6 Exciting Advances in Manufacturing Automation

Automation in technology is one of the central, crucial elements of almost all manufacturing processes. Automation is arguably the impetus behind manufacturing, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. In the centuries since, as technology has advanced and new inventions have gained prominence, these processes have only gotten more sophisticated.

Here are six recent advances in automation that are making big waves in the manufacturing industry.

1. Cloud storage for wireless data
One of the greatest advances in automation is one that stands to benefit every industry is cloud storage. Cloud storage allows you to store all data wirelessly. All data from almost every machine can be automatically uploaded, ensuring that all information is backed up over a wireless network. Additionally, in case of any computer crashes, all of your data is completely safe, accessible from any computer and waiting to be recovered from the cloud.

2. Diode lasers for creating “invisible” seams
Diode lasers are adding greater efficiency in assembly processes in the automotive industry. Audi, the German car manufacturer, recently implemented robot controlled 13-kW diode lasers in their Ingolstadt factory. This allowed the company to create an “invisible” weld on the car shell, providing additional structural security throughout the car.

By programming these diode lasers, Audi is coupling automation with a host of other advanced processes, such as welding and bonding. As a result, the manufacturer is reducing car weight, production time, and energy costs due to regenerative braking in conveyor and lift systems.

3. 3D Printing in manufacturing for finished components
3D printing is one of the biggest recent advances in manufacturing and automation. Although the technology has been around since the 1980s, machines were previously too large and the process was too slow for widespread adoption.

Today, however, 3D printers have become so developed that these machines are used to produce finished parts. These machines now have the capability for improved accuracy and capacities for increased sizes and production runs. As a result, they are being adopted into processes throughout industries. The military, for example, conjectures that it may be able to print replacement parts in the battlefield.

The advantages of automated 3D printing are many. It allows much more affordable manufacture of complex, highly customized, and efficient designs—3D printed products can be lighter, stronger, and require less assembly. One machine can be responsible for a number of product lines, with production lines of as many or as few units as needed.

3D printers additionally allow for point-of-assembly or point-of-consumption printing. They present a lower barrier of entry to manufacturing, and open up a number of new supply chain or retail opportunities.

4. Extremely small machines for nonmanufacturing
Nanomanufacturing—the manufacture of material on a molecular or even atomic level—has been recently gaining steam. It is expected to play a future role in the production of items such as high-efficiency solar cells and batteries.

Nanomanufacturing is most promising for nonmanufacturing purposes such as biosystem-based medical applications. A sensor inside your body, for instance, could help your doctor monitor cancer levels. Future generations of electronics and computing devices may also heavily rely on nonmanufacturing.

5. 24-Hour manufacturing operations
Continuous, 24-hour manufacturing operations have come a long way in current years. Industrial robots can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, performing repeatable processes. The greatest advance in today’s automated 24-hour machines is the increasingly fine precision they can achieve. These machines can now be accurate to hundredths of a second and in less space than is detectable by the human eye.

The expense associated with industrial robots has also fallen as much as 50% compared with human labor since 1990. This allows manufacturers to achieve higher productivity and efficiency without additional labor costs.

6. Sensing, measurement, and process control
Automation has not only become more widespread in recent years, it has also become finer and more sophisticated. Industrial robots are now outfitted with additional sensing, measurement, and process control transmitters that help to guide increasingly nimble machines. These transmitters provide the information necessary to manage the operation of the factory as a whole. Products can be tracked from inception all the way to the point of delivery.

Sensing, measurement, and process control transmitters further make it easier and more reliable to allow machines to operate without personnel. In case anything should go wrong, such as the humidity around an automated spray system being harmful for paint, the sensor can detect the issue and issue an alert at the moment of the incident, sending a signal to the machine operator or even to the plant manager’s cell phone.

As a leader in automation systems, Arnold Machine would gladly answer any additional questions you might have in regards to the latest in automation. Please contact us today to learn more.