Modern Machine Shop

JUN 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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Modern Machine Shop 99 COMPUTERS IN MANUFACTURING 2010s 2000s 1990s 1980s 1970s 1960s 1950s 1940s 1930s years to come. Dr. M. Eugene Merchant, the director of research planning for Cincinnati Milacron at the time said: • BY 1980 , a computer software system for full automation and optimization of all steps in the manufacturing of a workpiece would be developed and in wide use. • BY 1985 , full online automation and opti- mization of complete manufacturing plants controlled by a central computer would be a reality. • BY 1990 , more than 50 percent of the machine tools produced would no longer "stand alone." Instead, multiple machines would be grouped in cells (he did not use that word) with material-handling systems that would be controlled by a central computer. • BY 2000 , the "computer-integrated automatic factory" would be a full-blown reality. There would be two major productivity-en- hancing incentives for establishing such an auto- mated, computerized shop, Dr. Merchant said. The first would be to "reduce the time work- pieces spend in process in the shop. This would reduce the high and costly inventory of unfin- ished parts on the shop f loor and of finished parts waiting for others in process so that assembly of the product could proceed." The second would be "vastly improved machine tool utilization." To this day, these remain important manufac- turing goals for shops, and shopf loor practices based on the power of today's computers and software (as well as tablet devices and apps) continue to be devised and applied to achieve them. However, when he talked about automation, was he thinking primarily in terms of robotics and "hands- free" f low of parts from machine to machine through a facility? An artist's rendering of an automated machining cell in the article suggests this. Clearly, there are some advanced manufac- turing facil- ities that do function as such with minimal human intervention. However, there are still many shops today in which there is no robot to be seen. Plus, it is ironic in that new collaborative robots featuring designs that enable a human to work safely alongside them are becoming increasingly popular. That said, there are other elements of automation that shops can leverage to reduce overall production time and improve machine utilization. For example, on-ma- chine probing technology can automatically measure cutting tools and determine if a tool has broken as well as probe work- pieces to speed setups or measure machined features to detect if the process is trending out of specification. Presetters can similarly automatically measure tools outside the machine. Bar feeders and parts collectors on turning centers enable long stretches of unattended machining. Five-axis and turn- mill machining are forms of automation in that they can machine multiple part features (sometimes all part features) in one setup, eliminating the need for operators to set up those parts on multiple machines. Sensors mounted on some of today's machine tools feed information to enable a CNC to auto- matically change parameters if the data suggests there is a problem. Ultimately, though, it seems Dr. Merchant was predicting how computer technology would serve to connect disparate elements of manu- facturing as that rendering in the article also suggests. Given the level of connectivity that has been established not only in manufacturing, but myriad aspects of our personal lives, I would say he was spot-on in that regard. There are other elements of automation [besides robots] that shops can leverage. Read all of the expert's 1978 predictions about computers and automation at gbm.media/1970s . FUTURE TENSE

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