Global demand for renewable energy sources has created a burgeoning manufacturing sector for bespoke light-emitting diodes and solar cells. Europe needs to capitalise on this transition from mass production to more personalised, customer-oriented and eco-efficient manufacturing if it is to remain a leader in this field.
The EU-funded MANUCLOUD (Distributed Cloud product specification and supply chain manufacturing execution infrastructure) project, which was completed in July 2013, sought to boost European competitiveness by establishing a functioning online marketplace that would benefit manufacturers, suppliers and customers. The project involved industrial partners from the organic photovoltaic, organic lighting and automotive supply industries, and aimed to integrate the whole supply chain.
The project, which began in 2010, began by assessing the requirements for establishing a functioning marketplace. It then developed cloud-enabled infrastructure capable of supporting on-demand manufacturing. Cloud computing is a concept which describes the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server.
MANUCLOUD connects all interested stakeholders together, providing open access to a global network of suppliers and customers. Through logging onto a web-based platform, entrepreneurs will be able to search for potential suppliers and negotiate contracts. They will then be able to create a customer website and release their new product.
In addition, customers will be able to use the platform to customise products to suit their requirements. Through the MANUCLOUD marketplace, product configurations will be sent to suppliers, the parts manufactured and the finished product assembled and delivered to the customer. A public demonstrator is now available for testing on request.
Two innovative technologies were selected to demonstrate the MANUCLOUD concept. These were organic photovoltaic (OPV) and organic LED (OLED) technologies. Each of these is driven by specific market needs, though both markets are currently at an early stage.
The potential of these two technologies however is huge, and has barely been tapped. Numerous new applications - with a substantial share being customised solutions - are expected to hit the market in the next few years. The manufacturing cloud infrastructure established by MANUCLOUD should help ensure that manufacturers, suppliers and customers are able to fully take advantage of the opportunities presented.
Explore further: Boosting productivity and inspiring innovation through the cloud