Manufacturing methods are constantly advancing. From the invention of the conveyor belt to laser cutting and 3D printing, manufacturers are consistently upgrading their systems to improve quality while reducing costs. But with all of the new technology coming down the line, how do you know what’s worth the investment? Which new methods actually work? What advancements do your customers want? And which new systems are investors willing to help you implement?
The answers to all these questions and more can be found at Rally, the only cross-sector advanced manufacturing conference, which takes place from August 29-31, 2023. This article will serve as a primer, covering what you need to know about:
- What advanced manufacturing systems are
- How advanced manufacturing methods are different from traditional ones
- How manufacturers are combining methods from each system to gain a competitive edge
Let’s dive in!
What Is an Advanced Manufacturing System?
Advanced manufacturing systems combine cutting-edge processes and technology to improve quality, accuracy, and efficiency. This is a broad category and refers to manufacturing techniques that range from sourcing composite materials to leveraging nanotechnology and robotics. Manufacturers that use advanced systems can benefit from:
- Higher Quality Products: Advanced manufacturing systems incorporate higher-quality materials and use techniques that improve use and durability rather than potentially damaging products.
- Reduced Production Time: Advanced manufacturing systems use materials more efficiently and reduce errors, which shortens the time it takes to complete a project.
- Increased Adaptability: Advanced manufacturing systems can include customizable processes, which makes it easier for producers to pursue new opportunities.
These benefits can all be leveraged to increase customer satisfaction, market share, and profit margins.
What Is Advanced Manufacturing Technology?
Advanced manufacturing technology refers to specific tools, software, or processes that allow manufacturers to transform how they operate. What is considered advanced manufacturing? This technology includes—but certainly isn’t limited to—the following innovations:
- Additive Manufacturing: Additive manufacturing methods create products by layering material. This differs from the traditional, subtractive processes that cut pieces out of a block of material. The primary benefit of additive manufacturing is less waste, which also means lower material costs. The most common example of this process is 3D printing, which is widely available for industrial uses.
- Advanced or Composite Materials: Composite materials are made from a combination of individual materials. As a result, manufacturers can optimize composite materials for greater strength, flexibility, weight, and corrosion resistance than individual materials. The applications for advanced materials are wide-ranging. They include metals, plastics, resins, fibers, and more, which are useful in industries from aerospace to healthcare.
- Robotics and Automation: Industrial robotics make it possible for manufacturers to use machines to carry out repetitive, precise, and even dangerous tasks. As robotics continue to develop, this technology will be able to alleviate human workers from even more monotonous and hazardous tasks. Automation increases manufacturing efficiency even further. For example, manufacturers often use software to program the tasks that their robotics will carry out. As automation software continues to advance, manufacturers can take advantage of features like integrated automation, which are capable of automating design and testing in addition to fabrication.
- Laser Machining and Welding: These types of advanced manufacturing processes can help improve accuracy, reduce waste, and increase the quality of finished products. The continuous improvement of laser precision applies when working on a wide range of materials. Advanced lasers help maintain the quality of the materials they work on because they transfer less heat while cutting. Speed is another benefit, helping to keep production lines efficient.
- Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology may sound like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s also at the forefront of manufacturing advancements. According to Manufacturing Tomorrow, nanotechnology refers to processes that can produce nanomaterials, which contain at least 50% of particles that are less than 100 nanometers in size. That’s just one-tenth the size of an average germ! These advancements are highly practical because they can create extremely strong and lightweight products while meeting chemical stability and thermal conductivity needs. With these qualities, nanotechnology is often the ideal choice for producing bike frames, aerospace parts, bulletproof vests, and so much more.
- Networking and IT Integration: Like all industries, manufacturing systems benefit from reliable communication, data-informed decision-making, and continuous feedback. With an IT network that integrates all of the processes in their systems, manufacturers can gain access to current and accurate information. This benefits decision-making, which can improve efficiency. Manufacturers can work to develop their IT network’s effectiveness by evaluating their security, reorganizing data accessibility, and eliminating communication silos.
These are just a few snapshots of how manufacturing systems are advancing at this moment. To keep current on cutting-edge solutions, it’s vital to connect with other manufacturers and with industry members who purchase your products. You can also interact with professionals in related industries who spark creativity and innovation. That’s why cross-sector conferences—like Rally—can have such a major impact.
What Is an Example of Advanced Manufacturing?
One of the most compelling advanced manufacturing process examples is how additive manufacturing can be used in healthcare. An exciting application for this technology is that an advanced manufacturing organization can use 3D printing to produce custom medical devices. This allows care centers to provide patients with devices, such as femur implants or prosthetics that are built for their unique bodies.
Protolabs is an example of a manufacturer that uses 3D printing to produce medical products. Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and stereolithography allow this organization to produce complex parts out of metal, plastic, and polymers without sacrificing durability.
See what other applications advanced manufacturing systems have across various industries at Rally. Register today!
What Is Traditional Manufacturing?
Investopedia defines traditional manufacturing as the process of turning raw materials into finished goods. The goal of mass production is to create economies of scale—or to reduce the cost per unit by manufacturing goods in large quantities through repeatable processes. What are examples of traditional manufacturing? Traditional manufacturing examples include the following methods:
- Casting: This process uses molds to create consistency between products. Liquefied metal is poured into the mold. The material then hardens and takes the shape of the mold.
- Molding: Similar to casting, this process uses molds to shape liquefied materials. The key difference is that casting often refers to molten metal materials, while molding refers to liquefied plastic.
- Forming: The goal of forming is to reshape raw materials. One of the key advantages of this process is that it doesn’t waste any materials.
- Machining: This process involves cutting raw materials down to specific dimensions. It’s also known as “subtractive manufacturing” because it removes excess material from a product.
- Joining: Through welding, soldering, brazing, adhesive bonding, or mechanical assembly, this process connects separate materials or components to form a single product.
- Coating: This process prepares a product to resist the wear and tear from regular use in the environment it’s designed for. Manufacturers can coat products with films and powders, often using polyurethane, epoxy, or zinc-based substances.
To see traditional manufacturing methods in action, take a look at the automotive industry. Car manufacturers rely on mechanical assembly for their joining process, where humans or robot arms connect parts to build the final product.
To increase efficiency and lower costs, many car manufacturers have transitioned to mostly automated assembly lines. This form of advanced manufacturing uses robotics to automate repetitive tasks. However, some companies like Ferrari and Aston Martin continue to create custom, hand-built vehicles. Other companies, like Toyota, innovate by giving more workers the power to stop the assembly line if they see an issue. This provides more opportunities to fix errors, increasing quality and customer satisfaction
Advanced Manufacturing vs Traditional Manufacturing
The question of whether to use advanced or traditional manufacturing doesn’t have an either/or answer. Instead, manufacturers can benefit from a combination of techniques that make the most sense for their processes and products. For example, a plant specializing in casting metal parts can increase its efficiency with advanced robotics controlled by software automation.
In other words, advanced manufacturing jobs often incorporate traditional processes rather than replacing them outright. However, there are some exceptions. For example, a plastic parts manufacturer may transition from subtractive cutting methods to additive 3D printing. This switch can result in improved profits and sustainability because it requires fewer raw materials to create the same number of products.
Discover Where the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Is Headed at Rally
If you’re ready to network with other advanced manufacturing companies, Rally is the place to be. Why? Because it’s the only cross-sector innovation conference that connects your business with suppliers, developers, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, marketers, and even potential customers and investors. With representatives from software, agriculture and food, healthcare, hardtech, sportstech, and entrepreneurship, you’ll be on the cutting edge of where an entire network of industries are headed.
See what Rally has to offer:
- Cross-sector connections
- Attendees from across the globe
- Content sessions
- 1:1 investor meetups
- Startup demo area
- Up to $5 million awarded through the IN-Prize Pitch Competition
- And so much more
Sign up today, and we’ll see you in Indianapolis!