Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days. It is all over the news, ranging from ethics discussions in Congress, to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, to workforce displacement fears. AI poses tremendous opportunities for transformation, however with a host of challenges.
In the electronics manufacturing services industry, AI has the potential to reduce costs, drive operational efficiency and increase data-driven decision making. Let’s take a closer look at how AI is revolutionizing the electronics manufacturing industry.
- Quality Control: AI is proving to be a useful tool in the detection of manufacturing defects through the use of visual inspection cameras. More powerful than the human eye, these systems can alert production personnel to non-conforming parts and poor workmanship, reducing RMAs and increasing first-pass yields.
- Supply Chain Management: using data over time, AI can be used to predict demand and improve forecast accuracy for certain components and parts.
- Predictive Maintenance: machine downtime in electronics manufacturing is costly and a drain on productivity. Manufacturers are turning to AI-based predictive maintenance models where data from sensors can detect machine and machine parts wear and tear, allowing a proactive approach to reduce downtime.
- Product Design & Development: AI’s data analysis capabilities identify patterns and trends that can improve designs before proceeding to prototyping, reducing product development costs, and improving time to market. Engineers are leveraging the power of generative design where the input of design parameters and constraints, with the help of AI algorithms, produce design alternatives otherwise unexplored or undiscovered.
- Robots, Cobots (collaborative robots) & Automation: industry 4.0, a trend that allows for smart manufacturing and the creation of intelligent factories) is transforming manufacturing and it should come as no surprise that AI plays a heavy role. Robots powered by AI can perform repetitive processes that increase production, reduce errors and save time. Cobots, on the other hand, work collaboratively with human counterparts, as a labor extension. Cobots in electronics manufacturing are used in highly repetitive tasks that require precision, such as labeling, using a screwdriver, component placement and (what kind of) dispensing.
AI in Electronics…A Cautionary Tale
While the benefits of incorporating AI in the electronics manufacturing no doubt can drive efficiencies and help us to operate smarter, there are cautions to take into consideration.
- Data Security and Privacy: the implementation of AI in electronics manufacturing opens the door to cyber attacks. Be sure your cyber security is robust and up-to-date.
- Ethical Implications: as AI uses natural language processing, which is the ability of a computer program to understand human language, it is at its roots faulty. Using AI without the intervention of real human to check it can result in bias, inaccuracies and privacy issues.
- Regulatory Compliance: the electronics manufacturing industry is subject to local, state and government regulations and standards, which need to be considered when utilizing AI. Regulatory compliance needs to be addressed on an ongoing basis.
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed an AI Risk Management Framework. “The AI RMF follows a direction from Congress for NIST to develop the framework and was produced in close collaboration with the private and public sectors. It is intended to adapt to the AI landscape as technologies continue to develop, and to be used by organizations in varying degrees and capacities so that society can benefit from AI technologies while also being protected from its potential harms.” (https://bit.ly/3NpI2W2)
- Technology Integration: when implementing AI into the manufacturing process, compatibility and interoperability need to be addressed along with the impact on infrastructure. To that end, the integration will need updates and improvements and a long-term plan for maintenance.
- Cost: with the considerations listed above, AI can be costly to implement. It will be an investment in time, expense and resources.
As an electronics manufacturing service provider, ACDi continuously evaluates new technologies and how we can integrate them into our operations to improve quality, efficiency and reduce cost. As such, we will keep our finger on the pulse of the evolution of AI in our industry. If you want to discuss your PCB layout or PCB assembly programs with us, please reach out.