It’s only fitting that innovation will be on display at ATI Industrial Automation’s newly expanded headquarters in Apex, North Carolina. The manufacturer of robotic tooling and end-effectors will host its inaugural Automation Expo at the facility on May 9.
Visitors will see major players in the industry discuss and demonstrate how some of the latest robotic technologies can increase productivity on the plant floor. The demos will take place in a building designed for high-tech innovation. The facility includes a design verification laboratory where ATI uses robotics to test its equipment, verify robot product designs and experiment with new innovations, says ATI CEO Robert Little. Worker safety is a top priority in the new facility; dedicated noise-canceling and safety rooms protect workers from hazards on-the-job.
NED recently spoke with Little to preview the Automation Expo and discuss the latest trends in robotic tooling.
What can attendees expect from this year’s Automation Expo?
We will have some powerful people from the robotics industry speaking during the event. Mick Estes from FANUC is one of the speakers, and FANUC is the largest industrial robot supplier in the world. By bringing people like Mick to our event, we’re giving our customers a chance to hear from recognized industry experts who can speak about the current state of robotics.
Will you offer any live demonstrations?
Yes, we’re inviting robot companies such as KUKA, FANUC, and Universal Robots to perform demonstrations. A variety of other robot and automation companies will display their products and talk to our customers about the future of robots. We will also have Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), talk about the future of robots. Of course, Jeff is on the cutting edge of what’s going on in the industry and will provide some good insight for attendees.
What key takeaways should attendees expect from this event?
We want our customers to learn more about what the future holds for robots. That’s number one. Number two is to elaborate on how ATI affects that future. What is ATI doing to make robots easier to use? One of the new products we’ll highlight is the Compliant Deburring Blade. Manual deburring is a very repetitive process, such that the person doing it can get carpal tunnel syndrome. Companies have to constantly rotate people in and out of that position. There’s also a safety issue because they do have a blade in their hands, and if they get tired or careless, they can get hurt. We came up with a device that is compliant in all necessary directions. Like a human hand, the device compensates automatically for variations in part profile and path. You mount that to the robot, and then the robot will be able to do the cutting.
We believe this is an enormously powerful tool to automate a tough job. The Compliant Deburring Blade also features an option to change blades automatically. Our goal is to show customers how we’re making robots more productive.
You recently returned from a business trip to China. Can you talk about some of the global trends related to robotics?
The global economy is in a downturn, and China is in the middle of all that. Productivity is more important than ever before, so robots continue to receive an enormous amount of interest to make production lines work faster and smoother. The event I attended in China was an automotive conference where I spoke about new technologies for the auto market. There’s an enormous interest in China in the electric car market, and part of the market requires the ability to work with aluminum and steel joining technology.
Atlas Copco, which is an expert in joining materials, worked closely with us to help us design a tool changer that could work with all their equipment. This gives electric car manufacturers the ability to swap out three or four different tools with a single tool changer. That was received very well by the Chinese companies because of the electric car market the Chinese government is working hard to develop.
China is the fastest-growing robot market in the world. Manufacturers there are embracing automation because they see robots as a more productive way to handle certain applications.
Does growth in China and other global markets present opportunities for companies attending the Automation Expo?
ATI is in every country that uses robots. Attendees at this event, which are mostly U.S. companies, can learn from ATI’s worldwide experience, and they can choose to follow that same pattern. We are building on what we're learning in the U.S. through our global ventures. We’re able to take up new ideas and share them with our customers no matter where they’re from.
For more information on the Automation Expo or to register, visit www.ati-ia.com/Company/EventRegistration.aspx.