Technology is a major game-changer. It revolutionized communications, changed the way people think about entertainment, and has helped usher in a new way to connect to others and access information. As civilization continues to march onward, so too does the technology that powers so much of it, whether in the foreground or the background. This is also true for manufacturing-based industries.
In the old days, if you wanted something built, you did it by hand. Over time, we shifted over to the use of tools and machines to automate the process. Now, factories all over the world are starting to look towards more technological development. Assembly lines are starting to become more and more advanced, and here are some pieces of tech at the forefront of manufacturing’s future.
The Smart Factory
The concept of a “smart factory” isn’t any single technological development, but a multitude of them working together. The idea behind this is to use networking technologies, sensors, and interconnected equipment to enable things that couldn’t be done before. Whether it’s a patch cable factory or a business that makes fruit jams, there are benefits to having an interlinked production facility.
Smart factories allow for real-time monitoring of everything from product quality to which equipment should be shut off for maintenance. It also allows for digital modeling of the process, which can come in handy if you ever plan to make changes to a few things but aren’t sure how they’ll pan out. The increase in the amount and quality of data being gathered also helps in other functions, including preventative maintenance and long-term planning.
Factory safety has always been important and depending on the industry, this has been a challenge to achieve. Any facility that deals in dangerous chemicals, mixers, or even just extreme temperatures are one that is inherently hazardous to the people working in it. That’s where exoskeleton safety suit technology comes in, providing a new layer of protection for factory workers.
These suits provide a range of benefits. They increase lifting capacity for laborers without needing batteries. Many provide sensors that detect environmental data, allowing them to react accordingly. These suits also come with predictive power control, allowing the suits to provide a counterbalancing weight in the event of an impending accident. This raises safety standards, while also improving efficiency and productivity.
One of the most pertinent and prominent of modern technologies in manufacturing is the robot. Whether it’s the automated arms that weld together joints in an automobile frame or rigs that paint the product as the final step, robots have changed the way we build things. They’re also still improving, becoming better, easier to control, and smoother to integrate into a production assembly line.
Modern manufacturing robots rely on sensor technology and a set of pre-programmed algorithms to “react” to environmental cues. This allows them to perform their tasks with greater efficiency and accuracy than humans, while also providing a limited ability to “adapt” to a situation. This reduces the need for people to provide oversight, especially if the task is one that’s repetitive.
Of course, there are tasks that robots can’t do. For some tasks, you still need a human pair of hands coordinating things. For these, what you can use is augmented reality technology.
While most prominently used in things like entertainment and video games, AR is also used in a manufacturing context. Patch cables and the like connect an AR headset that a worker uses, allowing them to “see” the task and analyze it on their own, while also granting real-time access to relevant data and an interactive manual.
The tech will track the visual spectrum of the user, identify parts, note environmental information, and more. This allows the person to coordinate the task without actually being on-site, which is useful if there are things like hazardous chemicals or conditions. Using fiber optic cables lets the data be updated in real-time, along with any actions the AR user decides to take.
An additional benefit is that AR can be used to construct a “virtual” space. This space can be used for experiments, training, and more.
AI Quality Assurance
Artificial intelligence is also now making a move on the quality control arena. QA is going to be one of those things that persist in any manufacturing arena. You will always need to keep checking in the process, making sure things like production batches or procedures are going correctly. One mistake could result in an entire batch of products being unfit for sale, failing to meet the standards set by the company.
The use of AI to handle quality control is making its way into manufacturing. The use of powerful sensors located in key positions of the process, fiber optic cable to transmit the information in real-time, and pre-set parameters, AI can detect quality issues along the way. This isn’t going to replace on-site human quality checking at the end, but it can do the job in the middle of the process.
Technology changes the world. Whether it’s mastering the forging of new metal or alloy or artificial intelligence to augment the production process, tech changes even manufacturing processes. The industrial world is going forward as new tech finds applications in how they can be used.