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Automation Accelerates Motor City To Smart Manufacturing Productivity

Demonstrating that automation is the principal way forward, for manufacturing industry to overcome current labour shortages, crowds of manufacturing engineers descended on the recent AUTOMATE show in Detroit. After visiting a couple of European shows already this year, with attendance significantly down on pre-Covid levels, we were not expecting to see such a large and dynamic event attendance. From event opening on Monday morning, not a traditional exhibition day, crowds filled the aisles of the downtown Detroit facility. It was great to again network in North America, meet-up with many old friends and colleagues, and experience the general ‘buzz’ of the event, and realize, that manufacturers are actively searching for that automated system or solution to improve productivity and overall quality control.

Metrology automation was scattered throughout the show floor in the form of robot guidance, machine vision inspection, robotic optical measurement, smart sensing technologies, AI driven visual inspection and much more. We feature below a few of the highlights discovered walking around the floor, many on smaller booths – in the shadows of the ‘big’ robot exhibits. Numerous start-ups showcased products at the event, many of which were focussed on removing human subjectivity from product inspection tasks. We highlight below to our readership just a few of the innovative solutions that peaked our interest level at the event.

Autaza from Brazil presented its Autaza Paint optical quality inspection system capable of identifying over 30 types of appearance defects in plastic, metal, and various composite materials. The optical sensing system uses stripe reflectometry technology to highlight defects. The Autaza Paint measurement head has a monitor with high brightness, frequency and resolution, and a high-resolution industrial camera. The rugged composition means that the system does not need external light and can work in environments with ambient lighting up to 700 lumens. The components have a specific position and angulation to acquire the images. For each inspected area, 4 pictures are taken by translating the white stripes, thus ensuring that the area is completely inspected.

Intek-Plus from Korea showcased its new i3D-800 high-performance 3D area scanning sensor equipped with optimal lighting and a powerful imaging sensor offering smart factory solutions aimed at visual inspection, quality assurance, 3D digitization and robot guidance applications. The sensor, which can be fixed or robot mounted, generates a 3D point cloud using structured light with the data evaluated in the associated i3D Studio software.

DIY Robotics  from Canada showcased its Modular Cells for robots allowing custom configurations to be developed using ‘standard’ integration tools. To reach as many industrial robotic applications as possible DIY Robotics have designed four different modular cells divided into two product ranges. The Comet cells are smaller and host smaller payload manufacturing robots while the Satellite cells are bigger and host manufacturing robots with payloads of up to 70kg.

Michigan based Smart Vision Lights launched its DoALL vision lighting system with ring light, dome light, near field dark, far field dark, RGBW, infrared, photometric stereo and 4 zones all dynamically programmable allowing for the optical inspection of multiple quality assurance requirements sequentially and automatically. The impressive demonstration of the DoALL on a UR Cobot inspecting classic 60’s Mustang included paint scratches, badge alignment and grille inspection. (image below)

Zeiss demonstrated its DuraMax Zeiss Zeiss demonstrated its DuraMax shop-floor CMM being robot loaded through integration with the Waybo PARTNR system. PARTNR provides measurement autonomy by storing components awaiting automatic inspection providing unmanned measurement increasing significantly CMM productivity.

Zeiss DuraMax shop-floor CMM  integration with Waybo PARTNR robotic system

Japanese company IAI, supplier of configurable modular robotic automation components and systems, displayed its new two-axis continuous motion WU wrist series.

With +/- 360 degree rotation and +/- 105 degrees of pitch motion the WU wrists can handle payloads of 2Kg potentially making them ideal for the manipulation of optical sensors on cartesian 3 axis modular automation structures. To date many optical sensor have only been available on less accurate 6 axis robots due to the payload requirement.