Technology is changing the face of manufacturing. New inventions and innovations are allowing us to increase productivity or refine products. Here are five of the most important technologies that have come down the road in the past decade. Several have already had a major impact on industrial development, while others are still in the early states of innovation and new product development.
Both hobbyists and professionals love additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing, also called 3-D technology, is probably the best-known new technology these days. It refers to the three-dimensional capability of printers. This technology has caught the imagination of the public—probably because it is available to the hobbyist as well as professionals. 3-D technology has already revolutionized the creation of prototypes, which in the past had to be manufactured painstakingly in plastic or metal. Now printers can print over 1,000 materials, including hard and flexible plastic, ceramics and metals. The potential for speeding up the innovation process is tremendous.
New technologies made your handy GPS possible
The terms process control, measurement, and sensing may sound abstract. But they are behind a number of new devices many people are already using in the U.S. For instance, everyone knows what a GPS direction device for cars is these days, whether or not they have one, and many homes today have sensors that monitor humidity. These advances are all the result of new technologies involving process control, measurement, and sensing. But these advances are also being used behind the scenes to improve manufacturing techniques and make them more flexible and efficient. Sensors help guide machines and also provide information to managers to run the factory as a whole. “Just-in-time” manufacturing benefits from this technology, since products can be tracked from inception to the point of delivery.
Nanomanufacturing has the power to transform entire industries
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanomanufacturing is a concept that has been talked about for decades, but now it is becoming a reality. Non Manufacturing allows companies to manipulate materials on an atomic and molecular scale. In the future, this technology is expected to transform fields such as solar cells, batteries and even medical devices, since a sensor could be placed in a person’s body relaying valuable health information.
Sustainable manufacturing is seeping onto the production floor
Sustainable manufacturing is being taken seriously by many companies. Most often, it is referred to as energy-efficient manufacturing. One example of this is “lights out” factories that can operate around the clock and even in the dark. This is possible because many aspects of the manufacturing process are now operated by robots and other machines. Another example is the use of solar energy to reduce electricity consumption. One New Jersey company that installed a solar energy array has been able to manufacture the company’s entire product line from this sustainable source. If energy consumption exceeds what is produced by the solar installation, the company can supplement by drawing energy from the grid.
New materials can result in the development of new machines
Companies know that new machines are frequently the result of the creation of new materials. But sometimes there is a decades long time lag between creation or identification of that new material and its commercialization. Today the process is being sped up by two forces. First, scientists can break materials down into an atomic or molecular level virtually without laboratory procedures. Secondly, they can share ideas and innovations more quickly over the web. These two forces are shortcutting the innovation process.
These are only a few of the new technologies that are helping manufacturers become more competitive—in New Jersey as well as other states!