While labour-saving automation of manufacturing processes started in the 18th century, it was in 1959 that computer numerical control (CNC) technology was introduced to program machine tools. (In 1970, Nick programmed a drill press using APT, a special-purpose computer language developed at MIT.) The first industrial robot, patented by George Devoi in 1954, was installed by General Motors in 1962. Now there are over 1 million robots installed world-wide, used for such applications as welding, painting, assembly, pick and place for printed circuit boards, packaging and labeling, palletizing, product inspection, and testing – and manufacturing industrial robots.
The most disruptive technology that will decimate jobs in the manufacturing industry is additive manufacturing (often referred to as 3D-printing). This is the technology that builds 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material (which may be plastic, metal, concrete, or human tissue), under the control of 3D modeling software. The technology was invented in Japan in 1981. Besides learning to work with different materials and layering techniques, current research includes varying the location of the x-y axis to change the physical properties of the product, and introducing a 4th dimension – time – in which a 3D-printer can be used to manufacture a 3D object that, when later heated or cooled to a specific temperature, will transform into a different 3D shape.
The initial use of 3D-printing was rapid prototyping (eliminating the need for molds), which significantly reduced and improved the quality of new product design. Now almost any shape or product can be manufactured, including such diverse products as guns, the exterior of houses, and human organs.
Studies have indicated that each industrial robot replaces over 6 shopfloor workers (and that does not include the reduction in supervision and support services) – and that over 8 million workers would have been required in the US if robots were not used. As the functionality of robots continues to expand, there will be manufacturing plants without human workers!
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3D-printing is moving from instant prototyping to full-scale production in healthcare, aerospace and other industries (Additive Manufacturing – 2018-01 – ZDNet)
How Blockchain is being used in supply management (Blockchain/Supply Management – 2017-11 – TechRepublic)