Industrial Automation and Control Equipment: The Role It Plays in British Industry

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Industrial Automation and Control Equipment: The Role It Plays in British Industry

For the last 50 years, industrial automation and control equipment has been increasing in importance. As advances in technology are made and automated equipment, including robots, become more widely used, more and more simple or dangerous tasks can be handled by machines rather than people. The downside is that some of the jobs once held by people can now be performed by robots, but this has created a new service industry of the installation and maintenance of automated equipment. Britain has been relatively slow to adopt automation compared to countries such as India and China, so there is an insistent push to incorporate more and more automation as industries develop.

One issue in the local adoption of robots and other automated equipment is that there are no local manufacturers of control equipment. The majority of the robots in the UK come from either the European community or Japan. While little of the equipment found on eBay is manufactured locally, it can be purchased through a local supplier and often at a significantly reduced price when compared to other sources.

Role of Industrial Automation in British Industry

Automation is defined as any use of machines, including control system and information technology, to enhanced the production of goods or delivery of services. Control systems are devices that manage the behaviour of other devices or systems. Information technology is the use of computers to manage data via storage, retrieval, and manipulation. Automation has been used in a wide array of applications in British industry. The categories below represent just a sample of the uses.

Automated Welding

Using robots for arc, gas, laser, and spot welding reduces the chance of people being injured by the welding implement and can improve the precision of the welding beam. Robotic welding systems are often found in robot cells placed in a manufacturing line. One such product is the FlexArc, manufactured by ABB. The FlexArc is a large cell that features a robotic welder that can be programmed to make a variety of welding manoeuvres.

Automated Assembling

Robotic arms can also be used on an assembly line. They are more precise and do not tire like people. The robots can also move at a faster pace over a longer period of time. In 2011, more robots in the UK were used for assembly than for any other application, except welding.

Automated Hazardous Applications

Robots can be put in place where there are applications that can be dangerous to people from either chemicals or sharp equipment. This reduces the likelihood of workplace injuries and provides an excellent use of robots. Examples of areas in which robots could be used include working with flammable or hazardous chemicals, and the loading and unloading of hazardous materials.

Automated Cutting

Like other automated applications, cutters can be used to separate two materials precisely. In the UK, cutting robots are used in the automotive components and metal products industries. Robotic cutting machines can also be used to cut paper, card, fabric, thin wood, leather, and metal.

Automated cutting techniques include the used of water jets and lasers. Water jets use high pressure streams of water with a small particulate matter to cut materials, including metal. Water jet cutting does not cause high temperatures compared to other cutting systems. Laser cutting does not contaminate the workpiece.

Automated Painting

Automated painting can speed up the application process. Applications include spraying reflective paint and automotive parts. Robots can also be used to provide protective coatings to materials using the same method as painting machines.

Automated Handling

Automated machinery can be used in a variety of handling processes. Examples include computerised inventory systems, scanning, sorting machinery, and delivery and receiving equipment. Many of these tasks are routine and can become more consistent with the use of machinery.

Automated Packaging

Packaging is a large part of handling and there are many machines used to automate this process. Examples of automated packaging equipment include cartoning, converting, filling, label dispensing, palletising, and stamping machines.

Automated Loading and Unloading

Once a package has been handled and filled, it can be loaded, and later unloaded, using automated equipment. These systems provide safety in bay areas by preventing accidents as well as improving loading and unloading times, and the efficiency of workers.

Automated Inspection and Testing

Automated inspection and testing equipment is used in a variety of manufacturing processes to ensure that products are in compliance with specifications and regulations. Inspection machines can examine aspects of products, including dimensions, features, surface finish, porosity, cracks, alignment, colour, leaks, electrical continuity, and fluid and gas capacitance.

Digital Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a type of automation that is used in many British applications, including jewellery, footwear, industrial design, and education. The processes that incorporate digital manufacturing include modelling, printing, and finishing. Digital manufacturing is used in rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, and mass customisation.

British Industries That Use Automation

Industrial automation and control equipment is used in many British industries. The following table provides some examples of which type of equipment is used and its application.

Industry

Automated Equipment

Application

Aerospace

Assembly

Component manufacture

Ceramics

Hazardous application

Mining of ceramic materials

Motor vehicles

Cutting and shaping

Welding

Inspection

Many aspects of vehicle manufacturing are automated

Pharmaceuticals

Inspection

Handling and sorting

Regulation

Manufacturing processes

Packaging

Research and development

Inspection and scanning

Domestic measurements

Textiles

Cutting and weaving

Inspection

Package handling

Pattern cutting

Garment construction

The table provides just a sample of the many British industries that use automation. Computerised systems enhance functionality and speed in industry, and continue to be developed and improved.

Role of Control Equipment in British Industry

Control equipment is a type of second generation of automation in which the systems are controlled by a computer that adjusts to changes in the environment. A company such as ABB creates control systems for extending automation, and improving cost effectiveness and safety. It also provides collaborative software.

Control equipment is also used in quality engineering and helps to improve the integration of high quality management systems. In aviation, control systems are used to monitor aeroplane elevation, speed, and orientation, as well as routes via GPS devices.

How to Buy Industrial Automation and Control Equipment on eBay

When it comes to searching for industrial automation and control equipment online, eBay is the best place to look. The website has a variety of equipment available. To find the right machine you can access the search engine on the site by typing in keywords into the rectangular box found on most pages. You can find a wide variety of equipment by typing "industrial automation". If you have a more specific idea of the products that you wish to purchase, then use more targeted keywords, such as components and supplies, test and measurement equipment, or electrical test equipment. If you would like more control over your search, for example, if a particular budget has been set for the equipment, then use the advanced search feature.

Bear in mind that there may be cost savings if you buy used industrial automation and control equipment. Use the eBay filters to narrow down the search results to a particular item condition.

Research Sellers on eBay

When buying a product as important as industrial automation equipment, you should make sure that you purchase it from a reputable seller. eBay provides a wealth of information on each seller, so that you can be confident in your purchase. On every product page, there is a box containing seller information that includes the seller's username and positive feedback rating. If a seller is Top-rated, as deemed by eBay, then that is also shown in the seller information box. By clicking on the username, you can find out more details, including the ratings given by previous buyers for the seller's description accuracy, communication, and dispatch time. Recent written feedback is also provided.

If there are any questions regarding the industrial automation and control equipment that are not answered by the information in the item description, then contact the seller directly using the "Ask a question" link.

Conclusion

Industrial automation and control equipment plays an important role in British industry. Automated processes have developed over the years, and improved control equipment has brought manufacturing into the twenty first century. The automated equipment provides improvements in reliability and takes the menial processes away from workers by performing repetitive or hazardous tasks. Automated equipment can also provide a faster throughput on assembly lines. The wide variety of industrial automation and control equipment, including digital manufacturing, provides a seemingly unlimited number of methods for businesses to improve their products. Automation has been incorporated into a wide array of manufacturing industries from high-tech aerospace to relatively low-tech inventory control.

Control equipment is another layer of automation that reduces the manpower required to monitor automated equipment. Control software and processes can be implemented to improve functionality. When looking for industrial automation and control equipment, eBay is a useful resource.

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