As common with buzzwords, there are those within the industry who are questioning whether AI is truly necessary or if it is a marketing gimmick. In considering the practical applications that AI will have on the technology and processes around us, it certainly is more than good marketing. The adoption of AI methodology is the necessary next step in the evolution of manufacturing in order to move the industry forward in a meaningful way. The question is to what degree AI is implemented compared to current industry expectations.
The processes involved in manufacturing have not changed significantly for a very long time. While the production of PCB assemblies has been automated for years, the recent breakthrough has come from using significant amounts of data to make that process even more productive. Now, it is all about optimizing the amount of time that the equipment is operating. The introduction of AI into the manufacturing world ultimately improves equipment effectiveness.
One example of how the design-through-manufacture sector is using a form of AI today is through the use of vision-guided robotics. Sensors and cameras coupled with robotic arms allow for the machine to make placement of materials based on the data it receives. This is automated motion that was not widely used in the past as it was not an economical option. Now, due to the advancements of technology, this sort of sensor-driven process can be used successfully, especially in higher mix environments where the machine must handle variation in the production.