American Welding Society (AWS) National Arc Robotic Welding Conference 2015
June 2 – 3, 2015
The NRAWC – National Robotic Arc Welding Conference wrapped up last week at the Milwaukee Area Technical Center (MATC) in Milwaukee, WI. The mission for this conference is to present new and emerging technology in the fields of welding and automation. First started in 1983, the conference has been held regularly in Florida and in Wisconsin for over 30 years. This year, Meta joined close to 150 engineers and business managers to see and hear about the latest innovations and experiences with cutting edge technologies for robotics. Meta had a tabletop exhibit demonstrating one of its Smart Laser Sensors showing off robot guidance as well as weld inspection functionality.
Over the two-day conference, there was an interesting mix of practical presentations on such key topics as fixturing, programming, and training as well as a number of reviews of actual case studies focused on implementation techniques, know-how, and tricks of the trade. As a manufacturer of laser vision systems for welding automation, it was most encouraging to witness how the practical use of 3D laser sensors was a key topic in many of the presentations and how the implementation of such sensors is providing positive returns to those who are embracing the technology.
In addition to the presentations and practical demonstrations, conference participants also had the opportunity to visit two local manufacturers and users of automation. Power management company Eaton showed how they use a wide collection of automation and arc welding processes to manufacture electrical transformers while a tour through John Deere Horicon showed off a large collection of robots used for welding, painting, and material handling.
The conference keynote speech was given by Stefan Lampa, CEO of Kuka Roboter and his talk focused on the global robot market with respect to trends and technology. Stefan sees a big surge in demand coming for flexible automation. Manufacturers and suppliers must focus on ease of use, be aware of impacts on the environment, safety and sensitivity as machines collaborate more closely with human operators, offer reasonably low investment costs and extreme flexibility. He predicts future challenges to be workforce related, issues dealing with new materials, tolerances, and complexity, costs, and demands for even more flexibility. Solutions will come from sensors, mobility, connected (smart) factories, and ease of use. Stefan also predicts that 20% of worldwide robot sales to be arc welding by 2020.
The NRAWC conference is now hosted every 2 years and is expected to be back to the MATC in June 2017.
Association for Advancing Automation Business Forum
A3 Business Forum Orlando, Florida
This blog post has been written by Steve Thacker, General Manager of Meta Vision Systems Inc, and reports on his recent visit to the A3 business forum in Florida. Steve has attended these events regularly for the last few years and finds them very useful, as he recounts below. Of course, going from the minus twenty something of Montreal to the plus twenty something of Orlando probably helps build a conducive atmosphere...
Seriously though, it is important for companies like Meta, which has always operated internationally, to keep an eye on global trends in both technology and business.
Once again, Meta was present at the A3 Business Forum that took place in Lake Buena Vista, Florida January 21 – 23, 2015. The A3 or Association for Advancing Automation is an umbrella organisation that groups together the Automated Imaging Association (AIA), the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), and the Motion Control Association (MCA); Meta is a member of the AIA.
This year, a record crowd of well over 500 industry professionals spent 3 days discussing trends in robotics, vision & imaging, and motion control. Quoting Jeff Bernstein, A3 President, “the Business Forum provides attendees with great insights on where the economy is headed, key management issues, emerging technologies, social networking and other topics that impact their businesses.”
Keynote speakers included:
- Seth Mattison discussing the building of the Next Gen Enterprise with the Next Gen Workforce. By the year 2020, millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) will represent about 50% of the workforce and this generation is motivated by different factors than the generations before.
- David Horsager discussing The Trust Edge and how top leaders gain faster results, deeper relationships, and a stronger bottom line by understanding trust. David believes that the biggest cost to today’s businesses is a lack of trust and that one of the fastest ways to lose trust is to blame (someone, something). Understanding David’s 7 C’s (compassion, character, competence, commitment, connection, contribution, and consistency) leads to increased trust.
- Peter Zeihan presented opinions on Geopolitics and the American Age suggesting that Mexico is the place to be because of advantages in labor costs and population.
A highlight of the A3 Forum is the business outlook. For several years now, conference organisers have invited economist Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research to present an economic forecast for the year to come and again, Alan’s presentation did not disappoint. Alan maintains that the USA and Mexico are places to be for 2015 through 2018 with annual growth averaging in the 4% – 4.5% over that time. Alan recommends that all businesses (in North America) focus spending now on new processes, training, and adding people to take advantage of opportunities during this period; “you don’t want to miss the next few years!”
In addition to keynote presentations where all participants are together, there were also multiple breakout sessions organised according to specific association interests. The AIA breakout track for example, included sessions on the impact of vision in drone applications, opportunities in embedded vision, applications for automation and vision in Swiss watch making, how to see beyond the image and through the glare, and latest statistics and future projections for the vision industry. The stats revealed an impressive 15.3% overall growth for 2014 in the North American vision market whereas 2015 is forecast to grow 9.1%.
A very interesting breakout session was moderated by two senior representatives from the North American automotive manufacturing scene, Steve Jones from General Motors and Frank Maslar of the Ford Motor Company. This session, entitled Opportunities and Challenges for Vision in Automotive Applications: GM and Ford’s Vision Wish List for the Future, concludedwith a wish list that included 3D data visualization, vision sensor fusion, and 3D robot guidance, all areas of significant interest to Meta.
Given Meta’s past participation at this event and the knowledge gained from this year’s forum, Meta looks forward to participating in the 2016 event scheduled to take place next January in Florida.
The weather for this year's Fabtech in Atlanta started off as very mild but ended with a cold front sweeping through the city. Fortunately, the same could not be said of the show itself which was positive throughout.
Meta's booth had a number of live systems operating continuously during the show. Perhaps the most impressive was the robot demo, in which Meta's new SLS ARC sensor, mounted on a Fanuc robot, performed on several different weld joint types. One showed how adaptive welding on a curved part would work. Each pass over the joint started out without a weave, but as the joint opened up, the sensor reported the increasing gap to the robot controller which generated a weave pattern of increasing amplitude, while at the same time the sensor and robot followed the curved path. Many of the younger visitors told us that they found this demo to be really "cool". The older guys said it seemed to work ok. You can download our Fabtech 2014 newsletter here.
We also showed a tank welding simulation in which Meta's Smart Laser Probe system tracked a circumferential joint. The joint profile was a butt with very little gap or hilo across the joint and specialists in the tank industry seemed to appreciate the relaibility of the system. The tank demo is shown below with the Meta team at the event.
Meta is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and so it was also good to catch up with many old friends in the business. It's amazing how many of us are still doing the same kind of thing after twenty five or more years. There is no doubt that the welding industry is a stable one by some modern standards.
Overall, we felt that the show was a good one with upward signs for the industry in North America. Now, we have a lot of leads to follow up...
Looking forward to Fabtech
As usual, Meta looks forward with great anticipation to exhibiting at Fabtech. This year it is in Atlanta and we hope to welcome everyone to our booth (no. C2266).
We are very excited to be launching our new SLS ARC sensor, showing it tracking on a Fanuc robot.
We'll also have a mix of other demos, including the new digital version of our MetaView product. Come back here later in the week to see some photos of our booth.