I spent last Thursday afternoon at the American Manufacturing Technology Show (AMTS) in Dayton, Ohio.  There were some really impressive companies there but I wanted to write about my five favorites.  NOTE: I have no financial interest in any of these companies, I just appreciate the ingenuity and novelty each represents.

1) Haas Automation

Haas Automation Logo

Until AMTS I thought all machine tool builders were headquartered overseas.  This was disappointing because I founded DBS to help American businesses succeed and I didn’t think America competed in this market.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when I came across Haas Automation last week!  They’re the largest machine tool company in the Western hemisphere and they make all sorts of equipment, including VMCs, HMCs, CNCs lathes, rotary tables, as well as other specialty machines.

As a career IT guy (rather than career machinist) I really can’t speak to how a Haas machine compares to a machine from Mazak, Makino, or Okuna.  I don’t know about Haas’ precision, their cycle times, or anything like that.  In fact, most all I know about Haas I learned in their AMTS booth so I’m probably a bit biased but after doing a little research about the company this week I discovered some interesting facts about them.

  1. Haas’ products are all designed and built in the United States, including both machine and controls.
  2. Haas has an online pricing tool where you can build and quote your own custom machines whenever you’d like.  All prices are published so there’s never any haggling for discounts.
  3. Haas pours over $15 million dollars per year into scholarships for advanced manufacturing training.

I know none of those points speaks to the quality of the machines or their technical capabilities but Haas seems like a company that really treats their clients right.  Since they’re the only American machine tool company I’ve found so far, their corporate responsibility makes me pretty happy too.  If you’d like some more reasons to do business with Haas, just flip through this handy list or visit a Haas Factory Outlet near you.

2) Sawyer (via Allied Automation)

Sawyer and Baxter Collaborative RobotsMy first stop at AMTS was at the Allied Automation booth to “meet” Sawyer.  Sawyer (on the left) is a collaborative robot like his successor, Baxter (on the right).  Collaborative robots are designed to safely perform simple repetitive tasks right next to humans without the need for any sort of caging to protect the employees.

What’s really cool about these products from Rethink Robotics is that they’re trained, not programmed.  Instead of having to hire an outside firm to write lines of computer code detailing their instructions, these robots are taught through demonstration.  An employee literally takes ahold of the robot’s arm and guides it through the specified task.  Then he clicks the “run” button and the robot will repeat the motions over and over.

Many worry that advanced robotics will eliminate manufacturing jobs but that’s preposterous.  Cincinnati is already facing a critical shortage of manufacturing labor which is only worsening as the current manufacturing workforce ages.  If a $30,000 robot can be easily trained to do simple tasks and multiple your employees’ value why not use it?  For more information on Sawyer contact Andrew Dill or Matt Gonso at Allied Automation.

3) ColdJet

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ColdJet makes blasting systems that use dry ice instead of water to blast things clean.  It’s a simple concept; using dry ice allows surfaces to be cleaned without abrasion AND there’s no residue left behind because the dry ice evaporates away into carbon dioxide.  At AMTS I saw the i3 MicroClean (pictured left) in action.  The i3 MicroClean is a tabletop cleaning unit that uses “micro particles” of dry ice to clean smaller surfaces or detailed parts.

For larger cleaning jobs, ColdJet has blasting systems that fling rice-sized pellets of dry ice at dirty surfaces.  These larger blasters can even remove asphalt from the side of construction equipment!  Pretty incredible.  Best of all, ColdJet is a local company.  They were founded in Loveland, Ohio thirty years ago and are still there to this very day.  If you’d like more information on their blasting systems I’d encourage you to check out their website.

 

 

4) Nikuni VDF

Nikuni Vortex Dynamic Filter (VDF)Maybe this is cutting-edge technology.  Maybe it’s just a flashy demo unit.  I don’t know.  Either way, I think the Nikuni “Vortex Dynamic Filter” (VDF) is a neat idea.

The Nikuni VDF is a conical chamber that uses centrifugal force to separate waste particles from a machine’s coolant fluid.  As dirty coolant enters the side of the VDF chamber, the waste particles, having greater mass than the coolant fluid, are slung to the outside of the chamber and pulled downward towards a storage tank for later collection.  That leaves cleaner fluid in the middle of the conical chamber where it can be drawn off and sent back to the machine.  Because there is no filter to change, this design greatly reduces maintenance (downtime) and operational costs.

Like the ColdJet equipment, the theory is simple but it’s quite impressive to see in person.  For more information please visit the Nikuni North America website.

 

 

5) Horner APG

A Horner XL7 Control UnitThanks to the Internet of Things, it’s easy to find out status and energy consumption of an HVAC, lighting, or IT solution.  Unfortunately this information is contained in several different places, with each system and vendor providing their own app or web dashboard.  It’s nearly  impossible to see an entire plant’s energy consumption in one place.

That’s where Horner Automation Group comes in.  Their lighting controls can integrate with almost anything, including HVAC, security systems, and even production lines on a plant floor.  As long as the other end is connected to the network it’s an integration candidate.  Yep, Horner can even read energy usage data directly from your PLCs through Modbus TCP, CIP, EGD, and more.  Energy management is a hot topic these days, especially in manufacturing, and I look forward to learning more about Horner’s integration and reporting capabilities.  If you’d like more information please reach out to Matt Mueller and he’ll be happy to assist.

 

Final Thoughts

There you have it – my five favorite booths from AMTS 2016.  What do you think?  How do you see Haas in the market compared to foreign machine tool companies?  How do you envision collaborative robots in the factory of the future?  Please leave your answers and comments below and thank you for reading!

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