The manufacturing industry is undeniably going through a technological revolution that is transforming the way modern factories operate. Despite the risks associated, manufacturing companies cannot afford to ignore the advances. In order to remain competitive, manufacturers must start embracing them now and invest in new processes and technologies. This will help them improve productivity in their factories, compete against rivals, and maintain an edge meeting ever-increasing customer demand.
Let’s look at some emerging technologies that are going to have a major impact on the manufacturing industry.
#1 Augmented Reality
Augmented reality has enabled manufacturers to deliver real-time information at the point of use. A workforce simply has to follow virtual enhancements superimposed onto goggles when they perform complex tasks on the factory floor. These tools simultaneously assess the accuracy and timing of the jobs and provide information of the problems associated. Some manufacturing companies have also started using augmented reality to provide hands-free training by providing a real-time view of manufacturing operations. In addition to this, there are possibilities which involve analyzing real-time data retrieved by the technology from the shop floor to design new machines and products that addresses the shortcomings of present day devices.
#2 Additive Manufacturing
Whether it is used as a replacement for existing production methods or because of the ability to produce components that have up until now been impossible, it is clear that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing technology, will certainly have an impact on the future of manufacturing. Manufacturing companies who were early adopters of the technology are already producing parts in small lots for product prototypes, improving their design-to-manufacturing cycle times, and fundamentally changing the economics of production. The global value of the industry is currently estimated to reach over $10 billion by 2021. Hence, the growth will open new horizons for manufacturers.
#3 Industrial Internet of Things
The IIoT market is expected to reach $151 billion by 2020, driven by advancements in semiconductor technology and electronics, the evolution of cloud computing, the standardization of IPv6, and support from governments all over the world. In the last few years, the idea of a connected factory has been becoming reality. This means expanding the power of the Internet to link machines, sensors, computers, and a workforce. This will result in new levels of information monitoring, collection, processing, and analysis. The connected devices will provide more precision and will be able to translate collected data into useful insights without the need of a physical presence.
#4 Industrial Automation
This trend is changing the nature of the manufacturing industry which was once considered to be only dirty, dangerous, and backbreaking work. Using automation in production and assembly not only stands well in terms of optimization, but it has other positive impacts like reducing costs and increasing productivity. Some manufacturers are of the belief that greater automation is harmful, resulting in less innovation, as it is only humans who are capable of coming up with ideas to improve processes and products, not robots. This belief has given rise to a new concept known as “cobotics” where humans and industrial robots work side-by-side in order to make complex parts of the assembly process faster, easier, and safer. Manufacturing companies are now employing robots to complement, rather than replace, workers. Hence, the future of industrial automation indeed looks very bright.
One of the most interesting and potentially game-changing technologies in the industry is nanotechnology. The ability to control matter at the nanoscale (approximately 1 to 100 nanometers), nanotechnology is having a huge impact on the manufacturing industry. In this technology, individual atoms and molecules can be manipulated and rearranged to create useful materials, devices, and systems. With this manipulation, products can be made with fewer imperfections and more durability, and energy sources can be cleaner and more cost-effective. And with the advent of atomically precise manufacturing (APM), which is the next phase, nanotechnology promises to create a much bigger impact.
What are the trends you foresee for manufacturers in 2017? We’re listening, write to us!