The Internet of Things is typically thought of as a purely technological network. We focus on the wireless capability of devices, the importance of connections, and the ultimate functions that can be enabled. The IoT also represents a massive manufacturing effort, however, with millions of new sensors and devices being required to make it work. Here, we’ll look into how some advanced manufacturing methods are helping to meet the demands.
Where 3D-printed prototypes are concerned, we need only look to healthcare — one of the busiest industries in IoT adoption and innovation. Our blog post on ‘IoT in Healthcare’ delved into how a variety of connected devices are helping people to stay healthy. And while some of those devices (such as wearable wristbands) have been around for some time, others (like ingestible sensors or some smart clothing) are still new, or in some cases still in development. And the same can be said about innumerable IoT devices across a range of other industries as well.
Getting those IoT devices just right, such that they are safe, effective, and reliable, requires a very intricate design process. And while it isn’t always the solution, 3D printing can be implemented as part of that process. With its ability to manufacture a product from a precisely formed computer design, 3D printing is arguably the most exact method we currently have of testing product iterations and creating prototypes.
While 3D printing is largely used to create prototypes, at least in the context of the IoT, alternative modern manufacturing options like CNC machining and injection molding can help to mass-produce final products. Fictiv breaks down machining and molding and how they differ from 3D printing, ultimately conveying that each option has its uses. But it’s often these two practices that are most helpful for fast part production and mass replication of existing designs.
Specifically, CNC machining is the process of cutting and shaping object via computer-driven machine processes; injection molding is the creation of a reusable mold that can shape heated material into the desired design. Both tend to be somewhat faster than 3D printing where large-scale design projects are concerned, and both can help to drive the IoT forward by helping related companies to meet the sheer volume of demand for new devices.
The manufacturing methods discussed in the previous sections are remarkable unto themselves. However, it’s also important to note that the ever-expanding list of innovative materials that can be put to use via those methods is also a key factor. At this point, processes like 3D printing and injection molding in particular work with a range of hybrid plastics and similar alternatives that can be cheap, durable, and strong despite being light. Metal has also become an option in some cases, and in fact Space Daily wrote about nanoscale metal structures as 3D printing options just two years ago. Basically, this miniature objects can potentially be designed with more sophistication and precision than ever before.
Ultimately, it seems that with each passing month, we hear about a new material or hybrid that can be printed or molded, which only expands the possibilities for new IoT devices.
Considering all of these examples, it becomes clear that manufacturing is actually an incredibly important aspect of IoT advancement. And as these networks continue to grow — potentially to include 31 billion devices this year, according to TechJury — how new creations are physically constructed is going to continue to be a key aspect of development.
Mousumi is a Digital Marketing Executive at IoT Avenue who helped to promote the site along with several other sites with her compassionate SEO experties.
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