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Looking Ahead: AEC and Manufacturing Sector Trends for 2018

Articles Central Innovation 19 December 2017

Looking Ahead: AEC and Manufacturing Sector Trends for 2018

With the end of year holiday season almost upon us, it seems the appropriate time to try out our predictive skills and anticipate what trends may lie in store for 2018 and beyond.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s push to position Australia as an “innovation nation”, along with his Government’s pledge of $100m and formation of six dedicated industry growth centres, received responses ranging from guarded enthusiasm to cynicism from attendees and delegates at this year’s International Manufacturing Week tradeshow as it made the news.

The overall message of much of the “Industry 4.0” themed seminars conducted there was clear: the definition of manufacturing is changing as automation, digitisation and other technological innovations become increasingly commonplace, and Australian industry must adapt to become more collaborative, export-focused and a supplier of customised solutions.

We can expect to see this evolution becoming more tangible over the next 12 months and beyond, as the old days of mass production increasingly give way to bespoke production which can command high profit margins. The medical applications of 3D printing, such as personalised medical implants, are just one example of this.

The growing demand for customisable products and solutions will make it easier for our small to medium enterprises to supply to a global market, but this trend underscores the need for Australian industry to integrate within the global supply chain, such as by providing products to major multinationals with global reach.

This will also drive the growth of initiatives to link manufacturing and research sectors, through incubators, industry collaboration spaces and open access hubs. Whether housed in private sector operations, philanthropic foundations or academic institutions, these collaborative centres all share the common goal of developing and promoting new technologies and making them available to a global market.

Manufacturing innovation is often linked to entrepreneurial spirit and Australia boasts a strong track record in this regard. Our manufacturers are already staking out their own creative spaces in the growing area of interactive building materials, such as 2017 DesignBuild Incubator award-winning LUMES lighting system which utilises built-in software to enable light to respond to human motion, thereby positively impacting on mood and emotional state. This invention is for use in hospitals to reduce anxiety and has broader applications within interior fitout.

A similar example is the world-patented, Australian invented Intelli particle, a formulation of industrial carbon and graphite which generates heat when provided with a low charge, and which can be incorporated into paint, polymers, resins, concretes and other fabrics to quickly produce heat.

In the architectural space, the increasing commercialisation of Virtual Reality (VR) technology will further open up the potential for communicating concepts to builders and clients. Headsets with wireless connection to smartphones or tablets now make it possible to stream a virtual environment to the sensory inputs of the wearer – from three dimensional views (via the sending of different information to each eye) to interactive virtual touchpoints allowing the manipulation of objects within the virtual space.

The interrelated concerns of environmental sustainability, green design elements and increased energy efficiency are all set to feature strongly in AEC sector projects into the future and will therefore also impact on manufacturing trends. Earlier this year CSR received a $3m Federal Government grant to support development of an Australian-first high performance building façade system which would see local manufacture of advanced prefabricated facades designed to be safer, more durable and higher-performance, thereby lowering construction costs and increasing Australia’s international competitiveness.

We’re also seeing the creation of high-rise structures designed for sustainability and featuring facades which can utilise the exterior climate conditions to maximise building energy efficiency, along with interior green spaces, interactive lighting and innovative smart design features – as exemplified by Sydney’s One Central Park designed by PTW Architects.

Contemporary apartment living is set to morph into a lifestyle choice undreamt of by our parents, with the creation of inner-city complexes incorporating 24 hour concierges, rooftop community gardens and running tracks, green spaces built around central pools, yoga studios and health spas – along with increased customisation of floorplans and the ability to reconfigure internal spaces utilising sliding panels.

It’s going to be an exciting time to be working in the AEC sector and in design and manufacturing generally – as 2018 takes us along the next steps of the journey of transition to the new world of assistive robotics, increased automation and ICT-enabled innovation.

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