Much of the early hype building up additive manufacturing is centered around the ability to create scalable factories built for the future of global business. While some of these benefits may be true today, industry 4.0 and additive manufacturing, when combined, can help enable the creation of products that are first-to-market, fully customized, and dynamic. These possibilities have the ability to change manufacturing in profound ways. Our analysis of the resulting technology trends motivates a framework that captures the activities for additive manufacturing’s move into mass manufacturing. This is the first part in a series of blogs on the additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, perspective on industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 working group in Germany, a leader in the research, development and communication of smart manufacturing and innovation concepts has defined Industry 4.0 as a fourth industrial revolution that “will involve the technical integration of cyber-physical systems into manufacturing and logistics and the use of Internet-of-Things and [digital] services in industrial processes. This will have implications for the value creation, business models, downstream services and work organization.” This definition captures the broad areas of change taking place within supply chain systems and manufacturing industries across the world. And while exact meaning of Industry 4.0 is still evolving, there are key themes in all of the concepts that are important to understand. we’d like to share with you what we’ve learned thus far and what we at Stratasys Strategic Consulting think industry 4.0 means for additive manufacturing (AM).
Digitization and Cyber-Physical Factory Systems
What does the term cyber-physical mean as it’s referenced here? It basically boils down to a concept that looks at the advancement of modern manufacturing facilities and production processes, like lean manufacturing, quality assurance and CNC fabrication, and addresses the fact that most of the machines performing these processes still behave in reference to a bygone era of industrial production. Basically, instructions can be programmed into a machine and it will follow them, to the letter. Even if this means that the human who is programming the machine may make an error in that programming. This is where the ‘cyber’ in cyber-physical systems comes in. By inventing machines that automate processes that address human-centric error mitigation, such as fatigue, boredom, low-strength, missed accuracy, forgetfulness and illness, the business, and the factory floor staff, gains the ability to cope with the unexpected, catch mistakes and generally see the bigger picture. The falling cost and subsequent improvement in overall size and capability of sensors and programmable logic controllers have unlocked this capability along with a vast amount of data that can be captured and improved upon. Everything on the factory floor, from stocking and inventory levels, the temperature in the factory, or throughput per hour can now be tracked and analyzed.
We Have the Building Blocks Needed to Build Smart Factories
Industry 4.0 can be so much more than manufacturing. It represents a cultural shift in the way we do business, design, manufacture, and interact with each other as humans. Early industrial revolutions took humans and made them machines. Mass manufacturing and commerce forced us to do mindless repetitive jobs, a single assembly operation on a production line, or endless data entry.
Industry 4.0 concepts can give machines that little bit of intuition they lack, enabling machines to do mindless repetitive jobs but still have the programmed oversight to cope with the unexpected. Humans are now beginning to have the freedom to work the way humans work best, strategically and creatively. However a cultural shift will be required to encourage us to become even more flexible so we can handle the transition of economies of the future. Additionally, the software tools we use to carry out our work will need to evolve to support using these new jobs which will require us to use our skills in different ways. In the next post we will address the important role will played by the paradigm shift in human-technology and human-environment interaction brought about by Industry 4.0.