Intelligent factories have existed since manufacturing’s historical inception, but intelligence—defined as the acquisition and application of manufacturing knowledge—resided only with the factory’s staff.
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I’ve had quite a month, again, covering clever software and gadgets that continue to inch their way into performing tasks once reserved for humans. These tasks range from mundane material handling to highly skilled engineering design. It has made me think quite a bit about how our world of manufacturing and engineering will be affected by all this artificial cleverness.
It’s not often you get the opportunity to witness rapid, life-impacting change, but for those of us who have been in the 3D printing industry over the last few decades, we have witnessed just that. In the last 20-plus years, 3D printing has changed the definition of manufacturing from merely “one-size-fits-all” to “customized” production and from “high-volume” to “high-complexity/low-volume”—a startling paradigm shift that has enabled many new applications for the manufacturing industry.
Contract manufacturers, aka job shops, are the heart and soul of US manufacturing. Their survival and success are imperative.