How It Works: An Introduction to Industrial Automation

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Did you know that although engineers have envisioned automating factories since the middle of the 20th century, it didn’t truly become a reality until the 1980s? Industrial automation can be a bit confusing because of how technical it can be, but we have put together this guide to share a simplified overview of what it is.

Read on to learn more.

What Is Industrial Automation?

Before we go over the different types of industrial automation, it is important to understand what industrial automation is. First, it is important to note that industrial automation is everywhere, but you might not realize it. This type of automation uses control systems and certain equipment (such as robots) to perform tasks on production lines. 

Instead of having people do things manually, it is technically robots getting the work done and usually there is an operator overseeing the entire production to ensure that everything is going smoothly. Usually the automation systems are made up of sensory programs, feedback loops, and more technical parts such as actuators. You can learn more about pneumatic vs electric actuators here. 

Fixed

Another name for this type of automation is hard automation or rigid automation. This type of automation is the least flexible out of all the types. Typically, fixed automation is used to complete repetitive tasks with dedicated equipment.

After a fixed system is set up, modifying it or reconfiguring it is challenging. An example of a fixed automation system is in the automotive industry. 

Programmable

Opting for a programmable automation option is best for a system that will be changing and growing over time. The control program can easily be reprogrammed for every batch, but it will take some time because the equipment also has to be reprogrammed and reconfigured. 

Usually this option is used for medium volumes of work, but it can be used for all volumes. An example of programmable automation are industrial robots. 

Flexible

Another name for this option is soft automation. Flexible automation is similar to programmable automation because there is flexibility when it comes to making changes to the program. The major bonus is that unlike with the programmable option, you don’t have to go through each piece of equipment and program them as well. 

All the changes can be done through the control system at the same time. This is a huge time saver, making this automation one of the most popular options when there will be changes in the future. An example of flexible automation are CNC machines. 

Feeling Like an Industrial Automation Pro?

Now that we shared the ins and outs of industrial automation, you can use your newfound knowledge to impress your friends, or maybe you are in the manufacturing world and can now adapt a better autonomous system.

If you found our blog post helpful, please continue browsing our technology section to catch our latest guides. 


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