The pandemic disrupted numerous industries around the world in 2020. But engineering wasn’t one of them. Engineering remains the driver of humankind’s technological progress and prowess.
As 2021 has already proven, even a pandemic can’t set engineers back. If anything, it only offered the specialists of all kinds of new tasks to solve.
It’s a truly exciting time to be a tech student right now. But it’s understandable if you struggle to keep up with all engineering achievements. There are dozens of them every day across a variety of fields.
So, let’s narrow it down and look into the five most exciting engineering trends that are going strong in 2021.
Whether you’re uncertain about your future career path or looking for a topic for a custom dissertation writing service, let yourself be inspired by them. Remember: you could be the innovative force of one of the trends soon.
They’ve been making the news for a while now, mostly because of incidents during tests. But most self-driving vehicle prototypes are in the final stages of development. Soon, they may be roaming the roads.
One model, Honda’s Legend Hybrid EX sedan, is already available for lease in Japan. The vehicle is a limited edition for now.
It’s equipped with the Level 3 automation system, which is also dubbed “eyes off”. The driver can engage in other tasks – like texting, – but remain ready to take over control if needed.
Robot Workplace Companions
Have you heard of Digidog? That’s the nickname the NYPD gave to the Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot. They leased it in October 2020 but had to get rid of it following backlash from the public in March 2021.
Despite the jokes about Spot’s creepy resemblance to robot dogs in a Black Mirror episode, the future will be driven by such robotic helpers.
They can be deployed into potentially dangerous environments instead of humans. Also, they can free up plenty of workers’ time for non-automatable tasks. That would allow for the more efficient use of labor.
Spot itself was created to take up tasks related to maintenance, inspection, and mapping. It’s the first Boston Dynamics’ commercial product. The company is also currently preparing a box-lifting robot, Stretch, for its commercial release next year. It could become a breakthrough in warehouse automation.
Sustainable Energy Production
Climate change is no joke. That’s why sustainable energy production is a priority for many governments and manufacturers alike. For instance, the EU passed a European Green Deal where it sets the goal to become climate-neutral by 2050.
Such goals, of course, come with subsidies and investments. So, solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric facilities are going to see an increase in demand. Furthermore, the consumer demand for affordable solar panels is rising as well.
But that’s not all. The brightest minds of the planet continue looking for other sustainable energy sources. Green hydrogen might be one of those replacing fossil fuels in combustion engines. It burns without any carbon dioxide emissions.
More Autonomous Electric Vehicles
More than 3 million electric cars have already been sold globally. So, needless to say, the demand is there, motivated by consumers’ desire for a more sustainable mode of transportation.
Yet, there are still challenges that engineers have to overcome. One of them is limited autonomy. Electric vehicles come at a higher price tag but they aren’t as autonomous as gasoline-fueled cars (they last only several hundred miles).
That can change due to new technology being developed in 2021. QuantumScape, a Silicon Valley startup, is working on a lithium-metal battery. It could replace the lithium-ion one in electric cars.
It’s currently undergoing early testing, but the results are promising. Tests showed an 80% increase in distance without recharging when using this innovative type of battery. If all tests are successful, the first lithium-metal batteries will be installed in electric vehicles by 2025.
Seeing 3D printing on the list probably isn’t a surprise for anyone. It’s already become a mass-market technology with 3D printers being now available at an affordable price of just $200-300.
Yet, engineers’ fascination and desire to experiment with 3D printing have carried over to 2021, too. They push the technology’s limitations and find new uses for it.
Take recent breakthroughs in tissue printing and creating personalized medicine. And 3D printing in dentistry is no longer science fiction, either.
Needless to say, 3D printing’s biggest potential lies in the field of medicine. But it’s not its only application.
The technology is already transforming construction with whole 3D printed buildings. It would also be useful in any manufacturing process where micro-precision is required.
In Conclusion: 4 More Engineering Trends Worth Looking Into
Of course, these five trends aren’t the only ones that are going to make the news this year. Engineering itself is applied in virtually every industry, after all.
Curious about what else 2021 has in stock? Here are four more developments worth researching:
- Extended reality as an engineering tool. Virtual and augmented reality are already well-fleshed-out technologies. Now, they can find their application in engineering. They allow designing anything digitally first, as well as seeing how the product would fit in a real-world setting.
- AI-powered automation. You can’t surprise anyone with robotic arms on the manufacturing floor anymore, but how about AI-powered machines? For example, there are automated labeling solutions. They use AI to recognize different products and label them accordingly.
- Advanced aerospace technologies. Humankind is dead set to return to the Moon and send an astronaut crew to Mars. It requires solving a number of aerospace engineering tasks like reducing travel time and increasing oxygen and water generators’ efficiency.
- Human enhancement. Look no further than powered exoskeletons. There are products designed to increase human strength and allow paralyzed individuals to walk again.