Rise of the machines
Automatica, the biannual international trade fair for automation and mechatronics, held earlier this month in Munich, drew a record number of visitors. The fair showcases robotics, assembly and handling technology, supply, sensor, drive and safety technology, positioning systems, software and more. An increasing number of industry sectors are discovering the possibilities of automation to optimise costs, document processes and meet quality requirements. Indicative of this growing interest, Automatica this year featured 731 exhibitors from 42 countries.
Man and machine as one
Robotics and automation are reaching a new dimension with man-machine cooperation. In the place of people, robots are handling work that is monotonous, injurious to health and requires no special job skills. This is making workplaces more productive, flexible and ergonomic. From lightweight single arms and dual-arm humanoids to traditional heavyweights, robots capable of collaborative operation come in many forms. An example in Australia are the two autonomous grit-blasting robots from Sabre Autonomous Solutions that now form part of the Sydney Harbour Bridge maintenance team.
This year Automatica introduced a new section highlighting service robotics. More than 60 companies exhibited intelligent service robots and components from the areas of medicine and nursing, inspection and maintenance, as well as logistics.
Major pushbacks to implementing robots in the workplace have been the challenges of installation and training. However, Danish company Universal Robots, which has over 3000 low-cost and lightweight robotic arms in workplaces around the world, is just one manufacturer proving that these are no longer obstacles. At Automatica, it debuted a new tablet-based, user-friendly remote control system that makes implementation far easier. Universal Robots claims anyone can be trained to use it within 15 minutes.
One thing is for sure: the advances and product introductions are happening at a breakneck pace, and the next Automatica, scheduled for Munich, 21 to 24 June 2016, is going to be even bigger.
More information: www.automatica-munich.com