Industry lives by the principles of survival of the fittest, and competing in business requires constant evolution and adaptation. In the context of North American manufacturing, evolution has meant increasing automation on the production line to stay competitive against factories in countries with less regulation and cheaper labor.
Automation played a large role in rescuing North American manufacturing after decades of decline. Coordinate measuring machines, or CMMs, are one of the main tools companies use in the process of automation. Read on to learn a little more about how these machines work, and about some of the newest technology helping modern manufacturing evolve.
One of the primary functions of CMM machines is automating the process of quality control on the production line. CMM machines measure the physical geometrical characteristics of a part of an object. It may perform this task with a human operator at the helm, but it can also be computer-controlled. A probe on the third moving axis of the CMM machine scans the parts or objects and defines the measurements.
Afterward, the CMM machine compares the scan against the blueprint of the piece, which has been uploaded into the machine. It knows there’s a flaw if it detects a difference between the part and the blueprint.
CMM machines perform quality control with more precision and speed than a human possibly could, so having these machines on the production line has been a driver in helping North American manufacturers adapt to the changes posed by foreign competition.
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The Next Evolution
While the technology surrounding automation may seem futuristic to some, it risks becoming obsolete unless it too continues to evolve. Thankfully, it has.
In what is commonly known as Industry 4.0, new technology is transforming manufacturing once again with software that enables machines to exchange data. Essentially, machines can talk to each other. It is still early days for Industry 4.0, but this technology can already be found in North American factories.
There are software programs like PolyWorks that keep CMM machines along the production line connected with each other. This way, if a CMM machine detects a flaw in a part caused by mechanical failure, other machines further downstream will know right away.
This takes automation one step further: now, not only will the machines be able to detect the flaw, but the follow-up to this process is itself automated. Employees no longer need to waste time trying to figure out what went wrong. Software that reduces the cost of equipment failure automatically by enabling machines to talk with other machines is just the most recent evolution of automation, which will surely keep evolving so manufacturers can continue to be competitive in the future.
It’s widely known that automation is increasingly being implemented in North American factories, but CMM machines are the unsung heroes for the role they have played in helping the manufacturing industry compete by adapting to changes in a globalized world.