I’ve been saying it on repeat for much of 2018, but to reiterate one more time: Last year we saw many of the tech innovations that have been living in the fantasy development lands come to life. The Internet of Things is now mainstream and here to stay. Cloud analytics is no longer a “what-if,” but rather a “how can we?” Simulation and the digital twin help us predict the future of products before they are even built. Robots are being integrated into automation production cycles and 3D printing is the definitive method to prototype products. So, for 2019, what should engineers know so they can be ready for the changes?
First of all, be ready for the change. Update your systems where you can. You don’t have to overhaul entire areas of your process, but if you have been waiting to buy new computers with better processing power, do it now. If you haven’t upgraded to a cloud service, do it now. If you have been holding off on buying a cobot or 3D printer, do it now. These are the tools of the future of engineering.
Second is to learn the tools of the trade. Engineers are expected to be problem-solvers, and that won’t happen if we don’t learn how our new tools operate. This means knowing how to model using the latest computer-aided design software for simulation and production; code automated equipment (including robots); access and properly navigate the cloud; program IoT devices to communicate effectively; and design products for 3D printing.
Third, understand how these areas of innovations are going to impact you. Obviously, not every area of innovation is going to directly impact your work. If you are a machinist, the cloud and IoT analytics may not be your direct concern. However, 3D printing is going to heavily impact your job. Manufacturers are using digital twin simulations to help create better 3D printing tooling which will be finished by traditional CNC machines. Be aware of the changes coming and what you need to learn to adopt them appropriately.
Lastly, engineering will always be in a constant state of change as well as consistency. The fundamental laws of engineering will mostly like go unchanged, unforeseen some radical shift in our universe. Mass times acceleration will continue to provide us the force we need to perform our work. But the methods and practices behind how we determine, apply, manipulate, and analyze that force will change. We as engineers need to be on top of these changes and be ready to adopt them.