Automate 2022 has returned to being an in-person event after briefly transitioning to a virtual event in 2021. This was my second trade show since joining Vision Systems Design, and it appears trade show attendance is on the rise. rise. There were hand sanitizer stations located around the salon, but no mask mandate, and the crowd made it clear that members of the automation market were ready to see the latest innovations and network in a salon environment. professional.
Vision Systems Design kicked off the show by announcing the winners of the 2022 Vision Systems Design Innovators Awards. Attendees were able to accept their award and display it on their booth. Now in its eighth year, this program celebrates the innovative technologies, products, and systems found in machine vision and imaging.
This year’s Platinum Honoree was Ambarella’s CV3 AI family of domain controllers. It enables centralized, single-chip processing for multi-sensor perception, including high-resolution vision, radar, ultrasound, and lidar, as well as deep fusion for multiple sensor modalities and AV path planning. The result is robust Level 4 ADAS and L2+ autonomous driving systems with higher levels of environmental awareness. Click on here to see all of this year’s winners.
The whole world is still working to get out of the pandemic. The chip shortage, made public at first due to the shortage of new vehicles, impacted most if not all aspects of automation. Some vendors predicted the discontinuation of chips and planned accordingly, purchasing enough to continue manufacturing their products. The component shortages went beyond chips, however, and as vision system component makers worked to fill orders, prices fluctuated, and continue to fluctuate, when parts were available. Those who planned ahead have now exhausted their supply of components for their products and are now entering the fray, increasing demand for hard-to-find parts due to supply chain challenges. No one can predict exactly how long this will continue, but at least for the foreseeable future, expect longer turnaround times for parts orders for your vision/imaging systems.
Another consequence of the pandemic has been the labor shortage. Businesses have come to rely more on automation as they experience a labor shortage and need to reassign existing employees. Vision systems have often been used to help eliminate human error during inspection. However, they are also essential parts of most automation equipment that factories use to facilitate assembly tasks, among other things. As the need for automation increases, the need for vision/imaging systems will also increase.
Another indicator of automation growth has been the robotics market, particularly in North America. And, if the Automate show was any indication, demand for robots remains high today. What was of particular interest to me was how vision systems are used for robotics and how many companies are building turnkey solutions that include everything a customer would need to hook up a robotic arm and get straight to work. I’ve seen an increase in news about turnkey solutions hitting my desk lately. As usual, I’m sure the use of a turnkey product depends on the application, but I still found the number of solutions, especially on the robotic side, interesting. Almost everyone we spoke to at the show indicated that a huge growth area for them was logistics and warehousing, and robotics plays a huge role there. If you haven’t been approached yet to develop an imaging system for use in a logistics application, it wouldn’t surprise me if you do soon, whether or not it includes robots.
It’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing about AI in some way. We talk about it all the time in machine vision. Over the past year, I’ve heard many vendors describe how they’re working to make deep learning and AI easier to implement on the front end. At one point during Automate, I visited the Landing AI booth to speak with David Dechow, VP of Landing AI Outreach and Vision Technology, and Andrew Ng, CEO of Landing AI. We were talking about this trend towards easier implementation, when Ng suddenly asked me, “Chris, have you ever built an AI model?” My answer was no, and the next thing I knew I was in front of one of the demo stations at the booth building my first AI model. I can attest that as someone with no experience building AI models, the process is quite straightforward. Obviously there is a bit of a learning curve to use the software, but I figured out what I needed to do quickly and managed to build a model for inspecting the screw heads, identifying which parts were good and which were bad. Dechow reminded me that there is a lot of work on the back end to make the front end so simple. Ng’s message? “If you’ve never built a deep learning model, give it a try,” he said. I mean, if I can do it…..
There were over 500 exhibitors at Automate. Attendee traffic was consistent throughout the day, and exhibitors reported that the leads they received were concrete leads – no tire busters this year!