I am fairly confident I set a record for distance walked at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago yesterday. This is by no means bragging, as my feet are killing me and I have two more days to traverse the four buildings and million square feet of show space at McCormick Place. It just represents how poorly I planned my interviews, and how much can't-miss tech there is this year. I simply could not say "no" to all the manufacturers poised to transform the industry in the coming years.
My initial thoughts from Day 1: it's absolutely time to take 3D printing seriously. If you don’t believe me, check out the West Building. The usual suspects and standard bearers, including Stratasys and 3D Systems, have a huge presence, and more importantly real examples of how they have helped plants and factories by making tools, fixtures and in some cases end use parts. It's gotten to the point where rapid prototyping has become the least used nomenclature when referring to the technology. I'll have a wrap-up piece on all the best booths coming soon, but the gallery attached to this article should whet your appetite.
The other things that stood out is how amazing the Danish are. The northern European nation has a population of about 5 million, or just more than half of the Chicago metro area of 9.5 million, yet it represents a huge chunk of the robotic innovation at the show. First, I checked out Denmark-based Universal Robot's booth (#236861) in The North building and spoke to company president Juergen Von Hollen about how the makers of the first collaborative robots have evolved to meet the demands of highly automated, highly flexible workspaces.
Then I ran back to the East wing and Booth #121468 to discuss with Thomas Visti, CEO of Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), how autonomous mobile robots are changing the material handling landscape. This Danish company was also bought by Massachusetts-based Teradyne earlier this year. One of MiR's demonstrations featured a mobile cart with a Universal Robots' six-axis arm. The end effector was made by OnRobot (#236480), of course also from Denmark, and was gentle enough to pick up circuit boards. Put them all together and you have a fully mobile, fully autonomous solution for pick-and-place, assembly, stocking and many other applications. At this point, if you can think it, there is the tech to make it happen.
I'll have more for you in the coming days, weeks and months, as it will take that long to go through all my interviews and images. For now I must work on expanding my collection of new tech I think you need to know about. (Hopefully my swollen feet won’t get much bigger. I doubt MiR would let me commandeer one of their mobile robots as my in-show transportation.)