Automate 2023 kicked off in Detroit, Mich. on Monday, May 22, 2023, where 600 leading exhibitors showcased cutting-edge manufacturing automation technology.
Produced by the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the show is the largest of its kind in North America, and focuses primarily on robotics, AI, vision and motion control.
Manufacturers Seeking Solutions
Among the 25,000 people expected to register this year, some will be interested in ongoing developments. Many more will be on the prowl for ways to combat labor shortages.
“From our view this is the No. 1 driver for automation,” said Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development at Universal Robots, during a preview webinar hosted by A3. “It's forcing companies that perhaps never considered automation to investigate.”
The National Association of Manufacturers Q1 2023 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey revealed that manufacturers rank labor shortages as a top concern. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74.9%) said that attracting and retaining a quality workforce was a primary business challenge. This hurdle was followed by increased raw material prices (60.1%) and supply chain challenges (55.8%), according to the survey.
The deployment of robotic solutions to improve throughput and operational efficiency is viewed as a key incentive for manufacturing decision-makers, as they increasingly can turn to robotics to handle applications that would not have been possible just a few years ago. Today’s robots also boast smaller space requirements and are armed with automated technologies and peripherals that enhance its versatility.
“We’re seeing a simplification of cells, particularly coming from the collaborative side,” according to Campbell. “We’re seeing cells that are being deployed at extraordinarily cost-effective price points. And consequently, we’re doing a lot of easy jobs that are frankly easy for people to do, but they’re not very attractive. And on the other end of the spectrum, we’re seeing very advanced sensor-driven applications.”
Welding and Cobot Integration
UR’s Automate booth #3623 showcased the world's first cobot spot welder, developed by UR partner Pro Spot International. The company noted that spot welding has up until now been prohibitive for cobots due to the weight of the weld gun and the complexity of the welds. The new i5s resistance spot welder is a lightweight solution that can deliver two to three times more manufacturing capacity than manual spot welding, noted UR.
Other UR partner demos included:
- INPRO Technologies’ fully integrated gasketing station for instantaneous curing with plasma treating, liquid gasket dispensing and UV light. The station features a UR cobot arm performing both assembly/disassembly, material handling, and process control tasks all while serving as the main coordinating “PLC.”
- RoboRoom from Reliabotics is a new UR-based 48 x 50 in. modular turnkey automation work cell, designed for a variety of automation applications such as surface deburring and finishing; assembly and test; pick-and-place; dispensing and bonding; and vision inspection. RoboRoom was showcased with an inverted UR5e robot performing metal parts deburring. The solution uses ATI tools and RoboRoom’s proprietary, recycled CO2 surface-cleaning technology.
More than 60 UR cobots are on display in more than 30 booths at the show, taking place at the Huntington Place Convention Center in Detroit, May 22-25.