Published On: January 2018
CNC Controller — Interactive machines for smart manufacturing:
We make our lives easier every passing day by innovating and investing in the revolutionary technologies. From a smartphone, reminding us of an important meeting by reading our calendar to Tesla’s model 3, auto pilot cars. These technologies not only let us sit back and relax but also improve efficiency, achieve optimization and reduce cost. However, these technologies are not only restricted to individual use, but also in manufacturing, making the process smarter, efficient and productive. It is the automation that drives the manufacturing industry, as almost every industry is adopting automation or process control in their product manufacturing, utilizing CNC machines as basic and a necessary manufacturing machine tool.
Economies of scale and cash balances:
The CNC machines offer greater flexibility and computation capabilities, and the advancement in CNC control technology allows the companies to invest in CNC machines ranging from portable CNC controllers to multi axis CNC controllers. For industries to adopt automation process, it is mandatory for the companies to adopt CNC machines in order to maintain an effective and scalable process control. It turns out to be a game changer for some of the companies which are able to afford the high installation and maintenance cost of the CNC machines. Not every company benefits from the CNC machines, some of them incur a huge loss due to high maintenance cost. Lack of skilled labor also adds to the cost which restricts the smart manufacturing up to a certain extent.
Product diversification and development
The CNC controller is an advanced machine compared to its sibling, the NC machine. While, NC (Numerical Control) accepts the programming instructions from an instructor at every step of the manufacturing process, the CNC controller holds a mini computer inside the controller unit of the machine, acting as the brain of the machine, nearly controlling and monitoring each and every operation, from manufacturing to maintenance. The CNC controller holds a powerful brain with a dedicated storage, letting the machine operator to store the programmed file so as to use it over and over. Some might regard these machines as robots, but a better name for these robots would interactive machines. These machines do talk with the operator via emails and instant messaging to the respective client. These machines send an email to the operator when a part breaks down, or electrical supply is lost or a coolant is required, which a human eye can miss out easily. With great responsibilities, come greater price and in case of CNC controllers, it can touch heights for the companies trying to operate these machines.
Most of the manufacturing companies have installed portable CNC machines, as the market has got very competitive for the companies playing to win in the race of automation. The market is witnessing huge development, as most of the manual machining is being replaced by the automatic or computer controlled machines. CNC controller can run almost any of the largely used machine tool on it including a lathe, milling machine or a drilling machine. All these, machines work on a basic agenda: to remove and cut some of the metal parts, so as to give it a desired shape such as sphere, rounded, rectangular among others. Even the curved metal body of our smartphones are made by these special purpose CNC machine tools.
The companies invest in technology in order to make better outcomes, and lean management is one of the approach. Companies try to adopt lean management in order to achieve automation, support continuous improvement and small, incremental changes in the processes in order to improve efficiency and quality of the manufactured product. Companies invest huge amount in order to eliminate any waste of time, effort or money in the manufacturing process. A simple mistake can cause the company to re-run the process with new raw materials. However with the adoption of CNC controller machine tools, the companies identify each step in the manufacturing process, revise these steps and even cut out the steps that are not necessary and can be bypassed. This eventually creates a value for the business process, reducing both the cost and waste.
Automation as a growth strategy? Will it work?
For automation professionals, two plus two equals five, seems more complex rather than impossible. But these automation professionals are responsible for solving the complex problems in various different aspects of industry and its processes. These professionals facilitate our work by surrounding us with different gadgets and equipment born out of automation. A cell phone, a computer to do our daily work, a car taking us places, the food we eat, games we play, and every other necessities of convenience that we use is a complex process and the end products in these complex processes is the result of automation. But, is automation required in each industrial process? Is it the right solution to adopt as a growth strategy? It may, or may not, but varies in different industrial processes.
Henry Ford, the first person to adopt the process of assembly line, adopted automation as the growth strategy, and Ford became the fastest automobile company to introduce motor vehicles on a commercial scale. What made Henry Ford to adopt assembly line in his factory? There were automobile manufacturers even before Henry Ford that were manufacturing motor vehicles for general public, but were not able to meet the demand of this revolution. The waiting time is greater than 8 months and kept increasing because of the growth in consumer demand. By adopting assembly line, Henry Ford was able to meet the consumer demand, with efficient manufacturing. And this adoption turned out to be the greatest revolution in the automobile history. Companies, to this day, follow the assembly line, but with more advanced automation. The workers are replaced by the robots and machines are controlled by the CNC controllers.
There is a huge competition among the manufacturing companies to meet the consumer demand with higher efficiency and accuracy. This race includes many large manufacturers and small players adopting automation as a growth factor.
Integrating CNC controller machine and automation.
Be it manufacturing, transportation, utilities, facilities operation or any other, automation encompasses many vital elements, systems and job functions beneficial for these industries to grow, develop and match up to the current competition. Automation crosses all these functions within industry from installation, integration, maintenance to design, procurement and management. Automation is the next phase of robotics involving a computer memory and instructions that are precisely performed to gain the desired output.
Mitsubishi electric automation introduces a CNC machine with separate windows based display for increasing flexibility and expandability. The CNC controller possesses a touch screen Windows based display, separating it from the basic control unit. It offers two expandable storage slots for 32GB storage adding up to 64 GB storage space improving the flexibility of the CNC control. It gets really necessary for the CNC machines to improve the cycle time, faster program processing and accurate machining. Additionally, companies like Mitsubishi constantly keep innovating and improving their current product portfolio for better efficiency and optimization. Another company, Tsugami Automation, launched a laser CNC lathe machine integrated with the laser technology and two separate lasers; one for cutting operations and other for welding operation. This advancement of adding a second laser provides enormous flexibility to the end users. The machines are able to weld two different pieces and perform lathe operation simultaneously in one single process. The newer CNC controller machine tools are able to work even on plastic, apart from metal. This includes carbon fiber for making things lighter and stronger, which later is used in automotive, aerospace and medical industry. The latest technological advancement can make wonders. Virgin Atlantic airlines saved 14,000 gallons of fuel by reducing just one pound in weight from all of its planes in its fleet. The slightest change in the manufacturing process can help companies save millions of dollars.
In conclusion, CNC is merely the first step in the direction of pure automation and simultaneous industrial growth which is all set to change the competitive landscape in the years to come.