CNBC Begins Dialog on How Robots Have Positive Impact on Jobs

March 30, 2011

RIA President Jeff Burnstein was interviewed on CNBC during Automate 2011 in Chicago last week. He discussed the impact robots have on jobs.

More success stories than ever exist of companies who have invested in automation and seen their business grow and prosper.  One of the best stories is that of Marlin Steel Wire, who uses robots to succesfully compete with companies in China paying its workers 30 cents an hour.  Drew Greenblatt, Marlin’s President, says thanks to robotics he has added jobs to handle the increased business and can pay his workers $30 per hour plus benefits.


Automate 2011 Honors 50 Years of Robotics

March 17, 2011

Joseph Engelberger and partner George Devol, Jr. sold the first American industrial robot, a Unimate, to General Motors which installed it in 1961. It was used for hot and heavy work in die cast operations. Automate 2011 honors robotics industry pioneers with a special tribute at the Show, and a Gala Dinner presentation of the industry’s highest honor, the Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award.

In 1968, Viktor Scheinmann started development of Vicarm, and electric robot for assembly applications. It was smaller than a Unimate and not intended to carry such heavy loads. Unimation later bought the Vicarm and refined it to be even smaller and more versatile, bestowing it with a new name in the process: PUMA (Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly).

Engleberger’s company, Unimation, eventually licensed its technology to Kawasaki Heavy Industries, setting in motion the start of the robotics industry in Japan and throughout the industrialized world.

Many robot ventures in the U.S. came and went during the 1970s, including ones from AMF, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, Cincinnati Milacron and Western Electric. Robot applications spread from foundry operations to spot welding. Paint robots came along later. Usually, the technology was applied to make the workplace safer for people and separate them from dangerous environments.

Engelberger said the key to expanding applications of robots was to ask this question: “Do you think a robot could do that?” As we have seen in the past 50 years, very often the answer is, “Yes.” Sheep shearing was pioneered in Australia and the nuclear industry uses robots to handle radioactive material.

Over the years, robots evolved from hydraulic arms that could perform only one task to electric servomotor driven, multifunctional, reprogrammable arms. New worlds of applications opened as robots gained situational awareness through sensors like machine vision, to the point where now surgeons remove gall bladders and farmers milk cows with robots.

Robotic Industries Association was formed in 1974 to represent robot manufacturers, component suppliers, systems integrators, users, educators, consultants and researchers. Over the years the industry has grown from a handful of companies in the U.S. into a worldwide network of automation leaders. RIA has grown right along with the industry and today represents some 250 members companies.

Automate 2011 celebrates the rich history of robotics and automation and presents a window into its future. A special tribute to 50 Years of Robotics is presented on the Show floor. Admission is free (must be 16 or older) and the same badge also provides entry to the ProMat Show also in McCormick Place March 21-24, 2011.

More than 40 conference sessions and tutorials are offered at Automate 2011, with fees ranging from $225 for one day to $895 for all four days. Students and faculty are welcome to free sessions on Thursday, March 24 beginning at 8:30 AM.

Complete registration details are available at (or call 800-994-6099). Click here for the Automate 2011 Fact Sheet.

For information about RIA visit; for AIA visit; for MCA visit

Now is the Time to Automate!

March 11, 2011

By Jeff Burnstein, President, Robotic Industries Association

The robotics industry is in the midst of a major upturn, with global sales up more than 50% last year.  Similar trends exist in machine vision, motion control and related automation technologies.  Companies throughout the world recognize that automation gives them a competitive edge by improving productivity, product quality and profits.  Now is the time for companies in every industry who haven’t considered automation yet to do so.  And, the best way to get the knowledge they need is to attend Automate 2011 in Chicago, March 21-24 at McCormick Place.

Traditional barriers to automate are falling fast.  It’s no longer too costly or complex, no longer is automation just for large companies or those with vast internal engineering resources.  A growing number of qualified, experienced system integrators exist with the knowledge of specific industries and applications as well as the automation know-how needed to develop successful solutions.

More success stories than ever exist of companies who have invested in automation and seen their business grow and prosper.  One of the best stories is that of Marlin Steel Wire, who uses robots to succesfully compete with companies in China paying its workers 30 cents an hour.  Drew Greenblatt, Marlin’s President, will speak at Automate 2011 to explain how, thanks to robotics, he has added jobs to handle the increased business and can pay his workers $30 per hour plus benefits.

Marlin’s not alone.  Recently one of our Board members sent me this video about Itron, a smart meter manufacturer based in South Carolina:  About six minutes in you’ll find the General Manager of Operations explaining how robotics and automation has helped Itron improve its business so much that it has doubled its workforce in the past 18 months.  He says its counter-intuitve that you can automate and add jobs, but this is exactly what’s happened at Itron, and Marlin, and many other companies large and small.

Automate 2011 will showcase succesful solutions, the system integrators that provide them, the products needed to develop them, and the experts who are willing to share knowledge that visitors can apply immediately at their companies. 

Economic conditions are strong, manufacturing activity is increasing, non-manufacturing applications of robotics, machine vision and other automation technologies are expanding into areas like warehousing & distribution, security, health care, and defense.     Now is the time for companies in every industry who want to explore automation solutions  to step forward to ask their questions, and Automate 2011  is the show with the answers!

Celebrating 50 Years of Robotics at Automate 2011

March 10, 2011

To put Automate 2011 in a historical perspective, the first robot went into industrial use fifty years ago. It was a Unimate sold to General Motors for die casting operations. See an old Unimate in person at the Kawasaki booth 348 during Automate 2011.

“To help mark 50 years of robotics history since the issue of the first robot patent to industry pioneer George Duvol, attendees will have the opportunity to view an original Unimate 2005G,” says Yanik Van Coppenolle, Marketing Specialist at Kawasaki. The 2005G was a five-axis machine with 1,980 mm of reach and boasted a payload of 60 kg. “Those attending Automate 2011 can compare the Unimate’s capabilities with that of current industrial robots.”

A display and timeline marking the 50th anniversary of the industrial robot will highlight the Past, Present and Future of Robotics on the Automate Show floor.

Robots for the Smart Grid Make Jobs in South Carolina

March 7, 2011

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, RIA (sponsor of Automate 2011)

Our friends at Staubli (Automate booth 848) alerted us to a YouTube video about job creation involving robotics and automation. Itron, a company in West Union, South Carolina, is working on infrastructure for the smart grid and they use leading-edge technology, including robots, to make smart meters and put Americans to work.

“We believe we have to create a vision of the factory of the future (and robots are so important because they) enable us at Itron to manufacture in the United States of America in a very cost effective and efficient way,” Michael Higgins, General Manager of Operations, Itron.

He notes it may seem counterintuitive that a highly automated factory would help create jobs, but says that is exactly what they have done in the implementation of the smart grid.

This is the same sentiment you will hear at Automate 2011 where makers of the most advanced robotics, machine vision and motion control show real-world examples of what technology can do to bolster local economies and job markets. This topic is a particular message of Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin Steel Wire and a featured speaker during the Autoamte 2011 Conference. See him in Session 1 on Monday, March 21, at 10 a.m. (Separate Conference registration required.)

Session 1: Cost Justifying Automation

Instructors: Ron Potter, Factory Automation Systems — The Business Case for Robots: How the U.S. Can Compete and Win in Global Manufacturing

Drew Greenblatt, Marlin Steel Wire — Grow Great Jobs & Profits with More Automation

Curtis Richardson, Spirit AeroSystems — Cost Justification of Aerospace Assembly Drilling Automation

Learn how to cost justify automation investments to increase margin, profits and market share. This course will feature examples from real-world applications demonstrating the automation system cost justification process.

Register for Tutorials and Sessions at Automate 2011

March 7, 2011

Automate 2011 attendees have the opportunity to learn from their peers in the robotics, vision, and motion control industries through a series of informative tutorials and sessions at the Automate Conference. The 19 tutorials will help engineers build professional development and become a Certified Vision Professional by way of a basic or advanced level exam. The 22 regular sessions are supplemented with two others dedicated to robots in education. (More registration information at

Opening day of the conference, Monday, March 21, features tutorial three, “Fundamentals of Robotics,” taught by Kawasaki Robotics (USA) Inc.’s (Wixom, Michigan) North America Sales Manager, Robert Rochelle. Kawasaki engineers plan on listening to the keynote address on the development of Robonaut 2, justifying robotics (session one), robots for picking, packaging and palletizing applications (session four) and three-dimensional vision system development (tutorial seven).

Burg is scheduled to present tutorial six, ”Robotics System Integration,” on Monday from 1:30 to 5:00 PM. This session looks at the merits and pitfalls of end-users integrating robotics themselves compared to hiring an outside integrator. Burg would like to check out other sessions but may not find the time during the conference. “I may attend other sessions and tutorials but I will be in Ellison’s booth most of the time during the conference.”

Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC (Baltimore, Maryland) will share his company’s successes with robotics in session one, “Cost Justifying Automation” on Tuesday, March 22, 10:00 AM to 12:15 PM. This session explains how manufacturers can increase profitability through actual experiences of deploying robotics to increase the bottom line.

Also on Tuesday from 3:15 to 5:00 PM, Adil Shafi will present session six, “The Latest Developments in Service Robotics.” Shafi will talk about 20 markets where service robots are growing in adoption and volume, including aerospace, land and water-based markets with defense, health, household and other diverse applications. “Service Robots will benefit humans in a profound and widespread manner,” says Shafi.

Session 11, “Case Studies of Successful Robotic Solutions,” (Wednesday morning) will examine case studies in robotic arc welding, high-throughput pharmaceutical screening, and how complex manual operations were automated, with tips manufacturers can follow to do likewise in their facilities.  In addition to Wednesday’s other tutorials and sessions, the Basic Level Exam for Certified Vision Professional will be administrated in the afternoon.

On the final day of the conference, Steven Prehn, FANUC’s vision product manager will present the “Advanced Vision Guided Robotics” tutorial. This tutorial is part of the advanced certified vision professional track, culminating in the Advanced Certified Vision Professional Exam held at the end of the conference on Thursday, March 24. Prehn’s colleague at FANUC, Packaging Product Manager Jay Strybis, will be among the speakers in session 20, “High-speed Robotic and Vision Solutions.”

Two complimentary sessions, providing professional development for faculty and students, are being offered. Session E1 (Robots in Education) and E2 (Robots in Education Roundtable) will discuss how best to incorporate robotics and automation into classes and curriculum. Both sessions take place on Thursday, March 24.

Automate 2011 Presents More Than 150 Exhibitors

March 6, 2011

More than 150 automation makers and integrators are planning a series of exhibits and demonstrations to show off their capabilities at Automate 2011, March 21-24, Chicago, Illinois USA.

Yaskawa America Inc.’s Motoman Robotics Division (West Carrollton, Ohio) will have a work cell that utilizes Rockwell Automation’s software. “Motoman will demonstrate products and capabilities for automated material handling and advanced manufacturing. We will show a material handling robot programed entirely from Rockwell Automation’s software. Motoman developed the robot gateway to enable integrators and end-users to program their robots directly within Rockwell’s software language.” states Tim DeRosett, Director of Marketing with Motoman.

Additionally, Motoman will show human scale automation in their exhibit. “Our dual-arm, 15-axis robot enables companies to automate multiple complex operations that previously could only be done manually. Motoman will also show our newest vision product along with precision gear deburring and finishing using computer-aided design models to automatically program part profiles.” On a lighter note, DeRosett adds that a dual-arm Motoman robot will deal blackjack.

Genesis Systems Group LLC (Davenport, Iowa) plans on bringing a work cell to Automate that demonstrates several processes, previews Whitney Moon, Market Development Manager. “Our demonstration will perform material handling processes using vision for palletizing and part handling. Genesis will demonstrate a tool changer from ATI Industrial Automation (Apex, North Carolina) enabling the robot to switch among processes automatically. Automate 2011 is hooked up with ProMat and we think demonstrating a robot tending a hybrid modular conveyor makes sense.” Moon says that the conveyor is manufactured by New London Engineering of New London, Wisconsin.

The growing importance of the automated warehouse and food handling sectors leads Adept Technology Inc. (Pleasanton, California) to bring robots related to those applications to Automate, explains Rush LaSelle, Director, Global Sales and Marketing. “Adept’s objective in showcasing these products is to demonstrate how the implementation of automation is more cost-effective than any time in history. Now is an exciting time as the adoption rate of robotics and autonomous guided vehicles (AVGs) are rapidly increasing in non-traditional application areas.” The packaging platform Adept will bring to Automate 2011 is intended for handling raw foods such as meats and poultry.

Also, in the Emerging Robotics Pavilion, Adept and Anybots (Mountain View, California) will each show off their telepresense robots, while Motoman will demonstrate its dual-arm, multi-axis robot. Other pavilion participants include CYCOGS’ (Sauk City, Wisconsin) medium-sized service robot, Hydronalix’s (Tucson, Arizona) “lifeguard” robot, E.M.I.L.Y. and SCHUNK Inc’s (Morrisville, North Carolina) personal robot platform.

Other food applications will have a presence at Automate 2011. “Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. (Brewerton, New York) will demonstrate a cartoning application at the show,” declares Schneider’s Sales and Marketing Director Terry Zarnowski. “A vision-guided robot will pack single serving bags of candy into cartons at a rate of 120 cycles per minute.”

ABB Inc. will focus on painting applications at Automate. Stephanie Stanton, ABB’s Marketing Specialist and Trade Show Coordinator, says, “ABB will have a paint cell to demonstrate color changing capabilities and a conveyor to show tracking while spraying multiple colors. A second work cell with two robots will showcase motion control capabilities.” ABB will also display their smallest robot arm and compact controller along with videos showing other applications, Stanton concludes.

FANUC Robotics America Corporation (Rochester Hills, Michigan) will exhibit a variety of applications at Automate 2011. “FANUC will demonstrate picking, dispensing, and assembly applications. Additional demonstrations will showcase arc and spot welding, bin picking, as well as large and heavy part handling, and mixed-case palletizing,” General Manager Michael Cicco remarks. “FANUC will bring a parallel-link robot designed for small part handling, high-speed picking, packing, and assembly applications to the show.”

JR Automation Technologies LLC (Holland, Michigan) will also have a work cell performing diverse tasks. “JR will demonstrate three different machines using five robots. One demonstration will show dispensing and screw-driving applications using vision-guided robots,” sketches out James Kramer, JR Automation’s Director of Sales. JR will have three video monitors showing other applications.

Ellison intends to bring a machine loading and unloading work cell for exhibit at Automate. “Ellison’s demonstration will include a vision-guided robotic material delivery system that allows delivery of multiple parts. We call the system our ‘lean machine,’” outlines John Burg. “The system is for use with lathes, machining centers, grinders, and several other types of machines.” Ellison offers a press-break loading and unloading version of their ‘lean machine.’

Peripheral equipment suppliers will also exhibit at Automate. “ATI will display a hollow wrist tool changer that allows routing of pneumatics, electrical signals, and other utilities to pass through its center,” portrays Charles Haines, Marketing Supervisor at ATI. “The hollow wrist tool changer is for general robotic use, anywhere that having wires or hoses hanging off the robot is not desirable, especially in applications with concerns about cables and hoses getting snagged on other components in the environment.”

See full story, “A Preview of the Automate 2011 Conference” from Robotics Online.