1 Reply Latest reply on Feb 1, 2020 9:22 AM by echobatix

    Do You Know the Three Types of Industrial Automation?


      In many circles, when you say the term "industrial automation," the word that comes into mind is robotics. I'll agree that robots are amazing pieces of engineering, but they are not the beginning and the end of all automation.


      There are three types of automation:


      • Fixed: traditional manufacturing equipment that do one thing and only one thing. Think of a bottling line that inserts the soda and caps the bottle.
      • Programmable: this is for batch production up to a few thousand parts. Disadvantage: the automation equipment has to be re-programmed for different kinds of batches, thus there are inefficiencies inherent in this type of automation.
      • Flexible: like programmable automation but flexible automation can automate the production of different batches of products simultaneously. This is the paradigm of Industry 4.0, advanced manufacturing, etc.


      So, where do robots fit in?

        • Re: Do You Know the Three Types of Industrial Automation?

          This is conceptually an interesting way to think of it, but after working in industrial automation for more than two decades I’d say no one I know of speaks in quite these terms, which seem a bit limiting.


          Industrial automation includes conveyors, proximity switches, rotary encoders, pull chains, machine vision, ultrasonic sensors, lifts, control networks, communication protocols, clamping jigs, PLCs, . . . (breathe, breathe, breathe) . . . safety curtains, optical comparators, thermal sensors, pill dispensers, automatic washdowns, forklifts, lights, parts bins, SPC, warehouse database systems, logistics software, coordinate measurement machines in temperature-controlled QC rooms, light stacks, paper transfer tickets, cable trays, product carriers, barcode readers, things that wrap, things that tie, and uncountable eletromechanical things that have been around for a century or more, but wouldn’t qualify as robots.


          And lots and lots of production workers, engineers, managers, et al., to make sure every minute that the whole enterprise doesn’t collapse.


          Robots by themselves don’t do much. No single piece of equipment does. Making distinctions between static, adaptable, programmable, tweakable, reconfigurable, refreshable, etc., typically only makes sense in a specific context.


          6-axis and 7-axis arm robots, gantry robots, and other robots are flexible and highly programmable and can “do anything” until they can’t.

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