Computer-Based Automation of Discrete Product Manufacture
A Preliminary Discussion of Feasibility and Impact
Preliminary findings of an investigation of potential technological feasibility and effect of advanced automation and robotics, including several innovative concepts for flexible, programmable automation of manufactured hard goods. Programmable automation is considered for all manufacturing operations, including assembly and testing, for moderately to highly complex products in lots ranging from a single prototype to high daily production rates. Appropriate products would include small missiles, x-y plotters, autopilots, and movie projectors. Programmable automation for such processes as parts forming and machining, assembly, inspection, transfer and storage of materials, tooling, scheduling, and inventory control would provide: (1) computer control, free of human drudgery and independent of human reaction speeds and individual variations, (2) flexibility within broad product classes, such as small electromechanical systems, and (3) integration with other computerized systems. Approximately 80 percent of U.S. manufacturing facilities appear amenable to programmable automation, but it would require at least five years of development and its cost/effectiveness is unknown.