AI in Manufacturing: Today and in the Future

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You might remember reading science fiction novels or seeing movies in which factories were operated solely by robots and humans were barely involved in the manufacturing process (if at all). Those images are no longer confined to the realm of science fiction any more.

AI is an integral part of today’s manufacturing process. It enables manufacturers to produce goods quickly and safely. Read on to learn about the impact AI is having on manufacturing today and what kind of effect it will have in the future.

AI in Manufacturing Today

How are manufacturers using AI today?

For a start, AI plays a role in product design and engineering. Generative design platforms allow engineers and designers to enter their design goals and parameters (materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints). The software looks at every possible permutation of a design, generating design alternatives. Through machine learning, it tests what works and what doesn’t, presenting designers and engineers with insights and analysis.

AI can teach robots to manufacture themselves, too (the case in point being Japan’s FANUC plant). Computers program machines to fabricate other machines. Moreover, they test and inspect themselves, without the involvement of any humans.

In December 2017, Siemens announced that its researchers had developed a two-armed robot that could manufacture products without needing to be programmed. This robot’s arms work much the way a human’s arms would – dividing tasks so that one arm handles one chore while the other does something else. Moreover, this robot can also interpret CAD models, so it doesn’t need programming. The Siemens prototype can analyze the problem and develop a solution on its own.

AI and the Future of Manufacturing

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AI in manufacturing will not simply disappear. If anything, its usage will only increase. As such, there are a number of developments in the pipeline that will have major influences on the future of manufacturing.

One Silicon Valley startup,, has developed machine-vision tools that find microscopic defects in products (such as circuit boards) that humans simply can’t see. The machine-vision tool relies upon a library of sample images to determine whether a product has a defect or not.
Machine vision isn’t limited to finding flaws in products – it will someday be used so that robots don’t collide with each other or with anyone or anything else on the factory floor. The harm reduction of this technology is significant – imagine being able to operate a factory without costly, devastating accidents.

Although many humans worry that AI will eliminate their role in manufacturing, the possibility exists that AI will allow humans and robots to work side by side. These robots can accept instruction from humans through plain speech – researchers at the University of Rochester and MIT are working on this concept.

AI is already making the manufacturing process safer and more efficient. The future, with the promise of even greater technological development, presages the greater involvement of AI in manufacturing, with benefits for manufacturers and customers alike.

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