This isn’t your grandfather’s manufacturing. This is a field that is transforming at a rapid pace, with innovations coming fast and furiously. Below, we take a look at four of the most innovative and noteworthy manufacturing tools and techniques available today.
They’re not just for sci-fi movies anymore. The robots have arrived, and they are making their mark on manufacturing. Industrial robots aren’t necessarily new, but their creators are increasingly innovative in programming them to work alongside people in manufacturing facilities. Technology Review reports on a robot that can be trained to do different tasks and is built to be expressive so that its human coworkers can be sure it understands what it is doing and whether it is encountering a problem that needs human intervention. It can be retrained as needed. Robots like these are among the most innovative tools in manufacturing today, as they are incredibly productive, accurate and not limited by fatigue.
Manufacturing is where it is today because we’re smarter about it. We now know about the power of raw data needed to boost efficiency, and we’re getting more innovative at collecting it. Data collection is increasingly considered one of the most valuable tools in manufacturing. Sight Machine is one company that has built its business around collecting data — more data in a single day than it might have taken in a month just a decade ago, so they claim. How do they do it? By way of small cameras and sensors that collect an exhaustive amount of data that reveals crucial statistics and trends that are improving entire manufacturing processes.
You probably know it by its more commonly used name, 3-D printing. 3-D printers are becoming more versatile and innovative by the day. It’s a manufacturing innovation that is transforming how parts and products are made in almost every sector. So what is it, exactly? Additive manufacturing is the process of creating an item by laying one layer of plastic on top of another until you have a completed product. As long as it’s one piece and self-supporting, virtually any object imaginable can be made this way. As far as innovations go, it’s widely considered to be the manufacturing game-changer.
The buzz these days is all about energy efficiency and finding a way to manufacture without blowing the bank on fuel costs alone. Manufacturing is no different. The trend of lean manufacturing has resulted in common-sense techniques (more windows for lighting, for example) and increased reliance on wind and solar power. And as manufacturers aim to be the beneficiaries of new energy-efficient technologies, they’re also looking to create their own. Manufacturing.net reports that a startup in Scotland is turning to the bottle for new fuel. The company is finding ways to reuse waste products from whiskey production, in turn using it for fuel. Just one more way innovation is making manufacturing more efficient — and certainly more interesting.