Robots vs. Cobots: Electronics Manufacturing Trends in 2017

Now that the hype around the new year (Chinese New Year included) has settled and resolutions have been broken, people are pretty much back to their regular routines.

While gym traffic may be neutralized, the year is still early and there are exciting things on the horizon.

For us in the electronics industry, the new year means more innovation and finding ways to make manufacturing smarter, faster and more cost efficient. With technology changing daily and manufacturing processes evolving, OEMs and EMS providers constantly have to adapt. But trends are not always limited to technology, it could also be the improvement of processes.

Here are 5 electronics manufacturing trends to look out for in 2017.

 

1. Riding the IoT Wave

It’s impossible to talk about trends and electronics without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart electronic devices being connected to the Internet is nothing new. But the presence of these connected devices will likely soar, as IoT spending is expected to jump from $480 billion in 2016 to $1.7 trillion by 2020. In the EMS industry, this means machines are able to collect more data, allowing them to be more responsive and make better real-time automated decisions. From a supply chain standpoint, the IoT will continue to predict customer demand and always have the appropriate stock of parts and supplies.

 

2. 3D is Not Just for the Movies

The effort towards faster turnaround times and manufacturing efficiency is being enhanced by 3D printing technology. In 2017, OEMS will likely use 3D more – and use it in a big way. Some industry experts predict that more 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes will be used to make large-scale pieces and final production parts.

 

3. OEMs in the Market for the Aftermarket

According to a Harvard Business Review study, more than $1 trillion is spent yearly on assets that are already owned. For decades, the sale of aftermarket parts have been controlled by third party resellers and other suppliers. With the margins and demand high, more OEMs are looking to capture a larger slice of that market by investing in inventory and technology that will keep products operating at a high-level for a long period of time.

 

4. Cobots Take Over

In the ‘80s movie “Back to the Future”, people envisioned the 21st century to be filled with flying cars and robots. While we are not walking side-by-side with robots on the street yet, they are becoming more visible in manufacturing facilities across the globe. But robots are not taking over jobs, they are working side-by-side with manufacturing employees – hence the term “cobots”. The cobots are designed to assist the human worker in completing tasks in an efficient manner. Cobots are expected to increase in 2017 because they are cost-effective, collaborative, productive, and easily adaptable.

 

5. All Eyes on Risk

Well this one isn’t as exciting as cobots, but something you might see more of in 2017.

No matter the industry, re-evaluating business objectives is always top of mind for companies when transitioning into a new year. In the electronics manufacturing industry, both OEMs and contract manufacturers will put a higher priority on risk management. Manufacturers will focus on supply chain stability and business continuity planning to lessen risk derived from unforeseen market conditions.

So there you have it. Just a few trends to keep in mind as you continue to make strides in 2017. You might want to take your cobot with you though.

Healthcare’s Slice of IoT: Wirelessly Connected Medical Devices

Connected Medical Devices and IoT
Connected Medical Devices and IoT

The billion-device, billion-dollar Internet of Things (IoT) holds the potential to dramatically transform healthcare.

Wirelessly connected medical devices increase patient mobility while giving healthcare professionals real-time access to patient data, throughout the hospital, and at the point of care.

Devices that were previously tied to a computer can now communicate wirelessly with one another using Bluetooth, ZigBee or over a hospital’s existing Wi-Fi network.

Today, for instance, an EMG machine used to detect neuromuscular abnormalities can wirelessly transmit critical-care data to other local devices or maintenance data back to the OEM.

This stream of information provides an optimal experience for users, while enabling medical device companies to improve product functionality.

Connected Medical Devices: Risk and Reward

Connected medical devices hold tremendous promise for medical device manufacturers. According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), network-enabled medical devices represent a potential revenue opportunity of $6.6 billion.

Medical OEMs, however, face particular technical challenges when it comes to the IoT and connected medical devices.

  1. While integrating sensors into a toaster can produce a handy consumer device, safely and securely integrating wireless connectivity into a new or existing medical device can be life-saving.
  2. Wireless connectivity also adds a new level of complexity to medical device design and development.The FDA recommends that medical OEMs take the following into consideration:
    • Selection of wireless technology
    • Quality of service
    • Coexistence
    • Security
    • Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
  3. Design validation must also include risk analysis of the RF wireless communications and control functions.
  4. Determining the best wireless scheme also depends upon a device’s unique environment, as well as the required level of privacy support and cybersecurity.

It’s important to note that not all devices need to connect to the Internet; they may simply need to connect to a few other local devices. Different schemes also have varying password and encryption methods.

Improving the patient experience with wireless medical diagnostics
Improving the patient experience with wireless medical diagnostics

Connectivity Know-How

Through stringent device testing, design validation, and the verification methods necessary to meet regulatory requirements, EMS providers with wireless communications expertise can help medical OEMs overcome the unique challenges of wireless-connectivity integration.

With Creation’s long history of providing innovative design, manufacturing and test solutions for complex Communications products, over the last few years it’s been a rewarding experience for us to leverage this knowledge to help our Medical customers produce new devices quickly and reliably.

Safely and securely reducing time-to-market while reducing risk never felt healthier.

If you’d like more information about how we can help you with product development or manufacturing improvements for connected medical devices and M2M, please visit our website or let me know!

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