Collaborating with a university partner, a mid-sized chemical company developed a continuous modular process to make an existing specialty chemical at much lower operating and capital cost. The industry-university team took the process from bench to commercial operation in under 24 months, reducing capital expenditures by 90% and lowering operating costs by over 30%.
Purification and handling of complex waste water streams is a problem across many industries, Researchers at Georgia Tech, in partnership with the Alliance for Pulp and Paper Technology Innovation and their industry members, developed a modular membrane system that dramatically reduces the energy requirements for waste water processing. The system is applicable to a broad range of wastewater treatment.
Conversion of natural gas to higher value liquid chemicals at the wellhead enables distributed production of chemicals and fuel. This shortens supply chains and creates jobs where they are needed in rural communities while also improving energy efficiency by 63% and reducing capital costs by 51% versus conventional processes.
The Changing Core Industrial Processes
The industrial landscape is changing rapidly, enabled by a convergence of digitization novel materials, component design and fabrication, precision sensing technology, and highly integrated automation. We are seeing a convergence of modeling; new manufacturing processes; online, real-time diagnostics; and unprecedented robot automation/human interaction that is transforming industrial processes in all major industries.
Process Intensification is directed toward substantially smaller, cleaner, more energy-efficient technology. One approach is combining multiple chemistries into a single reactor process. Another approach is modular systems that are geographically distributed. Process intensification utilizes established technologies (i.e. microwave) and materials in innovative ways. It also utilizes new bio- and nano-materials (i.e. graphene)
New Manufacturing Concepts
Simulation tools now allow designers to envision component designs that mimic the elegance of nature and to predict new materials that provide defined functionality in specific applications. Engineers can turn those rationally designed materials and nature-inspired part designs in real-world products.
Additive—or 3D printing—processes allow for mass-customized products using exactly the right material for the job. Connected sensor technologies, both in the production processes and in field service, ensure that those materials and components are produced with quality built into the design, and automation systems ranging from cobots that assist human workers to perform repetitive tasks to full robotic manufacturing to assemble or repair in environments too dangerous for humans.
Manufacturing workflow management
In manufacturing workflow management, we are digitally integrating the work instruction, the operator and the equipment for each task into a seamless manufacturing system. We have digitalized operating instructions and procedures, which are available on mobile devices to the operator. This provides unprecedented flexibility in adjusting production schedules. Sensors provide visibility into the status of production runs and machine learning provides real-time detection of emerging problems. We are alerting operators to out-of-control conditions and suggesting corrective action reducing the need for tribal knowledge.