The manufacturing technologies that enable a smart factory will vary, but many smart factories will deploy the following:
A smart factory can “see”; both literally, using scanning technology supplied by FARO, which captures factory data such as machine activity and stock, and figuratively, by using “digital twins” that display all the key data of a factory in an online virtual copy. Digital twins accelerate prototyping, factory configuration planning and product development without disturbing production.
Autonomous robots and machines:
Machines that are activated by data received from a non-human stimulus such as a smart product, a smart device or machine, or a Manufacturing Execution System instruction.
That assists or augments the human worker. Examples are glasses or headsets that allow operators to see hidden layers of data around a physical asset, and collaborative robots that support a heavy product while a human can work on it.
A person whose job can be assisted with use of digital technology such as mixed reality devices and collaborative robots. Workers can be assisted with a mobile phone and wristwatch, but the term is normally used to refer to new devices that increase productivity in an industrial job.
Increasingly components will be 3D printed, in polymers or metal alloys, instead of being machined subtractively. 3D printing is particularly useful for making parts with complex geometries and personalised goods.
Factory automation systems:
Automation of machining, manufacturing and assembly processes will dominate in future factories, driven by repeatability and reliability.
Island of production
The ultimate vision of a smart factory is of one that operates autonomous, flexible and production lines and so-called “islands of production”.
An island or machine could activate itself in response to a specific order that needs one particular component or product variant made, then deactivates itself when not required for the next product or batch. This maximises machine utilisation and reduces overcapacity. Most of all the autonomous system to provide customers with more personalized products at a similar cost to a mass-produced product.