Technology has seen rapid advancements in the past decade—and it only seems to be happening faster as each year passes. When it comes to breakthrough technology, manufacturing certainly has seen its share, most recently due to trends like Industry 4.0 and transformative connectivity made possible by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
MIT puts together a list of “breakthrough” technologies that the organization believes will have a profound effect on our lives. And this year, here are two that manufacturers should be paying attention to due to their ability to directly impact the manufacturing industry and the way they make things.
3-D Metal Printing
Many manufacturers are familiar with 3-D printing. But now it is getting less expensive and easier to print with metal. The affects this could have on manufacturing may be profound, particularly for industries that are low-volume, or made-to-order. From an inventory standpoint, manufacturers wouldn’t need to hold as much since they could just print a part as needed. The potential for producing on-demand means manufacturers could be more responsive and adapt faster to customers’ changing requirements. What’s interesting about this next evolution is the way its evolving how metal could be used. New metal 3-D technology is also capable of creating lighter, stronger parts, and complex shapes, meaning companies could consider using metal for more complex applications than ever before. This is in part due to methods that deliver more precise control of the microstructure of metals, which presents more opportunities to expand the use and application of metal.
Machine learning holds a lot of potential for the manufacturing industry, and by extension, its supply chain. The ability for machines to suggest better and more efficient ways of producing products based on past data could completely revolutionize the industry. In a recent post on Forbes.com, a manufacturing plant in Japan uses robots that built themselves, test themselves, and inspect themselves. Though this plant is one of-a-kind and one of the world’s first “lights-out factories,” it proves that the idea of use of artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing is viable, and not so far off.
While it may seem as though these technologies are decades away, the reality is that these very real applications are already influencing the industry.
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