In evolutionary terms, the automotive industry has a short developmental history with precision engineering being a relatively new field. In short, the automotive industry has advanced from the steam and combustion era of the early 1900s to the cutting-edge technology of today in just over 100 years.
Evolution of the automotive industry
The first manufacturer of automobiles in the U.S. was a company called Motor Wagons and began production in 1896. The change from steering tillers to steering wheels took place in 1900, the maximum speed limit in Alabama was set at 8 miles per hour in 1906 and in 1911 the electric self-starter replaced the hand-crank.
Despite the potential for the transportation industry, the massive increase in the automotive industry would have been a non-starter without two technological break throughs: the assembly line and precision engineered products.
The assembly line
With the development of the moving assembly line by Henry Ford in 1913, car production increased from one every 12 hours to one every one and a half hours. It was this revolutionary leap in production techniques that started the mass production of vehicles and led to the automotive industry fast becoming one of the most important leading global economies.
Automation was necessary to increase productivity, but that could only go so far. With the increasing demands to both lower costs and increase competitiveness within the automotive industry, precision engineering became the star player.
Precision engineered products
The focus of precision engineering is on two mathematical concepts: accuracy and precision. It is interesting to note that many people believe that these two words are interchangeable, their definitions are however, completely different:
· Accuracy is how close a measurement or quantity is to the actual quantity or value. For example, if the internal diameter of a self-locking axle nut is 28mm then the accuracy of the manufacturing process is how close to 28mm is the internal diameter of every self-locking axle nut produced. If the process is 99.5% accurate, it means that 99.5% of all self-locking axle nuts will have an internal diameter of exactly 28mm and 0.05% will either be smaller or larger than this value. Obviously, the greater the number of axle nuts with an accurate internal diameter, the bigger the companys reputation, competitiveness and profits.
· Precision refers to how often a measurement or quantity is achieved, under the same conditions. By definition, a measurement does not have to be accurate – but it can be precise! If 99.5% of the self-locking axle nuts have an internal diameter of 27.4mm instead of 28mm, then the process is very precise but not very accurate!
Precision engineered products must be both accurate and precise. To achieve this level of quality processing within the automotive industry, manufacturers are increasingly reliant upon computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). This approach uses computers to control all or most of the production process, ensuring both accuracy and precision.
To remain competitive, automotive manufacturers must:
· Use the latest design software such as AutoCAD and Pro/E,
· Create new and innovative products,
· Be cost-effective,
· Have proven quality control processes in place,
· Provide customer satisfaction,
· Provide manufacturing solutions that exceed industry standards.
The future of the automotive industry is based on quality research and development, optimized with innovative and cutting-edge precision engineering.
This article was contributed by Susan Barrett on behalf of Defiance Integrated Technologies.