Since the late 1800s when the factory was opened in America and throughout most of the following century, manufacturing success was dependent on plant size and the number of employees. In fact, having a large pool of workers working at repressed wage levels is one of the key factors for the sharp decline in manufacturing from the 1980s through the last decade in the U.S., while countries on the Pacific Rim showed substantial growth. However, the traditional factory model has changed.
Today, the most important qualitative metrics in manufacturing are efficiency and flexibility. This trend, which places emphasis on speed, quality, agility, and cost, has been growing for some time now and is likely to shape industrial production for the foreseeable future. For industrial manufacturers, this means that competitiveness depends upon innovation in processes and strategies. Let’s take a look at some of the most advanced manufacturing techniques and factors that should guide your development of boards and electronics to support them.
The Most Advanced Manufacturing Techniques Impacting Industrial Production
The transformation of manufacturing from a people-centric environment has been driven by increased automation. Initially, this conversion was typically limited to equipment processes, which still required personnel for quality assurance (QA) inspections and other oversight. For example, combining system components along assembly lines. Today, however, advancements in sensor technology and increased use of remote monitoring allow for virtually autonomous manufacturing of some products.
The continued miniaturization of PCBs and electronics and increased use of software has allowed for automation of more delicate processes. Additionally, high-speed data transfer, including wireless communications protocols, facilitates control over multiple processes and equipment intercommunication. These and other capabilities support factories becoming smart, whereby production equipment is digitally connected, activities are integrated, and control is computer-based.
Along with revolutions in equipment and processing, advanced manufacturing strategies are also transforming the way products are made. One major thrust is for industrial production to be flexible enough to swiftly accommodate changes without increasing costs. Another factor that is, and will continue to, influence manufacturing is environmental impact. Although manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve their operations, some of the more popular advanced manufacturing techniques currently implemented are as follows:
Robotics have been around for many decades; however, their usage and level of sophistication continues to grow. These systems are capable of performing repetitive functions with a high degree of precision. Although industrial robots are often mechanical systems driven by pneumatics, they are typically controlled by electronics, which enables them to be programmed for different tasks or to various specifications.
- Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
IIoT is a relatively new technology that combines the IoT architecture with industrial equipment to improve the manufacturing process and outcomes. By integrating smart machines, cloud computing, and management strategies, issues such as uptime and asset control can be optimized.
- Additive Manufacturing
The ability to fabricate custom components and devices to precise tolerances is one of the reasons additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, has grown in utilization. Another benefit making this manufacturing technique attractive for industrial production is the ability to utilize special materials and build complex devices. Currently, industrial additive manufacturing is being used in the aerospace, medical, transportation, and energy sectors, as well as for consumer products.
- Agile Manufacturing
The tenets of an agile manufacturing process include the capability of responding to changes in production requirements without the need for new equipment, extensive downtime, loss in quality, or additional costs. The competitive advantage this ability provides is a major reason for its growth in implementation.
- Sustainability Manufacturing
Another manufacturing strategy that has transformed the industrial landscape is sustainability manufacturing. The motivation for this approach to production is to minimize the negative impact of the factory’s operation on the ecosystem, locally and globally. Implementation includes the utilization of environmentally-friendly materials, energy consumption minimization and other activities to maximize efficiency.
Although the advanced manufacturing techniques above apply to equipment, processes, and strategies, they have commonality in that their implementation is dependent upon PCBs and electronics.
PCB Development for Innovative Industrial Production
In order to implement the advanced manufacturing techniques that are transforming industrial production facilities into virtual autonomous operations and smart factories, high performance PCBs, devices, and electronics systems are required to provide the needed functionality. The boards that will comprise these systems will need to leverage the attributes of custom design and manufacturing. These include fast manufacturing turnaround to achieve the highest quality, ability to accommodate non-standard form factor and flex and rigid-flex designs. Common systems include sensors and actuators to monitor and gather data; signal and data processing modules to receive, process, and distribute large amounts of data; processor-based devices to enable programming of actions and specifications; high-speed devices for in-house and remote communications; and other devices. Building boards for the equipment used to implement the advanced manufacturing techniques that are driving industrial innovation require that your development process have the following attributes:
The ability to build very small form factor boards with complex circuitry requires your design and manufacturing process to achieve the highest quality results. This necessitates design optimization and quality control by your contract manufacturer (CM).
As most boards will be custom, the flexibility to make adjustments in the development process will assist you in meeting client requests in a timely manner. Therefore, you should ensure that your CM has the equipment, expertise, and processing that agile manufacturing mandates.
|Tempo‘s Industry 4.0 Custom PCB Manufacturing Services
Tempo Automation, the industry leader for quickly producing high-quality PCBs, has the capability of building complex boards to meet your form factor requirements. Our software-driven factory is able to rapidly institute design changes with little to no effect on turnaround times.
And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.