Integrating CAD/CAM in Automation and Materials Handling: While Agricultural Activities Have Been at the Heart of Developing Nations and Are a Critical Part of All Economies and Societies, It Is Primarily Manufacturing That Has Provided the Means for Humans to Move Forward in Improving Standards of Living and Qualities of Life

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Introduction

As we look at the areas of manufacturing and production, we typically think of people busy at work in large factories producing automobiles, appliances, and other readily available products and goods in our home town. However, in today's economy we see that manufacturing activities occur on a global scale, with parts, assembly, and production taking place in one or more locations and even in different countries. Components for products may be manufactured in China or Mexico and assembled in the United States, Canada, or another county. The finished products may be packaged, distributed, and used locally or distributed in a global marketplace.

Humans by their very nature are users of tools, materials, and processes as a part of their survival and existence. As humans have progressed over time, our civilizations and societies have changed beyond imagination and have moved from hunters and gatherers of food and materials for survival to sophisticated societies with complex social and technological systems. In this context, inventions and innovations have paved the way for modern manufacturing and production ways and methods. Mathematics, science, engineering, and technology are the "tools" through which we explore, describe and explain, and create new inventions and innovations in technology.

In making connections between earlier manufacturing materials, methods, and processes and the technologies of today, we find that we can use many of today's technologies that are similar to those found in industry in our technology education classrooms. Mechanical drawings have been a fundamental communication tool used by designers and engineers, and today the drawing process is now on a digital platform called computer-aided design, or CAD. When CAD processes are connected to other technologies, it becomes possible to design and engineer products almost from a design concept or idea to a finished manufactured product using computer-aided machining (CAM) and computer numerical control (CNC).

Manufacturing Defined

Historically, manufacturing has played a major role in the development of all industrialized nations. While agricultural activities have been at the heart of developing nations and are a critical part of all economies and societies, it is primarily manufacturing that has provided the means for humans to move forward in improving standards of living and qualities of life. Manufacturing can be defined as the application of knowledge demonstrated through the use of tools, processes, machines, and systems to transform raw materials or substances into new products (DuVall and Hills, p.29).

As we can see, the effects of industrialization and manufacturing, beginning with the industrial revolution in Great Britain and later to Europe and America, are very apparent as we look at the standards of living in comparison to other nonindustrialized nations. One of the most significant developments that the Industrial Revolution brought about was the factory system, where goods and products were produced at a central location (ushistory.org). We can see dramatic changes in human life span, medicine, agriculture, transportation, business and industry, technological advancements, and other areas associated with industrialized nations. Improvements in farming and agricultural practices resulted in increased food production and subsequently in population growth. Inventions and innovations in technology brought about changes in industrial organization and increases in production, efficiencies, profits, and general expansion of society. However, we must realize that working conditions were very difficult at best. Work days were twelve to fourteen hours long, working conditions were dirty and difficult, often cold or hot, and there were no child labor laws.

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Looking at the larger picture, we can see that all of the major technological areas, such as energy, manufacturing and construction, transportation, and communication, realized major changes in a connective manner. …