The opinions of Contributors.

Smart factories just got a whole lot smarter, and it’s about time...

As Industry 4.0 drives the adoption of cutting-edge machines, robots and sensors in manufacturing, network technologies that facilitate their communications to create an interconnected smart factory become even more crucial. Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) offers a key tool to futureproof industrial Ethernet for the Factories of the Future.

Three emerging technologies to transform manufacturing in 2019

A new report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed the top ten emerging technologies that have the potential to positively disrupt our economy in 2019. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at automation parts supplier EU Automation, discusses the three of them that are most likely to impact the manufacturing sector.

Gripper tech: challenges and opportunities

UC Berkeley has developed a machine learning algorithm that enables a robot to determine which gripper is best to use for a particular object. The ambidextrous robot is therefore able to pick up objects of different shapes and sizes. Recent technological advances mean that robots can now perform many of the tasks we traditionally associate with the human hand. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager at automation parts supplier EU Automation, outlines the considerations for design engineers when developing gripper technology.

Make an impact in the real world with Digital Twins

Models so accurate they’re a digital twin of the product you’re creating can help you throughout the design and development process. 1D models can help you determine the best architecture for your multi-physics system, 3D models can help you design into the details, and testing can help you improve modelling realism. Combining all the three technologies gives you the highest possible accuracy while making design decisions.

The importance of growing the manufacturing workforce

An issue that has been concerning professionals in the manufacturing industry is the lack of a skilled workforce. While Brexit will end free movement, meaning fewer skilled EU workers will move to the UK, the truth is that a skills shortage already existed before 2016. Employers are in dire need of skilled manufacturers and engineers to combat the current gap, which continues to worsen as older employees retire and not enough properly trained young people enter the industry.

Why we should be happy to embrace edge computing

The benefits of taking the large amount of repetitive data created by machines and automated systems and processing it locally are huge. Edge computing takes the pressure off existing networks, data storage, potentially costly cloud services and software applications. Data is turned into useful information closer to its point of origin and more importantly, in real time.

Focussing less on tech and more on impact is key to success in Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0. The industrial internet of things. Digitalisation. Smart manufacturing. The fourth industrial revolution. There are dozens of different names for the uptake in connected technologies and the convergence of IT and OT systems taking place in industry at the moment. One thing most people do agree on, however, is that it’s tech-driven. But should this really be the case? Here, George Walker, managing director of industrial automation expert Novotek UK and Ireland, makes the case for goal-driven digitalisation.

Are wearables the answer for an ageing population?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that by 2050, the worldwide population over 60 will have doubled to reach two billion people. With most age-related illnesses beginning at the age of 50, it’s clear that this will have an impact on the world’s medical services. Here, Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager of global battery manufacturer Accutronics, looks at how wearables could help medical services manage the long-term health conditions that an ageing population brings.

Are bearings really such a bad investment?

Explosive growth in the offshore wind sector and aggressive renewables targets in India are expected to drive a ten-year CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 12.2% in Asia Pacific. Here, Chris Johnson of bearing supplier SMB Bearings explains why, quite frankly, you should set no store in this information whatsoever.

Sensors enable more complex robot inspection measurements

Sensor technologies enable robot measurement tasks where there is a growing need for high precision measurements over wide surface areas and where there are requirements for increased flexibility, says Chris Jones, managing director of Micro-Epsilon UK.

Making smart products smarter

Two years ago, most companies were just beginning to grapple with issues like connectivity and thermal management for smart product designs. Now, no-one is asking, “Do we need smart functionality?” Instead, product development teams and executives alike are asking, “How do we design the most innovative smart products to win in the digital economy?”

Make way for effortless customisation

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, automotive manufacturing fell by 11% last summer. Among the reasons cited for this decrease was growing demand for customisation and an increase in car model changes. Lee Sullivan, regional sales manager of automotive software supplier COPA-DATA UK, explains how automotive manufacturers can embrace easy customisation by using automation software.

No magic wand

Recent high-profile events have proved sobering for those making the argument for increased automation as a safety measure. The most significant of these has been the case of Boeing’s 737 MAX, which has suffered two tragic and catastrophic crashes resulting in extensive loss of life and the grounding of the aircraft.

The role of energy harvesting sensors in the factory of the future

Despite being named among the world’s smartest animals, most ground squirrels spend around nine months of the year in hibernation. Perhaps this is evidence that rest and recuperation provide the energy needed to work efficiently. Here Sophie Hand, UK country manager for global automation parts supplier EU Automation, explores how energy harvesting sensors could improve manufacturing plant operations.

The growing need for lower-volume bespoke manufacturing

Welcoming 3,700 exhibitions from 63 countries, Bauma is the world’s leading trade fair for construction. No surprise then, that visitors witnessed a plethora of new technologies launched at the 2019 show. In this rapidly-changing market, Roger Brereton, head of sales at Pailton Engineering, explains why mid-level volume, bespoke manufacturing in the tier-two realm is increasingly important to allow for these innovations.

Is your supply chain compliant?

Hyundai and Kia had to recall 1.4 million cars globally in April 2017 because engines were prone to stalling and failure, increasing the likelihood of a fatal crash. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that your entire supply chain is ISO/TS 16949 compliant. Here, Chris Johnson, managing director of automotive bearing specialist SMB Bearings, explains why quality assurance is essential, even for the smallest of automotive components.

5G + edge: Further optimising the supply chain

Edge computing is making its way into the manufacturing industry, helping manufacturers gather and process data instantly and optimise their supply chain processes. While the move to edge computing might be top of mind for manufacturers now, looking ahead, the integration of 5G will take edge computing capabilities to previously unimaginable heights throughout multiple areas of the supply chain.

Four questions to ask before choosing a drivetrain for heavy industries

When it comes to performance and durability, not all power and motion transmission solutions are created equal. Harsh environmental conditions in certain markets, such as the metallurgical and marine sectors, can heavily damage the drivetrain. In these cases, exceptional performance, durability and reliability are essential.

More robots, more problems

Relax; count backwards from ten, the robot will see you now; these are hardly the reassuring words you need to hear while in the operating theatre. The surge in surgical robots is coming, but with more robots comes more problems. Harmonics and electromagnetic interference are just two factors that are detrimental to safe working environments when operating that need to be eradicated. Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, explains the need for a robust infrastructure when using these devices.

The changing face of design and research

The relationship between design and research is changing. From Bell Labs onward, in-house corporate research was once a major method for companies to invest in creating long-term value. But that approach is changing as more large companies increasingly rely on acquisition of venture-funded companies for innovation rather than in-house R&D. With a maturing start-up ecosystem, large companies with money to spend can let investors and founders take innovation risks first, rather than taking those risks themselves.

Time to start getting over Brexit?

Times are changing for the UK and its place in manufacturing, globally. Whilst the politicians still have yet to agree a set source and it is unclear what the exact nature and repercussions of Brexit will be, it’s clear that manufacturers and supply chains as a whole are starting to take urgent steps to mitigate risks. Whatever the deal (or no deal) it’s almost inconceivable that there’s not going to be any disruption in the coming months and years. So, what can we do about it?

The rise of quantum technologies will bring a huge impact on our lives

The rise of quantum technologies will bring a huge impact on all our lives. In the future we will have navigation systems that can operate when GPS satellites are hidden from view and cameras that are so sensitive they can see light scattered by objects round a corner. Plus, security: we’ll have new techniques to secure information in a world of ever evolving threats.