Trade show promotes robots

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Organizers say more than 100 people showed up to a trade show near St. Marys.

We have more on why they want the companies there to use more robots.

Organizers say globalization means that companies need to adapt, and one way is automation.

Robots don’t seem to be too popular in the powdered metals industry yet.

“Do you use some robots already?” we asked. “No,” says Eagle Creek Manufacturing vice-president Brian Fenton.

“Not right now, we don’t,” says Continuous Metals maintenance mechanic Steve Eckl.

“We use them to come right from the press to the furnace, a little automation here and there,” says NetShape maintenance manager Orrie Manners.

Speaker Lance Mohney, president of Manufacturing Solutions Inc. in St. Marys, says about 30 percent of businesses he visits have some level of automation. That could soon change.

“We came out just to see what new technology is out there in the field, just to  see if we can make our process any better,” says Manners.

“There’s a bunch of products here that would be beneficial to our company as far as production, cost efficiency,” says Eckl.

The “collaborative robot” is designed to be safe around people.

“If it runs into something, let’s say it runs into my hand, it senses the force and stops,” says Universal Robots technical manager Tom Moolayil.

We wanted to know if these robots will take away people’s jobs.

“It could be less workers, or it could be workers doing something else, and get more product,” says Manners.

“You’ve got to have somebody to program the robots, watch over them, still do quality checks,” says Fenton.

“Most of the jobs that these robots are put in for is ‘pick-and-place,’ so basically there’s a person, a human being, standing there picking a part and putting it in a box all day long,” says Moolayil. “Personally, I feel that’s not a job a human should be doing.”

The Demo Expo organizer says with globalization, people can buy the powdered metal parts anywhere.

“To be competitive in the market, they need robotics and automation to kind of get costs down, get throughput up, and improve repeatability of the process,” says Intek Systems sales manager John Bridgen, who helped coordinate the expo at The Red Fern near St. Marys on Thursday.

Some say it’s also hard to find new human workers.

“The second and third shift is probably most difficult,” says Manners.

The robots could work well with the smart phone generation. One control for the collaborative robot resembles an I-Pad.

“With what’s being offered here today, some of the technology is very first-hand to actually the younger generation, that’s a lot like operating your cell phone,” says Mohney.

He says the robots can also take over the more dangerous tasks.

“It’s the operator who takes ownership of the robot because it’s so easy to use,” says Bridgen.

Supporters say businesses can get more volume, and may need to hire more people, when using robotics. They say humans can then be re-assigned to operate the robots or do other jobs as the business grows.

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February 07 2021 06:30 pm

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