The Future of Medical Manufacturing implementing automation. It is embracing 3D printing, Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), and even augmented reality — the layering of the physical and digital worlds.

According to analysts at Deloitte, organizations will need to consider “transaction and enterprise resource planning systems, IoT and analytics platforms, and requirements for edge processing and cloud storage, among others.”

In its article, “The Smart Factory: Responsive, Adaptive, Connected Manufacturing,” Deloitte notes that this new manufacturing environment “could require implementing the various digital and physical technologies inherent in Industry 4.0 — including analytics, additive manufacturing, robotics, high-performance computing, AI and cognitive technologies, ad­vanced materials, and augmented reality — to connect assets and facilities, make sense of data, and digitize business operations.”

Robotics, of course, play a key role in this new environment. While “...some roles may no longer be necessary as they may be replaced by robotics (physical and logical), process automation, and AI,” others will be created. “Other roles might be augmented with new capabilities such as virtual/augmented reality and data visualization.”

The Medical Manufacturing & Fabrication supplement included in this issue focuses on advances in robotics and the roles these technologies are playing in this new manufacturing environment.

We explore how advances in technology have set the stage for AI to make pick-and-place robots an old hat technology. “This revolution in technology will enable less-expensive robots to perform assembly, something that has so far been reserved for more expensive robots and fit-for-purpose mechanisms,” explains author Robert Kay.

Today’s manufacturing also demands agility and flexibility. This supplement focuses on how modular robotics enable manufacturers to save costs, maximize space, and increase plant flexibility and performance, and how lightweight robotics allow manufacturers to adapt and adjust quickly.

What about the technologies that are helping to make all this possible? We examine how force sensing technology is helping to make manufacturing smart by enhancing the manufacturer’s ability to take control of critical manufacturing processes such as helping operators “feel” what is happening on the production floor.

It is a whole new world. Be sure to read about a group that has shown how multiples product manufacturing facilities can be controlled and monitored remotely from one place. This digital factory of the future demonstrates a decentralized network of companies with different sub-networks in which the manufacturing is controlled re­motely and the factory manufactures products in the location that is optimal for the purpose at that very moment.

Sherrie Trigg

Editor and Director of Medical Content