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Computer Technology: Increasing Automation In The Nations's Industries

865 words - 3 pages

Since the early days of the market industry, man has always sought ways to minimize overhead while increasing productivity. Before the automated loom was invented, clothing as a marketable industry was virtually non existent. The punch card operated loom was invented in the 1700's, and right away made the job of a weaver a hundred times easier. Before the assembly line, manufacturing cars was the job of a skilled professional. Each piece was built by hand, and the whole car was assembled by hand. The assembly line changed all that. This process of automation is evolving and being applied in many different ways and is changing the way we work and the environment we work in.Mining is a dangerous task, and being able to differentiate between valuable ore and useless waste can be very difficult. Designing a robot capable of discriminatory ore extraction can be a hundred times as difficult. But researchers at the AITEMIN center in Madrid have done it (Robotization of roadhouses, pp. 1-3). With funding from the EC Raw Materials Program, scientists have built and tested a prototype robot based at the Potasas del Llobregat potash mine in Sallent, Spain. The prototype was based on an existing 'roadheader' mining machine which had been specially modified to allow the use of a robotic controller. The roadheader was a 95-ton Vöest-Alpine AM-100, a tracked vehicle with a cutting head attached to a long boom* (*direct quote from cited source). When in normal use, the roadheader is controlled by a live operator inside the cabin, who manipulates the controls directing the cutting head. This method allows the machine to mine about 40 cubic meters before having to reposition. For use of robotic control, a common industrial VME computer was placed on board the vehicle. It was connected to another VME located four km's away for monitoring purposes. Tests proved successful, however the industry was unable to provide enough funding for mass manufacturing of the mining machine.To enable the mining machine to "see" and identify the different materials and minerals found within the rock, researchers experimented with several elemental recognition techniques. After testing gamma radiation and microwave absorption and other sensory tools, it was decided that visual recognition and mapping was the fastest and most efficient approach. In order to map the rock face in sufficient detail and depth, four video cameras were mounted on the road header and grouped in pairs. Although each pair of cameras had its own lighting, each individual camera produced its own separate image, thereby necessitating the development of...

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