Factory automation is the use of computer operated machinery and equipment within a factory setting. Almost any piece of equipment or any machine today can be custom made or modified to become automated. Some common pieces of automated equipment include conveyors, sensors, assembly lines, robots, pick and place systems and actuators.
Various motion control mechanisms are used to enable precise and repetitive movements independently of human influence, and this is a more specific definition of factory automated products. Operators oversee the processes but do not need to do as much work as they without machine automation, which greatly reduces the need for them. Because they are automated, factory automation systems do not require much human control and are typically cost effective, labor-saving and consistent, able to do the same exact motion time after time.
Factory automation equipment is a broad category of machinery that can include items such as bulk feeders, plastics processors, material handling and injection molding systems, radial and axial inserters, laser marking, component sequencers, lathes, riveters and other tools used for many applications involved during manufacturing, assembling, packaging and other processes that are performed in a factory.
Factory automation is widely used by factories that work in a variety of industries performing agricultural, automotive, computer, electrical, electronics, food and beverage processing, medical, semiconductor and telecommunications applications. Items that are used in an automated system include lifts, pick-and-place arms, marking equipment, vision systems, pallet transfer systems, high speed assembly machines, testing equipment, bulk handling equipment, cleanroom applications and more.
Factory automation describes a characteristic of a piece of equipment or a system. Factory automation systems are composed of many individual pieces of automation equipment and are able to practically run themselves. Individual automated machines require more effort from the operator to load and unload the machine or to turn the workpiece around.
Instead of needing an operator to place the workpiece on the machine and remove it, a vibratory feeder may drop a workpiece onto a conveyor belt that carries it through a series of rollers. A robotic arm could pick up the workpiece and place it down on another machine where it is stamped, rotated and stamped again. The product could then be conveyed through a spray booth, dried, packaged and packed.
Automation allows that entire process to take place without the use of a worker even touching the product. Different factories work with different substances and products but having automated production equipment is beneficial across the board. Certain equipment and machine configurations are frequently used because of their efficiency and ease of use.
Carousel systems, continuous motion conveyors, inline indexing, multi-station, rotary, synchronized and walking beam transfer systems are a few of the many arrangements of equipment.