In order to stay competitive in a constantly evolving and increasingly interconnected global economy, a manufacturer has to be innovative above all else. While it is true that many manufacturing jobs and tasks have headed overseas, or at least across the border into Mexico, the truth is that the United States is still a world leader in manufacturing innovation and high-tech manufacturing.
Innovation is something that can incorporate new business models, enhancing current products, and developing new products and services, but using technology in new ways in manufacturing is the best way a small business can play with the bigger members of the field of manufacturing. Harnessing the power of technological developments means that nimble manufacturers can come up with high-caliber products with unprecedented speed, beating slower competitors to the market, and doing so in affordable fashion. The sheer efficiency that technology in manufacturing can mean is reason alone to adopt it.
Having said all this about technology in manufacturing in general, there are five technologies in particular that are having an impact on innovation in manufacturing. This list is far from conclusive, but each of these five is worth your time and attention:
1) 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing
3D printing has been all the rage the last five years or so, but this process was actually brought about back in the 80s. Technically known as additive manufacturing, it is more commonly known as 3D printing now. The reason for this is because the term really just covers any process that involves printing a product that is three-dimensional.
The specific technique involved is known within the industry as cold spraying, which is a blasting of metallic particles at high velocities through a nozzle. The particles bind to one another and form shapes. When done in layers, a computer can control the building process that results in highly accurate replicas of the original design that was emulated. The use of new technological innovations in the manufacturing sector has taken this out of the hands of the larger players in the industry and opened the doors to smaller businesses.
Nano-tech is the subject of anything that measures between 1 to 100 nanometers, where 1 nanometer is equal to a billionth of a meter. Aerospace and bio-medicine were once the only two fields to primarily use nano-tech, but manufacturers are now using this technology to create incredibly strong yet surprisingly light materials for things like vehicle parts, sporting goods, and even boats. Personal care goods like eyeglasses also benefit from this. Nano-tech manufacturing benefits any business through efficiency and energy savings, as well as waste reduction. Healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturers in particular stand to benefit greatly in this area.
3) Advanced Materials
Advanced composites are getting a lot of research, as it is anticipated that they are going to be needed if the expected ‘mega-trends’ for the future are accurate. They include but are not limited to energy efficiency, alternative energy use, new materials that counter the increasing shortage of natural resources, and new expectations in terms of security and chemical safety. From the global threat of terrorism to finding domestic supplies that unfriendly nations might have near monopolies on, research is ongoing to speed up the production time and lower the costs of advanced composite processes so they are more accessible to the general manufacturing industry.
4) The IoT
The Internet of Things is a relatively new concept where machines across an entire manufacturing plant can communicate with one another. If an issue is noticed in one place, notifications get sent to any device on the network so that the workflow can be adjusted accordingly automatically. This spares entire plants from being shut down from one human hitting the stop button. Less downtime occurs, the quality of the products go up, and waste, costs, and energy use all go down. New employment opportunities and careers within the manufacturing industry should result from this.
5) Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is changing a lot of sectors, industries, and businesses, but manufacturers, in particular, can use it to spread data around different regions and even the world. Reduced costs, better quality control, and faster delivery times all happen when informed business decisions happen from this available data. Security concerns will need to be constantly addressed, however.
Again, these five technologies are not the only ones stimulating change, advancement, and innovation within the manufacturing industry, but if your business wants to stay at the front of the pack or even pull away, embrace them.
5 technologies used in the manufacture of thin metal products;
5 Technologies used in the Construction Industry
- Computer-Aided Design
- Laser Range-finding/Geodetic positioning
- 3-D Printing