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54 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I JUNE 2019 Is the world ready for the consequences of rapid automation? Will the use of robots dis- place entire categories of workers? Can artifi- cial intelligence really "think"? How will man- ufacturing, including PCB manufacturing, be affected by all of these smart robots? These may sound like thoroughly 21 st -centu- ry questions, but they actually come from a pamphlet published in 1955. In The Age of Au- tomation: Its Effects on Human Welfare [1] , in- trepid industrial reporter Warner Bloomberg Jr. wrote about the emergence of robotics in a post-war economy. The parallels to today are striking. First, there's the media frenzy. Bloomberg al- ludes to the "hundreds of articles" that either warn that robotics will "lead to massive un- employment" or proclaim that the technology "will usher in a new 'golden age' of plenty." There's also the disconnect between CEOs and their frontline factory employees. "See how easy it is to make gasoline?" an oil executive remarks about his refinery's new-fangled auto- matic control system. "You just put the crude oil in at one end, and the gasoline comes out the other!" His ill-conceived "joke" manages to not only disparage his workforce but betray his poor understanding of the technology. Further, there are the "smart" machines that obfuscate their critical human elements. Bloomberg mentions a state-of-the-art comput- er that can translate several sentences of Rus- sian into English "in a few seconds"—that is, "after months of time put in by human experts 'programming' the operation." Next, there are alarms of imminent, unimaginably vast catas- trophe. One automation doomsayer Bloomberg quoted believed "the unemployment it causes will be, given our present frame of economic thought, very large, permanent, and absolutely un- precedented." This was all in the '50s. While robotics and other forms of au- tomation have undergone sig- nificant evolution since then— within and beyond circuit board manufacturing—our general at- titudes have not. A Robot Is a Robot Is a Robot What do hazardous materials inspection, automotive welding, and bowling alley pinsetting all have in common? All are monot- The Future of PCB Manufacturing Doesn't Belong to Robots, but to the Users Connect the Dots by Bob Tise, SUNSTONE CIRCUITS Figure 1: Smart robots are no longer relegated to the future.

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