Top Engineering Topics for 2020

Are you ready to geek out on the latest advancements in your field? 

Or just curious about the emerging technology in today’s top engineering topics? 

We know how exciting it is to see the technological world changing. And we know how important it is for you to keep up. 

But it can be time-consuming sifting through hundreds of thousands of articles to see what’s happening. You don’t want to miss breaking edge discoveries— but you still need time to smash through your own boundaries. 

That’s why we put this list together of the top engineering topics we think show the most promise for 2020. 

Topic #1: AI, Robotics, and Machine Learning

It is no secret that advancements in AI and machine learning create a positive impact on all areas in engineering. This is especially true in 2020 as we move forward with generative design and manufacturing robots. 

This year, we see radical changes in the form of generative design with AI and machine learning. Generative design uses AI algorithms to create and calculate for us— without the limits of human imagination. 

When appropriately used, the generative design reduces human error. If, for example, you build a house and everything uses a generative design, everything should integrate and operate how it's supposed to. 

We also see an AI revolution in manufacturing! Mainly due to the 16.5 billion dollars recently invested in manufacturing robotics. 

These robots are great at performing repetitive tasks or things that may be too dangerous for humans. But they've lacked dexterity and flexibility. 

With the help of AI-controlled machinery, though, robots are becoming more sophisticated. And with that more in-depth learning, they will gauge the size and depth of objects better— improving their dexterity and flexibility. 

Topic #2: Vehicles That Drive Themselves

Self-driving vehicles didn't exactly happen as quickly as most people thought, but the evolution of autonomous cars picked up pace in 2020. 

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International identified five-levels for driving automation. 

  • Level 0 – no driver automation
  • Level 1 – some driver assistance
  • Level 2 – partial automation
  • Level 3 – conditional automation
  • Level 4 – high automation
  • Level 5 – full automation

Parking assistance and automatic braking are some driver assistance features that we see in most modern cars today. But that is about as far as we have gotten. 

Ford initially anticipated the release of level 5 automation in 2021. They have since revised that timeline. 

Ford now hopes to release a highly automated vehicle, level 4, by the end of 2021. 

But for 2020, we are likely to see several level 2 releases. And possibly even some level 3, if technology continues to move at its current pace. 

Honda, Toyota, Volvo, and Hyundai are all planning to release their version of a level 3 vehicle this year. 

Topic #3: Environmentally-Friendly Engineering

Clean energy and environmental engineering continue to receive high investments. And with the affordability of technology these days, 2020 shows an increase in competition and surges in renewable energy. 

According to Deloitte's Renewable Energy Outlook for 2020, offshore wind farms and PV solar systems are the areas to focus on. 

Some engineers, though, are putting their efforts into helping the world's water scarcity issue. One attractive solution offered for this is "Skywater" technology. 

Skywater technology creates potable water by removing humidity from the air. 

We also see new environmentally-friendly building materials— things like eco-bricks decrease coastal erosion by removing sand aggregate use. 

And by using eco-cement, construction companies are releasing less carbon dioxide into the air. Regular cement produced a lot of Co2 during its decarbonization process. So, by using eco-cement, construction companies are releasing less carbon dioxide into the air.

Emerging technology and innovations in 2020 will help fight the war on global warming by helping us meet environmental engineers' goals. 

Some of those goals include: 

  • Boosting human health and protecting the environment 
  • Finding ways to reduce air pollution 
  • Prevent the spread of diseases
  • Make drinking water accessible around the globe 

Topic #4: Advances in Nanotechnology

The development of new nano-functional materials puts Nanotechnology in the top engineering topics of 2020. All these new innovative materials are making way for quantum computing and so much more. 

Nanotechnology is changing how we make smartphones by replacing semiconductors made of rare and expensive elements with nanotubes.

Nanotubes are a new nano-functional material made from carbon, solid UV-laser, white-LED, and photonic-crystal materials. It will be useful in things with LED displays like smartphones.

But one of the most significant nanotechnology developments in 2020, is the potential we are starting to see in graphene. 

While graphene is not new, we've used it in cooling technology for laptops and tennis rackets before— 2020 is the year that graphene finally takes flight. 

It's a lighter and more flexible option than steel, making it an excellent choice for vehicles and airplanes. 

Aerospace engineers are excited to use graphene to design a lighter-weight aircraft, reducing fuel consumption. And Automotive manufacturers plan to use it as well. 

Topic #5: Bioengineering

3D printing— need I say more? With all the things going on in biomedical engineering, 3D printing is the hottest point to discuss. 

Because of it, bioengineering is quite possibly the most exciting of our top engineering topics in 2020. 

The rise of biomedical 3D printing is going to change the world. These printers already replicate muscle and bone, so it's only a matter of time before we see them creating human organs.

Although it is still in the research phase, we will see human transplant organs in the near future.  

Other things happening in biomedical engineering include growing spider silk from bacteria. Spider silk is a sturdy but flexible material used in the textile industry. 

It's impossible to farm spiders, though, at an industrial scale. So AMSilk started genetically engineering bacteria. 

AMSilk celebrated the launch of its first product earlier this year. It was a luxury watch with a strap made out of spider silk. 

“On the one hand, consumers want products with better performance properties, and on the other, they are demanding more sustainable materials and production methods. Traditional materials cannot meet both demands, but biofabricated materials can.” - Jens Klein

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