Epson Robots Names Air Automation Engineering an Authorized Service Center

Partnership is Part of an Initiative to Increase Technical Support in the Midwest

CARSON, Calif., – March 16, 2020 – As part of an initiative to increase technical support in the
Midwest US, Epson Robots, the #1 SCARA robot manufacturer in the world, today announced it
is expanding its relationship with Air Automation Engineering (AAE), a leading automation
solutions provider. The partnership establishes AAE as an official Authorized Epson Service
Center and will expand beyond selling Epson Robots, automation products and integrated
solutions to include maintenance and repair of the broad installed base of Epson robots, helping
to ensure fast repair turnaround times throughout the Upper Midwest.

The partnership with Air Automation Engineering involves all Epson Robots automation
products, including the large lineup of SCARA and 6-Axis robots and the lineup of integrated
solutions. The company has helped Epson Robots introduce award-winning robot-based
automation solutions throughout the Upper Midwest, including Iowa, North Dakota, South
Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

“We’re pleased to expand our relationship with Epson Robots and help our joint customers in
the Upper Midwest,” said Paul Wood, general manager, Air Automation Engineering. “Our team
of long-term professionals focus on providing the best repair and support services so our
customers benefit from a high return on investment.”
“Air Automation has a long history of providing automation solutions and we are looking forward
to adding them as an Authorized Epson Service Center for the Upper Midwest,” said Tom
Versfelt, VP Commercial Sales Epson. “The company’s expertise and commitment to offering a
full service and support portfolio help set our customers up for maximum productivity with Epson
robots.”

About Air Automation Engineering
Air Automation Engineering (AAE) was founded in 1978 and is recognized as a leading
distributor in the Greater Upper Midwest. The company supports its manufacturing customers
with application support, repair, value added services & inventory from 2 locations in North
Dakota & Minnesota. AAE has passion for automation opportunities with the personnel &
support programs to provide a solution that delivers increased productivity, enhanced machine
safety and improved ergonomics. For more information, visit www.airautomation.com

 

Brushless servo motors with integrated controller…

Brushless servo motors with integrated controller…
  • Reduced material costs
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Better quality and reliability
  • Fewer connections, less wiring
Call or email us for a demonstration or
on-site application evaluation.
Toll Free: (800) 231-9205

NEW Magnetic Gripper: Fast, Efficient Control from Compact

Features:
  • Fewer moving parts, no fingers to design or manufacture, fast grip speed and minimal maintenance.
  • Fewer tool changes required because the same magnetic gripper can pick up various shapes.
  • Good for use in place of vacuum cups.
  • Excellent for end-of-arm tooling with the very small size-to-weight ratio.
  • No electricity required

 

The Revolutionary Epson T3 All-In-One Scara Robot For Under $7500

Looking to automate your factory without wasting time or money on complex slide-based solutions? Now you can – with the groundbreaking T3 All-in One Scara robot from Epson. This innovative robot offers fast, easy integration and takes less time to install than most automation solutions available. With 110 V and 220 V power and a wide variety of options, including integrated vision guidance, the T3 All-in-One truly has it all.

Attend Our Automation Seminar & Learn Where “Gripping Meets Robotics”

On Thursday January 11th 2018: Discover Schunk’s End-of-Arm Expertise! For Every Robot, Every Industry, Every Handling Task.

Air Automation will be conducting a “Day of Automation” seminar for our valued customers free of charge. You will learn hands on: The newest automation products from Schunk including: Robotic grippers, accessories & linear motion actuators.

Limited space available. Register today!

Thursday January 11th
Air Automation Eng.
230 Commerce Circle S.
Fridley, MN 55432
Seminar hours:
8:30am-1:30pm
Snack & lunch provided

Enter to win a Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Bluetooth Radio!

Tolomatic Electric high force linear actuator is tough enough to process lumber

The lumber industry has relied on the toughness and high force capabilities of hydraulic cylinders for years.  But lately that reliance has been shaken.  Hydraulic cylinders leak and can contaminate the fragile eco-systems in which lumber processing operates.  Plus, hydraulic systems are only 40-55% efficient and cylinders require frequent maintenance.  When combined, these factors can make hydraulic cylinders an expensive choice in the long run. The introduction of electric high force linear actuators has given the lumber industry a new option for linear motion

Lumber planing machine needs leak-free actuator

A manufacturer of lumber processing equipment was using hydraulic cylinders to position rollers on their planing machine. The manufacturer needed a robust, long-lasting alternative, though. Their customers were concerned that leaking hydraulic fluid would damage the environment.  Customers also didn’t like the high total cost of ownership of hydraulics due to a combination of maintenance costs and the low efficiency of hydraulic systems. Also, low and high temperatures impaired hydraulic cylinder performance.

Electric high force linear actuator is solution

The application requires force output of 7,000 lbf (31,138 kN) and speed of 6 in/sec (152 mm/sec).  Our RSA64 HT electric high-force linear actuator with roller screw meets this challenge, allowing the OEM to eliminate the leaky, expensive hydraulic system.

Not only does the RSA-HT meet the application’s force and speed specifications, the electric rod actuator delivers 70-80% system efficiency and has minimal maintenance requirements.  The RSA operates without a glitch in all temperatures and is sealed with an optional IP67 package to handle the wet, dusty environment.

The RSA roller screw electric rod actuator withstands shock loads caused when the machine’s rollers encounter gaps between boards travelling through the planer. Due to these high shock loads, a custom steel head with an integrated trunnion is used.

POSTED BY AARON DIETRICH (Tolomatic)

FasTest Quick Connectors for Leak & Pressure Testing

FasTest Quick Connectors for Leak & Pressure Testing

FasTest Inc. is the leader in leak and pressure testing quick connectors for a wide variety of manufacturing industries. FasTest uses advanced engineering to create safe, reliable connections for various tubes and threaded profiles. Learn more about the different FasTest product lines available through Air Automation Engineering below!

 

Shedding Light On Encoders In Solar Energy Applications

Article by: Kuebler Inc.

As solar energy continues to grow as a modern-day source of power, components must be designed to ensure continuous and efficient operation of the energy generation process. Because heliostats are often placed in remote desert areas, they are exposed to a number of harsh environmental factors, such as high temperatures during the day, dust exposure and daily temperature swings.

To keep the system running smoothly, encoders, which are used in the control of the mirrors, must combine ruggedness with innovative technologies, yielding a reliable product that can perform under these tough conditions.

There are a number of factors in the energy generation process that can help determine if an encoder is up to the challenge.

Elevation and azimuth position control. Heliostats demand high precision in order to maximize the amount of sunlight being received. Therefore, the efficiency of the overall system depends on their positioning accuracy in both elevation and azimuth. Here, precision optical encoders are best suited for the job.

Angular position control of Parabolic Trough Systems. Parabolic mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a heliostat’s receiver pipe—a process that requires rugged, yet flexible encoders. Depending on installation space, simple magnetic rotary encoders or inclinometers can be used in order to accurately measure the system’s angular position.

Rugged outdoor design. Encoders must integrate a number of characteristics that make them suitable for outdoor applications. These include robust housing, a wide temperature range, high resistance to shock and vibration, insensitivity to interference or magnetic disturbances and long service life.

Customizability. It is important for encoder manufacturers to work together with engineering teams to design custom control or motion solutions for solar. Depending on the application, the encoder may need to work with a wide variety of additional sensing systems, integrated drives or other types of feedback devices. To make integration easier, look for encoders that support SSI, BISS-C or common Fieldbus protocols.

 

Exhibition charts 500 years of evolution of robots

LONDON — Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell set about charting the evolution of automatons for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives.

Robots, says Russell, have been with us for centuries — as “Robots,” his exhibit opening Wednesday at London’s Science Museum, shows.

From a 15th century Spanish clockwork monk who kisses his rosary and beats his breast in contrition, to a Japanese “childoid” newsreader, created in 2014 with lifelike facial expressions, the exhibition tracks the development of robotics and mankind’s obsession with replicating itself.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable Terminator cyborg is there, as is Robby the Robot, star of the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet,” representing the horror and the fantasy of robots with minds of their own.

There are also examples of factory production-line machines blamed for taking people’s jobs in recent decades; a “telenoid communications android” for hugging during long-distance phone calls to ease loneliness; and Kaspar, a “minimally expressive social robot” built like a small boy and designed to help ease social interactions for children with autism.

“When you take a long view, as we have done with 500 years of robots, robots haven’t been these terrifying things, they’ve been magical, fascinating, useful, and they generally tend to do what we want them to do,” said Russell, who works at the science museum and was the lead curator of the exhibition.

And while it’s human nature to be worried in the face of change, Russell said, the exhibit should help people “think about what we are as humans” and realize that if robots are “going to come along, you’ve got a stake in how they develop.”

A total of 100 robots are set in five different historic periods in a show that explores how religion, industrialization, pop culture and visions of the future have shaped society.

For Rich Walker, managing director of Shadow Robot Company in London, robotics is about what these increasingly sophisticated machines can do for humans to make life easier, particularly for the elderly or the impaired.

“I’m naturally lazy and got involved so that I could get robots to do things for me,” Walker said. His company has developed a robotic hand that can replicate 24 of the 27 natural movements of the human hand.

As humans have a 1 percent failure rate at repetitive tasks, committing errors about once every two hours, the hand could replace humans on production lines, he said.

Walker concedes further erosion of certain types of jobs if inventions such as his are successful, but says having repetitive tasks performed by automatons would free up people to adopt value-added roles.

“The issue is to rebuild the economy so that it has a holistic approach to employment,” he said.

This in turn leads to questions, raised at the exhibition as well as by the European Union, of whether or not robots should pay taxes on the value of their output as part of the new industrial revolution.

By LYNNE O’DONNELL The Associated Press

At Boeing’s 777X wing factory, robots get big jobs

Air Automation has your robotic solutions. Call us for more information or an on-site demonstration. (800) 231-9205

Article By: DOMINIC GATES Seattle Times (TNS) 

SEATTLE – As the first 110-footlong wing skin panel for Boeing’s new 777X jet moved slowly across a mammoth new factory building one recent morning, a small crew walked alongside, watching for any possibility of an expensive collision.

The “spotters” escorted the panel’s bright-orange transport platform as it followed invisible tracks embedded in the concrete floor and slid with a tight fit into the big cylindrical autoclave where the part would bake to hardness.

Until the automated system for moving these big wing parts is proved, “we do have four people watching it,” said Darrell Chic, acting director of 777X wing fabrication. “But the intent is to work our way to autonomous and allow the navigation system to do its thing.”

 Autonomous. Not needing any humans to guide it.

The 777X Composite Wing Center in the Seattle-area city of Everett, Boeing’s latest venture in advanced manufacturing, marks a significant step toward a future in which much of an aircraft factory’s work is done by automated machines and robots.

Once the wing skin was inside the giant pressurized oven, the lone operator at a computer station pushed a button. Lights flashed, a klaxon sounded.

Slowly, a 55-ton, 28-foot-wide circular door slid into place and locked to form an airtight seal for the seven-hour baking cycle.

Eric Lindblad, the newly appointed head of the 777X program, said having machines load the wing parts autonomously is safer and more precise. There isn’t room for error inside the oven: When the long stiffening rods called stringers are baked in the autoclave, they’ll go in six at a time with just 3 inches of clearance between them.

The only necessary human will be the person at the computer.

“There’ll be one guy that essentially runs this station,” Lindblad said.

The trend toward automated manufacturing was evident already at Boeing’s older area plants.

In Frederickson, robots drill 80 percent of the holes in the 787 and 777 tails fabricated there.

In Auburn, robots drill the engine heat shields for the 787 and 777 jets, and will do the same for the 737 MAX. Another robot uses lasers to clean the dies used to shape the heat shields.

In its most productive factory, the 737 final-assembly plant in Renton, Boeing has replaced the traditional multistory fixtures used to hold wings in place during assembly with smaller, flexible, increasingly automated equipment as it ramps up toward an unprecedented output of 52 planes per month by 2018.

Introducing new automation is a challenge: In another new building in Everett, Boeing is struggling to smooth out the kinks in a robotic system for assembling the 777’s metal fuselage.

Still, a new generation of airplanes like the 787 and 777X built with carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite structures have triggered a transformative shift taking automation to a new level.

Fabricating complete fuselage barrels or huge wings out of this material is simply not possible by hand. Only robots can lay up the strips of carbon fiber with enough speed and precision.

Mark Summers, head of technology at the U.K. government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, said increasing automation will allow Boeing and Airbus to ratchet up production rates without adding employees.

“Jobs will not be lost, but there will not be so many new jobs created,” Summers said during a panel discussion at the Farnborough Air Show in England in July. “I don’t see it as an impact on the current aerospace workforce. There’s just fewer jobs in aerospace in the future.”

He foresees blue-collar machinist jobs increasingly supplanted by “more technologically focused” positions operating the machines.

However wary machinists may be of what the new technology means for the future, Pete Goldsmith, who led automation-technology projects at Seattle-area companies Electroimpact and Nova-Tech, and now works for a third, MTorres America, said he got “a universally positive reaction” from mechanics at both Airbus and Boeing when he installed equipment to do repetitive riveting.

“That’s a job that beats you up all day every day,” Goldsmith said. “We were replacing an operation that was physically very debilitating for the mechanics.”

Gary Laws, a Boeing mechanic for more than two decades who operates computer-controlled machines assembling wings in Renton, said automation makes his job much easier.

And if this region wants new work in aerospace, he sees no choice but to embrace the shift.

“It’s the way it has to be,” said Laws. “Technology is obviously going to be the future.”

Today, the current 777’s metal wing parts are made largely by machinists in Auburn and Frederickson, then assembled into a wing by machinists in Everett.

Though Boeing doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of employment figures, this work certainly provides hundreds of jobs.

With the new 777X, that work changes dramatically. But it does stay in the area.

Boeing is spending $1 billion to make the giant 777X carbon fiber wing in-house, rather than outsourcing the wing to Mitsubishi, as it did on the 787.

Lindblad said that after a production ramp-up that will take a few years, the new wing center will, at peak, employ somewhere between 600 and 900 people.

The first production 777X parts that will fly on an airplane won’t be made before April. Until then, workers in the wing center are making test parts, used to certify and fine-tune the new manufacturing process.

With wing skin No. 1 in the autoclave over on the fabrication side of the wing center, Jerry Schultz operated an Electroimpact machine making wing skin No. 2.

White lab coats are required in this “clean room” environment, where an overhead robot like a giant tape dispenser zips back and forth along a 110-footlong mold, building up the skin panel layer by layer.

As the robottraverses the part at various angles, it lays down plies of epoxy resin-infused carbon fiber in about 300 separately programmed runs.

Between setup, inspections and the robot work, completing a wing skin this way takes six shifts over three days.

The goal is to have just two people operating the cell, Boeing said, with possibly another worker floating between it and an adjacent cell also making wing skins.

Nearby, similar big Electroimpact machines are making the first 777X spars – the long, U-shaped, single-piece beams to which the leading and trailing edges of each wing attach.

Again, just three people will operate a pair of these spar manufacturing cells, says Boeing. The spars will then be inspected by robots that use an ultrasonic probe to check for invisible flaws in the material.

An exception to the full automation is the way Boeing is producing four of the 43 stringers, the rods that stiffen each 777X wing. These four are partly made by hand because of their more complex shape.

A half-dozen workers – five of them women, who are often preferred by manufacturers for jobs that require meticulous handwork – stood on each side of a long, thin stringer tool, positioning 4-foot-long ribbons of uncured, textilelike carbon fiber.

When they’d lain out each piece of fabric by hand, an overhead machine swung over and pressed down to secure it for curing.

“For this particular shape … it turns out to be more cost-effective to do it this way,” Lindblad said.

It’s a mistake to think robots can do it all, said Ben Hempstead, chief of staff and lead mechanical engineer at aerospace-tooling designer Electroimpact.

After these 777X skin panels, spars and stringers are fabricated in the wing center, Boeing will deliver them to the main Everett factory building where mechanics will first assemble the pieces into a basic wing box, then add the folding wingtip and the leading- and trailing-edge control surfaces.

That assembly process is inherently more labor-intensive.

“With wing-box assembly, if in the future it’s half-automated, that’ll blow my mind,” said Hempstead, whose company supplies Boeing and also provided much of the equipment Airbus to build the composite wing of the A350.

“Many of the steps require skill and judgment and are very hard to automate,” he said.

Hempstead said Boeing asked Electroimpact to look at automating one specific 737 wing process in Renton that’s done today by about a dozen mechanics.

“We couldn’t figure out how to do it faster with machines,” Hempstead said.

And don’t even think about robots doing intricate jobs like installing hydraulic tubes and electrical wiring in the crowded space of an airplane wheel well.

“Oh, man, nobody has even talked about automating that,” Hempstead said. “I can’t even envision how you’d do it.”

After World War II, Boeing gave Washington state a thriving middle class, allowing blue-collar workers – some with only a high-school education – to live the American dream.

As robots revolutionize the industry, the region has become a hotbed of leading aerospace-automation firms – including Electroimpact, Nova-Tech and MTorres America as well as Janicki Industries – that are hiring young engineers as fast as they can.

But is a golden age of manual labor ending with Boeing’s automation drive?

In 2005, almost 3,500 machinists in Renton produced 21 single-aisle 737s per month, according to employment data filed with the state.

In 2014, just over 6,000 machinists there produced exactly twice as many.

While production rose 100 percent, employment of machinists rose 75 percent.

As robotic systems and the automated processing of carbon fiber proliferates, that gap is certain to widen.

While Boeing employed more than 100,000 in Washington state in the late 1990s, it seems unlikely those days are ever coming back. Its payroll here is down to about 73,000 today.

Yet that’s still a big workforce, crucially important to the economy. And well-paid manual jobs remain a vital thread in the social fabric of the state.

“We can’t all be baristas and software engineers,” said Electroimpact’s Hempstead.

At the industry discussion of automation in Farnborough, Craig Turnbull, director of engineering at Electroimpact U.K. who oversees the company’s work at the Airbus wing plant in Broughton, Wales, emphasized that “there is a point where man and machine have to meet.”

Even in a highly robotized auto plant, he said, the car radio is installed by a mechanic. It’s too difficult for a robot.

And when it comes to hiring an operator for this new equipment, he suggested looking to machinists.

“The best person to operate a machine that drills holes is someone who has done it for 20 years by hand,” Turnbull said. “They know what they are looking for. They are then becoming more of a quality-control person than actually pushing the drill through a hole.”

To prepare the next generation of factory workers for such jobs, the state is pushing STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and providing community-college-level training for hands-on careers.

Becoming a machine operator will probably require a two-year associate degree with course work on the basics of electromechanics.

“These are some of the highest skilled and best compensated jobs in the factory,” Hempstead said.

John Janicki, president of Janicki Industries, sees the drive toward more automation speeding up, “driven by the need to get the price down.”

Though expensive to install, he said, robotic systems should allow plane makers to sell more jets over a production run that can last more than 20 years.

“If you amortize all the equipment over the life of the program, it’s not that big a deal,” Janicki said.

His firm – currently employing about 750 people in the state and expanding – still regularly hires local people straight out of high school and trains them to operate its sophisticated machines.

And he points to a big upside for the Pacific Northwest in having the 777X wing center: After investing so heavily, Boeing needs to use it to the fullest.

“It’s absolute state of the art. It’s not going anywhere,” said Janicki. “You have all that equipment and the personnel trained to use it. It’ll build 777s, yes. But 50 years from now, they’ll still be building something in that plant.”