Egbert-Jan Sol, is CTO at TNO Industry and part-time professor at the Radboud University. He manages the Dutch Smart Industry program office. They are examining the disruptive impact smart connected devices will have on the way we make things. Until now, Europe has exported high value high-tech equipment destined for industries in Asia. ASML for chip manufacturer is perhaps the best known of a whole range of companies doing this. Asian companies use these machines to make goods in vast quantities, shipping them to Europe. But that’s all about to change.
“At the 6th Intelligent Sensor Network conference on November 3rd, I will be sharing our vision on the so-called MAMA concept – Metropolitan Additive Manufacturing Architecture” says Egbert-Jan Sol.
“We believe if manufacturing is to return to Europe and thrive, it will mean switching to far more personalized production – a “series of one”. That requires much smaller, smarter and more flexible factories. In fact, It’s already happening in automotive and certain high-tech equipment.”
We need new ways of sustainable production
“Because of the economies of scale, it is currently cheaper to produce 10,000 items in China, ship them to Europe and store them until sold. But if you can produce a “series of one” for the same price rather than a large series, then you can produce locally on demand, eliminate warehousing and reduce the environmental impact from transportation. The machines making these products need to be far more intelligent, operate automatically and be remotely controllable. Think of the next generation 3D printers, producing products as needed and to meet individual requirements. We foresee a world where you order a product online, then pick it up from a local 3D “copy shop”. We’re not there yet, but by 2020 we could be.”
“To achieve all this, the next generation of robots used in production will not be individually programed. They will be configured to use sensors and artificial intelligence to work in undefined environments. Suppose you have robots in a greenhouse which have to pick tomatoes. If a green leaf obscures part of one tomato, the robot needs to realize the tomato behind the leaf is still mature enough to pick it. To get that right needs new ways of thinking about intelligent sensors and that’s why we called it Smart Industry.”
Come and see many more arguments on November 3rd to understand how your company can anticipate this trend and gain a competitive advantage.