NIST Robotics Lab Visits SWPA

Process | Matt Minner| February 24, 2020

Over the past three years, PA MEP and Catalyst Connection have lead two NIST funded embedded projects to connect the MEP network (Manufacturing Extension Partnerships, like Catalyst) to Manufacturing USA institutes, namely America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio and ARM in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In addition to forging strong working relationships with the institutes, it has also resulted in increased collaboration with the associated NIST laboratories. 

Catalyst Connection recently coordinated and hosted a group of five researchers from the NIST Engineering Laboratory’s Measurement Science for Manufacturing Robotics Program team to visit multiple manufacturing and robotics locations in the Pittsburgh area. Stops on the November 21, 2019 visit included:

Elena Messina, Manager of the Measurement Science for Manufacturing Robotics Program, said their time spent on the manufacturing floor, which was the first such opportunity for some of the attendees, was invaluable.  “The visit helped deepen our understanding of the types of environments and conditions under which small manufacturers operate.   Seeing the incredible variation in their work orders and rapid pace of operations made the requirements for cost-effective robotic systems clear: flexibility, ease of programming, and rapid re-deployment”, Elena commented.  She also shared that several robotics projects will benefit from the perspective gained from meeting with manufacturers in SWPA, including Agility Performance for Robotic Systems, Performance of Human-Robot Interaction, and Tools for Collaborative Robots within SME Workcells projects, among others.

The manufacturers also benefitted from the visit.  In the case of Accutrex, who has used welding robots for many years and more recently implemented a collaborative robot in 2018, they will be able to leverage newly developed registration techniques when available.  This will speed the redeployment of their cart-mounted cobot as they move it from application to application, as production needs dictate.  EH Schwab, who has been exploring the implementation of robotics but hasn’t yet identified a suitable and valuable application, was able learn further about the direction of developments that may yield solutions for their unique applications in metal spinning.  The NIST team took note of the challenging grasping, manipulation, and sanding/finishing needs.

It was a successful visit for all and a great example of collaboration between SMMs, NIST, and the MEP National Network.  A big thank you to the teams at Accutrex, EH Schwab, and Premier Automation for their hospitality and willingness to participate in this visit!

The group discussing machine tending implementations of their cobot on CNC machines and press brakes with the team at Accutrex Products.