The sensing revolution - how advanced sensing technologies are redefining manufacturing

The sensing revolution - how advanced sensing technologies are redefining manufacturing

January 2024

by the 42T Manufacturing & Automation Team

Driven by the need for ever-increasing efficiencies in production processes, a new paradigm is emerging in the competitive landscape of modern manufacturing. At 42T, we’re front and centre of this shift, harnessing the power of improved process sensing and intelligent control systems. This article will present the insights we’ve gained from recent experiences and projects to showcase just how crucial these technologies will continue to be in transforming manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector is changing rapidly due to the need for higher productivity, product quality, and the challenging balance between agility and cost. Innovative approaches like intelligent control systems, built on sensing and data capture, are replacing traditional techniques. These technologies — much more than ‘nice-to-haves’ —are essential to deciphering and improving current processes. Additionally, digital simulation allows businesses to de-risk changes to their production line, allowing them to expedite new processes, materials or technologies in the hunt for incremental advancements. To facilitate this, proper sensing and good data are essential. We’ve witnessed manufacturers diving deeper into their processes in an effort to learn more and increase simulation accuracy, refining assumptions as they pursue manufacturing perfection.Trend-AI-Improve process sensing v2_website copy

Smart devices are undergoing a seismic shift, with security becoming a vital foundation of device development. This evolution is driven by the active enforcement of security standards and regulations. Numerous industries are setting new benchmarks in device security and certification programs like PSA Certified emphasise the growing need for verified security in product development. This trend reflects not just a regulatory push but also a response to consumer and user expectations that security should be inherent in every smart product.

The surge in demand for secure smart devices has also propelled a shift towards secure coding practices. Incorporating security throughout the software development life cycle is becoming standard. Key components such as secure firmware update mechanisms, secure boot processes, and integrity checks are now essential in firmware security for smart devices. This shift underscores the importance of a holistic security approach, embedding protective measures at every stage of development.

The concept of zero-trust architecture is gaining traction, reflecting a mindset that no device within a network can be inherently trusted. This approach means a device requires continuous verification, imposing stringent security protocols within networks. As smart devices increase in complexity, often integrating third-party hardware and software components, the potential for vulnerabilities escalates. Validating the integrity of these components becomes crucial, demanding rigorous assessment of third-party integrations.

“All models are wrong, but some are useful”.                   George Box, Statistician

The aphorism above represents a key element within simulation: understanding which assumptions can and should be made, such that the resultant model provides maximum utility. This requires the judgement of both technical factors of numerical accuracy in addition to commercial factors, such as lead time and cost of obtaining results.

In the context of modern manufacturing, the saying “You can only control what you can measure” could not be more relevant. Preparing a process for automation, digital twins, or machine learning demands an in-depth understanding of which parameters must be measured and how. Going beyond simply substituting more accurate techniques for operator discretion involves knowing the fundamental science behind the operation.

Increasing sensing capabilities should be an important area of focus for businesses looking to push the limits of what’s possible in manufacturing. When applied properly, novel optical and electrochemical sensors, for example, have enormous promise. Furthermore, a lot of production processes are being revolutionised by vision systems because of their improved price and accessibility. Understanding the integration of this new ‘intelligence’ into existing systems is key, and at 42T, we’re already helping our clients by providing a comprehensive review of specific needs and situations to achieve optimal results.

It is essential to clearly define the intended result when starting any new project or development. This outcome-driven approach ensures that the data gathered will be directly relevant and purposeful. By starting from the end goal, a more targeted and efficient integration of new sensing technologies can be achieved.

It is essential to clearly define the intended result when starting any new project or development. This outcome-driven approach ensures that the data gathered will be directly relevant and purposeful. By starting from the end goal, a more targeted and efficient integration of new sensing technologies can be achieved.

These advancements are not just about enhancing existing manufacturing processes; they’re also opening doors to new business models. For example, the ability to move from continuous manufacturing of uniform goods to small batch production of highly specialised products is a game-changer. This shift, facilitated by faster, less manual, yet robust quality control processes, demonstrates the transformative power of intelligent control and advanced sensing.

The digitalisation of manufacturing processes through enhanced sensing and intelligent control systems presents a significant opportunity for the industry. Manufacturers need to understand not only the potential gains but also the risks of not embracing this trend. The timeline for action is critical, and those who seize the opportunity stand to gain significantly in terms of productivity and innovation.

This is where our experience is evident, helping manufacturers navigate the complexities of process modelling with accuracy and insight.

At 42T, our work in developing new sensors and evaluating machine vision systems has had a profound impact for our manufacturing industry clients. Our expertise in automating manual quality control processes and supporting clients in the creation of appropriate digital simulations of their processes has positioned us as leaders in this field, and our ability to understand the underlying science and translate it into practical applications underpins many of our successful projects.

In conclusion, as the manufacturing sector continues to evolve, the integration of intelligent control and advanced sensing technologies is becoming increasingly important to efficiency. The potential for improved productivity, the development of specific sensors, and the integration of vision systems into control systems are trends that will define the future of manufacturing. 42T stands ready to guide businesses through this transition, ensuring that the shift towards intelligent manufacturing is not just a possibility but a reality.

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