To understand the impact of digitisation on manufacturing, we first need to understand exactly what we mean by ‘digitisation’ in a product design and development context.
In short, it means there is a complete, accurate, high fidelity virtual representation of a product, which contains the entire DNA of that product. It understands what the product is, what it does, how you'd manufacture it and how you'd service it.
Digitisation helped to pioneer the first production worthy 3D modelling concept. These replaced drawings, which were hard to interpret and error prone along with physical mock ups which were expensive and time consuming. This is really the engineer’s benefit of digitisation, as it means they are able to make their drawings and models easier to interpret, with fewer errors, all while saving time.
But these benefits also become the basis for the manufacturing advantages of digitisation. From the DNA in the virtual model, we can derive everything from CNC machine instructions all the way to process plans to be used on a factory floor.
Technological advances mean that many companies are now taking this to the next level with the concept of 3D printers. If you think about it, a 3D printer is just a very tiny little factory. You give this digital product information to that factory, it starts up, does its thing, and spits out an actual part. And these parts now are moving beyond prototyping into real production use, through various forms of added manufacturing. There's still a way to go, but 3D printing is moving fast and will continue to have a growing impact on manufacturing in the future. Eventually it will completely redefine the manufacturing process and, in the meantime, you can buy 3D printers on the high street.
There's also room for digitisation to have an impact when it comes to innovating service information. This information is critical to installing the product, operating the product and maintaining the product. Traditional 2D forms can be replaced with much richer and easier to use and understand digital media.
To find out more about the forces impacting on manufacturing, download our executive guide: