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Speaking a common language: Bringing robot and CNC technologies together

01 September 2022

The last five decades have seen tremendous advances both in robotics and in CNC machining centre technology. Barry Weller, Product Manager at Mitsubishi Electric, looks at the evolution of these two technologies, and the new possibilities for machine builders and OEMs to develop an important competitive advantage in the design of CNC machining centres, making it easy for their end users to reap the full benefits of automation.

A journey through the last 50 years of automation technologies is a story of increased sophistication and of democratisation. The products that were once state-of-the-art just a few decades ago would look like children’s toys today, while the high cost meant they were only available to a select few. The modern equivalents, while much more complex, are, at the same time, more compact, simple to use and readily affordable. Even on some of the biggest machinery assets where investment is still significant, the return on that investment can often be measured in months, thanks to the increased productivity they deliver.

CNC machining and robotics are two good examples of this pattern. While CNC (computer numerical control) technology actually dates back to punch card programming of machines as early as the 1950s, CNC machines as we’d recognise them today – offering multi-axis, fully automated, computer-controlled milling and machining – are really quite a recent innovation. With them has come a growing need for operators of this specialist equipment, with the Institute of Technical Trades US boldly claiming in 2016 that in many industries up to 40 percent of job positions would be in the field of CNC.

Read the full article in DPA's September issue

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