For years numerical control machines made the automatic control of machining tools possible in a basic way. They were controlled by G-codes that positioned the tools, but it wasn’t possible to change the parameters which limited the features of the end product.
The first computer-aided machining systems became available in the 1970s and by the 1980s, CNC machines were standard on shop floors. Today, recent advances in smart manufacturing and AI are transforming the way precision parts are manufactured.
The industry is changing and advancing rapidly. As machining moves into the middle of the 21st century, here are some trends we’re watching.
The Evolution of the Human-Machine Interface (HMI). In a factory, the HMI is used for industrial machine control by connecting people and machines. An advanced HMI allows workers to visualize machine status in real time, collaborate remotely with off-site employees or customers, have a birds-eye view of operations, receive advance warning of bottlenecks, and monitor KPIs.
Improvements in HMIs increase efficiency and the quality of the end product. For this reason, it’s important that the visualization is intuitive and can be viewed and operated on mobile devices. Features such as gesture recognition and haptic feedback technology are the next frontier in the development of HMIs. As we continue to integrate these new technologies into our factory operations, SPM and our customers will benefit from the increased productivity they offer.
The Use of “Bots”. Robotic machine tending is becoming more common in CNC shops. Robots excel at performing repetitive actions such as loading and unloading workpieces, which frees the machinist to do other jobs that require human creativity and intelligence.
Cobots — collaborative robots — take this a step further. While robots are designed to work autonomously, cobots are designed to safely share the workspace with humans. Like robots, they take over tedious, repetitive tasks. Unlike robots, they are able to sense objects and people in their path and adjust their speed and path to avoid a collision. With cobots and employees, it doesn’t have to be either/or; instead, it is both/and.
Additive Manufacturing (AM). Additive manufacturing is advancing to the point where it’s possible to 3D print medical devices and instruments from a variety of materials. For example, in surgeries involving the spinal column in the lower back, AM can shrink robotic systems to fit into the intricate area of the spine.
“Forward-thinking medical device manufacturers have embraced the benefits of AM in designing their devices, implants and instruments…A growing number of device manufacturers rely on AM materials, hardware, software and services to design end-to-end workflows that reduce the number of processing steps and components for a device, thereby reducing overall cost of manufacturing, shortening lead times and speeding time to market.”
At SPM, we are continually working with our customers to stay abreast of the changes in the industry. We invest in state-of-the-art equipment and stay on top of advances in technology so that we can cost-effectively produce the best possible products.