The 3 Laws of Automation


The 3 Laws of Automation

There is a single reality of the information age that is transforming our fabrication facilities like no other.

The Robots are taking over. Well, sort of. We may not have rolled into the science fiction universe with droids working on an assembly line, but we do have armies of builder-bots working tirelessly.

Automation may be taking over the repetitive tasks, but there are things the machines are simply not able to do yet. The humans still need to fix and support the machines.

With this in mind, I started doing a little research. If you search for “CNC Operators” online, you will find pages and pages of job ads and a few hits for training programs. Even in the trend of automation, there are many jobs that remain unfilled. The prediction from two years ago was there would be a shortage of 700 CNC jobs. My search says otherwise; over 2000 CNC jobs are listed here.

I also learned that the first CNC machines were built in the 40s and used a punched tape. The automation process certainly is not new and we probably should not be surprised at its inevitable march.

Anyway, in order to stay competitive, we need our machines working perfectly. Without the best people to run them, we may falter in that goal. Even our smartest machines are still input-output devices and need that intuitive and lateral thinking that only humans can do.

Garbage in; garbage out

Everything starts with a plan. Sometimes, that plan is little more than the napkin sketch. But when it comes time to transform that hunk of aluminum block into an integral piece of machinery, a little more precision is required.

Why does this matter when it comes time to hire your operator? Well, the CAD design the operator is either creating for the piece or is working from is not like a painting. There are no happy mistakes and they do not turn into happy little trees. Your skilled operator will help you avoid costly waste, both in time and material. Brush strokes can be painted over, broken machinery and wasted material cannot.

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Sometimes the best designer misreads your napkin drawing and loses a zero, or adds one. Your machine is going to do exactly what it is told. It has neither a sense of self-preservation nor any care to prevent gross mistakes.

A CNC machine is able to cut, drill, or slice beyond where it should. As smart as the machines are, and they really are not, they will still bend and drill themselves to pieces if your operator lets them.

Only the People can Care

Despite the fact so much of what we could ever want for is readily and cheaply available to us, there seems to be a growing set of people who are taking up some sort of making as a hobby. Builders and makes are forming groups and clubs just to have the chance to do what we have always done: Create.

There seems to be no escaping that innate desire and having your skilled labour share that trait may be a missing ingredient to fabricating the best product. There is a sense of pride in workmanship that ensures the details are just right that a machine has no ability to reproduce.

It could come to pass when our machines will really run and program themselves, but we are still a long way from that. Some argue, that even the best artificial intelligence will never be able to mimic the things that make us unique. However, that may be a conversation for another day.

M-Code for now (CNC stop code),

-Paul Bergsma
#Honest #Reliable #Fun