Trends today will determine the future, and things will change at such a rapid pace that the next 20 years will be nothing like the last 20 years. This is especially true when it comes to manufacturing. We already see the trends, ideas, and technologies we wouldn’t have dreamed of even 10 years ago.
Personally speaking, I am constantly amazed at the high level of technology and automation we are bringing into our facility right now. Many of our new machines actually have artificial intelligence, where they learn as they work. They get smarter by doing what they should be doing.
Here are some of the most prevalent changes that we are seeing in our own PCB fabrication facilities.
- AI: Speaking of artificial intelligence, there seems to be a great deal of mention of this phenomenon in the news lately. We see, read, and hear a lot about this new kind of technology. In our business, the use of AI is growing rapidly as it is in all technologies and especially in manufacturing. We are seeing advancements in machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and of course robotics. The experts predict that AI will be increasingly integrated into various industries and applications, thus revolutionizing automation and decision making as well as enhancing the customer experience.
- IoT: The Internet of Things refers to the network of interconnected devices and objects that can communicate and share data. With the growth of small devices, IoT will expand further, leading to the development of a huge and growing and changing database of knowledge and information that will be shared by all manufacturing facilities going forward. This is in the works with autonomous vehicles where they share information and get smarter simultaneously. When one vehicle crashes anywhere in the world all the other vehicles learn from that incident as their own software is updated automatically. We are headed in that direction in our own PCB industry.
- 5G and next-generation connectivity: The deployment of 5G networks is and will continue to provide faster and more reliable connectivity enabling rapid data transfer, low latency, and greater network capacity. This will fuel the growth of all technologies, especially in redundant manufacturing. It will augment virtual reality and of course the expansion of other new technology like the aforementioned AI and IoT. Just recently, Apple introduced its $3,500 VR Goggles. If that is not an indicator of a technology whose time has come, I don’t know what is.
- Edge computing: This involves the processing and analyzing of data closer to the source rather than relying on the centralized cloud servers. This will be vital to the increasing volume of data generated by these other new developments. This enables faster response times, reduced network congestion, enhanced privacy, improved reliability, and of course, the reduction of security risks. Which is no small risk these days.
- Blockchain: The decentralized and secure open sharing platform that allows the sharing of information is causing a never-before-seen exchange of knowledge and information to push the proverbial technology ball down the road. Remember that this is what helped the western world develop the COVID vaccine so quickly. Now it’s being applied to all aspects of manufacturing and other technologies.
- ER: Extended reality, which encompasses a spectrum of technologies including AR, VR, and mixed reality. These technologies will transform all industries, from education to healthcare and ours as well.
All these technological advances are merging to the point of what I think is becoming a better and more cooperative and cohesive world, especially from our PCB corner of the world. As some of you who follow this column know, I am completely dedicated to cooperative partnerships, so I very much advocate for sharing this new technological attitude.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be fabricating the electronics of all of these new innovations and developments, we get the double privilege of not only enjoying these new products of the future but building them as well.
If you think about the growth of the circuit board industry, you cannot but be awed by the extent of the growth that has occurred over the past 20 years. It is no wonder that when I started in this industry over 25 years ago, the entire world market was less than $10 billion while today it has passed $70 billion and not slowing down.
All you have to do is look around as you go about your daily life, from your doctor's office to your own factory to when you get in your car. PCBs are everywhere and that is certainly to our benefit. Yes, we are the lucky ones.