Innovate UK discusses the future of manufacturing, and how technologies including 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT) will play a part in product design and production engineering.
What will manufacturing be like in 20, or even 50 years’ time? Experts predict a total paradigm shift in how we manufacture products. New technology in 3D printing and the Internet of Things will change our production and consumption habits.
This will allow consumers to receive customised products as and when they need them. Manufacturing will be done in an eco-friendly way and become commonplace in our everyday lives.
These predictions have been made by Innovate UK. They fund projects that work towards preventing climate change both nationally and internationally as part of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy.
So, how will the future of manufacturing be realised?
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing has been steadily advancing in recent years. It takes a digital blueprint of a product and makes it three dimensional. Products are printed in layers to achieve the final physical item. The technology is continuously developing, and it can now print out metal products.
What does this mean for the future of manufacturing?
3D printers will soon be a part of our every day lives. Businesses and consumers will be able to access printers to produce goods on demand.
The Internet of Things
Technology from the Internet of Things (IoT) will transfer data between manufacturers and products according to consumer demands. IoT will keep track of products throughout their production and their delivery.
Once a product is no longer in use, the materials can be tracked to ensure they are being recycled. To further reduce waste, IoT data will communicate with manufacturers about consumer demand. This will eliminate the need to mass produce unwanted products.
IoT technology is changing the way products are delivered. Self-driving cars can be used to efficiently and deliver packages in a cost-effective way. Consumers will then easily be able to access any updates on their product. This is only one way IoT technology will impact our lives in the future.
What does this mean for manufacturers?
In the upcoming decades, factories as we know them will change. Products will be manufactured onsite and in locations that we previously would not have imagined. 3D printers will be in hospitals and pharmacies, local businesses and even in the home.
We will still have large factories to produce complex products, but they will be more efficient and self-sustaining. Any waste from one process can be used in another process. Warehouses will only be necessary for storing large inventories and for international trade.
By manufacturing things locally, we will lower carbon emissions and we will receive things almost instantaneously.
This won’t relieve the need for humans. Workers will be working alongside autonomous robots who will do the more dangerous or repetitive jobs. Humans can instead focus on the more innovative jobs such as design and engineering.
What does this mean for consumers?
Consumers will be able to receive customised items within a couple of hours of ordering them. If you see something you would like to purchase but need it in a different size or colour, it can be made right in front of you. These bespoke items would be produced at no extra cost.
According to Dr Zoë Webster, director of AI Design and Data Economy for Innovate UK, even medication can be tailored to your genetic makeup. If a patient’s prescription finishes, a chemist will be able to make it for them immediately. This will help to radically improve the future of healthcare.
People will be more empowered in their consumption choices. They will know where their products have been made and how they have been made, which will create a personalised experience.
This technology will allow for better customer service and customer relationship management. Businesses will focus on valuable human interactions rather than on manufacturing physical products.
As part of the government’s Clean Growth initiative, Innovate UK works towards making the UK more sustainable. A sector of the government’s Research and Innovation branch, Innovate UK funds projects that will further the economic, social and environmental status of the UK.
Innovate makes predictions about the future of UK sectors based on changes in technologies and research.
This article first appeared on Production Engineering Solutions