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AUTOMATION : BASIC CONCEPTS

1. Automation : Why is it required ?


 Automation deals with the combination of mechatronics and computer for production of goods
and services.
 Automation of any system, process or plant is required due to following reasons :
i. Shortage of labor in developed countries like U.S.
ii. High cost of labor which is available.
iii. Competition :
a. We can get lower prices and better products.
b. Better image.
c. Better labor relations due to automation. This helps immensely to survive a
product in increasing competition.
iv. Safety: Automated systems can work with same efficiency in the environments which
are hazardous to human health. It is required from safety point of view.

AUTOMATION
 Automation can be defined as an automatically controlled operation of an application process or a
system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human organs of observation,
effort and decision.
 It deals with the application of mechatronics and computers for production of goods and services.
Automation can be used for :

(i) Information processing operations


 Using methodologies such as computer aided design, computer aided production planning,
computerized inventory management, computer aided manufacturing and computer integrated
manufacturing, also called as service automation.

(ii) Material processing operations


 This involves material handling and processing operations with technology such as CNC machine
tools, industrial robots and automated guided vehicles.
 It is also known as manufacturing automation.
 Automation can be classified into three types on the basis of process and task flexibility :
i. Hard automation / fixed automation.
ii. Soft automation / programmable automation.
iii. Robot automation / flexible automation.

1. Hard Automation
 Characteristics of hard automation are given below :

 Low Flexibility: Task and process are fixed. Thus, a dedicated assembly machine for product X
will only perform the process of assembly, and will only be capable of the task of assembling
product X; it can 4 assemble product Y.
 Designed specifically to perform a dedicated task in a process, in the most efficient possible
manner.
 Thus, task performance is optimised at the expence of flexibility.
 Comprises of extensive custom mechanical tooling and mechanisms.
 Long lead - time to implementation, due to dedicated or specialist mechanisms.
 Economic for high volume production.
 Will perform the task with shortest cycle time of all types of automation.
 Difficult/impossible to modify the task that the machine performs. Most/all of the machine is
redundant at the end of the task.

Examples
 Newspaper printing machine, motor winding machine, engine block machining transfer line, brush
making machine.

2. Soft Automation
 Intermediate flexibility - Process is fixed but the task can be variable. Thus, a CNC machine
tool will only perform a machining process, but can carry out different types of machining tasks
via reprogramming.
 Computer controlled actuators and sensors are used to position mechanisms in place of hard
stops.
 Physical construction optimises the performance of one type of process and prevents the
performance of other processes.
 Computer control enables reprogramming of tasks.

Examples
 CNC machine tools, PCB component insertion machines, automatic guided vehicles, computer
controlled pneumatic actuators etc.

3. Robot Automation
 High flexibility - Task and process both can be variable.
 Based on the use of industrial robots.
 Mechanical mechanisms limited as robots provide the majority of manipulation.
 Mechanical tooling mainly limited to robot grippers, work-piece holding, component supply and
fixtures.
 Lead time depends on the amount of specialist tooling.
 Physical construction doesn't limit process applications.
 Can be programmed to modify the task.
 The robots can be reused at the end of the task or process application.

Examples
 robot welders, robot painters, robot assembly machines.
 Table 10.1.1 states advantages, disadvantages and application areas of above types of
automation.

Table.1
Automation When to consider Advantages Disadvantages
Hard High demand • Maximum efficiency • Large initial
Automation volume, long • Low unit cost investment.
product life cycles. • Inflexibility
Soft Batch production, • Flexibility to deal with • New production
Automation products with changes in product requires long set up
different options. time.
• Low unit cost for large • High unit cost relative
batches to fixed automation.
Robot Low production • Flexibility to deal with • Large initial
Automation rates, varying design variations. investment
demand, short • Customized products • High unit cost relative
product life cycles. to fixed or
programmable
automation.

FUNCTIONAL ELEMENTS OF AN AUTOMATION SYSTEM


 An automated system is built up from a no. of subsystems.
 Fig.1 shows functional elements of an automated system.

Fig.1 : An automated system


 Various automated subsystems required are stated as follows :

1. Device to provide controlled movement of workpieces and tools


 This will be a robot or custom piece of automation, as determined by an analysis of your
application requirements.

2. End-effector(s) to manipulate components and tools


 Most welding, painting or fluid applications (e.g. adhesive, sealant, water cutting) can be met by
off-the-shelf tools supplied by companies in these fields.
 Parts handling applications (e.g. assembly, machine loading), are particular to the part to be
handled and require a custom solution.
 However, many of the subsystems required for a gripper solution are available.

3. Dynamic factory automation Device


 It is used to input the work into the cell e.g. conveyor, automated guided vehicle (AGV), manual
(via turntable) or robot.
 The conveyor is the most suitable system for higher volume applications,
 AGVs for low volume or batch supply of work in a flexible manufacturing environment and manual
for batch supply of work or low volume applications.
 The robot is particularly suitable where the workpiece is not transferred on a carrier, but input
directly by another robot to an interface position.

4. Device to input components into the cell


 If the component is homogenous (e.g. welding wire, paint/adhesive, laser) its supply will be an
integral part of the end-effect or system while the
 Components that are separate units can be fed to the automated cell in a variety of ways
explained bellow:

(a) Palletized trays


 To avoid repalletizing, these must be the trays used to deliver parts from the supplier.
 This will add to the parts cost due to the increase in tray specification to provide parts positional
accuracy.
 Some form of tray delivery device may be required to replace empty trays with full ones,
depending on tray capacity, cycle time and buffer requirements.

(b) Vibratory feeders


 Bowl feeders are the most common.
 Parts have to be robust enough to accept vibration energy.
 As parts can be supplied in bags, there is no additional packaging cost.
 They are very commonly used for 'commodity' parts such as screws and fasteners.

(c) Kitted on work pallet


 It can be used on a conveyor fed system, but requires a manual kitting operation upstream of the
automation.
 It has the advantage of simplicity and in minimizing component buffers and supports just-in-time
(JIT) manufacturing operations.
 However, it requires space on the pallet as well as a dedicated component holder(s) fitted on to
the pallet.

(d) Feed conveyor


 This is an expensive solution in terms of hardware.
 It is suitable for larger components or for feeding components direct from an automated station
carrying out a prior processing operation on the components.

5. Device to output work from the cell


 Those are again conveyor, AGV, manually unloaded (e.g. via turntable) robot.

6. Cell control system


 The robot controller, PC, PLC, etc., form the hardware vehicle(s) on which an application-specific
suite of software will operate.
 The software suite may consist of separate modules running on different pieces of hardware.
 Thus a system may utilize a PLC to control a specialist piece of tooling and the robot controller to
operate the robot and data-in/data-out lines.
 Each item of control hardware will utilize a different operating system and programming language.
 The user must create application software to run on each piece of hardware as required, in such
a fashion that the combined hardware and software modules will operate to control the system in
the required fashion.

7. Cell power source


 This will be electric (usually 240V in the United Kingdom, 110V in the United States) for the
control system and sensors: the actuators/robot will be electric/hydraulic/pneumatic or a
combination, depending on the nature of the hardware.

8. Interface between the cell control system and the cell devices
 This will comprise a customized electrical wiring system, to link each actuator and sensor to
particular output and input ports on the controller.
9. Operator interface
 This is to enable the operator to control the system effectively.
 Methods include : custom control box; keyboard.
 VDU and application software; robot teach pendant; touch screen, etc.

10. Safety system to isolate the machine from people. This is to conform to national and company
safety standards. A barrier and interlocked access gates are required.

11. User and maintenance manuals


 These are important documents from training and maintenance points of view.

ADVANTAGES OF AUTOMATION
(1) Increased productivity
 Value of output per person per hour increases.

(2) Lower costs


i. Reduced scrap rate
ii. Lower in process inventory.
iii. Shorter / compact lines.

(3) Superior quality :

(4) Reduced manufacturing lead time :


i. Quick response to consumer's needs.
ii. Rapid response to design changes.

DISADVANTAGES OF AUTOMATION
(1) Labor resistance : Automation leads to unemployment in highly populated countries.
(2) Cost of upgraded labor : To handle automated system, skilled labor is required which adds to the
cost.
(3) Initial investment: Automation requires high initial investment. Recent projects in low cost
automation :
i. Development of low cost automated guided vehicle.
ii. Pick and place robotic arm.
iii. Proportional control valve.
iv. Automated material storage and handling.
v. Assembly of electronic circuits.
vi. Automation of arc welding processes.
Programmable Logic Controller:
The programmable logic controller (PLC) is a digital controller which can be programmed,
according to the requirements of the application.
(i) Block Diagram of PLC
 The block diagram of a PLC is as shown in Fig.1.
 From the block diagram of PLC it is clear that the basic building blocks for a PLC are :
a. Power supply unit
b. Central processing unit (CPU)
c. Memory
d. I/O interface units
e. Display and keyboard unit.

Fig.1 : Block diagram of PLC


POWER SUPPLY UNIT
 This provides power to all the subunits such as CPU, memory, I/O interface, display and
keyboard etc.

Central processing unit (CPU)


 CPU is the heart of PLC as it is responsible for organizing all the controller activities.
 CPU decides the sequence of different operations to be executed, by using the instructions
written in memory.
 These instructions are loaded there by means of the keyboard.
 In addition to this it can perform some other functions such as counting, comparing, timing etc.

Memory
 Memory is either RAM or ROM type.
 ROM is the read only memory which contains the program for system operation or control.
 This program is called as monitor program.
 RAM is the random access memory which can be used by the user to read and write his
instructions.

I/O interface
 I/O means input/output interface.
 The input interface accepts the signals from various machines or signals from different points of
the same machine.
 These signals are then converted into binary signals so that the CPU can act upon them.
 Output interface will convert the PLC signals into the signals compatible to the machines to be
driven.
 These signals are used to control various machines.

Programming software
 The programming software is written in the programming language to convey the control plan to
the CPU.
 By changing the programming software it is possible to use the same PLC for various
applications.
 The three types ofPLC languages are as follows :
i. Binary based statements
ii. Assembly language programming
iii. Relay ladder diagram.
 Table 10.4.1 shows some of the symbols used in relay ladder diagrams.
Sr. Component Symbol Contacts N.O. N.C.
No.
1. Control relay

2. Motor

3. Limit switch

4. Push button
switches

Table 1 : Symbols used in the ladder diagrams

SPECIFICATIONS OF PLCs
i. Power supply 230V ac  10%
ii. Operating frequency 50 Hz  3 Hz
iii. Output current rating Normally 2 amp
iv. Type of isolation Optical
v. CPU 8031
vi. Number of analog inputs 4
vii. Number of analog outputs 4
viii. Memory capacity ROM 4 KB, RAM : 8 KB
ix. Number of digital inputs 16
x. Number of digital outputs 8
xi. Printer port 1

Application of РLCs
1. To control individually various processes.
2. To supervise various processes or a single process.
3. In control of any time varying parameter.
4. It is being used as a major problem solving tool in many industrial applications.

CONCEPT OF DISTRIBUTED CONTROL SYSTEM


 There are two types of control systems to fulfil various complex demands for a good quality
product.
 They are:
i. Centralized control
ii. Distributed control.
 In a centralized control, the control units are placed in a centralized control room.
 The control room is located at the center of a process plant.
 Here an operator can monitor many control processes simultaneously.
 The sensors and actuators are located outside the control room.
 In distributed control each local unit will have its own controller programmed to carry out a
particular function or functions.
 All these controllers can then be connected to a centralized controller.
 The smaller controllers can fetch data from and load their data to the centralized controller.
 The distributed control system is as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig.2 : A distributed control system

Advantages of distributed control


1. The centralized control is not busy in doing the routine job hence it can be utilized for some
special functions.
2. Even when the centralized controller fails, the routine work is carried out without much
problem by the local controllers.
3. Local controller can use the microcontrollers. They can utilize the microcontrollers to the best
of their capacity.
4. Centralized controller can still control all the local controllers.
5. As the local controllers are closer to the process plants, they require shorter control loops
thereby reducing the electrical noise. This improves the system reliability.

Disadvantages of distributed control


1. Difficulties in interfacing and co-ordinating different elements in the system.
2. Proper communication between local and centralized controller may not always be possible.

NC and CNC
1. Numerical Controllers (NC)
 The use of electronics in the machine tool industry has increased to great extent now-a-days.
 More and more sophisticated techniques are being used to control various types of machines and
processes in industry.
 The computerised controllers are being used extensively which has improved the quality of the
finished products to a very great extent.
 In this chapter the fundamental concepts about the numerically controlled (NC) and computerised
numerical control (CNC) have been discussed.
 In the numerically controlled machines, the machining processes or operations are controlled with
the help of instructions given to the machine in a coded form.
 The simplest definition of numerical control given by Electronic Industries Association (EIA) is as
follows :

Definition of NC system
 It is a system in which the actions are controlled by direct insertion of numerical data at some
point.
 The system must automatically interpret atleast some portion of this data.
 Numerical control (NC) forms the basis of Computer Aided Design (CAD), and Computer Aided
Manufacturing (CAM).
 We may define numerical control as a technique of programmable automation in which the
process is controlled by numbers, letters, and symbols.
 Here, the numbers form a programme of instructions designed for a particular job or workpart.
 With the change of job, the programme of instructions change, resulting in the flexibility in
numerical control.
 It is much easier to write new programmes than to make major changes in the production
equipment.
 NC technology in conjunction with the digital computer has evolved the following control
techniques :
i. Computer Numerical Control (CNC)
ii. Direct Numerical Control (DNC)
iii. Adaptive Control.
 CNC is characterized by the replacement of the conventional hard wired NC controller unit by a
mini or micro-computer.
 This computer performs some or all of the basic NC functions by programmes stored in its
read/write memory.
 In CNC one mini/micro computer is used to control one machine tool, whereas in DNC a main
computer is used to control a number of separate NC machine tools.
 In adaptive control, we aim at optimization of machining process using microprocessor
technology.

Parts of numerical controller


 The NC is made up of block such as tape reader, data interpreter or decoder, A to D converter,
error discriminator, corrective devices such as servomotor etc.

Feedback devices
 Two types of feedback devices are used in NC :
i. Velocity feedback
ii. Position feedback.
 Velocity feedback is provided by the devices such as tachogenerator or optical encoder.
 Position feedback can be generated by means of either the linear or angular feedback
transducers.

Applications of numerical controllers


i. In point to point machines.
ii. In straight line cutting machines
iii. In contouring equipment.

Advantages of NC machine
1. It operates as per the coded instruction given through punched tape hence produces
the jobs automatically so quality degradation due to human errors does not take
place.
2. It can perform very complex operations on the workpiece with great accuracy to
produce a high quality component consistently.
3. It is very useful for repetitive kind of operation. It can ensure the same quality for a
large number of jobs.
4. It reduces wastage and scrap.
 Disadvantages of NC machines :
i. High investment cost.
ii. Higher maintenance cost.
iii. These are hard wired machines so are not as flexible as CNC machines.

COMPUTERIZED NUMERICAL CONTROLLER (CNC)


CNC machines
 In case of CNC machine tools, a dedicated computer is used to perform all the basic NC
functions.
 The complete part programme to produce a component is input and stored in the computer
memory.
 The conventional NC machines are not widely used now-a-days.
 CNC machine tools are used widely due to their new control features. They are as follows.
 Additional features of CNC machines:
 Some of the additional features of CNC machines are as follows:
1. The part programme can be input to the controller unit through a keyboard.
2. The part programme once entered into the computer is stored in its memory and it
can be used in future again and again.
3. The part programme can be modified if the specifications or design of the component
to be produced gets modified. This can be done through keyboard very easily.
4. The CNC machine can process the part programme, show the movement of the
cutting tool on the monitor and show the shape of the component which will be
produced after machining, without the actual machining.
5. CNC control unit can compensate for changes in the dimensions of the cutting tool.
6. With CNC machines, it is possible to get information about machine down time,
actual usage etc. By analyzing this data it is possible to manage the machine in a
best possible way to get the maximum returns.

BLOCK DIAGRAM OF CNC


 The block diagram of CNC is as shown in Fig.3.

Fig. 10.4.3 : Block diagram of CNC machine


 The speed and position feedback signals are obtained from the machine tool and applied to the
computer.
 The computer compares the feedback signal with the desired values and accordingly generates
signals to actuate the drive motor in proper direction.
 The position of the machine tool can be observed on the monitor and program instructions can be
loaded via keyboard.
 Functions of CNC :
 The main functions of CNC are as follows :
1. Machine tool control
2. In-process compensation
3. Improved programming and operating features.
4. Diagnostics.

1. Machine tool control


 The NC programme prepares the PART PROGRAMME in a series of coded statements whose
format and order are developed in the form of a language.
 The computer programme processes the part programme instructions and converts them into
machine tool motions through the computer interface and servomechanism.

2. In-process compensation
 This function is closely related to machine tool control.
 It involves dynamic correction of the machine tool motions for changes or errors which occur
during processing.

3. Improved programming and operating features


 The following operating features are available due to flexibility of computerized NC programming:
i. Correction or optimization of part programme after editing at the machine.
ii. Graphic display of the tool path to verify the tape.
iii. Incorporation of different interpolations such as circular, parabolic, or cubic types.
iv. Use of specially written subroutines.
v. Manual data input (MDI), etc.
4. Diagnostics
 System diagnostics is important to avoid downtime of the NC system as far as possible in view of
higher cost of the system.
 Following diagnostic features are expected in the CNC system :
i. It should be able to identify the reason for a downtime occurrence so that maintenance
personnel could make repairs more quickly.
ii. Diagnostics subsystem should be alert to signs that indicate the possible failure of a
certain component. Maintenance staff can then remove the faulty component in time,
thereby avoiding unplanned interruption of production.
iii. Diagnostics subsystems should contain a certain amount of redundancy of components
which are considered unreliable. A redundant component can be activated by replacing
a faulty component automatically. Thus the production schedule remains undisturbed.

Advantages of CNC machines


 Some of the advantages of CNC machine tool are as follows :
1. Elimination of operator errors: Human errors due to fatigue, boredom or
negligence by an operator are completely eliminated. The quality of works remains
unaffected.
2. Lower labour cost: One operator can run two or three machines or multiple pallet
machines so labour cost will reduce.
3. Longer tool life: As the tools are being used at optimum speeds and feeds the tool
life is extended.
4. Elimination of special jigs and fixtures.
5. Flexibility in changes of component design: The modification or changes in the
component design can be readily accomodated by re-programming and altering the
concerned instructions.
6. Reduced inspection: The time spent on inspection and waiting for inspection to
begin reduces to a great extent.
7. Less scrap: Since the operator errors are eliminated, the wastage due to production
of incorrect job is reduced to a great extent.
8. Accurate costing and scheduling: In CNC machines, the time taken in machining
is predictable, consistent and results in greater accuracy in estimating and more
consistency in costing.

Disadvantages of CNC machines


 Certain important disadvantages of CNC machines are as follows :
1. High investment cost
2. Higher maintenance cost
3. Costlier CNC operators are required.

Table.2 : Comparison between NC and CNC systems


Sr. NC systems CNC systems
No.
1. Requires a part programme for its Require a part programme for their
operation. operation.
2. They are hard wired systems, so Due to the use of computer they are
less flexible. extremely flexible. The part
programme can be very easily
modified as per requirement.
3. MCU is the brain of the system All the operations of the MCU are
which performs all the operations performed by the computer

4. Facility to process the part This facility is very well available.


programme without actually Even the movement of the cutting tool
machining the job is not available and shape of finished component can
be seen on the display
5. It is not possible to interconnect It is possible to interconnect several
several NC machines which perform CNC machines and have a master
different operations and have a control on them
single controller for them
6. Are less costly Very expensive
7. Not possible to prepare a data about It is very well possible to keep such a
machine down time, utilization, time record and manage the machine with
taken by each component etc the help of this data to get best
returns
8. Less complex Extremely complex