ABB Releases Report Looking At State of Automotive Manufacturing

All of the manufacturing automation and cybersecurity suppliers have been conducting market research that they are releasing for us all to get a sense of what customers are thinking. This one from ABB Robotics looks into the global automotive supply chain. 

  • Global ABB Automotive Manufacturing Outlook Survey confirms automation and robotics are crucial to the future of the industry
  • New OEMs and start-ups lead the charge, while suppliers are lagging behind
  • ABB’s flexible and smart solutions make automation viable for companies of all sizes

A new global survey commissioned by ABB Robotics and conducted by Automotive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS) concludes that while automation is considered critical to the future of the automotive industry, many companies in the supply chain have yet to take advantage of the benefits offered by robotics and digitalization.

Almost all respondents (97%) believe that automation and robotics will transform the automotive industry over the next five years, with a similar number (96%) predicting that software, digitalization and data management will be equally significant. When asked about the pace of investment, most believed that new OEMs and start-ups were well ahead of the curve, investing either ‘very well’ (38%) or ‘quite well’ (28%), followed by legacy OEMs who were thought to be embracing automation ‘very well’ by 31%. However, only 7% believed that Tier 2 suppliers were making the necessary investment, with Tier 3 suppliers further behind with only 3%.

The ABB survey gathered opinions on a range of topics from a comprehensive mix of nearly 400 industry experts from vehicle manufacturers and suppliers at all levels of management and engineering as well as other key professionals throughout the automotive world.

Yokogawa Updates OpreX Process Automation Family

Yokogawa has sent a couple of process automation announcements recently. It’s been quiet on my radar for a few years. Nice to see some investment in product development. The first is the release of OpreX Robot Management Core, an application in the Asset Management and Integrity family. The second concerns strengthened industrial network support in CENTUM in the Control and Safety System family of solutions.

OpreX Robot Management Core

Yokogawa Electric Corp. announces the development and release of OpreX Robot Management Core, a software application in the OpreX Asset Management and Integrity family.

OpreX Robot Management Core is a key product in the Yokogawa robot operations solution. By integrating the management of various types of robots that perform plant maintenance tasks conventionally carried out by humans, this software will help customers maintain their facilities in a safer and more efficient manner. In addition, when connected to a plant’s control and safety systems, it enables the utilization of manufacturing site data that has been acquired by robots, and the issuing of procedural instructions to robots, thus enabling the first step to be taken toward autonomous plant operations.

In plants that have been designed around people, there is a need for the efficient management of different types of robots to carry out a variety of tasks. In response to this need, Yokogawa began discussions with robot manufacturers in 2019 and in the following year went on to develop a prototype robot management and operations platform that has since been used in proof-of-concept field tests with several customers. Leveraging the experience gained through these tests, Yokogawa has developed this software to make it easier to introduce robots in plants.

OpreX Robot Management Core is a software application that improves safety and efficiency in plant maintenance operations by facilitating the utilization of robots. Depending on customer requirements, it can be provided for use in either an on-premises or cloud environment.

1. Integrated management of different types of robots

This software enables the registration, management, and operation of multiple types of robots in a unified manner. It supports the Spot four-legged robot from Boston Dynamics and the EX ROVR autonomous, explosion-proof, plant inspection robot from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The software’s management screen, which allows users to check the status of individual robots, is viewed in a web browser, enabling remote operations.

2. Connection with other systems

This product was developed with the ability to link to Yokogawa’s OpreX Collaborative Information Server. When doing so, the data collected by robots can be combined with data from control systems, safety instrumented systems, and integrated asset management systems for centralized management. This means that application development and data analysis can also be performed easily not just for maintenance tasks, but other operational tasks too. If an interface for robot utilization is built on the OpreX Collaborative Information Server, this enables the dispatch of robots to plant sites and the performance of safety inspections based on alarms detected.

The development of OpreX Robot Management Core enables Yokogawa to fully rollout its robot operations solution aimed at increasing workplace safety. By providing consulting, assistance in the selection and procurement of hardware and software from strategic partners and other sources, and engineering, operational support and other services, Yokogawa is able to help customers resolve issues encountered in their businesses and can develop specific robot and drone applications. Through this one-stop solution, Yokogawa will ensure the reliability, availability, and sustainability of robot operations and help to achieve autonomous plant operations.

Yokogawa Upgrades the CENTUM VP Integrated Production Control System

Yokogawa Electric Corp. announces the May 31, 2024 release of CENTUM VP R6.11.10, an enhanced version of the CENTUM VP integrated production control system that is a core product in the OpreX Control and Safety System family of solutions.

With this new version of CENTUM VP, plant uptime is improved through the addition of a redundancy function to a new IO card that supports communications via the PROFINET communications protocol for industrial networks. Furthermore, to reduce project costs and improve efficiency in plant operations, functional enhancements have been made to the Unified Alarms and Conditions Server (UACS) and the CCC Inside for the Yokogawa CENTUM VP compressor control solution.

Yokogawa has developed a new PROFINET IO card that supports a redundancy function, and by doing so, has made high reliability and high uptime a reality.

AI Comes to Vision Software

Vision software for guiding robots news goes along with the burst of robot news. In this case, AI meets vision software. 

AI software company Micropsi Industries today announced MIRAI 2, the latest generation of its AI-vision software for robotic automation. MIRAI 2 comes with five new features that enhance manufacturers’ ability to reliably solve automation tasks with variance in position, shape, color, lighting or background. 

What sets the MIRAI 2 AI-Vision Software apart from traditional vision solutions is the ability to operate with real factory data without the need for CAD data, controlled light, visual-feature predefinition or extensive knowledge of computer vision.

Gary Jackson, CEO of Micropsi Industries, noted, “Recognizing the complexities of implementing advanced AI in robotic systems, we’ve assembled expert teams that combine our in-house talent with select system integration partners to ensure that our customers’ projects are supported successfully, no matter how complex the requirements.”

MIRAI is an advanced AI-vision software system that enables robots to dynamically respond to varying conditions within their factory environment, including variance in position, shape, color, lighting and background. What sets MIRAI apart from traditional vision solutions is the ability to operate with real factory data without the need for CAD data, controlled light, visual-feature predefinition or extensive knowledge of computer vision.

The five new features that will be available to MIRAI 2 users are:

Robot skill-sharing: This new feature allows users to share skills between multiple robots, at the same site or elsewhere. If conditions are identical (lighting, background, etc.), very little or no additional training is required in additional installations. MIRAI can also handle small differences in conditions by recording data from multiple installations into a single, robust skill. 

Semi-automatic data recording: Semi-automatic training allows users to record episodes (of data) for skills without having to hand-guide the robot, reducing the workload on users and increasing the quality of the recorded data. MIRAI can now automatically record all the relevant data—users only need to prepare the training situations and corresponding robot target poses.

No F/T sensor: Training and running skills is now possible without ever connecting a Force/Torque sensor. This reduces cost, simplifies tool geometry and cabling setup, and overall makes skill applications more robust and easier to train.

Abnormal condition detection: MIRAI can now be configured to stop skills when unexpected conditions are encountered, allowing users to handle these exceptions in their robot program or alert a human operator.

Industrial PC: The MIRAI software can now be run on a selection of industrial-grade hardware for higher dependability in rough factory conditions.

Teradyne Robotics to bring the power of AI to robotics with NVIDIA

More robotics news with the added bonus of more NVIDIA AI-chip news. Usually I have written about Universal Robots and MiR, but each has been acquired by Teradyne. Looks like a new marketing angle with Teradyne Robotics. This company has collaborated with NVIDIA to add AI-type compute to its robot line.

Teradyne Robotics, which includes collaborative robot (cobot) company Universal Robots (UR) and autonomous mobile robot (AMR) company MiR, has announced a collaboration with NVIDIA to bring new AI capabilities to automation applications.

UR has integrated NVIDIA accelerated computing into its cobot for faster planning, making path planning 50-80x faster than today’s solutions. The combination of the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Orin, a complete system-on-module (SOM) designed for edge AI applications, the cuMotion path planner from the NVIDIA Isaac Manipulator platform, UR’s new PolyScope X software and its UR5e cobot platform is expected to increase application potential and efficiency for automation customers.

Teradyne Robotics has also announced the launch of a new AI-powered solution for pallet handling, the MiR1200 Pallet Jack. The newest product from MiR harnesses advanced AI pallet detection powered by the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Orin module. The MiR1200 Pallet Jack uses 3D vision to identify, pick up and deliver pallets with unprecedented precision, even in dynamic and complex environments. With the addition of this Pallet Jack to the portfolio, MiR has become a one-stop shop for autonomous material handling at factories and warehouses.

ABB Unveils Mobile Robot With AI-technology

ABB has entered the mobile robot fray and enhanced the offering through the recent acquisition of Sevensense. This acquisition gives the company an AI-based navigation technology it calls Visual SLAM. The company also adds a new AMR Studio software enabling even first-time robot users the ability to easily program and operate fleets of mobile robots.

ABB Robotics has announced its first Flexley Tug T702 autonomous mobile robot equipped with AI-based Visual SLAM navigation technology and the new AMR Studio software, enabling first-time robot users to easily program and operate entire fleets of mobile robots. The new capabilities simplify configuration and can reduce commissioning time by up to 20 percent, paving the way for a workplace where intelligent robots operate autonomously, amid a critical shortage of skilled labor.

“Following our acquisition of Sevensense in January, I’m pleased to offer our first AMR with AI-based Visual SLAM technology and AMR Studio software. This combination of mobile robotics and leading AI-powered navigation technology brings unmatched intralogistics flexibility and scalability for ABB’s customers, in an environment that is shifting from linear production to dynamic manufacturing networks,” said Marc Segura, President of ABB Robotics. “The AMR T702 is a perfect match for a wide range of industries, such as automotive, consumer goods sector or logistics, especially in large, busy warehouses and fulfillment centers where the environment is constantly changing.” 

ABB Opens Updated Robotics Facility

Robotics news seems to present itself all the time. I’m writing this from an independent coffee house in a small town in northern Illinois. The guy at the table behind me is quoting a robotic packaging system to a client. Weird.

ABB held a big unveiling day at its Auburn Hills, MI facility that had recently been refitted and upgraded. I attended virtually—just could not work out the logistics to make it physically. Impressive event.

In short:

  • Refit will support customers and ABB’s leadership in growing US robotics segments, including Packaging & Logistics, Food & Beverage, Construction, Lifesciences & Healthcare and Automotive electric vehicle production 
  • New factory serves as US hub, developing and manufacturing AI-enabled technology to help businesses respond to labor shortages, global uncertainty and the need to operate more sustainably  
  • Expansion is latest in over $30 million Robotics investment in the US since 2019 including Packaging & Logistics headquarters in Atlanta, Lifesciences and Healthcare Research Lab in Houston and Research and Development Center in San Jose.

The expanded facility reflects ABB’s commitment to long-term growth in the US market, which is predicted to follow global growth rates for robotics of 8% CAGR, as well as the company’s global investment to build Robotics and Automation capacity and create new, highly skilled jobs. This is ABB’s third global robotics factory expansion in three years across China, Europe and the Americas and is part of its efforts to further strengthen its local-for-local footprint.

With a 30 percent increase in facility space, the new Auburn Hills facility will enhance ABB’s ability to serve as the leading strategic robotics partner for its growing customer base. Through the new Customer Experience Center, ABB will showcase its leading hardware and software solutions, pioneering the latest digital and AI-powered automation technologies with customers, and developing and manufacturing next generation robots. 

The expanded facility will support ABB Robotics’ specialist centers including its Packaging and Logistics hub in Atlanta, Georgia; its Life Sciences and Healthcare hub at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas; and AI Research Lab in San Jose, California. Complete with a new training center, the facility will educate over 3,000 workers and students each year, equipping them with the skills to thrive in a new era of AI-powered automation.   

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.