Innovations in the Industrial Automation Field

Industrial Automation

Automation industries attain efficient production and manufacturing processes by eliminating issues related to their production with the help of every day changing technologies. An industrial robot exceeds any human performance based on precision, accuracy, and speed. These robots operate on various mechanical, electrical, and software systems to overcome the fatigue experienced by the humans. Various types of control devices are used by the industries to obtain full controlled, desired, and optimal performance from machines without the intervention of a single human body.
To achieve such desired speed and accuracy, automation industries use modern day hardware devices to control variables like checking the condition of electrical equipment, control of devices, communications systems, HMI (Human machine interface), and maintaining standalone computer systems. Such variables are necessary to be controlled in order to increase and improve productivity, cost, quality, flexibility, and safety.
Innovation in automation industry comes from applications rather than coming from the new technology. The reason for not using the latest technology lies in their utilizing method. Whenever a new technology comes into the market, companies use new technology in a customized way accustomed to their usage, instead of using it as a whole. Looking into the history, PLCs/DCS PCs/ dominated three decades in the automation industries becoming a commodity over these years. PLCs replaced the old relay logic and were easy to program and reprogram and showed great growth in the automobile industry.
At the same time, minicomputers replaced large mainframe computers, although they were not distributed properly due to their large clumps of computer hardware and cabinets. PCs were merely an extension of technology developed at that time and were widely accepted and used in the automation industry. The new trends in the automation fields are the latest control devices and communication protocols.
Industry 4.0
The fourth industrial revolution is the amalgamation of engineering and software combining core engineering and IT skills. It’s the next trend in automation where the devices talk to each other. This fourth gen comprises cyber-physical systems, internet of things, cloud computing, and cognitive computing. ‘Smart factory’ is the name given to the fourth revolution, where cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes and Internet of Things, cloud computing, cyber-physical systems communicate with each other and with humans in real-time.
The basic principle behind the industry 4.0 is to establish autonomous communication between machines, workpieces, systems, and networks. The machines present in such factories are self-organized and can predict failures and trigger self-maintenance processes autonomously. A typical factory differs from a 4.0 factory in many ways. The latter is the high-end production service and a key for upcoming future. In an ordinary factory, various data sources are available only to provide information. Not to mention, the large and centralized production plants are now a thing of past. The new factories are smaller, movable to resources and customers. Manufactured products will not be produced halfway across the world thus, saving a lot of time and costs. Moreover, 4.0 components and systems are self-aware and self-predictive. Industry 4.0 surely will have a huge impact on services like business models, reliability and continuous productivity, IT security, machine safety, product lifecycles, skills, and socio-economic factors.
Autonomous Factories
The notion of a fully autonomous factory has existed for a long time now. The online and electronic transactions, digital payments apps, AI-powered apps, and devices have severely contributed to the upcoming digital age. AI-powered intelligent robots will handle all the necessities required by the supervisors of a factory. These automatons will aid in packing and unpacking, loading and unloading of equipment.
The need for human handling and consolidation will be diminished. Drones and remote controlled automatons will further assist in manufacturing. They provide better communication that too with high precision with the sensors, fast networks, diagnostics software, and interfaces. Furthermore, such devices and sensors deliver abundant mobility using the wireless technology. They assist in converting overloaded data into useful knowledge and interpreting the various types of control layers.
Software as a Future
Software has been around humans for decades now so there is no innovation present there. However, they support in re-establishing the growth in innovation and technology. These types of automation cannot replace the exploratory skills of a human. They are simply embedded in hardware, products, systems and aid in supervising control and data recognition. New digital age software will be coupled with AI to improve their work methodologies and display humans with the correct information.
The New Technology Directions
The future of automation lies in the hand of nanotechnology, nanoscale assembly systems, and MEMS nanotech sensors. This revolutionizing technology has impacted almost every manufacturing industry like electronics, chemical synthesis, biotechnology, agriculture, printing, metals, and many others. The mid-1970s marked the radial concept of nanotechnology, first imagined by MIT undergraduate K. Eric Drexler who examined that the biological machinery could be adapted to manufacture anything. At the core, the nanotechnology can place atoms in almost any reasonable arrangement, allowing fabrication of almost anything along with the capability of replicating themselves.
Nanotechnology can be used to manufacture nano-scale materials, devices, miniaturized mechanical and electro-mechanical elements. The materials manufactured by this technology will be much stronger, lighter, durable, water-repellent, anti-reflective, self-cleaning, and infrared/ultraviolet resistant. Nano-scale circuits will be powerful and more energy efficient. Nano-scale circuit chips comprising nano logic gates connected via nanowires can store large information at a very low cost.
The future belongs to the nanotech, wireless, and complex adaptive devices. New apps and software will be combined with wireless sensors distributing information via peer to peer networks, measuring anything and everything over the internet, machine to machine. To summarize, software along with networking and manufacturing pooled with nanotech and wireless autonomous devices will be the key drivers of the upcoming industrial state of automation.

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