Industry 4.0 and Digital Manufacturing
The future of manufacturing is undoubtedly digital. With the fourth industrial revolution taking over (a.k.a Industry 4.0), this current trend is all about of improved automation, machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence, and continued technological improvements and digitalisation in manufacturing.
Laser Light: Why it’s Fundamental for Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 brings the concept of data analysis, programmed algorithms, smart ultra-flexible part flow and connected machinery. Digitalised manufacturing encompasses the promise of speed, directness and flexibility, and it needs a solid tool to match. The right tool has been readily available for a long time: laser light.
“Digital manufacturing is crying out for a tool that offers the same fast, flexible and physically unconstrained benefits that it does. And that’s a pretty good description of a laser,” explains Andreas Gebhardt, Professor at Aachen University of Applied Sciences. “Laser technology was digital right from the word go because it can only be controlled numerically – you could almost say that data-based manufacturing was digital right from the word go because it can only be controlled numerically – you could almost say that data-based manufacturing is in its DNA.”
When it comes to laser machining, the only thing standing between data and form is a focused beam of light. Lasers can do just about anything – from ablation and material deposition to drilling, cutting, and joining, as well as roughening, smoothing and cleaning surfaces.
“And the benefits don’t stop there,” says Gebhardt. “One of the biggest advantages of lasers is that they can process whatever material you like, from metals and glass to plastics and even skin. They give you complete freedom.”
Four Actions, One Revolution
Laser systems have been up and running in factories and warehouses for years – a long time before people were speaking about connectivity or Industry 4.0. Industry experts believe that laser light is a critical tool in being able to meet modern customer requirements.
There are four key actions that are being carried out simultaneously within this revolution.
- Manufacturing chains with lasers are on the rise, while manufacturing chains with mechanical tools are on their way out.
- Workpieces are becoming data carriers with the ability to communicate.
- Parts are able to change shape with each different set of data.
- Parts are made solely from data sets.
The Tool of Data
Gebhardt says “nobody knows the additional requirements that will emerge in the field of connected manufacturing, but laser systems are a great way to prepare for what lies ahead. There are so many cases where only a laser can do the job.”
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