The technical innovations behind modern manufacturing

If countries in the developed world are to continue to remain competitive and maintain their pre-eminent position over fast developing nations such as India and China, then it is essential that their manufacturing industries continue to invest heavily in research and development. Over the coming decades, the key to the sector’s success will be technical innovation, supported by a world-class educational system that provides a consistent stream of young, highly skilled scientists and entrepreneurs.

As the world emerges from recession, there is a huge opportunity for US companies that have continued to innovate and develop new technologies to reap the benefits in terms of increased global sales and market penetration.

You should be aware that advanced manufacturing is not just about inventing and bringing into production new high-tech products, but that the efficiency of existing systems can also be improved by installing advanced components. Aero engines, for example, can be made more fuel-efficient by manufacturing their fan blades from carbon composite materials. Similarly, by upgrading blade match mixers with profile helical reversed (PHR) blades, products with low dilution coefficients can be mixed more uniformly, thus achieving excellent results in a shorter period using either an existing piece of equipment or a more advanced Reactor-Disperser.

The most recent and potentially revolutionary advances in manufacturing have to be in the fields of nanotechnology, 3D printing and the digitization of processes and equipment. Advanced manufacturing involves the integration and co-ordination of all the various manufacturing processes required to produce new, cheaper and more efficient products. The term advanced manufacturing covers innovative software systems, the automation of production lines and the integration of information across an entire company. It makes as much use as possible of emerging technology developed by scientists working in the fields of biology and chemistry.

As you may have guessed, it is inevitable that advanced manufacturing will result in a reduction in the sector’s reliance on human labor. Robots work 24/7, 52 weeks of the year and don’t take vacations, key elements of cutting costs that are allowing companies to keep their manufacturing plants within the US.

New biological manufacturing techniques are being developed to produce compounds and materials using less energy than ever. In this context, ‘biological’ refers to systems that mimic natural processes. For example by adopting the concept in a simulation of an automotive production line, energy costs were reduced by a stunning 90%. In financial terms, a traditional production line that previously cost $35m to operate would see its costs cut to just $4m by adopting a non-production line system that relied on robots in the car body assembly unit.

There is wide agreement that if the US is to continue to prosper over the coming decades, it must invest now to ensure its manufacturing sector prospers and continues to make a significant contribution to the country’s economy. A recent survey reported that 85% of respondents believed that manufacturing was important to maintaining living standards, while 77% took the view that it should be considered an essential part of maintaining national security. Regardless, continuing to innovate in the manufacturing industry is now more important than ever.

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