Smart manufacturing refers to multiple ‘new normals’ in the context of manufacturing – that is, how industry will leverage the application of new disruptive technologies such as ‘Artificial intelligence’, ‘Edge computing’, ‘Robotics’, ‘Additive manufacturing’ (3D printing), ‘Gene editing’ and the ‘Internet of Things’, to change the face of traditional manufacturing. Smart manufacturing has been described as a “fusion of the digital, biological and physical world”[1] and represents a change that is so significant that it is sometimes referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.[2] Smart manufacturing could represent an important opportunity to boost sustainable manufacturing and, as its implementation expands, it will be essential to develop a better understanding of how it can contribute to sustainable development while improving system efficiency.[3] Below, we explore one industry that will hopefully benefit from smart manufacturing to increase sustainability (the plastics industry), and one key enabler of smart manufacturing that is undergoing rapid development and expansion (additive manufacturing).

Technology trends

New generation plastics

Today’s plastics, with a predominantly linear material flow, unquestionably face challenges, both regarding CO2-emissions due to their fossil-basis, and to plastic pollution (unintended leakage and subsequent accumulation of plastics in the environment or even the human body). The question is, how will we ensure we have the materials for the future without compounding these problems?

Many companies are developing alternatives based on renewable, biomass materials, including e.g. flax, mushrooms, and shrimp shells.[4,5] The formulation of existing plastics can also be changed to make them more degradable[5] and, finally, innovations in recycling technologies will make manufacturing the materials of the future more sustainable.

As one of the largest sectors in the manufacturing industry, innovations in plastic production systems themselves are also a key driver of change. The data collected by more efficient sensors and smart machinery (see ‘Internet of Things’) can improve the consistency of products, limiting defects (and ultimately reducing plastic pollution), reducing energy consumption and costs, and improving competitiveness.[6,7]

News stories

La pollution plastique est désormais un défi environnemental majeur exigeant un nouvel accord mondial et des solutions durables. Les normes sur les plastiques peuvent s’avérer particulièrement utiles.
Le plastique joue un rôle important tant dans l’économie que dans notre vie quotidienne. Ses multiples applications répondent en effet à de nombreux besoins de nos sociétés. C’est le cas des emballages …
Comité technique
  • 741 Normes publiées | 93 Projets en développement
  • ISO 16620-1:2015
    Teneur biosourcée
    Partie 1: Principes généraux
  • ISO 17088:2021
    Recyclage organique
    Spécifications pour les plastiques compostables
  • ISO 22526-1:2020
    Empreinte carbone et environnementale des plastiques biosourcés
    Partie 1: Principes généraux
  • ISO 22526-2:2020
    Empreinte carbone et environnementale des plastiques biosourcés
    Partie 2: Empreinte carbone des matériaux, quantité (masse) de CO2 captée dans l'air et incorporée dans les molécules de polymères
  • ISO 22526-3:2020
    Empreinte carbone et environnementale des plastiques biosourcés
    Partie 3: Empreinte carbone des processus, exigences et lignes directrices pour la quantification
  • ISO 22526-4:2023
    Empreinte carbone et environnementale des plastiques biosourcés
    Partie 4: Empreinte environnementale (totale) (Analyse de cycle de vie)

Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing produces objects through a process of layering together raw materials. This is different to traditional (subtractive) manufacturing, which creates parts out of raw materials.[8] Additive manufacturing is widely known as ‘3D printing’, but this style of manufacturing also Includes ‘4D printing’, an emerging approach that allows the manufacture of products that respond to things like heat, light, and the passing of time.[9]

The use of additive manufacturing is expected to increase, with many new applications for both commercial and personal use. The ability to print products for personal use will open markets for blueprints and designs, while increasing the customization options available to consumers (see ‘Customized products’). A potentially endless range of products could be manufactured using additive methods, including machinery parts, consumer goods such as shoes and furniture and healthcare products like hearing aids and prosthetics.[8,10]

If additive manufacturing grows, we can expect an increased impact on trade – perhaps a reduction in the transport of goods, along with an increase in the transport of raw materials. Overall, this would be expected to reduce global freight volume.[8]

Of course, additive manufacturing has some challenges, such as ensuring cybersecurity and management of intellectual property. Companies and governments will need to be attentive to emerging issues to ensure the benefits of additive manufacturing are enjoyed by all.

News stories

Il n’est plus possible, en 2107, d’imaginer un monde sans ordinateurs ni Internet et cela n’a rien de surprenant. Des développements bien plus enthousiasmants se profilent à l’horizon. De la réalité virtuelle …
L’Organisation internationale de normalisation (ISO) et ASTM International ont créé conjointement la Structure d’élaboration de normes relatives à la fabrication additive, un cadre qui permettra de …
N'ayez pas peur de voir grand. La fabrication additive – communément appelée impression 3D – est un concept qui, de par son côté science-fiction, intriguebeaucoup de gens. Mais au-delà de ses capacités …
Ce livre blanc est destiné à celles et ceux qui souhaitent en savoir plus sur la fabrication intelligente et aimeraient obtenir des informations d’ordre général sur ce concept, et/ou qui veulent comprendre ce qui est fait dans le domaine de la normalisation internationale ainsi que les implications potentielles …
Comité technique
ISO/TC 261
Fabrication additive
  • 40 Normes publiées | 24 Projets en développement
  • ISO/ASTM 52900:2021
    Fabrication additive
    Principes généraux
    Fondamentaux et vocabulaire
  • ISO/ASTM CD TR 52918 [En cours d'élaboration]
    Fabrication additive
    Formats de données
    Support du format de fichier, écosystème et évolutions
Comité technique
Technologies de l'information
  • 3480 Normes publiées | 520 Projets en développement
  • ISO/IEC 3532-2:2024
    Technologies de l'information
    Modélisation médicale à base d'images pour l'impression 3D
    Partie 2: Segmentation
  • ISO/IEC 23510:2021
    Technologies de l'information
    Impression et balayage 3D
    Cadre conceptuel pour une Plateforme de services de fabrication additive (AMSP)
Comité technique
ISO/TC 184
Systèmes d'automatisation et intégration
  • 898 Normes publiées | 66 Projets en développement
  • ISO/IEC TR 63306-1:2020
    Cartographie des normes (et standards) pour la fabrication intelligente (SM2)
    Partie 1: Cadre de travail
  • ISO/IEC TR 63306-2:2021
    Cartographie des normes (et standards) pour la fabrication intelligente (SM2)
    Partie 2: Catalogue
  • IEC/CD TR 63319 [En cours d'élaboration]
    Titre manque
  • IEC/FDIS 63339 [En cours d'élaboration]
    Modèle de référence unifié pour la fabrication intelligente
Comité technique
Bureau de gestion technique - groupes
  • 72 Normes publiées | 7 Projets en développement
  • ISO/TMBG/SMCC Coordination Committee on Smart Manufacturing
  • White paper on Smart Manufacturing
    Ce livre blanc est destiné à celles et ceux qui souhaitent en savoir plus sur la fabrication intelligente et aimeraient obtenir des informations d’ordre …


  1. Foresight Africa. Top priorities for the continent 2020-2030 (Brookings Institution, 2020)
  2. White paper on smart manufacturing (ISO Smart Manufacturing Coordinating Committee, 2021)
  3. Sustainable and smart manufacturing: an integrated approach (Sustainability, 2020)
  4. Ten trends that will shape science in the 2020s. Medicine gets trippy, solar takes over, and humanity—finally, maybe—goes back to the moon (Smithsonian Magazine, 2020)
  5. Global trends to 2030. Challenges and choices for Europe (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System, 2019)
  6. Smart Manufacturing in Plastic Injection Molding (Manufacturing Tomorrow, 2017)
  7. Eight ways smart manufacturing is moving into the mainstream in 2021 (Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, 2021)
  8. Global connectivity outlook to 2030 (World Bank, 2019)
  9. 2021 Tech trends report. Strategic trends that will influence business, government, education, media and society in the coming year (Future Today Institute, 2021)
  10. Global strategic trends. The future starts today (UK Ministry of Defence, 2018)