18Manufacturing Automation – Introduction

The topic of manufacturing automation covers a broad spectrum and this short chapter focuses on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of automation. In the following three chapters, the individual building blocks of automation are initially considered, then industrial robots as an exemplar of the topic and in Chapter 21 the operation of machine vision systems is examined as these are commonly found within many areas of industry.

The word ‘automatic’, was derived from the Greek automaton meaning ‘acting independently’. Although it had been used earlier, the term ‘automation’ came into common usage in the car industry in the early to mid‐twentieth century and it implies the concept of mechanisation with the added feature of automatic control. The term ‘mechanisation’ was a prominent aspect of the Industrial Revolution that began in the eighteenth century and it refers to the application of machinery to do work previously done by humans and horses and so on. Here, we will use the term ‘manufacturing automation’ to encompass the equipment and techniques used not only to eliminate the need for human work, as with industrial robots, but also to assist the manufacturing process more generally.

18.1 Types of Automation

Dedicated automation is used for making high volumes of the same product at high production rates for long periods of time. The type of equipment used is sometimes called ‘hard’ automation as it is purpose built to make a specific product and ...

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