Industrial Revolution?

An Additive Perspective on Industry 4.0

A Stratasys Strategic Consulting series capturing an additive perspective on industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0: Is this ‘fourth industrial revolution‘ just another buzzword the boardroom uses while the machine shop is knee deep in oil & swarf? Meanwhile, nobody’s bothered to do a proper inventory in the stockroom, so we’ve run out of machine screws…again. Or is industry 4.0, as some sources have you believe, the dawn of a new age representing a paradigm shift in not only how things are manufactured but how they interact with the user?

Well we’ve been reading quite a lot about this proposed fourth industrial revolution, and to be honest we haven’t made up our minds quite yet. Then again, we don’t think anybody really has, at least in terms of any meaningful action. However, we’d like to share with you what we’ve learned thus far and what we at Stratasys Strategic Consulting think industry 4.0 means for additive manufacturing (AM).

This is the first part in a series of blogs on the AM perspective on industry 4.0, or as our American colleagues in the Stratasys Aerospace & Defense group like to call ‘Smart Manufacturing.’

Looking at the definition from the Industry 4.0 working group in Germany:

“Industry 4.0 will involve the technical integration of cyber-physical systems into manufacturing and logistics and the use of Internet of Things and Services in industrial processes. This will have implications for the value creation, business models, downstream services and work organization.”

Cyber-physical…what?!? If you ask us this bit of jargon is worse than the industry 4.0 buzzword, but bear with us and we’ll try to pick it apart. It basically comes down to this: as advanced as our modern manufacturing facilities might be with lean manufacturing, quality assurance, and CNC machinery, most of the machines still have the behavior equivalent to that of a very obedient but rather dim, small child.

Instructions can be given to a machine and it will follow them, to the letter. Even if this means smashing a tool right into a billet. Holes will be drilled and components will be assembled even if they’re the wrong ones or obviously in the wrong place.

By inventing machines that automate processes to deal with undesirable human characteristics such as fatigue, boredom, strength, accuracy, forgetfulness and sickness, we’ve lost some of a human’s ability to cope with the unexpected, catch mistakes and generally see the bigger picture. Arguably most manufacturing plants are now too big for any team of humans to keep track of this big picture and be able to control all of its logistics anyway.

This is where the ‘cyber’ in cyber-physical systems comes in. The falling cost and subsequent improvements in overall size and capability of sensors and programmable logic controllers have unlocked a vast amount of data that can be captured. Everything from stocking/inventory levels, the temperature in the factory, or throughput per hour can now be tracked and analyzed.

It is argued by industry 4.0 proponents that we now have all of the building blocks to make ‘smart factories.’

Interestingly enough smart factories don’t have to mean a factory with artificial intelligence that makes products before you realized you even needed them. For now, it just means ‘not a totally dumb factory,’ as even simple decision making and error catching can have big impacts on the overall manufacturing process.

However, industry 4.0 can be so much more than purely manufacturing. It represents a cultural shift in the way we do business, design, manufacture, and interact with each other as humans. Early industrial revolutions took humans and made them machines. Mass manufacturing and commerce forced us to do mindless repetitive jobs, a single assembly operation on a production line, or endless data entry.

Industry 4.0 concepts can give machines that little bit of intuition they lack, enabling machines to do mindless repetitive jobs but still have the human oversight to cope with the unexpected. Humans are now beginning to have the freedom to work the way humans work best or want to live their lives. Mass connectivity has enabled flexible working hours and home offices. Mass automation is forcing humans to become more educated as machines are able to finally take these mindless jobs off our hands. However a cultural shift will be required to encourage us to become more educated so we can handle these new occupations. Furthermore the software tools we use to carry out our work will need to become more intelligent to support us with the burdens of these new jobs which require higher levels of thought and attention.

An important role will also be played by the paradigm shift in human-technology and human-environment interaction brought about by Industry 4.0.

The Technical Approach

Much of the early hype around AM is centered around the ability to create scalable factories of the future. While some of these benefits may be true today, industry 4.0 and AM together help enable the creation of products that are first-to-market, fully customized, and more importantly aren’t static.
These possibilities have the ability to change manufacturing in profound ways. Our analysis of the resulting technology trends motivates a framework that captures the activities for additive manufacturing’s move into mass manufacturing.


Model Based Enterprise (MBE) Architecture

Step one on the road to advanced manufacturing is moving away from analog 2D drawings and large quantities of disjointed metadata towards a standardized digital technical data package (TDP). These consist of 3D models of the part and all information required to manufacture it. These models can be read and edited by any software package or piece of machinery in its product life cycle. TDPs include all of the part’s product and manufacturing information such as tolerances, toolpaths, BOMs, specifications, quality inspection procedure, packaging, and logistical information to name but a few.

NIST (National Institute for Standards & Technology) has been working to standardize this for at least 5 years. But as you know, trying to import PMI data from your favorite CAD package to your CNC machine of choice is never as straight forward as it should be. Industry 4.0 is pushing for a true digital thread, in it’s approach from analog to digital conversion.

Digital Design Verification & Simulation

The design rules for additive manufacturing are far different from traditional manufacturing, and must break away from the traditional process loop of: guess, design, build, test then redesign. Design validation and simulation for AM must be realized in order for industry 4.0 to reach it’s full potential. Digital design verification and simulation aims to test your designs while you work. All of the PMI data available, coupled with expected environmental conditions the part will endure in its lifetime, will enable software to guide your design decisions during the process.

Design verification techniques must assess a part design for functionality, manufacturability, and conformance to industry-specific quality management systems, and simulation results which will allow for AM design freedom to be fully realized within the confines of various validation strategies.

Digital Modeling & Simulation of Manufacturing Process

Similar to the principle above of moving away from manufacture, test, remanufacture as a method of manufacturing, digital modeling and simulation of manufacturing processes enables parts to be tested and adjusted prior to their manufacture by simulating how the machine will produce them.

Process modeling allows AM machines to live up to their automation potential, by storing past manufacturing data. Part files will adapt to account for inherent inaccuracies in the manufacturing process to produce higher fidelity parts. Eventually this process could be used to digitally certify designs and parts with minimal physical testing by simulating and accounting for the unquantifiable unknown, instead of enduring a long and costly physical testing process.

Couple the Cyber & Physical Worlds

Today’s cyber-based and physical-based systems work independently. For industry 4.0, when one system’s state changes, it must cause an instantaneous change in all of the other connected systems. The cyber and physical states must become entangled in each other’s current and future possible states to create cyber-physical systems.

AM has the potential to be the most efficient method of converting data from the cyber world to the physical world. To complete the coupling of the cyber and physical worlds, sensors, controls & connectivity (i.e. ‘the internet of things’) need to feedback relevant information to connect the physical world to the digital. This data loop, its proper analysis, and interpretation are key principles of industry 4.0.

Intelligent Machine Process Control

We’ve had machine process control for a long time but it is relatively simplistic in its operation. A rolling mill might use a feedback loop to measure the thickness of its product and adjust the gap between the rollers accordingly. Industry 4.0 gives us the opportunity for truly intelligent machines driven by machine learning, which will continually improve the overall process, product, and materials used as they work.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘Deep Learning‘, which uses a neural network approach to account for sources of ‘unknown’ variables, and then uses past patterns to attempt to statistically conceive the correct value. The goal of the approach is to solve problems in a similar manner to the human brain, albeit more predictably and repeatedly. For example, a 3D printer which preemptively corrects its mistakes based on the results of previous similar but not identical jobs.


Which of these 5 topics will cause the most impact for modern manufacturing or even mankind is anybody’s guess. But it is clear to those excited by industry 4.0 that as smart as we think we are, there is plenty of room for improvement. We are surrounded by huge amounts of unutilized data, dumb machines unable to cope with the most basic form of the unexpected, and smart humans forced into doing mundane jobs. Keep your eyes peeled for a deeper dive into each of these topics over next couple of weeks.

This blog was jointly written by Dave Hayden & Andrew Hanson. The authors would like to thank Chris Holshouser & Clint Newell for their support of this blog series.

Andrew R. Hanson

Engineer - Stratasys Aerospace & Defense SBU

Andrew is a guest blogger from Stratasys’ Aerospace & Defense group, and works on a blend of engineering and business activities focused on meeting the needs of the Aerospace & Defense industry’s use of additive manufacturing.

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Dave Hayden

Consultant, Stratasys Strategic Consulting

Dave has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Sheffield, where he gained exposure to both high speed sintering and laser sintering technologies. He now works as a consultant providing technical insight into the broad range of projects we undertake. Dave has a passion for helping companies realize digital manufacturing strategies and takes a keen interest in the development of industry 4.0. As a CAD wizard he is also involved in producing AM parts for our clients and enjoys projects that incorporate both electronics and mechanical systems.

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