What is Industry 4.0?
The introduction of computers brought about the third wave of the industrial revolution. Now, as computers are increasingly becoming capable of communicating with one another, without constant human monitoring, we can safely say that the world has entered the age of Industry 4.0.
The major new development brought about by Industry 4.0 is that technology has become embedded in every aspect of our lives. We spend nearly every waking hour interacting with technology in some way or the other.
Embracing New technology
Industry 4.0 teaches us to embrace new technology or get left behind in the competition. What are some of these new techs?
- Smart sensors that collect and measure information from our physical environment.
- Artificial intelligence or simulated human intelligence in machines.
- Augmented and virtual reality.
- Automation or machine learning.
- Additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
We discuss these further in the following space.
Industry 4.0 also involves six vital design principles.
- Interoperability – the communication and exchange of data between participating objects, machines and people in the business.
- Virtualization – creating a virtualized view of all business operations to test new equipment and processes.
- Decentralization – business logic contained in sub-systems or components rather than a central computer system.
- Real-time capability – the collection and analysis of data in real-time, facilitating quick decision-making.
- Service orientation – free flow of intra- and inter-business information to improve understanding of customer needs.
- Modularity – the flexible adaptation to changing industrial needs.
Applications of Industry 4.0
Businesses across industries are implementing changes based on revolutionary technology already in place. We list some of the possible applications of Industry 4.0:
- Identify opportunities: Machine connectivity enables manufacturers to efficiently optimize their operations. For example, using data from its equipment sensors, an African gold mine could identify a problem with the oxygen levels during leaching. This saved them a whopping $20 million in operation costs!
- Optimize logistics and supply chains: A connected supply chain can adjust and adapt when new information is presented.
- Autonomous equipment and vehicles: These can be leveraged to streamline any business operation.
- Robots: With robots becoming more affordable and available to organizations of every size, business operations have become faster, cheaper and safer.
- Additive manufacturing (3D printing): This technology has advanced from being used for prototyping to actual production.
- Internet of Things and the cloud: IoT is a key component of Industry 4.0. it is characterized by connected devices. This helps in optimizing internal operations. The use of the cloud environment helps to store data that can be accessed and used across vertices.
At the most basic level of understanding, robotics is a form of disruptive innovation. It is about automating functions with the aim of reducing the costs of goods, freeing up employees as well as enabling citizens to become more efficient.
Robotics has permeated both the software (for example, RPA) and hardware (for example, drones, driverless cars, and military robots) industries.
Robotics is fusing the digital and physical realms. In fact, the digital or virtual worlds have become extensions of our physical realm.
Robotics has also made it possible to create human-robot hybrids. We have already seen its effects in industries such as healthcare where robotic body parts are being connected to the human brain, blurring the line between natural and artificial.
Robotics engineers are in the process of designing robots that look, feel and act like humans. With the use of realistic hair and skin, embedded with sensors these next-generation robots are designed to react naturally in their environment.
These human-robots will be capable of subtle actions that typically go unnoticed even among humans. This will also enhance how we relay nonverbal communication.
What’s more, these hybrids will be fully endowed with artificial eyes that move and blink, chest movements that simulate breathing, muscles to change facial expressions. All these features are being incorporated to make robots more socially acceptable.
Some of the other forms of robots in the future could be:
- Robotic pets
- Rescue robots
- Robotic competitions
- Robotic insects
- Robotic prosthetics
- Walking robots
- Exoskeletons (for military use)
- Robot caregivers
It is interesting to learn how people expect to benefit from a life in tandem with robots. Industry reports suggest that people need and want support with household chores and this topped the perceived benefits of robots at home, with 27% of people thinking a home robot could save them two hours each day. Companionship is a close second with almost a fifth of people admitting that they wanted a home robot simply to keep them company.
Could Nano Robots be 3D Printed in the Future?
Reports are already in that microscopic ‘nanorobots’ that mimic the movements of fish have been developed by scientists. It is believed that the intended purpose of these robots is to deliver medication inside the human body. The fish are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand. That is some food for thought!
Researchers at South Korea’s Jeju National University have concluded that 3D printing is well suited to build soft robots. This variety of robots has a complex external shape and an internally porous structure. They are made with highly compliant materials such as fluids, gels, and polymers so they can mimic functions present in living organisms. For this reason, there has been a significant trend toward using 3D printing to manufacture them instead of conventional molding and casting approaches.
The benefits of using soft robots can be many. For example, a 3D printed soft silicone pump could be used as an artificial heart. 3D printed soft ‘micro-biobots’, which can travel through blood vessels or the gut, are being researched for monitoring diseases. Outside the body, soft robots are being developed for prosthetics, for monitoring vital signs, and for organ-on-a-chip devices that can replace animals in drug testing.
Industry 4.0 in Australia
Standards Australia published a report on Industry 4.0 from an Australian Perspective as part of the explorative research to adopt Industry 4.0 in Australia.
To strengthen the industry-led nature of the task force, it is now called the Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Forum and is hosted by the Australian Industry Group. The forum focuses work on:
- Reference architectures, standards, and norms.
- Research and innovation.
- Security of networked systems.
- Test laboratories, future of work, education, and training.
The Queensland government will fund and create the first robotics manufacturing hub in Australia. With estimated funding of $7.71 million spread over the next four years, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub will be built with support from the Queensland University of Technology and architectural design company Urban Art Projects (UAP).
How Zeal 3D Printing Can Contribute to the ARM Hub
We are in Melbourne, Australia, provides state of the art 3D printing at very low cost, producing exceptionally high-quality prints with an accuracy rate of 80 microns (0.08mm).
We can enable rapid robotics prototyping. With their advanced rapid prototyping tool, engineers and designers can now create, test and validate new robot designs consisting of small, complex parts.
Contact us and see your business grow with the help of our nanorobotic friends.