FANUC America Unveils New $110 Million Robotics and Automation Campus

FANUC America has expanded its footprint to over 2 million square feet and has created over 400 jobs since 2019

The amount of news emanating from the traditional robotic companies amazes me. I thought this market was mature. Evidently FANUC doesn’t think so. This news concerns additional investment in its Detroit-area facility. I couldn’t make the trip this week to witness the event, although I would have liked to have been there.

FANUC America, the global leader in robotics and automation systems, today officially unveiled its new 650,000 square foot West Campus facility in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The West Campus represents a $110 million investment built on 67 acres of land.

“This major expansion represents our growth strategy in the U.S. and our steadfast commitment to the future of the automation and robotics industry,” said Mike Cicco, President and CEO, FANUC America. “

Since 2019, FANUC America has invested over $187 million including a 461,000-square-foot North Campus facility in 2019, and new headquarter facilities in Mexico and Canada in 2023.

FANUC America’s investment will continue with the renovation of a former law school on the site of the company’s West Campus that will soon become the FANUC Academy, an advanced automation customer training center.

 The expansion increases the footprint in Michigan to over 2 million square feet and is part of FANUC America’s strategic investment plan to support and advance industrial automation in North America. FANUC America’s industry growth and customer demand has created over 400 jobs in Michigan since 2019. The West Campus provides advanced product manufacturing and customized automation systems and includes warehouse space for over 6,000 quick delivery robots and tens of thousands of parts.

After completion of the new FANUC Academy and other infrastructure projects, FANUC America will have invested over $250 million in North America, fortifying its position as an industry trailblazer.

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.

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.

Integrated Robot Control

Once motion control systems, robot systems, and logic control systems existed as if on two different planets. Technology developers slowly began integrating motion control into their PLC platforms until today no one would acquire a PLC that cannot integrate motion.

Several years ago Rockwell Automation announced a robot control platform integrated into its control platform. And ABB/B+R and several others. Many robot applications readily lend themselves to integration into overall machine control.

Samantha Mou writes for Interact Analysis, one of the few analyst firms I find interesting. Based in China, she has written a good piece about Siemens’ announcements around Hannover Messe.

Just before Hanover Messe, Siemens announced its cooperation with two collaborative robot vendors, UR and JAKA. This will enable Siemens PLCs to control robots from UR and JAKA through the TIA Portal using the ‘Standard Robot Command Interface (SRCI)’ function. Prior to this, Siemens was already working in cooperation with Comau, Stäubli, Kawasaki and Yaskawa in integrated robot control via SRCI. A series of other leading robot brands, such as ABB, KUKA, FANUC, Epson and Techman, are also scheduled to come on board, and some other well-known Japanese and Chinese suppliers are pending, including Yamaha and Estun.

This will mean that the most influential industrial robot and collaborative robot brands on the market will support integrated robot control, allowing their robots to be controlled by automation systems.

Currently, the integration of industrial or collaborative robots and machines generally uses communication networks. The robot and the machine utilize independent control platforms, and robot controllers are connected to the machine PLC via communication protocols to facilitate machine-robot coordination.

So, how do companies integrate the two?

The concept of machine-integrated robot control emerged in a bid to unify control of machines and robots. There are two main ways of doing this. One is to retain the robot-specific controller hardware. For example, Siemens’ method employs a PLC that supports SRCI functions to translate and merge the robots’ control instructions into the TIA Portal. This enables engineers to use Siemens’ development environment to control robots without using robot programming languages.

Another integration method is to eliminate the robot controller hardware and use an automation controller with motion control functions instead. Robot axes are regarded as components of the machine and can be controlled directly by the machine controller. Notable solutions using this method include Rockwell’s Unified Robot Control, B&R’s Machine-Centric Robotics, Schneider’s PacDrive, and Omron’s NJ501-R controller. In addition to robot mechanics coming from robot manufacturers, there are also many cases where machine builders or integrators build robot mechanics themselves.

Another example of labor shortage.

With the increasing adoption of robots and the continued shortage of experienced engineers, there is strong growth in the market’s interest in integrated robot control. Different types of relevant market players are trying to seize the opportunities and benefits offered by this technology.

You can read her complete analysis here.

Automate Report 6: Technologies

This final report from the Automate 2024 show encompasses some unique technology applications along with other technologies. Featured are Vention, Zebra, LexxPluss, Orbbec, Ericsson and Dassault.

Vention

I have written about Vention a few times. I first met them as an innovative component designer. They told me they’ve recently combined five business. Their unique take on technology is that you can Design and Build your machine from their CAD and components on the Web. You go to their CAD and find amenu of components they offer. You design your machine and price BOM, all on Web. It’s sort of like assembling Legos. You can check it out—the CAD part is free to use. You can also add code including Python and C, then simulate machine, and purchase system. You deploy the system with their controller, which can track analytics. Service is prompt and efficient.

Zebra Technologies Advancing the Connected Factory

Zebra’s latest fixed industrial scanner, the Zebra FS42 is designed for resource-intensive tasks like deep learning-based optical character recognition (OCR) applications and high-throughput scanning requiring speed. Its increased onboard memory and neural processing unit (NPU) enable faster scanning and more complex artificial intelligence (AI)-based deep learning machine vision applications. 

Zebra’s Aurora Software Suite is ideal for addressing the track-and-trace and vision inspection needs of users at all experience levels. It supports barcode reading and additional inspection tasks like OCR, dimensioning, and defect detection. The FS42 features Zebra’sAurora Focus which makes it easy to set up, deploy, and run the device, eliminating the need for other tools and reducing training time. 

Zebra’s new 3S Series 3D sensors will also be introduced at Automate. Using patented parallel structured light, the industrial-grade 3S series enables 3D sensing for static and moving items – including those that are high-gloss, translucent, or transparent – with sub-millimeter resolution and accuracy. 

Zebra’s 3S series captures various sizes and is “plug-and-play” ready with a Power over Ethernet (PoE) connection. They will be bundled with Zebra’s Aurora Design Assistant or Aurora Vision Studio which speeds up development and brings 3D vision applications online quicker. 

The 3S40 sensor is designed to scan static objects, integrating them into manufacturing operations to resolve inspection and dimensioning applications with a scanning range of up to 7 t./2.1 meters. The 3S80 sensor is built to capture dynamic scenes and create 3D point color clouds in real time, expanding the range of advanced automation applications. It has a scan range of up to 10 ft./3 meters. 

Zebra Symmetry Fulfillment comprises a comprehensive solution that helps workers and robots be more productive, optimizing the path of a picker with a team of robots for a directed workflow.  Zebra Symmetry Fulfillment uses the power of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), wearable technologies, software, and analytics to maintain high-quality standards while improving performance and reducing costs per unit.

LexxPluss launches scalable, interoperable mobile conveying

The Japanese intralogistics and mobile robotics company featured the Lexx500 autonomous mobile robot, the LexxTug towing interface, the LexxFleet management system and its IoT LexxHub, which facilitates the collective automation of existing systems with Lexx500 AMRs for enhanced safety and interoperability.

Lexx500 next-generation automated transfer robots with multi-sensor safety features can be deployed from just a single unit and easily increased to a multi-AMR fleet, providing market-leading scalability. The Lexx500 requires no fixed equipment and can automatically transfer heavy loads/objects up to 300kg (660 lbs) with minor modifications, or 500kg (1100 lbs) as is with LexxTug attached.

The LexxTug towing interface allows manufacturers to use general-purpose carts such as cage carts and 6-wheel carts without modification to automatically transfer loads of up to 500kg (1100 lbs). It has an automatic detachment function to enable it to fit into existing operations without major changes.

The LexxFleet management system delivers task management, group control management of multiple units, and system integration. The fleet management system provides users with Lexx500 transport status management, map display, multiple task execution/reservation, RESTful API integration, and remote emergency stop function for the safe, efficient management of AMR fleets.

LexxHub is an IoT solution that enables collective automation of existing systems by allowing existing equipment to connect to the network and work with a fleet of Lexx500 AMRs, creating an autonomous worksite through equipment cooperation. Collaborative tasks such as calling an elevator, production equipment lines, or fire prevention functions such as shutters and alarms can be performed in time with AMRs to enhance productivity and safety.

Orbbec Gemini 330 Series of Stereo Vision 3D Cameras

Orbbec, an industry leader dedicated to 3D vision systems, introduced its Gemini 330 series, featuring the Gemini 335 and Gemini 335L Stereo Vision 3D cameras. Engineered as universal solutions for diverse 3D application scenarios, these cameras boast Orbbec’s latest depth engine chip MX6800, a purpose-built ASIC and patented hybrid stereo imaging technology that ensures stable, high-quality depth data output even in challenging lighting conditions.

Key Features of the Gemini 335 and 335L:

  • Stable, high-quality depth images under various lighting conditions, from direct sunlight to darkroom.
  • Diagonal field of view over 100°, working range beyond 0.2 – 10 meters, global shutter image sensors, high frame rate, low latency, comprehensive and precise sensor synchronization ideal for mobile robotics applications
  • Compact form factor, low power consumption for flexible integration into customer product designs

Ericsson and Dassault

I began this section with an innovative way to design and price a machine. I end with another cool innovation.

Ericsson is known for wireless, 5G cellular private networks and the like. It has partnered with Dassault Systemmes to construct a Digital Twin with Delmia of the network coverage in a plant. They do a LiDar scan of plant to map the plant and its potential steel barriers to signals. They find antennas in the plant with strength of signals and generate a visual map of the plant with colors that show strength of signal. Managers can make better decisions about where they need coverage in a weak spot and do things such as move equipment or racks to provide adequate wireless coverage. The system is also useful for large events.

Automate Report 5: Robots

This report from Automate 2024 consolidates robotic-oriented news from Doosan Robotics, Kassow Robots, InOrbit CoPilot, and Hirebotics. Collaborative Robots, or Cobots, are now just about everywhere. The software for these is innovative, often no-code, and easy-to-use. There is consolidation of the market. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.

Doosan Robotics to Unveil New Cobot

Doosan Robotics unveiled its latest industrial cobot which boasts a 30 kg payload. It also wins the award for the most marketing hype of any press release I received. Parsing through the release, here are a few tidbits.

The P3020 offers a payload of 30kg (60lbs) and reach of 2,030mm (80in), bringing the ability to palletize from floor to 2m high (stacking up to 10 layers of boxes approximately 8 inches tall) using its simple fixed base without a lift.

Additional key features of the P-SERIES cobot lineup include lower power consumption compared to similar payload cobots by applying its built-in gravity compensation mechanism, inherent wrist-singularity free, and a 5 degree-of-freedom movement with the 4th axis removed and 6th axis speed increased to 360 degrees/second. Doosan Robotics’ continued priority on optimal safety across its solutions is also fully present in the new P3020. This includes achieving the highest PL (e) and Cat 4 safety ratings to ensure both a max-powered and max-safety experience for users. 

Dart-Suite an advanced robot ecosystem designed to redefine the way customers utilize Doosan cobots. The scalable platform provides “unlimited” programmable motions, while ensuring accessibility for all.

Kassow Robots launches the world’s first 7-axis cobot series with a controller integrated into the base

With its Edge Edition, Kassow Robots has launched the world’s first 7-axis cobots in which the controller is integrated into the base of the robot. All five of the 7-axis cobots are now available in two versions: the classic variant with a separate controller, and the Edge Edition. Kristian Kassow and his engineering team have succeeded in miniaturizing the controller so that it now only occupies around 10% of the volume of the external controller. The footprint of the Edge edition’s base is compact, measuring only 160 by 200 millimeters. These cobot models are powered by direct current, meaning that they can be directly connected to any DC power supply, for example a battery of mobile robots. There are also easily accessible 60 IO connections. With these new models, the Copenhagen-based cobot manufacturer is making it easier for industrial companies to automate their operations. At the same time, their lightweight robots open up new opportunities for mobile cobot AMR and cobot AGV applications and various space-saving solutions.

InOrbit Unveils RobOps Copilot for AI-Powered Robot Optimization

InOrbit.AI, the leading provider of robot operations (RobOps) solutions, introduced InOrbit RobOps Copilot. This product harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to turn robot operations data into actionable insights in order to optimize autonomous robot fleets.

Leveraging the latest large language models (LLMs), RobOps Copilot enables users to ask questions in their preferred language, get detailed explanations, refine their analysis, and arrive at key optimization decisions, seamlessly transitioning between their favorite messaging platform for casual queries and a fully integrated experience with chat-driven dashboard explorations.

As with the rest of the InOrbit platform, RobOps Copilot works with mixed, distributed robot fleets. InOrbit continues to expand the InOrbit Connect ecosystem, including the ability to define, execute, and analyze missions that support integrations with Warehouse Management Systems, AMRs from different vendors, and Goods-to-Person workflows. One recent addition is support for a novel Automated Storage and Retrieval System developed by Instock, which is now in use at the InOrbit Robot Space in Silicon Valley and will be part of InOrbit’s live remote demonstrations presented at Automate.

Beacon-Powered Hirebotics Cobot Welder

Hirebotics launched support for the new Miller Auto DeltaWeld with their Cobot Welder. The Miller Auto DeltaWeld System is a MIG/Flux-cored, pulsed-capable power source designed for cobots. 

Unlike other cobot solutions, Hirebotics Beacon-powered Cobot Welder lets the user control everything in one place—a simple smartphone/tablet interface. This makes the process easier and faster compared to systems where welders must go back and forth between the teach pendant and the power source. 

Beacon is cloud-based, allowing total remote and local cobot control.

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