What are companies looking for in manufacturing execution systems [MES] software?
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You have heard it before, today’s manufactured products are becoming ever more complicated. As computers and microcontrollers get ever cheaper and more powerful they have become more enticing for product engineers to use and incorporate. This means the intellectual property in the embedded software has grown increasingly in value – possibly exponentially.
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.
As the automotive industry’s reawakening continues, less-expensive high-payload robots are gaining traction over more conventional fixed tooling among automakers focused on cutting costs while improving manufacturing productivity and processes.
A self-described “river rat” during his teenage years, Herbert B. Voelcker grew up in the small town of Tonawanda, NY, just north of Buffalo, where as a young man he grew to love the water, boats, and steam engines. His early fascination with how things worked eventually led him to study mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), and to embark later on a greatly varied technical career highlighted by his research into the mathematical foundations for 3-D solid modeling.
M. Eugene Merchant began his career in 1936 at the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. (later Cincinnati Milacron), where he went to work analyzing the nature of friction between the cutting tool and the chip. The young engineer eventually developed a mathematical model of the metalcutting process that is still taught and used today.
Last year’s surge in medical machining and firearms manufacturing could well be joined or even eclipsed by this years’ reemergence of production for applications in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, and hydraulics industries, generating increased interest in Swiss-style machining. This isn’t news. But what may be surprising is that the venerable, tried and true Swiss automatic CNC lathe coninues to evolve, adding bells and whistles where needed, or conversely stripping one—like a guide bushing—away to maximize its efficiency in machining parts complete.
The prime contractor for supplying automation tools to the Airbus plant in Broughton, UK, which is assembling the wings of what will be the world’s largest commercial aircraft–the A380–is Electroimpact Inc. (Mukilteo, WA).