PRE-TEC Sales Manager Rufus Burton is featured on RIA’s Certified Integrator Spotlight!

“PRE-TEC’s management feel the RIA certification program is a positive step towards assuring current and future customers that the market for automation is bigger than any one provider. In addition it goes a long way towards demonstrating that the robotic community understands this fact. In the end, the Certification program benefits all participants – customers, and suppliers”. -Rufus Burton

Rufus-BurtonRufus Burton, Sales Manager for PRE-TEC (WVCO’s Robotics Division), sat down with RIA Robotics Industry Association (RIA) to share the company’s vision and experience on how becoming RIA certified has helped to improve our business and operations.

RIA Certification is an invaluable way for our robotics integrators and inventors to highlight their experience, capabilities, and aptitude to users, suppliers, investors, clients, and partners alike. It demonstrates that they’ve met the critical criteria determined by the RIA, which in turn means they’re an expert in best practices. In his interview, Rufus touches on this very topic.

“PRE-TEC’s management feel the RIA certification program is a positive step towards assuring current and future customers that the market for automation is bigger than any one provider. In addition it goes a long way towards demonstrating that the robotic community understands this fact. In the end, the Certification program benefits all participants – customers, and suppliers.”

Despite the industry itself going through tremendous growth and advances in recent years, RIA certification also serves as a means to address a very real issue currently facing the industry: a measurable standard of quality for vendors and robotic integrators.

“Today there are not enough accomplished integrators to serve the market, given the rapid pace at which companies are identifying their needs for automation. Complicating matters is the unfortunate fact that too many integrators have come and gone, leaving customers to question whether the vendor they select will complete the project let alone assure them of a successful result.”

riaCert

RIA certification goes a long way for those looking to hire vendors and create a working relationship with inventors and integrators to know that they person they’re meeting with has met a standard of critical criteria. This is the very reason PRE-TEC is RIA Certified. Our vision is one where our customer’s expectation is not only met, they know in entering a relationship with us they are achieving high quality.

“Because success comes when we deliver a system that meets the customer’s expectations; every time we enter into a business relationship we work hard to be certain our customers understand ‘why’ we work the way we do, and ‘how’ it benefits them. Each project is evaluated to determine if a flexible automated solutions will solve the targeted manufacturing problem of today, and help the customer prepare for the challenge of the future.”

Visit robotics.org to learn more and read the full interview. You can also read other testimonials on the RIA certification program page.

The “Robot Taxation” debate carries on

Robotics

As breakthroughs in the fields of automation and robotics become more common, so do debates into the realities of a changing workflow. The topic of taxation of robots — specifically the taxation of firms that utilize robots for automaton purposes — is one such example of these ongoing discussions, though one without a clear solution.

Last month, Bill Gates spoke to Quartz on the subject of robot taxation, stating “right now, if a human worker does $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think we’d tax the robot at a similar level. You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all sort of at once. So, you know, warehouse work, driving, room cleanup, there’s quite a few things that are meaningful job categories that, certainly in the next 20 years, being thoughtful about that extra supply is a net benefit. It’s important to have the policies to go with that.” This opinion, however, met its share of criticism; similarly a proposed measure in Europe to tax corporations that utilize robots was quickly shot down.

Robot taxation raises several hard to answer questions and difficulties. One such obstacle is the clarification of what constitutes a robot. Is a robot defined as a piece of software that automates a complex process? Is it a physical piece of automated technology? The nebulous nature of this definition creates an obstacle in the adoption of such a tax. Where is the line drawn?

A common argument made for taxation of robots is job loss — if a robot is doing the job a person could then that will result in a lost job. Though this is certainly true with any automated process, economists and other experts view the net-growth possibilities as a worthwhile investment. Economist James Bessen wrote in his response to Bill Gates’s interview “although automation will lead to further job losses in manufacturing, warehouse operations, and truck driving, the overall impact of automation across most industries will be to increase employment,” going on to compare the impact on productivity to the introduction of the bar-code scanner or ATM.

Further complicating the discussion of robot taxation is that many view it as a superficial solution to a complex problem. Robots and automated processes are not going away, after all. To this end many sides of the discussion would prefer a long-term solution to the changing workforce, such as the adoption of a universal income in order to adequately prepare for a future with growing number of automated processes.

The debate of robot taxation currently has no clear answer and will undoubtedly carry on in the near-future. One thing is clear: automated processes are not going anywhere, be they robotic manufacturing assembly or self-driving automobiles. What solutions and measures are adopted with them, however, remain to be seen.

Sources:

Quartz

Forbes

The Guardian

Fortune

 

Nora Ayanian sees a future of autonomous robot coordination

Nora Ayanian

Photo Source Tumo

“Teams of humans are exceptionally good at coordination. Teams of robots, however, are clumsy at coordination, requiring extensive communication and computation.” – Nora Ayanian

There’s no denying it, robots are incomparably skilled when carrying out a specific given task, even if that task requires some light improvisation. The same can’t be said, however, when robots are forced to worked together; the overlap in work either results in extra work on the programming side or redundant/ineffective task management on the robot side. But what if robots could coordinate themselves autonomously depending on what the other robots are currently doing? It may sound like something out of Westworld, but this is exactly the question that Nora Ayanian is working to answer.

Nora Ayanian, assistant professor and Director of the ACT (Automatic Coordination of Teams) Lab at USC, endeavors to make robots and robotics a very real part of everyday life. “I want to make robots easy to use and have them everywhere,” said Ayanian, “they should be accessible, user-friendly and interactive so you can have them in your house and in your car. Right now, robots are really difficult for novices to use.”

Despite her passion for the robotic, her goal to achieve robotic automation would require researching a much less predictable source: people. By developing an online multiplayer game with funding from the National Science Foundation CAREER award, Ayanian was able to study the ways that humans can coordinate together when presented with very little information or communication tools. This research would prove invaluable in defining an automated coordination system for robots and allow to them to “think” of solutions for problems based on the activities of the greater robotic team.

Though automated coordination could certainly be applied to groups of identical robots with identical programming, Nora Ayanian believes that diversity, both in terms of team and of the robots themselves, is the key to solving complex tasks.

“The way we solve multi-robot problems right now is to uniformly apply one control policy to all of the identical robots in the team. For example, imagine we’re trying to monitor air quality with a team of physically identical aerial robots. If we considered all the factors that could affect the problem, the robots, and their capabilities, we might have too many factors to consider and our problem would be intractable,” wrote Ayanian in a blog post for Justmeans.com. “Imagine that same team of aerial robots assisted by robots on the ground. The robots on the ground could provide additional information such as temperature, position, topography, and satellite communications via hardware the aerial robots might not be able to carry. They could also perform computation, telling the aerial robots where to go and mapping the air quality, allowing the aerial robots to use more of their on-board energy for sensing.”

The contributions Nora Ayanian has made to the field of robotics don’t just end with the vast potential of her research, they are also every present in the new generation of roboticists she inspires and works alongside in her role as Director of USC’s ACT lab. We are incredibly excited to see what Ayanian’s work means for the future of robotics and dub her our “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

Note: Nora Ayanian does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is she affiliated with our company.

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/lists/innovators-under-35/2016/

http://www.justmeans.com/blog/diversity-in-the-it-industry-is-key-to-solving-global-problems

USC News: New USC Viterbi professor sees robots in future

USC News: Two USC Viterbi researchers named among top ‘Innovators Under 35’

Are You Robotic Industries Association Certified?

RIAMember

“Our experience and capabilities in robotic programming will be further recognized through this certification. It demonstrates our continuing commitment with providing customers arc welding and cutting solutions for a completely automated system.” – Justin Percio, Business Manager, Welding Automation Systems, Lincoln Electric

Robotics are a fundamental part of WVCO and of our shared passion. Our PRE-TEC division builds custom and pre-engineered robotics, from multi-axis robot arms and end-of-arm tooling, to conveyance systems, and safety hardware —backed by all the support, training, programming, and maintenance you need. Beyond our own manufacturing, however, we are also a member of the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), a relationship that has enabled us to better serve customers by giving us access to the latest technologies, methodologies, and resources.

RIA

RIA is the only North American trade group dedicated solely to robotics and robot safety. It was first founded in 1974 in an effort to “drive innovation, growth, and safety in manufacturing and service industries through education, promotion, and advancement of robotics, related automation technologies, and companies delivering integrated solutions.” They’ve succeeded in their endeavor, providing companies with a venue to seek help, answers, information, and certification.

RIA Certified Robot Integrator

RIA certification is an invaluable way for robot integrators and inventors to highlight their experience, capabilities, and aptitude to users, suppliers, investors, clients, and partners alike. It demonstrates that they’ve met the critical criteria determined by the RIA, which in turn means they’re an expert in best practices.

The certification is relatively new, first established in 2012. Prior to it, end users struggled to determine robotic integrators’ expertise and business requirements.  The certification plays a crucial role in establishing an industry standard for end users to evaluate vendors and ensure the best possible partnerships.

“The RIA certification program doesn’t only benefit end users, however. It’s the perfect opportunity for certified robot integrators to differentiate themselves,” says Armando Barry, certification consultant to RIA. “Achieving RIA certification will reflect a significant commitment by robot integrators, that elevates their technical expertise in applying robots in a consistent manner,” Barry concluded.

PRE-TEC Robotics

How to Become Certified

In order to become certified, integrators go through a rigorous process which includes an on-site audit, safety training and hands-on testing of key personnel among other important criteria.

There are three basic parts to the on-site exam and audit:

1. Hands-On section
2. Expert Response Section: (Participant industry tenure & biography)
3. On-site audit of business infrastructure per completed “Self Score Card”. Supporting evidence will be gathered before any certification date is scheduled.

The entire certification process demonstrates the requisite level of technical knowledge required to execute robotic system projects and tasks in a safe, efficient, and economical manner. It also signifies not only the company, but the technician has the ability of working with various codes and standards.

To learn more about this certification, we hope you will visit the RIA Certified Robot Integrator Program page. For more information on RIA, membership and the certification program, please contact RIA Headquarters at 734/994-6088 or visit Robotics Online at www.robotics.org.

Sources:

RIA

Intelligrated

Could a Robot Learn By Itself?

Ashutosh Saxena

Photo Source Cornell Engineering

“We now live in a world where robots are helping humans in their daily lives, and just like humans, robots need to learn new skills in order to do their jobs successfully. And we shouldn’t expect a robot to learn on its own from scratch, any more than we’d expect a human to do so—imagine a child growing up with no access to textbooks, libraries, or the Internet.” – Ashutosh Saxena

What if robots could learn to carry out tasks autonomously? In other words, when giving a robot a new task it could “figure out” on it’s own how to do it? This is exactly the question that Ashutosh Saxena is working to answer.

Professor Saxena is a roboticist at Cornell University working to develop a massive online search engine that robots could access and find the required knowledge to carry out tasks, the aptly named RoboBrain. When given a question, RoboBrain will search the internet for relevant knowledge databases and images, sidestepping the need to teach robots to do tasks through step by step instructions.

“In 2014, I started a project called RoboBrain at Cornell University along with PhD students Ashesh Jain and Ozan Sener. We now have collaborators at Stanford and Brown. What we’re working on is a way of sharing information that allows robots to gather whatever knowledge they need for a task,” writes Saxena. “If one robot learns, then the knowledge is propagated to all the robots. RoboBrain achieves this by gathering the knowledge from a variety of sources. The system stores multiple kinds of information, including symbols, natural language, visual or shape features, haptic properties, and motions.”

The implications of such a project, if successful, could be enormous. It would lead to an increase in efficiency and reduce downtime and spending spent in “training” robots how to carry out tasks. RoboBrain could also lead to robots with more capacity to carry out objectives than previously intended.

Saxena’s work has garnered him several awards and recognition, including Eight Innovators to Watch in 2015, Smithsonian Institution; World Technology Award, 2015; The 50-years of Shakey at AAAI-RSS Blue Sky Ideas award, 2015; RSS Early Career Award, 2014; NSF Career award, 2013; Microsoft Faculty Fellow, 2012; Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, 2011; Best Cognitive Robotics paper, IROS’14. Best student paper, RSS’13; CUAir at AUVSI’12: First prize, mission performance; Google Faculty Research Award, 2012.

These breakthroughs in robotic learning coupled with the unparalleled potential of a developed RoboBrain is what makes Ashush Saxena our pick for “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

Note: Ashush Saxena does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is he affiliated with our company.

Sources:

Stanford University

Rethink Robotics Youtube

MIT Technology Review

Smithsonian

Yaskawa Motoman Offers Tips on How to Select a Robotics Integrator

Motoman-PartnerThe 4 “Cs” to Selecting a Robotics Integrator

We are proud of the outstanding work and research being conducted by our robotics division, PRE-TEC, the largest custom robotic integrator on the West Coast. In the past decade alone, PRE-TEC has prepared more than 165 robotic systems thanks in part to the valuable partnerships we have with leading robotics companies like Yaskawa Motoman.

Yaskawa Motoman is an industry leader in the rapidly growing robotics field, and we’re proud our PRE-TEC division is a premier Motoman Strategic Partner.

Sam Schenck, Director of Strategic Partner Relations at Yaskawa America, Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division, recently wrote a piece for the company’s blog that offers valuable advice on how to select a robotics integrator. “Ultimately, picking the right robotics integrator is about making the part you want to make at the rate, quality and timing you need,” he writes in his recent post, 4 Things to Consider When Selecting a Robotics Integrator. “There are 4 “Cs” to sizing up any integrator; I define them as concept, cost, capabilities and capacity”.

Here is a quick summary of his advice.

1. Don’t accept claims that can’t be supported by evidence.

2. Be aware that the proposal price might not be your “all-in cost” for automation.

3. Regarding support, if you want an integrator to be available for immediate, on-site help should problems arise, make sure they have a support presence in your region.

4. If they have the capabilities you need, ask how much of their work is sub-contracted. You want to know if they are a net aggregator of pieces or a producer. Work with the latter, not the former.

Click here to read the full article.

PRE-TEC’s Custom Robotic Technologies Featured in New Website

The Precision Technologies Division (PRE-TEC) of Willamette Valley Company recently launched a new, mobile friendly website to better serve our customers and help them understand our services and custom robotic technologies.

The new site integrates a series of helpful videos on nearly every page to clearly demonstrate PRE-TEC’s flexible, automated solutions designed for the Manufacturing and the Wood Products industry.

PRE-TEC began nearly thirty years ago when a group of innovative individuals at Willamette Valley Company saw a need for easy-to-use, accurate equipment for metering chemical products. When they discovered this kind of equipment could not be found, they formed the “Equipment Division”.

In the mid-1990’s, the Equipment Division delved into the robotics field and became “Precision Technologies”, later renamed “PRE-TEC” in 2009.

Today, our PRE-TEC Division team are some of the brightest minds in the industry. This group of engineers have demonstrated time and time again how to change ideas into reality by applying scientific knowledge and innovative manufacturing know-how to the development of precision equipment.

Our team has prepared over 220 robotic systems throughout North America and is currently the largest custom robotic integrator on the West Coast.

We hope you will visit our new website and contact us with any questions and feedback: pre-tec@pre-tec.com or (800) 205-9826.  Be sure to check out all of our PRE-TEC videos on YouTube.  

Please visit www.wilvaco.com to learn more about WVCO’s other divisions.

FANUC America Introduces New CR-35iA Collaborative Robot Designed to Work Alongside Humans

FANUC_America_CR-35iA_Collaborative_robot

The FANUC CR-35iA collaborative robot allows shared workspace between an operator and the interactive robot. (Photo: Business Wire)

WVCO’s strategic robotics partner, FANUC America Corporation, recently announced the company has developed it’s new CR-35iA collaborative robot, the industry’s first 35 kg payload force limited collaborative robot designed to work alongside humans without the need for safety fences.

“The FANUC CR-35iA collaborative robot allows shared workspace between an operator and the interactive robot,” said Greg Buell, product manager, FANUC America. “The highly-sensitive robot gently stops if it comes in contact with the operator, allowing the robot and human to work side by side; in fact, FANUC currently has units running in production at General Motors.”

The CR-35iA robot was developed to help manufacturers solve ergonomic challenges by handling applications that are physically demanding for humans, such as heavy lifting.The robot’s shell is green to distinguish the collaborative robot from the standard yellow FANUC robots.

WVCO is proud to have a long time partnership with organizations like FANUC America.  Our robotics division, PRE-TEC, has partnered with the company to develop automated manufacturing solutions using six axis robots and other precision equipment for customers all over the world. Earlier this year, we introduced introduced M2000iA, FANUC’s largest robot available in the North American market.

Large Robots

Standing with M2000iA

Click here to learn more about FANUC’s CR-35iA collaborative robot. You can also visit the company’s website at www.fanucamerica.com.

About FANUC America Corporation
FANUC America Corporation is a subsidiary of FANUC CORPORATION in Japan, and provides industry-leading robotics, CNC systems, and factory automation. FANUC’s innovative technologies and proven expertise help manufacturers in the Americas maximize efficiency, reliability and profitability.

WVCO’s PRE-TEC Division Partners with Fanuc to Integrate ‘The Big Robot’

Large Robots

Standing with M2000iA

WVCO’s PRE-TEC Division team are some of the brightest minds in the industry. Since the mid 1990s, this team has successfully created more than 220 robotic systems and is currently FANUC’s largest custom robotic Integrator on the West Coast.

Much of the success of our robotics division has been made possible by partnering with leading edge companies like the FANUC America Corporation to develop automated manufacturing solutions using six axis robots and other precision equipment gor customers all over the world.

Recently, this team delved into a BIG project. We mean REALLY big.

Meet M2000iA, FANUC’s largest robot available in the North American market. This beast of a robot is offered with a 900Kg (2,094lbs) capacity or 1350Kg (2,976lbs) capacity- in other words, it can handle enormous objects like car & truck bodies, and very large castings. Our PRE-TEC team has proudly partnered once again with FANUC to integrate this huge robot for a customer here in the Northwest.

It takes a very innovative company like FANUC to supply us with the broad range of robots and servo drives we need to build the flexible automated solutions that integrate the multi-axis robot arms, with end-of-arm tooling, conveyance systems, and safety hardware.

With headquarters in Rochester Hills, Michigan, FANUC America Corporation produces software, controls, and vision products that aid in the development of robotic systems. Their technologies help manufacturers like us maximize efficiency, reliability and profitability.

To get an idea of their extensive capabilities, just watch this video where they demonstrate four FANUC Arc Mate 100iC robots welding an automotive trailer hitch:

For more information about the FANUC America Corporation, visit www.fanucamerica.com.

PRE-TEC designs and builds automated solutions for challenging manufacturing applications, and support all projects with training, spare parts, and preventive maintenance programs. Download our company overview for contact information and to learn more: Please visit www.wilvaco.com to learn more about WVCO’s other divisions.

Click here to download more info on M2000iA

WVCO Featured Innovator of the Month: MIT Professor Julie Shah

Julie Shaw

Image Courtesy of MIT Industrial Liaison Program

“Imagine if robots could be truly collaborative partners, able to anticipate and adapt to the needs of their human teammates. Such robots could greatly extend productivity. That possibility is really exciting to me.” -Julie Shah

Willamette Valley Company was built on the principle of innovation. Throughout the years, our team of forward thinking innovators has produced a range of game changing solutions within  our divisions like PRE-TEC, Willamette Valley Company Railroad Division, POLYQuik Performance Products, and WVCO Wood Products.

This month, our featured innovator is Julie Shah, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and head of the Interactive Robotics Group at MIT.

The Interactive Robotics Group is a robotics research lab committed to developing robots that work in tandem with humans to accomplish what neither can do alone. She is best known for her team’s innovative methods of enabling human-robot collaboration, i.e. Creating robots who can function as colleagues for humans in fields such as disaster response, manufacturing, surgery and space exploration.

“Human interaction isn’t part of the traditional curriculum for training roboticists,” she says in this MIT Technology Review profile. “Our field is always pushing to make our systems more autonomous, and have richer capabilities and intelligence, but in that push we tend to look past the fact that these systems are, and always will be, working in human contexts”.

Here she is describing her work in the robotics field in her own words

Ms. Shah has received international recognition for her work in the robotics field, including an NSF CAREER award in 2014 and in the MIT Technology Review 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2013. She has also been named by MIT Technology Review as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.

Her dedication to creating a more collaborative relationship between humans and robots to achieve greater good makes her our pick for our “Innovator of the Month”.

Sourced By:
This MIT engineering professor is turning robots into ideal colleagues for humans.

interactive.mit.edu

Machines Like Us: Robots and Drones at Work