IMTS 2014: Moving Toward Smarter Factories
Latest innovations in industrial automation controls, motors and drives are helping manufacturers improve factory operations
After making its debut at IMTS 2012, the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) pavilion is back for this year’s show, and it promises to showcase the best available choices in new factory automation controls, drives, motors and software that help manufacturers define state-of-the-art manufacturing processes.
At the IANA pavilion, you’ll see a lot of European companies that have a strong US presence along with a smattering of automation builders from all over the world. The IANA pavilion is also aligned with two one-day conferences that are co-located with IMTS—the Sept. 9 Motion, Drives and Automation (MDA) Conference and the Sept. 10 Global Automation & Manufacturing Summit (GAMS).
Many of the exhibitors at IANA will showcase new automation solutions focusing on the continuing emphasis on energy savings and the Industry 4.0 movement in Europe. In 2012, IANA exhibitors were roughly 85% international, with most having a strong US subsidiary presence, noted Larry Turner, CEO of Hannover Fairs Inc. (Chicago), which sponsors the IANA pavilion at IMTS. “It’s a really interesting mix, and there’s some good US companies in there,” he said. “Energy savings is kind of a continuing trend that we’ve been seeing with all of our shows.”
At the MDA conference, many new introductions will focus on control developments. “It’s really all about the motion controls,” said Turner. The Global Automation conference takes an in-depth look at end-user best practices and benchmarking. “Last time we had really good sessions, but they were more high level, more targeted toward senior level management, and now we are focusing on the plant manager, the manufacturing engineer, and design engineers.
“Industry 4.0 originated in Germany a few years ago and it’s starting to permeate Europe,” Turner added. “In the US, we refer to it as smart manufacturing or advanced manufacturing, and it’s really based around the self-diagnostics, and taking advantage of Big Data and analytics, which from an automation standpoint requires sensors, controls.”
Many of the new solutions at IANA will showcase motion controls and the drive side of automation, Turner said, with demonstrations showing the manipulation of parts, products, and work tools. “Cannon Automata is a German company that has a new controller out, and what you’re probably going to see is that especially the German companies are working towards the Industry 4.0.”
A Glimpse of the Future Factory
A good example of Industry 4.0 will be shown at the booth of Forcam USA Inc. (Cincinnati), a factory automation and manufacturing execution system (MES) software developer that recently released its Factory Framework Release 5. At IMTS, Forcam plans to showcase automation elements required for the new Digital Factory, with a new predictive manufacturing system, noted Mohamed Abuali, Forcam USA chief operating officer.
“Manufacturers are looking for ways to use the right automation technology to drive and increase productivity on the shop floor,” Abuali said. “They are looking to implement lean manufacturing and modeling their production virtually, thus enabling the transformation of their traditional factories to digital factories, by creating process transparency, developing real-time dashboards, and visualizing bottlenecks.
“More and more manufacturers are adopting digital shop-floor management technologies that can crunch Big Data in real-time,” Abuali added, “and offer 100% Web-based and mobile capability, leverage the cloud, connect to any asset on the shop floor, and provide global performance data for any manufacturing plant [anywhere] in any time zone [anytime], displaying that data in the proper language.”
Visitors to the Forcam booth will get a look at the requirements of the Digital Factory that will be driven by a predictive manufacturing system, Abuali said. “We will demonstrate real-time shop-floor data collection from advanced CNC controllers and PLCs, Big Data visualization and reporting, integration with top-floor business systems [ERP and PLM], and methods for predictive maintenance and health management of equipment, to ensure near-zero downtime and worry-free asset productivity,” he said.
Live technology demonstrations will be held at Forcam’s booth using real CNC controllers via MTConnect, Abuali said, and the company will also demonstrate integration with legacy machines. “Forcam has teamed up with Professor Jay Lee at the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems [IMS] at the University of Cincinnati to give a co-demonstration of Digital Factory meets Predictive Manufacturing.”
IMTS gives visitors a look into the future of manufacturing, and Abuali said he’s expecting to see a continuation of the innovative trends in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, as well as virtual-reality-augmented productivity solutions.
“We also expect to see a widening base of adopters of MTConnect, including new OEMs on board with MTConnect compliance, even for additive manufacturing and virtual reality solutions,” Abuali said. “Forcam is constantly looking for ways to engage with innovators and to adopt new complementary technologies, including the upcoming integrations of our shop-floor management technology with new asset types such as 3D printers and CMMs, as well as enhanced mobile and cloud capabilities, and integrations with virtual reality devices for enhanced visualization and factory transparency.”
Robotic Automation Innovations
Robotic automation with newer collaborative robots will also be well-represented at the IANA pavilion, with new or updated robots from companies including Universal Robots USA Inc. (East Setauket, New York, and Odense, Denmark), Rethink Robotics (Boston), and Force Robots LLC (Cleveland).
Universal Robots will showcase its UR 5 and UR 10 robots, which are lightweight 5- and 10-kg payload collaborative robots that now sport absolute encoders and adjustable safety features. The six-jointed robotic arms remain unchanged in outward appearance, but have now added true absolute encoders and eight new adjustable safety-rated functions. The UR 5 and UR 10 robots achieve faster startups with the new encoders, with the ability to recognize absolute position right after switching on, which eliminates the need for jogging during initialization of the arm.
The integration of the True Absolute Encoder into the Universal Robot arms enables more easy integration with other machines, said Esben H. Østergaard, Universal Robots CTO, while speeding up startup times.
The Baxter robot line from Rethink Robotics also has undergone an upgrade with a new software platform, called Intera 3, that is said to double its speed and double its precision. “We’ve told our customers that our robots will get better and better through software,” said Scott Eckert, Rethink Robotics CEO. “If you haven’t seen Baxter lately, you need to take another look, thanks to the innovation delivered by our software platform, Intera.” The software upgrade immediately expands Baxter’s skillset to a broader range of applications, which now include machine tending for CNC lathes, ultrasonic welders and press brakes; packing and unpacking of parts and components; line loading and unloading; and kitting.
At Force Robots LLC’s IMTS booth, the company will showcase its new robotic system, called the Touch Robot, that can perform precision grinding and machining to polish, deburr, and deflash cast and forged parts. Metal finishing with hand tools is a dirty and difficult job that carries known repetitive-stress injury risk, and it’s a process that has proven extremely difficult to automate.
Force Robots’ Touch Robot is said to combine the precision of a machine with the finesse of the human hand. The robot, with six-degrees-of-freedom movement, can “feel” existing part contours, match it to a CAD reference, and autonomously work to remove material to specification. The Touch Robot is a compact, four-axis material removal arm and a two-axis part positioner mounted to a 1.2 × 0.8-m portable worktable. Consolidated Precision Products’ Cleveland foundry is first to use it to remove excess material on difficult-to-reach areas of tough, precision-cast turbine engine components. ME
—Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak
To view the complete IMTS preview for this pavilion as a PDF, click here.
Published Date : 8/1/2014