The pace of technology is dizzying.
Just 20 years after the internet was first used, we’re now in a world of robots, 3D printers, semi-conductor carrying inks, and artificial organs.
So, how is this changing the work of engineers?
This trend has taken the world of engineering by storm.
Parts which can be manufactured on site help to maintain equipment and keep companies’ production lines moving smoothly.
It’s such a cutting-edge technology that some trend watchers are predicting 3D printed organs for transplantation, especially when they look at ground-breaking research being carried out at the University of Minnesota in the USA.
Researchers are using a custom-built 3D printer to print artificial organs which can be stitched like real organs.
3D-printed soft sensors could also be used in patients to give surgeons real-time feedback.
The potential to print electronic devices directly onto skin is also no longer just science fiction. The main hurdle now is to develop an ink which can cure at room temperature, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Benjamin Mayhugh, says.
This could mean someone’s watch being printed onto their wrist.
For industry, the potential to print semiconductor materials and devices is huge. The university’s team can print semiconducting particles which can generate activeelectronic devices – as opposed to passive conductors.
This technology will be at the heart of the next generation of 3D-printed electronics.
Production processes have harnessed robot help for decades.
However, these robots are now coming down in price and are far safer for humans to work alongside. They are lighter, and their processes can be controlled accurately. Some now have sensors which would make it stop if it ever came into contact with a human, and they are controlled via the internet.
Robots are, increasingly, being used both as a help to human workers and in isolation.
Shop-floor technicians are needed less where a collaborative robot is employed to make parts, for example. These robots can also be programmed to run day or night.
What does that mean for the engineering sector?
The future’s bright, but the future may contain some complex insurance issues.
If there is a 3D printer or robot malfunction, or a problem with a part created, are the engineers who created them, installed them, serviced them, or the staff who operate them liable?
Brokers already report that claims against engineers are all-too common – particularly where systems involve critical processes governed by strict health and safety rules, such as in lifts or hoists, aircraft, and other vehicles.
If your processes use a 3D printer or robot, or you use 3D-printed or robot-created parts in your tools, you’ll need to ensure your insurance broker has as much detail as possible.
An independent broker who deals regularly with the engineering sector and has access to the whole of the market will be able to get you the cover that gives you peace of mind by getting you the best fit.
Do you need advice on the right insurance for your engineering business? Call our expert brokers on 02920 470375.