, but if we were to concentrate them here, it would be a bummer. Our lack of traffic and ease of getting around would be totally wrecked, and we can’t sacrifice that for you.

You want on-site mass transit at HQ2. Here, there are many transit options that fit our city perfectly, and thanks to our compact urban footprint, many of our residents can easily get to the office on foot, on a bike or just by a quick drive. It would be cool if we could offer that, but we simply can’t do that just to make you happy.

Amazon, you’ve got so much going for you, and you’ll find what you’re looking for. But it’s just not us.

We’re happy knowing that many great companies find our natural good looks, coupled with our brains for business, irresistible.

If another expansion opportunity comes up and you’re ready to join the visionaries, dreamers, romantics and the idealists who know that bigger isn’t always better, give us a call. We would love to find a way to make “us” work out.

We wish you all the success in the world.

Love, Little Rock

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Tel Aviv to Chabad: Excuse Me, Are You Jewish? Now Get Out.

Being a Chabad emissary in Tel Aviv is hardly any easier than it is anywhere else. Sure, you don’t have to go around asking people if they’re Jewish, but you do have to contend with city hall asking if you’ve got a permit for those phylacteries: This past Friday, a Chabad rabbi doing his work at a booth in the city’s tony Ramat Aviv neighborhood was approached by a municipal inspector and warned that he lacked the proper license necessary to ask passersby if they’d like to put on a pair of tefillin.

This is the second case in a few weeks involving Chabad being singled out by unfriendly Israeli municipalities. In September, a Chabad rabbi in Herzliya was fined $209; the inspector who issued the fine wrote that the rabbi’s offense was “harassing people by asking them to put on tefillin.”

Continue reading “Tel Aviv to Chabad: Excuse Me, Are You Jewish? Now Get Out.” at…

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Today on Jewcy: Alon Schwarz, one half of a brother directing team, discusses his film about two brothers meeting for the first time after seventy years.

The new documentary Aida’s Secrets comes from brothers Alon and Shaul Schwarz, who chronicled their uncle Izak’s search for the brother he never knew he had, featuring an emotional reunion between Israeli Izak, Canadian Shep, and their mother Aida, and the exploration of many unexpected developments and histories along the way. Jewcy sat down with Alon, who just arrived from Israel to promote the film.

Click here to read the full post on Jewcy.

Continue reading “Today on Jewcy: Alon Schwarz, one half of a brother directing team, discusses his film about two brothers meeting for the first time after seventy years.” at…

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My Life on a Socialist Kibbutz in Brooklyn, and What I Learned There

I rarely mention one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. When it does come up, I do my best to quickly move on. The trouble is, most people don’t have a frame of reference for understanding it, and so it confuses some and annoys others. But every once in a while, someone gets interested and asks me to explain, and then I get confused. In many ways I just don’t have the language and the patience to untangle all the historical nuances that make this thing so important. The experience to which I am referring is the five years I spent living in a socialist commune.

Yet the more time that gets between me and the commune, the more I realize that my experience can help fill a gap in today’s social justice conversation. I’m referring here to a conflict between what activist groups and organizations aim to do, and how they go about doing it; a misalignment of aims and means that has torn some groups apart and made some organizations ultimately ineffectual. We can easily fill this gap by adopting structures—legal, financial, and facilitative—that reflect our values and visions, but sadly, most people don’t know enough about these structures to name them, let alone to enact them.

Continue reading “My Life on a Socialist Kibbutz in Brooklyn, and What I Learned There” at…

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A Reunited Swan Couple Form the Shape of a Heart With Their Heads After Being Separated for Weeks

Swan Heart Reunite

After being separated for several weeks in September 2017, a newly reunited swan couple in Dordrecht, Netherlands immediately swam towards one another. As soon as they reached each other, the pair nuzzled each other, forming the shape of a heart as their heads touched. The female of the pair had taken ill with a case of botulism and was treated off site with the help of a volunteer at the animal rescue organization Dierenbescherming

Highlighting the strength of emotions the birds have for one another, the recovering female headed straight for its partner when she was released back into the water by animal rescue workers. The bird had fallen ill with botulism, a food poisoning caused by bacteria-produced in toxins, and around three weeks earlier could barely lift her head. …With only a few exceptions, once swans have courted they are bonded for life.

Another instance of this show of love happened in Ireland during February 2017 when the pair was reunited after a few weeks. The male had swallowed a fish hook that had gotten lodged in his esophagus. The Kildare Animal Foundation stepped in to help the bird, necessitating a separation of the couple.

via Tastefully Offensive

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The Lowest Strings of an Incredible 15-String Bass Impressively Played Slap Style

Davie504, the talented bassist who is constantly looking for new ways to play, demonstrated a truly unusual 15-string version of the instrument, impressively slapping the lowest strings for those of his fans who are all about the bass and no treble.

Slapping the 15 Strings Bass Guitar 😀 This time I am playing the lowest strings too, so you can hear how they sound. Hope you’ll like it!

A post shared by Davie504 (@davie504) on

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Star Trek: Discovery Goes Psychic & Psychedelic in ‘Lethe’: Season 1, Episode 6 Review (Synopsis)

“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.” -Federico García Lorca

In an episode filled with Vulcan mindmelds, Klingon treachery, a spectacular nebula, themes of racial purity, and PTSD, you’d think all the ingredients were there for a spectacular episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Instead, describing it as a hot mess would be overly generous; this episode is just a disappointment as far as just about every avenue is concerned. Except for the Captain Lorca / Admiral Cornwell scenes, there’s really nothing to like about where this goes.

While running her fingers over his scars on his back while Lorca sleeps, Cornwell suddenly finds herself with a phaser pointed in her face. She understandably doubts whether Lorca is fit to command a vessel as high-priority as Discovery. Image credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive.

From a psilocybin-ed out Stamets to an increasingly annoying Lilly, to a jackass version of Sarek to a blame-assigning Burnham who can’t believe that the galaxy isn’t fair, this episode is full of weak points. For a show that’s attempting to be an action/drama, this episode is very short on both the action and the drama. The Cornwell/Lorca scenes can’t save the episode, and the science part of the science fiction never even appears.

Some rare galaxies exhibit a green glow thanks to the presence of doubly ionized oxygen. This requires UV light from stellar temperatures of 50,000 K and above. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa), of NGC 5972.

After a promising fifth episode, Star Trek: Discovery returns to its worst impulses in Episode 6, ‘Lethe’. Come get the full review and recap.

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