Moldmaking is making a comeback, with more reshoring to North America of mold-and-die manufacturing that left for the Far East and other low-cost manufacturing centers. With faster metalcutting through high-speed machining (HSM) and improved EDM techniques, mold-and-die shops are finding innovative ways to compete with manufacturing operations in traditionally low-cost labor markets.
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Smarter factory systems connected via the cloud are the grand vision offered for the future factories that will fully leverage the best available tools from automation, software and machine tool builders.
New automation solutions have aerospace production humming, with automated-guided vehicles (AGVs) and mobile robotics solutions helping aerospace and defense builders meet demanding production schedules for delivery of new commercial and military aircraft.
There have been many process improvement trends in manufacturing over the decades, and none have had more significant ROI than machine monitoring. The increase in machine monitoring is owed in large part to the rise in popularity of the open and royalty-free interconnectivity standard MTConnect.
Real-time machine tool data collection isn’t just about helping manufacturers improve productivity and profitability, although that’s certainly a promised outcome.
While robots have been deployed in high-profile surgical applications in recent years, using a specialized apparatus like the da Vinci surgical system, the majority of industrial or commercial medical uses for robots are somewhat more commonplace.
Lean manufacturing principles and automation systems can coexist, although many lean purists contend that lean goals conflict with using automation. Smart applications of automation, however, can result in deployment of systems that are both automated and lean, with flexible manufacturing systems that can be easily reconfigured as factory operations change.
Speeding up programming tasks on CAD/CAM software ranks at the top of machine shops’ requirements when faced with making quality parts on a deadline. The more efficient a shop’s toolpaths are, the less chance that any programming problems result in wasting very expensive machine time on the shop floor.
An early pioneer in the fields of NC and CAD/CAM software, Patrick J. Hanratty, PhD, discovered his passion for computing and programming almost by accident, answering a newspaper ad seeking programmers in his hometown of San Diego after returning from service in the Air Force during the Korean War.
Common misperceptions about lean manufacturing and automation systems lead many manufacturing managers to dismiss the use of automation in a lean setting.