Types of Automation Systems : Automation systems can be categorized based on the flexibility and level of integration in manufacturing process operations. Various auto motion systems can be classified as follows :
- Fixed Automation:It is used in high volume production with dedicated equipment, which has a fixed set of operation and designed to be efficient for this set. Continuous flow and Discrete Mass Production systems use this automation. e.g. Distillation Process, Conveyors, Paint Shops, Transfer lines etc.A process using mechanized machinery to perform fixed and repetitive operations in order to produce a high volume of similar parts.
- Programmable Automation:It is used for a changeable sequence of operation and configuration of the machines using electronic controls. However, non-trivial programming effort may be needed to reprogram the machine or sequence of operations. Investment on programmable equipment is less, as production process is not changed frequently. It is typically used in Batch process where job variety is low and product volume is medium to high, and sometimes in mass production also. e.g. in Steel Rolling Mills, Paper Mills etc.
- Flexible Automation: It is used in Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS) which is invariably computer controlled. Human operators give high-level commands in the form of codes entered into computer identifying product and its location in the sequence and the lower level changes are done automatically. Each production machine receives settings/instructions from computer. These automatically loads/unloads required tools and carries out their processing instructions. After processing, products are automatically transferred to next machine. It is typically used in job shops and batch processes product , varieties are high and job volumes are medium to low. Such systems typically use Multi purpose CNC machines, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) etc.
- Integrated Automation: It denotes complete automation of a manufacturing plant, with all processes functioning under computer control and under coordination through digital information processing. It in eludes technologies such as computer-aided design and manufacturing, computer-aided process plan ning, computer numerical control machine tools, flexible machining systems, automated storage and retrieval systems, automated material handling systems such as robots and automated cranes and conveyors, computerized scheduling and production control. It may also integrate a business system through a common database. In other words, it symbolizes full integration of process and management operations using information and communication technologies. Typical examples of such technologies are seen in Advanced Process Automation Systems and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM).