Time was when we used to hear about the amazing functionalities of a cell phone. But today those are no longer hearsay; we can see, hear and experience those amazing things! Our handset is a great enabler. You use it not only for communication but virtually for everything you name it. Technology has made a big difference to our lifestyle, life and business. In the industrial arena, the revolution brought by technology is simply indescribable.
What are the revolutions one gets to see in manufacturing or the so called smart manufacturing? Manufacturing is no more labor-oriented. Today it employs computer-integrated manufacturing, featuring high levels of adaptability and rapid design changes, digital information technology and more flexible technical workforce training. Other goals sometimes include fast changes in production levels based on demand, optimization of the supply chain, efficient production and recyclability. A smart factory has interoperable systems, multi-scale dynamic modeling and simulation, intelligent automation, strong cyber security and networked sensors. Some of the key technologies in the smart manufacturing movement include big data processing capabilities, industrial connectivity devices and services, and advanced robotics.
Smart manufacturing utilizes big data analytics, to refine complicated processes and manage supply chains. Big data analytics refers to a method for gathering and understanding large sets in terms of what are known as the three V’s – velocity, variety and volume. Velocity tells you the frequency of data acquisition which can be concurrent with the application of previous data. Variety describes the different types of data that may be handled. Volume represents the amount of data. Big data analytics allows an enterprise to use smart manufacturing to predict demand and the need for design changes rather than reacting to orders placed. Some products have embedded sensors which produce large amounts of data that can be used to understand consumer behavior and improve future versions of the products.
Advanced industrial robots now being employed in manufacturing, operate autonomously and can communicate directly with manufacturing systems. In some contexts, they can work with humans for co-assembly tasks. By evaluating sensory input and distinguishing between different product configurations, these machines are able to solve problems and make decisions independent of people. These robots are able to complete work beyond what they were initially programmed to do and have artificial intelligence that allows them to learn from experience. These machines have the flexibility to be reconfigured and re-purposed. This gives them the ability to respond rapidly to design changes and innovation, thus giving a competitive advantage over more traditional manufacturing processes. An area of concern surrounding advanced robotics is the safety and well-being of the humans who interact with robotic systems. Traditionally, measures have been taken to segregate robots from the human workforce, but advances in robotic cognitive ability have opened up opportunities such as cobots working collaboratively with people.
Cloud computing allows large amounts of data storage or computational power to be rapidly applied to manufacturing, and allow a large amount of data on machine performance and output quality to be collected. This can improve machine configuration, predictive maintenance and fault analysis. Better predictions can facilitate better strategies for ordering raw materials or scheduling production runs.
3D printing or additive manufacturing is well-known as a rapid prototyping technology. While it was invented some 35 years back, its industrial adoption has been rather sluggish. The technology has undergone a sea change in the past 10 years and is ready to deliver the industry expectations. The technology is not a direct replacement for the conventional manufacturing. It can play a special complementary role and provide the much needed agility.
3D printing allows to prototype more successfully, and companies are saving time and money as significant volumes of parts can be produced in a short period. There is great potential for 3D printing to revolutionize supply chains, and hence more and more companies are using it. Industries where digital manufacturing with 3D printing is conspicuous are automotive, industrial and medical. In the auto industry, 3D printing is used not only for prototyping but also for the full production of final parts and products.
The main challenge that 3D printing is facing is the change of people’s mindset. Moreover, some workers will need to re-learn a set of new skills to manage 3D printing technology.
Efficiency optimization is a huge focus for adopters of smart systems. This is achieved through data research and intelligent learning automation. For instance, operators can be given personal access to cards with inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which can connect to the machines and a cloud platform to determine which operator is working on which machine in real time. An intelligent, interconnected smart system can be established to set a performance target, determine if the target is achievable, and identify inefficiencies through failed or delayed performance targets. In general, automation may alleviate inefficiencies due to human error.
Industry 4.0 is being widely adopted in the manufacturing sector. The goal is the intelligent factory that is characterized by adaptability, resource efficiency, and ergonomics, as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes. Its technological foundation consists of cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things. Intelligent Manufacturing makes great use of:
Wireless connections, both during product assembly and long-distance interactions with them;
Latest generation sensors, distributed along the supply chain and the same products (IoT)
Elaboration of a great amount of data to control all phases of construction, distribution and usage of a product.
The recently held IMTEX FORMING ‘22 showcased contemporary technologies and innovations related to various facets of manufacturing. Laser emerged as a major manufacturing process not only in the sheet metal industry but also in gems & jewellery, medical equipment, RF & microwave, renewable energy as well as defence and aerospace industries. According to Maulik Patel, Executive Director, SLTL Group, the future of the industry is IoT-enabled machines, industry 4.0 and application digitalization. These intelligent systems are created with high contrast outcomes in mind as well as empowering manpower to ensure error-free operation and enhanced productivity.
Arm Welders displayed their new generation robotic welding automaton machines that need minimum human intervention, thus reducing the cost of production. The company’s products are manufactured as per latest industry 4.0 standards which is being implemented for resistance welding machines for the first time in India, says Brijesh Khanderia, CEO.
SNic Solutions delivers digital transformation software solutions built for specific needs of the manufacturing sector. Rayhan Khan, VP-Sales (APAC) informs that his company is aiming to help manufacturers to maximize the value of their products and processes by providing end-to-end visibility and control of their production processes.
IMTMA organized a live demo on Industry 4.0 as part of IMTEX FORMING at its Technology Centre which enabled visitors to gain insights into how a model smart factory works, and to help them embrace digital transformation to maximize their real business value. The Association observed that companies are making swift moves towards industry 4.0.
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