Mary SciannaClick image to enlargeAfter attending two major industry trade shows−IMTS in Chicago, IL, and BI-MU in Milan, Italy−and seeing the degree of technology changes emerging in manufacturing, I began to think about how these technologies will evolve in the future.

Here are four predictions you shouldn’t take to the bank, but you should at least ponder.

1. Next generation additive: 4D printing
There is no doubt additive manufacturing will soon eliminate the label of an “emerging” technology to become a more common platform in manufacturing. As this technology evolves, the next step is to take additive into the electronic components manufacturing arena. Indeed, the 2015 World Economic Forum, an organization for public-private cooperation based in Geneva, Switzerland, identifies “4D printing” as the next emerging technology, which will “bring in a new generation of products that can alter themselves in response to environmental changes, such a heat and humidity.”

2. Transformative machines
University researchers have already developed unique multi-functional smart materials that can change shape from heat or light and assemble and dissemble themselves. In the future, such materials will be used to build manufacturing equipment that could transform itself to meet different processing needs. Imagine truly “all-in-one” machining or fabricating equipment that could change shape and transform to perform different functions and when the work was done, the same machine could fold itself into a smaller shape to free up space for other work.

3. Thinking robots
Referred to as “neuromorphic technology,” research is underway among many IT companies such as IBM and Microsoft to study and develop computer chips that mimic the human brain. The technology is considered the next stage in powerful computing and will allow electronic devices, including robots, to anticipate and learn. It’s the next stage in artificial intelligence and if the struggle to find skilled workers continues in the coming decades, these powerful, human-like robots may well be the solution for some manufacturers.

4. Travelling like Superman
Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop,” the supersonic transport system that promises to shave hours off of commutes between cities in the US−will be in full operation taking passengers not just between cities in the US, but between countries. Some companies, such as Toronto startup Transpod, is developing a commercial concept of a high speed pod that could travel from Toronto to Montreal in 30 minutes.

As 2016 comes to a close, we at Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine would like to say “thank you” for reading our magazine and hope that 2017 is a better year for everyone. SMT

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