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Trends in Robotics

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  • 27 Sep 2022 4:12 PM | Anonymous

    A giant yellow robot with 2,000 payload capacity spinning pallets in the air; a desktop 3D printer constructing eight drone arms in just 16 minutes; and Otto Lifter, the smartest autonomous forklift — these were just a few of the impressive innovations that captivated attention at the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running and largest industry trade show. 

    After being previously canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) was back this year, running from September 12 to 17, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, and it attracted some of the biggest names in industry. 

    There were more than 85,000 registrants for IMTS this year, with visitors outnumbering exhibitors by 35%. At IMTS, professionals, students, and tech enthusiasts had the opportunity to explore technology created by leaders in industry, attend panel discussions on hot topics in manufacturing, and network with like-minded thinkers to continue advancing Industry 4.0. 

    Below, we dive into three key takeaways from this year’s IMTS.

    Smarter Sourcing

    Hosted by The Onshoring Project, this year’s inaugural IMTS Smart Sourcing Symposium offered actionable insights and tools to boost the profit of domestic sourcing by strategically choosing suppliers. 

    Paul Ericksen, supply chain columnist for IndustryWeek, dove into manufacturing critical path time (MCT), which can be utilized to recognize areas for improvement in sourcing and identify true lead time. Adding to the conversation, Cathy Ma, vice president of platform growth and engagement at Thomasnet.com®, a Xometry company, explained how Xometry’s AI-driven marketplace, alongside Thomasnet.com’s 500,000 suppliers, allows buyers to skip unnecessary questions like, “Do you make this part?” and jump right into production. 

    “When [users] register as one of our suppliers, we give them all the software and all the tools. All they need to do is grab the job from our job board,” said Ma as she explained Xometry’s machine-learning platform.

    Robots Are Transforming Manufacturing

    With robots serving a variety of industries and functions, IMTS displayed the many uses of robots and cobots in industry. 

    Eric Foellmer, VP of marketing at Boston Dynamics, brought Spot, an agile mobile robot, to the IMTS stage. With impressive mobility and accuracy, Spot is automating inspection tasks prone to human error and capturing critical data. 

    Using simplified operating and programming features, cobots are making waves in industry. Robotics company FANUC put this on full display with its CRX series of collaborative cobots. Built for small- to mid-size manufacturers that have yet to automate any operations, FANUC’s cobots can automate entire assembly lines and lift up to 77 pounds. 

    Additive Manufacturing Is Shaping Industry

    Additive manufacturing hasn’t always been viewed as accessible. In the past, 3D printers took up quite a bit of space, cost a pretty penny, and required a lot of training to use. But leaders in additive manufacturing have set out to change that. 

    On September 15, an IMTS 3D printing workshop explained how using low-cost 3D printing capability can make machine tools more efficient and improve workflow. An example of this is Nexa3D’s easy-to-use desktop XiP printer. Taking less than 20 minutes to print, the XiP can quickly produce critical parts for the engineering, dental, and medical industries.  

    However, people that don’t own a machine shop can also benefit from the flexibility of additive manufacturing. Greg Paulsen, director of applications engineering at Xometry, explained how digital marketplaces are paving the way for a new era in manufacturing. As a two-sided marketplace, Xometry benefits both buyers and suppliers, remains open 24/7 for instant quotes on 3D printed parts, and is powered by AI, which means it is always improving.


  • 26 Sep 2022 7:05 PM | Anonymous

    Autonomous cars aren’t the only autonomous vehicle technology making waves in industry. As the U.S. continues to invest in rebuilding aging infrastructure such as roads and bridges, construction equipment is also getting a reboot. With an anticipated compound annual growth rate of 4.6% through 2030, according to Acumen Research and Consulting, the construction equipment market is revving up for driverless innovation.

    To improve operational efficiency, safety, and communication, the construction industry is automating. Just as self-driving cars promise to lower emissions and boost productivity, automating heavy equipment comes with the same benefits, according to Engineering News-Record. An example of this is Caterpillar’s Cat 794 AC Electric Drive Autonomous Mining Truck, which was unveiled in May. To prove its driverless agility, it managed to maneuver through an obstacle course of flags, cars, and even tables full of dishes.

    With great innovation, we’re seeing sourcing increases on the Thomasnet.com platform. Sourcing for construction equipment is up 152% year over year and 46% quarter over quarter. We believe two factors are also contributing to this surge. The recent launch of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2021 may have contributed to the $302 billion construction equipment segment.

    Additionally, this sourcing increase may also be due to the fiery housing market. At the beginning of 2022, new home construction jumped at its largest rate since 2006, according to Census Data. And if you’re interested in more innovation news in construction, note that 3D printing has been particularly valuable to the construction housing segment, especially when faced with complicated designs, supply shortages, or work in remote locations. Or you can check out our previous Thomas Index Report on how 3D printing is helping the medical industry.  


  • 22 Sep 2022 4:00 PM | Anonymous

    9 月 21 日消息,美国佛罗里达州初创公司 Undefined Technologies 表示,他们在开发无人机方面迈出了重要一步,该公司认为通过使用更安静、强大的离子推进系统而不是旋翼来驱动无人机,可以改变整个蓬勃发展的无人机服务行业。Undefined Technologies 公司在本月通过了一个测试里程碑,其使用离子推进系统的无人机成功飞行了 4.5 分钟,飞行过程中只发出了 75 分贝的噪音。飞机比以前的飞行时间更长了,同时降低了噪音水平。


  • 20 Sep 2022 4:11 PM | Anonymous

    There’s a whole new world of economic development opportunity just outside of Earth’s reach but humans need a way to spend extended amounts of time in space to unlock it. Orbital Reef is working toward that and just passed another major milestone.

    The space station, which is being designed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Sierra Space, this week completed its System Definition Review (SDR) with NASA. The companies said it means they’ve demonstrated to NASA that Orbital Reef is both feasible and achievable.

    Orbital Reef has been imagined as a commercial space station that will allow anyone to set up shop in low-earth orbit and take advantage of microgravity manufacturing and research facilities. The company will not only provide crucial transportation to and from the edge of space but handle the logistics of living and working in space. Besides offering room for working in space, Orbital Reef could also serve as a tourist destination.

    Beyond Blue Origin and Sierra Space, the Orbital Reef design squad will also tap the expertise of Amazon Web Services, Boeing, and other academic and commercial partners. Boeing will provide crew and cargo transportation via its Starliner spacecraft and will also handle maintenance once Orbital Reef is up and running. Genesis Engineering will provide a single-person spacecraft for suitless space exploration. And Redwire Space will help facilitate in-space manufacturing.

    Orbital Reef isn’t expected to be operational until 2027 but it’s already exciting to imagine what will be possible once it’s off the ground.


  • 20 Sep 2022 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    A group of researchers at the University of Bristol built a robot designed to help them understand how rock ants communicate and learn from each other. Specifically, how a rock ant conveys the route to a new nest to another ant and if a robotic gantry could lay a successful trail. 

    It turns out that a machine can replace the transfer of knowledge. In the ants’ case, one leads the other slowly on a path to a new nest. The ant learning the route can then remember its way back to the original nest and pass on its findings to another ant. 

    The team made an arena with a sizable distance between the two nests, one of which was a significant improvement from the other. A robot with pheromones from a worker ant was then attached to a gantry and made straight and curved movements toward the second nest.

    The robot led an ant to a better nest through various paths. It made stops along the route, which allowed the ant to study its surroundings. The gantry then tracked the ant’s return to the original nest. Comparatively, the researchers placed ants that did not follow the robot at the second nest. These ants were less successful in returning to the first nest than the ants led by the robot. 

    Professor Nigel Franks said of the experiment, “Teaching is so important in our lives that we spend time instructing others or being taught. This should cause us to wonder whether teaching occurs among non-human animals.”


  • 20 Sep 2022 4:05 PM | Anonymous

    A global energy technology company plans to establish a new facility in North Carolina to produce industrial batteries, state and company officials announced.

    Sunlight Batteries USA, a subsidiary of Greek company the Sunlight Group, will invest $40 million in the new 134,000-square-foot factory in Mebane, North Carolina, which will feature space for manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. The site will use robot-assisted systems to manufacture and assemble lithium-ion batteries, the company said.

    The project is expected to create more than 130 jobs with an average annual salary of more than $67,000. Sunlight makes lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries for industrial use, as well as battery charging solutions. The company currently operates a facility in nearby Greensboro.

    Todd Sechrist, Sunlight Batteries USA’s CEO, said the expansion is part of the company's "growth plan for the U.S. market." 

    The company is eligible for a state tax rebate of more than $1.2 million over 12 years, provided Sunlight meets hiring and investment goals. The plant is expected to generate more than $390 million in economic activity in North Carolina over that span.


  • 15 Sep 2022 1:45 PM | Anonymous
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