Customising the future – The next industrial revolution

If you’re like me and predictive text has led to some awkward if not amusing moments, you might be sceptical about Artificial Intelligence (AI). But its achievements are already overwhelming and changing, even protecting, our lives in many sectors.

Language, image and facial recognition, interpreting behaviours, even generating news articles, are everyday examples. It will not be long before AI becomes a disruptive force in the manufacturing sector and we enter the era of Industry 5.0.

Industrial revolutions have been occurring since the eighteenth century. Mechanisation was the catalyst for the first revolution. Then electrification made possible assembly line mass production. This eventually led to automation with the introduction of electronics and computers in the 1970s.

And today we are on the cusp between Industry 4.0 - the revolution that is digitalisation, the internet of things - connected devices, data analytics - and Industry 5.0, the introduction of AI into manufacturing. These revolutions have come with dramatic changes in society as well and in Japan, for example, it’s known as “Society 5.0”.

  • Society 5.0

    Closer integration of the production systems and participation of humans in their operation and guidance merges the high-speed accuracy of industrial automation with the cognitive, critical and intuitive creative skills of humans. The concept of Society 5.0 has been promoted by the Japanese government since about 2015 – an idea which places the society as a whole at the centre of technology development, rather than the industry. Giving technology the role of a catalyst and a driver, Society 5.0 aims at the general welfare of the members of the society and strives toward building a super-intelligent society-technology ecosystem. Society 5.0 takes Industry 4.0 and places the human being at its centre.

The vision for the fifth industrial revolution is mass personalisation and customisation made possible by cooperation between man and machine, as human and artificial intelligence work together, in harmony.

An area of AI of interest to the metals industry is how it is being investigated and used to make customised nickel-containing steel and nickel alloys. AI has the potential to help optimise manufacturing for sustainability. It is helping industry produce new, accurate, repeatable outcomes.  AI can process “big data” that humans cannot and it’s already an aid to specification and other intellectual tasks that can dramatically reduce time and cost, and provide novel, better solutions.

But Industry 5.0 is not all about AI.

In delivering customisation and personalisation Additive Manufacture (AM) is also rapidly developing into mainstream. And nickel-containing alloys are amongst the most popular to manufacturer additively, delivering familiar and new properties alike. The combination of AI and AM is just one of many possibilities for more sustainable and bespoke manufacturing in the future.

And what could be more futuristic and in need of more sustainability, novel construction and AI than space travel. SpaceX’s reusable rockets are set to change the economics of space exploration, with a little help from nickel and additive manufacture.

The latest edition of Nickel magazine (celebrating 35 years of publication this year) looks into some of these issues – take a look here.