What is Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution and is related to industry, although it is concerned with areas that are not usually classified as industry applications in their own right, such as smart cities.
The first industrial revolution came with the advent of mechanisation, steam power and water power, which was followed by the second industrial revolution that revolved around mass production and electricity. The third industrial revolution came with electronic and I.T. systems and automation, which led to the fourth industrial revolution that is associated with cyber physical systems.
Generally-speaking, Industry 4.0 describes the growing trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing technology and processes, including the internet of things (IoT), the industrial internet of things (IIoT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), smart manufacture, smart factories, cloud computing, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence.
This automation creates a manufacturing system whereby the machines in factories are augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors to monitor and visualise an entire production process and make autonomous decisions.
Wireless connectivity and the augmentation of machines will be greatly advanced with the full rollout of 5G, which will provide faster response times, allowing for near real time communication between systems.
Industry 4.0 also relates to digital twin technologies that can create virtual versions of real-world installations, processes and applications, which can then be robustly tested in order to make cost-effective decentralised decisions.
These virtual copies can then be created in the real world and linked, via the internet of things, to allow cyber-physical systems to communicate and cooperate with each other and human staff in real time to create a joined up data exchange and automation process for manufacturing. This automation includes interconnectivity between processes, information transparency and technical assistance for decentralised decisions.
In short, Industry 4.0 should enable automated and autonomous manufacturing with joined-up systems that can cooperate with each other to solve problems and monitor processes.
This has already been demonstrated through offline programming and adaptive control for arc welding, taking the process from product design through simulation and onto the shop floor for production.
Industry 4.0 at TWI
TWI has been exploring Industry 4.0, with a particular focus on its application to joining and associated technologies. Digital manufacturing is a key area for development through TWI projects and industrial case studies.
These projects include those related to areas such as rapid prototyping, electronics and sensors, and also digital twin for inspection purposes.
TWI’s expertise means that we remain at the forefront of this emerging array of processes, technologies and applications across a variety of industry sectors.