The word “innovation” is usually associated with the creation of a product or service. Sometimes it’s a twist on an existing category; for example, instead of hiring a personal chef to figure out your meals, businesses have formed that deliver all the ingredients for a meal to your doorstep, cutting out both food costs (only the amounts you need are sent) and labor costs (you do it yourself). Sometimes it something that feels as if it’s out of a science fiction novel, as when 3D printing arrived on the manufacturing scene.
Often, however, innovation is just that one small step forward that makes work a little easier, faster, or safer. Zippers instead of buttons and ballpoint pens instead of fountain pens fall into this category. We can no longer imagine when these things didn’t exist, but coats and writing certainly existed before them. On the manufacturing side, here are some topics that developed speed and presence this year:
Power and Energy Savings.
From new materials in semiconductors to enabling energy savings across many sectors — cars, power generation, data, and electronics — this subject offers opportunity for growth. Growth takes place at both ends of the spectrum: development of these essential tools and adoption of these new methodologies at the individual plant level.
Flexible Hybrid Electronics.
Smart products such as bandages that can make wounds heal faster by managing oxygen levels, and sensors that wrap around gas lines to detect leaks, are in the works in this field. New materials and print technology combine to form these products, which are lower cost, flexible, and lightweight. It’s a frontier that offers many opportunities for exploration and application.
Fabrics With Sense.
Similar to hybrid electronics is a field that combines fabric with energy sensors: clothes or linens that determine the ideal temperature and adapt to it. How can this be applied in an industrial setting? Fabric could be developed for uniforms, sanitary suits — even wallpaper — to keep energy costs down and productivity up.
Recent scientific developments have made it possible to produce carbon fiber out of an inexpensive base material, instead of a costly specialty fiber. This discovery, combined with a larger batching process, brings this unique material to a much lower cost per unit. The composite material can eventually replace much heavier materials used in the automotive and energy fields.
The NJMEP can help your business conceptualize or apply these new and developing tools. From smart manufacturing to cloud-based technologies, these components can affect your performance, value chain, and workforce. Your business can be at the forefront of development, as well, from development of ideas to refining concepts and delivering product.