2018 has been an interesting year for engineering. I have been in the industry of reporting on trends and innovations for the last four years, and I can finally say that this year has introduced several of the innovations that we have long been promised.
Over the last few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) and all the tech innovations promised under its umbrella reach have loomed over our heads. The promises of tracking assets wherever they are, blackout factories operated solely by robots, no longer needing local servers since everything is in the cloud, and 3D printing creating all of our products were some of the claims made by industry experts.
In reality, blackout factories don’t work, robots haven’t replaced the human workforce, 3D printing has not replaced traditional machining, the cloud is used in conjunction with local servers and computers, and the human worker is still a very integral part of the manufacturing process.
What has happened is an integration of technology with our current methods of manufacturing. Digital simulation and advanced modeling help predict failures before things are built. 3D printing has allowed for advanced prototyping and the creation of natural generative design. The digital twin lets us model the product lifecycle from start to finish. And not just creation and manufacturing: how that product will be delivered, the stress it will see in packaging, and how the customer will interact with it. Robots have become human aids, helping people complete daily tasks that in the past have caused injury and strain. The medical industry has seen the miniaturization and automation of processes, ushering a new technical age of medicine. Drugs are being delivered by nanoscale robots and surgical procedures are being aided by automated and robotic equipment. Finally, augmented and virtual reality technology has become truly a viable tool for engineers.
The engineering world of 2018 has been one of technological advancements and integration. Many of these technologies have finally made their debut and are just starting. 2019 will only bring more advancements. My bet? Widespread artificial intelligence is around the corner.