The concept of manufacturing has long held a place in the historical and cultural roots of the human race. And it can’t be argued that the manufacturing industry is the key to the future of the human race. However, will the human race always be a part of the manufacturing industry? Will the input of human workers be needed, or become a burden, to the future advances of technology in the manufacturing field?
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Every industry is affected by modernization, innovation, and incremental technological upgrades. But no sector has been as radically changed by the advent of innovative and advanced technologies as the manufacturing sector.
According to recent researches, American manufacturing workers are 47% more productive than within the last 20 years because of the gradual implementation of automation and artificial intelligence in the manufacturing industry. Almost 2 million robots were being used within the global manufacturing sector as of 2020. And over 240,000 of those industrial manufacturing robots were located in the United States alone. What this all means for human culture is another discussion.
The point is that the future of manufacturing lies in the technological innovations of today and the future. So, here are eight technological advances in the manufacturing industry that are making news.
Augmented reality, also known as A.R., is a virtual and interactive 3D world that you can interact with via an interactive headset and accompanying equipment. Augmented reality is tethered to your real-world inputs and can be manipulated or enhanced with additional computer-generated elements in real-time. The best way to describe augmented reality is that it is like a customized video game environment that exists for your shopping or business needs.
A virtual reality environment is a digital environment with no direct connection to the real world. Virtual reality is a simulation of a world without direct influence from the real world. In an augmented reality environment, you can upload pictures of your home and then use those dimensions to create an augmented reality version of your home. Then you can visually decorate your augmented reality home with avatar versions of real-world appliances and furniture that you can order and buy. Or, you can create an augmented reality version of yourself and use it to try new virtual hairstyles or wardrobes before buying them in the real world. Or you can use augmented reality to create your own jewelry.
One of the biggest trends in the manufacturing industry in the future is the ecology and profit-driven business concept of sustainability. Sustainability is the business concept of doing business in a way that does not adversely and negatively impact the environment, society, and especially the communities that support the business world.
For example, one plastic straw can take as long as 200 years to decompose in the environment entirely. Larger and thicker plastic products can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. In recent years, many food, hospitality, and restaurant-based businesses have made efforts to phase out plastic straws with paper straws to appease their demographics and protect the environment.
Sustainable products are products that ecologically benefit the planet. And that means that the technological advances of the future will have to focus on manufacturing processes that focus on creating sustainable products.
5G is a name for the latest generation and technological standards relative to broadband, electronic communications, and cellular networks. Humanity is currently living through the fifth generation, or “5G” era, of ubiquitous communication devices used by society.
The speed, convenience, and quality of the electronic communication devices and apps that we use today are the best and fastest that it has ever been. And in 20 or 30 years, the following standard for electronic communications will be called “6G.”
For additional context, the 4G era started in 2010. The 1G era began in 1979 with the first appearance of prototype analog wireless communication devices that had no data capabilities. For example, beepers, the electronic communication precursors to the cell phone, were of the 2G era of 1990. The 5G era will make machines and human workers more productive by over 42%.
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The word “robot” was coined from the old Czech word “robota.” It roughly means “slave” or “forced labor.” The word “robot” entered the global lexicon via a Czech play called Rossum’s Universal Robots in 921. Post-WW2, the world required a new paradigm in terms of manufacturing to increase output, efficiency, and equality. And the first pneumatic and hydraulics-based factory line robots entered the manufacturing industry by 1961.
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What is essential to understand about robots is that robots are designed to perform one task at a time. So, a robot may cut metal, weld a piece of metal to a larger structure, or use ocular sensors to perform quality checks in a factory.
Robots perform tasks too dangerous for humans. Robots are also faster and more precise. And robots can work 24-hours a day and seven days a week. The future robots will replace supermarket cashiers, butchers, doctors, and many other vocations. Robots can be controlled by humans or automation.
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Automation is the process of using artificial intelligence and computer algorithms to create computer programs, machines, and technology that think and or can physically perform tasks like a human.
A giant robotic arm that welds doors to car chassis is a robot. A robot performs singular and repetitive tasks. Automation is a computer algorithm or machine that can run a factory that builds the robotic arms used in factory lines. The commercial airliners that you fly today are mainly flown by computer automation and overseen by human pilots. The flight engineer position in the cockpit was obsoleted by advances in automation decades ago.
So, whenever commercial airliners are built today, the A.I. and automated components are just as crucial to their construction as the wheels. Shortly, "dark factories" may be a reality. Dark factories are manufacturing plants that run on 100% automation and contain zero human employees. This future is nearer than you think.
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
Automation is the science of creating and innovating processes, like manufacturing work, with minimal or zero human input. It is the science of constructing algorithms and machines that think like humans.
The future artificial intelligence will be designing manufacturing hubs, the machines that work in them, and maintaining them. A.I. may decrease traditional manufacturing operating costs by as much as 19%.
Blockchain and Web3 Technology
Some forward-thinking scientists believe that the internet of the future, also known as Web3 technology, will be inspired by blockchain technology.
The Web3 technology of the future could make supply chain infrastructure so efficient that they become permanently automated. And manufactured products of the future may come with NFT certificates generated from blockchain supply chain infrastructures to prove that they are authentic.
3D printing is the manufacturing process of creating 3D objects from customs printers from data sourced from a digital file. 3D printers exist today, and you can create many things from 3D printers.
The manufacturing companies of the future may use 3D printers to expedite prototypes and reduce overall waste throughout the manufacturing process. Cars, commercial airliners, and many products are created today via 3D printing now. The practice will only become more innovative in the decades to come.
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Final ThoughtsImage courtesy of Unsplash
With the current rate of technological advances in the manufacturing industry, it probably won’t be long until the dark factory concept is an everyday practice. As long as human beings are marketed for manufactured goods, then human beings will always be a part of the last-mile delivery process of manufacturing.
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