Technology Highlights from Automate 2023

July 3, 2023
From advances in core automation technologies to the cutting edge, the Automate 2023 event in Detroit did a great job showcasing the variety of technologies available to manufacturers today.

If you’ve been around the automation industry over the past three decades, you undoubtedly noticed the growth of supplier-hosted events edging out some of the independent automation technology events that were once more plentiful. While the supplier events are a great way to do a deep dive on a particular supplier’s technology, independent events provide the opportunity to gain a much broader perspective on the automation technology arena.

The Automate 2023 event in Detroit did a great job showcasing the variety of technologies available to manufacturers today—from core technologies to the cutting edge. Following are a few highlights:

  • Humatics is extending flexible robotic assembly operations by enabling robots to perform assembly operations as the component moves through the assembly area without stopping. The Humatics system enables robots to adapt to the component’s motion even if it moves around during assembly. The technology uses radio frequency microlocation technology to do this.
  • Beckhoff gave a preview of its forthcoming TwinCAT Chat Client, which connects to AI-powered large language models like ChatGPT. The TwinCAT Chat Client is designed to automate tasks such as the creation or addition of function block code. It can also be used for code optimization, documentation and restructuring.
  • PBC Linear’s Applied Cobotics provides a standardized platform for storing, staging and delivering parts into a position where they can be loaded and unloaded with a cobot. The Cobot Feeder features a central lift table that raises and lowers to pull part trays from a dunnage rack tower and then places them in a repeatable position for the cobot. A vertical lead screw-driven shelf and a horizontal tray loader/unloader provide accurate and repeatable motion in the Cobot Feeder, eliminating the need for a worker to remove and reload material from the cobot work zone. This enables the Cobot Feeder to operate in a lights-out fashion for up to three shifts.
  • Bosch Rexroth's Smart Flex Effector is a sensor-based compensation unit for industrial robots and Cartesian systems with an active measuring function in six degrees of freedom—x,y and z plus the rotations about the x,y and z axes. This enables the effector to provide information about any positional deviations back to the robot. It can sense how far out of position a part is from its expected position and tells the robot so that it can make real-time adjustments in the process.
  • ABB’s Swifti brings collaborative robotic capabilities to industrial robots. With a payload capacity of 11 kg, speeds up to 6.2 m/s, reach from 0.9 to 1.4 m and protection against dust and moisture (up to IP67), the Swifti CRB 1300 is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, according to ABB. The features of the Swifti CRB 1300 were developed for tasks such as palletizing, pick-and-place and screwdriving applications. Humans can work near the Swifti due to its use of a safety laser scanner integrated with ABB’s SafeMove collaborative safety software. When the laser scanner detects a worker within its operating area, the SafeMove software slows the robot as the worker approaches and stops it completely once the worker gets too close. As the worker moves away, the Swifti slowly resumes its operation, only returning to full speed once the working area is completely clear.
  • Mitsubishi Electric’s LoadMate Plus is a robot and stand system that can be configured to fit a variety of applications, such as pick and place, inspection, assembly and packing. Though the LoadMate Plus was developed with hundreds of pre-engineered configurations for stand-alone cells or integration into larger systems, it can also be customized for unique applications. It can be programmed via traditional robot programming languages or with a drag-and-drop graphical language that works with Mitsubishi Electric’s cobots and industrial robots. This ease of programming extends even to CNC applications with Mitsubishi Electric’s Direct Robot Control CNC software.
  • Rapid Robotics showed how the robots-as-a-service concept is expanding in manufacturing by showcasing several real-world examples. In an automotive supplier application, a cobot picks up a center console part from a Cartesian robot and places it into a laser etching machine. As the piece exits the etching machine, the cobot picks up the piece again and transfers it to a conveyor for the next steps in assembly. The custom end-of-arm tool on the cobot also removes extraneous pieces from the part. For the medical supplies manufacturer, three industrial robots are used to plasma treat and inspect syringes. The center robot picks up the syringes and puts them into a plasma treatment before handing them off into side-by-side nests where the secondary robots picking them up and pad print them before moving them to inspection stations.
About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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