Cutting-edge computing for factory efficiency

One of the core tenets of mass manufacturing is centralisation. It’s an idea pretty much as old as the Industrial Revolution itself. Putting everything in one place – raw materials, workforce, machines, post-production – enabled scale and scale meant efficiency.

The advent of Industry 4.0 has disrupted these long-established paradigms. Smart factories are challenging the accepted thinking underpinning volume manufacturing.

  • Innovate manufacturing techniques – 3D printing has undermined the relationship between volume and cost efficiency. The significant capital expenditure of investing in new tooling meant that any part had to be produced in high volumes to be justifiable.
  • Increasing automation – factories of the future will be ever less reliant on a local workforce to staff the production line. Factories will be part of a distributed network and contain machines that are more capable of intelligent operation independent of human interaction.
  • Autonomous transport will shift the logistics of manufacturing. Rather than relying on a centralized distribution network, manufacturers could use drones to move parts between factories or deliver products directly to retail and even end-users.

This fundamental shift from centralised manufacturing to a flexible network of smart factories is supported by edge computing. Just as factory hardware no longer has to sit under a single roof, IT systems will also be spread across a network.

Data centres and high performance processing systems will sit throughout a manufacturer’s network, perhaps on the factory floor itself. Through wireless technology, computers will be in constant communication with other smart factories in the network, the cloud, and a range of connected devices.

Despite these exciting advances in automation and communications, let’s not forget that manufacturing is still about making products – it’s a physical business. Machining parts can generate huge amounts of noise, heat, and dust which combine to create a very challenging environment for IT systems.

As systems will be ‘edge’ deployed as part of a decentralized network they could well exist in remote locations where local on-hand IT support is not guaranteed. Therefore it is paramount that the high performance computing systems enabling smart factories are easy to manage, secure, and resilient to the environmental challenges of the factory floor.

Iceotope, developers of innovate liquid cooling technology, has worked in collaboration with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield to solve the problem of dust particles from its carbon fibre laboratories.

Iceotope’s liquid cooling addresses this challenge directly and offers the manufacturing industry a host of benefits:

  • Resilient: With all the crucial components kept within a sealed module, Iceotope systems resist dust, resist smoke and resist failure
  • Compact: Iceotope packs more power in less space. Higher density means less real estate, less infrastructure and less expense.
  • Deployable: Iceotope has designed a portable and flexible system that doesn’t need an architect to get it working. From non-data-centre spaces to the harsher environments around the world, it’s ready to go.