Manufacturing has a huge impact on all of our daily lives. Everything from the homes we live in to the food we eat depends on manufactured goods. At the most basic level, manufacturing is using a repeatable process to transform a raw material into a finished product. But what is the difference between manufacturing and advanced manufacturing? In a word: innovation. The revolution lies in the:
- Processes used to transform materials
- Machinery employed to carry out these processes
- Products created
- Supply chains that deliver the raw materials
- Sustainability of the total system
- Use of machine learning and AI in the manufacturing industry
In short, the technology used in the modern advanced manufacturing field is groundbreaking. Unfortunately, it can be virtually impossible to stay up-to-date with every aspect because of how vast the space really is. That’s why cross-collaboration and knowledge-sharing is so important to the industry. Reading papers, listening to webinars, and attending an advanced manufacturing conference are just some of the ways to stay aware of upcoming technology in this sphere. Keep reading to get an overview of the technology advances happening in manufacturing, and consider attending Rally, a new cross sector innovation conference to dive deep into what’s coming next.
In this article we’re going to give a broad overview of the advanced manufacturing industry and address some specifics like:
- Industry 4.0: What is considered advanced manufacturing in 2023?
- What role is advanced manufacturing machine technology playing?
- What are examples of advanced manufacturing techniques that are coming up next?
What Are Advanced Manufacturing Technologies?
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST):
“Advanced manufacturing technologies, or Industry 4.0, involves automating traditional manufacturing processes using technologies such as robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems.”
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important individual technologies leading the way in advanced manufacturing right now.
What Are the 8 Types of Manufacturing Technology Driving Innovation?
- Augmented and Virtual Reality – These technologies create new ways of visualizing and monitoring manufacturing equipment and surroundings in real-time. This is leading to huge improvements in staff training, practicing scenarios, monitoring progress, and repairing broken equipment.
- Automation with Robotics – “Smart” factories, which use robots to automate repetitive, manual tasks, can increase product quality and standardization while reducing dangerous working conditions and menial jobs for staff.
- Big Data – Equipment sensors and other variable monitoring can create a virtually unlimited amount of data about a manufacturing facility. Using AI to analyze this vast amount of data can show patterns and reveal trends that allow data-backed business decisions to improve efficiency, safety, sustainability, and more.
- Cybersecurity – With so much reliance on interconnectivity and data in advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity is a major concern. Understanding the risk and integrating systems to manage these risks is a necessary component of any advanced manufacturing organization.
- Internet of Things (IoT) – Using manufacturing machinery with built-in sensors and connectivity means better visibility into what’s happening in real-time. This means identifying bottlenecks in production, addressing safety concerns before they become accidents, and performing predictive maintenance without unnecessary equipment downtime.
- Simulation Software – Simulating a new part or process without the need to create it in real life offers huge advantages. Advanced manufacturing companies can test innovative ideas more quickly and with less expense than if you had to create real-world models or prototypes. This gives an added bonus of not affecting current production. Simulation software is also making huge strides in the healthcare industry, by training and evaluating the safety of procedures without putting real patients at risk.
- System Integration and Cloud Computing – This technology allows for the gathering of all of a company’s data from various processes and departments into one place so it is easy to find and analyze. On a busy manufacturing floor, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees; cloud computing puts the pieces in one place and system integration works the puzzle.
- 3-D Printing – Also known as additive manufacturing, this technology involves adding layers of material (often plastic filaments) to build a product. This allows for quicker prototypes to be made, reduces time waiting for replacement parts, and decreases waste in advanced manufacturing vs traditional manufacturing. There are even 3D printed vegetarian meat being explored in the Ag and FoodTech industry!
There are obvious crossovers between these innovations in technology between manufacturing and other industries (like the AgTech and Healthcare examples above). The opportunities for cross-sector collaborations is why Rally’s upcoming conference focuses on cross-sector innovation.
How Are Advanced Manufacturing Systems and Technologies Revolutionizing Manufacturing?
There are many different elements that go into any manufacturing system, including things like the processes, machinery, products, and supply chain for inputs and distribution. The innovative technologies that are being developed have potential applications in all of these areas.
What Are 2 Examples of Manufacturing Technologies in the Supply Chain?
IoT in Transportation
“Smart” freight containers and shipping fleets that contain built-in sensors and interconnectivity capabilities are becoming more mainstream. This allows manufacturers and transportation companies to closely track and monitor their assets in real time. These “smart” container abilities mean traffic patterns, weather conditions, and predictive maintenance can all be taken into account when tracking inbound materials or outbound products.
For instance, if a heat-sensitive chemical is being transported cross-country, and there is an unexpected heatwave, the shipment can be diverted to a closer facility to avoid dangerous overheating. As just-in-time manufacturing continues to be popular, manufacturers also benefit from close tracking of materials in-transit. Because weather conditions mean this shipment will be delayed, the manufacturer will be aware of the change as soon as possible and can plan their logistical changes early, avoiding delays and revenue loss.
It’s not just for cryptocurrency; this technology of an immutable shared record is being used in the manufacturing supply chain too. Because all changes are recorded, blockchain creates an audit train much stronger than basic recordkeeping. This can increase trust in suppliers, identify fraud or theft, and better monitor compliance.
When a shipment of raw materials leaves a supplier, there is a record produced including:
- Amount and quality of the material
- Date and time it leaves the facility
- Method of transportation carrying it
All stops along the way also create similar records. When the shipment arrives at the manufacturing facility, there is no doubt that it contains exactly what was placed in it originally by the supplier, because there is a complete and immutable string of records of everything that happened. This type of cross-collaboration between software and HardTech highlights why Rally’s upcoming cross-sector innovation conference offers so much to thought leaders across these industries.
What Are 2 Examples of Advanced Manufacturing Techniques in Final Products?
Additive manufacturing is moving into the mainstream, and bringing a variety of benefits with it. Manufactured components can now be produced with increased strength and durability, and decreased weight and waste. The aerospace industry in particular is using these properties to produce things like 3D printed titanium brackets 30% lighter than previously, which has a huge impact on flight lengths and fuel usage.
3D printed products have another benefit in mass customization options. No longer are manufacturers constrained by machinery setups and long production lines that limit the number of different products they can produce. Specialized parts and tools can now be manufactured to meet the demand for less common items.
AI and Quality Control
Advanced manufacturing technology is enabling large amounts of data to be collected during manufacturing to improve the quality and consistency of final products. AI can monitor the entire process, identifying problems as they occur and reducing the rate of error in manufactured components.
This is especially important in areas where minute differences can literally be the difference between life and death. The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research released a paper called “Artificial Intelligence in Drug Manufacturing” that highlights the importance of this level of quality control in medications and vaccinations. Another great example of how cross-sector knowledge is driving innovation.
What Are 2 Advanced Manufacturing Process Examples?
Advances in manufacturing technology have allowed new processes to be developed, like micro-scale finishing, polymer nano-molding, and micromachining. DNA origami is a particularly exciting new process in manufacturing that uses the base-pair attraction of DNA strands to form specific structures at incredibly small scales. It has been used to create complex multi-protein structures that can be used in medicine and data storage innovations.
This technology uses biological processes like self-assembly and tissue maturation to manufacture protein-based components. Biofabrication could potentially create advances like biocompatible robots and new organs for transplantation. In many ways, biofabrication is about harnessing the processes that already exist in organic materials. Essentially, this is letting the naturally occurring properties of living things manufacture what we want, rather than using machinery to do it artificially.
What Are Examples of Technology Used in Manufacturing Machinery?
Thanks to a combination of technological advances, manufacturing machinery no longer has to be designed to simply do one task. Integrated sensors, big data, and AI have allowed one machine to complete multiple processes. This reduces manufacturing time inherently lost when switching between machines, and decreases errors and waste associated with these changes too. It also reduces costs associated with buying and maintaining multiple machines versus just the one.
Large-scale, industrial robots are already widely used in manufacturing. But innovative technology and machine learning allow for the automation of tasks that previously required human input. Modern manufacturing machinery is now being designed to work within automated processes from the beginning. Decreasing the amount of retrofitting needed to make manufacturing machinery work with automation technology further enhances machine efficiencies from the start.
Rally: A Cross-Sector Conference Aimed at Innovation
The examples of advanced manufacturing technology given here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what up-and-coming technology can offer. There is a huge amount of crossover between industries using technology to foster growth, which is why cross-sector collaboration is leading the way in industry innovation.
Rally is the largest global cross-sector innovation conference, and has tracks for hardtech, software, agriculture and food, healthcare, sportstech, and entrepreneurship. Our hardtech track includes manufacturing, cleantech, industry 4.0, advanced materials and more to bring together the best and brightest minds to further innovations and industry-shaking breakthroughs. Visit our website for more information and register now to secure your place to learn about the next great advances in the manufacturing of tomorrow.