The evolvement of batch manufacturing systems from groups of linked, tape operated NC machine tools to computer controlled integrated systems is described. In the span of a few years, computerized integrated systems have appeared in most major industrial countries and are being built at increasing rate. One of the major problems is the efficient automation of workpiece handling. Here solutions include conveyor systems similar to those existing in transfer lines, industrial robots, circulating tow cars and shuttle transporters. Although a “robot” appears to be the best in principle, existing industrial robots are still limited in their capabilities. However, new developments in robots, some already evident, indicate possibilities at least for parts which are below approximately 100kgf weight. Heavier parts must be fixtured and palletized, and several such systems are described.
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