Jobs and Robots – Free RIA Webinars during National Robotics Week

March 30, 2012

National Robotics Week

Jobs and robotics are webinar topics addressed by Robotic Industries Association during National Robotics Week, April 7-15, 2012. Career Opportunities in Robotics is on April 10 and Fundamentals of Robotics is April 12 – both are free and start at Noon Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Registration details can be found at www.robotics.org/NationalRoboticsWeek.

Webinar panelists are RIA members with practical experience in the robotics industry. Speakers for the careers webinar are Diane Haig from Applied Manufacturing Technologies, Roberta Zald from IPR Robotics and Jim Devaprasad from Lake Superior State University. Adil Shafi, President of Advenovation, is the presenter for robotics fundamentals.

“National Robotics Week began in 2010 and is a great example of the renewed focus on manufacturing in North America,” said Jeff Burnstein, President, Robotic Industries Association. “RIA members are looking for qualified workers so this is a great opportunity to hear about the exciting and fulfilling work in robotics and advanced manufacturing.”

Findings from a 2011 report on how robots create jobs indicate, “One million industrial robots currently in operation have been directly responsible for the creation of close to three million jobs… A growth in robot use over the next five years will result in the creation of one million high quality jobs around the world.” (Source: International Federation of Robotics.

Career Opportunities in RoboticsCareer Opportunities in Robotics (April 10) is a one-hour webinar that examines career options in cutting-edge applications in industry and beyond. Engineers, faculty and others interested in engineering career development will discover exciting robotic opportunities in education and research, industry, simulation and emerging applications presented during this webinar.

Fundamentals of Industrial Robotics: Factory SolutionsFundamentals of Robotics – Factory Solutions (April 12) is an hour-long webinar that explains different kinds of robots, their design and component makeup, basic safety considerations and integration methodologies.

Attendees are invited to join the webinars online during National Robotics Week. The Great Plains Robotics Alliance along with the Wichita Area Technical College has incorporated the Fundamentals of Robotics webinar into an event they are hosting at their facility (National Center for Aviation Training) and will show the webinar live in their presentation auditorium.

About Robotic Industries Association

Founded in 1974, RIA’s member organizations include leading robot manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, community colleges & universities, research groups, and consulting firms. RIA is best-known for developing the ANSI/RIA National Robot Safety Standard, collecting quarterly statistics on the North American robotics market, sponsoring the biennial Automate show and conference, hosting the annual Robotics Industry Forum, and producing Robotics Online, the world’s leading resource for robotics information.

RIA is part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), formerly known as the Automation Technologies Council. Other associations under the A3 umbrella are AIA, an association for vision & imaging companies, and the Motion Control Association (MCA).

For more information on RIA, visit Robotics Online or contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088.

About National Robotics Week

National Robotics Week recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlights its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education. Robotics is positioned to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, health-care, national defense and security, agriculture and transportation. At the same time, robotics is proving to be uniquely adept at enabling students of all ages to learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and at inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. During National Robotics Week, a week-long series of events and activities is aimed at increasing public awareness of the growing importance of “robo-technology” and the tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of the United States.

National Robotics Week is a product of a 2009 effort by leading universities and companies to create a “national road-map” for robotics technology, which was initially unveiled at a May 2009 briefing by academic and industry leaders to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics. On March 9, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week. This resolution was submitted by U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14), co-chair of the Caucus, and other members.

Initiated in 2010, the inaugural National Robotics Week included 50 affiliated events around the country. National Robotics Week 2011 built on that success to include more than 100 events in 22 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. We expect National Robotics Week 2012 to be even bigger with even more events.

Read the original press release on Robotics Online.
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Robotics Shows Its Softer Side

March 29, 2012

When is a robot not a robot?

It sounds like a question straight from the Mad Hatter, but soft robotics isn’t a “through the looking glass” fantasy. Take away all the things you typically associate with a robot — the gears, the hardware, the metal shell, the electronics — and what do you get?

Still a robot.

Soft Robots for Hard Problems By Neil Savage

Majidi says the field of soft robotics is still fairly new and that researchers need to find alternatives to air pumps as a way to control the devices. The robots will also need ways to sense their own position. For that he’s exploring the use of microfluidics, specifically liquid-filled microchannels inside a film of rubber. Something as simple as saltwater would render the channel conductive so that the device would become electronic. But there are other fluids that could work, such as Galinstan—an alloy of gallium, indium, and tin that’s liquid at room temperature and a million times as conductive as saline, making it comparable to copper wire.

Because bending or stretching such a circuit changes the shape of the microfluidic channel, it also changes the circuit’s conductivity and thus alters an electrical signal passing through it. “You get something that functions like a stretchable circuit,” Majidi says. Such a device could act as a sensor that measures strain, pressure, or curvature. It could even be used as a stretchable antenna, as was recently demonstrated by a team led by Michael Dickey at North Carolina State University.

Don’t believe something made of air and silicon can be effective? Take a look at this video:

Soft robotics is new, what but applications can you envision for it?

Read the full article at IEEE Spectrum.


Small Robots Provide Flexibility in Automation

March 27, 2012

Robots in the automation world are often thought of as the large, heavy pieces of machinery we’ve seen showcased countless times in car commercials, moving heavy parts, welding with sparks flying, dwarfing the cars they’re working on — not necessary equipment that has a variety of applications. But if your factory floor is smaller than a Cadillac plant or you’re working with a product smaller than a Mini Cooper, you still have enough space to automate:

Small multi-axis industrial robots add new twist to lean manufacturing, by Charlie Miller

When the design work first began on the IRB 120, it was intended for assembly work in the electronics industry. The idea was to make an affordable robot suited to low-cost countries where electronics are typically manufactured. But they soon caught on, domestically and abroad, as other industries found these robots improve productivity and are easily integrated into new and existing production lines. The installed base has extended to a variety of industries including pharmaceutical, packaging, food and beverage, automotive, and solar photovoltaic manufacturing. One of the key features of this new class of smaller, compact robots is they are able to work very close to other machinery in a production line. A typical base for these robots is 18 centimeters by 18 centimeters, the size of half a piece of A4 paper.

This class of robots typically weighs just 25 kilograms and has a very compact turning radius, enabled by the robots symmetric architecture, without offset on the second axis. This ensures the robot can be mounted close to other equipment, and the slim wrist enables the arm to reach closer to its application.

These compact robots also offer an advantage when mounting the robot upside-down, as it can be installed at a relatively low height, once again saving space. At the same time, these robots do not sacrifice reach. Typical “stroke” measures 411 millimeters, which is long compared to its total reach of 580 millimeters.

Read the rest of the article at InTech.


MSN Video Shows How Amazon will Robotify with Kiva

March 21, 2012

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

Robots flitting around the warehouse aisles at Amazon? George Jetson, get ready for your close-up! Daily Double: “What did George do?” Did he and his boss, Mr. Spacely, know one day a real-life company called Amazon would invest $775 million to have a fleet of robots to help speed up business?

As seen in CNBC video, Kiva Systems is now an Amazon asset to facilitate pick, pack and place. Surely, the pairing is proof that a doppelganger for this situation exists in cartoon land at Spacely’s Space Sprockets. It’s so easy, Staples even uses it (enter stage left the Easy Button). But seriously, the initial CNBC footage shows Kiva in action at a Staples warehouse.

Check out this great MSN video – Kiva’s Retail Robots.

Kiva Systems makes fleets of robots for inventory storage and retrieval. Amazon has a lot of logistics to manage in order that a huge inventory ships right and ships fast. Now they have robot “tugs” to create hyper efficiencies.

What does it mean to have a thriving warehouse hub in your metro area? Work might change as robots disrupt old assumptions, but it will cause new opportunities in logistics, operation and maintenance. In short, the supply chain may get robotified but new jobs will emerge that place a premium on technological skill sets.

Maybe George Jetson was a logistics genius? Even if he wasn’t, he had a great car.

For job seekers in logistics, it may be worth it to go to Philadelphia or one of the other hubs Amazon has for warehouses – at the very least visit MHIA, the trade association that specializes in the supply chain. If you want a job in robotics become versatile in engineering and practical applications. Visit Rho Bota Phi or the Robotics Online Career Center to join a new workforce of technical and engineering savvy employees where people, automation and robots are all welcome.


GM, NASA Jointly Developing Robotic Gloves for Human Use

March 21, 2012

Robonaut technology coming to the factory floor or space station soon

GM RoboGloveHOUSTON – General Motors and NASA are jointly developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries.

The Human Grasp Assist device, known internally in both organizations as the K-glove or Robo-Glove, resulted from GM and NASA’s Robonaut 2 (R2) project, which launched the first human-like robot into space in 2011. R2 is a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

When engineers, researchers and scientists from GM and NASA began collaborating on R2 in 2007, one of the design requirements was for the robot to operate tools designed for humans, alongside astronauts in outer space and factory workers on Earth. The team achieved an unprecedented level of hand dexterity on R2 by using leading-edge sensors, actuators and tendons comparable to the nerves, muscles and tendons in a human hand.

Research shows that continuously gripping a tool can cause fatigue in hand muscles within a few minutes. Initial testing of the Robo-Glove indicates the wearer can hold a grip longer and more comfortably.

“When fully developed, the Robo-Glove has the potential to reduce the amount of force that an auto worker would need to exert when operating a tool for an extended time or with repetitive motions,” said Dana Komin, GM’s manufacturing engineering director, Global Automation Strategy and Execution. “In so doing, it is expected to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury.”

GM Robo-Glove video

For example, an astronaut working in a pressurized suit outside the space station or an assembly operator in a factory might need to use 15-20 pounds of force to hold a tool during an operation but with the robotic glove only five-to-10 pounds of force might need to be applied.

“The prototype glove offers my space suit team a promising opportunity to explore new ideas, and challenges our traditional thinking of what extravehicular activity hand dexterity could be,” said Trish Petete, division chief, Crew and Thermal Systems Division, NASA Johnson Space Center.

GM RoboGlove developed with NASAInspired by the finger actuation system of R2, actuators are embedded into the upper portion of the glove to provide grasping support to human fingers. The pressure sensors, similar to the sensors that give R2 its sense of touch are incorporated into the fingertips of the glove to detect when the user is grasping a tool. When the user grasps the tool, the synthetic tendons automatically retract, pulling the fingers into a gripping position and holding them there until the sensor is released.

GM and NASA have submitted 46 patent applications for R2, including 21 for R2’s hand and four for the Robo-Glove alone.

The first prototype of the glove was completed in March 2011 with a second generation arriving three months later. The fabric for the glove was produced by Oceaneering Space Systems, the same company that provided R2’s “skin.”

The current prototypes weigh about two pounds and include the control electronics, actuators and a small display for programming and diagnostics. An off-the-shelf lithium-ion power-tool battery with a belt-clip is used to power the system. A third-generation prototype that will use repackaged components to reduce the size and weight of the system is nearing completion.

“We are continuously looking for ways to improve safety and productivity on the shop floor,” Komin said. “Our goal is to bring this technology to the shop floor in the near future.”

NASA and GM have a long, rich history of partnering on key technologies, starting in the 1960s with the development of the navigation systems for the Apollo missions. GM also played a vital role in the development of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, the first vehicle used on the moon.

About General Motors
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM’s brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.

About NASA Johnson Space Center
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research. Since February 2006, NASA’s mission statement has been to “pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is the NASA’s center for human spaceflight training, research and flight control in Houston, Texas, USA. Johnson Space Center is home to the United States astronaut corps and is responsible for training astronauts from both the U.S. and its international partners.


American Manufacturing — the Comeback Kid?

March 20, 2012

After an economic downturn, it’s always a relief to see industries buoy back to its pre-recession numbers. If you’re looking for good news in the manufacturing industry, there’s a lot of it. And while it’s nice to see some recovery, there are ways to bolster manufacturing’s rise.

American manufacturing is on the rise. According to the latest figures from the Labor Department, the nation’s factories added 50,000 jobs in January—their strongest showing in a year—on top of 32,000 jobs in December.

Overall, employers added 243,000 jobs in January, the most in nine months. Manufacturing was the second-biggest gainer, behind professional and business services.

Employment numbers aren’t the only indication that manufacturing activity is picking up. According to the Institute for Supply Management, growth in new factory orders rose to a nine-month high in January. And, vehicle sales in January rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14.2 million, the briskest pace in several years.

However, U.S. manufacturers are not out of the woods yet. Although the sector added 404,000 jobs from January 2010 to January 2012, it’s still down 3 million jobs from January 2003. And, the 11.8 million manufacturing jobs tabulated in January 2012 is still a fraction of the peak level of 19.5 million in 1979. […]

Keeping the U.S. manufacturing sector on the upswing will require the coordinated action of business, labor, academia and government. Just such a plan was published in December by the Council on Competitiveness. Based in Washington, DC, the council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to elevating U.S. productivity and leadership in world markets and raising the standard of living for all Americans.

What are your thoughts on the manufacturing market? Do you agree with the article’s five points of action? Or is there something you would add?

To read the full Assembly Magazine article, click here.


“Help Wanted – Must be Robot Friendly”

March 16, 2012
Robotics is a growing industry. It starts up companies, expands business, and creates jobs. However, the robotics business is facing a challenge that all developing industries face — a lack of a skilled workforce.
Need for robotic skills outpacing work force

“Robot suppliers and integrators told us they were running full-out to meet customer demand and one of the limiting factors was a shortage of qualified application engineers and other technical people needed to develop and integrate new applications,” said RIA President Jeff Burnstein.

During January, recruiters posted more than 2,100 online job ads for robotics skills, an increase of 44 percent compared to January 2011 and more than double the volume of online job ads in January 2010, according to Wanted Analytics, a recruiting data firm.

The majority of job listings were for engineering and technology positions, but there also is growing demand for systems integration, operations and maintenance workers.

The advanced manufacturing industry is having trouble finding college graduates with even basic robotics skills, said Raul Ordonez, a University of Dayton associate professor and director of the school’s Motoman Robotics Laboratory.

“The students who have these skills would be highly sought after,” he said.

If you are looking to take advantage of the success of the robotics industry, there are many ways to become educated and develop your skill set, from full college programs in engineer to shorter certificate programs in robotics. Check out the Webinars & Education section of Robotics Online — we have a webinar about career opportunities in robotics coming up on April 10, as well as many other webinars archived for immediate viewing. We’re proud of RIA members Yaskawa Motoman Robotics and SAS Automation that have taken responsibility in the future of their industry.

To read the full article, head over to the Dayton Daily News.