U.S. Robotics Industry Expects Robust 2012

Automotive and aircraft manufacturing are two drivers of the higher robot orders industry leaders forecast, with growth also coming from food and beverage, pharma, and laboratories.

There's a lot going on in U.S. robotics right now. The Robotic Industries Association has launched a new educational website at www.rhobotaphi.com (a unique brand that should be pronounced "robotify," according to RIA), describing it as a collaboration with academia, business, and government to create programs and curriculum to make workers more prepared for jobs in robotics and advanced manufacturing.

There will be jobs, it seems certain, to meet what industry leaders foresee as a strong year for robot orders in 2012. Automotive manufacturing is the foremost driver of that growth, but growth is also expected in other sectors -– including aircraft manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage –- they say.

ABB Robotics, for example, announced Jan. 18 that Nemak, which produces aluminum components for the worldwide automotive industry, presented it a 2011 Excellence Award during a ceremony at the Nemak ALFA Cultural Centre in Garza García, Mexico, for outstanding performance in quality, service, technology, and price. The citation said in part, "This has been a challenging year due to the stronger than expect recovery of the automotive industry. Our customers have entrusted Nemak with unprecedented production volume targets and the award of many new programs on a global basis. With support from outstanding companies such as ABB we have been able to meet this extraordinary challenge and look forward to your continued support."

RIA is hosting its annual Robotics Industry Forum this week (Jan. 18-20) in Orlando and introduced the new website there. "Among the goals of Rho Bota Phi is to enable an exchange of ideas between robotics instructors and to help disseminate information on qualifications needed for various positions in robotics," said Brian Huse, the association’s director of marketing and public relations. "We are using our annual Robotics Industry Forum … to help introduce the concept and to give members a chance to contribute their support. Many already sponsor a university or college for RIA membership."

The association’s staffers are posting news about the forum at RIA's Robots in America blog, http://roboticsonline.wordpress.com/.

The umbrella trade association for RIA, the Automated Imaging Association, and the Motion Control Association has a new name: the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). It was formerly named the Automation Technologies Council. All three member associations are meeting in Orlando. "The new name more accurately reflects our mission, which is to be the global advocate for the benefits of automation," said Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. Rich Litt, the association's outgoing chair, who announced the name change at the opening of the forum, said, "As an energetic voice for the need to automate, A3 will focus primarily on 'why' automating is good. RIA, AIA, and MCA will continue to focus on 'how' companies and organizations specifically can apply robots, vision, and motion control." A3 represents more than 650 companies from more than 30 countries.

Finally, Catherine Morris, senior account manager at ATI Industrial Automation in Apex, N.C., became RIA's first female chair this week. She succeeded Dean Elkins of Yaskawa America Inc.'s Motoman Robotics Division (Miamisburg, Ohio), who served as chair in 2010 and 2011 and remains on the RIA board.

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