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Standardizing Machine Communication

March 7, 2007
An initiative targeting machine tool interoperability promises to revolutionize manufacturing.

What if machine tools came with a standard way of exchanging information? It's coming, with the promise of dramatic efficiencies, data access and competitiveness.

The enabler: a machine tool interoperability initiative launched by AMT, the Association for Manufacturing Technology. AMT's board of directors has approved a two-year initiative with an initial budget of up to $1 million to begin the effort. The first demonstration will be at the September 2008 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The goal of the initiative, announced in February, is to provide a standard way of exchanging information among all types of manufacturing equipment. To succeed, vendors will need to avoid thinking of standards as commoditization, cautions CAD and automation analyst Joel Orr, vice president, Cyon Research Corp. User acceptance is key, he adds.

John Byrd

AMT's intention is to provide a uniform, easy to implement way of confronting the typical production floor's multivendor mix of equipment and software. Without communication standards, the mix-and-match scenario makes it difficult to collect, transmit and leverage data from the manufacturing floor. For example, without a standards-based approach, information systems must be modified wherever there's a change in assembly lines. That affects competitiveness by increasing costs and delaying production.

As John B. Byrd III, AMT president, sees it, the inability of various manufacturing components to communicate with each other on the factory floor is slowing the development of more advanced manufacturing technology product and system solutions. Byrd says there is an increasing critical need to share data, from sensors to controls to machines. The reference involves AMT's dedication to a future where manufacturing floors will be populated with smart machines that utilize interoperability to enhance productivity, efficiency and quality.

AMT's interoperability initiative complements efforts underway within the Smart Machine Platform Initiative. Its focus: to develop the technologies that realize the goal of being able to manufacture a first part correctly.

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