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.
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Cutting tool maker Shape-Master Tool Co. (Kirkland, IL) needed to expand its tool grinding capability beyond that of its conventional machines or run the risk of losing work to the competition.
Many precision grinding machines on the market already offer their users near-perfect tolerances, leaving one to wonder: What’s next in grinding? But tool builders still have plenty of room to add valuable new improvements, machine shop owners say.
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.
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.
Many industries have been making parts with micron dimensions for some time, but in the last few years, the market for miniaturization has expanded. The demand is not only for small parts, but also for small complex features on larger parts. This is due chiefly to the switch to modules in which the functions of several parts or subsystems are not handled by a single complex unit.
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.
Common misperceptions about lean manufacturing and automation systems lead many manufacturing managers to dismiss the use of automation in a lean setting.