Benefits of Machine Shop Automation
In a machine shop, one would typically see various types of simple hand tools, grinding tools, milling tools, lathes, drill press, welding machines, deburring tools, and cutters. You would see machinists handling these tools to perform specific machining jobs. Machining jobs could be dangerous as such tools, if not properly handled, could bring some serious permanent injuries. It is a good thing that due to the advancement of technology, machine shops were able to eliminate these hazards. Thanks to automation, machine shops now offer a safer workplace for machinists. For the best automation solutions for your business, visit IntelLiDrives
With the increasing demand for the manufacture of specific parts used in various industries like the automotive industry, aircraft manufacturing, and shipbuilding industry, machine shops need to evolve into a more innovative and productive business. Moreover, globalization requires competitiveness. The manufacturing industry is highly in need of innovations to gain more productivity. There is a great demand for productivity and the answer to keeping with the demand is by adopting automation. So how does automation benefit a machine shop?
Automation uses programs that enable machines to work with minimal or no intervention from human operators. Computer Numerical Control or CNC has changed the way machine shops operate. During the early days of machining, machine shops use human operators to guide and manually control the machines to perform specific jobs. However, everything has changed. With the introduction of CNC, robotic arms, and 3D modeling software, machines were operated by certain sets of programs from the computer software. Machines were able to work overnight without requiring human operators. Machine shops were able to continue production way beyond the working hours of human workers. This process is also known as “lights-out” production.
Robotic arms are used in the replacement of human labor. With the aid of CNC, robotic arms are pre-programmed to do a specific job. Automation uses robotic arms integrated with the various machining tools. Machines can now do perfect spot welding and high precision laser cutting. This machine shop modification enables a quick production with high consistency in the quality of the product. Additionally, robotic arms work faster compared to human machinists. Machine shops with automation capability finish a job in half the time or even better. Complicated cuts that usually take an hour or more if done by a human can be finished in just minutes. The cutting, drilling, deburring, metalworking, polishing, etc. were done in high precision. This saves a machine shop from wasting materials as everything is properly calculated by the computer. Additionally, automated machines are proven to be highly consistent with their job performance.
3D modeling software has also been an excellent addition to the automation of machine shops. With the use of the software, machine shops can test and evaluate a product without having to produce an actual replica or model. Using 3D imaging tools, a specific design of a product is created digitally. The 3D model is tested in real-life simulation, therefore, there are no actual raw materials that are being used in the process. Any problem with the design can easily be adjusted within the program until the product design and functionality are perfected. Machine shops will be able to cut costs by eliminating the actual use of raw materials in the “design-build-test-redesign” cycle. Imagine how much money can be saved by eliminating this cycle.
There are many arguments about the high cost of integrating automation into machine shops. Automation is indeed a costly investment but more and more machine shops are going for it. Why? Because the advantages of automation could outweigh its cost. The decision to adopt automation in machine shops is just a matter of detailed analysis of the upgrading needs of the business. Each machine shop will have different needs. Not all machine shops need full automation. If that would be the case then a simpler setup or semi-automation would be needed.
Modern technology is fast-changing, and new innovations are continuously being developed. There is only one way to sustain the life of a business and that is to embrace change. Making a profit is one of the many reasons for doing business. Business owners know exactly that gaining profits highly depends on productivity. The technology aims to improve the way machine shops do business. Automation may seem to exhibit complications in a machine shop setting but the very purpose of it is to simplify and at the same time improve the processes of machining. At the end of the day, automation would not just be an option, but a necessity.