December 4, 2015

Future Trends: Manufacturing

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Manufacturing has long ceased to be the loud, dirty, smelly process that gave us the Industrial Revolution. Today’s factories are quieter, cleaner and more efficient than Henry Ford ever dreamed.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no room for further innovation in manufacturing. On the contrary, the future of manufacturing looks brighter — and, in some cases, weirder — than ever. Here’s a look at some of the futuristic processes set to shape Minnesota’s manufacturing sector in 2016 and beyond.

Additive Manufacturing & Digital Fabrication Create New Forms

Minnesota is already regarded as a leader in additive manufacturing — popularly known as 3D printing. At this point, it’s possible to 3D print almost anything, from vehicle components to (controversially) firearms. Tantalizingly, functional human organs are on the radar too. But the process remains slow, so high-volume applications and biological products are still years off.

3D printing’s near-term strengths lie in casting, or creating molds that can be used in conventional manufacturing processes, and, when combined with virtual reality interfaces, life-like prototypes.

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