Smart factories are a key element of a new form of industrial production, which, in Germany, is called “Industry 4.0.” Changes are starting to occur in manufacturing as a result of cyber-physical systems (CPS) and the Internet of things – two terms referring to the combination of software, sensors, processors, and communications technology underlying Industry 4.0. In the future, there will be cyber-physical systems associated with smart machines, warehousing systems, and facilities that exchange information autonomously. “Thanks to CPS, the factory of the future will integrate production, supply chains, and individual customer preferences in real time,” explains Prof. Henning Kagermann, President of the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). However, the realization of will require a number of steps over the next 20 years, especially with regard to standards, interfaces, and processes. Smart factories offer huge potential for enhancing production efficiency.
The global market for industrial automation posted turnover of almost $160 billion in 2012, and it will reach approximately $200 billion by 2015, according to IMS Research. A recent analysis by Frost & Sullivan indicates that the market for industrial networks and communications technologies like Ethernet and wireless systems will grow from €854 million of revenue in 2010 to almost €1.6 billion in 2015. This will be due to the pursuit of higher productivity and to cost reductions resulting from the use of real-time data. Demand for fast and reliable industrial computers is also growing. Frost & Sullivan predicts that the global market for these computers will grow from $2.1 billion in 2011 to $3.2 billion by 2015.
According to a study conducted by Roland Berger, 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), had a global market volume of €1.7 billion for metallic structures in 2012. Experts at Roland Berger predict that the market volume will increase at least fourfold over the next ten years. The sectors that will especially make increased use of additive manufacturing are the aviation, medical technology, and automotive industries. According to experts, this rapidly rising demand is due to potential process cost reductions of up to 50%.