Role of Additive Manufacturing in the Era of Industry 4.0

The term Industry 4.0 is referred to as a new industrial revolution that brings in a new wave of connected manufacturers and smart factories. It is a current trend in automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies that includes a combination of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. It is the fourth Industrial Revolution, following in the footsteps of computers and the internet (Industry 3.0), mass production and electricity (Industry 2.0) and mechanization and water/steam power (Industry 1.0). The fourth industrial revolution defines as a new level of organization and control over the entire value chain of the life cycle of products, it is geared towards increasingly individualized customer requirements. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of Industry 4.0 and its pillars, with a main focus on additive manufacturing.

Role of Additive Manufacturing in the Era of Industry 4.0

Also known as “smart factory”, Industry 4.0 combines advanced manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things to create manufacturing systems that are not only interconnected, but communicate, analyze, and use information to drive further intelligent action back in the physical world. One of the key components of Industry 4.0 is the Internet of Things and Services (IoTS), which enables services providers to offer their services via the internet. The cloud platform connects the idea of an internet-based service platform with additive manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 describes a new way of organizing the means of production: setting up “smart” factories, where everything is done through interactions between products and machines, and between the machines themselves, all linked together over a network that is, in turn, connected to the outside world. The central objective of Industry 4.0 is fulfilling individual customer needs which affect areas like order management, research and development, manufacturing commissioning, delivery up to the utilization and recycling of products. The need of industry 4.0 is to convert the regular machines to self-aware and self-learning machines to improve their overall performance and maintenance management with the surrounding interaction.

Industry 4.0 aims at the construction of an open, smart manufacturing platform for industrial-networked information application. Real time data monitoring, tracking the status and positions of product as well as to hold the instructions to control production processes are the main needs of Industry 4.0. The Fourth Industrial Revolution witnesses innovations like 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and robotics. It’s disrupting almost every industry, business model, and country.

Some of the main pillars of smart manufacturing:

  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Big Data
  • Cloud computing
  • Additive manufacturing (AM)
  • Advanced robotics
  • Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)

Industry 4.0 | What It Is & Where It's Going

These technologies are helping to drive manufacturing’s digital transformation through the integration of previously disparate systems and processes through interconnected computer systems across the value and supply chain.

Additive Manufacturing is driving Industry 4.0

The latest industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is boosting the integration of intelligent production systems and advanced information technologies. Additive manufacturing (AM) is considered to be an essential ingredient in this new movement. It is emerging as a valuable digital manufacturing technology in the era of smart manufacturing. Once solely a rapid prototyping technology, today AM offers a huge scope of possibilities for manufacturing from tooling to mass customisation across virtually all industries.

What is Industry 4.0? Here's A Super Easy Explanation For Anyone

The combination of additive manufacturing with Industry 4.0 can help enable the creation of products that are first-to-market, fully customized, and dynamic.  These possibilities have the ability to change manufacturing in profound ways. Additive manufacturing works by using digital 3D models to create parts with a 3D printer layer by layer. The three main 3D printing technologies for polymeric materials are stereolithography (SLA), fused filament fabrication (FFF), and selective laser sintering (SLS).

Industry 4.0 is supporting faster manufacturing and increased customization options through digital production. Additive manufacturing plays a significant role here as it allows for customization, reduces waste by printing only what is needed, and allows manufacturers to print where and when items are needed, typically reducing shipping costs and time to market.

Additive manufacturing is a perfect fit for countering the emerging new consumers’ demands for smart products and their shift towards Industry 4.0. With 3D printing solutions, a designer or manufacturer needs only to change a design file digitally to customize or improve products. Within the context of Industry 4.0, it enables parts to be stored as design files in virtual inventories, so that they can be produced on-demand and closer to the point of need.

This new approach to manufacturing can reduce transportation distances, and hence costs, as well as simplify inventory management by storing digital files instead of physical parts. Both additive manufacturing and Industry 4.0 are evolving fast with greater growth in the present time. Therefore, it is expected increased digitalization of additive manufacturing in the future.


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