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Automation and Mechanization

In so far as automation replaces human muscle by mechanical power, it continues a process of mechanization which began before the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago. The first machines were not automatic; they performed many physical tasks but they had to be operated and controlled by workers. But semiautomatic machines were invented early in the history of mechanization; they were, for instance, the textile machines and, later on, the lathes widely employed in engineering. These machines performed automatically, once they were set and loaded, and they confined human operator to two kinds of work, the unskilled work of loading and unloading, and the skilled work of setting and maintaining machines. Since then technical development has been gradual and continuous. They have greatly widened the range of operations that can be performed automatically and they have mechanized some loading and unloading of machines. Perhaps the best and most recent example is the transfer-machine in engineering, it combines automatic machining with automatic transfer between operations, so that all loading and unloading is done mechanically except at the beginning and end of the line. There have also been extensive developments in the handling of materials and components between processes and in the mechanical assembly of simple components.

A major advance in twentieth century manufacturing was the development of mass production techniques. Mass production refers to manufacturing processes in which an assembly line, usually a conveyer belt moves the product to stations where each worker performs a limited number of operations. In the automobile assembly plant such systems have reached a highly-developed form.

One of the factors for the industrial engineer to consider is whether each manufacturing process can be automated in whole or in part. Automation is a word coined in the 1940s to describe processes by which machines do tasks previously performed by people. The word was new but the idea was not. We know of the advance in the development of steam engines that produced automatic valves. Long before that, during the Middle Ages, windmills had been made to turn by taking advantage of changes in the wind by means of devices that worked automatically.

Automation was first applied to industry in continuous-process manufacturing such as refining petroleum, making petrochemicals, and refining steel. A later development was computer-controlled automation of assembly line manufacturing, especially those in which quality control was an important factor.

Vocabulary Notes

replace — замінювати

semi-automatic ['semI"Ltq'mxtIk] — напівавтоматичний;

lathe [leID] — токарний верстат; employ застосовувати, використовувати;

load — навантажувати;

confine [kqn'faIn] — обмежувати;

skilled [skIld] — кваліфікований;

setting — регулювання, вмикання, встановлення;

maintaining — обслуговування;

transfer-machine — автоматична складальна лінія;

extensive[Iks'tensIv] — обширний;

industrial engineer[In'dAstrIql "enGI'nIq] — інженер-технолог;

manufacturing["mxnju'fxkCqrIN]— виробництво;

assembly[q'semblI] line — складальний конвеєр;

conveyer[kqn'veIq]belt — стрічка конвейера;

increase [In'krJs] — збільшувати;

efficient[I'fISqnt] — ефективний, продуктивний;

coin — утворювати нові слова;

advance[qd'vRns] — прогрес;

valve[vxlv] — клапан;

refining[rI'faInIN] — очищення, підвищення якості;

chain-drive—ланцюговий привід, передача.


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