With the advent of new technologies, manufacturing will be transitioning in ways that not even science fiction could foresee. Some trends to note…
1. New techniques such as 3D printing will eliminate the need for many products now produced in factories or transform how they are produced to stay competitive. New materials using nanotechnology are being developed.
2. Artificial intelligence will replace most factory workers, and we may even end up with factories where the only worker is one person managing the robots if “that” is even necessary.
3. Despite the “hanging on” of old thinking and still prevailing use of carbon-based energy, the trend is inevitable to greener sources, perhaps mainly ever-improving solar energy and all that it implies. Solar energy will continue to get lower in cost and more efficient using nanotechnology in producing energy and storage. It is possible, if not probable, that energy will only get “cheaper” in the long run. Even oil is now “cheap.” Fusion is feasible in 10 to 20 years, providing unlimited energy.
4. For factories where there are still people, even in all robot factories where people will occasionally enter for maintenance on the machines (maybe….), the factory environment will have to be more friendly. So the factory environment will have to be clean, safe, and quiet.
5. Energy-intensive but “safe” energy use methodologies will grow, such as compressed air, which is safe, easy to store, used on demand, and where compressed air operated products are sturdy, simple in design, relatively low or maintenance free, and long-lasting. Pneumatic-based production may become more prevalent in these robot factories. Compressed air used for cooling will be cost-effective as no carbon footprint, while energy-saving, sound-reducing blow products will make for a quiet operation with no maintenance.
While disruptive, a very different but exciting world awaits us all.