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Smart manufacturing and software integration into the design, engineering and manufacturing process can greatly reduce production times and allow for new ways of design thinking. These technologies have all the buzz but what challenges need to be overcome in order to implement these technologies successfully?

Key challenges include the need for protocols and standardization across the industry in order to move digital engineering forward. Alexander Dunn, Advanced Product Development Manager with Redwire, says the amount of generated data causes a challenge: “There’s a lot of data being produced. How do you make sense of that, aggregate it? From a global perspective, how do you share that data? How do I get into that data into proper formatting? From human-to-human, we use language – how can machines do it? How can we get machine data interchange? […] Many people set up their own protocols, do it in their way”. In order to share more data between organizations, standardization and incentives are required, says Dunn. Dunn has been working on developing a digital engineering roadmap.

For many years, computers have already assisted manufacturing and engineering processes – industrial robots are found in many manufacturing facilities. However, there is a need for such robots to become more dynamic and be capable of working with higher-mix lower-volume production, instead of just repetitive manufacturing operations. Jorge Nicho, Robotics Research Engineer at the Southwest Research Institute, has been working on creating such dynamic robots using advanced algorithms through open-source technologies used in industrial automation. “Nowadays, there are open-source software packages that you can use to have a robot plan a motion or trajectory without the operator having to define a certain way point. I haven’t seen a case of where a space robot takes advantages of these technologies,” says Nicho.

The upcoming Space Tech Expo USA conference will highlight smart manufacturing and digitization to optimize space system design, manufacturing and engineering processes. Join us on the conference to hear from expert speakers from Redwire and the Southwest Research Institute, as well as Caltech, NASA, Big Metal Additive, Xometry, Capella Space and Ramon.Space, among many others.

Relevant sessions include Increasing Engineering Efficiency Through Advanced Digitization Capabilities to Speed Up Commercial, Civil and National Security Space Programs and Unlocking Flexible Missions and Downstream Terrestrial Capabilities with Advanced Onboard Processors and Software Innovation on Thursday October 7.

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