Yesterday we started our two part series about manufacturing technology trends we will see impact the industry in 2016 by painting a picture of the top 4 trends. In today’s conclusion, we now focus on 5 other manufacturing technologies that will also impact the manufacturing industry, but to a lesser degree than yesterday’s predictions.
What makes or breaks the use of a new technology in manufacturing? 2015 saw the improvement of many different technologies, and manufacturers are looking to 2016 with confidence. Yet, recent shake-ups in overseas’ markets have catalyzed woes and hopes for US manufacturing. Fortunately, many of the forthcoming technologies will be able to circumvent these fears. Let’s take a look at the five remaining technology trends to watch for in the coming year.
Advanced robotics and artificial intelligence have been the stars of some of Hollywood’s major attractions. However, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced robotics stand to inherit a significant portion of technology innovations in 2016. Due to the novice use of these manufacturing technologies, predictions for artificial intelligence in future years is off the charts. Between 2013 and 2015, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in manufacturing grew from $0.9 billion to $36 billion, assets Forbes magazine. This is a 500 percent growth rate.
Artificial intelligence optimizes processes in real time across the manufacturing landscape. By autonomously collecting KPIs on exponential volumes of data, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning will dramatically drive manufacturing. Today, artificial intelligence and machine learning are used in unmanned aerial vehicles, smart vehicles, speech recognition capabilities, the simulation of products, such as explained in the augmented reality and virtual reality section of Part I, and in monitoring conditions in nearly any setting.
Changes to the materials used in manufacturing will also be a major trend for 2016 manufacturing technologies. Over the past two decades, manufacturers and scientists have invented new alloys and new materials to use. These materials may allow a product to be manufactured to withstand harsh weather conditions, function in otherwise inhospitable settings, or provide an equal level of protection at a fraction of the weight. Inherently, new materials and property concerns over each new material has led to the collection of huge quantities of data to sift through in the selection of the material for each unique product. As a result, manufacturers will be needing and using new ways to select materials.
The use of virtual reality or augmented reality will be a defining factor in how these materials are selected. Once, engineers and designers had a simple list of materials to use, but innovation led to a conglomeration of hundreds, if not thousands, of materials to use that were considered superior to those of the past. “As advanced materials came along, as new alloys came along, as superalloys came along for making engines go to higher temperatures and better fuel efficiencies,” explains Ken Klapproth, a designer of jet engines for Pratt & Whitney, “the ability to kind of manually look through those materials and compare all those variables—in your head or on a spreadsheet—became too difficult.”
The modern world of manufacturing would be impossible without the increased use of computing powers, and manufacturers in 2016 will need to increase the use of high-performance computing capabilities. Since new manufacturing technologies will increasingly provide a larger amount of data to analyze, high-performance computing powers are being used to find new, innovative ways to approach predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and digital design and simulation.
In fact, the high-performance computing trend typically functions above a teraflop of computing power, which means the average computing power of these systems would reach between 10^10 and 10^12 of operations’ processing power per second, asserts Karen Wilhelm. For the key players in manufacturing, the US, China, and Europe, increasing use of high-performance computing capabilities ranks sixth, third, and seventh in priority of use respectively.
As the Internet of Things (IoT), also known as “Industry 4.0,” has become an integral part of modern manufacturing, the applications for the IoT have grown. 2016 promises to be a year of increasing use IoT in the creation of smart factories, which will dramatically increase production capacity and efficiency. As explained by David Brousell, manufacturers will put the theories of using the interconnectedness of machines, computers, robotics, and sensors to test in plant floor automation, cyber-physical monitoring of product location and stage in manufacturing, and what processes may be changed to bolster production.
Historically, the Industrial Revolution has been considered to be the greatest leap in manufacturing technologies, but Industry 4.0 will change that notion. According to Thomas Koulopoulos, Industry 4.0 “will alter the nature of business in ways that will make the industrial revolution look like a speed bump on the road towards automation.” This trend will definitely be a game-changer.
Transforming manufacturing processes into digital information leads to one last measure for manufacturers. Improving technology has always been a driving factor in achieving growth, but today’s manufacturers face constant threats from hackers and those who would exploit vulnerabilities in the digital space. 2016 will see the creation and implementation of stronger security systems, both physical and digital, to protect their information and technological achievements.
Since every technological trend involves innovations in how manufacturers approach product ideation, design, and manufacture, this trend may be considered the most important. After all, what good is using or creating a new technology if someone else can steal it and use it for their own purposes?
2016 will be a year of change and innovation for manufacturers across the globe with the continued rise of new and transformative manufacturing technologies. From the use of predictive analytics to the inherent increases in security to protect these technological breakthroughs, manufacturers must embrace new technology in order to survive. If a manufacturer were to add together some of the facts about the monetary gains in each aspect of the manufacturing industry in recent years, the total amount would approach half a trillion. As your organization starts thinking about how to grow this year, remember these trends, and embrace them wholeheartedly.
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