Conferences and trade shows can be informative and offer an opportunity to explore new places, meet new people and get hands-on with new technologies. June’s Industrial Automation Shenzhen (IAS) trade show and conference took place in one of China’s fastest developing and most technologically sophisticated cities. We sent our new research associate, Muyuan Li, to take pictures, meet people, and provide a fresh pair of eyes.
Shenzhen has a population of around 12 million and is located just across the border from Hong Kong. It used to be known as a mainland shopping destination but today it is known for its technological capabilities, speedy production, and the home of the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, DJI.
IAS was organized by Deutsche Messe AG (the same group that puts on the annual Hannover Messe automation and robotics trade show) and Hannover Milano Fairs Shanghai Co., their Chinese partner. IAS has the same goals as the big German show: to help companies related with industrial automation connect with each other and find potential customers. In that pursuit at IAS, 375 exhibitors, local and international, presented their latest robotic technologies in over 300,000 sq ft of exhibition space and participated in the daily conference sessions and presentations. Almost 35,000 people attended.
For the past few months I have been researching Chinese robot companies to add to The Robot Report’s directories and global map. I was chosen to go to IAS because I speak Chinese and can parse through their websites to gather the applicable information, and also because attending the show and conference would help in my general education about the industry.
Of all the exhibitors, the Hong Kong Automation Technology Council (HKTAC) drew the biggest audience with its “Hong Kong Pavilion” which showed the leading automation technologies in Hong Kong such as humanoids, material handling automation systems and industrial robots.
During the show, two topics caught my attention: the focus on Industry 4.0 technologies in manufacturing, and the variety and capabilities of the various vision systems presented.
Industry 4.0 is the trend of using streaming data from all the machines in the manufacturing process and to make the machines work with the others – to better integrate all the machines in the production process and analyze their data with the goal of improving efficiency and reducing downtime. With Industry 4.0, manufacturing becomes safer for humans and more efficient and profitable for the companies.
On the other hand, vision systems are becoming almost ubiquitous in factories and the material handling industries. Cameras are installed on robotic arms and along conveyors so that the arms can accurately pick up and drop off products according to their sizes and location in the bin or on the conveyor.
This humanoid robot has vision systems and lively moving eyeballs (cameras) that latch onto the humans moving and standing around it. It can recognize the face structures of passing humans and design tracks that best describe the structure. Then, the humanoid can sketch the faces according to the tracks.
The other main focus was on collaborative robots. This two-arm co-robot includes an upper body and two arms. Its control system is wearable and designed as two gloves. When it comes to work that might lead danger to workers, this robot is used by a human wearing the gloves and controlling its movement by moving his hands. People don’t need to be in the dangerous environment with this setup.
In one the conference sessions vision systems were introduced. Mr. Li Yaoting, of Guangdong Huiyan Technology, introduced one visual system and explained how the company combines the visual systems with the machines with several examples.
One example was the bottling of shampoo: the robot arm recognizes the front and back of the shampoo bottle using the cameras installed and precisely put the bottles on the line facing the same side and the same direction. The robot arm can work with 65 bottles in a minute, which means it is amazingly productive.
At IAS, industry 4.0 and vision systems impressed everyone because of their popular use. It is believed that these two topics would be more researched and deployed in the near future. On the other hand, Shenzhen showed people that robots have become one of the most important topics in the world and that Shenzhen would continue to be the heart of the industry.