The Automate Show – the largest solutions-based showcase of automation in North America featuring robotics, vision and imaging, motion control, industrial artificial intelligence (AI) and related automation technologies – took place May 22-25, 2023, in Detroit. In addition to product demonstrations, classes and networking events, this jam-packed event featured more than 700 exhibitors, 200 speakers and 25,000 attendees who experienced an array of live automation solutions up close.
Automation and robotics represent an increasingly important segment of manufacturing, as manufacturers seek more production efficiency and to address labor issues. So it comes as no surprise to hear that the number of robots installed around the globe has risen to 3.5 million units, according to the International Society of Automation.
To get an idea of the products and technologies that are helping manufacturers compete in today’s environment, here is a roundup of the automation equipment on display at Automate 2023.
UR debuts first spot welding cobot
Universal Robots (UR) introduced the world’s first cobot spot welder as well as new cobot-powered palletizing and machine tending cells. As has come to be expected from UR, the company showcased the latest innovations in the most rapidly expanding application fields, including the first cobot spot welder, designed and manufactured by Pro Spot International. Up until now, spot welding had been prohibitive for cobots due to the weight of the weld gun and the complexity of the welds. With the new i5s resistance spot welder, however, Pro Spot has developed a lightweight solution, delivering two to three times more manufacturing capacity than manual spot welding. Additional automation offerings included a Reliabotics pre-configured cell for deburring and finishing as well as a modular cart system for rotational welding made possible by a collaboration between UR, THG Automation and Fronius.
ABB Robotics demos multiple systems
ABB Robotics demoed a wide range of systems, including higher payload cobots, rebranded ABB AMRs (formerly from ASTI) as well as industrial robots for tasks such as painting and coating. ABB also showcased a new STEM education package with a cobot training cart. Additionally, the CRB 1300 Swifti robot, which was also on display, bridges the gap between industrial and collaborative robots. The robot is powered by ABB’s OmniCore C90XT controller and is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, making it suitable for tasks requiring consistent accuracy and repeatability. Overall, the company is focusing on automation that is easier to program and deploy in order to help manufacturers stay competitive in a difficult labor environment.
Suhner expands its suite of robotic solutions
Suhner recognizes the role robotics plays in adding efficiency and lowering production costs for manufacturers of all types and sizes, which prompted the company to continue expanding its robotics offerings. The fully electric EFC-02 delivers precise, constant force throughout robotic grinding, sanding and deburring processes, resulting in superior, consistent surface quality. With today’s supply chain and labor challenges, manufacturers of all types and sizes are seeking out solutions to help them do more with less. In response, Suhner’s expanded suite of robotic grinding accessories and tools now includes the fully electric EFC-02 active compliance system.
Micropsi introduces industrial robot controller
At the Micropsi booth, the focus was “automating the un-automatable.” And that lofty goal is proving true in part thanks to the debut of the MIRAI controller, a new technology integrated with AI that can generate robotic movements directly and in real time as opposed to outputting individual measurements. The technology behind MIRAI can be used for multiple steps within a task and can also be flexibly retrained for new tasks. Skills are trained through human demonstration in a few days – no knowledge of programming or AI is necessary. To train a robot, a human performs repeated demonstrations of a task by manually guiding the robot by the robot’s wrist.
OnRobot displays automated platform
OnRobot’s D:Ploy is the industry’s first automated platform for building, running, monitoring and redeploying collaborative applications. It automates the process of getting a robotic application up and running, allowing deployment directly on the manufacturing floor with zero programming and zero simulations. It helps manufacturers make important decisions like which gripper to use or the path a robot should take, greatly reducing the amount of time required to get an automation system up and running. With the new platform, complete applications can be deployed in just a few hours. Overall, D:Ploy simplifies automation to provide users with a flexible, easy and affordable entry point into robotic automation.
MiR features autonomous mobile robot
Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), a leader in autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), featured the company’s latest safe, flexible and cost-effective AMRs as well as advancements in fleet management software and AI. MiR’s full range of AMRs for automating internal logistics in manufacturing and warehouse environments were on display along with the company’s capabilities for optimizing fleets of robots. The company’s Insights fleet management software provides data analytics to help companies improve AMR pathways and reduce automation bottlenecks. Attendees also heard about the role AI plays (or will soon play) in unlocking the value of AMRs for any operation.
ROEQ debuts module and cart systems
ROEQ, a leader in mobile robotic equipment (MRE), continues its product line expansion, turning AMRs into powerful, flexible, multi-tasking workers through the deployment of various types of top modules. At Automate, ROEQ highlighted a new partnership with AMR manufacturer, Omron, while debuting the ROEQ TMC130 solution – a top module and cart system for the Omron LD-90x that increases payloads from 198 lbs. to up to 287 lbs. Developed in collaboration with Omron, the TMC130 solution expands options for customers to use the compact LD-90x robot safely and reliably for higher payload missions, even where space is constrained. The offerings on display reiterated the company’s commitment to enhancing the usability of AMRs in general.
Big Joe showcases new AMR
Big Joe Forklifts saw a tremendous response to its recently launched Pallet Mover, a new user-directed AMR. Developed in partnership with Thoro.ai, the pallet mover is an easy-to-deploy autonomous solution for floor-to-floor pallet transportation and drop-off that companies can set up and begin operating in less than one hour after receipt. The new pallet mover AMR features include dynamic mapping, map sharing and zone drop functionality to further enhance the product’s capabilities and thereby increase potential use cases and ROI for customers.
Novarc delivers AI with vision
Novarc Technologies Inc., a full-stack robotics company specializing in the design and “smartization” of collaborative robots for robotic welding applications, continues to grow and gain accolades. Just weeks prior to Automate 2023, the company was, for the second year running, included in the list of Americas’ Fastest Growing Companies produced by The Financial Times. At Automate, Novarc’s spool welding automation system was a hot topic of conversation thanks to the unique solution it offers the pipe welding industry, which is struggling to find skilled workers. The spool welding cobot, which features a combination of AI, computer vision and robots, allows manufacturers to deliver projects faster, at a lower cost and with better quality welds, enabling them to compete on bigger projects and improve delivery timelines, capacity and margins.
Otto highlights workplace efficiency
Otto Motors, a company that offers solutions for automating material handling, showcased its most comprehensive fleet of automated mobile robots to date. The company’s robots included the Otto 100 with red staging carts, the Otto 600 featuring a lift attachment, the larger Otto 1500 also with lift attachment and the Otto Lifter. In addition to seeing the various AMRs moving throughout the company’s booth, participants learned about the software that’s driving the AMRs through hands-on, interactive demos. Otto’s director of product management also served as a presenter at Automate, discussing the difference between AMRs and automated guided vehicles (AGVs), why AMRs are seemingly displacing AGVs and how both technologies can potentially work together.