Technology, and the advancement of technology, affect the mechanical industry in a pretty substantial way. Machines become more efficient, humans need to put less time into supervising machine lead tasks, and automation is getting better all of the time.
So, how will the field of mechanics and mechanical materials be further changed (for better or worse) going forward into the future? Although Gary Coleman has said “the fourth industrial revolution is in its nascent state,” there has already been a fair amount of change in the industry. Some think change can be hazardous, while others say it’s necessary.
Internet Of Things
IOI has changed the way people live their lives, but it also has implications for the mechanical industry. Imagine controlling machines via your smartphone. Products will be able to communicate with their manufacturer like never before. Software-driven controls are becoming more advanced all of the time, leading to mechanical engineers and other operators having to constantly update their supplier base in a rush to access the latest software.
The internet of things gives those in the industry a higher degree of productivity. Machines are now having a higher degree of autonomy over various controls than ever before, leaving mechanics and operatories more time to allot to other areas of work. While some think this isn’t necessarily good and could end up costing them their jobs, others believe it’s great because they’re not spread as thin, and there are fewer chances for accidents to occur.
3D printing was spoken about for years before it became properly commercially viable. But as soon as it did, it blew up. 3D printing makes product and material creation extremely easy and immediate (no more waiting for shipping). The upsurge in 3D printing has brought about many firms offering a 3D printing service for other businesses and end-users. Some purely print products are then customized and sold, whereas others print bespoke components for broader usage across the mechanical and manufacturing sector.
There are mechanical engineers out there who have managed to create amazing things in 3D printers. Think about prosthetic limbs or walking aids. These were usually pretty complex to create, but 3D printing has allowed their application across the world in poorer countries.
Nanotech, or nanotechnology, has been touted by many as the future. Its usage covers a wide range, and many people can be forgiven for thinking about science fiction when first coming across the term. In reality, it simply involves the study of materials and structures which are between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers. It’s supremely useful in the scientific field, where it was originally developed. However, nanotech has vast implications for the mechanical industry.
Pinpoint measurements, fluid mechanics and enhanced robotic controls are but a few potential applications for nanotech. While the study into nanotechnology is still at the outset, it’s clear that it could completely revolutionize multiple industries and open up a whole new way of looking at mechanical engineering.
Machine Learning (and A.I)
It’s another term that could walk straight out of a science fiction novel. AI is basically a machine or program trying to simulate human behavior. It’s getting better all of the time. Machines are becoming more accurate, and able to make human-like decisions (or better than human decisions). Just look at driverless cars as an example. Tesla’s learn as they’re driven. There are still accidents from time to time and many countries are hesitant to adopt driverless as a full feature, but it’s clear that in the not-so-distant future, cars will be driverless.
This applies to mechanical machinery too. Better production outcomes and timetables, robotic designs becoming believable and realistic, virtual reality being far more believable, and much more. With AI in charge, it’s believed that the production of material and anything from an industry standpoint can become far more efficient.
The sun touches a lot of manmade material, so it makes sense to have it double as solar panels to generate clean energy. Instead of attaching solar panels to certain materials, material itself will be a solar panel. Take for example a window. It gets a lot of sun. Imagine if it could harness the energy from the sun and redistribute it as energy while still functioning as a transparent window. Look at roads. Imagine if they were made out of solar panels. Panels that can hold the weight of cars but still manage to collect and distribute energy.
With constant pivots towards green energy, it’s extremely likely that more materials will be built and geared towards the harnessing of natural energy.