IMTS 2018, le salon international des technologies de fabrication, rapprochera les gens et l’automatisation – littéralement, avec des expositions mettant en évidence les avantages des robots collaboratifs, ou « cobots ».
" Automation suppliers have made huge strides with software, controls and sensors that can quantify how the robot feels. If it senses something abnormal, it will stop before exerting too much force. "says Mike Cicco, President and CEO, Fanuc America Corporation and member of AMT's Board of Directors. The Association for Manufacturing Technologywhich organizes IMTS.
" Where robots used to operate in restricted areas, we can now bring people and automation closer together to improve assembly operations. "
" Jobs in areas such as collaborative robots, mobile robots, Internet of Things-enabled systems, Artificial Intelligence and automation will be among the top automation trends at IMTS 2018 », déclare Tim Shinbara, VP – Technologie, AMT.
Mobility is important
Mike Cicco believes that machine tool owners and managers attending IMTS should learn more about collaborative and mobile robots for medium to high-volume operations. He envisions a work cell where the robot could take care of computerized numerical control (CNC), for example for loading and unloading on long workpieces. The cobot could operate without the need for additional supervision, and operators could go about their routines without safety concerns (improvements to safety standards reflecting current technology now make this possible). For small volumes or operations requiring manual intervention, the robot could be pushed aside or moved to another cell.
" The mobility of automation is growing. Equipment used to be bolted to the floor, but now there's a whole bunch of mobile robots, combining an automated guided vehicle with an articulated arm robot," explains Mike Cicco. "We've also found interesting ways of delivering parts to robots and automated cells via mobile robot platforms. "Instead of investing in automation for each milling operation, a mobile robot can handle several machines, especially for operations with long cycle times.
Mobile robots can be self-propelled, wheeled or skidded. In the past, moving a robot would have required time-consuming re-integration of all its movement points using a pendant control. The new generation of mobile robots eliminates this problem. Using reference points placed on the CNC, the mobile robot uses a vision system to capture images of the points. As long as operators orientate the robot relatively close to its original position, the robot can rebalance all its "learning points", saving hours of programming time.
" We've seen considerable progress with mobile robots that can be stowed away when not in use, and deployed quickly and efficiently. "says Mike Cicco. For workshops and manufacturers who want to save their human talent for high-value operations, using mobile robots for tedious tasks makes sense. As an aside, he explains that the industry is facing a shortage of robotic talent. Just as machine shops and manufacturers can't find people who want to become machinists, they have trouble finding people to program and maintain robots. Responding to this need, automation suppliers continue to work towards the goal of making robot operation as intuitive as turning on a smartphone or PC.
MTConnect 10e birthday
IMTS 2018 marks the 10the anniversary of MTConnect, a set of open, royalty-free standards that promote greater interoperability between controls, devices and software applications, launched at IMTS 2008. At the time, electrical engineer Mike Cicco was on the MTConnect Technical Committee for AMT.
He explains that the vision at the time was for the manufacturing world to develop a protocol that would allow controls, software and peripherals to communicate as simply as connecting USB peripherals to a PC, for example a mouse, a computer and a printer, all from different manufacturers, which could work seamlessly simply by installing the appropriate drivers.
Artificial intelligence, students and the future
Looking back over a decade and comparing it to the exhibits at IMTS 2018, one of the most impactful technological advances will be the use of vision systems on robot arms for location-based picking.
" "Early attempts to use cameras on robots were seen as 'science projects' rather than the basis for future commercial products," explains Mike Cicco. "That changed very quickly. Today, industry uses robotic pick-and-place and 3D control systems every day to improve productivity. Small and medium-sized business owners might think that such systems are too sophisticated, but that's not necessarily the case. "
One of the future automation systems highlighted at IMTS 2018 will combine a vision system with artificial intelligence (AI) and a deep learning algorithm so that the robot teaches itself to pick the contents of a garbage can in 3D. The robot will use a camera to take a picture of what's in the garbage can. But as it has no idea what the piece looks like, where or how to pick it up, the algorithm will determine whether the picking succeeds or fails, enabling the system to learn to make a good choice by emptying the bin.
" The great thing about deep learning is that if two robots perform the same operation and share their successes and failures on a neural network, they'll cut the learning time in half because they'll never repeat the same mistake. If hundreds of connected robots perform the task, we could find answers to complex problems pretty quickly. "
Tim Shinbara says: " The beauty of artificial intelligence and data science is that you can correlate events with causes that would not have been found naturally. A second area of AI is process optimization. As the system "learns" through the process, it can automatically switch to coarse profiling operations to achieve a longer tool life instead of sending a signal to replace a worn-out tool. "
Embracing the future
Contrary to alarmist reports that robots will take over the world, robots take over boring, repetitive and dangerous tasks to free up scarce human resources to focus on other, usually more fulfilling, tasks.
" People need to embrace change. The industry can't do things the way it did 10 years ago and expect to remain profitable or competitive.says Mike Cicco. We want to change the mindset so that people see automation as a new career opportunity or see how it improves their current job. This applies whatever your level of education. "
Students can experience automation first-hand at the Smartforce Student Summit. In partnership with leading educational institutions and high-tech companies such as Fanuc, ABB Robotics, Carl Zeiss, Festo-Didactic, Haas Automation, Heidenhain, Mastercam, Mitutoyo and Siemens, the Smartforce Student Summit provides students with hands-on challenges, and teachers and advanced students with Learning Labs.
" Automation creates high-tech manufacturing jobs. As automation suppliers, we need to help educate the next generation workforceexplains Mike Cicco. Collectively, automation leaders have installed thousands of robots and automation systems, primarily in high schools and technical colleges. Students, parents and instructors can explore a myriad of potential careers at the Smartforce Student Summit, as well as through numerous automation demonstrations from exhibitors at IMTS 2018. "