Ever since the Industrial Revolution, the manufacturing sector has been reaping benefits from technological advancement. Given current and potential future developments such as the IIoT, advancements in industrial robotics and 3D printing, Augmented and Virtual Reality and more, it is fair to say that technological progress will continue to present manufacturers with new opportunities for increased efficiency and optimization. In this article, we will discuss key technology trends that will be impacting the manufacturing sector in the upcoming years.
Further Adaption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
With low-cost sensors and advanced connectivity, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions will continue to be implemented in more and more factories. Enabling communication between machines and gathering vast amounts of data, IIoT solutions will provide factory operators with the information needed to manage their factories in real time and in the most efficient manner. The network will also connect manufacturing and other functions including production planning and control, shop floor control, quality control, computer-aided manufacturing and design, purchasing and marketing, ultimately leading to faster and more informed decision-making.
Tighter Robot-Human Cooperation
In the upcoming years, we will see even more of robot-human interaction in the factory environment, as more and more companies recognise that the highest productivity is achieved through the combination of human labour and robotics. Historically, robots enabled manufacturers to achieve higher productivity, consistency, precision and safety. With further advancements in industrial robotics and the forecasted growth in sales of industrial robotics, this trend will continue.
With further adaptation of industrial robots, we will see more instances of repetitive manual labor being replaced by robots and the emergence of more technical knowledge-intensive manufacturing roles preoccupied with programming, monitoring and maintenance of these robots.
Application of Augmented and Virtual Reality in Industrial Environments
With Augmented and Virtual Reality, manufacturers will be able to simulate various versions of the product design or the set-up of its production line. They will be able to visualize and interact with these designs as well as make iterations to them on a higher level as compared to conventional screen-monitors. This would significantly speed up and decrease the cost of the design phase since design improvements normally taking a more physical approach could be realized virtually. This technology could also be used in employee training, allowing employees to experience a variety of simulated plant scenarios and train them to respond effectively in worst-case scenarios ultimately ensuring greater safety.
Further Advancement of 3D Priniting
Given it is already possible to 3D print in various materials (thermoplastics, thermoplastic composites, pure metals, metal alloys, ceramics and some forms of organic matter) and the expected further developments in this technology, 3D printers have a potential to build up on its current role in prototyping and become a tool for designing complex, customizable and low-volume products, which now require more time and investment.
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