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The electronics trends manufacturers should know about for 2024

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Britain’s manufacturers have begun the year with renewed optimism, and the market sector of electronics manufacturing is no different. A growing number of UK manufacturers feel they’re moving ahead of their continental counterparts and are maintaining a positive outlook for the year ahead.

Increased automation, a focus on purpose-built solutions for healthcare applications and further usage of new technology are driving electronics manufacturing forward, with excitement in the sector around new innovations.

The recent news that Elon Musk’s Neuralink project has successfully implanted a brain-computer interface into a human subject’s brain gives an indication of the types of technologies we can expect to see in the short and long-term future.

Paul Dearman, Head of Business Development at specialist cable assembly and electronics manufacturer GTK, has noted a shift in the way that manufacturers interact with their suppliers, with increasingly more rigorous standards required, particularly for specialist projects. We spoke to him to better understand the other electronics trends that today’s original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should be aware of for 2024…

Solutions for healthcare

With the release of the NHS’ business plan for 2023/24 in September, priorities for publicly-funded healthcare institutions like hospitals and care homes have shifted. Following the merger between NHS England and NHS Digital in February 2023, there’s a greater focus than ever on pushing the NHS forward using technology.

The NHS’ technological priorities for this financial year include delivering “technology upgrades across primary care,” “addressing legacy technology constraints,” and “leveraging innovation to transform health and care.”

“Demand for electronics to be used in healthcare applications is growing, as seen in Q4 of 2023,” notes Dearman. “Electronics producers who are unable to match the complex demands of the healthcare sector risk missing out on a significant chunk of business.”

Evolved manufacturing techniques

Expect technological advances to continue streamlining the electronics manufacturing process through 2024. Internet of Things (IoT) integration has increasingly taken precedence in the sector over the last few years, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Automation will also become more important than ever in 2024 and affect an even greater number of business functions. Automation has already helped expedite the early stages of product development, enabling manufacturers to bring a product to market more quickly than ever. For instance, visualisation tools such as Graphisoft’s Archicad have made it far simpler to create serviceable early-stage designs, freeing up time and resources for the production process.

As such, says Dearman: “Firms who aren’t automating extensively can expect to get left behind by more efficient manufacturers.”

IoT for manufacturers and customers alike

Just as IoT has become an integral part of the manufacturing process, it’s also being increasingly implemented in both residential and business applications. As well as smart homes, business use applications such as supply chain management are becoming more common.

One of the impacts of the growing use of IoT and smart-connecting devices, according to Dearman, is the increased demand for reliable connectivity solutions. “These technologies have necessitated a call for reliable data and power transmission in non-standard settings – OEMs require cable assemblies and connectors that are robust enough to meet those needs in more difficult environments.”

OEMs should therefore be aware of the increased demand for purpose-built solutions, and consider how their existing infrastructure can adapt to support that.

Customisation is king

In 2024, expect your customers to be looking for more bespoke, customised solutions than ever before. Hyper-personalisation has been a growing trend across a range of sectors for a number of years, but demand for bespoke electronics is expected to increase during the year ahead.

Technological advancements are part of the reason behind this – the growing use of machine learning means that businesses can understand their customers in more depth than ever and cater to them more efficiently.

“The demand for personalisation is taking a number of forms”, says Dearman. “Whether it’s small customisations like one-off overmoulding or entirely bespoke solutions, firms need to be prepped to create built-for-purpose solutions.”

Capacitive touch solutions

Given the wide range of electronics that the average consumer interacts with during a given day, OEMs should consider the importance of UI, ergonomics and aesthetics when creating a device that’s designed for direct user input. For example, GTK reports an increase in the level of demand for capacitive touchscreens in its display solutions, as users have now come to expect on-screen controls.

Google Search data backs this up – searches for “capacitive touchscreen” and “capacitive touch sensor” have increased by 23% and 21% respectively compared to January 2023, indicating that demand for these solutions is growing, especially as they becomes more cost-effective for industrial applications.

Sustainability concerns remain vital

As net zero edges closer, businesses across the country are interrogating their operating practices in more depth. Sustainability is becoming a more important concern than ever, as stakeholders at every level become increasingly concerned about the provenance of their electronics.

Offering your customers alternative or sustainably sourced materials could be the difference between winning their business and failing to do so. Many of today’s alternative cabling solutions provide the same durability and performance as their traditional alternatives, so it’s worth considering whether your business has incorporated these into its new product designs.

“Understanding your customers and their habits for the year ahead could be the difference between your business surviving and thriving, so it’s vital to get in front of those trends and understand exactly what they need”, Dearman comments.

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

Manufacturing sector ‘at risk’ of oversized and poorly matched energy equipment

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Manufacturing managers concerned with the decarbonisation of energy in their facilities are being signposted towards Aggreko’s latest upgrades of equipment that will help cut emissions and protect the bottom line amid the energy crisis.

According to Aggreko, industrial facilities rely on several different temporary power and temperature control solutions which are often oversized or poorly matched for their chosen application. This is proving not only unsustainable but also inefficient.

With stricter climate legislation and uncertainty in the market affecting firms’ ability to predict energy usage, the temporary power firm says its manufacturing customers are now in a precarious position.

Greener Upgrades in Manufacturing is a new initiative that advises on how to meet demand via effective use of newly developed technologies, such as hybrid generators and temperature and humidity control products, which can run off alternative fuel sources.

The Greener Manufacturing guide highlights how the current equipment necessary for cold storage and back-up power emits heavy pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other harmful particulates. However, Aggreko showcases some of the changes the industry can make via a Greener Upgrade, such as replacing diesel fuel with hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90% and particulate matter by 86% respectively.

Matt Watson, Sector Sales Manager for Manufacturing at Aggreko, said: “In light of the problems the manufacturing industry are facing today, there’s a clamour for more environmentally-friendly solutions. The majority of our customers are now demanding more flexible energy solutions which meet their needs without eating into capex budgets. Greener Upgrades in Manufacturing provides a pragmatic answer to this.

“Aggreko has invested significantly into its fleet technology and product range meaning that greener hired power is one way the industry can navigate the transition to sustainable energy while protecting all-important bottom lines. We believe all suppliers need to be setting an example to industry.”

To download the full guide, click here.