While manufacturing automation has been on the rise for decades, the pandemic revealed both pressing needs and new methods for harnessing robotic power. The labor shortages of the Covid era, coupled with broad advances in collaborative robot technology during the past five years, gave us the market pull and technology push to quickly up our automation offerings.
Over the past three years, EWI’s automation capabilities have expanded steadily to bring clients the services they need. Today we have two outstanding labs – one in Columbus and one in Buffalo – dedicated to applied R&D and client projects. While the functional activities in the two labs differ from each other, they have similar overriding goals: to help manufacturers make the most practical use of today’s leading automation technologies.
Here’s a quick look at our current resources:
In Columbus — EWI’s flagship office has always been home to a talented design, controls, and automation group which has supported our efforts across all technologies since our founding in the 1980s. When the group received combined EWI and Navy funding in 2018 to develop remote tele-welding (and, subsequently, other tele-manufacturing processes), the group started taking up floor space with the building and testing of system prototypes. Around the same time, our arc welding and AM specialists set up dedicated space for large-scale robotic DED research commissioned by the Navy. These two initiatives set a solid foundation to help manufacturers supplement demand and increase efficiency through automation as the labor pool tightened – and the call for more process automation grew.
Early this year, we set up a designated process automation lab (PAL) where we can devise automated process solutions for customers, specifically as they relate to industrial robots and cobots. The lab is a large space that can be reconfigured to test applications in a controlled setting before scaling up to full-size industrial robotics in our clients’ factories. Currently, we have three UR cobot systems and an industrial Kuka robotic arm. Soon, the lab will house our second Navus multi-process cell, as well. For a quick look at activities in the PAL, check out this short tour (video) led by Project Engineer Logan McNeil.
In Buffalo — When EWI established Buffalo Manufacturing Works eight years ago, helping small and mid-sized manufacturers (SMMs) learn how to integrate automation was part of its core mission. However, what started as a modest “Robot Row” in our first facility is now a flexible, 3000 ft2 lab that is suitable for both R&D and solution-oriented training. This space was recently doubled to accommodate our client-related activities.
In addition, Buffalo houses a separate robotics training lab outfitted with a dozen student work cells for teaching basic robotic assembly and programming. Over the last several years, we’ve hosted classes for high school and college students, participants in the “SHIFT 2.0” program, Northland Training Center students, and manufacturing professionals from companies of all sizes. We offer several standardized courses each year, and also customized courses for companies that have specific training goals.
According to Automation Program Manager Matt Malloy, “Our setup enables us to assist SMMs in two ways: First, by helping them develop straightforward, practical automation solutions for their shops using available, cost-efficient robotic equipment, and second, by educating them on the broad use-capabilities of today’s leading automation techniques.”
Meeting Your Automation Needs
EWI’s automation services are broad, and our capabilities continue to grow. Let us know if you need help with automation solutions in your organization. Contact Logan McNeil ([email protected]) or Connie LaMorte ([email protected]) in Columbus, or Matt Malloy ([email protected]) in Buffalo.