From the first assembly line to the debut of CNC machines to today’s self-driving tractors, every generation has seen new, exciting trends in automation. Some cool down, but others keep growing and rock the landscape across every sector. And these days, every year sees several great leaps forward. We’ve been keeping an eye on some of the biggest trends—and we’re excited to see where they go next.
How did we do on our 2023 predictions?
During last year’s webinar, we made some bold predictions for where the industry would go this year. Let’s see how we did with some of our big bets:
- Wider adoption - Nailed it. Across the past year, we’ve seen companies in every sector lean into automation. Robots are cutting, shipping and frying chicken. AI is improving customer service at utility companies. Cobots are even inspecting nuclear submarines.
- More medical applications - Nailed it. We’ve witnessed continued expansion of automation-assisted surgeries. Wearable devices are also getting more advanced. Internet of Things-equipped armbands can deliver vital health statistics to doctors in real-time. Smart collars can automatically restrict blood flow to stabilize the brain and prevent concussions. Clearly, automation in healthcare is booming.
- The year of force torque (FT) - Mixed. Sensor technology gets more sophisticated every year—and that includes FT (just ask our exhibitor Schaeffler Group USA Inc). But while we’ve seen some exciting new partnerships, there are a lot of sensitive tasks robots still can’t handle (for example, stemming apples).
- More machine learning - Nailed it. Machine learning is everywhere. It’s a key part of revolutionary agriculture applications. It helps robots become better readers. It even assists in the development of new drugs. The solutions keep on coming.
- Expanded use of digital twins - Nailed it. Already common in machining, these digital copies of machines and software have seen increased adoption in other industries.
Picks are In: Top 5 Emerging Industrial Automation Trends in 2024
A3 gathered top experts to analyze current trends and predict what we might see in 2024. We encourage you to check out the full webinar, but here are our top five. Keep an eye out for related solutions on the show floor:
Even more digital twins
2023’s surge in the use of digital twins is not temporary. Their use will only increase as more applications are discovered. Before using cobots, a manufacturer can observe how they interact with other equipment on the floor. Similarly, a logistics company can experiment with a virtual representation of its supply chain before making any changes.
3D printing for all
Additive manufacturing has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Costs are going down while cycle speed goes up—and 2023 saw increasing adoption across sectors. Composite manufacturers print better bathtubs; robotics producers use it for affordable customized components.
Generative AI has its moment
It’s not just beer recipes and poetry. Companies in industries from healthcare to automotive are finding promising applications—and key players like Google are making big investments. With access to a wealth of historical data, a generative AI assistant can suggest new manufacturing solutions or speed up product development.
Even better vision
Machine vision just keeps getting more incredible. Innovations like 4D perception can process light and predict movement paths. This has huge implications for everything from cobots on the factory floor to autonomous vehicles watching out for pedestrians.
You probably saw Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot dancing up a storm on YouTube back in 2020. While its moves are undeniably impressive, robots like it haven’t seen widespread adoption for commercial use. As Approntik CEO Jeff Cardenas told attendees in 2023, that may be about to change. Multiple startups have debuted advanced and affordable humanoid robots this year, mostly intended for warehouse applications. One company is partnering with Amazon and plans to ramp up development next year. And in November, China promised to reshape the world with humanoid robots by 2025.
How these trends can impact your business
Whether it’s generative AI suggesting better production schedules or the latest machine vision performing sensitive QA on your factory floor, all these trends have big implications for your business. Across the board, they have the potential to speed up your operations while reducing overall costs.
Digital twins will allow you to work out the most effective, efficient ways of doing business. 3D printing could make the difference between purchasing custom equipment from outside vendors or making it far cheaper in-house. And who knows: friendly robots might soon work alongside employees on your farm, speeding up the fruit-picking process.
Every one of these can give you a competitive edge in an ever-shifting market—and as the competition considers adopting the same technology, it may shift from “nice-to-have” to “must-have.”
The future of automation
Consider the limitations machine vision faced five years ago, or how much the DALL-E image generator AI has advanced between its viral moment in 2022 and its new integration into Microsoft Bing. Remember how Atlas used to slam into walls and fall on its face, only to pick up some sweet dance moves a few years later. The improvements are striking. However, these current trends shake out by 2025, one thing is clear. Change is happening faster than ever before—and automated solutions are becoming increasingly affordable.
To learn more about the latest trends in automation, join us at the Automate Show in Chicago, IL, from May 6–9, 2024. You’ll see new tech in action, talk with fellow professionals from across the industry and build your competitive edge. Register for the Automate Show for FREE today.
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