Thursday, September 22, 2016

IMTS, Robots and…. Ice-cream?

IMTS, Robots and…. Ice-cream?

Not surprisingly, every (and I mean EVERY) industry has a trade show: cars, boats, home-goods, medicine, I.T., energy, education, and yes… even knitting. The list is exhaustive. All over the world, trade shows small and large provide an opportunity for businesses to network and display their product to consumers and enthusiasts alike.          

I’ve been on both sides of the tradeshow experience for nearly a decade now. As a Detroiter, car events like the North American International Auto Show and the Woodward Dream Cruise are traditions that have benchmarked the enormity shows can reach. 

When I began working in aviation, exhibiting at Sun ‘N’ Fun and EAA Oshkosh, I experienced the concept of massive tradeshows being taken to new heights. With 800+ exhibitors and thousands of attendees sprawled out over 2000+ acres of airport, they are certainly a sight to behold.

IMTS 2016 was a whole new experience for me. As I walked through the convention center halls unable to see all four walls, the sheer size of this show floored me. Two thousand exhibitors packed into a mere 30 acres all showing off the latest manufacturing and industrial technologies, from drill bits to massive 5-axis CNC mills. Some of the most impressive demonstrations, however, were in the robot manufacturers exhibits.

Kuka and Yaskawa were in neighboring booths, displaying their latest in precision robotics. 

Two large Kuka units worked together to demonstrate movement and accuracy for spot welding on an automotive component, while other smaller Kuka models demonstrated the impressive speed that can be achieved while tending a CNC machine tool. 


Yaskawa took an innovative approach to their booth, highlighting two of their customers that “are doing a particularly impressive job of putting the features of Yaskawa motion automation components to use” (Yaskawa Press Release). 

These two customer demonstrations, one robot arc-cutting and another robot laser-etching, provided a live and first-hand look at how these robots are used in industry.

The largest, and possibly most impressive robot demonstration was the Fanuc M-2000iA. This massive robot lifted, dipped, and pirouetted a brand new, bright yellow (of course), Corvette demonstrating its precise, long-reach, heavy payload ability. 

This robot was certainly the highlight of the show for most attendees as they crowded around the safety enclosure for the opportunity to take pictures or video for social media. 

Collaborative robots were winning over the hearts and stomachs of thousands of people a day. Kuka, once again displayed immense precision with a KR AGILUS HM food grade robot that handled the order-taking, brewing, and delivery of a Keurig-brewed cup of coffee… Much to the delight of caffeine-craving exhibitioners.

Kawasaki Robotics pleased crowds looking to fill another craving while showcasing their own collaborative robot technology, the duAro. 

The new dual arm (SCARA) robot would receive an order, gently grab a sugar cone (loaded in a pedestal by the customer), and proceed to fill the cone with the soft-serve of choice, even rotating the cone as the ice-cream poured, creating the traditional soft-serve shape. 

To work correctly and within such precise environments, these hi-tech robots require their components to be designed, manufactured, inspected, and assembled to exacting specifications. Wenzel provides the contact and non-contact measurement solutions to enable that precision for companies, in all industries, around the globe.

As a new member of the Wenzel America team and first time IMTS attendee and exhibitor, it was fascinating to see such quantity and variety of cutting-edge technology crammed into one building and get a glimpse into the future of manufacturing. I am certainly looking forward, not only my future here at Wenzel, but also seeing what IMTS 2018 has in store.

Stuart Nichols

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