As the world approaches the fourth industrial revolution, manufacturing technologies continue to rapidly evolve. Increasingly, manufacturers are turning toward automation to perform complex tasks and improve the accuracy, consistency, and efficiency of production processes.
Manufacturing automation is the use of computer- and machine-aided technology to complete tasks efficiently. It has ushered innovative ways to perform repetitive and hazardous operations that are unsuitable for humans. This saves energy and resources while reducing operational costs and ensuring worker safety.
Types of Automation Used in Industries
In the industrial setting, several types of automation are already being used to simplify processes, increase productivity, and reduce manual error. Here are some types of automation currently in use:
1. Computerized Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machines
CNC machines calculate and perform operations using a computer. CNC machines use computers to improve the precision of functions like cutting, welding, or milling. They effectively handle tasks that require manual effort with greater accuracy.
2. Industrial Robots
Industrial robots provide high-quality production with reduced production times and costs. They perform tasks that are unsuitable for humans and enable 24/7 production to meet industry demands.
Industrial robots automate essential manufacturing processes like injection molding. These robots pick and place injection molding materials into the machine and simplify the entire process.
On-demand injection molding like Fictiv’s injection molding service uses automated robotic systems to rapidly create complex designs fit for applications in diverse industries.
3. Computer-Aided Manufacturing or Design (CAM/CAD)
CAM/CAD employs computers to digitally plan layouts, produce parts, and control production. It is also used to automate production flow analysis and maintain design consistency.
4. Flexible Manufacturing Systems
Flexible manufacturing systems combine the above industrial automation technologies into a single system. They are used to manufacture similar products with added flexibility to alter processes.
The Impact of Automation on Industries
Emerging automation will soon disrupt various industries by replacing outdated production lines with improved, digitized technology. The following industries are already witnessing the positive impact of automation:
1. Automotive Industry
Automotive manufacturers employ robots for flexible production, reducing waste, and increasing savings.
2. Healthcare Industry
The COVID-19 pandemic fostered innovation in the healthcare industry to meet the growing demands. Automation helped improve the manufacture of aseptic medical devices and protective equipment with improved consistency at reduced costs.
3. Aerospace Industry
The aerospace industry uses digitized automation to ensure the highest safety standards.
4. Electronics Industry
Many electronic companies rely on robotic or mechanical arms for production. This helps companies meet the ever-increasing demands for products like smartphones.
Why Manufacturers Need Automation
Automation has the power to improve the productivity and efficiency of manufacturing systems by optimizing manual processes. Here are some more reasons why manufacturers need automation:
Increased Manufacturing Versatility
Automated manufacturing allows new products to be developed simultaneously by programming various processes into the same system. Through retooling and quick changeover, the same robots can manufacture a wide range of products without rebuilding or creating new assembly lines. This makes automated manufacturing versatile and flexible.
Reduced Operating Costs
A robot can simplify complex tasks and complete up to five people’s work alone, saving time, energy, and operational costs. This streamlines manufacturing processes, improves precision, and eliminates errors.
Improved Worker Safety
As robots complete dangerous tasks, workers are safeguarded against any hazards.
Decreased Manufacturing Lead Time
Eliminating the need for outsourcing, automation improves process control and reduces lead times.
Reduced Environmental Footprint
Automated processes use less energy and materials, produce less waste, and make the process sustainable. This reduces the environmental footprint of the manufacturing plant.
The Future of Factories
With digitization, industries are on the brink of integrating advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, and the “Internet of things” into manufacturing systems.
These advances will eliminate the need for manual data systems through intelligent manufacturing, predictive systems, and intuitive machines. Until then, automation will continue to improve manufacturing and facilitate the impending industrial revolution.