Linking up various Areas of Automation

Another development in the technology of control systems which holds much promise for the future is Robotics. The robot industry, although established including in Indian Automobile Industry, is rapidly advancing in developed countries such as Japan and USA. Robots have the obvious advantage of being able to work in especially harsh and demanding work environments such as unloading die casting machines where there is dirt, heat, molten metal or sandblasting; or handling chemicals which are corrosive; or investment casting where there are heavy loads in addition to an abrasive environment. Moreover robots can work tirelessly for 24 hours a day and can work in the dark as well, the latter fact making energy savings possible. Plus, one can expect consistency in quality. However, as yet, the usage of robots is limited because of the various kinds of blindness they are susceptible to such as —

(1) Target Blindness: inability to pick up a randomly positioned part
(2) Material Blindness: inability to discriminate between two different materials
(3) Blindness to machines: cannot communicate with them.
(4) Blindness to People: cannot communicate with them
(5) Blindness to Environment: inability to adapt to a changing environment.
(6) Blindness to deterioration: unable to detect its own deterioration in performance.

Therefore, at present the use of robots is conformed to situations where these blindness are not an impediment. However, it is virgin filed for research with tremendous potential in production systems. Many new research studies are being conducted in areas such as remote data transmission, voice encoding, high-speed micro manipulators and environmental sensing. Concurrently, Industrial Engineering research is also being done on Robot Time and Motion systems analogous to the MTM type of system for human work analysis so that alternative robotic work methods can be compared and evaluated.

However, less or more advanced the robots may be, it is logical that it should be accompanied by an automated material handling system. Similarly various other islands of automation should be linked together for maximum synergistic effect. Automation in a production system with NC/CNC/DNC machines should, naturally, be accompanied by automatic material routing, transport, positioning and storage through systems such as SAGVS for maximum effectiveness. One can add to this automatic gauging or inspection simultaneously with the production operation, which can in addition to saving total time, provide immediate feedback to the producing machine for any corrective measures. Such a linking of the various facets of automation can materialize with the use of a computer for integration. The factory of the future should have such integration of operations from design through engineering, production, inspection, materials movement, loading, unloading and storage and retrieval so that the maximum benefits of automation are achieved. To support it one would need sophisticated maintenance and safety systems. A maintenance system, currently available, is that of condition monitoring in which faults developing/ incipient in the machine can be diagnosed much ahead of an otherwise disastrous breakdown Moreover, more automation does not mean less safety requirements but more. In short, a plant should be flexible and efficient.

However, this is limited to, shop floor integration.

Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM:

The factory of the future is the terminology earlier used by General Electric Corporation of USA. The same is also called as ‘Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). At a broad level, CIM can be viewed as an integration of:

1. Product Design and Process Design
2. Production Planning and Control and
3. Production Process itself

through the application of information Technology.

Product Design and Process Design (PDPD) generally cover te following major aspects:

1. Computer Aided Design (CAD), which captures the geometry of the part by using the computer data base. This is an essential input to production.
2. Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), which is useful in verifying the part design for various essentials such as the engineering logic of the design and/or stress in the part, etc
3. Computer Aided Process Planning (CAPP) i.e. planning each operation that the components, subassemblies etc have to go through.
4. Group Technology (GT) for grouping products into families and accordingly designing the processes.
5. Engineering control for documentation of components that go into the final product and for modifications or changes in part designs. Engineering Control consists of several other things such as the software for driving the robot or vision systems and/or CNC machines and their coordination.