ProMat DX Offers New Automation for Supply Chains, Manufacturers

Robotics suppliers showed their latest systems to help warehouses and factories at the virtual conference and trade show.

ProMat DX

ProMat was held virtually this year rather than in Chicago.
Conveyor drives, autonomous mobile robots, and picking systems were among the automation systems shown at ProMat DX.

ProMat DX this week included exhibits, keynotes, and educational sessions for manufacturing and supply chain professionals from over 140 countries. Among them were numerous discussions around robotics and automation.

This year's ProMat was different from previous conferences and trade shows. The materials handling event had been co-located with Automate at McCormick Place in Chicago for several years, but after the last in-person event in 2019, the organizers of the two events decided to go their separate ways. ProMat 2021 was also virtual, but organizers said they expect to return to Atlanta for Modex 2022 (the events alternate years). 

Here are some of the highlights in robotics from ProMat DX:

Siemens introduces conveyor drive

Siemens introduced the Sinamics G115D drive for horizontal conveyor applications. The motor, drive, and gearbox are all in one unit that can be wall-mounted or motor-mounted.

The drive system includes a high protection class—up to IP66/UL Type 4X—making it suitable for harsh environments, according to the company. The Sinamics G115D can also operate reliably over a temperature range of -22 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit (-30° to 55°C), so it can work in extremely hot or cold conditions, such as those found in the logistics, aerospace, automotive, and food and beverage industries.

Power for the drive ranges from 0.37 to 7.5 kilowatts (0.5 to 10 hp) for wall-mounted applications and 0.37 to 4 kilowatts (0.5 to 5 hp) for motor-mounted applications. 

Siemens added that Sinamics G115D is integrated into its entire MindConnect portfolio and is compatible with MindSphere applications such as Analyze MyDrives for cloud-based analysis.

Mobile robots multiply at ProMat DX

Robotics 24/7 has already covered some of the many announcements around autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) from ProMat DX, including IAM Robotics' Bolt, Seegrid's Palion trucks, and Tompkins Robotics' partnership with GreyOrange. We've also covered inVia's Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) offerings, Vecna Robotics' Pivotal orchestration software, and Caja Robotics' work with Advanced Handling Systems.

Companies supplying robots for supply chain and automation raised more than $1.7 billion last quarter. Why all the interest around AMRs? Thanks to technical advances, they can improve safety, productivity, and serve in different functions, explained Mike Harper, vice president of sales and marketing at Chelmsford, Mass.-based AutoGuide.

“With our MAX-N AMRs, not only can facility operators feel confident the robots they’re deploying can work safely around their employees, but they can also know that these robots have been successfully deployed in some of the largest and most complex facilities in the world,” he said. “These facilities are seeing safer environments and faster ROI [returns on investment] as they free their workers for higher-value tasks.”

In addition, Chicago-based JBT Corp. showed a warehouse freezer AGV (automated guided vehicle) to address similar needs to Siemens' conveyor drives above.

“The freezer is the last frontier for AGVs. As a part of a food machinery company, our market research indicated that nobody was servicing this market,” said Cory Flemings, global sales director at JBT. “So JBT took on this challenge: We produced and fielded an AGV that can live in a freezer, service 10-ft., 6-in. aisles and reach storage locations up to 422 in.”

Mobile Industrial Robots ApS demonstrated its expanded lineup of AMRs, including the more nimble MiR250 and the heavy-duty MiR1000. Geek+ showed its RoboShuttle C200M, which is designed to operate in narrow aisles, saving warehouse space.

Also at ProMat DX, Toyota Material Handling introduced a line of AGVs including automated guided carts (AGCs) and automated forklifts.

Mobile manipulation has posed several challenges, including safety and power management, but Waypoint Robotics has teamed up with Productive Robotics to offer the Vector AMR with the OB7 collaborative robot arm.

Picking solutions

Stoecklin Logistics unveiled its robotic case picker, CO-PRO, designed to relieve human employees of the repetitive task of lifting heavy crates and cartons. It automatically moves them directly from pallets to a conveyor or robotic system. Its patented universal gripper holds up to 66 lb. and can transfer multiple units for higher throughput.

“As the volume of cases in the extended cold chain continues to grow, companies will need to have even more automation in their fulfillment systems to effectively and economically move orders from processing and distribution centers through to stores and customers,” stated Danilo Potocnik, head of sales for the U.S. and Canada at Stoecklin. “CO-PRO addresses one of the biggest pain points in the product-handling flow by eliminating most labor from and simplifying the fulfillment process, resulting in faster throughput and fewer errors.”

ABB Robotics showed off its IRB 390 FlexPacker, a four- or five-axis delta robot that it said is up to 35% faster, with a 45% larger working volume than the earlier model. The five-axis capability increases application flexibility for secondary packaging. ABB is positioning the robot for the retail-ready packaging (RRP) market, in which products are placed vertically and for high-speed, high-variance, parcel-sorting applications.

The IRB 390 includes NSF H1 foodpgrade Lubricants and built of FDA compliant material, suitable for use in hygienic environments. FGO and FGG (H1) is used in all exposed gearboxes and bearings.

“With the launch of the new IRB 390 FlexPacker, ABB will be able to offer an enhanced portfolio of automation products to help our customers meet the latest pick and place challenges,” said Marc Segura, managing director of consumer segments and service robotics at ABB. “We are combining the speed, payload and dexterity of FlexPacker with the proven high-speed picking and packing capability of FlexPicker and the advanced vision and digital twin capability of PickMaster Twin to help our customers make their lines more flexible than ever before, to handle the growth of low-volume, high-mix, and higher-payload production.”

In other robotic picking news, RightHand Robotics Inc. has updated its RightPick 3 system.

“RightPick 3 achieves an unprecedented level of autonomy, with flexibility to execute multiple warehouse tasks reliably, despite the inherent variability of picking processes,” stated Yaro Tenzer, co-founder and CEO of the Somerville, Mass.-based company.

Other automation at ProMat DX

SICK showcased the nanoScan3, which is claimed is the “world's smallest-profile laser scanner on the market.” The company also discussed 2D lidar localization as a supplement to the magnetic and optical guidance systems for AGVs and AMRs. SICK also provides sensors for stationary applications, such as bin picking.

Berkshire Grey, which is merging with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), promoted its e-commerce fulfillment, smart store replenishment, and dynamic parcel sortation offerings.

Reading, Pa.-based EnerSys offered virtual product demonstrations at ProMat DX of its EnSite modeling software and power management tools.

About the Author

Phil Britt's avatar
Phil Britt
Britt owns S&P Enterprises and is a technology writer who lives in the greater Chicago area. In addition to Robotics 24/7, he has written for financial services and business publications, including magazines, newsletters, conference dailies, and Web sites.
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ProMat DX

ProMat was held virtually this year rather than in Chicago.

Robot Technologies