Game-changing trends in automation

Features - Design & Automation Update

Association for Advancing Automation (A3) reports robot orders in the third quarter of 2021 were up 35%.

February 24, 2022

Photo credit: Association for Advancing Automation (A3)

Automation is having a moment. Beyond the steady climb the industry has seen for the better part of this century, the pressure is on for businesses in all industries to automate for self-preservation. It’s not just about satisfying social distancing guidelines and mitigating the impact of workplace shutdowns; trade tensions and supply-chain issues are driving manufacturing back to the United States – a plus in many ways, but a hit to labor costs. Automation can help with all of it.

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) reports, “Robot orders in the third quarter of 2021 were up 35% over the same period in 2020” and the growth isn’t just robotics, as machine vision, motion control, and motors are seeing big increases.

Cloud and edge computing

No one can escape cloud computing and the trend is growing. According to Gartner, “Cloud-native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95% of new digital initiatives by 2025 – up from less than 40% in 2021.” Many automation suppliers have begun to acquire or build their own cloud-based software solutions. In 2020, robotics company DENSO launched an in-house cloud-based platform connecting 130 factories.

Edge computing is also gaining momentum, keeping data storage and analysis closer to the sources of data to improve response times. The edge computing market is expected to grow by 35% during the next several years, reaching $28.07 billion by 2027. Edge computing and automation fill the holes cloud computing can’t. Industrial automation applications require instant response times. Faster, more powerful servers and processors are driving growth in edge computing for automation. The hurdle for automation engineers will be integrating edge computing technologies into legacy automation systems.

Autonomy

As automation accelerates all industries and facets of our lives, who will control it all? Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor technology drove up speed and resolution with reduced costs for camera and sensor technologies and spurred interest in related imaging technologies such as 3D time-of-flight sensors and nonvisible image sensors. Advanced imaging with more sophisticated processing, analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies help automated systems see, interpret, and solve.

Software developments allow deep learning for reliable optical character recognition (OCR), enabling applications not possible with rules-based machine vision alone. New imaging technologies are allowing for high-res image capture at the high speeds required in many industrial applications. While autonomic behavior is common in information technology (IT) applications, technology research company Gartner predicts more prevalent “Physical systems such as robots, drones, manufacturing machines, and smart spaces.”

IT meets OT

Automation is among the fastest rising tech trends. A responsibility once left to plant floor leadership has reached the boardroom and corner office, specifically that of the chief information officer (CIO). Smart organizations know IT and operational technology (OT) aren’t mutually exclusive, they must work together if automation initiatives are to make a positive impact.

From the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to cloud computing, IT/OT roles and responsibilities overlap. Automation engineers must work intensively and frequently with their company’s IT team, especially with cybersecurity and how automation equipment and processes are protected from attack. The term digital transformation may be overused but streamlined collaboration between IT and OT is necessary for automation success.

Association for Advancing Automation (A3)

Güdel Americas provides automation solutions and support

Photo credit: Güdel Americas

Güdel, a global manufacturer of linear motion modules, robot track motion units, and gantry robots and components, formed Güdel Americas, bringing together Güdel’s existing entities in the United States and Mexico to better serve customers. This alignment, and a new regional strategy for growth, will provide customers in the Americas with improved responsiveness, access to spare parts, and local service and support.

“The integration of our North American entities into Güdel Americas is the beginning of great things as we continue to provide high-quality, innovative solutions in the Americas,” says David Treutle, managing director. “This reorganization will bolster production capacity and reduce lead times.”

Güdel Americas will focus on controls software engineering for the future development of the Güdel Global Controls Center of Excellence. The field service team will continue to provide service and installation support while adding greater reach and response times throughout the Americas.

Based in Langenthal, Switzerland, Güdel is part of a family-owned business in its third generation. The company was founded in 1954 and has grown from a single precision machine shop to a leading global automation solutions business with operations in more than 20 countries.

Güdel Americas

Autonomous mobile robot (AMR) sales up 42% in 2021

MiR President Søren E. Nielsen
Photo credit: Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR)

Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) experienced a 42% increase in sales in 2021 over 2020. December alone was a record month for the company, with close to 300 robots shipped, more than any previous month.

“We grew significantly in 2021 despite component shortages as customers recognize the value of our safe, reliable, and easy-to-deploy AMRs,” says Søren E. Nielsen, president of MiR. “We enter 2022 with strong expectations that growth will continue, and with a very strong order book.”

Since MiR launched its first robot in 2015, the company’s products have been used in the automobile and electronics industries, and while these markets continue to invest in MiR AMRs, MiR now also sees strong sales from companies within the logistics and consumer packaged goods (CPG) sectors wanting to optimize and automate their internal transport. MiR’s new, more powerful robots ? the MiR600 and MiR1350, both introduced in 2021 ? have been top sellers in the new sectors.

Effective fleet management 

With the growing global autonomous transport trend, more companies are focusing on how autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) can be integrated with their other automation solutions. To meet this need, many of its customer projects include MiR’s fleet management software, MiRFleet.

“Our customers are focused on how they can effectively use multiple mobile robots at the same time, and MiRFleet plays a key role in making that happen,” Nielsen says. 

Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR)

MotionAi offers tech-savvy, methodical approach to custom needs

Photo credit: Motion Industries Inc.

Motion Industries Inc., a distributor of maintenance, repair, and operation replacement parts and a provider of industrial technology solutions, formed its automation business brand: Motion Automation Intelligence (MotionAi).

Comprising specialized value-add engineering divisions – including AMMC, Axis, Braas, F&L, Integro, Kaman Automation, and Numatic Engineering – MotionAi is a hi-tech automation solutions provider for industrial automation and emerging automation technologies with locations across the United States. The brand will focus on robotics, motion control, machine vision, digital networking/Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), industrial framing, pneumatics, and custom mechatronic systems. Industries served include semiconductor, pharmaceutical, medical, logistics, automotive, and aerospace.

MotionAi