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The Future Of Making

The Four Manufacturing Trends to Watch in 2020

Innovations will disrupt the world's factory floors

We are in the midst of a revolution in the manufacturing world, and this tide of change shows no signs of stopping. In 2019, we saw advances in additive manufacturing, smart factories, and big data analytics. However, all of these developments were relatively localized, providing important proof-of-concept but failing to realize widespread change. But the best is yet to come. In the next year, these breakthroughs and innovations will shift into the mainstream and further disrupt the world’s factory floors. In this post, we identify four key trends that will shape manufacturing in 2020.

1 - Costs Will Continue to Drop

Many of the traditional cost barriers within the world of manufacturing will continue to drop in 2020. While labor costs are somewhat inconsistent across different sectors and geographies, material and manufacturing overheads will be reduced across the board. These cost savings will be available to both established corporations and fledgling startups, who will have access to the resources they need to create complex, manufactured components in a shorter timeframe and with lower costs.

The convergence of Design and Manufacturing

The rise of online and automated manufacturing communities is a factor in this trend. These connected manufacturing communities enable transparency and collaboration across the entire supply network, from the production plant to the global supply chain. So, organizations can now connect with manufacturers who have the available capacity and expertise for their proposed product. Not only can these manufacturers help organizations design a product. Hence, it matches both their vision and the relevant industry standards, but they will also provide quotes and design drawings to streamline the production process. As a result, companies can optimize the entire manufacturing process, allowing organizations to reduce overheads and get their products to market quicker than ever before.

2 - Additive Manufacturing Will be Transformative

From high-profile acquisitions to new product releases and even a 3D printed Lamborghini, additive manufacturing will continue to send shockwaves in the domains of production and design over the next 12 months. Industries will feel its impact across multiple sectors, including the aerospace, automotive, maritime, oil and gas, and medical industries.

Additive manufacturing is on the rise. Courtesy of RAMLAB

Thanks to additive manufacturing, engineers will have more freedom than ever before. This reduced constraint is because they will not have to comply with the restrictions of traditional manufacturing approaches. Instead, engineers will enable a design-driven manufacturing process. In conventional manufacturing, if an engineer modifies a design during production, then the tooling on the line needs to be changed. This change can result in significant cost increases and time delays. However, additive manufacturing is free from these constraints. This creative freedom will allow engineers to move away from static designs so that they can produce multiple versions of a single model. As such, additive manufacturing is not only a cost-effective production solution but will also inject further innovation into the design process.

Additive manufacturing will also enable the fast, flexible, and cost-efficient production of parts directly from computer-aided design (CAD) data. Companies can make these parts locally, where they can source small-batch jobs to nearby bureaus.

3 - AI and ML Will Begin to Take Hold

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are revolutionizing a range of industries, and the manufacturing sector will feel their impact sooner rather than later.

Based on design inputs and constraints generative design provides multiple design solutions.

In engineering, Generative Design promises significant innovation. Here, the design inputs are combined with artificial intelligence to generate thousands of design iterations, which will include unconventional geometries and forms that engineers may not have considered otherwise. This approach will not only increase productivity and reduce wastage but also free human resources from many mundane and repetitive design tasks. Generative Design will also help engineers avoid any expensive reworks as the simulation and testing of each design are part of the design process.

AI and ML will also power closed-loop, self-correcting manufacturing processes, providing more eyes and ears in production, and addressing the growing challenges of product recalls and defects. This more proactive approach mitigates the brand damage and expense of a product recall. By applying AI-enabled predictive analytics, manufacturers will avoid potential problems before they happen. For example, AI and ML initiatives can analyze parts as they come off the production line, identifying any defects, and adjusting the manufacturing operations accordingly. The machines themselves can also be monitored and autonomously maintained, reducing downtime at the manufacturing facility.

4 - IIoT Connectivity Will be Everywhere

Everything is now connected, and the world of manufacturing is no exception. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will gain further momentum in 2020 as smart products enter the terminals, sensors, and other systems on the factory floor. These networks of connected systems will pass data to a central platform, which will analyze this information. As a result, these data-fueled factories will morph into intelligent environments, which are capable of driving new business models and sources of value for manufacturers.

Connected systems will shape the factories of the future

Connected manufacturing makes this possible by offering more insights than ever before into the production process, revealing opportunities for improvements and increased margins. IIoT-enabled machines will communicate operational information to staff and other devices. Such visibility eradicates blindspots from the production line and will help manufacturers identify bottlenecks and streamline their existing processes while identifying new ways of working. These machines will also enable automated inventory management and predictive maintenance of production machines to minimize downtime. What’s more, companies will even realize increased energy efficiencies, thanks to widespread connectivity across the factory floor.

To summarize, the IIoT will give manufacturers the visibility they need regarding the efficiency of their plant’s processes and performance both over time and in real-time to fully optimize their operations in 2020.


In 2020, four key trends will shape the world of manufacturing, bringing existing innovations into the mainstream and new breakthroughs to the market.

Cost barriers to manufacturing will continue to drop for all businesses, enabled by connected manufacturing communities where organizations are matched to manufacturers with the relevant expertise and availability.

Additive manufacturing will continue to send shock waves, freeing engineers from traditional design constraints and production techniques to expedite innovation in manufacturing.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact manufacturing in the form of Generative Design, which uses AI-enabled design to create unconventional geometries and predictive analytics to reduce product defects and optimize the manufacturing process.

The IIoT will enable connected manufacturing, offering more insights than ever before into the production process, revealing opportunities for process and performance improvements and increased margins.

Generative Design accelerates your product development process

Expand your ability to deliver innovative design and engineering solutions. The generative design process takes manufacturing into account early in the design stage of the development process so you can get to market faster.

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