Innovations that could change the way you manufacture

A new SME initiative outlines what's hot, what's now and what's "green."


The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has announced a new initiative called “Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture.” This member-driven initiative outlines the emerging technologies that are making a positive impact on manufacturing. It also provides an educational framework for SME members and manufacturing practitioners to keep up-to-date on the industry's latest and greatest innovations.

These innovations include "what's hot" advancements like Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), "what's now" like self-assembling nanotechnology and "what's green or eco-friendly" like ultracapacitors. Each will be showcased at the upcoming Competitive Manufacturers Conference . The conference, June 17-19 at the Chicago Marriott Schaumburg, is designed to connect manufacturing professionals to leading industry experts.

The Manufacturing Enterprise Council (MEC) collaboratively selected five "innovations that could change the way you manufacture" based on such criteria as universality across industries, positive impact on manufacturing, current availability for integration and overall industry value. These innovations include:

• Direct Digital Manufacturing
• Ultracapacitors
• Self-Assembling Nanotechnology
• Intelligent Device Integration (IDI)
• Integrated 3-D Simulation and Modeling/Desktop Super Computers

SME's Member Enterprise Council is interested in hearing opinions about these technologies. To submit your feedback, visit SME Forums

Some, like DDM, ultracapacitors and self-assembling technology are already making an impact on industry, while others such as lDI and integrated 3-D simulation and modeling/desktop super computers, hold great potential for industry-wide use.

While the next innovation, ultracapacitors may sound like something out of the 1980s movie classic, "Back to The Future," this invention has 10,000 times more stored power than a typical D-cell sized electrolytic capacitor. Ultracapacitors also have an unparalleled life span.

Self-assembly nanotechnology also made the list because this "what's now" and "what's green" innovation already has moved beyond theory to practice most notably when IBM used it to enhance conventional computer chip manufacturing. This ever-changing technology makes it possible for objects, devices and even systems to form other structures without external prodding or manipulations.

This type of manufacturing at the microscopic level also holds great promise to enhance daily life with such possible uses in water purification, sanitation, agriculture, computer manufacturing and more. The innovation's "green" element comes in when it applies to alternative energy such as photovoltaics or converting the sun's energy light into electricity.

The fourth innovation also selected for its "what's hot" potential is, Intelligent Device Integration, which any type of equipment, instrument or machine that has its own computing capability. Currently used in personal and handheld computers, IDI offers unprecedented visibility into and management of equipment, products, and even consumer interactions. By combining sensor data with two-way wireless communications, it promises more detailed, real- time views of activities and objects and will enable organizations to respond faster and even predict manufacturing incidents before they occur.

Integrated 3-D Simulation and Modeling/Desktop Super Computers, the final innovations that could change the way you manufacture, are destined to revolutionize computer modeling. Imagine a large computer screen containing new automobile data. From it, users could see any segment or part instantly and in as much detail as desired from engine to component all with 3-D impact and full rotation.

These super computers will make it possible for the computer to be used as a microscope, telescope and time machine to manage, view, and tool a complete manufacturing system.

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