IMTS / Hannover Messe Chicago Recap

I didn’t have time to finish this about IMTS/Hannover Messe when I found myself in rainy Folsom, CA at the Inductive Automation’s Ignition Community Conference. More on that later.

Here is a quick recap of my tour around two of the four full halls that comprised the event. I heard that there were more than 100,000 people who also toured the trade show floors.

Robotics

OnRobot — OnRobot Previews D:PLOY for Machine Tending at IMTS. D:PLOY automatically discovers and configures all the components in a robotic cell – including any leading collaborative or light industrial robot arm and tools – while also integrating external I/O from sensors and machines. D:PLOY will be available for all common robotic applications, making deployment up to 80% faster. See more.

Universal Robots—The booth featured nine partners with vertical industry applications and a new 20 kg cobot.

The UR20, the first of next-generation high performance cobots, has been redesigned from the ground up to provide up to 30% more speed and torque, advanced motion control capabilities, and first-class user experience. Its 20 kg payload and 1750 mm reach make it a match for applications ranging from palletizing to machine loading.

These partners exhibited within the booth. Click for more information. Cobot Systems, Hirebotics, Kane Robotics, MidAtlantic Machinery, PCC Robotics, Robotiq, Schunk, Vectis Automation, VersaBuilt.

ABB—Highlights include versatile industrial and collaborative robots, software advancements that reduce programming complexity, and a selection of interactive robotic educational systems and training programs.

• ABB has developed over 30 new robot, software digital and educational products and educational tools in the last year, designed to help industrial manufacturers of all sizes increase their operational performance and gain better access to a well-trained workforce

• ABB helps businesses of all sizes embrace the flexibility afforded by robotics to efficiently adapt production to satisfy their customer’s most pressing needs, especially as reshoring becomes a prominent means to address ongoing supply chain backlogs

For more information.

CNC

Siemens—Accelerating the digital transformation of the machine tool industry with Siemens Xcelerator 

• Siemens Xcelerator includes selected portfolio of IoT-enabled hardware, software and digital offerings for the machine tool industry

• Software applications for cloud, edge and customer servers with numerous innovations for the machine tool business

• First partner applications based upon Industrial Edge for Machine Tools, the open ecosystem for IoT

New technology functions for the SINUMERIK ONE CNC simplify operation and increase productivity

• Y-turning and Advanced Rapid Movement for greater machine tool productivity, 

up to 10% faster machining

• Reduced Dynamic Mode reduces wear and increases availability

• End-to-end keyboard and machine control panel portfolio from 15 to 24 inches

The introduction of Mcenter, a new manufacturing and resource management platform, designed to enhance the preparation of tool scheduling, workflow supervision and NC program  management — plus Mcenter will smartly and seamlessly network the machine tools with the company’s IT / OT landscape.  

For more information.

Automation

MFA Alliance — You may have noticed several items about private 5G networks for manufacturing and industrial applications. Several companies have joined this private network alliance

Find out which features you need to implement for your 5G private network device with Uni5G Technology Blueprints. Discover available spectrum options (locally licensed, shared, unlicensed) around the world for your private network. Gain access to MFA’s shared global PLMN-ID which can uniquely identify your private network.

GE Digital — Announced it has achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) Industrial Software Competency status. GE Digital is also expanding its offerings in the AWS Marketplace with new cloud-based operational intelligence and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software.

For more information.

Deacom (ECI Software)—With a deep awareness of the challenges faced by process manufacturers and distributors, Deacom has been developed as an ERP solution tailored to the needs of medium-sized enterprises within industries such as Food & Beverage, Chemical and Coatings, Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, and Nutraceuticals to name a few. Hyper-Tight Process Control enables you to easily identify issues within your supply chain, production, and order-to-cash processes early and fix – or eliminate – them before they turn into costly mistakes.

For more information.

HighByte — I talked with two of the founders of this DataOps company. It has a new release coming, teaser about future releases. My takeaway, DataOps has found customer footing. Watch for growth. For more information.

Artek 3D scanning — Perhaps the coolest demos of the show—handheld 3D scanning, built-in screen so that you don’t have to move it around and juggle a computer at the same time. Quickly transform your object into 3D graphics. For more information.

ATT —  The takeaway from my conversation at the AT&T booth was that 5G private networks are really in use. Also, you can go to the AT&T Business LinkedIn page for a “chat” that I participated in about smart factory. For more information.

Beckhoff Automation—The XPlanar magnetic conveyor was the hot thing in this booth. The XPlanar planar motor system combines the advantages of conventional transport technologies with magnetic levitation. The levitating 2D product transport enables a wide range of new options for handling products within a machine and also between several machines.

Similar to automated guided vehicle systems, the user benefits from the freedom of movement of the object carriers: Individual goods can be transported to any location via any route. XPlanar combines this flexibility with the dynamics of conventional linear motors and offers added value through cycle-time-optimized linking of individual production steps. XPlanar significantly simplifies individual production steps because the degrees of freedom and accuracy familiar from robotics can be used for 6D product handling. The concept of product positioning during processing is applied to the transport system. The floating effect replaces all mechanical guide components and drastically reduces cleaning and maintenance costs.

For more information.

Syntax — As I walked through the AWS booth, a woman at one of the kiosks called out, want to learn about predictive maintenance? This enterprise software company touts a better UI difference—one dashboard, one interface, predict material usage. For more information.

Real-time Robot Workspace Monitoring for Precision Manufacturers

I’m up to my ears in scheduling for this year’s IMTS show in a couple of weeks at McCormick Place in Chicago. I’ll be checking out what’s new in robotics among other technologies. Here is a release I’ve had for a few weeks to whet your appetite for more robot news. This regards monitoring Universal Robots workspaces for robot performance measurement.

Datanomix, maker of the industry’s only Automated Production Intelligence software platform, announced support for monitoring Universal Robots for real-time visibility into robot performance. By partnering with Flexxbotics, a leader in robotics process improvement technology, Datanomix extends its automated production intelligence coverage to Universal Robot cells, helping power lights-out and automated operations at precision manufacturers.

As part of the technology partnership with Flexxbotics, Datanomix gains access to real-time operational data for Universal Robots from Flexxbotics via their FlexxConnect platform. Advanced utilization and performance data for Universal Robots is collected and displayed in the Datanomix platform, offering insights into both cobot and CNC machine cycle time, part counts, run time, and machine/robot status to allow precision manufacturers to make better-informed decisions around automating their factory. In addition, FlexxConnect provides truly centralized and revision controlled cobot and CNC program management capabilities, and guided workflows for both cobot operators and CNC operators.

With this initial integration, existing Flexxbotics customers can add Datanomix to their deployments, and similarly, Datanomix customers can add the Flexxbotics management platform to Universal Robot installations. Using Flexxbotics’ underlying technology, the Datanomix platform receives performance information directly from Universal Robots, and visualizes it alongside the performance data from the CNC machines the robots empower.

Software Improves Performance of Autonomous Mobile Robots

Two product trends flow into my inbox the past few months. One that I’ve recently devoted space concerns open automation. The other reveals constant activity in the general robot market.  Whether cobots or Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), energy and innovation abound.

This news comes from Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) who recently introduced a new software foundation that enables more robust and scalable AMRs for faster missions, tighter integration with other systems, and enhanced cybersecurity.

The first phase of the new software, available now for both individual and entire fleets, focuses on a faster, more intuitive user interface that enables customers to more quickly perform functions such as:

  • planning and re-planning navigation on the fly around obstacles with optimized reaction to anything moving nearby, such as other robots, forklifts or human workers
  • navigating in large facilities efficiently and switch smoothly between different floors or production halls

The new MiR software comes with a completely redesigned user-interface to enhance the overall ease of use.

MiR’s increased focus on cybersecurity is evident with this new software, with new security improvements according to the IEC 62443 cybersecurity standard for industrial automation systems, including:

  • software code signing
  • extended robot authentication
  • update of the robot operating system

Automated Palletizing Solution

Palletizing and depalletizing are two workhorse robotic applications within automated assembly and also packaging. Just when I figured it was a mature technology, companies are releasing innovative new products. This news comes from OnRobot who has released OnRobot Palletizer described as “a complete collaborative palletizing solution designed to take the physical and financial pain out of palletizing processes.”

OnRobot Palletizer lets users choose a palletizing system that works for their specific application needs thanks to its space saving footprint, and ability to handle many different types of boxes, packages, patterns, pallets and stacking heights. Compatible with collaborative robot and light industrial robots from the Doosan, FANUC, OMRON, Techman, and Universal Robots brands, the OnRobot Palletizer is available as a complete out-of-the-box system or as individual components to create a mix-and-match solution. 

The OnRobot Palletizer includes four new hardware and software products:

OnRobot Palletizing, intuitive palletizing software that guides users through the entire deployment from start to finish via a single intelligent interface for all components. Once the physical hardware is in place and secured, the end-user or integrator simply opens OnRobot Palletizing to receive step-by-step guidance through the process of setting up a palletizing application. Using OnRobot Palletizing, an inexperienced end-user can set up a full palletizing application in a day, versus 12 or more days using conventional programming software. 

The OnRobot 2FGP20, a powerful, versatile, electric palletizing gripper with a 20 kg payload and customizable arms that can handle standard cardboard boxes as well as open boxes and shelf-ready products while also handling slip sheets without changing the gripper or requiring additional handling; no external air supply required.

The OnRobot Lift100, a robust elevator with a total payload of 100 kg that provides a 7th axis for cobot and lightweight industrial robot brands; TÜV-certified stop-functionality facilitates safe and effective collaborative deployments; provides safe and precise positioning even at high speeds.

The OnRobot Pallet Station, durable floor mounted pallet fixtures designed to ensure consistent positioning; each comes with a built-in sensor for detecting pallet presence.

“Small and midsized companies need palletizing automation that is easy to use, fast to deploy and affordable – even if the application changes over time,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot. “OnRobot Palletizer combines fast deployment times with a small footprint and the best price point in the market – all using our application-focused approach that gives customers much more flexibility than traditional approaches. OnRobot Palletizer can be deployed out-of-the-box and with minimal disruption to existing factory and warehouse layouts.”

OnRobot Palletizing software “significantly reduces the set-up time needed to have the application running,” says Adrián Pérez Martínez, CTO & Co-Founder at Neobotik, an automation integrator based in Huelva, Spain, one of the sites where OnRobot Palletizer was tested prior to launch. “It is so easy to install all the hardware and software when doing the initial set up of the cell. And the graphical user interface makes it possible even for non-expert programmers to program a full palletizer solution.”

OnRobot Palletizer has three main advantages over existing palletizing automation, explains Martínez: “It’s fast to deploy. It has an easy-to-use programming interface. And the gripper weight is optimal, making the solution ideal for a wide range of collaborative palletizing applications, including in industries such as food and beverage, where there is a high flow of open boxes ready to be palletized and gripping the boxes using a traditional vacuum gripper is not possible.” 

Multi-Axis Cobot Solution

Innovation continues within the cobot or collaborative robot ecosystem. As well, Festo continues to announce interesting innovations. This one concerns a certified multi-axis solution for Universal Robotics (UR) cobots. This system adds up to four axes of motion beyond the UR standard six axes embodying Festo’s precision, reliability, and longevity.

Set up is easy (relatively, of course). No programming is involved in set up and no additional PLC is required. Multi-axes are configured through the UR HMI. End users simply set position, speed, and acceleration on the HMI or, using the URCap toolbar, move the axes in manual mode to configure motion.

The multi-axis system features the Festo Motion Control Package (FMCP) for UR, which is a complete motion control panel for up to four axis motion. The FMCP is fully integrated with the UR cobot control panel and HMI and features a UR safety I/O and communications interface. 

In addition to a seventh axis used for linear transfer, the FMCP can control turning tables, automatic storage systems, conveyors, and transfer tables, all under the UR umbrella. The FMCP has extra space within the panel for future expansion and brackets for wall mounting, which reduces footprint.

The seventh axis is also used for extending the range of action for a UR cobot in such applications as palletizing and machine tending. Festo EGC belt-driven or ball-screw linear axes comes equipped with a cobot mounting plate. The EGC has an energy chain for cable management and servo motor optimized for performance. Standard EGC axes are available in lengths of up to 8 m with up to 10 m axes available by request.

Wearable Robotics Demonstration

While we are on a robot/human collaboration theme, take a look at this exoskeleton from WearTech Center. The evolution of ergonomics and human-assist tech has fascinated me for a very long time. I’m old enough to remember the hard and dangerous ways. Given some of the stuff I’ve done early in my career, I’m lucky to be hear with all my extremities intact.

The WearTech Center, an applied research center accelerating the development of emerging technology products, along with Arizona-based wearable device companies GoX Labs and AKE, and Arizona State University’s top mechanical engineering researchers, are advancing worker wellness and safety with new exoskeleton technology. Through the public-private collaboration, Arizona-based innovators announced they are developing a new exoskeleton that will make workplaces safer for millions of workers in many industries. The wearable exoskeleton technology called PhenEx will help workers squat and lift heavy loads promoting overall worker health.

Previously, GoX Labs, AKE and ASU successfully developed a similar ex called the Aerial Porters Exoskeleton, or APEx. More than $31 million is spent annually in disability benefits for retired aerial porters, who had a high incidence of musculoskeletal injuries, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center study. To promote worker wellness and make pushing and lifting easier and safer, APEx is designed to assist people in loading a 10,000-pound pallet and pushing it onto an airplane.

“There are 89 million workers exposed to injury at work every day. As Arizona continues to grow as a hub for many different industries, the need for exoskeletons that promote workplace wellness only increases. Working through the WearTech Center to collaborate with ASU’s researchers gives us the push we need to take our technology to the next level,” said Dr. Joseph Hitt, CEO of GoX Labs.

At the WearTech Center, GoX Labs’ and AKE’s exoskeleton technology product development follows the applied research model which accelerates the process via collaboration with public and private sectors partners. The center shepherds these innovative products through the idea generation, project formation, validation, and commercialization phases.

“Innovations like what GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are developing through the WearTech Center have a high impact on reducing workplace injuries and enhancing Arizona’s economic development,” said Wes Gullett, Operations Director of Applied Research Centers for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “The Arizona Legislature’s public investment in applied research capabilities and our ability to connect innovators to the tools they need to accelerate their product’s development grows Arizona’s economy and fuels its innovation opportunities.”

APEx is already being used by the U.S. Air Force by aerial porters to load heavy cargo onto planes. GoX Labs, AKE and ASU are continuing their collaborative efforts creating the quasi-active exoskeleton PhenEx with the support of the WearTech Center. The wearable PhenEx leverages sensors to activate spring elements when workers need to perform physical activities for their jobs. The quasi-active exoskeleton unlocks when the worker is at rest, walking or driving as to not hinder motion. The WearTech Center will assist with applied research and testing for product development.

GoX Labs and AKE will test out PhenEX on local employers like Amazon, Lucid Motors, and other industry partners through WearTech. Arizona employers can get involved in the testing of PhenEx by emailing [email protected]