Unleash the Bots to Demonstrate Technology for Manufacturers in South Carolina

OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers are welcome to attend the April event at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research.

South Carolina Research Authority


The day of technology demonstrations and discussions will focus on mobile robots, cobots, and mobile manipulation, and what enterprises need now.
Unleash the Bots will be an opportunity for manufacturers and logistics operators to discuss and see the latest mobile robots, cobots, and more, said the South Carolina Research Authority.

Manufacturers and supply chain operators may be aware of the need to automate, but they must evaluate their options before choosing a particular robot or vendor. To that end, the South Carolina Research Authority and ASTM International are hosting an “Unleash the Bots” demonstration day on April 4 at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research.

The goal of the event is to enable companies to discuss common challenges across manufacturing, said the Tech Demo Day organizers. Such challenges include finding more flexible and safer ways to deliver and handle parts; integrating mobility, vision, and end effectors for last-mile delivery; and improving overall equipment effectiveness and minimizing labor constraints.

Unleash the Bots to discuss real-world challenges

Unleash the Bots will feature discussions of real-world use cases in manufacturing and logistics, as well as demonstrations from vendors such as Drobot Inc. and AFR Global. The event organizers said it will allow attendees to learn about the pros and cons of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), collaborative robots, and mobile manipulators.

Speakers will include:

  • Catherine Hayes, industry manager at the South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA)
  • Aaron Prather, director of robotics and autonomous programs at standards group ASTM International (Prather was the keynote speaker at last year's Robotics Applications Conference.)
  • Dr. Yunyi Jia, the McQueen Quattlebaum associate professor and director of the Collaborative Robotics and Automation Lab at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR)

Roundtable discussions will address issues including engineering design changes, interoperability, standards and testing, and directions for future research. For example, robots could conduct more tasks beyond moving materials around a factory or warehouse, noted Hayes.

“One Tier 1 automotive supplier has a problem: It can get materials to a station, but it still needs humans to load and unload them,” she told Robotics 24/7. “Even if AMRs are safer and provide more manageable traffic, the question is, 'Are vendors addressing it, or is it too specific so integrators have to?'”

OEMs welcome to Tech Demo Day

“OEMs are welcome to come, and there is no charge for them to come and set up a demonstration,” said Hayes. “ASTM did a similar event prior to COVID-19 focusing on exoskeletons, with five vendors and 25 industry partners.”

“OEMs walked away with exo sales and saved a lot fo time and money,” she recalled. “Now, they want more robots to be demoed. The goal is implementation.”

ASTM International also plans to host a university exoskeleton competition this summer.

“Unleash the Bots will show what's out there and what problems robots can currently solve and are not yet addressing,” Hayes added. “Small firms and global manufacturers will have the opportunity to learn what problems are solved and what's already out there.”

SCRA banner

Source: South Carolina Research Authority

South Carolina a hub for manufacturing, logistics

SCRA is a nonprofit focusing on academic innovation, funding technology startups in South Carolina, and working with industry partners to identify key areas for grant funding. It has funded companies to the $750,000 level, said Hayes.

According to the SCRA's annual report, it contributed $1.15 billion in economic impact to South Carolina's innovation economy.

“We look to de-risk projects and look for applied technologies that are repeatable and scalable,” Hayes said. “We've worked on commercializing university IP [intellectual property] and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers.”

Why is South Carolina a technology center?

“We were internally recognized as a textile state, and even after we lost that industry, we had a manufacturing mindset,” explained Hayes. “Companies like Michelin established North American headquarters here in 1974, and Bosch and logistics companies came shortly after. Also, as the steel belt swung to north-south after NAFTA, the Southeast became home to numerous OEMs such as BMW.”

“It's the eighth-largest economic mega-region in the world, with a huge logistics infrastructure including ports, rail, and trucking,” she added. “We're the largest exporter of vehicles and tires in the U.S., and the manufacturing climate is business-friendly. That's why Boeing came.”

“As a small state of 5 million people, you can pick up the phone and get something done,” Hayes claimed. “BMW wanted an inland port for importing engines and exporting finished vehicles, and we went from concept to implementation in 18 months. We also have its largest plant, with 11,000 emloyees, and it tests out new technology to scale globally.”

Clemson University hosts labs and event

In addition to CU-ICAR, Clemson University has the Center for Advanced Robotics Manufacturing and the Collaborative Robotics and Automation Lab, noted Hayes.

“We have a collaboration between the research university and technical colleges, where an associate degree technician can work with bachelor's, MS, and Ph.D. engineers in different phases of a research project,” she said. “At this event, users, vendors, and researchers could meet the right people, which could otherwise take years.”

Unleash the Bots will be from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on April 4 at the CU-ICAR TD Gallery at 5 Research Drive in Greenville, S.C. 29607. Tickets are available for $30.

SCRA previously hosted an event on exoskeletons.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre is editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
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South Carolina Research Authority

The day of technology demonstrations and discussions will focus on mobile robots, cobots, and mobile manipulation, and what enterprises need now.


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