Our tool making ability is what separates us from the rest of the natural world. As early hominids barely able to walk erect we had the physical attributes and mental dexterity to fashion rudimentary tools. Also Read: Top 5 Upcoming Tablets
Over time, more and more hand tools were perfected to carry out sophisticated daily chores. Adzes, hand axes, saws, drills and cutting and slicing tools became widespread and could be found in virtually all tool kits notwithstanding location.
The Essence of Hardware Remains Unchanged
What is remarkable is that many of the tools invented hundreds and thousands of years ago have retained their original form and functionality. Designs and materials may have evolved over time but the essence of the hardware has remained exactly the same.
Rummage around in your tool box and you’ll discover items that have changed little since they were first conceived of and employed by ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.
Saws, planes, boring tools and files have been around for eons. Woodworking planes were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii; saws manufactured from copper were in use in ancient Egypt and files and rasps were commonplace by the seventh century BC. What has changed dramatically is the way in which these tools are powered!
Leonardo da Vinci’s Machine Tool Blueprint
The great artist and engineer, Leonardo da Vinci had produced a blueprint of a machine tool for the manufacture of files as long ago as the 15th century. Machine design was clearly on the ‘to do’ list of some of the best brains on the planet long before the Industrial Revolution!
Water and windmills were among the first mechanised devices used in the Classical and Medieval periods to drive tools. The real tool transformation however took place during the Industrial Revolution hundreds of years on!
For the first time ever machine tools were invented and developed for shaping wood, steel and plastics. These tools were powered pneumatically or mechanically and provided fast, efficient and relatively precise results compared to free hand operation.
Rapid Repeatable Manufacturing
Manufacturing was quickly on an upward trajectory with machine tools enabling the low cost production of interchangeable parts for the first time in history. The advent of electricity post 1900 guaranteed a clean and uninterrupted production process not witnessed before!
Today machine tools are largely operated automatically by computers. A series of instructions are programmed into the computer to undertake a specific task that is repeated over and over again. Results are consequently fast, cost effective and absolutely accurate.
Laser has also played a significant role in the evolution of tools. Mechanical shears, knives and punching tools are fast disappearing and are being replaced with powerful laser beams capable of precise cuts at speeds invisible to the human eye.
Now, with robotics firmly in use in manufacturing processes all over the world, industrial engineering gurus are already investigating the role of artificial intelligence and how it can revolutionize production!
This post was provided by Jeff who works as a writer for Hans Von Der Heyde, an industrial engineering company based in Cape Town, South Africa.