Automation and Robotics News: November 7

Automation and Robotics News–Nov. 7, 2010

Highlights: Upgrading drones; why companies should automation; Indian Dairy Automation; automation and increaing demand; Robot sales up this year in NA; Asimo 10 year anniversary.

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm  – back issues

http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnewsarchive.htm#7nov10  — current issue

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

U.S. Army Pursues Nanosats and Microlaunchers on a Shoestring

Doug Mohney, October 29, 2010

Far away from Washington D.C., in the shadow of NASA’s Huntsville Saturn 5, the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command is working on small, cheap nanosatellites for communications and imagery and an equally low-cost way to put them into orbit quickly. It’s a radical break from the past, but the Army wants rapidly responsive and flexible assets that it can launch on short notice to support warfighting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations — and cheap enough to be essentially “throwaways.…

IAI Offers New Ultralight MiniPOP Payload for UAVs

Nov 01, 2010Robotics Trends Staff

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is introducing the newest member of its MiniPOP (plug-in optronic payload) family: the Ultralight MiniPOP. The new lightweight MiniPOP payload is manufactured using lightweight metals, including magnesium and titanium. The MiniPOP is designed to be used by small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which demand long endurance, and by special ground forces for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISTAR) missions. The system can be handled and operated by a single soldier.

Drones Get Ready to Fly, Unseen, Into Everyday Life

WSJ, 11/03/10

Personal drones aren’t yet plying U.S. flyways. But an arms race is building among people looking to track celebrities, unfaithful… In early 2010, Senior Airman Cassie McQuade was all alone in an isolated corner of Bagram air field, NATO’s main base in Afghanistan. As the sole airman assigned to a team of civilian contractors from Boeing subsidiary Insitu, it was McQuade’s job to analyze video streams pumped into her trailer by the team’s fleet of low-flying ScanEagle drones used to spot threats to Bagram. “The hardest part is determining what is suspicious and what we are looking for,” she told me. The long, dark shape in a man’s arms could be a shovel — or a rocket launcher. Men digging by the side of the road could be repairing a culvert or planting a bomb. Telling the difference required training, practice … and intuition. With more and more drone-provided video pouring into Pentagon servers — “24 years’ worth if watched continuously” just in 2009, according to The New York Times – the Air Force in particular is struggling to train up enough analysts like McQuade to sift through it all. Their job is made more difficult by the raw nature of most video feeds. Watching untagged video is like “tuning in to a football game without all the graphics,” one industry executive told The Times.

Learning Computers to Help Humans Scour Drone Footage

David Axe, November 5, 2010

In early 2010, Senior Airman Cassie McQuade was all alone in an isolated corner of Bagram air field, NATO’s main base in Afghanistan. As the sole airman assigned to a team of civilian contractors from Boeing subsidiary Insitu, it was McQuade’s job to analyze video streams pumped into her trailer by the team’s fleet of low-flying ScanEagle drones used to spot threats to Bagram. “The hardest part is determining what is suspicious and what we are looking for,” she told me. The long, dark shape in a man’s arms could be a shovel — or a rocket launcher. Men digging by the side of the road could be repairing a culvert or planting a bomb. Telling the difference required training, practice … and intuition. With more and more drone-provided video pouring into Pentagon servers — “24 years’ worth if watched continuously” just in 2009, according to The New York Times – the Air Force in particular is struggling to train up enough analysts like McQuade to sift through it all. Their job is made more difficult by the raw nature of most video feeds. Watching untagged video is like “tuning in to a football game without all the graphics,” one industry executive told The Times.

Northrop Arms Its Robot Pack Mule With Big G

Spencer Ackerman, October 27, 2010

JJon Anderson has seen a lot of gawkers pause at his Northrop Grumman booth in the Association of the U.S. Army’s Washington conference. Not that he’s odd-looking or off-putting: He’s a gregarious guy. The stares he’s getting are about the .50-caliber M2 machine gun he’s got mounted on a treaded robot — something Northrop isn’t even selling right now. “Quite frankly,” explains Anderson, a Northrop advanced-systems employee with short white hair and a whiter smile, “a weapon on a robot brings people into the booth.” That it does. For the past few years, Northrop has produced a treaded, 60-inch robot vehicle to help troops haul their gear called the Carry-all Mechanized Equipment Landrover, or CaMEL. It’s like a more traditional version of the BigDog robot — a simple flat, motorized platform that putters along at up to 7 miles per hour while taking on up to 1,200 pounds of stuff. Northrop has sold more than 60 of them to the Israeli military; and recently, the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning expressed interest in the CaMEL as a hauler.

Army’s Drones Get New Add-Ons: Radars, Self-Landing, Cellular Coverage [Updated]

Spencer Ackerman, October 26, 2010

It’s not that the unpiloted aircraft that the Army flies aren’t already tricked out. Some of them carry the latest surveillance systems and powerful missiles. But some companies at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington D.C. figure that the drone fleet needs some upgrades. The box above? That’s a guidance system to make sure that a malfunctioning drone can land safely on the spot that a unit directs it — essentially, something that makes an unmanned plane really independent of human control. There’s also radar gear to give drones a better line of sight down to the ground for airborne spying. Need cellular coverage in the middle of nowhere? Hook a few pods up to the bottom of a drone, send it aloft, and start tweeting again.

Army’s WALL-E Robo-Scout Patrols D.C. Confab

Spencer Ackerman, October 25, 2010

The Army isn’t about to be upstaged at its own party by its contractors. Inside a pseudo-base set up on the floor of the sprawling Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington D.C.’s convention center is Forward Operating Base Modernization, a set-piece military version of Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Only the Army’s equivalent has models of synced-up soldier gear and a 32-pound motorized robot on treads designed to go into dangerous places troops can’t. This WALL-E-looking creature is the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or SUGV, a cousin of iRobot’s Packbots. When last we checked in on it, the Army was testing the SUGV at Fort Bliss to see if it makes sense for infantry use. Testing continues. But the glee with which Army officials showed it off for reporters — and its pride of place in the Army’s brochure for modernization — suggests that the service really, really wants it to work.

Autonomous underwater robot hits the waves (photos)

November 03, 2010, Jennifer Guevin

An advanced undersea vehicle promises to take oceanic research to a new level, going faster and farther than its predecessors–and even doing some thinking of its own.

Israeli developed robots can spot and shoot terrorists

Globes – Nov 3, 2010

Former Israel Security Agency agent Amos Goren claims his robots can detect threats before the human brain does. Robots developed by a former Israel …

INDUSTRY

Five Reasons U.S. Companies Should Automate Now

November 05, 2010, Robots.com

Right now, businesses in the United States are facing some tough challenges including offshoring pressures, approaching work shortages, fierce competition, and economic upheaval.  Robots offer a way to fight back and stay strong. Consider the unique benefits robots provide for U.S. manufacturing companies at this unique point in time. 1. Combat Offshoring: Manufacturing companies in the United States don’t have contend with the unforeseen costs and hassles posed by offshoring. Robots allow manufacturing and other companies to remain on U.S. soil while still achieving offshoring goals (i.e. low cost, high quality production). Robots offer a much more reliable way to keep manufacturing costs down and remain competitive in the global economy. 2. Prepare for Skilled Worker Shortage: It may seem hard to believe considering the current unemployment rate, but the United States will soon be facing a severe worker shortage. According to a recent Industry Week article, over the next five years baby boomers (making up 40% of the workforce) will begin retiring en masse and there won’t be enough workers with similar skill sets to fill the openings. Worker populations in specific applications, such as welding, will be especially hard hit. Prepare your company for this inevitable shortage by investing in industrial robots.   3. Compete Locally and Globally: Industrial robots make it possible for U.S. companies to keep up with both domestic and foreign competitors. As mentioned earlier, robots are reliable tools that can effectively keep costs down and quality consistent. This way your company can compete with low labor costs abroad, respond easily to product and packaging changes, as well as streamline and increase production. More and more businesses are turning to robots to gain a competitive edge. During the first nine months of this year, robot orders from North American companies have increased 34%. Don’t fall behind! Invest in robots today. 4. Take Advantage of Tax Incentives: Recent legislation makes automating with robots even more advantageous for U.S. manufacturing companies. The Small Business Jobs Act extended and expanded Section 179. Now equipment (both new and used) that is ordered and put into use in 2010 or 2011 is eligible for the tax write-off. In addition, the thresholds have doubled. Companies can write-off the first $500,000 (not just the $250,000). The cap on purchases has grown from $800,000 to $2 million. 5. Strengthen the Country: The United States has been through some difficult times of late. The economy is still recovering from a recession and unemployment is at a record low (9.6% according to the BLS). With robots you have a chance to give back – to make sure you contribute to building up this nation. Be a force of change: staying onshore, providing robot techs and programmers with jobs, and contributing to the country’s economic wellbeing.  Interested in robots for your company? Contact RobotWorx at 740-383-8383.

US processors competing globally thanks to automation and technology

Plastics News – Robert Grace – Oct 28, 2010

DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m. ET) — The U.S. plastics industry, the third-largest U.S. manufacturing sector, is now stepping up its adoption of advanced machinery and automation to produce sharp gains in productivity, according to Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. “We got burnt back in the 1990s,” he said, when business was booming and the plastics industry didn’t bother to invest much in automation. “Now,” he noted, as an industry “we’re investing more in automation than in primary equipment.” The result is a more globally competitive U.S. plastics industry, albeit with fewer workers and plants.

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

After milk revolution, India enters into hi-tech Dairy era

Commodity Online – Nov 3, 2010

This cow farm will be one of the world’s finest facilities integrating the best of automation and mechanisation, hygiene and quality standards and genetic …

Spraying set to become more automated

10/29/2010 – Farmers Weekly

Telematics, GPS and tractor-implement automation are just a few of the technological developments set to revolutionise how operators spray in the future, according to those attending an Association of Applied Biologists (AAB) workshop last week.

Spraying set to become more automated

FarmersWeekly – Emily Padfield – Oct 29, 2010

As legislation tightens it’s grip and factors like the Water Framework Directive come into force, herbicide and pesticide application is going to come under ever increasing levels of scrutiny.

Recession spurs faster replacement of workers with technology

Columbus Dispatch – Alana Semuels – Nov 1, 2010

Automation means Young no longer needs large crews of farmworkers to plant or harvest – and no more worrying about immigration status, pay or benefits. …

SERVICE SECTOR

Better Learning? A Robot in Every Kindergarten

Gather.com -Christine Zibas – Nov 4, 2010

Asian nations have always been more engaged by robots and what they can accomplish than those of us in the West. While robots playing the violin or …

Pilot Reliance on Automation Erodes Skills

ANDY PASZTOR, WSJ, Nov 5, 2010

Increasing reliance on cockpit automation appears to be eroding manual flying skills of airline pilots, who are “sometimes…

Evolution Robotics’ Mint Floor Cleaning Robot Now at Bed Bath & Beyond

Jayashree Adkoli, TMCnet Contributor, October 27, 2010

Pasadena, Calif.-based Robotics technology company Evolution Robotics, Inc., announced that its Mint Automatic Floor Cleaning robot is now available at all Bed Bath & Beyond stores nationwide, as well as online.

Service Robots – Getting Successfully Established

by International Federation of Robotics, Statistical Department

Posted 09/16/2010
So far, about 77,000 service robots for professional use were sold worldwide, reports the IFR Statistical Department in the new study “World Robotics 2010 – Service Robots”, which was published on Tuesday in Frankfurt. The total value of professional service robots sold was about US $13 billion. Due to the economical downturn the annual supply decreased for the first time slightly in 2009 to almost 13.000 units. Service robots can be characterized as assistants of man. They take over jobs which are dangerous, impossible or unacceptable. They help to rationalize, to save time and to improve quality. Military and agricultural applications predominate About 30% of the sold units of service robots are used for defense applications, mainly unmanned aerial or ground based vehicles and demining robots. Another 25% are milking robots, which were one of the first service robots ever produced. Both categories made up more than half of all sold service robots and can be regarded as the most established ones. Cleaning robots and medical robots follow with shares of 8% each and underwater robots with 7%. Cleaning robots are mainly used to clean swimming pools. Medical robots are used in combination with minimal access surgery, but also increasingly for diagnostics. Diagnostic robots may come in the form of devices that guide diagnostic equipment to the human body.  One of the most established robotic operations in this field is biopsy.

Robotic Sternum Separator Draws Curves

1 Nov 2010, robots.net

The sternum stands between the surgeon and the vital organs within the chest. Typically it is simply sawed through then fixated afterwards with hardware. This fixation is imperfect and movement between the pieces can cause pain and even life-threatening issues. A new system by novoSurge uses x-rays and ultrasound under robotic control to precisely cut a path. The interesting part is that the path is not straight but sinusoidal so that the pieces fit back together better than a straight cut – sort of like a puzzle. This can lead to quicker healing for the patient and fewer complications. Hat tip to the fine folks at medGadget

How to Make a Humanoid Robot Dance

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, November 02, 2010

Japanese roboticists recently showed off a female android singing and dancing along with a troupe of human performers. Video of the entertaining and surprisingly realistic demonstration received millions of views on the Internet. How did they do it?

A Robot Lifeguard Patrols Malibu

10/26/2010

(CNNMoney.com) — Emily may not be the prettiest thing with plastic parts on bikini-riddled Zuma Beach in Malibu, Calif., but ‘she’ still turns heads. That’s because Emily — whose name is an acronym for Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard — is a four-foot-long robotic buoy capable of racing through rough surf at 24 miles per hour. Emily’s creators estimate that the robot can rescue distressed swimmers twelve times as fast as human lifeguards. Take that, David Hasselhoff!

PACKING AND SHIPPING

Union conflict on the horizon with automation

Lloyd’s List Daily Commercial News Jim Wilson – Oct 27, 2010

Following on a theme from yesterday’s speeches at the Ports Australia biennial conference being held today in Hobart, Mr Rowsthorn said today automation …

JOB DISPLACEMENT

Robot Employee Developed in Japan

WIFR – Oct 25, 2010

To combat concerns over a decreasing workforce, researchers developed a new robot that would help pick up the slack in the manufacturing sector. …

Automation Proves the Intrepid Solution to Higher Demand – A Robot Case Study

Clare Goldsberry, Senior Editor/U.S. , Copyright Modern Plastics Worldwide, April 2010, reprinted at RIA with permission
Motoman Robotics Posted 10/06/2010

Overseas sales increase, and you need more workers or more automation. For this small processor, automation proved the right choice, with those new robotics saving time and money at Intrepid Industries Inc. It is a problem many processors would welcome facing. An increase in foreign sales boosted Intrepid Industries Inc.’s business to the point that it either needed to hire for a second and third shift or invest in automation. Erich Bredl, president and partner in the company, chose the latter. “We’re in the process of putting a six-axis Motoman robot on the second molding station, and should be up and running this month,” he said. “We’ve got a small window of a three-day molding run and will get the robot installed and set up to run the mold continuously around the clock. It’s like gaining a second and third shift without hiring people.”

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

NASA plans to put a robot on the moon

Economic Times – Nov 3, 2010

LONDON: NASA is contemplating sending a robot to the moon in just 1000 days — for just a fraction of the cost of sending a human. Engineers at the US space …

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

A Look at Robots in Alternative Energy

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor, 11/01/2010

As the world grapples with diminishing supplies of petroleum and the increasing carbon impact of coal, nations and manufacturers are turning their attention to alternative sources of power. Wind, solar and fuel cells are alternative energies poised to supplant coal and oil but the cost per megawatt is higher than conventional sources. Robotics plays a leading role in making ever-changing alternative energy more competitive with fossil fuels. “Alternative energy companies were very small and doing everything manually. With government funding available and the push towards alternative energy, companies are producing in much greater volume but cannot support that volume with manual processes,” says Christopher Blanchette, National Distribution Account Manager with FANUC Robotics America Inc. (Rochester Hills, Michigan) “Alternative energy companies are looking to automate quickly and to design an assembly process with hard automation would slow them down because the market changes so quickly.”

Robot Sales in North America Jump 34%

November 03, 2010, robots.com

As the economy recovers and more businesses realize the competitive advantages robots provide, the number of robot orders is rising steadily. North American companies are buying robots again – thousands of them! The Robotics Industries Association (RIA) has its finger on the pulse of these developments. The most recent statistical report from the RIA combined data from all the North American based robot manufacturers. According to the RIA, North American companies purchased 9,628 robot units (estimated value: $618.4 million) over the first nine months of this year. Compared with 2009 data, these numbers represent a 34% increase in units and a 45% increase in dollars. Increases in robot orders didn’t only come from North American companies. RIA reports an additional 1,778 robots (representing another $102.6 million) ordered by companies located outside of North American borders. When placed beside Jan-Sept. 2009 numbers, these stats show a 143% unit gain and 168% dollar increase. What kind of businesses are purchasing all these robots? The answer might surprise you. While robot orders from automotive companies are up 18%, roughly half (52%) of the total orders are from non-automotive companies. Non-automotive orders increased 53% from last year.

Non-Automotive Industry          Percentage Increase

Semiconductor/
electronics/photonics…………………124%
Metals…………………………………………99%
Plastics and Rubber…………………..62%
Life Sciences/Pharmaceuticals/
Medical Devices…………………………54%
Food/Consumer Goods………………41%

Application Stats                        Percentage Increase

Coating and Dispensing……………78%
Arc Welding……………………………….65%
Material Handling………………………60%

The robotics industry is getting back on track!

IFR press release

Sales slump in 2009 – Strong recovery in 2010 – Further growth expected in 2011 and 2012 The IFR Statistics Department presented the preliminary results of the annual statistics on Industrial Robots on Wednesday, 9 June 2010, in Munich at the AUTOMATICA. In 2009, with about 62,100 industrial robots shipped, the number of units sold worldwide slumped dramatically by about 45% compared to 2008, one of the most successful years. But in the first quarter 2010 the sales skyrocketed worldwide by more than 50% compared to the first quarter 2009.

Happy Birthday ASIMO

Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Nov 01, 2010

Ghouls and goblins weren’t the only ones partying yesterday—ASIMO, Honda’s humanoid robot, celebrated its 10th birthday. To mark the date, dedicated anniversary Web sites and films were launched, with new photos, videos, the story of the robot’s creation, and smartphone apps.

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Coffee Ground Filled Balloon Gripper Holds Promise

28 Oct 2010, Robots.net

The age-old problem of creating a robotic gripper capable of grasping unusually shaped objects has advanced one more step with this interesting development from researchers at Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot Corp.The Universal Gripper as they call it consists of a balloon filled with a jam-able particulate. When the balloon comes in contact with an object it conforms easily, then when a vacuum is applied, the particulates interlock providing the grasping action. Early material included rice and ground-up tires, but coffee seems to work really well.

Superfast Robotic Camera Mimics Human Eye

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, November 01, 2010

German researchers have developed a robotic camera that mimics the motion of real eyes and even moves at superhuman speeds. The camera system can point in any direction and is also capable of imitating the fastest human eye movements, which can reach speeds of 500 degrees per second. But the system can also move faster than that, achieving more than 2500 degrees per second. It would make for very fast robot eyes.

Geminoid F Looks More Realistic Than Ever

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, November 01, 2010

Kokoro Co., the Japanese firm that manufactures the android and sells it with the name Actroid F, recently demonstrated its newest capabilities. The android features facial movements even more realistic than before. It blinks and twitches and moves its head with remarkable realism.

Watch This Robot Mouse Blow Through a Maze Faster Than You Can

Sam Biddle, 10/28/10

Okay, this might not look impressive at first. The maze isn’t that complicated. But imagine being the size of the robotic Micromouse—relatively, this is a human-sized hedge maze. Then imagine running to the finish in only five seconds.

Becoming the Microsoft of the Robot World

BusinessWeek -Joel Stonington – Nov 2, 2010

Robots build our cars and electronics. They sort packages with ease, lift enormous weights, and perform microsurgeries too small for the human eye. In Afghanistan, robots are fighting our wars. What they can’t do is share an operating system. Today approximately 8.6 million robots are around the world, according to IFR World Robotics. That’s equal to roughly the population of New Jersey. And most of these have been designed from scratch. For years, tinkerers in garages, professors at universities, and scientists at corporations have essentially been reinventing the wheel each time they develop a new robot. That means designing the hardware and writing the code that drives the actions. >From robot welders to robot vacuum cleaners, the robotics industry at this point is essentially siloed. But maybe not for much longer. Enormous profits await the company that could become the Microsoft  of the robotic world. “There is competition over who is going to have the dominant operating system for robots,” says Ryan Calo, director of the Consumer Privacy Project at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society.

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