In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the electronics industry remains at the forefront of exciting progress and innovation.
So, as we delve deeper into the digital era, what are the latest trends and breakthroughs to impact electronics manufacturing?
1. The internet of things (IoT)
IoT sensors can automatically collect, analyse and store vast volumes of data, enabling factory managers to monitor and manage processes and resources remotely — providing the opportunity to make better-informed decisions to optimise production and change plans quickly when needed.
Equally, IoT can also be applied in the quality control stage, where data is analysed and used to fine-tune product designs — eliminating waste and additional costs due to faults in the final product.
When electronic components are shipped, IoT devices can even track and trace the inventory system globally, giving manufacturers accurate estimates of the available resources and allowing them to monitor their supply chain more closely.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
One of the main benefits of AI is that it can easily detect and predict failure before it occurs, helping to improve predictive repair and maintenance capabilities in electronics manufacturing. Spotting these issues early means time, materials and energy are not wasted and output is unaffected.
Even with a skilled workforce, a tired or inattentive worker can easily overlook minor defects in electronics. AI solutions, on the other hand, are constantly able to use data and sensors to carry out quality control tasks. Together, they make for a more efficient and reliable workforce.
3. Augmented reality (AR)
Printed circuit board (PCB) design is an intricate process — one not without its challenges. But AR technologies have the potential to address these issues, reducing the time-consuming process of place and route by enabling manufacturers to see how electronic packages can fit into unusual shapes or test that circuit connections work correctly before manufacture.
AR can also help minimise distractions. For example, smart glasses or headsets could show a set of virtual instructions, saving the engineer from manually turning physical pages whilst they switch seamlessly from the instructions to the virtual version of a PCB to the real-life work in progress.
4. 6G technology
The imminent rollout of 6G technology is set to be the key facilitator of the IoT, AI and AR — allowing for faster connection speeds and data transmission capabilities.
It is also predicted that the power of 6G could increase the capabilities of advanced industrial automation systems — where machines and equipment are connected to the network and communicate with each other in real-time. This automation can potentially improve efficiency within the workforce, reduce labour costs and improve worker safety by making more dangerous, manual production tasks automatic.
5. Advanced robotics
In electronics manufacturing, advanced robotics automation can be used for almost all stages of the production cycle, including material and component handling, assembly lines and etching.
For such repetitive tasks, robots can reduce labour costs significantly by decreasing the number of employees whilst increasing production times. Using this technology also helps to reduce the amount of human error and, subsequently, wastage costs.
Plus, robotic automation can create a safer environment for manufacturers, especially during inspections and testing. Robotic test equipment can access tight spaces when examining electronics assemblies for correct component alignment, soldering and other physical features — and this can reduce the risks of accidental component damage, electric shocks or burns.
6. Additive manufacturing
Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing allows electronics manufacturers to better embed sensors, chips, labels and other electronics onto non-flat surfaces — and helps to achieve the on-demand production of electronic parts.
Thanks to additive manufacturing, companies can present a fixed lead time and confined costs to their clients (and the turnaround time of designing and launching a product is much quicker). What’s more, manufacturers can easily supply prototypes to their customers, allowing for a smoother production process and fewer errors.
With the conversation surrounding greener energy growing, electronics manufacturers are now exploring ways to reduce waste, energy consumption and their environmental impact.
Manufacturing companies are leaning towards renewable sources, such as solar and wind power — and, more recently, green hydrogen — to run factory heating and cooling systems and operate equipment more sustainably.
Reducing plastic packaging and investing in alternative environmentally friendly ways to package fragile electronic materials and components, such as PCBs, for shipping is another manufacturing trend we expect to see throughout 2023 and beyond. Cornstarch-based foam that can be disposed of by composting it or dissolving it in water is just one example of a more sustainable packaging alternative.
Equally, reducing electronic waste will be at the top of the agenda, with manufacturers driving sustainable practices — in line with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEE) — to ensure the issues presented by e-waste are considered at every phase of the manufacturing process.
The world of electronics is constantly changing — but at Swan EMS, you can rely on consistent, first-class electronics manufacturing services for your projects. To see how we can help you, please call us on 01495 320 989 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.