Automate 2023 saw record-setting attendance, with Huntington Place swelling to capacity with exhibitors, attendees and robots. It felt as though every square inch of exhibit space contained a robot arm.
What was very clear this year was the explosion of collaborative robots, with the light blue hue of Universal Robots visible in every corner. Fanuc’s new CR-X was a close second, as you can see from Matt Malloy’s chart, below. These cobots continue to dominate the conversation about automation due to their ease of use and advanced safety features.
QC lags behind other applications, but is catching up
After bringing the Q-Span workstation to dozens of trade shows, it still amazes me how many “light bulb moments” we see at these shows. Visitors say, “Automated gauging? Cool, I’ve never thought of that!” or, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize we could do that with a robot.”
But the moment that hit the nail on the head for me was when a major Universal Robots user visited our booth and said:
“We’ve automated a lot of processes in our plant, but we’re the furthest behind with automating metrology. I’m glad I found you guys!”
Lights-out production is on its way
These sorts of conversations about automated gauging are not new to us. But as the majority of users begin automating production processes, they often find that a missing piece of the puzzle is automated gauging. You simply cannot control the production process without data, and to get that data you either need people, or robots, to measure those parts.
As the labor shortage continues to plague nearly every manufacturer we speak with, using people to measure those parts is either not possible, or not desirable, if your goal is to retain that employee long term. No one wants to sit around measuring parts all day long.
The proliferation of technology being developed for automating CNC machining continues to grow. More robots are being used for machine tending than every before, and similar to any other production process, those machines must be monitored to ensure parts are being made in-spec and that tooling is not wearing out. We continue to see applications requiring lights-out machining by taking the Q-Span system’s QC data, and feeding it back to the machine to make automatic offsets, which is made possible with technology from Caron Engineering or Flexxbotics.
To learn more about the cobots on display at Automate 2023, check out this great summary from Brent Donaldson at Modern Machine Shop.