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Artificial Intelligence and Automation in Engineering

  • 23 Nov 2023

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation have had a profound impact on the field of engineering. These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way engineers design, analyse, and optimise systems and processes. However, it's important to note that while AI and automation offer tremendous benefits, they also come with challenges, including ethical considerations, job displacement concerns, and the need for robust cyber security. Engineers and organisations need to carefully plan and implement these technologies to maximise their advantages while addressing potential drawbacks.

Emergence of Artificial Intelligence in Engineering

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in engineering has been a transformative development that has significantly impacted various engineering fields. AI technologies, such as machine learning and deep learning, have been applied to engineering tasks to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and innovation. Machine learning will be among the top engineering talents in demand in 2022. Learning how to incorporate AI into processes is already in demand due to engineers' extraordinary capacity for solving complicated challenges.

90% of major corporations are thought to have made some kind of investment in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Less than 15% of these firms, however, are currently using AI in their working environment. AI is one of the technologies with the quickest growth in the engineering industry. Even while there has always been some worry that AI may eliminate some occupations, the current state of affairs is that new technology is creating a variety of chances for engineering skills.

Integration of AI and Automation in Manufacturing

AI is used in manufacturing at many phases of the production process to increase productivity, accuracy, and automation. It uses machine learning, data analysis, and algorithms to let robots do tasks that once required direct human interaction. Utilising characteristics like predictive maintenance, quality control, process enhancement, and others, this technology boosts output and decreases downtime. By analysing vast amounts of data in real-time, AI-driven systems can make sensible decisions, optimise processes, and identify trends people would miss.

AI and automation have significant advantages for businesses since they can increase production, efficiency, and financial performance. Enhanced Productivity Enhanced Efficiency, Improved Data Analysis and More favourable bottom-line results are some major advantages. However, there are also many challenges in developing and using AI for automotive electronics, including complexity, dependability, security, and regulation.

AI in Structural Engineering and Design

AI algorithms can be used to analyse sensor data from structures, such as temperature and vibration data, to forecast when maintenance is necessary, and to spot warning indications of structural breakdown before they materialise. AI-powered cameras are used for inspection and surveillance. Artificial intelligence-driven structural analysis systems may simulate and assess complicated structural behaviour, assisting engineers in locating possible weak points, foretelling failure modes, and improving structural performance. By quickly adapting to user preferences, AI-powered optimisation attempts to improve the personalisation, cost-effectiveness, and utility of digital experiences. With the help of this technology, organisations can make data-driven decisions that enhance the functionality of their websites, user engagement, and rates of conversion.

Machine Learning for Energy Efficiency in Engineering

Machine Learning (ML) optimises energy efficiency models, predicting the consumption of energy tools. Over the last five years, ML techniques gained traction in designing energy-efficient systems amid rising demand for technologies like smart buildings and IOTs (Internet of Things). Sustainable growth in smart cities relies on technological advancements, merging sustainability with energy efficiency. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a vital role in managing, coordinating, and forecasting electricity supply. The global push for a low-carbon transition amplifies the significance of AI in achieving energy goals. AI-driven "smart consumption" transforms energy usage patterns, enabling decentralised power grids for balanced energy flows.

AI in Traffic and Transportation Engineering

Systems with artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to identify and detect traffic events such as accidents, wrong-way driving, speeding, or roadblocks. Real-time traffic data is analysed using AI from a variety of cameras and IoT devices, including cars, buses, and even trains. As over 90% of accidents are the result of human error, it is anticipated to drastically reduce the number of accidents. AVs (Autonomous Vehicles) can lower the cost of travel. For instance, AVs will save labour expenses when used in public transportation. With smart carpooling, costs can be further reduced. By removing the need for human drivers, a driverless car might significantly ease traffic congestion. This may lead to a significant increase in car sharing, which would reduce the number of vehicles on the road and the overall carbon footprint compared to more conventional modes of transportation.

Challenges of AI Implementation in Engineering

Integrating AI and automation into engineering processes offers numerous benefits, such as increased efficiency, improved accuracy, and cost reduction. However, it also presents several challenges and ethical considerations like safety and reliability, Algorithm Complexity, Human-AI Collaboration, Integration with Existing Systems and Ethical Considerations (data collection, privacy, and decision-making). Concerns about job displacement and human-AI collaboration have been growing as artificial intelligence and automation technologies continue to advance. These concerns centre on the potential for AI and automation to replace human workers in various industries, leading to job loss and economic disruption. However, it's important to note that these concerns are not without nuance, and there are also opportunities for collaboration between humans and AI that can lead to more productive and fulfilling work environments.

Digital Twin Technology and Engineering Applications

Digital twins, virtual replicas of physical entities, leverage real-time data, simulation, analytics, and visualisation. Enhancing decision-making, they cut costs and boost efficiency. Manufacturers benefit by integrating digital twins seamlessly, reducing expenses and accelerating value. Architects and engineers employ digital twins in building design, incorporating details on use, materials, and maintenance. This streamlines construction oversight and communication, ensuring better quality.

AI-driven Predictive Maintenance in Industrial Plants

AI-driven maintenance prediction is transforming asset management, using historical data and real-time analysis to predict equipment failures and facilitate proactive maintenance. By identifying flaws and analysing behavioural patterns, AI recommends optimal times for replacements or repairs, reducing emergency repairs. In various industries, AI enhances data analytics, offering valuable insights into market trends, client preferences, and business strategies. AI-generated maintenance schedules prevent over-maintenance and minimise breakdowns, conserving resources. For example, AI monitors machinery spindles in milling operations, reducing the need for costly repairs. This innovative approach optimises efficiency and minimises wasteful spending.

Cyber security in AI-Integrated Engineering

AI systems face risks such as adversarial machine learning attacks, where attackers manipulate input data to alter the model's output, potentially leading to poor decision-making and security vulnerabilities. Privacy concerns revolve around the increased likelihood of data breaches and unauthorized access to personal information. With the vast amount of data being collected, there's a risk of misuse through hacking or security flaws. Organizations must regularly assess their infrastructure's security, identify vulnerabilities, and prioritize corrections to safeguard against cyber threats. This involves timely application of security patches, software and hardware updates, and implementation of robust security configurations.

Human-Centred Design in AI Engineering Solutions

Designing AI systems with human factors in mind is crucial to ensure usability, safety, and user acceptance. User experience considerations play a pivotal role in AI-integrated engineering solutions, as they directly impact how users interact with and perceive AI technologies. It not only improves the usability, safety, and acceptance of AI but also helps avoid potential pitfalls and negative consequences associated with poorly designed systems. By prioritising user experience considerations, AI engineers can create solutions that are not only technically proficient but also genuinely beneficial and user-friendly. Designing AI systems that complement human capabilities rather than replace them is very significant. When users see AI as a helpful tool that enhances their work, they are more likely to accept and use it.

In the past, it was believed that AI would eventually displace workers. Organisations observe that AI is expanding export opportunities and building a highly qualified workforce. Additionally, as automation and AI can now finish the fundamental and monotonous duties, engineering roles can concentrate more on activities that bring value, making engineering employment much more dynamic and fulfilling.

Future Prospects of AI and Automation in Engineering

The future advancements of AI and automation in engineering hold immense promise, with several exciting trends and developments on the horizon like aerospace, electronics, energy storage, etc. Quantum algorithms can also be used for tasks like molecular modelling, optimising supply chains, and solving complex equations in real time. Generative design, powered by AI, is transforming how engineers approach product design. This can lead to highly efficient and innovative designs in various industries, including automotive and architecture. We can expect to see more autonomous drones, self-driving vehicles, and robotic systems in manufacturing and logistics. These technologies will improve efficiency, safety, and precision in various engineering applications.

It's important to note that while these advancements offer numerous benefits, they also come with challenges, including ethical concerns, cyber security risks, and the need for up-skilling the workforce. Engineers and organisations should stay informed and adapt to these emerging technologies to harness their full potential while addressing associated challenges.

Sources:

  1. https://careers.snclavalin.com/blogs/2022-5/the-impact-of-artificial-intelligence-on-engineering
  2. https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2023/08/ai-in-manufacturing/#:~:text=AI%20in%20manufacturing%20enables%20predictive,and%20enhances%20overall%20operational%20efficiency
  3. https://www.mdpi.com/2411-9660/7/3/71#:~:text=Using%20different%20ML%20techniques%20enables,energy%20based%20on%20other%20factors.
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0020025520300736#:~:text=First%20of%20all%2C%20it%20is,achieved%20with%20intelligent%20car%2Dpooling.
  5. https://www.rapidops.com/blog/roles-ai-predictive-maintenance/
  6. https://audit.wa.gov.au/reports-and-publications/reports/security-basics-for-protecting-critical-infrastructure-from-cyber-threats/
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