This is a very exciting time to be in Manufacturing! Manufacturing Engineers’ toolboxes are expanding every day with new technologies and possibilities for greater efficiency and capability. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or what some are calling Industry 4.0, is bringing all kinds of tools to bear on all processes in our industrial world. The next step in embracing this revolution is making sure that Manufacturing Engineers are exposed to and educated on what is possible.
In 2017 Parker opened a new state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Learning and Development Center (AMLDC), located at our Parker Technology Center facility in Macedonia, Ohio. The AMLDC facility serves as a center of excellence where Parker engineers can explore new applications of emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing and collaborative robotics.
The investment in cutting-edge additive manufacturing equipment is driven by the tremendous long-term value of these technologies. By creating a single facility near its global headquarters in Northeast Ohio, Parker is providing its operating groups and divisions around the world with access to the newest printers, software, and materials available.
By utilizing central resources, Parker will leverage its investment and allow Parker engineers globally to better solve our customers’ challenges. With the ability to create multiple configurations of a single component without developing additional molds or customized tooling, additive manufacturing has emerged as a quick and inexpensive prototyping solution. This translates into speed in addressing the unique challenges of customers, providing engineers with the ability to create custom products and systems faster than ever before.
“Material science is foundational for new process and product development.”
Robert Pelletier, engineering manager for Parker’s AMLDC
Parker's Paul Susalla, corporate manufacturing technology advancement director, feels that certain technologies are first for all manufacturing companies to consider. These include
Low unemployment today has created a situation of not having enough qualified applicants to fill job openings. Robotic automation, both collaborative and traditional industrial, provides an opportunity to mitigate this issue. More and more, employees are seeing this as less of a threat and more of an opportunity to avoid the jobs they do not like with the ability to do more interesting and complex work. Implementing Lean practices and hosting Kaizen events prior to implementation helps avoid automating bad processes. Benefits of greater efficiency, consistency, quick return on investment and the inherent data available for DDM make automation a must-do.
Whether adding sight to robots or used for visual inspection or sorting, the vision has come a long way in the past few years. Updates and new options for high-resolution 2D cameras, 3D visual systems, laser line scanners, and random robotic bin picking solutions are coming out with increasing velocity. The quality of the systems today not only ease the strain on employees but make robust the application of Zero Defect Manufacturing (ZDM) utilizing No Faults Forward (NFF) approaches.
AR takes on many forms from station or warehouse scale projection systems to wearables. This rapidly expanding technology presents additional data and instruction to the user within their view of the real world which creates opportunities like never before. Imagine the time savings for training new operators! Instead of working with a new employee on their assembly tasks for several hours, the new operator starts directly at their workstation and follows the directions presented; parts to pick up are highlighted, how-to videos are run, and their motions are tracked for correctness. This non-intrusive system trains the new employee while not limiting the experienced team member, provides real motion data for DDM and enables NFF on manual operations. In high-mix / low-volume operations, it can dramatically improve output quality by making sure things are done properly every time.
The complete immersion in the 3D simulation now allows global engineering teams to collaborate and review designs and systems that exist only on a computer without having to leave their facilities. The teams can interact, walk around, mark up changes and work together as if they were together in the same room around real hardware.
3D printing is re-writing the rules of how to design and make things. AM is not only used for prototyping and manufacturing trials (machine interference, CMM teaching, fluid studies…) but additionally for tooling, fixtures, and gauges. These are being produced in great numbers. Created in a very short time at minimal cost, these items can be iterated and optimized for the parts and application. Production parts are always desired. Metal and many polymer systems produce parts suitable for end-use. Design technologies are catching up with our abilities to “grow” parts. Generative Design / Topology Optimization are technologies where the computer uses loads, torques, envelope and constraints provided by the engineer to evolve the design. It does this through multitudes of iterations and presents functional geometry options at a minimal weight that may not have occurred to the user.
Many manufacturing challenges still rely on people. Difficult inspection processes or operations with a great deal of variability of parts require the intelligence of people to make decisions. Optimization of machine cycles and robot motion today may only be taken so far due to human limitations. The capabilities of AI and Machine Learning are expanding at a fast pace and will soon be one more common tool in a Manufacturing Engineer’s toolbox to take on these and other tasks. These technologies are good at finding the anomaly and working through multitudes of trials to find the right solution. As processing power increases, so will the application of these technologies.
This rapidly expanding world of manufacturing technologies and capabilities is truly exciting. Manufacturing Engineers have always found developing new processes and manufacturing systems to be rewarding. With new tools and technologies repeatedly becoming available, how could anyone not become even more enamored with this profession?
Looking to join us and start your own career in manufacturing? View our open manufacturing positions at Parker Careers.
Certainly, pride in one's work, innovative thinking and a shared sense of Purpose are the hallmarks of our most critical engineering breakthroughs and most significant achievements. How do partnerships enable breakthroughs? After more than a century of experience serving our customers, Parker is often called to the table for the collaborations that help to solve the most complex engineering challenges. We help them bring their ideas to light. We are a trusted partner, working alongside our customers to enable technology breakthroughs that change the world for the better. Learn more about Parker Leading with Purpose on our webpage.
Article contributed by Paul Susalla, corporate manufacturing technology advancement director, Parker Hannifin