Robotics, 3D printing take center stage at IMTS

Day 2: precision an important factor, whether building a 3D model or programming a robot.

By CFE Media September 10, 2014

Day 2 of the 2014 IMTS Show in Chicago was, in many ways, a carbon copy of Day 1. Huge crowds continued to stream through Chicago’s McCormick Place, reminding many of the heydays of IMTS in the 1990s. But this is a new IMTS, with an emphasis on automation, robotics and innovative products along with the strength of machining and CNC.

Building better robots

At IMTS 2014, the East building of McCormick Place, particularly the IANA section, feels like its wall-to-wall with robots just about everywhere you look. And the robots are designed for a variety of functions ranging from material handling to assembly to machine vision and just about everything in between.

What is particularly for these companies is that the robots are precise in what they do. The robots, particularly in sensitive or dangerous operations, need to be precise as well as efficient. Demonstrations up and down the IANA section showed robots lifting objects, puzzle pieces, and other objects. The robots are programmed to operate and function in specific ways and they are designed to be able to repeat these simple, but important motions, over and over again without making a mistake.

When it works, the results bring out a dramatic improvement. "When we had a person working out the assembly, we were getting 400 parts inserted an hour," said Chris Zollinger, business development manager at Micromatic. "When we programmed the machine, we went up to 1100 an hour."

We need a more educated workforce for the future of manufacturing

For a smarter, complicated, and data-driven manufacturing industry today, we need a more educated and skilled workforce that has problem-solving and critical thinking ability, according to Gregg Fleisher the Chief Academic Officer of National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), speaking at IMTS Smartforce Student Summit at IMTS 2014.

Fleisher believes that the key to a better manufacturing future is to improve math and science education. In the past, anyone could find a satisfying job in manufacturing production sector. Today, students need more education in computer science, coding, design, trouble-shooting and critical thinking ability to land a career in manufacturing.

It is in our DNA to use STEM to invent and manufacture. It is impossible to think of one thing that is not related to manufacturing. The future is unimaginable, and we rely on people sitting in this room to show us the future. You can never exceed the limit, so set the limit high and don’t be afraid to fail," said Fleisher.

3D printers help cultivate next-generation engineers

Partnering with SME Education Foundation, 3D Systems’ MAKE.DIGITAL education initiative focuses on promoting advanced digital literacy in K-12 and college STEM education. The company provided 3D printers to use in laboratories and classrooms to foster an interactive and inspiring learning environment. With the latest 3D educational printing kit, students and researchers can design, prototype, and test their innovations faster and with less limitations.

3D Systems showcased its educational 3D printing kit at IMTS 2014. Students could try out interactive design on MAKE.DIGITAL platform at the Smartforce Student Summit.

Joy Chang and Chris Vavra contributed to this story.

Author Bio: Since its founding in 2010, CFE Media and Technology has provided engineers in manufacturing, commercial and industrial buildings, and manufacturing control systems with the knowledge they need to improve their operational efficiency. CFE delivers the right information at the right time around the world through a variety of platforms.