Until servo systems became more reliable, more powerful, and less expensive, they simply were not as good a choice, and they were seldom cost effective. Some machines did use a lot of shafts, gears, and chain drives, but that was often because there was no other way available to keep a bunch of motions in the proper relationship. HYdraulics were often used because there was no other economical way to provide that much foce in that small a volume.
So really, don't fault the older mechanisms, since there was not much choice.
The modern servo controllers are providing control options that did not exist before, and at power levels that were simply not available. So we do see that the new generation of servo systems does offer a way to do things thatwas not available previously. The older technologies were not a poor choice, they were the only choice.
But the new networked servo systems, while providing a lot of benefits are also bringing along a few challenges. Systems that previously were locked into the correct sequence of motions are now able to be accidently programmed to crash and destroy themselves, and in a hurry, as well. So now the motion programmer must pay far greater attention to a lot more details, and the same goes for any who would attempt to make small changes to the programs. So there are some very real and quite serious concerns when changing from mechanical systems to interlinked servo systems.
Nice round-up of the technologies that are modernizing factories, making them safer, more efficient and generally more productive. I would add robotics to the list as well, especially with efforts like Rethink Robots' Baxter (http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=263186) and more autonomous and safer robotics coming into play. Perhaps it's a little early for mass adoption but I think it will eventually trend in that direction.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.