With more sophisticated technology than ever before, manufacturers in all industries can design and develop products more quickly, with higher precision and better quality control. Computer aided manufacturing streamlines every stage of the process, with the following being but a few examples of these aids at work.
Drills, lathes, mills and more have traditionally been operated by hand or with mechanical controls. However, the demands of manufacturing within the past century—high volume at high accuracy in dimensions and shape—called for new means of control. Computer numerical control (CNC) directs machining by way of a series of instructions on how to move and rotate the workpiece and position machining tools. With detailed code, mechanical precision and reliable feedback, CNC machining is effective at small and large scale work.
Traditional prototyping required experience and intuition to produce initial designs, which rarely were sufficient for the final product. This led to creating multiple physical prototypes to address flaws that came up in testing, which could become expensive. Thanks to robust simulations and computer-aided design (CAD) software, virtual prototypes can be created to test early designs and quickly get feedback. This often takes place before the creation of physical prototypes, reducing the material costs and time needed. Auto manufacturers in particular benefit from this when conducting crash testing.
Flexible Manufacturing Systems
Flexibility, in manufacturing, is the capacity to handle variations in products being assembled, the process sequence and the production volume. Beyond the manufacturing cells themselves, this entails managing the flow of materials and parts, as well as the data traffic between discrete nodes. A flexible manufacturing system comprises both the paradigm of working to increase flexibility in production and the computers and robots that enable it. The central control system integrates these various stages of production to adjust designs and logistics as needed. Though the upfront costs are high, the benefits for variable small batch manufacturing are considerable.