Top 7 Under-the-Radar Trends and Technologies From 2018

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Laptop connected to an illuminated light bulb using a wire that says 2018

Innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have us marveling at the smart capabilities of everything from refrigerators to automobiles. Manufacturing production continues to increase, accounting for $2.33 trillion of the US gross domestic product in 2018 and employing 12.8 million people as of November 2018.

While flashier trends like IoT might get more time in the spotlight, the following seven under-the-radar trends have been crucial to the success and advancement of the manufacturing sector in 2018.

1. Fearing Worsening Skills Gap, Industrial Organizations Focus on Recruitment

Staying competitive requires the ability to attract and retain top talent. That talent is becoming harder to find, leading companies to increase their recruitment efforts and explore new talent pipelines.

The gear industry, for example, has recently ramped up recruitment efforts specifically targeting new graduates or those interested in mid-life career changes. Because the industry requires such specific skill sets to perform the highly-detailed casting processes involved in gear blank production, recruitment for open roles has become challenging. To help, the American Gear Manufacturers Association created a toolkit – complete with social media graphics and a YouTube video – to help gear manufacturers attract new talent via digital channels.

2. PCB Sector Grows as IoT and Industry 4.0 Gain Momentum

The global Printed Circuit Board (PCB) market could reach $80.1 billion by 2023. As manufacturing and the supply chain continue to digitize and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues its rapid growth, the need for high-speed connectivity and data transmission will drive growth for PCBs.

Some of that growth will be attributed to personal devices, such as computers, smartphones, and small electronics. However, PCB growth potential is trending far beyond everyday personal items and into technologies that once seemed futuristic, such as self-driving vehicles, guidance systems, and more. Innovative design will remain essential as the demand for smaller, more complex, and eco-friendly PCBs grows.

3. Biotechnology Booms With Varied Applications and Big Funding

Biotech was a $364 billion market in 2016. By 2021, it's expected to be $584 billion and investors are eager to support the industries driving this boom. By mid-2017, 22 synthetic biotech start-ups managed to pull in more than half a billion dollars from venture capitalists and public funding sources.

The potential for growth in biotechnology is high. In agriculture, biotechnology is being used to improve food safety and nutritional content, decrease the amount of time it takes to put a discovery into action, and eradicate disease. Industrial biotech is helping reduce the damage to the environment often caused by producing paper and textiles. Gene therapy and DNA fingerprinting are revolutionizing health care and pharmaceuticals.

4. Demand Rises for Newly Developed Lightweight, High-Strength Materials

Advanced materials offer strong, lightweight, and environmentally friendly solutions, which is why this market is expected to grow to $283 billion by 2021—up from $195 billion in 2016. Look for high-performance alloys, advanced ceramics, bio-based polymers, and more to keep showing up in catalytic converters to help filter toxins, in the motors of electric vehicles, and throughout automobiles and airplanes as the automotive and aerospace sectors continue their pursuit of lighter, more efficient machines.

5. New Chemical Etching Process Improves Nanofabrication

Using a chemical reaction to quickly and precisely shape the smallest metal parts, metal etching is used in a variety of industries to create items such as circuits, heater elements, needles, and more.

Metal-assisted chemical etching (MacEtch) enables the creation of nanostructures with less risk of damage. MacEtch is a wet, directional technique successfully used with silicon and other III-V semiconductors. Simple and cost-effective, it revolutionizes the production of nanostructures previously produced by other methods and opens the door to new production breakthroughs in micro and nanotechnology.

6. As Alternative Energy Sources Gain Popularity, Need Grows for Energy Storage

Our plugged-in society needs more energy than ever before. Hence the growing need for alternative energy storage systems. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels requires providing sustainable power for charging electric vehicles. Facilities seek to decrease energy costs by charging batteries during non-peak times. An increasing interest in solar energy demands an efficient way to store energy in homes and larger commercial and industrial buildings. In the United States alone, energy storage is expected to be more than 40 gigawatts by 2022 (up from just six in 2017). Storing renewable energy will remain a top consideration, both globally and domestically.

7. As Automotive Market Thrives, Demand Rises for Aluminum Brazing

As the auto industry strives to keep up with demand for fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, the market for aluminum brazing is growing. Due to its strength and light weight, aluminum is used in place of steel and copper for condenser coils, brake linings, fuel injection piping, and more.

The HVAC sector has an interest in aluminum brazing as well; in the Asia-Pacific market, HVAC accounts for 50% of the market share for aluminum brazing.

These seven industrial trends will all likely extend into 2019 and beyond. With advances in technology happening so quickly, it's difficult to fully predict what developments will emerge in 2019. What’s certain, however, is that the manufacturing industry will continue to innovate to meet the demands of a growing global population.


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