Manufacturing is a constantly evolving field. Technological developments play a huge part in making production more efficient, more uniform, and less dangerous. Here are some of the inventions that changed the manufacturing industry the most.
Computer-Aided Design – or CAD for short – has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. When used effectively, CAD software can streamline the process of getting a design from the mind of a product developer to the shop floor. The term ‘Computer-Aided Design’ was coined by the MIT scientist Douglas T. Ross in the 1950s. He used early computers and display monitors designed for radar operators to create circuit diagrams and flowcharts.
Today, almost every product is designed using CAD. Because data can be exported from a CAD program, it is able to be loaded straight into compatible robotic production equipment. Computer-Aided Design has truly driven automation in manufacturing by reducing the human input that was previously necessary for the transferal of instructions to production machinery. Whether or not this is a good development is up for debate. Skilled workers are losing their jobs to automation driven by CAD, but if governments step up and offer universal income to the unemployed and employers alike, then the benefits of automation will be felt across society.
Conveyor belts were first used in mining operations to safely transport ore from the mining faces to the adits (or entrances), where they would be loaded onto trains or trucks. The conveyor belt was introduced to the manufacturing industry in the 1920s when American industrialist Henry Ford opened up what many people would consider to be the first modern production line. Ford’s line used conveyor belts to transport sections of the Model T car along the production line, which allowed workers to efficiently complete single tasks repeatedly to cheaply produce the famous little cars. Ford’s conveyor belt driven production model quickly spread around the manufacturing world – mass production was born. Conveyor belts usually run on rollers and provide a continuously moving surface.
Robotics make high-precision manufacturing processes easy to automate and allow producers to hire less-skilled workers. On the one hand, this makes products cheaper. On the other, it has the ability to destroy communities by removing skilled work and instigating a ‘brain drain’, wherein educated and ambitious specialists leave town to seek other opportunities.
Robotics are frequently used to produce car parts. This allows car manufacturers to guarantee build quality and safety standards.
Arc welding is a process that uses heat generated from arcing electricity to join surfaces together. It is an essential process in the manufacturing of metal products. Without arc welding, metal would have to be riveted or glued together during manufacturing. These processes are expensive, time-consuming, and can – in the case of gluing – be wholly unreliable. Arc welding was first developed in the late 19th Century and is still considered to
be a manufacturing industry standard.