Fabtech, My First Trade Fair In Person in Two Years

It is nice to be back. Like riding a bicycle, there was no relearning required getting back into the trade show routine. Only difference for me was I drove from home (now in the northwest Chicago suburbs) in a little over an hour rather than the 4-1/2 hours from western Ohio.

There were many exhibitors. Fabtech is a metal working show with the addition of an additive manufacturing section. The show filled most of the south hall of McCormick, a big chunk of the north hall, a little of the east hall main floor, and most of the second level of the east hall for the additive technology show and conference.

I’ll be posting press releases of relevant companies later. I’ll summarize the experience here.

I learned in the additive hall that there are three major players—Markforge (which actually had a booth in the south hall), Essentium (where I got a half-hour with the CEO), and Stratasys (probably the first one I knew about a few years ago). These companies provide materials, machines, and software. Each has a slightly different emphasis from the others. I had a sense that they are beginning to get connected—as in connected to the rest of manufacturing and to the enterprise.

One company showed micro products. Tolerances of parts has gotten very good. I ran across the beginnings of “Manufacturing-as-a-Service” ideas. These machines being digital can and do collect amazing amounts of data.

Robots were my focus in the Fabtech part of the show. Especially cobots, where I spent some time in the Universal Robotics booth. Much more later, but the new thing with cobots is welding. An application previously reserved for the big six-axis machines, many welding applications are perfect for the smaller cobot. One company building on to Universal Robotics’ cobot claimed it could bring in a cobot welding system in the morning and have it in production after lunch. I believe them. I have seen how easy these are to set up and get started.

A company called Simpac builds presses. It has developed an XR application for iPads and similar devices that lets a tech virtually walk through the press, see through an exploded view to find the recalcitrant part, and then find part numbers of replacement parts. They’ve used it as a run-off, buy-off tool in these Covid reduced travel days.

Enterprise software was represented. I talked with the Epicor people. Wiser Systems has a location tracking product with an internally developed wireless mesh network. And automation companies Beckhoff Automation and Bosch Rexroth were also there. More in a later post.

Traffic was decent through the show floor. I don’t think many exhibitors were greatly disappointed, but they would have liked more traffic. With the first time back and Covid reappearing, I’d consider the show a success. But Covid has impacted a conference I was slated to speak at which is now going virtual. Oh, well. 

Attend Trade Fairs In Person

Tomorrow I will drive to downtown Chicago, well to McCormick Place anyway, to attend Fabtech and Rapid–two SME trade fairs. We’ll see how my muscle memory goes.

Speaking of trade fairs in person, I’ve sat on this news release from IMTS for a few weeks due to too much to do.

The news release proclaims IMTS 2022 to occupy all buildings of McCormick Place.

IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show unveiled the floor plan for IMTS 2022.

“IMTS 2022 will once again occupy all four buildings and all levels of the McCormick Place campus, as well as continue co-locating with the HANNOVER MESSE USA show in the East Building,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president and CXO at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, which owns and produces IMTS. “The demand for in-person events is starting to surge. We credit this enthusiasm to our ability to remain digitally connected with the manufacturing technology community throughout the pandemic with such online platforms as IMTS spark and the IMTS Network.”

IMTS 2022 runs from Sept. 12-17, 2022, and is North America’s largest manufacturing technology event; it attracted more than 129,000 registrants in 2018. In addition to unveiling the floor plan, which is available on IMTS.com, IMTS also launched a new logo and a redesigned website.

The newly redesigned IMTS.com website improves the visitor experience through a clear delineation between IMTS 2022 show-related information (the floor plan, exhibitor and conference information) and a large and growing body of content.

“IMTS spark, the IMTS Network, and our Supply Chain initiative generated thousands of hours of original video content and hundreds of stories during the pandemic. Our new site structure archives and organizes that content,” says Michelle Edmonson, senior director – events and content, AMT.

Hannover Messe Digital Edition Wrap Up

Hannover Messe experienced from my home office was a different experience. The Messe people built a good platform for “booth” appointments and press conferences. It was reasonably (not perfectly) easy to use. I had a number of good interviews. They did try for networking, but I haven’t seen a single digital networking interface that has really worked.

When I talked with marketing people from exhibiting companies, I received a mixed bag of responses about their experiences. Some had had enough good interactions to justify the investment. Some did not. I have no idea why the disparity. This press release from the Messe organizers tells us that they intend to bring the physically located event back but also to maintain a digital component. This hybrid event should expand the reach. 2022 will be interesting.

“The HANNOVER MESSE Digital Edition demonstrated the innovative power of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and IT companies. At the same time, it showed that the tradeshow of the future is hybrid,” said Dr. Jochen Köckler, CEO of Deutsche Messe AG. “Together with our exhibitors and partners, we succeeded in strengthening the core brand of the world’s most important industrial show: innovation, inspiration and networking in the age of industrial transformation – that is what HANNOVER MESSE stands for.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the world’s leading tradeshow for industry on Monday together with Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia. The 1,800 participating companies presented 10,500 products and innovations to 90,000 registered participants. The conference featured 1,500 experts discussing topics such as Industry 4.0, digitalization of industrial processes, supply chain management, lightweight construction, hydrogen, and electromobility.

“The positive response to the digital HANNOVER MESSE exceeded our expectations. At the same time, we saw that a digital tradeshow cannot replace the magic of a physical event,” reported Köckler, citing trust-building face-to-face discussions, concrete leads at the booth and the hands-on product experience as well as chance encounters that can lead to new business partnerships. “The personal contact simply is not there.”

“The digital HANNOVER MESSE confirmed that we are on the right path. Based on our experience this week, in the future we will bring together the best of the digital and analog worlds to provide our customers with a holistic hybrid tradeshow experience,” added Köckler.

During the five days of the live show, the 90,000 participants generated more than 3.5 million page views and submitted 700,000 search queries in the exhibitor and product search. In addition, the new conference and exhibitor live streams attracted approximately 140,000 views. “The HANNOVER MESSE Digital Edition 2021was a successful test case for us in every respect. We wanted to see which concrete benefits digital formats deliver to our exhibitors and visitors,” explained Köckler.

“Among other things, we now know that we are reaching completely new exhibitors and visitors. When we transfer this knowledge to our physical events, we maximize the bandwidth of our tradeshows many times over. In this way, we increase the relevance of HANNOVER MESSE,” concluded Köckler.

Beginning 19 April, all content from the HANNOVER MESSE Digital Edition will be available here. Interested parties who missed the live week can register to learn more about the exhibitors and products and watch the keynotes and panel discussions on demand.

The leading German industrial associations agree with Deutsche Messe’s assessment.

“I pay greatest respect to the organizers of the HANNOVER MESSE Digital Edition for a very successful event in pandemic times. The fair management put together an innovative format that demonstrates the capabilities of our industry despite Corona,” said Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). “The gathering of politicians, suppliers and business users from all around the world is an important signal to focus on innovative strength. More than ever it is important to grow out of the Corona crisis with new solutions and business models.”

“This year’s HANNOVER MESSE showed that the brand is also appealing in a digital format and continues to bring exhibitors and customers together. The electrical industry presented numerous product innovations and remains a key player in the global Industrie 4.0 movement that began at HANNOVER MESSE ten years ago,” said Dr. Gunther Kegel, president of the German Association of Electrical Engineering and Electronics Industries (ZVEI) and CEO of Pepperl + Fuchs SE. “Today, the ‘Industrie 4.0′ brand enjoys worldwide recognition and, together with AI and 5G, strengthens Germany’s competitive position as a manufacturing location. Our industry needs a strong exhibition location, which in the future will be a mixture of physical and digital offers.”

“HANNOVER MESSE is and remains the international showcase for industry even in times of Corona. This year’s Digital Edition brought companies, politics, media and many viewers from all over the world online to present fascinating technologies and discuss important topics,” said Thilo Brodtmann, CEO of the Association of German Machinery and Plant Manufacturers (VDMA). “Mechanical and plant engineering play a key role in industrial transformation. This applies to climate-neutral production and the mobility of tomorrow as well as intelligent production and logistics technologies.”

The next HANNOVER MESSE runs from 25 to 29 April 2022. Portugal is Partner Country.

Festo Productivity Master Demonstration at Hannover Fair

My last business trip was to the preview of Hannover Fair 2020. This year, Hannover Fair is once again digital (virtual). Companies are beginning to send previews of their stands and demonstrations. This one is from Festo. This company has some creative engineers who have done some cool things with pneumatics. This description of their 2021 Hannover Fair stand follows.

The Productivity Master, a modular demonstration system for personalized USB memory sticks from Festo, shows how automation technology will evolve along the value chain when combined with digitalization. The Productivity Master demonstration will be the centerpiece of the Festo exhibit at the upcoming Hannover Fair Digital Edition April 12-16.

Thanks to seamless connectivity, everything fits perfectly, from the mechanical and electrical systems to the intelligence. The Festo automation platform provides an integrated and practical system to link all Festo engineering tools, components, and solutions in hardware and software.

The demonstration shows how a plant can achieve a balance between mass production and individualization of a finished product. The electrical products, the axis mechanics, the electrics, and the software are planned as a complete automation platform with seamless connectivity.

With this consistency, users save a lot of time in their machines and systems – from planning to commissioning – and gain process reliability because everything fits together – Industry 4.0 included. 

Cloud-based concept

For example, the Productivity Master uses a cloud-based concept for registering and storing customer data complying with data protection regulations. This allows USB sticks to be produced with a personalized design as well as personalized data content. Customers could do this from home via the Internet without having to enter further data from other people on the supplier side.

Customers can use the same concept to reduce labor costs and coordinate the process from the home office. Festo’s IoT gateway securely connects the machine to the cloud so that operators cannot only retrieve production data from the cloud, but also access the machine’s diagnostic data, even if they are sitting hundreds of miles away in their home office.

Mask production and vaccines

The pandemic year 2020 revealed just such a contrast between mass production and individualization or small series production in the examples of mask production and vaccine research. The latter is more focused on precise data collection. For mass production, however, it is crucial to be able to use remote diagnostics and maintenance tools to maintain machine uptime as long as possible while protecting operator health. 

“It doesn’t matter if the product weighs a few ounces or more than 200 pounds – being a technology-neutral company, Festo has the product range to do this,” explained Nigel Dawson, Head of Business Development Electric Automation at Festo. “While the Productivity Master features a mix of pneumatic and electric automation, from flow sensors to servo drives, from pneumatic slide units to electric Cartesian robots, it is the way these products are connected that enables true digitalization.”

Seamless connectivity

By leveraging industry-standard networks such as EtherCAT, OPC-UA, IO Link, and MQTT, Festo can create a seamless data stream from individual sensors to remote IO, servo drives, controllers, and the cloud. “This technology-neutral approach has a major impact on energy efficiency and sustainability. We call this ‘seamless connectivity,’” added Dawson.

The Productivity Master was designed in record time utilizing Festo’s state-of-the-art unified engineering environment which includes project planning capabilities and management of digital twins. This allows designers and developers to work collaboratively worldwide. With the Festo Handling Guide Online HGO, users select and dimension 2D or 3D gantries in just three steps. For quick and easy programming, configuration, and commissioning in a shared virtual environment, they use the Festo Automation Suite.

Digital Customer Journey

“Along the journey to digitalization, we enable customers to correctly and efficiently select and size products online, add them to a shopping cart in a seamless process, view pricing and delivery in real time, and track products throughout the supply chain,” said Dawson, describing this digital value chain. “With developments in artificial intelligence (AI), Festo is expanding concepts such as digital nameplates, digital twinning and, of course, AI-driven predictions of machine conditions for remote maintenance.”

Four fully connected stations

In a show setting, attendees create the production order at the first station by registering with their name and perhaps a picture. A QR code identifies the visitors at the machine. A vision sensor SBSI from Festo registers the visitor and starts the production order, followed by stock management. This mechatronic complete solution, made up among other things of a planar surface gantry EXCM in size 40 for fast picking and placing of the USB memory stick, offers all the options from stock management and workpiece handling to the cloud.

The USB memory stick is transported, printed, turned over, and then passed on. The work steps at the second station involve holding, moving, handling, rotating, positioning, and identifying the workpiece position as well as identifying, separating, gripping, and applying labels. Fast transfer to a label printer is carried out at station 3 by a highly dynamic linear gantry EXCT with dynamic servo motors EMMT-AS and servo drives CMMT-AS. The rotation functions are performed by electric rotary drives ERMH.

The process is completed in station 4, where files are uploaded to the USB memory stick. Station 4 operations include holding the workpiece, turning, and carefully positioning the cap and press-fitting delicate parts. This is done using the attractively priced electric cylinders EPCO and rotary drives ERMO. 

Automate Forward Keynote Speakers, Agenda Announced

This announcement for Automate Forward, the conference and trade show of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), popped into my inbox this morning. The conference part of pandemic-era events draws many excellent speakers. The technology has greatly improved over the years to at least not getting in the way, if not improving the experience. Networking and trade show visiting still lag, but I’ve seen strides in the booth visitation area. 

A personal observation from an old guy. I remember past lives where each of the areas of this trade show were large events in themselves. Industry and technology consolidation have reduced the size, but the importance to manufacturing remains.

In the spring of 2021, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA),  AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA), and A3 Mexico  will become the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the global advocate for the benefits of automating. A3 promotes automation technologies and ideas that transform the way business is done. Combined, these associations represent over 1,100 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms from throughout the world that drive automation forward.

A3 hosts a number of industry-leading events, including the new virtual Automate Forward (March 22-26, 2021) and the Automate Show & Conference (June 6-9, 2022, in Detroit, MI).

More than 80 global experts will speak at Automate Forward, the world’s premier virtual automation trade show and conference set for March 22-26, 2021.  The event also features more than 250 leading companies in an expanded exhibit area, enhanced networking opportunities, and a look at innovative automation startups.

Speakers include senior executives from companies such as 3M, General Motors, Intel, Microsoft, UPS, IBM, GE, FedEx, Siemens, and Proctor & Gamble.

“With the adoption of automation accelerating, and the impossibility of holding large in-person shows in the US at the moment, Automate Forward will play a critical role in educating companies about how robotics, AI, machine vision, motion control, and related automation technologies can immediately help improve product quality, productivity, competitiveness, and worker safety,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the event’s host.

Automate Forward will include a robust virtual exhibit hall and networking center where attendees can connect directly with companies and experts to solve their automation solutions and get immediate answers. The trade show will be open daily from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM ET for attendees to learn about products and systems that can help with unique challenges.

A3 will share a sneak peek of the association’s new brand identity at 9:30 am ET on Monday, March 22 exclusively for Automate Forward attendees. Join live to learn about how its four current brands – RIA, AIA, MCMA, and A3 Mexico – are combing to create the new A3 representing over 1100 global companies and organizations active in automation.

Automate Forward Keynote Sessions

Monday, March 22

10 AM ET PANEL: The New Industries Driving The Growth of Automation and Robotics
Robert Little, CEO, ATI Industrial Automation
Mark Lewandowski, Director – Robotics Innovation, Procter & Gamble
John Dulchinos, Vice President, Jabil
Ted Dengel, Managing Director, Operations Technology and Innovation, FedEx Ground
John Bubnikovich, Chief Regional Officer – North America, KUKA Robotics

11 AM ET: The Competitive Advantage is Here and It’s All About Digital
Raj Batra, President, Digital Industries, Siemens

1:30 PM ET: Moving Automation Forward: What is required?

Greg Brown, Vice President of Strategy and R&D, UPS

Tuesday, March 23

10 AM ET PANEL: The 2021 State of the Automation Industry Executive Roundtable
Mike Cicco, President & CEO, FANUC AMERICA
Patrick McDermott, President North America, B&R Automation
Dr. Thomas Evans, CTO Robotics, Honeywell Intelligrated
Christine Boles, Vice President, Internet of Things Group – General Manager, Industrial Solutions Division, Intel
Sebastien Schmitt, North American Robotics Division Manager, Stäubli

11 AM ET: Human Aware Robot Software and Tools for Delivering it
Rodney Brooks, Co-Founder and CTO, Robust.AI

1:30 PM ET: 3M’s Automation Journey: Driving Growth & Productivity
Debarati Sen, Vice President & General Manager Abrasive Systems Division Safety & Industrial Business Group, 3M

Wednesday, March 24

10 AM ET PANEL: The Rise of Smart Automation
Rashmi Misra, GM AI Platforms, Business Development, Microsoft
Jorge Ramirez, Global Director Automation and Chief Mfg. Cybersecurity Officer, General Motors
Rishi Vaish, CTO and VP, IBM AI Applications, IBM
John Lizzi, Executive Leader – Robotics, GE

Tom Panzarella, Senior Director of Perception, Seegrid

11 AM ET: Using Deep Learning and Simulation to Teach Robots Manipulation in Complex Environments
Dieter Fox, Senior Director of Robotics Research, NVIDIA

1:30 PM ET: Automation and the Future of Manufacturing
Indranil Sircar, CTO, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft

Thursday, March 25

10 AM ET PANEL: How Collaborative Automation is Driving Productivity
Co-sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics
Milton Guerry, President, Schunk USA
Joe Gemma, Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Calvary Robotics
Greg Smith, President of the Industrial Automation Group at Teredyne
David Robers, Robotics Sales Manager – Americas, Denso Robotics

11 AM ET: Value Chain Integration and Optimization Through Robotics in Consumer segments and Retail
Marc Segura, Executive Global Business Line Leader – Consumer Segment Service Robotics, ABB Robotics and Machine Automation

Friday, March 26

10 AM ET PANEL: Autonomous Mobile Robots: How to Get Started
Karen Leavitt, Chief Marketing Officer, Locus Robotics

Søren E. Nielsen, President, Mobile Industrial Robots
Matt Rendall, CEO and Co-Founder, OTTO Motors
Rob Sullivan, President, AutoGuide Mobile Robots
Melonee Wise, CEO and Founder, Fetch Robotics

11 AM ET: Using an End-to-End Workflow to Build, Iterate, and Operationalize Deep Learning-Powered Visual Inspection Projects

Andrew Ng, CEO & Founder, Landing AI

Emerson Virtual Exchange Had Sustainability Emphasis

The last segment of the Emerson Virtual Exchange had a sustainability emphasis. I sat in on the March 2 Keynote – Making Sustainability a Core Business Strategy. There are more sessions March 4 and again next week.

The keynote speakers were:

  • Mike Train, Emerson President and Corporate Sustainability Lead
  • Randy Page, Emerson Automation Group President Final Control
  • Michelle George, VP Engineering and Storage & Transmission Operations, Enbridge
  • Greg Houston, President, Lakeside Process Controls (Emerson Local Impact Partner)

Sustainability has evolved from “the right thing to do” to “business critical”.  It touches nearly every aspect of business and our personal lives. Mike Train and Randy Page as they discuss the drivers for Sustainability, the opportunities to get started and practical steps to move your Sustainability program forward.  And as Hydrogen emerges to transform our energy mix, an important opportunity many countries and energy companies are exploring is the blending of Hydrogen into the Natural Gas infrastructure.  Enbridge’s Michelle George discusses this important step in ‘greening the pipeline’ with Emerson’s Randy Page and Lakeside Process Controls’ Greg Houston.  

Page discussed the pressures coming from society, government, customers, and the board to pursue sustainability goals. There is an urgency to improve the product mix with a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Train noted the role of automation as an enabler for business success. He stressed that his many conversations with business, government, and academic leaders focus on the importance of collaboration amongst them.

Train laid out three points: Emerson of—greening of Emerson; by—Emerson helps customers achieve sustainability goals; with—collaboration with government, academia, other groups.

His focus is to build a sustainability culture with goal 20% reduction by 2028. Emerson taps into the creativity of employees, for example,  gamifying the search for waste through “Treasure Hunts”. Spreading the word within the company has generated lots of ideas.

Sustainability is great for business, as it’s essentially eliminating waste. Emissions reduction fits right in Final Control wheelhouse. Valves can be a big source of emissions. Emerson has improved valve packing and sealing technology and have a new PRV solution.

Michelle George discussed the work at Enbridge gas distribution and storage on sustainability target net zero emissions. The company has a pilot project greening pipelines by introducing hydrogen into pipelines and storage leveraging the expertise of supplier Lakeside Process controls. The pilot project uses excess electrical power from sustainable generating for hydrolysis of water, capturing hydrogen, and either capturing or releasing oxygen. This can be blended into natural gas or use existing pipelines and storage to handle hydrogen as a fuel of the future.

Greg Houston discussed the challenges for pipeline and valve sealing, since H2 is a smaller molecule. Users would require a greater volume of gas for an equivalent heat content.

Train summarized, “Achievement will not be with a big bang, but with smaller efforts over time.”

Make your plans for a live Emerson Exchange on September 27-30 at the Gaylord in Washington, D.C. I see that the board is still accepting proposals for presentations if you have some good stories to tell.