In the nautical disaster movie, “The Perfect Storm,” three weather fronts converge off the coast of New England to create one of the fiercest storms in U.S. history. A similar convergence is occurring in the manufacturing world today. It’s called Industry 4.0 and it promises to transform the way that engineers design and build products over the next two decades.
NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan—In 2011, Foxconn announced a plan to replace 500,000 mainland Chinese workers with 1 million robots over the next three to five years. So far, the electronics manufacturing services provider has installed 40,000 robots across China. MORE
ROCHESTER HILLS, MI—Fanuc, one of the world’s largest makers of industrial robots, is working with Nvidia, a Silicon Valley chipmaker that specializes in artificial intelligence, to add learning capabilities to its products.
BROUGHTON, UK—Like a cartoon space alien with a dome-like skull, an Airbus Beluga transport plane arriving from Madrid drops from the sky above this village 200 miles northwest of London and taxis to a stop with its front end tucked inside a large building off the runway. Its bulbous forehead pops open to disgorge massive wing panels—98 feet long and 20 feet wide—that will soon be assembled by sophisticated robots and about 800 people into the largest carbon-fiber composite wings now built for commercial aviation.
PETROLIA, CA—Victor Scheinman, the Stanford engineering professor whose electrically powered, computer-controlled robot would become the Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly (PUMA) robot, has died at age 73.