As the saying goes, “The only constant is change.” And change is a constant in the machining and CNC world. We are often asked from our client’s what trends do we see taking shape in the industry. This post is intended to provide our view of the technology and process advancements that will define the future of our industry.
Technology, technology, technology. We can’t stress this enough. Over the past few years, modern technology has been moving at such an alarming rate that it’s shaking up the commercial world. From machine learning and AI to IoT and cloud computing, new technologies present new opportunities but also alter the way manufacturers handle conventional operations.
To truly understand where the machining field is going, it makes sense to consider some of the newer trends. Here are some of the changes we see coming down the road that will drive the current state of machining.
- The world of additive manufacturing — AM and 3D printing have exploded in the industrial world changing the way we approach new designs. Today, they can create products and components from a variety of raw materials, including concrete, wood, steel, and an increasing range of metals, alloys, ceramics, and metal-matrix composite materials.
The most exciting trend related to this technology is hybrid machining which incorporates both traditional CNC machining and 3D printing solutions to improve product development. Manufacturers now have control over the goods they create and can make changes on the fly, which means greater efficiencies and cost savings all around. The entire process is faster, more efficient and incredibly accurate when compared to traditional machining methods.
In addition, additive manufacturing changes the target or source location where production takes place. Materials and components can be printed right at a job site using a portable printer. The same is being done for consumer-grade products, so manufacturers can create goods closer to the customer than ever before. Further, it allows manufacturers to introduce a degree of personalization that is unprecedented.
These new machining processes provide various benefits, including improved efficiency, lower operating costs, greener and more environmentally-friendly solutions and — of course — higher precision for tasks.
- Intelligent technology integration – IoT (the internet of things), incorporates smart, connected devices to improve control over various equipment types and deliver more insights. Automated integration software can now allow operators to program numerous machines from a single location. It also complements automation systems, so processes can be fully streamlined and managed in new ways.
Various machines then can operate autonomously, only requiring human input or oversight when something goes off spec. This foreknowledge is largely thanks to a real-time stream of data that is continually flowing in and being analyzed on the fly.
Project Engineers can now keep up with equipment on a more accurate timeline. This allows them the ability to remedy problems before needing to take the equipment offline or inducing defects in the goods and materials processed. Ultimately, it creates a much smoother and more efficient operation.
- The laser-beam revolution — Laser beam technology is here to stay. A high-energy laser beam focuses on a workpiece or component, and the thermal energy transfers to the targeted surface. Through fusion and vaporization, metallic or non-metallic targeted materials are removed.
You can deploy the process for conducting many actions such as welding, cladding, etching, surface treatment, drilling and cutting. It’s frequently used to cut glass without melting or altering the surrounding edges and surface.
Laser beam machining is becoming more widely adopted in manufacturing for unique materials and durable composites. It deserves its own spot on the list because lasers are about as futuristic as you can get.
- Non-traditional machining methods —Laser-beam machining is not the only novelty in processing that’s cropped up lately. From ECM to roller burnishing and more, these methods are making a splash.
Each is implemented differently and offers specific, impactful benefits to the conventional machining process. Waterjet cutting, for example, is more of a subtractive process designed to trim away or reduce large materials and parts. On the other hand, electrochemical machining and roller burnishing also are subtractive but deal with much smaller scale materials and adjustments.
- Automation in finishing systems — After metals and woods are cut, resized or modified, it may be necessary to finish their outer layer or surface to achieve a glossy, more polished look.
While some advancements have been made in this space, the processes are still relatively the same as they’ve always been. Even many new methods still employ a consistent, highly repeatable process. That’s where automation shines, due in part to today’s technologies.
Robotic-powered finishing systems can alter this entire process, revolutionizing the quality and output of the overall industry. These solutions signal where the industry is headed, toward a much more efficient and automated environment.
Technology is changing the machine shop world. Considering the explosion of additive manufacturing, intelligent automation to numerous non-traditional machining methods, manufacturers will reap more efficiencies and cost savings like never before.
We hope this post provided you helpful information when it comes to understanding the future and key technologies that are shaping the machine shop world. Krenz Precision Machining is a leading full service, turn-key machine shop offering design, prototyping, components manufacturing all the way through assembly. To speak with one of our technical experts, please call 1-440-237-1800. And thank you for reading our post.