Industrial Automation Control and Its Limitations
WHAT IS INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION?
The modern and trending industrial production process known as automation is a generalized term used to describe sets of robotic machines carefully synchronized to carry out sets of jobs sequentially such that the end result will yield a final product or a completed task in the production lines.
Automation may be a single large machine programmed or controlled to perform a series of functions in a factory or maybe sets of machines aligned together in a line of production or industrial activities.
The automation machines may have no specific size limit but they must be able to have the load-bearing capacity to perform the needed functions.
They can be in the form of pneumatic machines, hydraulic machines, gasoline machines, electric machines, etc. equipped with a control unit to process and carry out commands automatically in a sequential and repetitive manner.
In a large industrial setup, complete production automation can be achieved using different engineering technics such as mechanical drives, hydraulic drives, pneumatic drives, electric drives, electronic devices such as sensors and actuators, and a fully written computer program readable by the machines, etc.
While simple industrial automation may make use of only one or two of the above drives and a program.
Besides the industrial production sector, automation systems can be seen in airports, seaports, warehouses, etc. where they perform specific functions to aid the staff’s overall activities.
The system has the benefit of saving labor, saving materials, accurate functions, reduction of electricity costs, improving service and reduction of production costs, etc.
HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
The history of automation can be traced back as far as 285-222 BC when Ctesibius, a Greek Engineer invented a water clock.
However, the use of feedback controllers for an industrial purpose was rapidly adopted in the 1930s but was not referred to as automation until 1947 when the Ford Automobile industry established an automation department that focused on the ways of using automatic means for production.
In the seventeenth century, Christian Huygens invented a Centrifugal governor which was used to adjust the gap between millstones.
In 1784, another centrifugal governor was used as part of a model steam crane by M. Bunce of England, and the same governor was adopted by James Watt in 1788 for use on a steam engine.
But these governors could not hold a set of speeds as the engine will always assume a new constant speed based on load variations.
The fluctuations of heat loads from the industrial boilers were able to be handled by the governors and the tendency of oscillation based on speed changes was common with the governors.
This limitation of the governors made the engines of the early centuries using governors not to be used for applications or operations that will require constant speed.
However, their improvements and the valve cut-off improvement led to their uses in steam engines suitable for industrial operations in the 19th century.
The attention to governors and their theoretical basis for understanding control theory started when James Clerk Maxwell published a paper in that regard.
The advancement led to the development of negative noise feedback cancellations which helped to improve the long-distance telephony through electronic amplification in the 1920s, the idea and other theories contributed to the control system.
Irmgard Flugge-Lotz, a German mathematician developed the theory of discontinuous automatic controls in the 1940s and 1950s which found some military application during the Second World War in the fire control systems and aircraft navigation systems.
Before all these periods, Relay logic had undergone rapid adaptation from the 1900s through the 1920s and was introduced in the factory’s electrifications.
The demand for instrumentations and control began to increase following the increased demand for new high-pressure boilers, steam turbines, and electrical substations, hence leading to the setting up of control rooms for industrial machines and equipment.
In the control rooms, the operators manually open or close valves or turn switches on or off and also use color-coding lights to send signals to workers in the plant before making any certain changes manually.
The advancement of electronic devices, microchips, and sensors had contributed to the factors that made modern automation systems to be possible. Modern automobile and pharmaceutical industries make use of automated systems in their production line.
THE SIGNIFICANT APPLICATIONS OF AUTOMATION SYSTEM DISCOVERY
In 1929, 31.9% of the bell system of dial telephones were automatic following the automatic telephones’ switchboard introduced in 1892 along with dial telephones. Initially, Vacuum tube amplifiers and electro-mechanical switches were used for the automation and they consume a large amount of electricity, the problem led to the research and discovery of transistors.
The first commercially successful glass bottle blowing machine was automatic and was built to have a two-man crew working 12-hour shifts and could produce 17,280 bottles in 24 hours when compared to 2,880 bottles made by a crew of six men and boys working in a shopper day.
The control theory led to the development of sectional electric drives used for different sections of machines where a precise differential must be maintained between the sections.
Automation helped many chemical industries with the production of toxic chemicals and it increased their production capacities.
THE ADVANTAGES OF THE INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
It increases industrial production output.
It can help improve the quality of a product.
It makes the production system to be consistent.
It can produce uniformity in finished products.
It reduces human labor and its costs.
High precision and accuracy tasks can be best performed with an automation system.
The production speed and calculations can be controlled.
Tedious jobs that are harmful to humans can be done using industrial automation example the handling and processing of molten steel in the metallurgical industry.
It helps to reduce occupational injuries to workers.
Workloads and industrial activities beyond human capacity are usually done using industrial automation.
Production time and cost can be reduced with automation.
It helps the industry minimize material wastages during production.
It has a low accident rate.
It gives workers time to do other jobs within the industry.
It is the best approach for any production and marketing competition.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
The error coming from the setup can be very dangerous and may damage the entire production system.
A wrong setting or a defective unit can lead to mass production of an inaccurate or defective product leading to a huge financial loss.
It usually generates unpredictable technical development leading to loss of time and money.
It is very costly to set up an automation system in the industry.
The workers will need special training in the operation and management of the system.
It increases the unemployment rate since few workers will be needed in the entire production line.
LIMITATIONS OF INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION
Though automation has dominated most industrial activities, there are still jobs left for humans and those are the types that may be very hard for automation to handle based on their conditions such as inspection jobs, safety monitoring, record keeping, etc.
So in the actual sense, it is not all industrial activities can be automated except those requiring repetition and uniform actions. Also, automation may not be necessary for industries whose product is in low demand and their low production meet the demand.
Philip is a graduate of Mechanical engineering and an NDT inspector with vast practical knowledge in other engineering fields, and software.
He loves to write and share information relating to engineering and technology fields, science and environmental issues, and Technical posts. His posts are based on personal ideas, researched knowledge, and discovery, from engineering, science & investment fields, etc.
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