When it comes to manufacturing, the goal posts are always changing, with new technologies and innovations opening up faster, smarter and more efficient production capabilities.
From industrial automation to predictive maintenance, here’s our top picks of the manufacturing innovations set to shake up the industry in the coming year.
9 manufacturing trends to look out for in 2023
1. Sustainable manufacturing
With a global fight against climate change underway and many countries, including Singapore, Germany and the UK, committing to being carbon neutral by mid-century, sustainable manufacturing is a hot topic right now.
It refers to manufacturing that produces products through economically-sound processes that minimise negative environmental impacts, including saving energy, lowering emissions, and reducing water use and waste.
Sustainable manufacturing considers every aspect of the manufacturing process; from buildings, machinery and tools to the materials used, but also the human aspect through employee welfare and behaviour.
For any new product coming to market, considering its environmental impact and long-term sustainability is crucial.
2. Industrial automation
Manufacturing that relies more on machines and less on people power is also set to increase in 2023. This could see a greater number of industries adopting autonomous systems such as robotics and computer programming to complete part or all of the manufacturing lifecycle.
Industrial automation of this nature offers many benefits, not least in terms of productivity and efficiency. A manufacturing plant that is fully autonomous can run for 24-hours a day non-stop, significantly improving output and order fulfilment.
In addition, industrial automation offers a lower margin for error and higher quality control, while decreasing the need for manual labour, giving manufacturing businesses the ability to reduce costs but accelerate production.
3. 3D scanning
3D scanning allows you to create an accurate digital representation of a real-life object by capturing and recording various data points. This data is then used to communicate back information about the object’s proportions and dimensions so it can be digitally reconstructed.
Types of 3D scanning include laser scanning, photogrammetry, and structured light scanning. Which method you use depends entirely on the reasoning for your scan and the context in which it will be applied.
The technology is already in use as a fast and efficient means of generating a blueprint from which a 3D printed model can be made and has been proving its worth in industries including dentistry, medicine, policing and security, as well as construction.
4. Additive manufacturing
3D printing, like that which we utilise in our product development process here at Mdesign, is a perfect example of additive manufacturing.
Using this manufacturing method, physical objects are generated by building up layers of material on top of one another, as opposed to traditional manufacturing methods which follows a process of extracting material using a technique such as machining.
In additive manufacturing, a CAD or 3D scan acts as a blueprint for the 3D printer, communicating exactly where each layer of material should start and finish. It’s a much speedier, more cost efficient, and environmentally friendly manufacturing approach that’s perfect for small batch production runs.
5. Low volume injection moulding
Eager to get products to market as fast as possible, manufacturers are increasingly looking at ways of speeding up the development process to satisfy consumer and business demand.
Low volume injection moulding offers one such solution. Manufacturing using this method, allows for small batches of high-quality custom parts to be produced cost-effectively, at thresholds not attainable using traditional manufacturing methods.
The process integrates cloud-based technologies, also enabling customers a greater insight into the progress of their order in real time during the manufacturing lifecycle. It also bypasses the need for steel moulds in favour of softer aluminium tooling, which offers a better heat transfer rate, while saving on costs and creating high-quality, functional, components in shorter lead times.
6. AI / VR / AR
Standing for Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality respectively, these technologies use a hybrid of audio-visual and digital elements to create a pseudo reality.
Already in use in the form of intuitive chatbots and immersive video gaming experiences, the technologies are being harnessed by the manufacturing sector to offer competitive insights and foster more fluid working relationships between machines and humans.
The potential of these technologies for the manufacturing sector is exponential, particularly when it comes to on-boarding and up-skilling employees. As such AI, VR, and AR integration is tipped to be a growing innovation within the industry, the adoption of which could begin to take hold in 2023.
7. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) opens up the opportunity for traditional manufacturing environments to transcend into smarter workspaces.
Governing the digitisation of production processes and assembly lines, IoT offers manufacturers a means by which to adopt intelligent automation and insights tools that have the power to boost productivity, maximise efficiency, and increase safety.
Predicted to uplift and invigorate the manufacturing sector, Internet of Things based technologies offer the capability to monitor the health of essential machinery to prevent unplanned downtime, keep track of inventory (and automatically restock as required), and address quality issues.
8. Predictive maintenance
Closely related to IoT is predictive maintenance. By having the ability to diagnose a machine’s performance status in real time, predictive maintenance technology can play a pivotal role in keeping production lines moving and avoiding costly breakdowns.
Rather than reactive maintenance, which kicks in when there’s a problem, or planned maintenance which simply follows a schedule, predictive maintenance aims to prevent issues before they even happen.
Examples of predictive maintenance include vibration analysis, sonic acoustical analysis, and infrared analysis. By continually monitoring each machine in your manufacturing workflow, predictive maintenance technologies are able to alert you to imminent dangers that threaten to take your machinery offline, or irregular behaviours that indicate an issue that needs intervention.
Another growing manufacturer trend predicted to gain momentum in 2023 is reshoring. In laymen’s terms, reshoring refers to the process of reversing outsourced manufacturing. Or, to put it another way, bringing manufacturing back to a business’ domestic home country, or the country in which its products are sold.
It’s a movement that first began to take hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as innovation improves and companies seek to minimise their carbon footprint by reducing shipping and transportation journeys, reshoring in manufacturing is anticipated to gain in momentum.
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