Our Top 5 Manufacturing Stories of 2016

Big data, carbon fiber, IIoT, additive manufacturing and a revolutionary car company that isn’t Tesla.

Last year was an exciting one for the manufacturing sector: it was a major talking point in the presidential election, IMTS 2016 saw great success in Chicago and the manufacturing capabilities of a certain electric car company were the subject of considerable debate.

With so much going on, selecting just five stories from 2016 to feature wasn’t easy. The stories listed below weren’t our most popular, but they are some of our favorites.

Elio Motors: The Other Breakthrough Car Company

(Image courtesy of Elio Motors.)

(Image courtesy of Elio Motors.)

With so much attention focused on Elon Musk’s car company, particularly the fatal crash involving the Autopilot feature, it’s easy to forget that Tesla isn’t the only new kid on the block looking to give the Big Three a run for their money.

Elio Motors’ tiny, three-wheeled commuter vehicle is on track to shake up the automotive industry in a big way. Check out the full story or watch our video to find out if the company can succeed.

How Can Big Data Enhance Quality in Manufacturing?

Visualization of daily Wikipedia edits created by IBM.

Visualization of daily Wikipedia edits created by IBM.

“Big data” is one of those terms that seems to crop up over and over, but the manufacturing applications of big data aren’t always immediately obvious. Fortunately, a report by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) explains what big data is and what it can do.

In addition, ASQ interviewed two experts on big data: Elmer Corbin, director and project executive of client success at IBM Watson & Watson Health, and Silvia Veronese, director of big data solutions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. Check out the article and report for some great insights into the future of quality assurance.

Can Carbon Fiber Replace Steel in the Automotive Industry?

The question posed in the title of this article may sound absurd, but a project by the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) could make carbon fiber the material of choice for automotive manufacturers.

The project’s goal is to decrease the cost of carbon fiber structural parts by 15 percent for target automotive components. That’s not enough to put the cost of carbon fiber parts on par with steel, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Manufacturers May Not Be Ready to Harness Benefits of IIoT

 (Infographic courtesy of Accenture.)

(Infographic courtesy of Accenture.)

The Internet of Things (IoT) garnered significant attention in 2016, especially after October’s massive distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack, which used a host of compromised IoT devices. But the IoT’s potential goes far beyond the many unsecured or downright silly devices available today. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a prime example.

Yet despite its apparent benefits, many manufacturers may fail to harness the IIoT for a variety of reasons. A report from Accenture enumerates these reasons, as well as prospects for the IIoT over the next five years.

The Battle of Manufacturing: Additive vs Subtractive

3D printing technology continued to advance in 2016, but exactly what its role will be in manufacturing remains very much an open question. The idea that entire factories will be replaced by 3D printers still seems far-fetched, especially when additive technologies are contrasted with traditional subtractive manufacturing processes, like milling and turning.

We shed some light on these issues via an interview with Gordon Styles, president and founder of Star Rapid, a provider of rapid prototyping, rapid tooling and low-volume production services.

Stay tuned for more manufacturing news in 2017 and tell us what kinds of stories you’d like to see in the comments below.