Cheaper robots with more functions, along with more ﬂexible work cells and installations that facilitate robotics, are accelerating the growth of automated manufacturing facilities in the non-automotive sector. Ideas on whether robotics and automation lead to lights-out manufacturing on the shop floor, though, are mixed.
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The U.S. auto industry has been automated for decades. Production of cars and trucks is associated with large, hulking robots fenced off from human employees. Inside those fenced off areas, tasks such as welding are performed. The industry, though, is advancing on the automation front.
Most anyone who’s worked in a machine shop for any length of time has at some point attended a trade show or machine tool distributor’s open house. There they see canned demonstrations of CNC machines busily carving up chunks of brass, mild steel, or aluminum into business card holders and tic-tac-toe games.
A Michigan company that displays instructions for manual manufacturing processes on work stations via augmented reality (AR) is adding wearables to provide similar guidance.
Structured light systems measure surfaces by projecting a pattern of fringes, then using cameras and sophisticated software to convert them into point clouds of metrology data. Accuracy can reach the single-digit microns over millions of points.
Digital manufacturing solutions with product lifecycle management (PLM) tools hold great potential for manufacturers to eventually fully unlock the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
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For decades, plant personnel have performed insulation resistance tests with handheld megohmmeters to prevent motor failures that lead to costly unplanned shutdowns, failure-to-produce penalties and rewinding repairs. However, these tests only provide a “snapshot” of motor health. In a matter of days, motor windings and cables exposed to moisture, chemicals, contaminants or vibration can be compromised and fail at startup.
Some of the key trends in manufacturing are brought about by convergence of the design and manufacturing industries. With manufacturers under more pressure than ever to deliver better products faster and at lower cost, the need to connect and automate design and manufacturing processes to reduce iterations, errors, and delivery times is becoming critical.