Orbbec Cameras Integrated with NVIDIA Isaac Robotics Platform        

One place where technology and integration and partners advances lies in the vision and robotics area. This news concerns Orbbec 3D vision systems integrating with NVIDIA Isaac Perceptor robotics platforms.

In brief: Gemini 330 cameras with built-in depth processing deliver high-precision Depth+RGB vision for NVIDIA  Isaac Perceptor AI-based perception workflow for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in indoor and outdoor environments.

Orbbec, an industry leader dedicated to 3D vision systems, announced its Gemini 330 series Stereo Vision 3D cameras are now integrated with NVIDIA Isaac Perceptor, a reference workflow for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) built on GPU-accelerated Isaac ROS.

These cameras enhance depth quality and provide longer-range sensing in varied lighting conditions, which lets Isaac Perceptor – whose general availability was announced by NVIDIA today at COMPUTEX – output 3D reconstruction and obstacle cost maps of any unstructured environment.

The Gemini 335/335L/336/336L cameras operate in both passive and active laser-illuminated modes to ensure high-quality depth and RGB data output even in challenging lighting conditions. The depth algorithms are processed in the camera by Orbbec’s latest depth engine ASIC and thus eliminates the burden on the NVIDIA Jetson Orin module-based compute for such operations. The cameras include internal IMU and temperature sensors and have a working range of 0.2-10 meters, global shutter image sensors, wide field-of-view lenses, high frame rates, low latency and precise multi-camera synchronization.

Orbbec also announces the Gemini 336/336L variants for improved performance in indoor environments by adding NIR bandpass filters. This reduces the potential of “holes” in a depth map due to glare from shiny floors and other reflective surfaces and “ghost” images from repetitive patterns in the environment.

In addition to AMRs, the Gemini 330 series cameras are well suited for robot arm applications that utilize AI vision for bin-picking, palletization, scanning and sorting applications, especially where reduction in glare and resulting holes from glossy surfaces are important.

Companies in Maturity

My old friend Jim Pinto wrote a regular column for me at Automation World magazine. He was fond of predicting that Rockwell Automation had to be acquired because it had grown too large to grow at a respectable rate.

He based that on two articles from the Harvard Business Review.

He was partly right and partly not. Rockwell, along with all the other major industrial automation suppliers, have grown and matured. They can no longer maintain large rates of growth. The market has long since matured. But they are too large and have too fixed of a corporate culture to be acquired. All they can do is continue to look for smaller companies to acquire and build their service organizations.

They should not feel lonely. Here is one of my favorite writers, Om Malik, on the latest status of the large technology companies. Same song, different verse.

Whether it’s Apple, Google, or Amazon, most of these companies are facing the tyranny of large numbers. But if you are a regular reader, you already knew that. Apple is looking at “services” to boost its revenues. “Apple is reporting revenue of $90.8 billion for the March quarter, including an all-time revenue record in Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, when announcing the company’s quarterly earnings. Services grew 8% on an annual basis, while hardware sales were down. The good news is that Apple continues to push and innovate on the core technology front — the latest M4 chip being a good example.

Mega-Growth for Apple and others is now in the rearview mirror. “If you’re making hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue, you can’t really double it every year,” I said on the podcast. This is a natural evolution for the industry, as companies reach a point where their sheer size makes it difficult to maintain the rapid growth rates that investors have come to expect.

This new reality for technology giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft involves grappling with the challenges of being mature companies that have massive existing revenue streams. There are no more markets to conquer — these companies are the market. AI will definitely make these companies more profitable by enhancing efficiency and reinforcing their advantages. However, it is not quite clear how the market will eventually evolve.

That’s why in the industrial technology niche, there is only me as an independent (well, my colleague Walt Boyes has restarted his Insider newsletter). The magazines all still exist, but at reduced size. Most of the ads are purchased by master distributors. That tells me there’s not a lot of growth anticipated in automation, and that engineers reading those magazines mostly are buying parts. That also means not a lot of new products requiring new production lines—whether in factories or processing.

It is the same in the IT market. I dabbled working with units of Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Their interest in the manufacturing sector waned. They are trying to push the envelope with faster, more powerful compute. Oh, and also services.

Looks like we are in an era of stability and maturity until the next big thing—which will come from the next big need. This may be robotics, software, and medicines to help an aging population.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation Leads Series B Investment in Realtime Robotics

Investments seldom interest me. This one in the robotics area should be noticed when we consider the usual lifecycle path of a start up technology company.

Realtime Robotics, the leader in collision-free autonomous motion planning for industrial robots, today announced that it has secured a strategic investment from Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. This is the lead investment in Realtime Robotics’ recently opened Series B round. Mitsubishi Electric was also a participant in the Series A round, and will be adding a senior representative to Realtime’s Board of Directors.

Realtime Robotics’ unique and innovative collision-free path planning technology provides solutions across the lifecycle of robotic workcells. In iterative design stages, the award-winning multirobot optimization software rapidly generates and evaluates hundreds of thousands of possible solutions to identify the shortest cycle time. Deployment and production are further simplified by runtime control, enabling multiple robots to work closer together, while simultaneously reacting to dynamic changes. Finally, when the workcell needs to be retooled, the complex robot control is effortlessly reprogrammed for optimal cycle time from the first iteration. 

Why is Mitsubishi interested?

By increasing its stake, Mitsubishi Electric plans to further integrate Realtime’s motion planning technology into 3D simulators and other software to optimize manufacturing through the power of digital twins. Later, Mitsubishi Electric expects to incorporate Realtime’s technology into factory automation (FA) control system devices, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), servo motors and computer numerical controllers (CNCs), to ensure uninterrupted plant operations by responding to needs for expanded automation capabilities, streamlined plant operations for improved efficiency, and fast responses to unexpected events.

Survey Finds Manufacturers are Leading the Charge in AI Adoption

61% Predicting to Achieve AI Goals in Just 11 months, Fluke Reliability Survey Finds

Everyone is in the survey business these days. Fluke Reliability conducted this one and of course capitalized on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) meme. The focus was on our traditional understanding of AI in manufacturing, not on Generative AI that is capturing headlines but not use cases.

Why are business leaders (over 600 senior decision-makers and maintenance professionals in this survey) considering AI? Business growth, addressing the skills gap and need for greater efficiency are driving plans for AI, machine learning, cloud computing and other digital technology adoption.

Censuswide conducted the research, which surveyed over 600 senior decision-makers and maintenance professionals in the U.S., the UK, and Germany. The findings confirm that manufacturers are at the forefront of implementing AI technologies into day-to-day operations.

AI will be a high business priority for companies over the next 12 months according to 93% of survey respondents. This sentiment is echoed at an organizational level, with 9 in 10 senior decision makers agreeing AI is the priority and over 4 in 5 maintenance managers saying the same.

Regarding the role of AI in predictive maintenance, only 8% of those surveyed are currently operating a predictive maintenance strategy. However, a massive 76.5% want to shift to predictive/proactive maintenance in the future, and AI implementation is viewed as a tool to achieve that goal.

Manufacturers are already turning their intentions into action, on average respondents said they intend to invest 44% of their technology budgets on AI in 2024 alone. In fact, (30%) of those surveyed plan to invest 51-75% of their technology budget on AI this year.

While only 9% of manufacturers agree that they have completed their Industry 5.0 goals to date, the majority (61%) expect to achieve their AI goals in just 11 months.

Anticipated benefits include:

  • the ability to develop new products and services (35%)
  • provide a new way to address data processing and analysis requirements (35%)
  • a means to address the call for improvements to customer service (35%)
  • the demand for improved efficiency and productivity (34%)
  • ways to compensate for the skilled labor shortage (31%).

Predictive Maintenance and Inventory Optimization

Fluke Reliability partners with Verusen to Drive Predictive Maintenance and Inventory Optimization

The new trend for 2024 involves spreading applications from the factory floor specifically to maintenance and repair and parts. Here is a partnership designed to enhance spare parts inventory plus predictive maintenance. It does make sense to bring those two together. I sold a program once a long time ago that would have been a first step along this journey.

  • Verusen enables visibility into customers’ spare parts and inventory data across the enterprise
  • This complements Fluke Reliability’s commitment to providing enhanced visibility into enterprise asset management operations 
  • The two companies provide customers with an expansive toolset to shift from reactive to predictive maintenance utilizing AI functionality 

Fluke Reliability has entered into a formal partnership agreement with Verusen. The agreement combines Verusen’s AI-driven visibility of MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) spare parts inventory and back-office functions with Fluke Reliability’s AI-powered enterprise asset management solutions to increase uptime, enhance maintenance and reliability operations efficiency, and drive customer productivity.

Verusen has been added to Fluke Reliability’s Industry and Technology partner program which is designed to enable customers to better integrate and automate connected reliability workflows for improved operations. This move underpins both companies’ commitment to helping customers shift to more proactive maintenance and reliability operations, maximizing uptime and accelerating efficiency worldwide.

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