The worldwide industrial automation market is estimated to be worth about $200 billion. Thanks to tech advancements, it has seen several improvements in recent years, and one of the industries that have massively benefited from it is the manufacturing industry. This is primarily because manufacturers can control their operations by growing production capacity or reducing costs by automating their MPS (master production schedule), production processes, or systems.
Automation in manufacturing refers to utilizing tech such as equipment and software to mechanize production processes. While it may seem like a novel concept, that’s not what this is; evidence suggests there have been several attempts to automate tasks throughout history.
What Are the Kinds of Automation in Manufacturing?
The manufacturing process is very diverse. As such, there are various kinds of automation in manufacturing to cater to different aspects. These include:
Fixed automation is also called hard automation, a system where manufacturing automation is configured to generate a single product within individual machines. In addition, it is utilized for producing large sums and has an entry barrier.
Fixed automation brings together several chains and production operations. Once the robot is in place, switching production styles is very challenging, moreover, if you account for the high starting investment needed for engineering and planning it.
Examples of fixed automation include:
- Assembly lines
- Chemical manufacturing process
- Material conveyor systems
In a couple of ways, flexible automation is comparable to programmable automation. First, its design allows it to respond to production adjustments quickly, such as product quantity. Alternatively, they can use HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces).
In this system, a central computer system controls material handling and production systems. Therefore, flexible automation is ideal for batch production. Moreover, it’s a good alternative, if you want to make different product kinds at the same time.
Examples of flexible automation include:
- Assembly lines
- Material handling systems
As the name suggests, programmable automation is a fabrication system that depends on a program to control it. The program gives a series of instructions that the system reads, interprets, and executes.
A key feature of programmable automation is that it can change. It can house different product configurations or use a different series. You can also enter a new program to make other yields. Therefore, programmable automation is suitable for batch production.
Examples of programmable automation include:
- IR (industrial robots)
- NC (numerically controlled) machine tools
- PLC (programmable logic controllers)
What Are the Advantages of Automation in Manufacturing?
Manufacturing automation is becoming more of a need than a luxury. Leveraging the benefits, it brings will give you a considerable competing advantage. Some of these advantages include:
Better Product Quality
Overall, machines can perform manufacturing tasks with greater precision than people. In addition, they keep up the same impressive production quality throughout. As a result, you’ll have a lower fraction fault rate with improved compliance and uniformity.
Apart from operating unattended 24/7, robots can also maintain the same speed throughout. This means your production process can continue longer and more professionally. As a result, you can make more or work on new products without troublesome production.
Increased Workplace Safety
Without the practical option in the past, some manufacturing processes involve staff operating in dangerous conditions. With automation, you can ensure your manual operators don’t work in dangerous places or substances.
Low Operational Expenses
Although automation might need a substantial initial investment, it provides great value for money in the long run. Depending on the assignment, a single machine can do the work of about three to five or possibly more people.
Recent Advancements in Manufacturing Automation
Automation in tech is one of the key vital elements of almost all manufacturing processes. Automation is perhaps the driving force behind manufacturing, dating back to the industrial revolution. In the decades since tech has sophisticated and fresh inventions have gained distinction, these processes have only gotten more complex.
Here are a couple of advances in automation making big waves in the manufacturing industry.
24-Hour Manufacturing Operations
Continuous manufacturing operations have made massive strides in recent years. For example, industrial robots can work 24 hours, seven days a week, performing repeatable processes.
The utmost advancement in today’s mechanized 24-hour robots is the increasingly fine precision they can achieve. These robots can now be precise to the hundredths of a second and in less space than is obvious by the human eye.
The cost associated with industrial robots has also fallen as much as 50% compared with manual labor. This allows manufacturers to get more efficiency and productivity without additional labor costs.
3D Printing in Manufacturing for Finished Products
3D printing is one of the largest recent progresses in automation and manufacturing. Although the tech has been around since the 80s, robots were previously too big, and the production process was too slow for widespread adoption.
Today 3D printers have become so enhanced that these machines are used to fabricate finished parts. In addition, these robots now have improved accuracy and capacities for production runs and increased sizes.
As a result, they are being taken up into processes throughout industries. The military, for instance, argues that it can print substitute parts for the battlefield.
Cloud Storage for Wireless Data
One of the best advances in mechanization that stands to benefit all industries is cloud storage. Cloud storage enables you to all store data wirelessly. All data from almost all machines can be automatically uploaded, ensuring that all info is backed up over a wireless network.
In addition, in case of computer crashes, all your info is fully safe, accessible from any PC, and waiting to be retrieved from the cloud.
Exceptionally Small Robots for Nanomanufacturing
Nanomanufacturing is the fabrication of material on a molecular or even minute level that has been lately gaining steam. It is projected to play a future role in the production of goods such as high-efficiency batteries and solar cells.
Nanomanufacturing is most promising for nonmanufacturing reasons such as bio-system-based medical functions. For instance, a sensor within your body could help your physician check cancer levels. Future generations of computing devices may heavily rely on nonmanufacturing.
All in all, regardless of the massive strides in manufacturing mechanization, there is much more yet to come. As automation combines with AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, and robotics, processes will become more efficient.