The Benefits of Online Manufacturing Services

Engineering Magazine November 2019

The digitalisation brought about by Industry 4.0 and IoT technology is enabling factories to experience unparalleled efficiency by using intelligent automation procedures says Sam Al-Mukhtar.

Manufacturing is currently being shaken by the rapid, unstoppable onslaught of the fourth industrial revolution. The integrated, digital fabrication processes outlined by the Industry 4.0 initiative are universally connecting through the IoT (Internet of Things) improving industrial procedures beyond recognition.

Outstanding Efficiency

The digitalisation brought about by Industry 4.0 and IoT technology is enabling factories to experience unparalleled efficiency by using intelligent automation procedures. An original concept can be rapidly developed (prototyping with ondemand manufacturing services), tested, manufactured and delivered in an incredibly short timeframe. Data collection from sensors built into machinery is being used to gather information on all aspects of industrial techniques, enabling further enhancement of improved productivity. Streamlined initiatives regarding automated replenishment of raw materials and stock combined with detailed analytics are allowing industrial processes to become highly efficient. Being able to instantly discover where improvements can be made enables managers to organise the time and energy of employees to the best advantage, resulting in costeffective efficiency.

Integrated Technological Tracking

Products manufactured digitally benefit from the intelligent tracking offered by smart labels and sensors. These can be customised to a client’s individual requirements and installed during various production techniques. Intelligent tracking enables products to be reliably and accurately monitored while in storage or transportation. It also eliminates the likelihood of counterfeit goods being circulated. The introduction of sensor-driven smart packaging has benefits such as achieving ambient temperature control and complete traceability during delivery.

Increased Innovation and Investment

Factories that have already taken steps to become fully digitalised are realising the flexibility and efficiency to be gained. One of the greatest benefits is in the early stages of designing a new product. Sophisticated 3D CAD software allows designs to model products using VR technology. A product can be planned and developed simultaneously. Flaws in 3D CAD prototypes can be detected before the decision is taken to manufacture. 3D modelling has had an enormous impact on investment. Entrepreneurs can confidently develop innovative products without the costs and delays that have always been inherent in linear production processes. It enables designs with increased geometric complexity to be manufactured in a variety of metals or plastic.

Cost-Effective On-Demand Production

Switching to an on-demand digital manufacturing platform has positive economic benefits. Goods no longer need to be produced in high quantities followed by the expense of storing them in warehouses. Low-volume production runs can be cost-effectively manufactured whenever they are required. Advanced DFM analysis for injection moulding can be used for a range of components in various industries including aerospace, construction and automotive. These goods are typically required in short lead times with strict deadlines. Injection moulding is an ideal procedure for large orders but by using the flexibility of on-demand manufacturing platform GEOMIQ, components can be efficiently manufactured.

CNC (Computer Numerical Control)

CNC machining is one technology advancement that has become a vital means of rapid prototyping. What makes CNC machining so effective is the level of precision that can be achieved, features with tolerances as tight as ± 0.025 are feasible. Because parts are being manufactured by predefined controlled toolpaths paths (g-code), CNC practically eliminates human error, working overtime CNC machine work around the clock daily, weekends and holidays.

Sheet Metal

Components manufactured from sheet metal can be rapidly produced by using advanced CAD software and automated processes. Blanks from two-dimensional designs are first formed by computerised lasercutting techniques using either chemical etching or water jet sprays. 3D components are shaped using information from flat pattern drawings. Digitalisation enables the whole process to be conducted at speed from beginning to end, increasing productivity while reducing costs.

3D Printing

Direct 3D printing is suitable for a range of metals including stainless steel in a process that has a fast turnover with a reduced cost. Other techniques such as stereolithography (SLA) enables the rapid prototyping of complex designs. Selective laser sintering (SLS) is ideal for the rapid development and testing of prototypes and the manufacture of low-volume production runs from 1-10,000 units. Using on-demand manufacturing services, productivity is fast, efficient and reliable.

Shared Information & Technology

A major benefit of on-demand online services in the manufacture of a wide range of components is the opportunity for sharing knowledge. Flaws within a design can be accessed remotely by experienced staff. Instant problemsolving (DFM Feedback) saves time and money, enabling a project to progress with streamlined efficiency.

Progressive Development

As networks of digitalised machines and equipment interact with each other, the opportunity for progress and development is vast. Streamlined production techniques benefit from collaboration at every stage. A connected system is extremely responsive to its surroundings due to the gathering of highly detailed analysis. Such data is continuously processed, warning of potential difficulties and even providing solutions before they are encountered. With a network of shared knowledge throughout the industry, there is instant access to records concerning fabrication techniques. The result is an improved performance in every area of production. Digitalisation increases compatibility, quality control and compliance with regulations. The streamlining of production techniques throughout all areas of industry create a reassuring environment for customers and factory managers.

Developments in Connected Technologies

Development of Industry 4.0 and the IoT is relying on digitally transmitted instructions and improved production techniques. The speed at which innovative designs can be perfected by using three-dimensional imaging to highlight flaws is revolutionising the manufacture of components. Prototypes can be developed at cost-effective prices within a much shorter leadtimes than using previous processes. Investment in designing innovative products is being encouraged by a combination of reduced costs and the certainty of increased productivity. Digital manufacturing promises streamlined efficiency across a wide range of equipment, including futuristic CNC machines and techniques such as 3D printing. The reliability of intelligent tracking through smart labels adds to the efficiency of digitalisation. The reduced costs involved in developing products through advanced digital manufacturing are proving to have many benefits. The cost of initial investment is balanced against futuristic techniques in creating flawless designs and products that are of superb quality. The sudden impact of the fourth industrial revolution is already transforming the factories that have been eager to implement its exciting capabilities. Businesses that have adapted to the new technology are discovering the limitless opportunities and benefits of online manufacturing services through increased efficiency and reduced costs.