Inaugural AIM Conference showcases advances in automation, robotics

May 27, 2014

Manufacturing professionals gathered in Rosemont, Ill., on May 15 for the inaugural Automation in Manufacturing (AIM) Conference, organized by AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va. Attendees immersed themselves in robotics and advanced automation, state-of-the-art developments in technology, and their applications.

Presentations from end users, integrators, OEMs, and industry advocates covered advances in robotic technologies and explained the productivity increases possible with the incorporation of robotics into a manufacturing operation.

Mars Exploration Rover Project Chief Engineer and AIM keynote speaker Bill Nelson gave a glimpse into the technology on the Mars Exploration Rover Curiosity, including solar arrays, navigation, panoramic cameras, and rock abrasion tooling, which allowed the rover to send data back to Earth. He told the stories of the challenges his team faced during the robot’s planned 90-day mission to Mars, which has lasted for a surprising 10 years.

John Dulchinos, vice president, global industrialization for Jabil Inc., shared thoughts on the benefits and scope of automation. “Technology drives productivity. The countries with the highest productivity also have the highest density of robots — the top three being Japan, Singapore, and South Korea,” Dulchinos said. “This leads to lower costs and allows for a higher standard of living. For example, in 1950, one U.S. farmer fed 27 people; today one farmer feeds 150 people.”

Dispelling some myths in response to those who are wary of robots, Jeff Burnstein, president, Association for Advancing Automation (A3), told the group, “Innovation has always led to growth and more jobs. Robots are just better tools, not our masters. We can’t even imagine the new products and industries that improved automation will help create in the future.”