Factory automation scene with 5 for Friday logo

5 For Friday: Automate Gets Moving, with a Look at How Automation is Transformative

May 19, 2023
Machine Design takes a look at the past week, and a look ahead to the issues facing the design and manufacturing sector.

1. Automate Gets Moving Monday

The annual Automate Conference in Detroit starts Monday, and the A3-sponsored event will bring together some of the top experts in robotics and automation in what has become one of the fastest-growing trade events in the industry. It also will feature a strong group of keynote presentations, including:

  • Gregory Robinson, former director, NASA, James Webb Space Telescope
  • Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo
  • Barbara Humpton, president & CEO, Siemens Corporation USA

Machine Design will be at Automate all week with continuing reports, as well as a daily newsletter from the show, so keep coming back here for further updates on the latest innovations in robotics and automation from this year’s event.

2. “Transformative” Automation

In a pre-event interview, Barbara Humpton of Siemens discussed her views on the benefits of automating. In the end, Humpton said, automation is both a benefit in its own right and a passage to greater manufacturing opportunities beyond even the four walls of the plant.

“The very first thing we do is we put in sensors and we begin to gather data about our operations,” Humpton said. “Then the next thing we do is we say, how could we use that data to make what we currently do more effective? Then we take that to the next level and say, well wait a minute, what could we actually do differently? And that leads us to new business models, new relationships with other companies, new relationships—even, I'd say, in a competitive field. And all of that is transformative.”

3. Robots Get Down to Science  

While many of the booth displays at Automate showcase the practical use of robotics in manufacturing functions, those presentations give attendees the more artistic side of those applications. But as part of Automate this year, the International Symposium of Robotics (ISR) is  co-located at Automate to focus on the scientific and technical genius behind the art. For those interested in the technology behind the technology, these sessions will be a great way to explore robotics from a different perspective.

4. Hard Facts About Soft Starters

Motors (and engineers) appreciate soft starters because they reduce stress and heat on motors at a crucial time in the motor operations process—when the motor is first powered up.

As John Bordewick of Eaton Corp. notes in a recent Machine Design article, there are specific considerations to keep in mind when applying the correct soft starter to the motor application. “Engineers who decide to use a soft starter should size it based on the motor’s full-load-amps (FLA) current, not the power rating,” Bordewick writes. “The inrush current of a large motor can be as high as 10 times the full load amps, but usually soft starters are sized to accommodate three or four times this amount. If a motor really does pull 10 times the FLA, the soft starter will have to be oversized to accommodate it.”

5. Don’t “Rip-and-Replace; Add and Achieve

Most plant managers would love to implement new technology but worry that it won’t be compatible with their current machines. Fortunately the days of “rip-and-replace” are largely over, and a new wave of technology provides ways to connect legacy equipment with new sensors, software and analytics. In the second part of my discussion with Bosch Rexroth Product Manager Dan Barrera, we look at the new ways the plant is connected today, and how that connection will impact the design and operations roles in manufacturing. You also can review Part 1 of the discussion, which covers other aspects of digital transformation.

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