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Industrial Automation

Industrial Automation

Industrial automation is increasing the volume of work, making work much more precise and accurate, increasing the quality and durability of the products, and, most importantly, giving factory owners the much-needed breathing space.
Neil Valentine D'Silva
Robots came into the world a long time ago, and at that time not even the original developers of these things ever thought they would be put to so many slavish tasks in the manufacturing world. Even when the world was gasping and panting at the gigantic robot in Johnny Sokko and His Giant Robo, the realm of industrial automation was growing by leaps and bounds.

In simple terms, anything that is used to get work done in an automated manner comes under the genre of automation. Industrial automation is when these procedures are employed in a workplace environment, especially in the manufacturing industry. These automatic devices come in various forms, shapes, and sizes, and a number of them can be used in big industries to perform several kinds of manufacturing tasks. All such automatic devices are nothing but different kinds of robots, which have a mechanical body controlled by a computer. The motions of the robots are highly sensitive through various degrees of movements, and using the computers, they can even be made to understand things like heat and pressure, even smell, in some cases (these robots are used in toxicity detection, especially in underground mines).

Where is it Used?

Industrial automation is used in many more places than just simple manufacturing processes. Within the manufacturing ambit, robots are used to do jobs that are boringly repetitive for humans to do, and do not require much of a rationalizing intelligence. If the process is the same time after time, and no alterations are required, then a robot can be a better choice than a human, to do the task.

Other areas in which it is used are security and detection. Robots used as sentries in banks and other such sensitive areas can offer good protection, and they would not be scared to enter into a fight. Using automation in detection is also becoming an increasing area of study. I have already mentioned above how robots are used to detect toxic gases in mines. They can also be used in other areas which are hazardous to humans, such as working in high temperature units or in areas like glass manufacturing, where silicosis is becoming an increasing problem for human workers.

Why is it Used?

There are many reasons why industrial automation is used so widely today. Firstly, the robots are much more efficient than human workers. A single robot can perform the work that fifty people can do in a single day. That too, it will work without getting tired or taking breaks, and will not complain that the work is getting to be too monotonous. Companies can keep the robots working throughout the night too, and even on the weekends, i.e., a whole 24 x 7 x 365 schedule, without worrying about any human rights associations come sniveling at their door. They do not have to pay any overtimes, any incentives, and still get more work extracted from their robots. This in itself is a gargantuan advantage.

Industrial automation can also make the job much more precise than manual work. For this, we need to understand how this automation actually works. For every automated device, there's first, a kind of training session. Using a manual controller, a human instructor will determine the optimum method in which the robot is meant to work. This procedure will take into account the minutest details of the process, and at the same time, try to improve the speed and efficiency too. When this is done, the instructions are all recorded in the computer attached to the robot. For future processes, the robot will use the same program. Hence, the work is absolutely identical with each batch. You can be assured that the robot will mix the very same shade of color, drill in the very same bore, screw on a bottle lid to exactly the same degree, etc. In short, the work you get is exactly the same with each product that comes out. Try as they might, no human can match this degree of preciseness.

Try fitting a microchip that's a little bigger than your hair into a card and you will know why these robots are indispensable today.

How do Industrial Automation Robots Look?

There is a tremendous variety in 'looks' where robots are concerned. But that doesn't mean you should get the cutest ones for your unit. The decision is always taken by experts in the technical team, as to which robot will be truly efficient for industrial processes. There are various kinds of robots. The most common ones are the simple robotic arm, which is mainly used to carry and place an object from one point to another, or to operate an end effector tool, which could be a blow torch, or a bottle-cap fitting device, or a spray paint bottle, or something like that. Then there are also the mobile robots which move on set paths and keep performing the tasks assigned to them. All these robots are operated through computers. However, today, computers used in robots are able to take some decisions on their own. Robot nurses repairing other robots are quite commonplace nowadays. Such autonomous robots are gaining maximum advantage in today's times.

Industrial automation robots might look like assembled Lego Toys or they might look like spaceships. But, whatever their size and form, they do pack a lot of efficiency in their work.