MECHANIZATION AND AUTOMATION: Fixed automation, Programmable automation, Flexible automation


Mechanization means something is done or
operated by machinery and not by hand.
of the manufacturing means is
milestone oriented trend towards minimizing the human efforts to the extent of
possibility, by adopting
mechanical and electrical means or methods for automating the different
manufacturing processes. Such a trend may be in
the area of automating and mechanizing the processes of material handling, loading and unloading of components, actual operations performed on the job or transportation, etc. But, no feedback
provided by the process, operation or machinery.
Extension of mechanization of the production
process is termed
as automation and it is controlled by a closed
loop system in which feedback is provided by the sensors. It controls the operations of
machines automatically. The automatic control may be
applied for some operations or for all the operations of a machine
  or group of machines. Accordingly the machine
will be known as semi-automatic or fully
The term was identified
shortly after the
World War II at the Ford Motor Company to describe the automatic handling of
materials and parts between the process operations. 

The word ‘automation’ is
derived from the Greek word automatos meaning self-acting. Automation can also
be defined as the process of following a predetermined sequence of operations
with little or no human intervention, using specialized equipment and devices that perform and control
the manufacturing process. Automation is a word that has many meanings in the industry today. Automatic machines of all kinds existed
long before the term automation was conceived. But, it should
be noted that all automatic machines do not come under
the category of automation. Automation is a technology concerned with the application mechanical, electronic, and computer
based systems to operate and control production.

Every machine should involve
some automation, may be to a lesser degree or to a higher extent to which is mainly governed by economic considerations. Automation means a system in which many or all of the
processes in the production, movement, and inspection of parts and material
are performed under
control by the self-operating devices
called controllers. This implies
the essential elements of
automation comprise of mechanization, sensing, feedback, and control
devices. The reasons
why one should go for automation are:

1. Increased productivity

2. Reduced cost of labor and dependence on labor shortages

3. Improved quality

4. Reduced in-process inventory

5. Reduced manufacturing time

6. Reduced dependence on operator

7. Increased safety or
reduced risk of humans. 

  • Automation can be classified into three categories:

1. Fixed

2. Programmable automation

3. Flexible automation

Fixed Automation

It is also known as hard automation which
utilized to produce a standardized product such as gears, nuts and bolts, etc.
Even though the operating conditions can be changed, fixed automation is used
for very large quantity production of one or few marginally different
components. Highly specialized tools, devices, equipment, special purpose
machine tools, are utilized to produce a product or
a component of a product very efficiently and at high production rates with as low unit costs as possible
relative to other alternative methods
of manufacturing.

Programmable Automation

In programmable automation, one can change the
design of the product or even change the product
by changing the program. Such technique is highly useful for the low quantity production of large number of different components. The equipments used for the manufacturing are designed to be flexible
or programmable. The production normally carried out in batches.

Flexible Automation

There is a third category possible between
fixed automation and programmable automation that is called flexible automation
using Computer Aided Design (CAD) and
Computer Aided
Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) activities. This is also called
as flexible manufacturing system (FMS). It allows producing
different products on the same equipment in any order or mix. One important example of programmable
automation, in discrete manufacturing, is numerical control. Robot is another example of programmable automation. Robot being integral
part of

FMS and Computer Integrated Manufacturing
(CIM) system can do a large number of manufacturing tasks for replacing the
human labor.

In the present globalized
manufacturing scenario, the advancements of hardware and software concepts
using the mechatronics for fast mechanization and automation of manufacturing
processes have become essential to be incorporated in the manufacturing areas.

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