Modern Machine Shop

AUG 2018

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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Page 71 of 316

Technology Trends Modern Machine Shop 69 (Left) Automation is more than just robotics. In addition to eliminating the need to manually set machine work coordinates, on-machine probing can facilitate in-process corrections that reduce downtime and facilitate lights-out machining. (Below) Robots are becoming more flexible and more viable for high-mix, low-volume work. Installed at Kilgore Manufacturing, the system shown here is designed to be easy to set up, program and move between machines. data from connected machines and computer applications can help you make better decisions about manufacturing processes. There is no mystery to this concept. In very real ways, digita- lization has made IMTS one big connected shop- f loor, and that is pretty amazing. Automation Is Everywhere One of the chief goals of an interconnected shop f loor is automation, but it may not be in the form of a robot arm tending a machine tool. From a streamlined front office to processes that use measurement data to adjust themselves, a big part of the promise of data-driven manufacturing is reducing human labor. In keeping with that simple definition, automation can also include relatively simple, common shopf loor equipment like tool presetters, pallet changers and machine tool probes. All offer ways to set human beings free from repetitive, time-consuming tasks. The key phrase is "set free." Automation is critical in an era when skilled labor is scarce, but it can create work, too—work better suited for a human being than loading blocks in and out of fixtures. Entire businesses are built on automation integration, and major machine tool builders have been moving into this space as well. Automated manufacturing facilities still need robot cell attendants, programmers and mainte- nance technicians. Rather than being replaced by a robot, employees who are loyal and dedicated but lack certain skills might be retrained. Many of these employees may even work along- side increasingly popular collaborative robots ("cobots"), which use sensor technology to ensure safety without isolating fencing. Be on the lookout for cobots to make even more of an impression than they did two years ago at IMTS 2016. Of course, all robots are becoming more popular, including the non-collaborative ones. At IMTS, there is no need for a dedicated robot or automation pavilion, as robots and other auto- mation will be featured prominently throughout every hall. According to the Robotic Industries Association trade group, 10,730 robots valued at $507 million were shipped to North American customers in the first quarter of 2018—a 22-percent growth in units and 3-percent growth in dollars compared to the same period last year. Among other developments, intuitive off line programming, greater variety in end-of- arm-tooling, improved vision technology, and

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