Top 10 manufacturing innovations

By Georgia Wilson
Manufacturing Global lists some of the top 10 manufacturing innovations of the last two centuries...

Manufacturing Global lists its top 10 manufacturing innovations from over the centuries, ranging from solar panels, electric vehicles and 3D printing. Read now to find out more about these and other innvovations that advanced the world.

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10: The first solar panel...

Dating back to 1883, Charles Fritts developed the first solar cell by coating selenium with a thin layer of gold. While producing a low conversion rate of 1 to 2 per cent - with most modern cells having an efficiency of 15 to 20% - his invention sparked the start of photovoltaic solar panel innovation in America.

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09: The first UPVC window...

Dubbed the material that was discovered twice by mistake. In 1838 Henri Victor Regnault, and then again in 1872 by Eugen Baumann discovered that when exposed to sunlight a white substance appeared inside a flask of vinyl chloride. However, it wasn’t until the 1920s where Waldo Semon combined the substance with additives to create a solid, but flexible material. Although, it wasn’t for another 50 to 60 years until the material was adopted as an alternative material for windows and doors. 

08: The first aeroplane...

1903 - the year of the first aeroplane flight. Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk, with their first crew powered, ‘heavier than air’, controlled aircraft.

Did you know? Wilbur and Orville Wright named the aircraft - the Flyer.

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07: The first 3D printer...

Dating back to 1983 Chuck Hull developed the first 3D printed part, inventing Stereolithography. The following year Hull filed his patent for the technology, co-founding the organisation 3D Systems in 1986.

A year later in 1987, 3D Systems commercialised the first 3D printer, the SLA-1 Stereolithography (SLA) printer.

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06: The first barcode...

In 1974, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum was the first product to adopt barcode technology. The first barcode to be scanned was at a Marsh supermarket in Ohio. 

In 1973, an IBM engineer - George Laurer - originally designed the barcode as a circle however the printing press would smear the ink as it left the paper, resulting in the barcode being unreadable by scanners. Therefore the design was changed to vertical lines which reduced this issue. It was also decided in 1973, that the Barcode would be adopted as a standardised method for storing product information.

Did you know? The Smithsonian National Museum of American History holds one of the first scanners used to read barcodes at the supermarket.  

05: The first use of AI...

The earliest successful application of artificial intelligence (AI) dates back to 1951 by Christopher Strachey. Strachey developed a program that ran on the Ferranti Mark I computer. By 1952 the program could play a complete game at a reasonable speed.

Since the 50s, AI has rapidly innovated to what it is today, with its expected global market value to total US$15.7trn by 2030

04: The first automotive tire...

Dating back to 1945, the first vulcanized rubber pneumatic (inflatable) tire was invented by Robert William Thomson. Whilst Thomson patented his invention the tire was too costly for it to catch on. 

In 1888 John Boyd Dunlop had his patent granted for the technology, however his vulcanized rubber pneumatic (inflatable) tire was for bicycles, not automobiles.

It wasn’t until 1895 (seven years later) that André Michelin and brother Edouard, patented the first use of vulcanized rubber pneumatic (inflatable) tires for automobiles.

03: The first industrial robot...

First meeting at a cocktail party in 1956, George Devol explained to Joseph Engelberger his latest invention, a programmed article transfer device. In 1957, Engelberger and Devol began a two year project to develop the first robot prototype - the Unimate #001. In 1959, the prototype was installed for the first time at a General Motors die casting plant. By 1961 it had become the first mass produced robotic arm for factory automation.

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02: The first hybrid electric car...

Dating back to the 1900s, the first hybrid electric car was invented by Ferdinand Porsche in 1901 known as the Lohner-Porsche Mixte. The vehicle was powered by electricity stored in a battery and a gas engine.

Did you know? Carl Benz applied for a patent for the first automobile in 1886.

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01: The first ‘modern factory...

Richard Arkwright, born in 1732 and creator of the first ‘modern factory’. Starting out as a producer of male wigs in the early 1760s, Arkwright transitioned to the textile industry when the wig making industry started to decline. 

Joining forces with John Kay - a watch and clock maker - and reed-maker Thomas Highs, the three began working on a mechanical spinning machine that could produce cotton. 

Being too big to operate by hand, In 1771 the three men set out to harness the power of water, establishing a large water mill factory on the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire, and as such establishing the first ‘modern factory’.

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