Good News on GDP Seen by RIA as Precursor to Economic Recovery

July 31, 2009

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

If you hold your breath long enough, it either makes you dizzy or realize how important it is to breathe. With half the year gone, second quarter GDP numbers suggest the U.S. economy is exiting its downward spiral, allowing us to breathe again.

How does this bode for robotics? In case you haven’t heard, robot orders and shipments are down. It’s enough to make one dizzy. RIA will release new numbers soon that show just where we stand.

Stating the obvious, when the automotive sector picks up, robotics sales are likely to improve. “Robotics in North America is heavily dependent on the automotive industry,” notes Paul Kellett, Director – Market Analysis, Robotic Industries Association. “Once the automotive companies return to health, they’ll be a in a position to increase their capital budgets, but the recovery in automotive could well lag the economy as a whole.”

But that’s the bad news. The good news is there is something to lag. As an analyst, Kellett sees an increasing amount of data which indicates an imminent end to the recession and the beginning of a modest recovery in the second half of the year.

To help its members bounce back, RIA went to the lab and came up with some new benefits. When the New Year breaks, RIA will hold a networking function unlike any it has done before. It takes the Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando (January 20-22, 2010) and marries it to the business conferences of Automated Imaging Association and Motion Control Association. An exclusive, members-only event, it brings together some of the sharpest VIPs in the automation technology business.

In other news, RIA members have first dibs on speaker slots at a webinar on food processing. Examples of robotics for meat processing are preferred, and can be offered as 100-word abstracts with the goal of confirming two speakers by September 10, 2009. (Here’s the email address for abstracts, but please convert the brackets to actual symbols: bhuse[at]robotics[dot]org.)

Companies like Tyson, Hormel and Smithfield are just some of the audience brought to the table by industry specialist National Provisioner, the driving force behind the food processing webinar.

The Association also offers a study that looks at opportunities in the wind turbine industry. This is available to members for free.

Business leaders that haven’t found us yet will get an eye opener when they read a guest editorial from RIA in Technology Digital (Robotic Industries Association: Supporting the robot revolution). These efforts are merely a few examples of how the Association is exercising good relationships to expand the audience for robotics.

If you are a member get published on the pages of Robotics Online. It’s free and can help you be the supplier of choice when your sector bounces back.

Corporate membership is available to suppliers, users, integrators, researchers/educators and consultants. Let RIA help you find the way to more business and avoid the dizzy spell that comes from holding your breath too long. Join today.

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Robots Save Lives on July 4 and Year Round

July 2, 2009

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

New bomb disposal robot bought for the DuPage County Sheriff's Hazardous Devices Unit. Source: Daily Herald.

New bomb disposal robot bought for the DuPage County Sheriff's Hazardous Devices Unit. Source: Daily Herald.

When America celebrates Independence Day on July 4, the country can take great pride that an American (and ex-Navy man) developed and installed the first industrial robot which paved the way for the freedom of workers from dangerous places. In July, as revelers spark off fireworks to celebrate freedom, they can take comfort in the knowledge that bomb disposal robots are working in the background to keep the public safe from bad endings with explosive devices.

Robots have one primary job: keep people safe. It started in 1962 when General Motors installed its first robot. At the time, people were expected to work in notoriously hot and dangerous environments where all too often the air was thick with contaminants. Lives and limbs were sacrificed in the name of manufacturing progress. The “Father of Robotics,” Joseph Engelberger wanted to change that.

His first commercially installed robot worked in the hot, miserable environment of a die casting operation at GM. Eventually, robots made it over to welding work cells and into paint booths and many other places not kind to worker health. This is what robots are built for: to serve as mechanical substitutes where the job is dirty, dangerous and just plain drudgery with no relief.

Some four decades after hitting the factory floor, robots are in cities across the nation working side-by-side with first responders. Like mules, they are beasts of burden, but unlike their equestrian counterparts, they have no feelings to hurt; no pain to feel; no mind at all. They are quite versatile and useful, but if one gets blown apart in the course of its duties . . . well, that’s no skin off its operator.

You’ll see robots in hospitals, labs, schools and many other non-industrial places. In every instance, human safety will be enhanced. And in DuPage, Illinois (near Chicago), a robot is on call for the next time the sheriff’s department responds to a suspicious package (maybe even illegal fireworks). Americans (and people all over the world) can celebrate the fact robots can free first responders from life threatening situations.


What Will Robots be Like in the Future?

July 1, 2009

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

Potato TransformerWhat do you think robots will be doing in the future? Often, people wonder how robots will be a part of our everyday lives. Sometimes, a glimpse of the answer comes in the healthcare sector or even the movies.

Robots have long been a part of the hospital landscape, but encounters with hospital robots still make for good news. One example comes from Michigan, where stroke victims receive faster, better medical care thanks to a robot that connects specialists to the patient even though they are physically miles apart. (See “Robots help save lives, care for stroke patients.”)

The “Father of Robotics” would be proud to know of this story. Joseph Engelberger installed the first industrial robot at GM in 1962. After accomplishing great success in the factory setting, he went on to pioneer robots that served as transporters in hospitals. Service robots became his passion, and he proved the economic feasibility of using this technology by leasing it, which is now common practice.

Perhaps one day you will lease a robot like you do a car. In fact, automobiles may be robots one day. Hello, Transformers! In an inside out sort of way, this Hollywood movie franchise might be a harbinger of things to come. We already have cars that can park themselves, provide cruise control and offer GPS tracking. Would you be surprised if adaptive cruise control with GPS tracking might lead to autopilot for cars and trucks?

Imagine an infrastructure that routes vehicles more efficiently and eases traffic congestion based on technology from robotics. It could help with everything from city planning to improvements in safety.

Do you have ideas on what might be next for robotics? Leave your thoughts here. We’d love to hear from you.