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Automation of Manufacturing

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Automation of Manufacturing --- Aheadmold

Introduction

Automation is the technology by which a process or procedure is accomplished without human assistance. It is implemented by using a program of instructions combined with a control system that executes the instructions. To automate a process, power is required, both to drive the process itself and to operate the program and control system. Although automation can be applied in a wide variety of areas, it is most closely associated with the manufacturing industries. It was in the context of manufacturing that the term was originally coined by an engineering manager at Ford Motor Company in 1946 to describe the variety of automatic transfer devices and feed mechanisms that had been installed in Ford’s production plants. It is ironic that nearly all modern applications of automation are controlled by computer technologies that were not available in 1946.
Automated manufacturing systems operate in the factory on the physical product. They perform operations such as processing, assembly, inspection, or material handling, in some cases accomplishing more than one of these operations in the same system. They are called automated because they perform their operations with a reduced level of human participation compared with the corresponding manual process. In some highly automated systems, there is virtually no human participation. Examples of automated manufacturing systems include:
(1)    Automated machine tools that process parts;
(2)    Transfer lines that perform a series of machining operations;
(3)    Manufacturing systems that use industrial robots to perform processing or assembly operations;
(4)    Automatic material handing and storage systems to integrate manufacturing operations;
(5)    Automatic inspection systems for quality control.
Automated manufacturing systems can be classified into three basic types: (1) fixed automation, (2) programmable automation, and (3) flexible automation.
Fixed automation is a system in which the sequence of processing (or assembly) operations is fixed by the equipment configuration. Each of the operations in the sequence is usually simple, involving perhaps a plain linear or rotating motion or an uncomplicated combination of the two. It is the integration and coordination of many such operations into one piece of equipment that makes the system complex. Typical features of fixed automation are:
(1)    High initial investment for custom-engineered equipment;
(2)    High productivity rates;
(3)    Relatively inflexible in accommodating product variety.
The economic justification for fixed automation is found in products that are produced in very large quantities and at high production rates. The high initial cost is its character compared with alternative methods of production. Examples of fixed automation include machine transfer lines and automated assembly machines.
In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled with a program, which is a set of instructions coded so that they can be read and interrupted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the equipment to produce new products. Programmable automated production systems are used in low- and medium-volume production. The parts or products are typically made in batches. To produce each new batch of a different product, the system must be reprogrammed with the set of machine instructions that correspond to the new product. The physical setup of machine must also be changed: tools must be loaded, fixtures must be attached to the machine table, and the required machine settings must be entered. Examples of programmable automation include numerically controlled machine tools, industrial robots, and programmable logic controllers.
Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. A flexible automated system is capable of producing a variety of parts (or products) with virtually no time lost for changeovers from one part style to the next. There is no lost production time while reprogramming the system and altering the physical setup (tooling, fixtures, machine settings). Consequently, the system can produce various combinations and schedules of part or products instead of requiring that they be made in batches. What makes flexible automation possible is that the differences between parts processed by the system are not significant. It is a case of soft variety, so that the amount of changeover required between styles is minimal. Examples of flexible automation are flexible manufacturing systems for performing machining operations that date back to the late 1960s.

Article come from China injection tools maker - AHEADMOLD, website is WWW.AHEADMOLD.COM.

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