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How does Advanced Manufacturing fit in Industry 4.0?

First, what is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0, referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution was first introduced in 2011 by the German Government as a strategic initiative to fully digitise the manufacturing industry without the need for human interaction. Industry 4.0 represents a new stage in the organisation and control of the industrial value chain. It is the digital transformation of manufacturing/production and related industries.

The first industrial revolution came with the advent of mechanisation, steam power and waterpower. This was followed by the second industrial revolution which revolved around mass production and assembly lines using electricity. The third industrial revolution came with electronics, I.T. systems and automation, which led to the fourth industrial revolution that is associated with cyber physical systems. Fig.1 below summarises the four industrial revolutions.

Industry 4.0
Fig.1. From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0(1)

The transition to Industry 4.0 is connected to the following nine digital technological pillars (2):

  1. Big Data and Analytics- The first pillar is Big Data and Analytics. Big data refers to any large and complex collection of data. Data analytics is the process of extracting meaningful information from data. Using a continuous flow of data and analytics capabilities, companies can react promptly to changes in data patterns and reduce costs, make faster and better decisions and create new products and services.
  2. Simulations and digital twins-The second pillar is Simulations and Digital Twins. A simulation replicates what could happen to a product, but a digital twin replicates what is happening to an actual specific product in the real world. The availability of Big Data and Analytics, combined with continuously increasing computing power is expanding the application of 3D simulations from the general engineering phases of products and production processes to plant operations.
  3. Autonomous robots- The third pillar is Autonomous Robots. An autonomous robot is a robot that acts without recourse to human control. Traditionally, manufacturers have used industrial robots for tackling complex tasks and assignments. However, the advancement of technological capabilities is enabling a new generation of robots that can function autonomously, take on increasingly complex and challenging tasks and can work alongside humans or even in human restricted workspaces.
  4. Horizontal and Vertical System Integration- The fourth pillar is Horizontal and Vertical System Integration. In the context of Industry 4.0, vertical integration refers to the connection of internal IT systems across the different hierarchical levels of a company. Horizontal integration refers to the digitalisation and connection of the various systems across a company’s entire supply and value chain. This connection aims at creating value networks between different companies and deliver end-to-end solutions.
  5. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-The fifth pillar is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to the concept of networked systems consisting of interlinked physical objects and devices connected to the internet. A subsection of IoT, referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) focuses on applying IoT capabilities for industrial purposes. IIoT is an essential premise for the concept of Industry 4.0 as it enables companies to continuously collect information from machines, sensors, products and devices and use this information to detect failure, monitor quality and initiate maintenance procedures.
  6. Cybersecurity- The sixth pillar is Cybersecurity. While the transition to Industry 4.0 offers many benefits, it also poses an increasing concern regarding Cybersecurity. Indeed, the integration of systems and implementation of IIoT, Big Data and Analytics and Cloud Computing increase the risk of cyber-attacks. While the threat of cyber-attacks may vary, their impact on businesses can be severe. The impact can include life-threatening situations for workers, theft of industrial trades and intellectual properties, safety and pollution compliance violations, denial of service to networks and sabotage to critical infrastructure, machines and components.
  7. Cloud Computing- The seventh pillar is Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing refers to the sharing of IT resources and computing power over the internet. Cloud Computing services include servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and intelligence. In the context of Industry 4.0, Cloud Computing can facilitate production and manufacturing activities across internal departments and company boundaries, thus paving the way for more collaborations, work flexibility, delivery of services and creation of new products.
  8. Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing -The eighth pillar is Additive Manufacturing (AM). AM refers to a process which includes 3D printing technologies that create parts by adding material. This process is different from conventional manufacturing processes such as milling and turning or injection moulding (creating products by injecting materials into a mould). Up until now, most companies used AM mainly to prototype and produce individual parts and components. However, as AM technologies are evolving and maturing, industrial companies are increasingly using them to transition from mass production of identical products to smaller, low-volume batches of customised and sophisticated products with advanced attributes.
  9. Augmented- and Virtual Reality- The ninth pillar is Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). AR refers to the integration of computer-generated information into the real-world environment by projecting a layer of graphical information into the user’s view through devices such as tablets, smartphones, and smart glasses. This additional layer of information can assist workers in bridging the gap between the digital/virtual and physical environment, supporting operational tasks and decision-making. Virtual Reality (VR) is a step beyond AR. Instead of graphical layers of information projected on to the real-world environment, VR devices generate a virtual replica of a real-world environment, allowing users to interact with virtual elements and evaluate and perform activities in a virtual environment.
Fig.2. Overview of the nine technological pillars of Industry 4.0(2)

The nine technologies of Industry 4.0 are highlighted in Fig.2, to the left.

Thus Industry 4.0 encompasses a promise of a new Industrial Revolution and represents the ways in which smart, connected technology would become embedded within organisations. Its use of digital technologies makes manufacturing more agile, flexible and responsive to customers through optimising the manufacturing system. 

The main benefits of adopting Industry 4.0 are (3)

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing in Industry 4.0: (4)

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing highlighted as the 8th pillar of Industry 4.0 are the leading emerging manufacturing technologies of Industry 4.0. The use and implementation of additive manufacturing in combination with other technologies is producing an evolution in the industry towards an intelligent production where machines (autonomous, automatic and intelligent), systems and networks are able to exchange information and respond to the systems of production management. In addition, as a technology capable of turning a 3D design into a product without intervention, 3D printing has a fundamental manufacturing role in Industry 4.0. The need for expensive tools and fixtures is eliminated, reducing post-processing, material waste and human intervention. 

Thanks to 3D printing, factories can increase their flexibility, adapting to the needs of an increasingly demanding and unpredictable market. In addition, it enables all kinds of personalised objects to be manufactured without expensive moulds and manufacturing tools. 

3D printing is also a great ally of the environment, an important characteristic considering our current climatic situation and the importance of having sustainable manufacturing processes with less consumption of resources and generation of waste. In addition, the current situation that is being experienced worldwide due to COVID-19, has led to greater progress and consolidation of 3D printing following an increased need for personalised elements quickly.

To Summarise

Smart technologies, like Additive Manufacturing, powered by Industry 4.0 lead to increased productivity, improved part quality, reduced costs and employee downtime. It also improves resource utilisation. Industry 4.0 is revolutionising the way businesses manufacture, improve the quality of their products and their distribution. Industry 4.0 will drive the competitive advantage for manufacturing companies and allow for new ways to market products, and how businesses can change to digital processes.  


  1. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/from-industry-10-to-40_fig1_346901544
  1. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/overview-of-the-nine-technological-pillars-of-industry-40_fig2_346901544
  1. https://www.horsfield-smith.co.uk/insights/blog/how-is-industry-4-0-revolutionising-the-manufacturing-industry/ 
  1. https://www.3dnatives.com/en/3d-printing-in-industry-4-0-150220215/

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