Automating the manufacturing process is about increasing capacity without increasing headcount, by taking labour cycles our of the design or production processes. Using a combination of software integration skills and unique software platforms, like product configurators (CustomX and Configurator360), cloud based solutions (Fusion360) and integrated CAM software (Hypermill and Autodesk CAM) we have a powerful solutions set the can increase efficiency throughout the manufacturing workflow.
A simple web form can be used to create models, quotes, manufacturing drawings, bills of material and even generate NC machine code at the touch of a button. In some instances, through the use of feature recognition in the rules based engine and integrated CAM packages it is even possible to generate NC machine code to drive, 2.5D, 3 axis and 5 axis machines to automatically manufacture the products. This can dramatically reduce the level of technical skills needed to drive the CNC machines, often a prohibitive factor in manufacturing companies being able to scale the use of expensive machinery or expand the capacity in their workshops.
Through the use of web based product configurators users can quickly create design drawings simply by putting design parameters into a web based form. Those parameters are then automatically used by the design program (e.g Autodesk Inventor) running in the background, to create both 3D and 2D production drawings. Ideal products that lend themselves to this kind of auto generation have variant product parameters and can be described by rules which are then configured in the product engine of systems like Custom X or Configurator 360.
In order to automate the design process fully, you really need to configure several platforms of software to run together and then manipulate or integrate the API’s of the appropriate programs (3D Modelling tools, CNC CAM coded generators, nesting programs) to work together to create the desired outcome. In some instances the automation is merely to reduce design cycles to either speed up the design process or cut design costs. In other instances it is to reduce the labour required to produce products. The labour intensive tasks could be for example, manual nesting that takes place at a CNC machine to ensure that the maximum number of product configurations can be machined from a single piece of raw material (often for example from sheet metal). Other labour intensive areas include the programming of the CNC machine itself, which gets more sophisticated as the complexity of the model increases.
Productivity in manufacturing has always been an area of concern and by bringing in automation, Man and Machine hopes the industry would benefit in terms of efficiency, helping to lower production costs and being more commercially competitive. UK manufacturing contributes 25% to UK GDP and improvements in automation, use of information technology and investment in R&D are critical to continuous production improvements for the industry.