News from AU
January 31, 2019

Trends in Manufacturing—Automation for Small and Medium Factories

Once upon a time, bigger was better when it came to automation in manufacturing. Systems were expensive and took months to install and program. Tasks were specific. Robots lived in cages to ensure human safety.

That time is over and the robots have been freed from their cages. The future of manufacturing is nimble. A new generation of automation is playing an important role in the transformation, enabling companies to think big without necessarily being big.

ZDNet recently featured a piece on the topic of automation for small and medium-sized businesses.

"A radical transformation in industrial automation has occurred over the past decade, and it's as much a technological shift as a consequence of the changing economy, one increasingly reliant on small runs, fast shipping, and nimble operations. A new generation of robots reflects these changes. They are quickly deployable, task-agnostic, smaller than their clunky forebears, and can work alongside humans.”

The takeaways 

Cheap(er) shot—In the past, systems cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (not counting installation and programming time). Today, the most popular collaborative robot on the market, the UR5, costs about $35,000, putting it within reach for smaller companies.

Show, don’t tell—Older systems required teams of robotics experts and weeks or months to program. New systems can be taught simply by demonstration, with no knowledge of programming languages required.

Plays well with others—Force sensors, machine vision, and other innovations are making the new class of robots aware of their environment, so they can work safely beside people.

Go with the flow—The same robot can be used to fabricate, move objects, test, pick, and pack. Flexibility is the name of the game.

Fresh fields—Once used primarily for fabrication, robots are being deployed in agriculture, construction, and laboratories.

Build your skills

Ready to build your skills with the new generation of automation? Check out these AU classes:

Introduction to PowerMill Robot in Subtractive Manufacturing

It started with welding and pick-and-place, but now more is possible. Tatenda Mushonga demonstrates the workflows to use robotic arms for subtractive, additive, and post-processing tasks.

So, You Want a Robot? Design Robotics for 50K or Less.

Nathan King walks you through the process of procurement, tooling, installation, calibration, and operation of an industrial robot arm.

Understanding 5-Axis Machining Concepts

Simplify programming, demystify the G-code results from your CAM software, and create better toolpaths. Michael Caliguri shows you how.

Construction-Scale 3D Printing—Past, Present, and Future Prospects

Berok Khoshnevis has been working on large-scale 3D printing for more than 2 decades. In this industry talk, he looks at where things started, where things stand today, and where they’re headed in the decades to come.

The Factory of the Future: The Industry 4.0 Reference Factory

Smart robots, human-robot collaboration, augmented reality—the factory of the future is here today. Matthias Bertling presents the results of a survey involving 700 participants.

Interested in more news about the future of manufacturing—and construction and media, too? Check out last week’s Picks column on ADSK News.