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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Researchers at Purdue U. and USC have developed automated machine learning technology to help improve additive manufacturing by ensuring that parts fit more precisely, and assembly needs less testing and time.
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3D-printing could be 100 times faster using light (Additive Manufacturing - 2019-01 - Technology.org)
University of Michigan researchers created a new approach to 3D-printing that lifts complex shapes from a vat of liquid at <100 times faster than current processes, using 2 lights to control where the resin hardens—and where it stays fluid. This enables the resin to be solidified in more sophisticated patterns.
New high-speed laser 3D-printing method creates objects in one pass (Additive Manufacturing - 2019-01 - Technology.org)
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC, Berkeley have developed a new high-speed 3D-printing method (Computed Axial Lithography) which uses projected photons to illuminate the syrup-like resin, creating a continuously shifting video of projections as the vial rotates. Most builds take several minutes to complete, many times faster than existing polymer 3D-printing techniques.