Welcome to 2018! 2017 was a very busy but exciting year for us, we attended the Machine Tools Africa Expo, the Autodesk University South Africa event and the Digital Construction Expo (to name a few!) picking up the latest knowledge from the experts. We also hosted a few events of our own – all of which we’ve covered in our blog. So, to celebrate the end of a successful and forward-thinking year for construction, civil engineering, manufacturing and architecture we wanted to do a round-up of 2017’s trends and talk about what will be coming up this year so you can join us in staying current and ahead of the game!
Construction and Civil Engineering in 2018
2017 has seen these industries getting smart with robots, smart cities and drones. Recently, we discussed what robots can do for the construction industry and whether they put human jobs at risk. Thabelo Netshivhungululu, BIM specialist at Baker Baynes, summarises the team’s thoughts:
“Robots cannot replace humans, they’ll only make us more efficient in what we do. You just need to look at the financial industry when ATM’s hit the market. They quickly became popular but it didn’t reduce the tellers required in a bank, instead banks saw this as an opportunity to scale their businesses.”
With this in mind, 2018 should see businesses redefining their offerings to improve the end customers’ experience. What’s not to love about that?
In a similar fashion, smart cities are now popping up all over the place with the end users’ needs at the centre of construction and we predict that 2018 will only see a lot more of this, particularly in Africa. Already Cape Town is racing ahead and other African cities are set to follow. A 2016 report by Deloitte labels African cities as the ideal candidates for the adoption of smart city tech due to its rapid urbanisation, growing young population and lack of complications from legacy infrastructures. So, watch this space Africa…
Reducing reworks with tech
Right now, BIM and sustainable design are arguably the biggest trends in civil engineering. BIM let’s you visualise your design to see what works and what doesn’t so you can make revisions before any construction has commenced. This is one way of practicing sustainable design – it dramatically cuts down time and money on reworks and let’s you get something right before it’s too late.
Other ways to engineer sustainably is to create multipurpose spaces and use recycled materials to build new things. For 2018, sustainable design will be at the forefront of construction and more methods to build sustainably will emerge. BIM will become standard practice and things like designing with virtual reality will start to become part of the process.
We’re now at a point where civil engineering doesn’t have to be either technologically advanced or sustainable. Now, it can be both, which is a massive step in the right direction. In turn, this will of course increase the use of construction management software. Thabelo Netshivhungululu explains:
“The professionals in the field are quickly catching on to the BIM technology and the industry is now seeing the benefit of adopting the BIM workflow or approach to their projects. We will see an increase in technology investment in this market this year, which would mean a bigger selection of construction management solutions.”
Impressive 3D printing
3D printing is getting bigger and better. Last year, 3D printing made our ‘What’s New in Civil Engineering’ list where we included the impressive MX3D’s project, which looks to 3D print a bridge in Amsterdam. Thabelo Netshivhungululu also predicts that the use of 3D printing will become increasingly popular in prefabricated buildings. He puts this down to 3D printing’s ability to increase profit margins and lower construction costs in innovative ways.
Manufacturing in 2018
You only have to look at the history of manufacturing to see how far the industry has come. Even this year alone there has been huge progress in materials, technology and sustainable manufacturing. So, let’s take a look:
New and flexible materials
Thinner than aluminium but stronger, lighter and larger, Fibre Metal Laminates (FMLs) are changing the manufacturing of aircrafts for the better. Not only are they quicker to construct but they are safer and longer-lasting given that they aren’t as vulnerable to fatigue cracking.
While FMLs are impressive, it’s graphene that’s stealing the show. It’s 200 times stronger than steel, one million times thinner than human hair, bendable, transparent, flexible and the world’s most conductive material!
Flexibility seems to be the sought after advantage for new manufacturing materials. Grip metal, with its reputation for being a stronger and metal velcro, made our list for its ability to bond together pretty much any material. Shape memory alloys (SMAs) was also up there for being a mixture of metals that ‘remembers’ its original shape even after it has been deformed. Finally, while ceramics aren’t new, their use in additive manufacturing is. So, they made the list for being easy to create complex shapes and lightweight parts that are quick to manufacture.
Sustainability is still leading the way
Moving on from materials and turning our focus to trends, quite rightly, sustainability appears again. Leading the way are the big companies like Adidas, Nike and BMW with some innovative projects. For example, Adidas has developed DryDye, a way of dyeing shoes without water. While this sounds small, when Adidas makes more than 360 million pairs of shoes a year, this development is a huge way of saving a lot of water. Likewise, Nike has created Flyknit technology that has such impressive accuracy with material stitching that it’s reduced more than 1.5 million kilograms of waste.
With tech trends, machine learning is a big step forward for manufacturing and will undoubtedly improve efficiency and reduce human error. As will the Internet of Things. This term refers to different devices all being connected to the internet and communicating with one another. While this sounds simple, it too will change product efficiency for the better.
In an effort to answer to an increasing customer demand for personalised and tailored products, customisation is an emerging trend in manufacturing. And, as a result of that, so is smaller job runs. As Helen van der Schyff, Head of Product Design and Digital Manufacturing Technology at Baker Baynes, puts it:
“This want for customisation will mean the removal of mass production and tailoring production lines to cater for smaller runs or one-off productions to satisfy demand.”
But, perhaps the biggest trend of all is Industry 4.0. This is the convergence of all the latest tech, like robotics and machine learning, to remove the need for any humans in production. This has created ‘smart factories’ where cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralised decisions.
For 2018, complete digital transformation is definitely on the cards – that’s if it hasn’t happened already.
Architecture in 2018
Technology is changing, which is advancing architecture more than ever before. More and more we’re seeing robotics and AI playing a part in the design.
Architecture and AI
Generative design is a key trend that we believe is here to stay given its outstanding advantages. Generative design is software that allows the designer to input goals and any specifications, the software then explores all possible solutions and gives the designer several designs to choose from. Concerns have been raised that this is killing creativity, however, we only think it’s redefining creativity. Generative design widens our design options, gets us thinking outside the box whilst saving us time and money. That’s only going to boost creativity.
Another AI trend that is emerging is VR. VR has only just started to become a part of the architect world, having been predominantly used for gaming. This has two main benefits: Firstly, it allows the architect to really visualise their design and make edits as they go. Secondly, it helps communication between the client and the architect as the client can accurately see the finished product and make informed decisions.
Sustainability is key
Again, sustainable design has made an appearance in 2017. Sustainability doesn’t just have to be practical and efficient, we’ve seen some amazing examples of architecture that’s had sustainability at its heart – take a look. In 2018, get ready to see more of this innovation.
2017 has seen South Africa racing ahead in technology so make sure your business is up to date. Here at Baker Baynes, we specialise in helping you adopt the right technology to make your business run efficiently – get in touch.