What is Digital Manufacturing? You Must Know In 2021

A person holds a tablet displaying a colorful data interface in front of an industrial robot arm. The robotic arm is part of a larger automated machine setup, with the focus on integrating digital and physical technologies in an industrial environment.

Digital manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing that is centered around a computer system .The transition to digital manufacturing has become more popular with the rise in the quantity and quality of computer systems in manufacturing plants. As more automated tools have become used in manufacturing plants it has become necessary to model, simulate, and analyze all of the machines, tooling, and input materials in order to optimize the manufacturing process. Overall, digital manufacturing can be seen sharing the same goals as computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), flexible manufacturing, lean manufacturing, and design for manufacturability (DFM). The main difference is that digital manufacturing was evolved for use in the computerized world

The Three Aspects of Digital Manufacturing

It can be broken down into three main areas; product life cycle, smart factory, and value chain management.

Each of these relates to a different aspect of manufacturing execution, from design and product innovation to the enhancement of production lines and the optimization of resources for better products and customer satisfaction.

The product life cycle begins with engineering design before moving on to encompass sourcing, production and service life. Each step uses digital data to allow for revisions to design specifications during the manufacturing process.

The smart factory involves the use of smart machines, sensors and tooling to provide real time feedback about the processes and manufacturing technology. By uniting operations technology and information technology, this digital transformation allows for greater visibility of factory processes, control, and optimization to improve performance.

The value chain management focuses on reducing resources to create an optimal process with decreased inventories while maintaining product quality and customer satisfaction.

What are the Advantages of Digital Manufacturing?

There are a number of benefits by uniting manufacturing processes across different departments while reducing the potential for errors by creating an automated exchange of data.

Increased efficiency is accomplished by a joined-up manufacturing process which eliminates errors due to lost or misinterpreted data which is common for paper-based processes.

With a quicker turnaround across all levels of the value chain, digital manufacturing offers reduced costs, while allowing for design changes to be implemented in real time and also lowering maintenance costs.

The real-time manufacturing visibility afforded by digital technologies provides improved insights for critical decisions and a faster pace of innovation.

Furthermore, it allows an entire manufacturing process to be created virtually so that designers can test the process before investing time and money into the physical implementation.

Cloud-based manufacturing can be used for this modelling, taking open access information from a number of sources to develop reconfigurable production lines and thereby improve efficiency.

Digital Manufacturing Applications

Facilitates collaboration for a holistic view of product and process design

Digital manufacturing is utilized across industries. An automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can design the entire manufacturing process digitally (tooling, machining, assembly sequencing, and factory layout) at the same time that designers are designing the next vehicle program. This enables manufacturing engineers to provide immediate feedback to designers if there are constraints in the part manufacturability. This collaboration between manufacturing engineers and designers creates a holistic view of product and process design.

A high tech supplier can use a digital manufacturing system to create a 3D simulation of a complete production line, and analyze the different production variants and concepts as part of the request for quote (RFQ) process. This transparency and precision in planning and proposal preparation help the company gain greater customer confidence, and ultimately win the contract.

Current initiatives in the development of digital manufacturing tools involve improving user experience, so information is presented in the context of tasks performed, allowing users to make better decisions faster. Steps are being taken to provide direct connectivity with shop floor hardware, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), machine controllers and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines. Unified platforms have also been developed to manage both PLM and manufacturing execution system (MES) information.

Digital Manufacturing is the Future

The way people and organizations use information is shifting dramatically. As the intensity of global competition raises the stakes, the pressure is on manufacturers to think differently about business models while still cultivating additional revenue streams and finding ways to outflank the competition.

Read also: Third Party Integrations In 2021

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