54% of global energy use is attributed to manufacturing, as well as one fifth of all global greenhouse gas emissions. But sustainability is not the only challenge here. Consumer demands are changing rapidly with new technologies evolving. The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, has already started and there is a whole new world of possibilities to explore. Digitalization has changed and will further change the way human workers interact with each other, how machines interact with each other, and also how machines interact with humans. A continuously improving connectivity enables a massive amount of data on real-time performance and analytics paving the way for numerous applications. With technologies like IoT, 3D-printing and augmented reality, the entire manufacturing process and product development cycle will be undergoing many transformations.
Optimization and Automation
“It’s always been done this way” is a well-known German saying that has long since lost its relevance in a digital world. With an ever-growing amount of data, almost every industry will be able to optimize and automate their processes, which will lower the operating costs and spike up efficiency. Being in a constant battle with their competitors, manufacturers are sure to turn to technological solutions that will make their products better and their production processes more efficient. With predictive maintenance, the lifespan of production machines can be expanded and downtime from technical errors can be reduced. Augmented reality will allow human workers to be trained in a virtual environment, location-independently which will further drive down operating costs.
One of the key drivers of the 4th Industrial revolution will be 5G. The arrival of a reliable network will enable a vast amount of new applications that fall under the term IIoT (Industrial internet of Things). Computer vision, AI, industrial sensors, drones and robotics will enable a superhuman level of productivity and accuracy while continuously reducing the risk at work. In so-called smart factories, networks of devices are connected and make decentralized decisions with little to no human interaction. Together with real-time data used for a wide field of applications like quality control or obtaining a greater schedule accuracy, IIOT will make production processes even more efficient, which will save energy and resources and increase the quality of the products.
3D printing will fundamentally shift the boundaries of design and production. We will see completely new products, designed by software, that the human mind won’t be able to grasp. Using additive manufacturing methods will allow for shapes and material combinations that wouldn’t be possible with current manufacturing processes. 3D-printing also allows for rapid prototyping and for continuous alterations, as all it takes to change a product is to change the software, whereas today entire production chains have to be changed and reprogrammed. By eliminating production steps, 3D-printing can further help save energy and reduce material consumption. Also, being able to print parts anywhere makes decentralized manufacturing a possibility, reducing the need for transportation and thus, emissions.
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