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Flexible Manufacturing Puts You in Charge

The little robotic vacuum cleaner known as Roomba has sparked renewed interest in robotics. But it takes more than that to inspire automation professionals.

This issue of Automation World explores how advances in robot/vision integration, modular controls and government initiative put new meaning in flexible automation.

Better than a Monty Python spoof, some manufacturing leaders think the Holy Grail is just around the corner, given the advances in vision technology and integration with improved robot mechanics. Automation World Managing Editor Wes Iversen, in an article beginning on page 28, uses the example of the difficult task of picking parts arranged randomly in bins to show how far the technology has come.

Machine builders are always under the gun to find ways to make their machines easier to install and use, while bringing costs down. Contributing Editor Alex Anderson shows how modular control architectures accomplish that goal, in an article that starts on page 34.

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” In a recent case of the FDA telling pharmaceutical manufacturers to innovate—or else—that statement describes the situation perfectly. In an article beginning on page 38, Contributing Editor Rob Spiegel describes how the new Process Analytic Technology will bring innovation to a conservative industry.

Incoming Society of Manufacturing Engineers President Willy Geary discusses his plans for the Society, and what professionals gain from involvement, in an interview with Automation World Editor In Chief Gary Mintchell. Check out what Geary says in the article beginning on page 42.

This month, on page 60, a new columnist starts for Automation World. Alan Beaulieu is a senior analyst and economist with the Institute for Trend Research. He follows the manufacturing sector, and will share his insights in a bimonthly column on the economy.

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