Smart Factory Insights: Size Matters—The Digital Twin

In the electronics manufacturing space, at least, less is more. There are a whole plethora of reasons that have been driving down the size of electronic assemblies for many years—a trend which shows no sign of diminishing. The price we all have to pay as electronics manufacturers is not trivial, as existing paradigms of assembly, inspection, test, and quality control are challenged to the extreme. The digital twin is supposedly the new paradigm, yet—as with many things these days—the term has already been abused by various marketing teams to promote many disparate products and bespoke technologies, causing confusion, which stifles progress. Let’s consider what the true digital twin is really all about—including the components, uses, and benefits—and see that it is not just an excuse to show some cool 3D graphics.

Size Matters

Miniaturization, in one form or another, has led the way competitively between OEMs of key consumer devices—a phenomenon that has now stretched across the whole industry. The trend started back in the 1980s when portable consumer devices first appeared, and rivalries between the giant consumer device manufacturers became public. One great example was the launch in Tokyo by Sharp, who launched their smallest ever mini-disc player to huge media accolades. Attending the event was Sony’s president at the time, Norio Ohga, who—when asked about his reaction to Sharp having the smallest player in the world—took out of his shirt pocket what appeared to be a prototype of a player half the size, and said, “I don’t think so.”

Though with less fanfare, perhaps, the reducing size of electronics has been a continuous pursuit. It is not just a matter of being stylish and easy to carry. Sophisticated electronic controllers are now being integrated and embedded into the majority of everything that we own or use, including phones, energy meters, automotive intelligence, and military and space technology. There are many other factors apart from size itself that are important, including the weight; the space required for storage and transportation related to packaging; the amount of material consumption, especially for key materials for which there is a finite supply; the energy consumption of the device, including the safety of power supplies—especially batteries; and the physical strength of the device in terms of protection for example of an automotive module involved in a collision.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the February 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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2020

Smart Factory Insights: Size Matters—The Digital Twin

04-01-2020

In the electronics manufacturing space, at least, less is more. Michael Ford considers what the true digital twin is really all about—including the components, uses, and benefits—and emphasizes that it is not just an excuse to show some cool 3D graphics.

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Smart Factory Insights: What You No Longer Need to Learn

01-14-2020

Naturally evolving layers of technological applications allow us to build and make progress, layer by layer, rather than staying relatively stagnant with only incremental improvement. To gain ground in manufacturing, Michael Ford explains how we need to embrace next-layer hardware and software technologies now so that we can focus on applying these solutions as part of a digital factory.

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2019

Smart Factory Insights: Dromology—Time-space Compression in Manufacturing

11-25-2019

Dromology is a new word for many, including Microsoft Word. Dromology resonates as an interesting way to describe changes in the manufacturing process due to technical and business innovation over the last few years, leading us towards Industry 4.0. Michael Ford explores dromology in the assembly factory today.

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Smart Factory Insights: Trends and Opportunities at SMTAI 2019

10-14-2019

SMTAI is more than just a simple trade show. For me, it is an opportunity to meet face to face with colleagues and friends in the industry to talk about and discuss exciting new industry trends, needs, technologies, and ideas.

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Smart Factory Insights: Recognizing the Need for Change

09-24-2019

We are reminded many times in manufacturing, that "you cannot fix what you cannot see" and "you cannot improve what you cannot measure." These annoying aphorisms are all very well as a motivational quip for gaining better visibility of the operation. However, the reality is that there is a lot going on that no-one is seeing.

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Accelerating Tech: Standards-driven, Digital Design Flow for Industry 4.0

04-24-2019

The term “fragmented manufacturing” is a good way to describe current assembly manufacturing challenges in an Industry 4.0 environment. Even in Germany, productivity reportedly continues to decline. To reach the upside of Industry 4.0, data flows relating to design play a major role—one that brings significant opportunity to the overall assembly business.

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The Truth Behind AI

02-28-2019

The term "artificial intelligence" or "AI" has become a source of confusion for many—heralded as part of Industry 4.0, yet associated with the threat of automation replacing human workers. AI is software rather than hardware, and it's time to put these elements of AI into context, enabling us as an industry to embrace the opportunities that so-called AI represents without being drawn in, or pushed away, by the hype.

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2018

Resolving the Productivity Paradox

12-22-2018

The productivity paradox continues to thrive. To a growing number of people and companies, this does not come as a surprise because investment in automation alone is still just an extension of Industry 3.0. There has been a failure to understand and execute what Industry 4.0 really is, which represents fundamental changes to factory operation before any of the clever automation and AI tools can begin to work effectively.

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The Truth About CFX

10-23-2018

A great milestone in digital assembly manufacturing has been reached by having the IPC Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) industrial internet of things (IIoT) standard in place with an established, compelling commitment of adoption. What's the next step?

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Advanced Digitalization Makes Best Practice, Part 2: Adaptive Planning

08-27-2018

For Industry 4.0 operations, Adaptive Planning has the capability of replacing both legacy APS tools, simulations, and even Excel solutions. As time goes on, with increases in the scope, quality and reliability of live data coming from the shop-floor, using for example the CFX, it is expected that Adaptive Planning solutions will become progressively smarter, offering greater guidance while managing constraints as well as optimization.

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Advanced Digitalization Makes Best Practice Part 1: Digital Remastering

07-02-2018

As digitalization and the use of IoT in the manufacturing environment continues to pick up speed, critical changes are enabled, which are needed to achieve the levels of performance and flexibility expected with Industry 4.0. This first part of a series on new digital best practices looks at examples of the traditional barriers to flexibility and value creation, and suggests new digital best practices to see how these barriers can be avoided, or even eliminated.

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Configure to Order: Different by Design

01-15-2018

Perhaps in the future, sentient robots looking back at humans today will consider that we were a somewhat random bunch of people as no two of us are the same. Human actions and choices cannot be predicted reliably, worse even than the weather. As with any team however, our ability to rationalize in many different ways in parallel is, in fact, our strength, creating a kind of biological “fuzzy logic.”

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2017

Counterfeit: A Quality Conundrum

10-01-2017

There is an imminent, critical challenge facing every manufacturer in the industry. The rise in the ingress of counterfeit materials into the supply chain has made them prolific, though yet, the extent is understated. What needs to be faced now is the need for incoming inspection, but at what cost to industry, and does anyone remember how to do it?

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