The Emerging Technologies Manufacturers Need To Know About

Discover the cutting-edge technologies that are reshaping the industry. Stay ahead of the curve with insights on 5 emerging technologies that manufacturers need to know about.
07.06.23 Charles Griffiths

91% of manufacturers have increased digital transformation investments following the pandemic.

Technology has transformed manufacturing, enabling better quality control and faster production while increasing worker safety through automation and reducing human error. Innovations like AI have facilitated data-driven decision-making, optimised supply chain management and improved sustainability by minimising waste and energy consumption.

As in any industry, there’s always room to improve. Manufacturers keep an eye out for the next innovation that could help them gain a competitive edge and revolutionise their production line.

These are some of the emerging technologies that will shape the future of manufacturing:

3D Printing

3D printing has revolutionised production in industries ranging from aerospace to construction. The technology allows businesses to create products on demand, saving teams time and money as they don’t need to plan production runs well in advance.

As climate change and industries’ impact on the environment becomes more mainstream, 3D printing promotes sustainability. Traditional manufacturing methods produce waste as materials are cut to shape, emissions are produced and excess inventory often accumulates.

In contrast, 3D printing minimises waste by only depositing the materials needed to make a product. It’s so efficient that it can reduce energy use by 25% and cut waste and material costs by up to 90%.

3D printing is also known as ‘additive manufacturing’. The technology is becoming more popular across the world, with the global market size estimated to grow from $17.38 billion in 2022 to $98.31 billion by 2032.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things refers to any internet-connected device that can ‘talk’ to other devices on a network. IoT devices range from smartwatches to toasters to digital control systems.

The IoT has significant implications for safety and efficiency in manufacturing. IoT devices enable machines, sensors, and other devices to communicate and share information. Workers can check on equipment health and monitor production processes, ensuring that the machines are working properly and product quality is maintained.

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

CEOs believe AI is the top disruptive technology impacting industries. Models are becoming increasingly powerful, with each new generation bringing new capabilities to workforces.

AI and machine learning technologies are increasingly used in manufacturing to optimise operations, enhance product quality, and automate tasks.

One of the main benefits of machine learning is its ability to analyse large amounts of data quickly. Where traditionally humans would need to interpret data sets to determine everything from efficiency improvements to maintenance schedules to market trends, machine learning offers faster, more accurate options for manufacturers.

Machine learning algorithms can be tailored to carry out tasks across the factory floor and back office. For instance, Google used its DeepMind AI research company to cut its cooling system energy use in data centres by 40%.

DeepMind collected 5 years of data to create a prediction model which could identify how much energy is needed for a data centre based on the likely amount of server usage.

The opportunities Google identified with its machine learning algorithm can be applied to manufacturers. On the factory floor, AI systems can analyse equipment to create tailored maintenance schedules. In the back office, much like Google’s DeepMind, AI can automate cooling system usage for servers to cut energy costs.

Robotics and Automation

Around 2.3 million people globally suffer accidents at work every year. In the UK, 22 people working in manufacturing were killed in 2022.

Health and safety standards have improved to better protect workers, but until recently industries like manufacturing still required high levels of potentially dangerous manual labour.

However, rapid advancements in software capabilities mean manufacturers can now automate dangerous and repetitive tasks to increase productivity, reduce costs and improve workplace safety.

Unlike humans, robots don’t tire. For tasks that don’t require much thought, such as moving parts from one line to another, it’s therefore more efficient to use robots. Human workers can then focus on more productive tasks.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

While the Metaverse is dominating AR and VR conversations, these technologies have huge potential in the manufacturing world.

AR overlays digital information in real-world environments, while VR creates immersive virtual environments. By enabling manufacturers to build and test products in virtual environments, AR and VR help streamline design processes, enhance training effectiveness, and enable more effective remote collaboration.

In particular, AR helps with complex projects. Airbus partnered with Microsoft to unlock faster design and production times for its aircraft. By using Azure mixed reality and HoloLens 2, Airbus expects to reduce design validation time by 80% and accelerate completion times for complex tasks by 30%.

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