Industrial automation: what it is and why it is used
When we talk about the industry, modernization processes, and technologies, we take for granted a whole part, which has made it possible to reduce costs and increase production. It is industrial automation, a segment that has been growing steadily for years, for a straightforward reason: many companies cannot do without it to be able to have margins, save on the workforce, and at the same time be able to stay at pace with the competition.
Industrial automation is a recent discipline but still quite consolidated. Even if there is no lack of innovations, think of robots, artificial intelligence, and everything that makes processes more streamlined and performing. Today, it can be said that there is no industry without automation: think of handling tasks, automatic storage, transport lines, machine tools, up to the most innovative automated warehouses, managed entirely by AGVs, i.e., Automated Guided Vehicles or the best online casino sites.
Robotics versus automation
One would think that robotics and automation are the same things. The similarities are many: both disciplines involve computer science and the physical world, using multidisciplinary knowledge and technologies. Not for nothing; they are both branches of engineering.
But there are also a series of differences. Robotics shows the feasibility of a solution, what in the jargon is called “proof of concept,” while automation guarantees efficiency, optimality, repeatability, and reliability. To do this, automation puts together four pieces of a vast puzzle: information technology, automation, electronics, and mechanics.
Companies capable of creating industrial automation solutions must be super-specialized in these fields, requiring a very competent workforce and a series of human interventions. Among the most famous names in Italy in recent times is the Softsystem of Pisa, which combines the design, construction, and assembly phases.
Industrial automation: the idea in three steps
The idea behind industrial automation is to prevent humans from supplying energy. It is called the “industrialization process,” The production process was upset during the first industrial revolution. From the end of the eighteenth century, machines driven by mechanical power were born, such as the automatic spinning wheel, the steam engine, and much more. You can discover more about it from https://www.reelsofjoy.org/en site.
But that’s not all: the second step of industrial automation prevents man from carrying out control operations, that is, critical and meticulous processes, which require exceptional precision in a repeated and continuous way. This is the example of Watt’s speed regulator, dating back to 1785, an automatic instrument that controlled the speed of a steam engine based on the action of the centrifugal force on two rotating masses.
Thus was born the so-called theory of automatic controls, the core of the modern automated system. Based on measurements carried out on accessible physical quantities, one learns how to define the most effective control action to obtain the desired behaviour of a process. Studies in this field predominantly date back to the 1900s. They have led to the invention of negative feedback amplifiers, the frequency analysis of Bode and Nyquist, and the concepts of stability of linear systems.
Finally, the third and final step of industrial automation makes it possible to prevent humans from manipulating information during a production process. The first industrial automatic controllers were born around the 1950s, a series of logic / sequential and combinatorial controls, which, upon certain conditions, start or end basic operations carried out by the production machines. Initially, the first controllers had little flexibility. They were slow in acquiring information and processing, but thanks to the advent of transistors and printed circuits, since the mid-1960s, there has been an increase in performance, with more advantageous costs. And more compact dimensions.
With the evolution of electronics and information technology starting from the 70s, we finally moved on to microprocessor systems and a programmable logic controller (PLC) to automate industrial production. Being programmable makes it highly flexible, and since the second half of the 70s, thanks to ever lower costs, it has become the industry standard.