The landscape of mechanics within the industrial world has evolved in leaps and bounds during the past few decades. If this is any indication of things to come, it only stands to reason that profound changes will occur in the foreseeable future.
What are some of the major trends and which challenges need to be addressed in order to thrive in what is certainly proving to be a burgeoning sector?
The Rise of the Computers
According to Automation World Magazine, it is estimated that a mere twenty per cent of equipment will still be considered mechanical by the year 2020. In other words, many see a massive paradigm shift into the world of computerised production and other techniques. While there will nonetheless be industrial drives and motors, they are likely to be controlled by virtual software (perhaps even from an off-site location) as opposed to traditional in-house methods.
Emerging concepts such as three-dimensional construction, advanced animation and virtual prototypes are also likely to take centre stage in the coming years (1). In fact, this has already been seen in such sectors as medicine, pharmaceuticals and aeronautics. Not only does this dictate that many facilities will have to be retooled to meet these needs, but an entirely new set of skills could be necessary for future production managers and engineers.
Carbon Fibre and Lightweight Materials
It is already a proven fact that carbon fibre is used for a host of different applications. There are many analysts who see this revolutionary material entering into the world of mechanical equipment and its relative components (2). Not only does carbon exhibit excellent resilience, but it requires less maintenance and can stand up to the rigorous demands often associated with mechanics and engines. From a production point of view, it seems only natural that such materials will replace more traditional metals.
Something From Nothing?
We had mentioned three-dimensional production earlier and it should be stressed that this is seen as a potentially lucrative alternative to older methods in many industries. With the use of materials such as thermoplastics and exacting reproductive capacities, the need for mechanical manipulation and reproduction could be drastically reduced. Some see this concept as a foregone conclusion.
These are a handful of the changes that we can expect witness in the years to come. It will indeed be interesting to see what the future may hold.