Application drives automation
The fact that automation technologies are used in manufacturing to increase product and process consistency and quality, reduce lead times, simplify production, and improve work flow is understood and widely accepted. While the aforementioned characteristics are true, I firmly believe automation transcends simple definitions. Application drives automation and automation, in turn, enables more applications. You guessed it—that’s what AppliedAutomation is all about.
Another term that’s deeply embedded in applying automation is integration. As with automation, integration can have many definitions and contexts. However, the context I’m talking about is that of combining diverse automation technologies in a manufacturing environment to harmoniously provide benefits well beyond the sum of its individual components.
For example, consider an automotive manufacturer with assembly lines capable of producing a batch size of one unit with any product mix for which the lines are designed. Now, consider RFID technology for product location and communicating workstation assembly instructions from an enterprise sequencing server. Also consider high-speed RFID communication segments for communicating large amounts of data quickly.
Now, expand these theoretical automotive assembly lines by introducing servo-driven nutrunners with torque measurement capabilities. Torque values can be communicated to the servo system via the RFID system, and verified torque measurements can be uploaded to the appropriate enterprise server in case recalls or serial-specific audits are required.
Finally, place mobile handheld devices in the hands of authorized personnel in this automotive plant. Then tie all of this distributed architecture together with an industrial Ethernet-based network.
With the exception of Ethernet, the topics covered in the stories below—RFID, servo technology, and mobilization—are integrated into this column.
This article appeared in the February 2013 Applied Automation supplement to Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, both part of CFE Media.