Future Factories: Tele Controlled Machines

The advancement in science and technology has enabled man to control machines using internet and such machines have opened up the possibility of factory workers joining the home-working revolution

Now, Future Factories will look different from those today and people will not be seen in the working area of a factory. Instead, workers will log into robot-assisted manufacturing "cells" to make what they want from the comfort of their own home. People on online social networks will be able to log in and set laser cutters and 3D printers to work and bashing out gadgets to order.

 Tele Control Interface

A lot of companies like car parts makers in South Korea are monitoring manufacturing operations remotely, but none are controlling such machines remotely.

This could soon change. With better quality video links, faster internet and telepresent control interfaces mean manufacturing-at-a-distance is no longer so out of reach. Recently a large amount of research is being done on these technologies.

For Example, TSB is part-funding a £1.5 million project in which the Ford Motor Company and Autodesk (a firm that designs 3D software) will work out how to feed sensor data from machinery back to augmented reality user interfaces. This concept could easily be used for remote manufacturing.

Recently an engineering team set up a manufacturing "cell" in their lab containing an internet-connected machine tool in Serbia. They try to control the machine from 2350 kilometres away in Serbia. It worked surprisingly well, they successfully uploaded a design program which controlled the machine and cut foam test pieces with it. This also has the feature of pressing the tool's emergency shutdown button when danger loomed. Engineers tested multiple user interfaces and found that the best ones filled their PC screen by maximising their view of the machine and with control buttons overlaid on the video. This experiment shows that projecting remote control interfaces onto a wall could give the most convincing experience.

Cloud Computing

Cloud manufacturing could put power in the hands of professional makers and let them sell their skills worldwide. Technical people could collaborate on social networks to agree designs and get products made and companies could hire skilled operators to manufacture goods on demand.

Tele controlling industry is not far away. With the success of these experiments there will be a revolution in the Automation industries and worker will control machines by sitting on their home sofas.

602   08/09/2013

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