Those not so tech-minded might appreciate an analogy Dr. Kazuo Yamazaki, professor and director of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of California, Davis, made about his research into how computers can be used to control and run manufacturing and design machine tools.
He told Tooling & Production that if you have a piece of bread, and you want it toasted a certain way, unless you tell the toaster how to do it, you won't get the best toast.
"If you have that kind of basic concept, and you try to find all possibilities of putting 'intelligence' for the entire manufacturing or machining operations into that tool application, you can gradually generate an idea of what kind of functions are essential to realize that kind of basic concept," he said.
This "intelligence" takes into consideration all the aspects of the operation: the tool, speed, feed rate, material, and so on, he said, and then tells the machine the best way how to make the part.
Dr. Yamazaki was an industry expert on hand at the recent Esprit World Conference 2008 in Denver, CO. He is also president of the Machine Tool Technologies Research Foundation. His laboratory houses one of the most diverse arrays of computer-controlled manufacturing and inspection equipment on any university campus in the United States.
His research has been funded in part by donations from companies such as Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL), a provider of engineering services to its parent company, machine tools manufacturer Mori Seiki.
Part of the DTL computer arsenal is a Linux-based HPC cluster from Linux Networx, a supercomputer that can accelerate the performance of engineering software.
To give an idea of the supercomputer's benefits, Dr. Masahiko Mori, president of Mori Seiki and a speaker at the Esprit World Conference, says it is so fast, it cuts in half the time to develop a new machine.
While it had taken about 2 1/2 years, the time flame is now down to one to 1 1/2 years. In round numbers...