Advances in Industrial Robotics and Automation on the Rise


The concept of utilizing industrial robotics in mass production is nothing new. In fact, the use of robotics and automation go back to the 1970s as industries wanted to find new ways to increase product quality and productivity without increasing costs. In the 1990s, a group of innovative, take-charge individuals at Willamette Valley Company saw the benefits of industrial automation for metering chemical products and launched our robotics division. This division was later named “PRE-TEC” in 2009.

As mass production evolves and grows, our PRE-TEC engineers understand that the use of industrial robots is a cost-effective way to produce higher quality products and increase productivity. Our team of engineers and scientists work closely with our industry partners to contribute innovative ideas and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to advances in the robotics field.

Our robotics partner, Robotic Industries Association (RIA), believes that the use industrial automation equipment is significantly on the rise. As the technology develops, it is estimated that the number of industrial automation and robots deployed worldwide will go up to 2.6 million units by 2019.

There have been numerous exciting advances made in industrial robotics over the years. One example is the use of Vision-Guided Robot (VGR) Systems. VGR robots, robotic systems fitted with vision sensors, are able to work for longer periods of time with a high level of speed and reliability. VGR systems not only surpass the use of traditional “blind” robots, they are highly adaptable and easy to implement.

“Flexibility is a key driver of ROI in robotics,” says RIA in this article. “3D vision capabilities have allowed robots to complete more than one task without reprogramming, as well as the ability to account for unforeseen variables in work environments. Further, 3D vision allows a robot to recognize what’s in front of it, to a certain extent, and react accordingly.”

By automating tasks that previously were done manually, 3D vision-guided robots are revolutionizing mass production. Using 3D smart sensors with onboard software, an industrial robot can perform tasks like “Pick and Place”, the action of automatically sensing and picking up the correct parts and placing them in the desired order and location. This function, something that could previously only be done by a skilled worker, was once a challenge for robots, but it is now a common practice in the day-to-day operations in most factories.

To learn more about 3D Smart Sensors in Vision-Guided Robotic Systems, click here.

PRE-TEC's New Fanuc SCARA Robot Line

PRE-TEC’s New Fanuc SCARA Robot Line

Another exciting advance in industrial robotics technology is the ability for robots to work in a more efficient and compact workspace. PRE-TEC’s new Fanuc SCARA robot line is the new standard for precision high-speed picking and tracking. Equipped with a 360-degree radius work envelope, work can be completed behind the SCARA robot with a compact inner radius that leaves more workstations around the machine for additional efficiencies. Click here to learn more about the Fanuc SCARA robot line.

About PRE-TEC
The PRE-TEC division of Willamette Valley Company is currently the largest custom robotic integrator on the West Coast having installed systems throughout North America. PRE-TEC offers support in areas of training, programming, spare parts, and preventive maintenance. Please visit www.wilvaco.com to learn more about WVCO’s other divisions.

Celebrate The Power of Public Works During National Public Works Week

Public Works ProfessionalsNational Public Works Week is coming up (May 20-26, 2018) and we felt like this is the perfect time to reflect on the critical role public works professionals and organizations like  The American Public Works Association (APWA) have on our society.

“From providing clean water to disposing of solid waste, to building roads and bridges or planning for and implementing mass transit, to removing snow on roadways or devising emergency management strategies to meet natural or manmade disasters public works services determine a society’s quality of life” states the organization on its website.

The 2018 theme is “The Power of Public Works” and celebrates the enormous contribution public works professionals make every day to communities all across North America.

What is National Public Works Week?

National Public Works Week (NPWW) is a public education campaign sponsored by APWA that seeks to create a stronger conversation and association between public works and the communities they improve daily. Since its inception in 1960, NPWW has identified and honored hundreds of men and women that work in maintenance, construction, design, and operation of major public works throughout the country.

Getting Involved

If you’re looking for a way to get involved in National Public Works Week, the APWA has published several handy tools on the subject, including a How-To Guide for anyone looking for a good place to start. For more information on National Public Works Week or APWA, please visit npww.apwa.net.

About APWA

The American Public Works Association is a nonprofit organization founded to serve public works professionals in all branches of industry. The association has a worldwide membership in numbers over 28,500 and is open to any individual, agency, and/or corporation that bring with them an interest in public works.

What Exactly Are “Potholes” Anyway?

Potholes and Concrete RepairStory Source: AWPA

It happens to us all. We’re on a relatively smooth ride and suddenly- BAM. Your vehicle dips a few inches and you’re left wondering how much damage has been done on your brand new tires. Chances are, you just hit a pothole. You’ve heard the term and if you’re like most people, you detest them. Potholes are certainly a nuisance, but they can often be dangerous and will require fast repair.

But what are they? And how do they get fixed?

What causes a pothole?
Potholes are created when the top layer of pavement and the material beneath—called the base or sub-base—cannot support the weight of the traffic. Two factors are always present in such a failure: TRAFFIC and WATER. The “gestation period” for a pothole includes:

1) Snow-melt or rain seeps through cracks in the pavement and into the sub-base; if the moisture cannot adequately drain away from the sub-base and soil underneath, it becomes saturated and soft.

2) Trapped moisture is subjected to repeated freeze/thaw cycles–and with each occurrence the expanding ice lifts and cracks the pavement more. The passing traffic weakens the pavement, cracking it further.

3) As temperatures rise and the ice melts, a void is left under the pavement. This void collects more water, and during the next freeze, the void will enlarge.

4) Vehicles driving over the weakened pavement pound it until the surface breaks and collapses into the void below, thus creating a pothole.

Why are they called potholes?
According to the late trivia expert and syndicated columnist L. M. Boyd, pottery makers in l5th and l6th century England would take advantage of the ruts that wagon and coach wheels gouged into roads. Anxious for a cheap source of raw materials for making clay pots, the potters would dig into the deep ruts to reach clay deposits underneath.

Teamsters driving wagons and coaches over those roads knew who and what caused these holes and referred to them as “potholes.”

What affects pavement life?
Pavement life is influenced by many factors: vehicle loading (axle loads, tire pressure and gross vehicle weight [GVW]), traffic volume and mix, environmental conditions, topography, subgrade condition, initial pavement design and construction practices, maintenance activity and pavement age.

Traffic volume has increased significantly and this trend will continue —but few new lane-miles have been added to the nation’s highway, road and street network and are not expected to keep pace with the increased demand.

The decision and capability to patch potholes is influenced by: current weather; traffic conditions; imminent scheduled roadway construction; major maintenance work or utility work in the roadway; availability of personnel, equipment, and materials, and the demands of the traveling public.

How are potholes repaired?
Pothole patching is performed either as an emergency repair during harsh conditions or as routine maintenance scheduled for warmer and drier periods. Typically, emergency repairs are done only when a pothole presents a substantial safety or traffic operational problem and must be urgently corrected.

For example, a large pothole on a major arterial has contributed to collisions by causing drivers to swerve to avoid or lose control after hitting it. Or, one or more large potholes hinder the flow of traffic causing unusual slow-down and congestion. Potholes near activated traffic signals may expose embedded loop sensor wires, and when they break, the signals will not be responsive to traffic demands.

Emergency repairs usually are done in heavy traffic and can be a safety risk to maintenance workers. Repairs that are more permanent can be scheduled for times when weather and traffic are more conducive to safe operations.

There are a number of standard pothole repair methods used for any asphalt paved street or road, but here is a demonstration of how FastPatch products, a division of WVCO, can be used to repair a common pothole.

To learn more about FastPatch and what we can do for you, visit fastpatchsystems.com

2018 International Mass Timber Conference

“We believe that a greater use of cross-laminated timber and other mass timber products in mid- to high-rise building construction is the innovative, disruptive, modern, and sustainable choice necessary for building in a fast-growing world.”

masstimberconference.com

As one of the world’s top companies in the wood products industry, Willamette Valley Company continues to strive to be on the forefront of the advancement and possibilities of the mass timber industry and cross-laminated timber. Last week, WVCO proudly represented our wood products division at the 2018 International Mass Timber Conference, the premier, global conference for cross-laminated timber and other mass timber construction.

This conference, co-produced by WoodWorks and the Forest Business Network, is one of the largest gatherings of mass timber experts in the world. Architects, engineers, city planners, representatives from major construction companies, mass timber manufacturers, designers, fire officials, mass timber equipment suppliers, representatives from sawmills and many more gathered in Portland, Oregon for the 3-day event packed with presentations and learning opportunities from international experts and presentations.

Demand for cross-laminated timber and construction is growing all over the world. Recently, a new study by Grand View Research, Inc suggests the growing demand for sustainable houses made from wood is likely to drive the global cross-laminated timber market. The report states that the “market is expected to reach a valuation of USD 2.07 billion by 2025. Rising awareness among consumers regarding wooden products and increasing number of suppliers for cross-laminated timber (CLT) are likely to augment the growth. Based on product type, the market can be classified as adhesive bonded and mechanically fastened CLT.”

As more and more evidence is suggesting that CLT is the future of the construction and building industry, the Willamette Valley Company will certainly be participating in more of these types of conventions and pledges to remain one of the top innovators in the wood products industry.

 

How FastPatch Became an Innovative Solution for Concrete Repair

FastPatchDPROur roots are in wood products, but the Willamette Valley Company is much more than that. We are also leaders in providing high-performance solutions in a range of industries. Just over a decade ago, our company was approached by key transportation professionals who needed fast-curing and ultra-tough materials for repairing roadways and bridges. They were weary of antiquated repair materials that were non-flexible, required water, and were labor intensive to install.

Our solution? FastPatch.

The introduction of this groundbreaking line of concrete repair solutions was a significant leap forward in technology. The product proved to outperform and outlast traditional products, plus it was easier to install with our custom dispensing machine and easy-to-use kits.

FastPatch been approved by government agencies all over the United States for service on major highways and has been used to repair airports, highways, bridges, railroads, and other various applications throughout the United States and around the world. Its products can repair everything from broken concrete and asphalt, spalls, potholes, joints, driveways, highways, bridge decks, parking lots, Cracks slab repairs, ramps and loading docks, warehouse floors, post anchors, and trip hazards. It has been used by everyone from Public Works & Engineering/Construction industry professionals to home improvement “DIYers”.

To reduce waste, FastPatch uses recycled and renewable materials to repair existing materials. It is 100% solids and does not contain any volatile chemicals. Repairing with FastPatch, rather than removal, eliminates disposal costs and excess waste. FastPatch DPR (Distressed Pavement Repair) for example, is created from 80% recycled and renewable materials. Over 50 bottles of recycled glass are used in a single kit and the polymer is a blend of renewable bio-based materials.

A case study performed on Caltrans Maintenance in Santee, CA  states “FastPatch is easily dispensed, fast curing, flexible, and has excellent adhesion. Currently, there is not a material on the market that can do the same thing as FASTPATCH and have the color of concrete. FastPatch is cold applied and allows Maintenance to repair all concrete distresses in the lane closure, which includes Spalls, Corner breaks, First & Third stage crack, and transverse & longitudinal joints.” –

To learn more about FastPatch and how to apply, visit FastPatch Academy: Equipment Tutorials. For more information contact us at FastPatch@wilvaco.com.

What is in store for Rail in 2018?

Rail

Photo Source: American-Rails

“We feel very good about the future and look forward to next year. We are committed to provide superior service to our customers, and with the volume growth momentum still ahead of us, we see good growth opportunity. A major focus as we move into 2018 is putting more of our resources in place: the people, the equipment and the capital investments.” — Canadian National President and CEO Luc Jobin

What’s the state of the rail industry in 2018? Today’s modern railroads face diverse and unique challenges in daily maintenance projects. There is a lot to be optimistic about in the coming year for rail, though at the moment it is a cautious optimism. A strong U.S. economy and increased consumer confidence could potentially bring new investments and policies that would positively affect all levels of infrastructure throughout the country.

Overall, 2017 was a good year for the rail industry, with the ASCE’s report card giving it the only strong grade of its infrastructure report card. NASDAQ also reported strong growth for railroads in the third quarter due in part to improved focus on deliverables like coal.

Of course, there are challenges to overcome that could impact the industry. Some lawmakers have called for budget cuts, stating that trains are not profitable. National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) President and CEO Jim Mathews responded by saying “those in Congress who believe that passenger rail is not profitable are mistaken. What they don’t see is the big picture. A robust national–and international–intermodal transportation system is crucial to economic growth, especially in those rural and less wealthy areas where travel options are already limited.”

Uncertainty with the North American Free Trade Agreement could also be a factor that greatly impacts the rail industry. Railroads such as the Kansas City Southern that deal heavily with Mexico could potentially feel the repercussions of the deal falling through.

Union Pacific’s Lance Fritz highlights Mexico is a strong business opportunity. “Despite uncertainty around NAFTA, we consider our Mexico business an opportunity that could benefit some of our submarkets. Union Pacific moves 70 percent of U.S. freight-rail shipments to and from Mexico through gateways at Brownsville, Laredo, Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and Calexico, California. We support trade that helps the U.S. and Mexico economies grow.”

As new infrastructure plans and investments are revealed, the railroad industry’s future will become clearer. We hope it’s a bright one.

About WVCO’s Railroad Division
The Willamette Valley Company’s Railroad Division is the industry leader in providing innovative new products and application systems for today’s railroads. The Railroad Division’s proprietary product, SpikeFast®, has quickly become the most sought-after and reliable product for plugging spike holes.The Railroad Division also offers other railroad tie products for wood and concrete ties, and unique application systems to accurately and consistently apply proven products.

Sources:

https://www.globalrailwayreview.com/article/63203/expanding-passenger-rail-u-s-economy/

https://www.globalrailwayreview.com/news/62949/report-amtrak-cuts-cost-billions/

http://www.nasdaq.com/article/railroad-industry-outlook-december-2018-cm886615

http://www.progressiverailroading.com/rail_industry_trends/article/Outlook-2018-For-Class-I-railroads-moderate-growth-is-the-best-guess–53413

Feeling Creative? Add a Little Unicorn Spit into the Mix!

UnicornSpitUnlike its namesake, Eclectic Products’ Unicorn Spit is very real and extremely useful! This product mixes Paint, Gel Stain, and Glaze into one vibrant mixture, giving customers the ability to turn any everyday objects into a masterpiece.

Pick from 14 different colors and let your creativity run wild! Unicorn Spit penetrates into deep wood and glazes over existing finishes, making it the ideal final touch when fixing up some furniture. Of course, Unicorn Spit works on so much more than wood; add it to some fabric, glass, metal, concrete, or pottery to give objects a stylish new look.

Inspired? Here are some great ways people are using Unicorn Spit to take their creativity further.

If you’re ready to create your very own masterpieces, head on over to Unicorn Spit’s Directions and Tutorials for tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your product.

About Eclectic Products, Inc.

Headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, Eclectic Products specializes in adhesive/patch/coatings and repair products ranging from 0.18 oz. tubes to industrial totes and drums. The company offers powerful brands with exceptional performance and high-level technical R&D abilities. Eclectic Products has earned numerous awards for product performance, innovative design and excellence from organizations such as theNational Retail Hardware Association, HGTV Magazine and Handyman Magazine. Eclectic’s manufacturing facility based in Pineville, Louisiana has also been recognized by the State of Louisiana for demonstrating exceptional quality of work and a commitment to community. All products are proudly made in the U.S.A.

A Look at Infrastructure’s 2017 and 2018

US Infrastructure

Photo Source: Inhabitat.com

As 2017 comes to a close it’s the ideal time to reflect on the year and look towards the future. Specifically, the present and future of the United States’ infrastructure.

In the views of many, 2017 could have been a better year for infrastructure.The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s 2017 report card gave infrastructure a national grade of D+.This grade is based on a total average of individually graded categories, such as aviation, schools, drinking water, and energy to name a few. The one category where infrastructure is succeeding is Rail, the highest rated category at a B rating. Find the grading breakdown of the report card here.

ReportCard

Image Source: ASCE

So how can infrastructure improve in 2018? The ASCE offers several solutions to raise the grade. One such improvement is for leadership to be emboldened. As ASCE President Dr. Norma Jean Mattei puts it “we need our elected leaders – those who pledged to rebuild our infrastructure while on the campaign trail – to follow through on those promises with investment and innovative solutions that will ensure our infrastructure is built for the future.”

Another such solution offered would be to increase sustained infrastructure investment, specifically from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. Their third recommendation would be to ensure that infrastructure is more resilient and sustainable in order to prepare it for the future.

Will these solutions be implemented? It may be too early to say. The current administration has promised to announce their infrastructure plan and will reveal spending for the next few years. If the promise of $1 trillion worth of infrastructure investment is true, then it is very possible we may see the report card grade improve drastically in the coming years. One thing is certain: 2018 and the new infrastructure plan will bring drastic policy changes that will be felt throughout all facets of infrastructure.

Sources:

https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

https://www.asce.org/templates/press-release-detail.aspx?id=24013

http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/363813-trump-to-release-infrastructure-plan-next-month-report

 

How Does a Robotic Wood Wrapping Machine Work?

PRE-TEC FANUC Robotics

Originally posted on www.fanucamerica.com

Wood manufacturers are discovering that industrial robots are ideal for the hazardous work environments they encounter in the woodworking industry. In this application video, PRE-TEC (a division of Willamette Valley Company) has implemented an automated wood wrapping system in which four FANUC robots apply protective wrapping, end sealant, and label to I-Joist Beams or Stacked Laminated Veneer Lumber. This system can automatically apply protective wrapping for multiple length, width and height units on the fly by calculating the load dimensions.

This system utilizes one FANUC M-710iC/70 robot, two M-16iB/10L robots, and one M-20iA/10L robot to complete the process. The FANUC robots transfer each piece, accurately measure and stretch the wrapping to match the piece size, apply the sealant, and stack the wood for distribution. The beams are measured continuously on the carousel to be sure the correct size wrapping is loaded.

The robots then wrap and staple the wood automatically. In this system, robots replaced an operation that presented stapling hazards as well as those that come with handling large pieces of engineered wood products. In addition to removing stapling and handling hazards, PRE-TEC says that this robotically automated process has made their system much more efficient. To learn more about this robotic wrap applicator system, please visit PRE-TEC’s website at http://www.pre-tec.com/custom-robotics.

Follow the link to learn more about our full line of Wrapping & Material Handling Robots.

WVCO Named “APA Supplier of the Year “for Third Year in a Row!

Photo via APA – The Engineered Wood Association

Huntington Beach, California- Earlier this week, WVCO was named APA Supplier of the Year for the third year in a row and for the 8th time in 11 years at the APA Annual Meeting held in conjunction with the EWTA Info Fair.

EWTA’s Supplier of the Year Awards are based on the quality and delivery of EWTA member products, equipment and/or services supplied to APA members, as determined by a vote of APA mill managers.

EWTA Supplier of the Year

The EWTA Info Fair is a product and services exposition featuring equipment manufacturers, product suppliers and service providers from other EWTA member companies. WVCO has participated as an (EWTA) Info Fair Gold Level sponsor for a number of years and has been honored with numerous awards for our wood products. Last year, in addition to “Supplier of the Year”, the WVCO team was also recognized with the prestigious “Innovation of the Year” award for our new product Wil-Spray 500. It was the first time that the same company won both awards in the same year!

These awards mean a great deal to our company because it is a reflection of the quality and delivery of products, equipment and/or services, as determined by a vote of APA members.

The Engineered Wood Technology Association is a related non-profit corporation of APA – The Engineered Wood Association. EWTA represents companies that provide products and services to the engineered wood products manufacturing industry. EWTA is based in Tacoma, Wash. Read more about EWTA here.