A rapid prototyping system is now available that makes parts and molds from powder that's melted by a laser, then solidified in place based on a computer program. Although that may sound familiar to those who are acquainted with rapid prototyping techniques, what makes this system different is that metal powder being melted can even be tool steel. It's called "Direct Metal Deposition."
Among some of the newer products being offered by robot companies are software-based systems, which shouldn't be too surprising nowadays. Of course, work beyond manipulating digital information still needs to get accomplished, so there is also new iron...
Good news! CNCs, PLCs, and PC-based industrial controllers are beginning to look and act more alike. They are also quickly losing their island status on the plant floor. The result is industrial controllers that do more on the plant floor.
Here are two views from two separate companies—best known, probably, as transfer line manufacturers—about the importance of doing things differently by applying appropriate technology to production requirements.