Centers of excellence of certain types of technology seem to grow organically. Dayton, Ohio once had several manufacturers of special coil-winding machinery. Central western Ohio had several companies that manufactured special tube-bending machines. Odessa, Denmark? An entire ecosystem built around collaborative robots. And today, November 29, I sat in on a press conference announcing Universal Robots newest product—the UR30 collaborative robot (cobot) with a 30 kg payload capacity.
Why develop a new product? CEO and President Kim Povlsen says the market is good and growing—especially in Asia. The automotive and electronics markets are hot, and logistics has become an increasingly good market for cobots. Plus expanding the line perpetuates and extends UR’s mission of creating better workplaces.
The UR30 is a bit of a paradox. It can handle a heavier payload than its sibling the UR20, but it has a smaller footprint. This smaller size allows it to adapt to more application areas. A structural benefit comes from the smaller size leading to a more rigid structure allowing it to hold its arm steady in high-torque screw driving applications.
UR30 is the second in Universal Robot’s new series of innovative, next generation cobots and is built on the same architecture as the award-winning UR20. Despite its compact size, UR30 offers extraordinary lift, and its superior motion control ensures the perfect placement of large payloads allowing it to work at higher speeds and lift heavier loads.
This makes UR30 ideal for several applications, including machine tending, material handling and high torque screw driving. For machine tending, the high payload brings new possibilities as it allows the cobot to use multiple grippers at the same time. This means it can remove finished parts and load more material in one single pass, shortening changeover times and maximizing productivity.
UR30 will also effectively support high torque screw driving as it can handle larger and higher-output torque tools, and thanks to a steady mode feature UR30 delivers straight and consistent screw driving. This will be beneficial in, for example, the automotive industry.
In addition to this, the 30 kg payload makes UR30 a great match for material handling and palletizing of heavy products across all industries, with the small footprint enabling it to fit into almost all workspace – relieving humans of the heavy lifting. Weighing only 63.5 kg, it can also be easily moved between work cells.
Povlsen adds, “The higher payload and greater flexibility underpin a new era in automation. Industries around the world are embracing more agile manufacturing and modularity in production – part of achieving that modularity and agility is about mobility and this cobot delivers that despite its payload.
“As industries evolve, the UR30 not only meets but anticipates shifting demands, enabling businesses to adapt and respond to changing needs effectively. As we continue to innovate, the UR30 is another step in UR’s journey in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of automation.”
Here’s a good reason to visit AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (home of the Cowboys) other than an NFL football game. More than 20 robotics and automation vendors will showcase hands-on demonstrations at large free-to-attend ‘Waves of Innovation’ event on November 15
Here is a stat repeated over most of the USA. Despite the Dallas metro adding more than 10,000 manufacturing jobs over the past 10 months, the region still has more job vacancies than applicants.
“Historically low labor participation rates in our area means manufacturers are often unable to staff their shifts,” says Nick Armenta, regional manager of Olympus Controls, an engineering services company that specializes in the integration of motion control, machine vision, and robotic technologies. In Texas, there is currently 0.8 unemployed persons per job opening, a gap that is especially pronounced in manufacturing.
Olympus Controls is now inviting manufacturing professionals to AT&T Stadium for ‘Waves of Innovation’ a unique event featuring live demonstrations of the newest automation and robotics solutions presented by veteran problem solvers ready to discuss attendees’ manufacturing challenges.
Armenta looks forward to hosting more than 20 different automation companies showcasing a wide range of automation; from collaborative robots handling grueling sanding and polishing tasks, to vision-guided robotic arms picking up items using deep learning algorithms, along with applications for automated machine loading, laser marking, and much more.
When: November 15, 3:00-7:00 pm CT
Where: Choctaw Club – Silver Room North, AT&T Stadium, 1 AT&T Way Arlington, TX 76011
Scott Paulk, engineering manager with Alexandria Industries in Dallas, is excited to attend Waves of Innovation. “Knowing what’s out there makes our automation journey easier,” he says, emphasizing that his company already has 40% of its work centers robotically automated. “We sometimes struggle with hiring skilled labor, automation helps offset this by enabling us to reallocate resources. Another benefit of robots is they get the younger generation intrigued; this has no doubt led to employees selecting our companies over a potential competitor.”
Aircraft Tooling Inc., a Dallas-based repair center for the aviation industry also attending the event, was surprised to find that collaborative robots (cobots) could withstand the high temperatures and harsh environment while performing plasma spray processes. A task their employees have now been freed up from performing. Thermal spray supervisor at Aircraft Tooling, Juan Puente, readily admits that despite the cobot having “won their hearts”, there was significant hesitation as to whether the robot would operate reliably in the spray booth’s extremely hot and dusty environment. “We were very surprised. I thought the robot wouldn’t stand it,” he says.
Nick Armenta looks forward to surprising more Texan manufacturers. “Unlike most of the American economy, manufacturing requires your physical presence. Knowing the local talent and resources close to you will radically enhance your capabilities,” he says. “By bringing Waves of Innovation to Dallas, we are illuminating both the developing and established talent we already have here in Texas.”
Waves of Innovation exhibitors include:
Apex Dynamics, Asyril, Cobot Depot, Copley Controls, Datalogic, Dorner Conveyors, Epson Robots, Flexxbotics, Kane Robotics, Mecademic, National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA), Nidec Corporation, Olympus Controls, Panasonic, Robotiq, Robotunits, Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC), Spira Vision, University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Zebra Robotics.
Platinum sponsors: Universal Robots, Mitsubishi Electric
I’ve accumulated a few interesting project news items from ABB.
Robot automates Amazon Reforestation
All-electric mine study in Australia
China Telecom digitization project
World’s most remote robot automates Amazon reforestation project
A pilot project between ABB Robotics and US non-profit organization Junglekeepers is demonstrating the role Cloud technology can play in making reforestation faster, more efficient and scalable.
ABB Robotics is supporting Junglekeepers in their mission to protect 55,000 acres of Amazon rainforest and reverse deforestation. In a first-of-its-kind demonstration, ABB’s cobot YuMi is automating planting tasks in a jungle laboratory, speeding the process and allowing Junglekeepers’ volunteers to focus their valuable time and resources on more impactful work.
Through ABB RobotStudio Cloud technology, ABB experts simulate, refine and deploy the programming required for YuMi’s tasks in the jungle from 12,000 kms (7,460 miles) away Västerås, Sweden – enabling the world’s most remote robot.
“ABB’s collaboration with Junglekeepers demonstrates how robotics and Cloud technology can play a central role in fighting deforestation as one of the major contributors to climate change”, said Sami Atiya, President of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. “Our pilot program with the world’s most remote robot is helping automate highly repetitive tasks, freeing up rangers to undertake more important work out in the rainforest and helping them to conserve the land they live on.”
In a jungle lab, located in a remote region of the Peruvian Amazon, a YuMi cobot has been installed to automate essential tasks in the seed planting process, usually an entirely manual effort. The cobot digs a hole in the soil, drops the seed in, compacts the soil on top and marks it with a color-coded tag. YuMi enables Junglekeepers to replant an area the size of two soccer fields every day in zones requiring reforestation.
At the same time, by automating this task, Junglekeepers’ volunteers are able to focus their valuable time and resources on more impactful work, such as patrolling the area to deter illegal loggers, educating locals on the preservation of the rainforest and planting mature saplings.
Creating a fully remote and autonomous cobot installation also overcomes the difficulty of finding people willing to stay and work in the distant jungle location. After its initial installation, YuMi can carry out its tasks autonomously, with only trouble shooting as needed.
“As of right now, we have lost 20 percent of the total area of Amazon rainforest; without using technology today, conservation will be at a standstill,” said Moshin Kazmi, Co-Founder of Junglekeepers. “Having Yumi at our base is a great way to expose our rangers to new ways of doing things. It accelerates and expands our operations and advances our mission.”
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest through human activities such as logging and burning to clear land for agriculture are contributing to the devastating effects of climate change. It is estimated that more than 870,000 km² of the Amazon rainforest have been cleared since 1985, an area larger than France, United Kingdom and Belgium combined. With tens of billions of trees already being gone, the region is warming fast.
“The Amazon is in danger. That’s why we need technology, science and local knowledge to work together in order to save it. Otherwise, we will be too late. The rainforest can be saved, but we must bring together all these elements to make a difference,” said Dennis del Castillo Torres, Director of Forest Management Research at the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute. “It is very important to have a combination of high technology and conservation. There are many technologies that we can use to preserve the forest, and this robot can help a lot to reforest faster, but we have to be very selective. We have to use it in areas of high deforestation to speed up the process of replanting.”
The pilot project is supported by ABB’s RobotStudio Cloud technology, enabling teams all over the world to collaborate in real time. This remote new way of programming enables new levels of flexibility and instant refinement, resulting in greater efficiency and resilience, and no loss of planting time. With more than 25 years of offline programming experience, RobotStudio offers best-in-class digital technology, enabling 99 percent accuracy between simulation and reality. This allows users to reduce time for testing robotic solutions by 50 percent and takes production downtimes to zero.
ABB Robotics’ pilot project in the Amazon furthers its objective to contribute to sustainable transformation through intelligent robotics and automation solutions, supporting businesses to increase productivity, reduce waste and maximize efficiency. In 2022, ABB Robotics collaborated with the Parley Global Cleanup network, a non-profit organization collecting marine plastic waste, to create personalized designer items such as recycled furniture, using 3D additive printing. In accordance with the wishes of Junglekeepers, the pilot scheme in the rainforest with RobotStudio Cloud and YuMi will last for approximately six weeks (across May and June 2023). Following the conclusion of the pilot program, ABB will explore opportunities to assist Junglekeepers on a more extended basis as well as exploring further opportunities for its robotic solutions and cloud technologies to play a central role in driving sustainable transformation.
All-electric mine study from Australian operator IGO
A team of experts from the three companies will work together to design electrification for the Cosmos Nickel Project
Study will consider mine hauling operations, power distribution, energy efficiency and power management, with decarbonization and electrification crucial to the future of this industry
Perenti’s expertise and technical capabilities are combined with ABB’s eMine framework for electrification and automation
The collaboration setup by ABB and mining services group Perenti has been awarded its first contract by Australian mine operator IGO Ltd. to provide an all-electric mine study for the full underground electrification of IGO’s Cosmos Nickel Project in Western Australia.
Experts from the three companies will work together to provide a pathway for the optimum design of mine electrification at the IGO-owned Cosmos Project. This will include mine design optimization for electric operations, production and operating philosophy, fleet selection, power distribution and electrical infrastructure design, electrification system and battery management, ESG and safety impact analysis, and cost modelling of both Capex and Opex.
The study is a significant step in IGO’s commitment to continuously improving its sustainability performance by trialing new technologies and decarbonizing its operations, helping to create a cleaner energy future. The mine operator’s aspiration is to implement a complete mine electrification solution at Cosmos by mid-2025.
ABB and China Telecom unveil joint digitalization and industrial IoT lab
The laboratory is a collaboration between ABB Measurement & Analytics China Technology Center and E Surfing IoT, China Telecom’s Internet of Things subsidiary
The collaboration will explore the extensive integration of process automation solutions and empower multiple industries in China with digital transformation tools
The lab will support manufacturing industries with end-to-end industrial IoT solutions that help with real-time, data-driven decisions for safer, smarter and more sustainable operations
ABB and China Telecom unveil a joint digitalization and industrial IoT laboratory in Hangzhou, China. The collaboration between ABB Measurement & Analytics China Technology Center and China Telecom’s Internet of Things subsidiary E Surfing IoT will focus on developing end-to-end industrial IoT solutions for industrial companies based in China.
As China transforms its manufacturing industries, the industrial IoT field is developing fast. Currently, China is promoting the green and sustained growth agenda, bringing many new opportunities to areas such as smart manufacturing, digitalization, energy efficiency, and smart cities.
As part of the collaboration, ABB and E Surfing IoT will explore avenues for technology integration and industrial application of new technologies as well as new directions for next-generation industrial IoT solutions. The two teams will focus on comprehensive digital solutions that incorporate ABB sensor technology, China Telecom’s 5G network, industrial IoT and connectivity technology, as well as cloud computing.
Recently, ABB collaborated with E Surfing IoT in the field of smart water networks. As part of the collaboration, Chinese water companies were able to increase the quality of data from their water networks and hence the operational efficiency by an average of more than 20 percent through implementing IoT solutions, achieving energy savings and cost reduction.
This press release just released today looked interesting, but it also hit some of my anti-hype hot buttons. First, most automation news coming my way lately concerns robotics and more specifically cobots—collaborative robots. The collaborative may be interpreted in one of several ways. Today’s news concerns a collaboration (ahem) of Xaba, developers of xCognition, the first AI-driven robotics and CNC machine controller, and Rolleri Holding SpA focused on the development of a cognitive, autonomous collaborative robot (cobot) workcell for welding operations in manufacturing. The collaboration enables the integration of xCognition with Rolleri Robotic cobots.
So, I had to tackle “first” AI-driven robotics and CNC machine controller, and then “cognitive”. I asked for some technical back up. This from Massimiliano Moruzzi, CEO of Xaba.
Yes, we had AI , ML and neural nets for many years but 95% of the AI in manufacturing belongs to two classes: Predictive Analytics to mainly support maintenance and Object Detection & Recognition in essence Vision System. What we have developed at Xaba is not another AI predictive analytics or Computer Vision application that have flooded the manufacturing industry in the last few years.
Our xCognition technology is composed of two critical and unique AI-powered modules:
A proprietary Physic-Informed Machine Learning model to truly model the real physics of any robotics system, in essence its elasto-mechanical-dynamic behaviour.
A proprietary Large Language Model to enable any robotics system to auto-generate its own programs and tasks. Our LLM model is unique compared to other LLM models because of our patent pending technology that enables the creation of the “Manufacturing Domain experts data Corpus”, that is absolutely needed to train any LLM models about manufacturing processes (welding, assembling, drilling, polishing, cutting…) and how to automate programming generation.
That is why our xCognition is considered a cognitive brain for robotics, because has both critical component of any brains: a) The deep side of the brain, in essence the one that controls the body motion and task execution and b) the Cortex side of the brain in essence the capacity to receive instruction from humans or sensors and auto-generating the program for any desired task to be executed.
From the press release:
With Xaba’s xCognition any industrial robot can be empowered with both deep and cortex intelligence, enabling it to fully control its body and understand its environment using sensor data such as images, sounds, temperatures, and accelerations.
Xaba and Rolleri recently completed ISO 9283 tests in Xaba’s robotic lab. A FARO Vantage Laser Tracker System was used to acquire all data needed to train the xCognition machine learning model and to validate trajectory accuracy improvements. The successfully completed tests showed 10 times performance improvements in absolute positioning and trajectory accuracy, and five times improvements in relative positioning and trajectory accuracy.
As a follow up to the initial tests, Xaba and Rolleri will be undertaking Tig and Laser welding tests to further validate welding quality improvements such as improved accuracy and repeatability.
New cloud-based metrology reporting software consolidates disparate reporting tools to deliver metrology trend analysis for a broad spectrum of Hexagon and third-party metrology systems in one dashboard
Users can easily track real-time part quality trends during production on any device at any time, receive automated alerts and troubleshoot issues with interactive visualisation and CAD-to-metrology comparison reports
Built-in collaboration ensures that manufacturers can solve quality issues faster and share up-to-date information with colleagues and supply chain stakeholders through a simple web interface
The solution builds on Hexagon’s HxGN Robotic Automation software which integrates Hexagon’s 3D scanning and absolute positioning technologies and software in a single turn-key solution.
PRESTO enables end-to-end inspection in a turnkey package and is powered by 3D-laser scanning technologies.
Compared to other solutions on the market, PRESTO does not require a part to be specially prepared for inspection, and with no need to clean it afterwards.
PRESTO connects inspection to the rest of a manufacturer’s ecosystem. PRESTO can be fully programmed offline with a digital twin of the cell. This allows the programmer to progress the quality inspection set-up while the operator is conducting the measurements, offering maximum equipment efficiency and return on investment. Data from the inspection can also be compared to the digital twin, ensuring that design matches reality.
PRESTO requires minimal set-up, automates processes and is designed to be as easy to use as a smartphone. The system is also designed to be useable by quality professionals without robotics expertise, providing a safer and more efficient environment for manufacturers.
This robotic cell is built with safety in mind. Clear walls ensure others on the factory floor can safely see what’s happening and the mobile workstation enables the operator to freely choose the right distance to safely monitor the inspection.
I write a column for an Italian magazine called Automazione Oggi. The column is called News from America. The editor and I met in Shanghai at a computer supplier user conference when I was editor at Automation World. We traded columns. I left AW behind 10 years ago. She’s still there. I’m still writing.
This month as I looked for what was happening around the country, I couldn’t escape the conversations around AI and ChatGPT. Most of these thoughts are from the column for AO.
The Deep Question I pose for you today—Have you played with ChatGPT, yet? Do you even know what it is? Have you tried puzzling out all the conflicting conjectures from mainstream media that confuse what AI is (versus machine learning) versus what Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is? This AI is not even close to the evil overlords found in The Terminator.
Will anyone human ever write anything anymore? What will become of education? Will humans become slaves? Will this replace all our jobs? I think it is more than an American strategy of news writers and speakers to try to instill as much fear of the future as possible in their audience.
There is little new in these musings that couldn’t have been found in the Terminator movie series beginning in 1984. The theme of humans rebelling against the technological overlords is older than that.
I’ve covered technology advances for industrial and manufacturing applications for 25 years. I’ve observed, learned, used, contemplated technology for much longer than that. We have all seen this theme repeated to ad nauseam. The new technologies never turn out to be as apocryphal as worriers feared. Humans learned how to use each new technology for our benefit. Some have replaced jobs. Most have added other jobs. Yes, some technologies have been used against us (think the aggressive misinformation on social media). On the whole, technology has been our friend.
We have been living with a form of these chat machine learning devices for about 10 years. I’m at my sister-in-law’s winter house in Florida where they ask Alexa such important queries as “what is the temperature outside” or “what is the humidity” or “turn on the living room lights”. Apple brought us Siri.
The difference is that Alexa and Siri will perform certain control tasks. ChatGPT uses statistics. You cannot ask it questions of logic. It is not a decision-making device. You ask it a search question and it is just as likely to return as much wrong information as correct. Google, Bing, and the like return a list of links. You can click each link and decide if that is the information you were looking for. ChatGPT will return a narrative it has gleaned from its machine learning. You don’t know the source. You don’t know if it is correct. If you ask it to write a memo or essay, it will look at a word, then using statistics it will predict the most likely next word, and so on.
Only yesterday media was filled with stories about how we will live in the “metaverse” using virtual reality headsets and augmented reality glasses. I have worn headsets and glasses at many trade fairs including Hanover Messe in Germany for many years. We still have not devised useful applications for them. We have had ML embedded in our software and neural networks in our motion control for many years. Those are forms of AI. Can we use a chat function in industrial applications? I think we are many years away from an answer.