The Technology of Goods Production
PowerSki founder and CEO Bob Montgomery spent sixteen years designing the Jetboard and bringing it to production. At one point, in his efforts to get the design just right, he’d constructed thirty different prototypes. Montgomery thought that he could handle the designing of the engine without the aid of a computer. Before long, however, he realized that it was impossible to keep track of all the changes.
That’s when Montgomery turned to computer technology for help and began using a computer-aided design (CAD) software package to design not only the engine but also the board itself and many of its components. The CAD program enabled Montgomery and his team of engineers to test the product digitally and work out design problems before moving to the prototype stage.
The sophisticated CAD software allowed Montgomery and his team to put their design paper in a drawer and to start building both the board and the engine on a computer screen. By rotating the image on the screen, they could even view the design from every angle. Having used their CAD program to make more than four hundred design changes, they were ready to test the Jetboard in the water. During the tests, onboard sensors transmitted data to computers, allowing the team to make adjustments from the shore while the prototype was still in the water. Nowadays, PowerSki uses collaboration software to transmit design changes to the suppliers of the 340 components that make up the Jetboard. In fact, a majority of design work these days is done with the aid of computers, which add speed and precision to the process.
For many companies, the next step is to link CAD to the manufacturing process. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software system determines the steps needed to produce the component and instructs the machines that do the work. Because CAD and CAM programs can “talk” with each other, companies can build components that satisfy exactly the requirements set by the computer-generated model. CAD/CAM systems permit companies to design and manufacture goods faster, more efficiently, and at a lower cost, and they’re also effective in helping firms monitor and improve quality. CAD/CAM technology is used in many industries, including the auto industry, electronics, and clothing. If you have ever seen how a 3-D printer works, you have a pretty good idea of how CAM works too.
By automating and integrating all aspects of a company’s operations, computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) systems have taken the integration of computer-aided design and manufacturing to a higher level—and are in fact revolutionizing the production process. CIM systems expand the capabilities of CAD/CAM. In addition to design and production applications, they handle such functions as order entry, inventory control, warehousing, and shipping. In the manufacturing plant, the CIM system controls the functions of industrial robots—computer-controlled machines used to perform repetitive tasks that are also hard or dangerous for human workers to perform.