FutureOfEMS

The Future of EMS Manufacturing: Technology

Over the next several weeks, we’ll explore the future of EMS Manufacturing through a series of articles that examine the technologies, markets, and services that will prompt changes in the EMS industry over the next ten years.

Big data is of growing interest as companies explore better ways to predict and meet future market demands, especially in emerging markets around the world. As business analysts across the world sift through millions of pieces of data, they’re searching for a glimpse into emerging trends that will be tomorrow’s realities. Armed with interesting insights, companies are exploring the questions many global manufacturers are asking. What technologies will shape future markets? What kinds of materials will they require? What services will customers expect from EMS partners? What are the emerging markets that will fuel demand?

Advanced Manufacturing 

Imagine an electronic device, like your phone, perhaps, that can be stretched, rolled, or washed without damage. Imagine what flexible electronics might do for the military, automobiles, or even healthcare? Growing demand for smaller and lighter devices that sip power is leading forecasters to predict that electronic devices embedded into plastic materials will burgeon to a $25.9 billion market by 2018 in the U.S. alone. The U.S. government agrees. In fact, the U.S. federal government is planning to invest over $1 billion in advanced manufacturing in the coming year. Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is investing $87 million in basic and applied research in promising areas such as materials and advanced manufacturing technologies. The U.S. President’s budget provides $12 million in 2012 to the Consortia program, a public-private partnership that supports advanced manufacturing R&D. In addition to the Consortia program, The President’s budget provides $75 million to the Technology Innovation Program, supporting public-private partnerships focusing on improving manufacturing processes for high-risk, high-reward innovative technologies.

As EMS partners ponder manufacturing wearable medical devices like flexible sensors that links a person’s prosthetic directly to the brain or an implantable glucose monitor, current technical issues remain. Battery life and device size, for example, currently limit the usefulness of such devices. What promising new technologies might revolutionize the current solutions within the next ten years?

Advanced Batteries

Advanced battery technology is currently receiving lots of attention from industry and governments. Growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly and economical transportation options is driving the growth in advanced battery technology. According to Pike Research, the advanced battery energy storage market will reach nearly $30 billion by 2022. In response to this demand, the U.S. Federal government is re-authorizing the Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit for $5 billion to spur investment in manufacturing for future clean energy technologies like advanced battery storage. Already, manufacturers are investing in advanced battery manufacturing. General Electric recently invested $70 million to expand its advanced battery manufacturing facility in New York where it expects to generate over one billion in revenue annually in just a few years.

Promising medical devices like robotic capsules require more than advanced power solutions. What types of materials will engineers require to design the miniaturized batteries needed for reliable, implanted devices?

Nanomaterial

If the supply chain is the foundation of the EMS industry, materials are its building blocks. Nanomaterial, defined by the immensely small scale at which they’re manipulated, are gaining importance in the manufacturing industry as part of the growing demand for low-power, lightweight, durable devices. And nanotechnology is a huge and growing industry. The National Science Foundation predicts that nanotechnology will be a trillion dollar industry by 2020.

Nano scale technology is interesting to manufacturers because of unique physical properties like superior electric conductivity and amazing durability. Products made from these novel materials promise to radically change the way current consumer products are manufactured. Imagine the disruption in the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) industry if devices made from printed graphene ink, a nanomaterial, replace traditionally assembled circuit boards.

Will the pacemaker of the future be powered by a glucose fuel cell that harvests its own power? Where will it be manufactured and what types of manufacturing services might evolve?

The technologies that will shape the EMS industry’s future over the next ten years may require radically different manufacturing processes, especially within the supply chain. New materials in the supply chain will impact future manufacturing locations around the globe. New service opportunities will emerge around these technology disruptions. These are some of the topics to be explored in the remaining Future of EMS Manufacturing articles.

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