Automation show features IIoT, robot developments

Automate 2017 at McCormick Place in April will have over 400 exhibitors displaying developments in robotics, discrete manufacturing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and automation.


Automate 2017, North America's largest expo devoted to automation technology and innovation returns to Chicago on April 3-6, 2017, at McCormick Place North. This biennial event is now over 40% larger with 400 exhibitors occupying 115,000 square feet of exhibit space. Over 20,000 attendees from across the U.S. and 70 countries will converge for this one-of-a-kind technology showcase, networking event, and educational forum not to be missed. Automate 2017 is all about automation, all the time.

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and its trade associations, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), AIA - the global association for vision and imaging, and the Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA), have planned a dynamic event collocated with ProMat, North America's largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals.

All automation, all the time

Catherine Morris, director of automotive sales at ATI Industrial Automation and Chair of the Automate show committee, said the Automate Conference is a stand-out event where companies get practical guidance on how to successfully apply automation. The Expert Huddles are a great opportunity for attendees to discuss specific topics of interest with industry experts right on the show floor.

"Most of all, I always look forward to meeting the attendees that are new to automation," Morris said. "Seeing them excited about the possibilities of becoming more competitive and productive is what our business is all about."

Learn, collaborate, explore

The Automate 2017 Conference will explore the future of automation with more than 60 educational sessions spanning five days. Topics range from fundamentals in robotics, machine vision, motion control, and safety, to the latest innovations in supply chain automation, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning, and workforce development. There will also be a two-day collaborative robots track focused on the hot topic of human-robot collaboration.

Taking place concurrently is the 48th International Symposium on Robotics (ISR), the world's oldest international robotics conference. This prestigious event brings together thought leaders from around the globe to discuss the latest applications and research in robotics and automation technology. The ISR-Americas will be fully integrated into the Automate Conference sessions, allowing all attendees to experience this unique educational opportunity.

Automate 2017 will also play host to international contingents from China and South Korea. For many of these companies this is their first time exhibiting in North America. They represent a cross-section of robot manufacturers, robotics technology developers, Internet of Things solution providers, and several suppliers of motors, bearings, and gears. Returning this year is the Ontario Pavilion, where several of our Canadian neighbors including RIA members Tech-Con Automation and Clearpath Robotics will exhibit in collaboration with the Government of Ontario (MCIIT).

Learn about supply chain sustainability and how to improve customer engagement by attending the Keynote Presentations by Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold, Markus Lorenz of Boston Consulting Group, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. Listen in as the NBA legend and entrepreneur reveals the secrets to his business and personal success. Check the agenda for dates and times.

Also at Automate is the Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Awards Dinner on April 5 at the Adler Planetarium. The Engelberger Robotics Award is the world's most prestigious robotics honor. This year, awards will be presented for excellence in leadership and education. 

Top startups to watch 

Co-produced with Silicon Valley Robotics and sponsored by GE, the Automate Launch Pad Startup Competition returns this year with eight startups vying for the top spot. The pitch session takes place April 5. Startups will have three minutes to present their technology to a panel of investors and automation experts. The winner walks away with the $10,000 grand prize and leaves a lasting impression with potential investors.

Grabbing the attention of key industry players early in the game can be pivotal for the right company. The 2015 winner, Soft Robotics Inc., a startup success story, can attest to that.

Robotic dual machine tending and deburring systems process automotive transmission gears. Courtesy: Matrix Design LLC/RIA"Automate 2015 was a critical turning point for Soft Robotics," said CEO Carl Vause. "At the time, the company was less than two years old, focused on developing a completely new line of end-of-arm tooling. We exhibited in the startup section of the exhibit hall and participated in the Launch Pad Startup Competition. Automate provided a chance for industry leaders, partners, and potential customers to interact with our technology and was the best opportunity for us to teach the market about our company. We were honored to win the competition as a bonus to a fantastic week.

"This year Soft Robotics returns to Automate on the main exhibit floor. We will be featuring two robotic demonstration cells and our product launches for 2017," Vause said. "I can't emphasize enough how important A3 and Automate are to the industry, and I advise every robotic startup to join us in Chicago for the most impactful week of the year."

Certified integrators, innovative solutions

The Integrated Solutions Center at Automate features over 65 system integrators showcasing live-action demonstrations of automation solutions. This section has doubled in size since the 2015 show.

A dozen of those integrators represent the best of the best, the RIA Certified Robot Integrators, who have completed a rigorous compliance program to ascertain their high level of expertise. Several of the exhibiting RIA Certified Robot Integrators are highlighted in this show preview.

Matrix Design LLC will feature a live demo of a robotic dual machine tending system and robotic deburring system (pictured). The machine tending system includes three fully integrated robot arms inside Matrix's fully welded and enclosed flexMate and stackMate workcells. Each workcell houses several features and functions that enable all three robots to work seamlessly together. Both robotic systems are designed to help manufacturers boost productivity, improve quality, and decrease costs, while improving safety and the working environment.

Robotic 3-D printing system creates metal parts for prototypes or small batch production at lower costs compared to conventional manufacturing methods. Courtesy: Midwest Engineered Systems/RIAApplied Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) will feature a dual robotic demo comparing the functionalities of a force-controlled collaborative robot side by side with a sensor-controlled robot. The Fanuc CR-7 robot will demonstrate how this family of collaborative robots uses force feedback sensors to detect an unexpected interaction, allowing a safe collaborative working environment between robot and direct user. 

AMT will use the high-speed capability of a Fanuc LR Mate in conjunction with sensor controls to create a safe work area between robot and human. The sensor controls will detect intrusion in the robot workspace and modify the robot speed and functionality when human interaction is detected. The demo will showcase both technologies interacting with attendees live on the show floor.

3-D metal printing with robots 

Midwest Engineered Systems Inc. (MWES) will showcase a variety of equipment demonstrations, including its 3-D Additive System, a robot-tended brake press, and an automatic guided cart assembly system. For the first time at Automate, MWES will display its 3-D Metal Printing Additive System (pictured) featuring KUKA robots. The system demonstrates how manufacturers can optimize prototype part manufacturing and/or low-volume part manufacturing with fast speeds, high efficiency, and lower costs than conventional methods.

Modular robotic platform based on a six-axis robot accommodates a wide variety of assembly and related processes. Courtesy: Calvary Robotics/RIAAlso on display will be a Safan Darley Brake Press with robotic material handling similar to the one seen in this video. The MWES booth will also feature a Jervis Webb SmartCart, a low-profile assembly platform with scissor lift and 2,500-lb. capacity. This ergonomic assembly vehicle can be customized to the operator's needs with preprogrammed height preferences.

Lights-out production

Factory Automation Systems Inc. will showcase a robotic machine tending cell that not only loads and unloads parts to and from the machine, but also automatically changes the chuck jaws for different size parts. Featured will be a collaborative robot with automatic tool changing. This concept is extremely useful for lights-out applications, eliminating the need for manual labor that is normally required to perform the jaw change operations. The live demo will also show the robot performing secondary operations such as deburring and inspection.

Tech-Con Automation is exhibiting at Automate alongside several other Ontario-based automation companies as part of the Government of Ontario Pavilion. Tech-Con will showcase a live demo of a Fanuc M-1iA robot using advanced vision capabilities to pick and sort pills of different colors before placing them in bottles.

Modular robotic platforms

Calvary Robotics will feature its modular robotic platforms for automated assembly and feeding. The X-Cell integrates proven automation components into a highly flexible and versatile assembly system based on an X, Y, and Z axis. It accommodates a large number of processes including screw driving, dispensing, and vision inspection. Easily configurable, prompt-based software reduces the need for complex programming.

The X-Cell II platform (pictured) is based on a six-axis robot, and it also features simple and intuitive system controls for ease of programming. The system can be validated at the process development stage and then scaled into production, thereby reducing costs and time to market.

Calvary's FleX Feed System is a robotic module that uses vision guided robots for part feeding and sorting. Multiple part variants can be singulated, sorted, and oriented from a single feeder with little or no hard tooling. The dedicated vision system within each module provides assurance that the product assembly is correct each and every time.

IIoT, connected solutions on deck

Genesis Systems Group LLC will honor the host city and the 2016 World Series Champions with a baseball-themed display. Live on the show floor, a Fanuc  material handling robot equipped with tool changers and 3D printed grippers will hand out trademark Genesis baseballs to attendees and assemble a 3-D printed replica of the World Series trophy. A nearby robot with another 3-D printed gripper produced by the RIA Certified Robot Integrator's in-house capabilities will facilitate a video display showing a variety of automation processes.

Genesis will also showcase weld analysis capabilities focusing on design for manufacturability (DFM) and design for assembly (DFA). Also featured will be Genesis' Connected Solutions for the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT. The Genesis intelligenceCENTER will be demonstrated along with Squeaks, a mobile-first industrial messaging app. Squeaks integrates messaging across machines and personnel, and is designed to facilitate quicker and better decision-making with machines as part of the conversation.

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