It’s a common sentiment, and a true one: companies that can’t adapt to technological change get left behind. In the North American manufacturing industry, one common form of adaptation is increasing automation on the production line in order to compete with factories in countries with less regulation and cheaper labour.
Thankfully, automation has helped manufacturing become viable again in North America when many had predicted its demise here after decades of decline.
One of the tools playing a central role in automation is the coordinate measuring machine (CMM). Read on to learn more about how CMM machines work, and how they have helped to manufacture in North America to be competitive again on a global stage.
A CMM machine is designed to automate quality control on the production line. CMM machines measure the physical geometrical characteristics of an object or part. It may be manually controlled by a human operator, but it can also be computer controlled. Measurements are defined by a probe attached to the third moving axis of the CMM machine.
After the CMM machine scans the object or the part, it compares the measurements to the blueprint of the piece, which has been uploaded into the machine. If there are any differences between the blueprint and the part, the machine immediately knows there is a flaw in the part.
In a broad sense, having these machines on the production line to automate quality control has been perhaps the fundamental way North American manufacturers have managed to successfully adapt to the changes posed by globalization.
CMM machines are very sophisticated, so click here for more info that will give you a sense of the other functions they can perform, and see the different kind of CMM machines available.
Even Newer Adaptations
The need for change is constant, and the breakthrough technology that helped North American manufacturing compete against international rivals must also evolve, or risk becoming obsolete.
This process is already underway. Known as Industry 4.0, new technology is transforming manufacturing once again, with the creation of software that enables machines to automatically exchange data with each other. While Industry 4.0 is still in the early stages of development, it is already re-writing the rules of North American manufacturing.
Software programs like PolyWorks enable CMM machines to communicate with other equipment along the production line, so if the CMM machine detects a flaw in a part caused by machine degradation, other machines further up the production line will instantaneously know.
CMM machines don’t only catch the defect: they can identify what caused the flaw in the first place. This means an employee doesn’t need to waste time trying to figure out what went wrong. New software in CMM machines mitigates the cost of equipment failure automatically, without requiring a human employee — in a sense, automation is being automated.
International competition shows no signs of slowing down, and North America’s manufacturing sector is going to need to keep up. CMM machines have played a large role in the resurgence of the manufacturing industry, and this equipment must continue to evolve to ensure North American factories stay competitive in the decades to come.