Revolution is in the air. Smart factories of the future will need to be innovative, nimble and smart; constantly changing and improving on the back of intelligent use of data. Professor Robert Harrison explains the challenges and opportunities for forward-thinking manufacturers.
"If you haven’t heard of smart factories yet, you’ve probably heard of Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. Smart factories are the next big predicted change to affect manufacturing, causing a new revolution in industry.
By integrating technology and information in real time, traditional factories will turn from cost centres into profitable innovation centres. Cyber-physical systems (CPS) will monitor the physical processes within modular structured factories, and a virtual copy of the physical world will be mined for data in real time, enabling decentralised decisions.
These new systems could, for example, identify run-time optimisation by feeding back information related to product, process and production resources, or identify best engineering re-use. We will be able to be ‘smart’ in our manufacturing choices, from product design and evaluation, right through to manufacturing, the supply chain and service provision....."
Driverless cars promise safer roads, less congestion, more free time for drivers, and independence for those currently unable to drive – but what will the reality actually look like? Dr Stewart Birrell reports.
The opportunities for OEMs, suppliers and small businesses afforded by the new technologies are huge. New technologies may also mean new business models and new start-ups. A survey by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) has predicted this would lead to an industry worth in the region of £51bn a year, and the creation of 320,000 new jobs in the UK.
"With the expected economic and social benefits so high, and the rapid progress being made in the technology, connected and autonomous vehicles are coming to market whether the majority of real car drivers actually want it or not.
"However, where developments are being driven by a technology push rather than a consumer pull, there is a real risk that testing and validation of the robustness and trustworthiness of automated systems will lag behind.
"At the same time, if consumer needs and response behaviours regarding the technology are not properly considered, it will be that much harder to create products that the public will trust and use."
Customer concerns and the direction of legislation, coupled with the latest engineering research, mean that smart manufacturers will seize the exciting opportunities offered by renewable materials and techniques. Professor Kerry Kirwan explains.
"The uptake and use of renewable materials is still often hampered by misconceptions and misunderstanding about what they can actually do, or be used for.
For the foreseeable future, use of renewables and recycled/ recovered materials will likely be comparatively niche, but in some instances they offer unique properties that can be cleverly exploited with the right research and approach.
For example, synthetic biology and microbiology are providing exciting new routes to releasing or recovering high-value materials from natural sources and waste streams."
The trials and tribulations of humanity’s compulsion to fly has propelled the advancement of science, engineering and manufacturing. Dr David Bott explains.
"Leaving the ground is difficult. From the first ideas of da Vinci (1485), through the hot air balloons of the Mongolfier brothers in 1793, the hydrogen balloon that flew a few months later; the Wright brothers’ aeroplane in 1903 and Gagarin’s flight into space (1961), the quest to do so has required the most creative designs, the best use of materials, the best engineering and the most advanced integrated systems available at the time.
The individual technologies developed to enable man to fly were always expensive at first, but were often developed, and “value engineered”, to be used in other areas.
What is interesting to see is that the pursuit of flying often required strong feedback between the needs of the market and the currently available science. Things rarely worked the first time out, but there was transparent communication between need and capability, and progress was made towards success."
A crisis is developing in the IOT-world of customer data as governments, companies and individuals wrestle over who should own it. Professor Irene Ng says a new methodology is emerging that will resolve the issue to everyone’s benefit.
"Increasing amounts of data will flow through us and just about every device we touch – communication devices, vehicles, smart buildings, hospitals, even our fridges – data that firms can harvest in real-time as the IoT gradually turns into the Internet of Everything.
This means that a great many disparate companies are gaining access to personal data about the way we live.
There are two ways of look at this: companies are better able to understand their customers and therefore can create more relevant offerings, which is a positive outcome. Equally, it can be seen as negative, with individuals becoming increasingly concerned about the security and confidentiality of their own data."