Traditionally, industrial robots have been deployed for manufacturing tasks that required brute strength, such as the heavy-payload robots used in the automotive industry, or they were of the speedy pick-and-place variety, the type of robots often deployed in medical or semiconductor applications. In most instances, safety requirements mandated that robots be entirely sealed off in fence-guarded cells to protect human workers from injury.
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Taking stock of a surprising and challenging 2016, a number of trends may point to a future where manufacturing output increases while continuing to decentralize.
The virtualization of business-critical infrastructure is transforming the production and distribution of goods and services throughout the supply chain as industrial organizations shift focus from private to public and, ultimately, hybrid cloud deployments that connect and integrate on-premise resources with cloud resources.
Speeding the flow of jobs through the shop, while maintaining top quality, ranks among the hallmarks of any successful manufacturing operation’s goals.
Ask the owner of any machine shop or sheet-metal house to name the biggest obstacle to company growth and you’re likely to receive the same answer—it’s not a lack of working capital that’s slowing them down, nor a shortage of advanced technology, but something far more basic: the need for someone to push a green button or pack boxes. “We can’t find enough people,” you’ll hear.
There are plenty of manufacturing catchphrases: the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 and the Digital Factory. “Sometimes it’s a lot of buzzwords. Sometimes there’s a lot of reality behind it,” said Roger Hart, research and development manager of Siemens (Berlin and Munich, Germany).
At Jaktool LLC (Cranbury, NJ), a team of young inquisitive engineers is investing the time to explore the full potential of its manufacturing software and machines to take on the complex jobs no one else wants. Using Mastercam CAD/CAM programming software from CNC Software Inc. (Tolland, CT), Jaktool is able to save setup times and tooling costs, and reduce cycle times, while delivering exceptional customer service to a diverse cross section of industries.
High QA, Inc., the developer of Inspection Manager Quality Management Software, has established a headquarters operation in Sevenum, Netherlands, to directly serve its customers on the European continent.
What are companies looking for in manufacturing execution systems [MES] software?
The next “dynamic duo” may not involve humans at all. “Machine vision and robots make for a perfect marriage,” stated Klas Bengtsson, global product manager, vision systems for ABB Robotics (Auburn Hills, MI). This is not new. Vision and robotics have gone hand in hand for years.