The manufacturing sector is often one that regular consumers take for granted. In fact, with the rise of the assembly line and the eventual development of high-tech solutions that are employed by big factories, it may be difficult for ideas in manufacturing to “wow” us further.
Nevertheless, manufacturing-based businesses are among the quickest-developing in the world, and this could spell out huge things for the way we receive, interact with, and consume our mass-manufactured goods. Manufacturers benefit from the heightened speed, precision, efficacy, and customization possibilities now at their disposal. In this piece, we’ll discuss some of the big “buzz-worthy” advances that we should take note of in the world of modern manufacturing.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The “Internet of Things” is a term that is used to refer to the network of smart devices that are able to interact, communicate, and exchange information with one another. You might associate IoT best with wearables like smart watches, or the GPS functionalities on your smartphones. However, manufacturing companies are also benefiting from this interconnectivity. Manufacturing equipment outfitted with sensors can survey, analyze, and then transmit data to factories’ computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) in order to monitor and oversee production processes. This quick capture of almost real-time data enables better efficiency in factory operations, less downtime, less human error, and lessened manufacturing costs.
Laser beam machining
Laser beam machining pertains to the subtractive manufacturing process of using thermal separation to remove unwanted portions of a workpiece. The machines commonly employ air-bearing linear motion solutions, which ensure the accurate translation of the laser machining head. Such machines possess frictionless bearings that glide across a very thin film of air and average the errors in the laser machine’s planar guideways. The efficiency with which laser machining equipment cuts through workpieces enable businesses or factories to increase their throughput while maintaining the quality of their products.
Another manufacturing process that typically employs custom linear stages in its machining components is 3D printing. 3D printing involves the additive layering of a chosen material (be it metal or plastic) to form a particular 3D shape or object. No longer considered a niche technology, 3D printing can now be utilized to mass-manufacture everything from toys and car parts medical prosthetics and gears used in robotics—all at much lesser cost than demanded in previous decades.
Nanotechnology and nano-manufacturing
Though costly and not as widely developed to be considered mainstream, nanotechnology could play a bigger role in the manufacturing sector of tomorrow. Nanotechnology, which involves manipulating matter on its atomic, molecular, or supramolecular levels, might soon be used by emergent manufacturers to add new properties to their products, such as enhanced heat or cooling properties, superior water resistance, and color-changing capabilities. Moreover, nanotechnology could branch out into its own class of “nano-manufacturing” or processes completed by very, very small machines. In the future, these tiny nano-machines might be applied for the making of batteries or high-efficiency solar cells.
Cloud storage and cloud computing
On the more intangible end, manufacturers stand to benefit from better cloud storage and cloud computing for massive volumes of data. Wireless cloud storage can enable mass-uploading from the factory’s computer systems. If any computer crashes, all data can be safely recovered from the cloud. The development goes even further than storage—as manufacturers can now participate in cloud computing for data across all factories in their chain, and use the updated data sets for better decision making in the production line.
Think of even just one manufacturing process, and chances are, it’s probably already been automated by factories. Automation for processes like bottling, labeling, and packaging has proven to be a boon to manufacturers worldwide. Automation has limited the need for manual intervention within the production line, ensured higher quality and consistency in production, and freed up workers to take on tasks that are more human-dependent, such as monitoring.
24/7 manufacturing operations
With all of the advancements that we’ve listed above, it will come as no wonder that 24/7 manufacturing operations will soon be possible for numerous businesses across many industries. This is made possible through the employment of industrial robots, which can perform repeatable tasks in the production line with great consistency and precision. This trims down labor costs and maximizes available time for high-volume, high-quality production.
The manufacturing sector is anything but boring and static. As consumers, we can expect these advancements to transform not only the manufacturing industry but also the way products are developed and consumed all over the world.