Flexible automation is a manufacturing technology that enables the production of a wide variety of parts in small or uniform batch sizes. By combining various technologies, this system is designed to offer flexibility in the production process while keeping costs low. The most commonly used form of flexible automation is machining systems that remove material from a workpiece, but flexible automation is also seen in other forms such as assembly.
How does Flexible Automation work?
The flexibility of Flexible Automation comes from the programmable computers that control the machines. The robot or system can perform various tasks by using a simple software change or updated commands entered into the controller. An excellent example of this is a robotic arm programmed to drive screws, drill holes, grind, weld, set rivets and spray paint on objects in an assembly line. In the flexible automation system, multiple machine tools can be connected to a sophisticated material handling system, usually through robotic automation. The production and material handling system are controlled by a central computer system.
Advantages of Flexible Automation
- Increased Efficiency: Flexible automation increases the speed and efficiency of the manufacturing process, reducing the time and cost of production.
- Cost-effective: Because of its flexibility, Flexible Automation can reduce the cost of parts production by reducing waste and improving production times.
- Quality Control: Flexible automation provides better quality control as it reduces the chances of human error and ensures a consistent manufacturing process.
- Increased Productivity: With the ability to change quickly between production tasks, flexible automation systems can improve the speed and productivity of the manufacturing process.
- Better Safety Standards: With automated machines, there is less need for human intervention in the production process, reducing the risk of accidents.
What is the difference between Flexible Automation and Programmable Automation?
Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. Programable automation requires the reprogramming or changeover of production equipment for each batch of new product, which can take time. In contrast, flexible automation can perform different tasks by using a simple software change or updated commands entered into the controller.
What types of manufacturing can take advantage of flexible automation?
Flexible automation can be applied to most manufacturing types, but it is most common in machining systems that remove material from a workpiece.
Is Flexible Automation scalable for businesses of different sizes?
Yes. Flexible automation can benefit businesses of all sizes. For example, a small company using flexible automation in the production process can quickly switch from one task to another with minimal manual intervention and better efficiency. The same can apply to a large company where multiple machine tools can be linked to a sophisticated material handling system through robotic automation, also synchronized with the central computer system to improve the efficiency of production.
Flexible automation is an excellent solution for businesses looking to improve their production processes, reduce overhead costs, and increase efficiency. By using flexible automation systems in manufacturing, businesses can benefit from better quality control, increased productivity, and improved safety standards while optimizing their workflow.