Computer Applications used in Industry Industrial Applications: In industry, production may be planned, co-ordinates, and controlled with the aid of a computer.
The computer may also be used to direct the operation of individual machine tools (drills, lathes, saws, etc) and even to operate assembly machines that piece together parts of the equipment (e.g., electrical and mechanical appliances, sections of motor cars, and even complete vehicles).
The use of numerically controlled (NC) machine tools directed by computer produced tapes can speed up production, ensure greater precision, and reduce scrap wastage.
In certain industries (e.g., chemical, oil refining) the computer can be used to monitor and regulate total processes (i.e., to perform process control) without human Intervention, Just as it can to control air conditioning land heating systems In modem multi-story buildings.
The control of a chemical plant by computer can be a much safer and more efficient method than by manual control since changes in conditions which occur during a process can be detected and compensated for immediately.
It would, however, be normal for human operators to maintain surveillance over the total process so as to be able to intervene should the need arise. The computer has been extensively used for oil and natural gas exploration and drilling activities by analyzing seismic data.
Oil refining, the separation of crude oil into its many component oils, is a continuous process and it depends on the maintenance of certain conditions throughout the process. These two factors make refining a suitable application for computer control.
Instruments measure such variables as temperature. flow and pressure. Any deviation from the standard is detected and regulating devices are adjusted to bring the process back into line.
Printing and Paper
Computers are used by the printing trade where they are particularly useful in the production of newspapers and magazines where strict deadlines have to be met and time is short.
Articles can be transposed to magnetic tape (or disk) and then rapidly typeset, under computer control, in several type sizes, widths, and depths as necessary. Complete texts may be retained on tape, enabling amendments to be incorporated easily when reprinting.
Computers are also used to update the listings in telephone directories, catalogs, parts, and price lists so that diey can be quickly typeset whenever required.
Desk Top Publishing (DTP) systems using personal computers have helped companies to print their leaflets, brochures, etc. in a cost-effective way.
The design of any piece of engineering, whether an airplane, ship, car, bridge, road, building, or machine, should not merely be pleasing to look at. The piece of engineering must not only be able to perform the tasks intended for it over its economic or anticipated life, but it must also be able to withstand all foreseeable mishaps during its working life.
Engineering designs, however, the sound they may seem to be on paper, have to be physically tested under simulated or real-life circumstances before becoming operational.
Computers can help in calculating that all parts of a proposed design are satisfactory. If modifications are necessary and further calculations are required, the computer can evaluate the alternatives more quickly and more accurately than would otherwise be possible.
This means a great saving in time and elimination of technical faults and human error (which could possibly be disastrous), before a design is further developed.
When fitting the structural and spatial requirements of an engineering project into an overall design, the computer can also help with graphical output.
The facility to view a design from all angles while it is still on the drawing board, and then to be able to modify it quickly, avoids having to spend time and money building and testing several designs before determining which Is the right one.
The computer can provide graphical and perspective views to show the shape of a proposed aircraft wing or car body, the slope of a curve for a new road, the visibility that the pilot or motorist will have, or the accessibility of the instruments that he might have to operate.
User-friendly computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting packages have helped the engineering design considerably.
Computers can also be used in calculations of space and layout as well as strength requirements. This not only helps ensure that engine parts were accessible for maintenance, and bridges and tunnels high and wide enough for unusual traffic; It also ensures that there is enough room for everything – passengers, fuel, cargo, etc.
On motorway construction, the computer can calculate the amount of soil, needed to raise an embankment or the amount of rock to be removed in cutting through a hill, and it can work out the most efficient movement of such materials.
Many engineering design problems require the selection of optimum parameters. The selection of the best parameters is a design choice that must be made. Perhaps, it involves the length and shape of an airplane wing or the best position and shapes for a radio antenna.
These parameters are usually involved in many equations relating to the performance, cost, and utility of the major items concerned. Usually, there is no straight way to select the best design, so the engineer uses trial and error or some empirical formulae to explore most of the possibilities and trade-offs involved. A computer is a useful tool here when the problem is complex and important decisions must be made.
Computers are also used as an aid to electronic circuit design and printed circuit boards (PCBs), even assisting engineers in designing circuits for other computers.
The application of computers to engineering design seems to have two characteristics; the initial cost is relatively high but the cost/calculation is quite low. The initial high cost is because of the programming and debugging costs of the computer program.
However, once a program that is of sufficient generality is developed, the cost of reuse of the program in subsequent projects is nil or negligible.
Another factor to be remembered here is that a large variety of mathematical programs required for engineering analysis will be provided by the computer-manufacturer, in the form of a library. This is likely to reduce the program development costs to the user.
Starting up a power station involves many complex operations that have to follow strict sequences with set time limits between each operation. This is a laborious, time-consuming task but one for which the computer is well suited.
The computer is also used by electricity authorities for load control. Demand for electricity is not constant throughout the day nor throughout the year.
Generators have to be phased in and out to meet changing situations. Because of the time lag required to build up the necessary power, fluctuations in the load have to be anticipated in advance.
Under computer control, past records stored in the system, relating to changing hourly demands under various weather conditions, are scanned and compared with the actual, present loads in different parts of the supply network.
Predictions are then made and generators are set to start and stop at certain times. This ensures that extra power Is transferred to those areas where it is most needed at peak periods.
It also ensures that those generators which have to be expensively fuelled with precious natural resources (oil. gas, coal) are not run wastefully when the demand for power drops.
Process control applied to certain parts of steel production has increased efficiency in the industry. One example is in the cutting of the steel into lengths to match the firm’s order book.
In the rolling mills, which run at great speed, red-hot steel billets are rolled out into strips. The billet size is not known accurately to begin with and. as each is rolled out, the length Increases until the required thickness of the sheet or diameter of rod Is reached.
Before the use of computers, the mill would cut the sheets or rods, of varying lengths, into standard sizes or a particular size for one order.
The lengths of steel leftover would be scrap which would have to be resmelted, resulting In lower grade steel. With the advent of computers, the amount of scrap was reduced to a minimum, for it became possible to calculate the lengths that the billets would make whilst still red hot and being rolled out.
This information could be matched against a table of orders for the type and quality of steel being rolled, in Ume for the flying shears (computer-controlled) to cut the strips in the best way.
Computerized control systems took considerable time and effort to get started. These applications are inherently more difficult to implement. They place great demands on the computer systems and their programmers.
Despite these difficulties, the potential pay-offs justify the considerable investment. The speed of response is quite important in these systems. For example, In the operation of a missile guidance system or the operation of a chemical plant or a nuclear reactor, a timely response is quite critical.
A typical computerized chemical plant may be completely automatic in which case the system is able to sense many variables on a more or less continuous basis.
Typical variables might be the purity, temperature, or supply level of various raw materials, the temperature, pressure, or flow rates at different points within the processing mechanism, and levels, rates, and characteristics associated with various products and waste.
The computer is expected to control automatically many factors in the production process -flow rates, temperatures, a supply of raw materials, cycling procedures, etc.
It attempts to optimize the overall process. More often the control system is semi-automatic and the computer works in partnership with one or more persons.
This is the case with air-traffic control situations In which computers, radars, and communication devices are used in conjunction with both ground-based and air-bone personnel. Here the rapid response is essential and lives are at risk if the system fails.
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