Growth of Intelligent Machines
The growth of intelligent machines in industry of all types stems from a handful of key technological advances, which have in turn begat growing innovation in the way machines are used to perform work.
The Smart Machines Coalition, a public/private collaboration started by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), now includes the National Center for Defense Machining and Manufacturing (NCDMM), the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS). (Digital Manufacturing Report is a joint NCMS/Tabor Communications venture). The Coalition has the audacious goal of driving true decision-making industrial technology with maximum automation, a dream whose technological roots began as far back as the 1950s.
Three key innovations have driven the advancement of machine intelligence:
- Numerical control, the punched-tape version of which was the precursor of modern Computer Numerical Control (CNC);
- A single rugged, easily configurable Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) could replace hundreds or thousands of hand-wired relays, timers, and controllers formerly required for automation;
- The advent of multi-tasking technologies drastically expanded capabilities in the machine tool industry by allowing individual machines to do the work of many.
According to experts at the Coalition, the next great innovation in machine intelligence and automation is radio frequency technology, which has already revolutionized industry from farm to factory with positioning, guidance, and increased wireless control.
As with most innovations, each tends to build upon its forebears toward ever-loftier goals. The Smart Machines Coalition, driven by opportunity for greater efficiency, competitiveness, and customer value, already envisions a future where today’s level of automation seems practically manual by comparison.