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The potential of quantum computing for manufacturing

10 March 2022

Imagine looking for a needle in a haystack by examining each piece of hay. What if you could analyse the entire haystack at once, cutting down the location time of the needle drastically? This is what quantum computing can do compared to conventional computing. Quantum computing could accelerate drug development, enhance encryption security and more. But how could it benefit the manufacturing industry?

Here, Neil Ballinger, Head of EMEA at EU Automation, explores the future of quantum computing for manufacturing.

Traditional computing represents information using a series of bits, where each bit is assigned a one or zero. Quantum computing, on the other hand, represents information in quantum bits or qubits. Each qubit can stand for an infinite number of states between one and zero. 

In comparison to conventional computers, quantum computers can process a more substantial range of values concurrently. This means that quantum computers can solve even the most computationally intensive problems much faster than classical computers. Quantum computers are capable of outrunning even the most sophisticated supercomputers and solving issues currently unsolvable. 

“It’s important to remember that comparing a classical computer to a quantum computer is essentially like comparing a candle to a lightbulb or bicycle to a jet plane,” explained Vishal Shete, Head of Quantum Value Creation at Sia Partners. “Quantum computing is a completely new paradigm shift that opens up a range of possibilities”.

The benefits for manufacturers

The application of quantum computing could open up infinite possibilities in a variety of fields, including manufacturing. The use of quantum computing could help create high energy-dense batteries, materials with more strength-to-weight ratios, and more efficient synthetic and catalytic processes. 

However, these are not the only benefits quantum computing could have on the manufacturing industry – the technology could benefit manufacturing design, control and supply chain. 

Quantum computing could change the way manufacturers design products. Currently, computer simulation plays a crucial role in product design and pretesting. However, using computer simulations, safety margins can accumulate causing product weight differences and higher cost products. If quantum computing were to replace conventional computer simulations, calculations for individual components' paths, noise, vibrations and system loads could be inputted, increasing precision and accuracy. This would likely optimise the manufacturing of individual parts whilst still considering the overall system and reducing the impact of numerous safety margins. This would allow manufacturers to lower costs without sacrificing the performance of the system. 

Product design is not the only part of the manufacturing process that could benefit from quantum computing. Manufacturing control processes can be complex, often testing the limits of advanced analytics. Combing quantum computing with machine learning could mean faster optimisation runs. This combination could allow manufacturers to go beyond the current limitations of classical computing by analysing additional interactive factors and processes to increase production yields. 

Using quantum computing for supply chain and logistics would also enable the transformation of the manufacturing supply landscape. The application could optimise vendor orders, lower operational costs, reduce lost sales and improve accompanying logistics using dynamic real-time decision making. Quantum computing could be the perfect addition to the digital supply chain toolbox of Industry 4.0. 

Despite the benefits of quantum computing, this technology could also impact current encryption systems, having the capacity to break all current encryption codes and posing a threat to the internet, e-commerce, e-banking and mobile data as we currently know it. However, there is ongoing research on developing encryptions that quantum computers cannot break. Instead of looking at quantum computing as a threat to the digital world as we know it, it’s important that manufacturers focus on its potential to revolutionise processes, while keeping an eye on new developments in cybersecurity that would allow them safely to implement this technology. 

There may still be a long way to go, but quantum computing is set to become a key instrument for manufacturers. This technology could provide a clear edge to those ready to adopt a quantum future.

Keep updated on the technology impacting the manufacturing industry using EU Automation’s Knowledge Hub

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