In case you were wondering what the future holds in the areas of materials/manufacturing technology and the workplace environment, here is a sampling of what some prognosticators are predicting over the next decade or so.

  • Using biomimetics, the design of systems, materials, and their functionality to mimic nature, and using combinatorial materials design, which uses massive computing power to screen many different materials possibilities to optimize properties for specific applications.
  • Continued development of composites-combinations of metals, ceramics, polymers, and biological materials, which allow multifunctional behavior.
  • Continued development of nanoscale materials, which can be prepared either by purification methods or by tailored fabrication methods. Nanotechnology is opening up vast new horizons in virtually all sectors of the economy.
  • Improving rapid prototyping, the capability to combine computer-assisted design and manufacturing with rapid fabrication methods, which allow inexpensive part production (compared with the cost of a conventional production line). Rapid prototyping combined with manufacturing system improvements can lead to an agile manufacturing capability. This capability is synergistic with the information technology revolution in the sense that it is a further factor in globalizing manufacturing capability and enabling organizations with less capital to have a significant technological effect.
  • Development of materials having the tendency to organize themselves (self-assembly) into ordered arrays (e.g., colloidal suspensions), providing a means to achieve structured materials from the bottom up.
  • Development of micro and nanofabrication methods; for example, lithography of coupled micro and nanoscale devices on the same semiconductor or biological material. Continued development of fuel cell technology, which will have a significant impact on transportation and power generation.
Design and innovation perceptions and attitudes

  • 71% of export businesses think design and innovation play an integral or significant role in their organization.
  • 33% of businesses believe that e-commerce will significantly promote their organization.
  • 67% of businesses believe that design and innovation will help their organization respond to changing work patterns.
  • 18% of businesses believe that traditionalism and a reluctance to embrace change are barriers to innovation in the workplace.
Some influencing factors that will affect the workplace:

  • Desktop PCs may become as powerful as all the computers in Silicon Valley.
  • The office of the future will be anywhere that persons can be connected with a computer (25% won't work in a traditional office and 50% of all employees will work at home.
  • Self-employment could reach 20-25% via a resurgence of entrepreneurialism.
  • Women in the workforce will continue to increase.
  • There will be greater demand for an increasingly higher level of skills from employees, and new technologies will raise skill levels of the workforce to new heights.