Tanida Ruangsawat/Dreamstime and Pop Nukoonrat/Dreamstime
Engineering manager analyzing data, with robot arm in the background and 5 for Friday logo

5 for Friday: Automate is on the Rise—and on the Move in an Expanding Market

May 26, 2023

1. Automate on the Rise

The Automate Conference in Detroit provided some keen insights into the ways we’re normalizing the sights (but very few sounds) of robots in manufacturing. The conference, presented by A3, focused on the four core areas of the association’s mission: robotics, vision and imaging, motion control and motors, and artificial intelligence.

What has become increasingly apparent is the ways these four technologies are connected in delivering solutions for manufacturers. The days of component sales are being enveloped by the capabilities of a system that can solve problems, deliver on operational and business goals and meet the challenges of the next generation of manufacturing—including a carbon-neutral plant.

2. Automate on the Move

Taylor Swift might be the only performer who could draw a bigger line than the one created when exhibitors lined up to get booths reservations for the 2024 Automate Show, which will be May 6-9 in the South Hall at McCormick Place in Chicago. At 9 a.m., the line extended from the show sales floor almost to the front of the hall in Detroit. By 10:30 a.m., the line was not shorter. 

Show officials and exhibitors were enthused by the strong showing for this year’s event, and the expanded space in Chicago gives Automate the chance to grow even faster than it did this year.

3. Expanding the Market

One great example of that growth trajectory for automation and robotics is Schaeffler, which built from its base as a manufacturer of gearboxes and drive motors and entered the robotics market in 2018 to provide sensor-based controls for robotics.

At its first Automate, Schaeffler was interested in helping robotics manufacturers and end-users find new uses for its evolving technologies. “Schaeffler is growing both organically but also through acquisition,” said Gregory Falco, communications and branding specialist at Schaeffler, “and some of the solutions that we’re showing came with through a recent acquisition of Melior Motion and the development of our strain wave gearbox with its integrated torque measuring system.”

4. Pushing Boundaries

Editor-in-Chief Rehana Begg attended the recent Epicor Insights 2023 event in Las Vegas and was struck by one quote from David Holm, vice president of manufacturing at Aerotech, Inc. “Aerotech, traditionally, would operate on mechanical and air bearing systems. We had our niche and we would focus on the manufacturing process or the inspection process at hand. What our customers have been demanding much more from us—not just in terms of our traditional motion capabilities—is that they’re starting to push the boundaries of how we do things.”

Holm added, “Our customers are expecting us to understand the upstream and downstream parts of the manufacturing process as well. So, we’re being asked to understand how to handoff from a system that we did not manufacture and be able to understand that. The employment of automation engineers, and investments in those areas, are something we’re definitely focused on.”

The competitive market for engineering talent is going to continue as manufacturers and suppliers work to integrate all of the technology now on display at shows such as Automate to practical systems that advance operations.

5. Additive Manufacturing Enter a New Dimension

Stratasys announced its acquisition of Desktop Metal this week, and whether this signals a run-up in mergers in the 3D printing industry or simply a consolidation of two complimentary companies will start to emerge in the coming months. One thing is for certain: as Ric Fulop, Desktop Metal co-founder, chairman and CEO pointed out, the deal is “a turning point in driving the next phase of additive manufacturing for mass production.”

In a press release, the companies said the deal “is expected to offer customers end to end solutions from designing, prototyping and tooling to mass production and aftermarket operations across the entire manufacturing lifecycle.”

Fulop will be the chairman of the new company’s board and Stratasys CEO Yoav Zeif will retain that title after the acquisition is complete.

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