Decades of innovation have led to the industrial revolution, or industry 4.0. The heart of it all? 3D printing. From aerospace to automotive, healthcare to fashion, manufacturing will never be the same due to 3D printing technology.
The next phase is underway — further shaping custom manufacturing capabilities — due to a few reasons according to Forbes.
Direct-metal 3D printing is faster than ever, and more capable, with the number of metal alloys that can be 3D printed on the rise. It allows for high-performance, lightweight and complex designs that would otherwise be impossible in the manufacturing process.
This allows for complex and highly detailed products critical for aerospace, automotive and mechatronic industries at a fraction of the cost. GE is a major player in the direct-metal printing field, with predictions for its metal business to surpass $1 billion in annual revenue within a few years.
Selective laster sintering (SLS) is the ability to produce parts from a variety of nylon materials. An example of use is the F-18 fighter jet, which has been using SLS parts for air ducts, electronic covers and other components for decades.
However, recent advancements on technology that speeds up production of SLS parts will help bring it into the mainstream rather than confining it to hyper-specific applications for military, defense and aerospace applications.
Using these advancements with computing power in the cloud, IoT connectivity, big data and next-gen robotics, Industry 4.0 is fully utilized as an adaptive, self-optimizing factory fueled by additive manufacturing.
Gartner expects growth in photopolymer 3D printing systems over the next couple years to be about 75%. Industries like health care and personalized medical devices are using 3D printing to create hearing aids, dental fixtures, hip replacements, medical implants and surgical tools. Another trend is implementing 3D printers in schools and public libraries, teaching children to use the hardware and design software.
Once considered a novelty, 3D printing is turning into a tech giant, with its influence growing into nearly every industry.
Countless tech and auto giants are getting in on autonomous vehicle research, with a new startup popping up every week dedicated to self-driving cars.
3M is joining the efforts — but on the smart city infrastructure side of it.
The company is creating a solution to make it easier for self-driving cars to see, instead of forcing autonomous cars to adapt to the current crumbling, patchwork roads in place.
Past attempts at connected smart roads have failed due to ideas of forcing municipalities to spend large sums of money on retrofitting roads with complicated tech like sensors, making it impractical.
3M’s Connected Roads project instead takes technology and materials that aren’t that different from current infrastructure, making them more cost effective, and use them to talk to autonomous cars, according to CNet’s auto and tech industry news publication Roadshow.
This is done through retooling lane markings and changing road signs, benefiting both autonomous vehicles and human drivers, allowing each to more quickly and easily identify and process information.
The new lane markings will be machine-readable, while adding the ability to reflect outside the visible spectrum, making it easier to see in inclement weather. 3M scientists are also developing these lane-markings to be more durable than what is currently available, reducing future costs.
The road signs will also be more reflective, specifically-designed with 3M smart codes, allowing self-driving cars to regularly update information on the road.
3M struck a deal with the Michigan Department of Transportation in May 2017 to adopt the first pilot program for the project — helping test the efficacy of these new road markings and signs along I-75 in Oakland County.
Michigan is the perfect case study due to its severe winter weather, which has been a challenge for self-driving cars.
Interested in getting on board with smart city intelligent infrastructure? Learn about what our team has done to unlock new levels of connectivity within schools, banks and more — bringing infrastructure into the information age.
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2017 was the year of U.S. manufacturing. The industry had its best year since 2011, with signs showing 2018 will continue the momentum according to Industry Week.
Trade is likely to continue to increase, with stronger global growth expectations and a weaker dollar helping manufacturing goods represent nearly half of all U.S. exports.
There are three positive signs for the manufacturing outlook in the domestic economy:
U.S. inventory is too low
Inventories have been trailing the growth in domestic demand. The economy has been expanding at 2.2% since the end of the recession, with inventories below the necessary level in 2017. To remedy, factories are likely to go into overdrive to boost inventories in coming quarters.
Recovery in business investment
The recovery in business investment should help lift the factory sector. One-tenth of total industrial production is business equipment. When labor markets are tight, companies seek alternative ways to meet demand. Business fixed investment is stronger when unemployment rate is low, which it is today. Stronger stock prices help ease lending standards on commercial and industrial loans, leading investment spending.
Housing market on the mend
Construction supplies and appliances represent 5% of industrial production. Housing demand is on the upswing, continuing to outrun supply and builder sentiment is elevated. Construction activity will continue to strengthen in 2018 — providing a tailwind for manufacturing.
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