Hexagon Releases Quality Application Updates

I don’t cover quality applications all that much, but these news items from hexagon show use cases for their technology.

Hexagon enables manufacturers to reduce part quality issues faster with cloud metrology reporting with Metrology Reporting, a Nexus App.

  • 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

Hexagon halves quality inspection cycles and enables flexible manufacturing with the PRESTO robotic inspection cell.

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. 

AI, ChatGPT and Manufacturing

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.

Today’s podcast subject from Seth Godin concerns ChatGPT and AI, it’s written by AI, and it’s read by AI. Something to ponder.

But we wonder:

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.

Go make a difference.

Rockwell Invests in Ready Robotics

Rockwell Automation invests strategically in a number of ways. It made an investment in PTC mostly to have access to ThingWorx and input into other technologies. It also acquired outright Plex and FiiX that gave it inhouse cloud capabilities. This investment is in READY Robotics in order to better integrate the various control technologies—something ongoing for many years that still requires development.

This investment and technology development should help machine builders and users if all that integration lives up to the promise (as a former machine builder and user, I can’t help the mild skepticism, we always hoped it would work).

Rockwell Automation Announces Strategic Investment in READY Robotics and Collaboration to Streamline Robot Implementation

Rockwell Automation announced March 2, 2023 a strategic investment in READY Robotics, a pioneering company in software-defined automation and a Rockwell Technology Partner.

READY Robotics’ ForgeOS platform enables operators to control and program the most popular brands of robots from a single user-friendly interface with minimal training. Using Task Canvas, one of many useful ForgeOS Productivity Apps included with the platform, operators can quickly create new automation tasks with a powerful, no-code, flowchart-based interface.

Rockwell and READY Robotics have collaborated to integrate ForgeOS with Rockwell’s line of Logix controllers and design and simulation software. The combination will simplify robot integration and accelerate time-to-market of industrial automation deployments. Rockwell’s investment will foster continued development of the ForgeOS platform, support its integration with Logix, and accelerate adoption across the Rockwell ecosystem of system integrators and technology and channel partners.

“We are excited to work with READY Robotics to help further simplify the use of diverse robotic systems in automation solutions for our customers. Linking the intuitive ForgeOS software suite with Logix control, design, and emulation capabilities allows a broader range of businesses to implement these powerful tools and spend less time getting their systems up and running,” said Matheus Bulho, vice president and general manager, Production Automation at Rockwell.

“Historically, automation has been hampered by software silos between robot vendors,” said Ben Gibbs, CEO and co-founder of READY Robotics. “READY’s interface alleviates this issue, eases deployment, and enables automation where it might have been prohibitive before, especially in high-mix operations. Our platform enables programming and control of over 3 million compatible robots deployed today.”

Still More News Of Robust Growth In Robotics Market

This news came my way last month relative to the robotics market. OnRobot drives market growth with groundbreaking D:PLOY Platform delivering unrivaled reductions in application deployment time. I had a look at this last fall at the IMTS/Hannover Messe event in September 2022.

D:PLOY automates robotic deployment for multiple applications directly on the factory floor with zero programming or simulation needed, resulting in dramatic time savings of up to 90% over conventional solutions.

“The D:PLOY platform and its ability to truly democratize automation has been OnRobot’s goal from the beginning, and we have been laying the groundwork for years,” said Enrico Krog Iversen, OnRobot CEO. “Today, we offer the industry’s broadest range of tools and application solutions for every leading robot brand – all based on our “One System, Zero Complexity” philosophy. Now that the building blocks are in place, we can finally launch the first version of D:PLOY, which will be a market enabler across the industry.”

Almost every conversation I have gets around to shortage of skilled people. This is seen as one solution.

D:PLOY addresses one of the industry’s greatest challenges: the shortage of skilled robotics engineers and integrators who can help smaller, less-experienced manufacturers break through existing barriers to automation.

Universal Robots Cobot Awareness and 2022 Results

Two items from Universal Robots recently came my way. One discusses new uses for Cobots, while the other reveals Universal’s growth in 2022.

Turnkey robotic solutions, complete with all hardware, software, sensors and interfaces, will be powerful automation drivers in 2023, according to Universal Robots

“In 2023, cobot automation will become more sophisticated yet more straightforward to use,” predicts Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots (UR). “We are going to continue seeing phenomenal growth within complete robotic systems for applications such as welding, palletizing and machine tending, propelled by UR partners creating full solutions powered by our collaborative robot arms.”

Sales of UR cobots for integration in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) solutions grew about 50% in 2022. UR enters the new year with more than 80 OEM partners integrating UR cobots in turnkey systems, and over 300 UR+ partners launching application kits and components certified to work seamlessly with the UR cobots.

A significant share of new cobot-powered turnkey systems now handle welding applications. UR’s welding channel grew over 80% in 2022 as new cobot welders hit factory floors in places such as Raymath, a sheet metal manufacturer in Ohio, where the company CEO was able to visit a local UR partner, THG Automation, offering cobot welding solutions.

As more companies move towards cobot automation, many will want to handle heavier payloads. In 2023, UR’s new UR20 cobot becomes available to customers. The UR20 is built for 20kg payloads, with faster speeds and superior motion control all within a lightweight, small footprint system.

Universal Robots Reports Record Revenue Despite Global Uncertainty

Universal Robots, the Danish collaborative robot (cobot) company, has reported Q4 revenue of USD 85 million, bringing 2022 annual revenue to USD 326 million, up 5% on 2021. On a constant currency basis, growth over the year was 12%.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Kim Andreasen, said: “We are proud to have continued to grow our business despite facing a difficult macroeconomic environment in 2022. We focused on those things we are able to control, and we overcame supply chain challenges to report our highest annual revenue to date.”

The demand for automation in Europe slowed in 2022 following the start of the war in Ukraine. Universal Robots’ results have also been impacted by the change in exchange rates, which created an additional headwind to growth.

Despite the change in global markets, overall demand for automation is predicted to continue to grow in 2023 and beyond, driven by growing labor shortages and changing workplace expectations.

Universal Robots has taken steps in 2022 to meet this growing demand. The company’s President, Kim Povlsen, said: “We invested last year in building world-class expertise in welding, palletizing and machine tending. We have also been working with our ecosystem partners to make automation easier for our customers than ever before. 2022 has been an important year for the company overall. We started construction on new headquarters, reached our 1000 employee milestone and launched a ground-breaking new cobot.”

ABB Adds Power, Speed to Cobot Line

Collaborative Robots, also known as cobots, have added juice to the overall robot market. Just as I thought robotics was a pretty stagnant market, cobots arrived to bring automation to applications previously too small for the size and expense of industrial robots. 

What started with startup Danish firms has spread to large and established firms. ABB, one of the originals, has announced a new cobot series.

  • SWIFTI CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot is six times faster and five times more precise than other robots in its class
  • Combination of high payload capability – up to 11kg – and speed improves production efficiency by up to 44%
  • Features ensure safe deployment alongside workers and ease-of-use for non-robotics specialists

ABB has launched the SWIFTI™ CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot, bridging the gap between industrial and collaborative robots. Combining class-leading speed and accuracy with expanded load handling capability of up to 11kg, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 can be used in a wide variety of production and product handling applications – from machine tending and palletizing to pick-and-place and screwdriving.

Powered by ABB’s OmniCore™ C90XT controller, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, making it ideal for tasks requiring consistent accuracy and repeatability. This, combined with a top speed of 6.2m/s, and payload options from 7 kg to 11 kg and reaches from 0.9 to 1.4, enables the SWIFTI CRB 1300 to perform a range of higher payload tasks including screwdriving, assembly, pick-and-place, and palletizing. With protection against dust and moisture (up to IP67), it can also be used in demanding environments, making it ideal for machine tending applications.

The SWIFTI CRB 1300 prioritizes operator safety, with a safety laser scanner integrated with ABB’s SafeMove collaborative safety software..

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