In global competitive environment companies have experienced that even in crisis periods their success depends on the diversification of products, on the conquest of new market niches and at the same time on the reduction of production costs.
In this context the strong need to increase production performance, maintaining high quality standards, has motivated the development of devices for monitoring and controlling the production systems. In the meanwhile, efforts to streamline the production process have been made by replacing, where possible, metals and alloys with unconventional materials such as engineering plastics and composites. These materials offer comparable mechanical properties combined to a very considerable saving in weight and processing time, but require, at the same time, developments of new tools, appropriate processing parameters, alternative and cheaper production technologies. Strong inputs to research are therefore imposed by such difficult-to-machine materials. These materials also increase the interest of companies also for manufacturing technologies that are mostly retained non-conventional and need to be widely investigated.
As it happens so often in the field of production, the introduction of an innovative technology or analysis of the workability of a particular material requires a substantial effort to consolidate, through numerous tests, the actual potential. Research in production engineering is therefore aimed at understanding the physical phenomena that govern the mechanism by which matter is transformed and determine the optimal values of the main processing parameters in order to achieve a predetermined goal. However it may happen that often the complexity of a process makes it difficult to analytically describe the physical reality: an example of such problem is given by the machining of materials which significantly differ from the assumptions of homogeneity and isotropy and by material removal techniques in which the interaction with the workpiece is not mechanical. In these cases the theoretical and experimental approach afore mentioned, can be further supported by the use of monitoring systems. These systems help to highlight the complex relationships between process parameters and the effects they produce on the workpieces.