Elon Musk recently broke the internet when he announced Tesla’s new Cybertruck last year. While there have been mixed reactions towards the sci-fi pointy pickup truck, it has sparked a debate on where the automotive manufacturing industry is headed.
With the fourth industrial revolution on the horizon, automakers and car machinists are at the forefront of developing emerging technologies and their use cases for the manufacturing industry. Concept cars and self-driving vehicles continue to reimagine the automotive manufacturing industry. Indeed, automakers are turning to Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines to create bespoke pieces they need to break new ground. In fact, the CNC machine and tools market is expected to grow up to $128 billion by 2026 accounting for the shift in demand for custom-tailored and personalized manufacturing.
What is a CNC machine?
CNC machines are electromechanical devices that can control and manipulate tools with high precision per instruction from a computer program. It’s one of two ways engineers, manufacturers and machinists now use to generate a physical part from a computer design file. Unlike 3D printing or additive manufacturing, CNC machines use a subtractive method to create parts from files. This means that they are more versatile and formative – suited for large scale and modern production.
While not entirely new, technologies have made CNC machining more powerful in disrupting industries, especially manufacturing. Global manufacturing network Fictiv points out how CNC technology now makes use of 3- and 5-axis machining along with live-tool turning. This makes it easier to rotate and cut more intricate details in parts needed for the product. These two variations are commonly used, as the former can cut tools at high speed, but the latter can produce parts that are more complex. The continuous introduction of CNC machines into factory floors and manufacturing chains are paving the way for new and exciting designs to come to life.
CNC machines in the automotive industry can create prototype cars with high precision and accuracy. This allows for fast scalable prototypes, as it creates error-free manufacturing.
One key turning point in using CNC machines in the automotive industry is the introduction of artificial intelligence. While AI is being developed in a wide variety of use cases in the automotive industry – from self-driving cars to automated factory floor scheduling – it’s now being used in designing intuitive prototypes with CNC machines.
For many years, high-performance computing systems (HPCs) have been widely used to increase the performance of design, simulation and testing applications on the manufacturing floor. From simulation technologies for increased safety to creating virtualized servers for assisting computer-aided programs, including CNC machines.
But with the power of AI, automakers plan to use HPCs to improve quality control and provide automated feedback to enhance CNC machining. This AI-enabled system is expected to flag any errors or design flaws in the CAD file and amend them to achieve the best possible results through a series of iterations. While this is new, it’s expected to change how cars are made in the future – possibly including a better version of Tesla’s Cybertruck.