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Tag Archives | automation integrator

Automate Showcases Future of Industrial Robotics, And It’s Remarkable

Attending the recent Automate Show in Chicago was an extraordinary experience that allowed me and more than 20,000 other attendees an opportunity to peer into the future of industrial robotics. Being part of a company that is at the forefront of the industrial robotics and manufacturing automation industries still provides only one perspective, and Automate brought together leaders from all corners of the industry, such as Fanuc, ABB, Kuka, Keyence and Cognex, to showcase advances and share insights. The range of technologies on display that were designed to enhance processes, improve product quality and lower manufacturing costs was astonishing. I walked away from the show with a deeper sense of awareness of two notions: the rise of robots is upon us, and machine vision provides robots with the artificial intelligence that will forge the future of robotics in our increasingly globalized society.

The Rise of Robots

Material removal, end-of-arm tooling by Concept Systems

As many in automation are aware, robots are becoming an increasingly popular answer to completing dangerous or repetitive tasks: grinding, deburring, bin-picking, part inspections, etc. Several manufacturers and esteemed integrators assembled elaborate booths displaying various robot capabilities, many currently in use and others as possible future applications. This alone is indicative of the rise of robots, but it is only the beginning. The leading robot manufacturers all appear to be focused on making robots simpler to program/configure and easier to integrate with technologies that create incredible functionality. The result: collaborative robots.

The show floor featured a number of collaborative robots performing a wide variety of tasks from part handling to packaging, some even bagged candy to hand out or served ice cream in a cone. Using various sensing technologies, the applications for collaborative robots to work with human counterparts are infinite. Long gone seem to be the days of robots in hard guarding and being tucked away in the corner, wrapped in ominous metal fencing. Today’s robots are becoming more flexible in their range of applications, friendly in their interface, and free to be placed anywhere on the manufacturing floor.

Forging the Future

machine vision, part inspection, Concept SystemsAfter seeing the surprising versatility of machine vision applications on display at Automate, it became clear that machine vision is the technological advancement that will launch industrial robotics into the future. When combined with the interconnectivity of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other smart tools such as mobile analytics, machines equipped with technologies like 3D embedded vision, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging, and deep learning will possess a primitive form of artificial intelligence that allows greater flexibility in application and the ability to actively learn processes without programming.

For example, Cognex and Keyence both have solutions that can compare 8-10 different part characteristics in a fraction of a second. These are designed to be mounted on the end of a robot so you have a complete solution that is capable of part picking and inspection. Part picking and part inspection are tasks that are often hard to fill and results can vary widely as operators tire throughout long shifts.

In another instance, Fanuc is working on developing the ability to configure a robot through learning instead of programming, specifically the capability to give a robot a task, like picking objects out of a bin and putting them into another container. In this scenario, once the robot it is configured it will spend some amount of time figuring out how to complete the task via trial and error, and within a short time the robot will have mastered the task as well as if it had been programmed by an engineer. It seems apparent that as we continue to combine advancing vision technologies with low cost, power processing abilities the future is endless as to what can be accomplished.

Although the next Automate isn’t until April of 2019, I highly recommend that you get this event on your calendar early and plan to attend. The Automate show attracts more than 20,000 visitors, all looking for new ways to enhance their manufacturing processes, lower production costs, and increase their competitive edges.

Concept Systems honored as a Small Business Supplier by Bechtel

Concept Systems Panel team

Concept Systems’ Panel shop team.

Albany, Ore. (May 3, 2016) – Bechtel Group, the largest construction company in the United States, recently recognized 35 companies with its 2015 Small Business Supplier Award for outstanding contribution and commitment. Concept Systems is proud to be among those honored for technical ability and workmanship, as well as knowledge and responsiveness.

Companies were evaluated on overall performance, delivering quality services on time, working collaboratively to reach milestones, and meeting or exceeding project expectations relative to safety, construction, performance, technical expertise, and environmental compliance.

Concept received high praise from Sunnie Scott, a senior expeditor with Bechtel who said, “I’m always impressed with the knowledge, responsiveness and patience your team demonstrates time after time in getting purchase orders executed, documentation submitted, and panels fabricated in a timely manner.”

Hundreds of candidates were considered, and Concept expressed its understanding of the significance of the Small Business Supplier Award. “Bechtel is a leading vendor for both the public and private sectors and works with literally thousands of companies throughout the year,” said Michael Gurney, Concept’s CEO. “Our team takes pride in meeting high standards for quality and exceeding client’s expectations. Their performance helped us garner this recognition.” Continue Reading →

An ROI Approach to Budgeting

results-productionDetailed evaluation of anticipated return on investment for each prioritized project helps gain project approval and maximize project results.

In my last two blogs, I discussed the importance of an automation roadmap and how to get started developing one. Hopefully, you’ve created a prioritized list of potential projects and are now ready to tackle how to budget for them.

Many people seem to think that in order to establish a budget, they need to develop a spec, reach out to vendors and conduct a formal Request for Quotation (RFQ) process. All of this takes a lot of time and energy, so I hope it is welcome news that I do not recommend this approach. Rather, look at it from a Return on Investment (ROI) perspective.

What payback period does your company expect on each investment? A two-year ROI seems to be an undocumented industry standard, but each company will have its own. Meeting or beating that payback timeline is typically important for project approval. Continue Reading →