Machine Automation

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Sep 12, 2014 1:05:16 PM

Some believe that machine automation began with the industrial revolution, but some 200 to 300 years before that, in the 16th and 17th centuries, water wheels were used to power rolling mills that would roll strips of sheet metal that would then be stamped onto coins. By 1808, and the start of the industrial revolution, sheet metal cards with punches holes were used to control weaving patterns in looms and entertainment was provided by the Pianola, an automatic piano that played tunes by reading rolls of punched paper. It was slow progress for the next few years but in the twenty years between 1900 and 1920, the geared lathe, automatic screw machine, and automatic bottle machine were invented. Plus, the first use of the word 'robot' was recorded.

Forty years later, in 1960, the first industrial robots were introduced and the swinging 60's revolutionized the manufacturing process with the introduction of large-scale integrated circuits in 1965. And in 1968, programmable logic controllers(PLCs) were introduced. The 1970's may not have been the most exciting decade, but they gave us the first integrated manufacturing system; spot welding of automobile bodies with robots; microprocessor; minicomputer-controlled robot; flexible manufacturing system; group technology.

In the 1980's, as transistors became smaller and computing became faster, factories began to change almost unrecognizably and devices from the pages of science fiction novels began to become reality with artificial intelligence, intelligent robots, smart sensors, and untended manufacturing cells entering the workplace.

Fitting-Assembly-Machine-IIFrom the 1990's until the early 2000's, manufacturing processes had almost become fully automated but there was still some way to go and integrated manufacturing systems; intelligent and sensor-based machines; telecommunications and global manufacturing networks; fuzzy-logic devices; artificial neural networks; internet tools' virtual environments; and high-speed information systems were introduced.

So what's the trend for now and beyond? The first is the integration requirement for automation equipment. In the early era of automation, automation equipment was independent and stand-alone. There were no standardized product standards and individual manufacturers had their own ways of doing things and this caused a problem with communicating between different manufacturers. This needed to be addressed before the industry could move forward and open architecture became one of the essential specification of automation equipment in order to achieve integration.

Automation must be achieved through integration, but this is just the precursor to intelligence. The biggest differences between automation and intelligent automation is that he creation and analysis of a database. Automation equipment can only do simple setting but not data collection. Intelligent automation system has to develop software architecture at the lower layer of equipment so that the operation data can be collected and accumulated into a huge database. Although the past manufacturing management system also emphasizes the analysis function, it tends to ignore the quantity and accuracy of the sample data. With the analysis and decision made from wrong or little sample data, the quality is worthy of worrying. In this case, intelligent automation is certainly out of the question.

In addition to databases, it is also very important to consult professional hardware manufacturers. Because of the customized characteristic of manufacturing business, equipment in the food industry are very different from those in the automotive industry and equipment in shoe factories is different from those in panel plants. Even in the same industry, equipment may vary due to corporate culture, plant size, and staff training. Therefore, in order to upgrade manufacturing equipment from automation to intelligent automation, hardware manufacturers have to play the role of equipment providers and also the best providers of professional advice with sophisticated experience in vertical applications. In the first industrial revolution, machines replaced humans; in the second industrial revolution, automation replaces manual automation; the third revolution will be automation upgrading to intelligent automation. Facing this wave of an intelligent automation revolution, both the supply and demand must have a new awareness in order to take a stand in the market and create greater value.

 

Topics: Did you know?, Trends, Useful Hints

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