VDMA says strong growth in mechanical engineering, automation to benefit AUTOMATICA 2010

According to VDMA Robotik + Automation orders received in German mechanical and plant engineering increased by 21% in March 2010 compared to the previous year.

May 12th, 2010

According to VDMA Robotik + Automation, mechanical engineering has a key position in the German economy with respect to both quantity and quality. It is the largest industrial employer, the leading export industry, and often the most important partner in developing and implementing innovations. Supporting this, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA; Frankfurt, Germany) announced that orders received in German mechanical and plant engineering increased by 21% in March 2010 compared to the previous year.

Positive figures are also given for automation technology, one of the most important segments of mechanical engineering. VDMA Robotik + Automation, the German association for machine vision, assembly and handling technology, and robotics, expects sales growth for its industry of 5% to 6.4 billion euros in 2010. The forecast is based on the perceptible recovery since the third quarter 2009.

VDMA Robotik + Automation expects additional growth stimuli from AUTOMATICA 2010, which it supports as industry adviser. The trade fair will take place on the grounds of the New Munich Trade Fair Centre from 8-11 June 2010.

Assembly and Handling – Core Area of Automation

Moderate growth of 5% in 2010 is also expected for the assembly and handling industry. Its products are taking a decisive role in manufacturing processes because they can contribute to increased cost efficiency. Component and system suppliers have used the crisis to upgrade their product ranges to state-of-the-art and consequently provide manufacturing industries with competitive advantages.

Trends and Innovations at AUTOMATICA

At AUTOMATICA 2010, all automation areas are presenting new developments:

Robotics--Low procurement costs, simple operation start-up and programming: these are the key factors to open up new markets for robots. Adept Technology, Dortmund, is presenting such a robot model with the new Cobra e-Vario line, which is especially well suited to implementing automation processes in the areas of packaging, palletising, assembling and "pick & place". The Brain-On-Board technology--drive amplifier and control are integrated into the housing--simplifies operation start-up of the robot systems. After only one training day, a user can integrate and program an Adept Cobra e-Vario in his system.

Machine vision--Machine vision systems are not only used for quality control; a growing task area is the controlling of robots. Many processing tasks require a robot line adapted individual to the workpiece. Not only the workpiece position, but also each processing spot on the workpiece must be measured and the robot line corrected correspondingly. VMT from Pepperl + Fuchs Group in Mannheim is providing a complete system for robot line correction with its new product VMT BK, which is especially suited to the application areas of seam sealing, edge working and welding. Measuring and working are completely decoupled thanks to the line correction offline.

Picking--Picking is one of the most demanding jobs in logistics. People could not be replaced here previously. For a long time, machine vision did not provide the required flexibility for pick automation with robots. Now, SSI Schäfer, Neunkirchen, has developed the first completely automatic pick cell with the Robo Pick (SRP) that has a new two-level machine vision system. Thanks to the combination of processes of 3D and 2D machine vision, no time-consuming entry of product features or positions is required. As a result, Robo Pick is suitable for an extraordinary variety of articles of very different sizes, shape and weight. The range of articles can be expanded further with the combination of different robot and gripper types in one cell. Compared to manual picking, the system reduces the error pick rate by a factor of 10 to 100.

Feeding systems--Increasingly smaller, increasingly lighter – a trend in electronics that can no longer be stopped. Even connection elements such as screws are going with this trend. However, mini-screws put special demands on assembly. They are difficult to hold with a hand, which is the reason why automated screw feed provides more efficiency and process reliability. Deprag Schulz, Amberg, is presenting a solution at AUTOMATICA 2010, which feeds and separates even mini-screws just-in-sequence and reliably. The self-regulation of the vibrational amplitude independent of the fill level is essentially responsible for this.

Encoding technology--Most markings should be permanently abrasion-resistant and clearly legible. This is a requirement, which the new e-SolarMark FL Fibre Laser from Bluhm Systeme, Rheinbreitbach, fulfils for very different materials such as stainless steel, plastic (ABS) and plastic sheeting. The fibre laser technology guarantees optimum beam quality and energy density. Markings are possible when products are stationary or moving. The e-SolarMark FL system is easy to program. An external PC is not required for that. Data can be transferred via a RS232 interface or a network.

Metrology--Gear shafts with spline, bevel gears with hypoid toothing and similar workpieces can become warped during production. Consequently, concentricity has to be checked/measured. EHR GmbH, Pforzheim, has developed an optical measurement system that handles this task contactless, fast and precisely. While a skilled hand and a good eye for distances were previously required for customary clocked measuring, the new process is simpler and more objective. The laser triangulation sensor used by EHR digitalises the 3D structure of the gear tooth area. A user can determine all required values from the measured 3D point cloud and readjust his workpiece precisely if there is warping.

Drive technology--In addition to the required power, drives should above all fulfil one wish: it should be possible to mount them effectively and quickly, and they should have optimum service properties. The new CobraDrive from Harmonic Drive, Limburg, which can be placed directly on site, fulfils these requirements. Among other things, the integrated power and signal bus contributes to the slight degree of installation work. The drive has either a CAN or Profibus DP field bus interface. Linking end and reference switches is possible via an external input module.

Global Growth Potential in the Area of Robotics and Automation

Automation Atlas identifies opportunities--Automation potential has not been exhausted by far. Only one-third of companies use automation technologies such as industrial robots or process-integrated quality control. This was the result of study conducted for AUTOMATICA by the IFR (International Federation of Robotics) Statistical Department, which deals with global growth potential in the area of robotics and automation. AUTOMATICA has summarized the most important results and derived an interactive automation atlas from it, which provides automation rates and other information at the push of a button.

Eastern Europe--According to the Automation Atlas, countries in Eastern Europe almost all employ little automation technology, for example. There are fewer than 50 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the processing industry there; the robot density represents the degree of automation. The robot figure is only between 100 and 200 in Slovenia.

Medical technology--The IFR study also provided industry profiles, which provide information about the respective degree of automation. Very good chances for successful involvement are in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and medical equipment industries. The number of industrial robots used there is estimated to be fewer than 50 per 10,000 employees. In comparison, there are an estimated 400 to 700 robots for the same number of employees the automobile industry.

Medical technology is an industry that generated increasing sales even during the economic crisis. New manufacturing processes and optimization of production processes are creating new opportunities. This should increase quality and quantity as well as cut costs.

Posted by Vision Systems Design

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