Production Equipment Of The Future

Dec. 21, 2004
Research seeks smarter, smaller machine tools.

Smart machines, micro-machine tools for micro factories, nanomaterials and wireless sensor networking. How will those technologies shape the factory of the future? Sample the research status of those projects and others at IMTS, the show that first displayed NC (1955), CNC (1972) and the first modern machining center with a tool changer (1960). This year researchers in the Emerging Technology Center (ETC booth S-1030) foretell the Smart Machine, production equipment that will be able to make the first part correctly, says Paul Warndorf, vice president technology for the show's sponsor, the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), McLean, Va. The goal: eliminating the wasted time and material that accompanies the traditional cut-and-try approach to new part configurations. He says a research team of Cincinnati-based Techsolve, along with several trade associations and technical societies (AMT, NACFAM, NCMS, NTMA, SME) have a technology plan to greatly enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Warndorf says Smart Machines will be intelligent enough to make the first part right -- without the detailed programming necessary today. "Just show it a detailed 3-D CAD model." Another change agent for machine tools is the rapidly growing demand for microscale part production, says John Morehouse, research engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology's Manufacturing Research Center, Atlanta. As miniaturized machines also evolve, users will find unparalleled advantages -- stiffness, accuracy and even a lower machine price, Morehouse adds. He maintains those benefits are a natural outcome of miniaturizing the machine tool. Georgia Tech began assessing the benefits of miniaturization with a vertical milling center 350 mm long, 240 mm deep and 320 mm high (as defined by the external volume of the gantry structure). At ETC (booth S-1038) Georgia Tech will display an even smaller machine operating with a 2X improvement in resolution and accuracy. Also pushing for miniaturization are researchers from University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign (ETC booth S-1023). The intent is to handle the miniaturization of devices with 3D features measured in microns. Their goal: to help evolve processes, material handling and assembly equipment that will be integrated to create micro-factories capable of producing high accuracy products in large quantities at low cost. In ETC booth S-1041 Millinnial Net will show ultra low-powered self-organizing wireless sensor networking systems. The product, called i-Beans, allows instrumentation and sensing devices such as gauges, sensors and actuators to connect and communicate with each other over self-organizing, self-healing wireless networks.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!