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MAS | Manufacturing Automated Systems

The manufacturing sector made significant contributions over the past few decades to the steadily rising productivity of global industry and, as a result, to the standard of living. Learn more about the history of MAS, and the technologies and software used that continues to shape global industry and commerce.

 

Processes and Technologies for Automated Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry’s productivity and efficiency were greatly increased by the deployment of automation.

The development of software tools over the past three decades has not only enabled the automation of specific production processes, but also the complete integration of the design, procurement, and manufacturing processes.

Additionally, complete quality management implementations with its quality control tools are included in the integration of all design, monitoring, and production components. The innovations that were the focus of theoretical research or futuristic forecasts only a short time ago are now becoming a reality.

This articles goal is to analyze the most cutting-edge automated manufacturing techniques and technologies being used in industrial settings, with a particular emphasis on businesses in Northeastern states of the USA.

 

 

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Software & Digital Trends Shaping Manufacturing Automation

 

 

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The productivity of classic manufacturing processes, such the manufacture of steel and coal, has increased significantly as a result of process automation. On the other side, factory automation facilitated the development of novel tools, methods, and techniques, as seen in the cases of materials engineering for nanofabrication and solid state electronics.

But as history has demonstrated, early optimism and hopes that all facets of the production process, starting with a design and the isolated automated manufacturing cells, could be united into one coherent integrated system, frequently fell short of expectations. There are instances of businesses that invested a significant amount of time, money, and resources in automation yet failed to successfully integrate it into reliable, functional systems.

 

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The creation of semiconductor devices, nanofabrication, non-contact technologies for material surface processing, and fast prototyping are just a few of the high-tech projects that several local enterprises are working on in the field of materials science and engineering.

Here, the production procedures are mostly based on job shop and cell activities, with very little assembly line work.

In order to monitor and manage the fabrication processes, which include lithography, film deposition and growth, annealing and diffusion, metrology, etching, baking, and curing, clean room technologies and materials engineering require integrated computer-based automated equipment.

A high-tech Pittsburgh company called Advantech US creates technology for the production of thin film electrical microcircuits. Vacuum deposition equipment is used in the operations to create prototype thin-film circuits and create microcircuit patterns using photolithography.

Plextronics Inc. (acquired by Solvay in 2014), another Pittsburgh-based business engaged in materials engineering, develops and produces conductive polymers used for printed electronics, which includes next-generation products for light, power, and circuitry, such as flexible displays, plastic solar cells, and organic RFID tags.

Extrude Hone, a division of Kennametal, provides cutting-edge material solutions based on automated, non-contact material processing. The facility uses abrasive flow machining (AFM), micro-flow machining (AMF), thermal energy machining (TEM), and electrolytic machining as technological methods (ECM).

Powerex, Inc., a manufacturer of high power solid state devices, is another example of a company that makes semiconductors.

The technologies utilized there include clean room technologies, automated production based on cell manufacturing with materials engineering connected to diffusion processes, and software design tools.

For the automotive, alternative energy, aerospace, medical equipment, electrical equipment, communication, and other industrial domains, the firm is a leading supplier of discrete, modular, and integrated high power semiconductor devices and solutions. IGBT assemblies, thyristors & diode modules, MOSFET modules, etc. are a few examples of the items.

 

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Westinghouse Electric Company, with headquarters in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, is an example of a business engaged in delivering global engineering design and comprehensive engineering services.

The business provides utilities all over the world with a broad variety of nuclear plant products and services, including fuel, spent fuel management, service and maintenance, instrumentation and control, and advanced nuclear plant designs.

Advanced CADD and other integrated computer-based tools are used in the engineering design. Westinghouse developed a sophisticated automated instrumentation and control system that monitors and regulates nuclear power station operations.

With new contracts in China and the United States, the Westinghouse AP1000 model is emerging as the new plant technology in terms of nuclear power plant designs.  As of 2022, 12 new plants have already been built, and another 12 are expected by 2030, with Westinghouse as the chosen supplier.

 

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Prior to implementation and full industrial production, prototyping enables the construction of a model or functional system. A physical model can be created using the rapid prototyping (RP) approach using three-dimensional CAD data.

The technique was created in the 1980s to provide rapid development without the use of tools. The layers of the material are either added or removed using RP processes. Layers are added during the additive RP production process to create the finished product.

Modern laser technology, positioning systems, and material processing are employed in additive manufacturing. There are numerous RP systems currently on the market, including selective powder binding (3D Printing), fused deposition modeling, and direct digital manufacturing (DDM), a fabrication technique used for quick development.

One of the top producers of customized ear molds in the country is Microsonic Inc., with headquarters in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

A few years ago, Microsonic technicians laboriously shaped and polished individually personalized ear-molds for hearing challenged patients, swimmers, musicians, law enforcement personnel, and electronics users.  Indeed, they sat slumped over hand-held grinders and buffing wheels.

Even repeat jobs were tiresome due to the outdated process. The creation of ear-molds as well as the training of skilled workers became time-consuming and expensive as a result. It also presented considerable obstacles when it came to highly complicated or irregular shapes.

 

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One of the top producers of customized ear molds in the country is Microsonic Inc., with headquarters in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

A few years ago, Microsonic technicians laboriously shaped and polished individually personalized ear-molds for hearing challenged patients, swimmers, musicians, law enforcement personnel, and electronics users.  Indeed, they sat slumped over hand-held grinders and buffing wheels.

Even repeat jobs were tiresome due to the outdated process. The creation of ear-molds as well as the training of skilled workers became time-consuming and expensive as a result. It also presented considerable obstacles when it came to highly complicated or irregular shapes.

Rapid prototyping, an alternative manufacturing method utilized by businesses that produce a small number of components, customized parts, or parts that are extremely complicated, had been a topic of interest for Microsonic for a number of years.

Then Microsonic engaged Lanel Manezes, an engineering graduate from Moon Township’s rapidly expanding Robert Morris University (RMU), who had obtained substantial experience in rapid prototyping and reverse engineering while pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics and Science there.

At the Center for Applied Research in Engineering and Science at RMU, Manezes sought the assistance of some of his previous instructors (CARES). To tackle the challenging research goal, the CARES team collaborated with Microsonic specialists and even contributed some cash for the study via an InnovationWorks award.

The production process is currently being sped up by businesses from all over the world employing the high-tech wizardry of stereo lithography, new materials, and rapid prototyping. The time and money required to build its unique molds and properly train personnel have been greatly reduced, and they can now construct even more sophisticated designs.

This kind of R&D cooperation, which is currently taking place on a global scale, has enhanced business’s capacity to service customers and end users with impressive turnaround time. It also helps to ensure quality control and uniform part specifications.

 

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Due to the efforts of corporate moguls like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick, mass-scale steelmaking was invented in south-western Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century.

According to Industry Week magazine, one of the top 10 manufacturing facilities in the country is the present Mon Valley Works, south of Pittsburgh, an integrated steel mill complex comprising US Steel, the Edgar Thompson Works, and the Irwin Works.

Continuous casting, a computer-controlled, completely automated process monitored and managed from control stations located above shop floors, is the cutting-edge technology used in the manufacturing of steel.

Every stage of steel manufacturing, from blast and furnace mixes through sheet flatness, is governed by a continuous casting process. A casting machine is filled with molten steel during a continuous casting.  This offers a continuous piece of sturdy steel, critical to MAS development.

Consistent steel flow, rolling, form, and chemical characteristics of rolled steel are all under the control of a single computerized system. In order to decrease flaws, it also regulates measurement accuracy, furnace operations, and surface inspection.

The Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) closed loops are utilized for level, flow, temperature, and pressure control at the steel factory and neighboring coking complexes.

Data processing is automated in the same way that manufacturing is, with computer networks connecting it to marketing, traffic management, and technical support.  The production’s scheduling, quality assurance, and output are all monitored using a computerized production recording system.

Information and data systems design, programming, and application development are currently carried out globally in Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and German conglomerates alike for capability management, infrastructure, plant, and business processes of US Steel worldwide.

 

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Like other manufacturing industries, mining operations underwent mechanization and automation.

All facets of mining operations, including coal extraction, wall and roof security, and transportation, are mechanized and automated. The high degree of mechanization and automation made it possible to merge numerous independent tasks into a single process.

Continuous mining, for example, integrates cutting, drilling, blasting, and loading processes into a single operation. An illustration of such an integrated process is the long-wall system, which comprises of a haulage system, a coal mining machine, and a support system.

The adoption and productivity of the modern, fully mechanized long-wall mining have grown quickly in the USA.

While there were only 50 long-walls set ups in 2005, they nevertheless accounted for 52% of total coal production, down from the 76 long-walls shearer assemblies that provided 4% of underground coal mining production in 1975.

Pre-shearer machines and fully automated long-wall plows, like those found in the former US Steel two coal mines in southern West Virginia, were among the technologies deployed. Long-wall technology, which included automated coal extracting devices or shearers, replaced mechanized plow systems.

Longwall Shearers & Double-Ended Ranging Drum Design

The functionality and structural design of the shearers have experienced constant improvements, moving from a fixed drum to a ranging drum and most recently to a double-ended ranging drum design with thinner and modular construction.

As a result of technology advancement, shearer hauling has evolved from a chain-based method to one that is chainless, improving both efficiency and safety. The shearers can be controlled remotely in automatic or semi-automatic modes.

Data processing, communication, and troubleshooting were all improved. A vendor service engineer can use internet access to externally diagnose long wall shearers and shields. Almost all supervisors have robust computers so they can track time, purchase supplies and parts, etc.

The present long-wall shearer assembly design has a production capacity of up to 7K tons per hour.

The long-wall equipment has gotten bigger and more powerful with higher levels of automation complexity and dependability. Mining productivity was greatly increased by mechanizing and automating the processes, notably with long-wall technology.

According to the most recent data, output rates are at about 5.3 tons per man hour, or ~ 12K tons per man year.  Nearly all US mining operations now use contemporary long-wall mining techniques that are highly automated, capital-intensive, and mechanized.

 

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) Simulation Software