Cold winds greeting opening day visitors to the Rockwell Automation Fair in St. Louis quickly yielded to a warm, hearty reception indoors at America's Center. About 14,000 attendees packed the 2-day event held Nov. 16-17.
In addition to a chance to mingle with Rockwell's nearly 100 Encompass partners, visitors could attend any of 50 plus technical sessions and dozens of workshops, eat a free lunch or two, and try to set a speed record for removing and installing a Nascar wheel. Espresso at one booth was handed out at no charge, with only the occassional patron asked to take a short survey in return.
The Rockwell Encompass partner program, according to manager Kim Porter,looks for third party products that complement the company's own automation and manufacturing solutions. The program embraces manufactured products that range from circuit protectors to valve controllers.
Encompass partner Spectrum Controls, for instance, teamed up with Rockwell to better bring its line of I/O modules, HMIs, and communications devices to its utility, processing, and manufacturing customers. When Rockwell suggested that Appleton Paper, a manufacturer of thermal copy products, use the company's Hart-enabled communications modules to collect pressure, temperature, and level data from a batch of new process equipment, Appleton engineers were able to implement the system with a minumum of new learning, according to Appleton's controls sytems supervisor, Steve Savoi.
The program helps smaller companies to qualify customers, Porter explains. It also helps a small company to have the "blessing" of a major like Rockwell Automation, according to Spectrum Controls' senior product manager, Neal Meldrum.
Anchoring the exhibit hall were Rockwell's seven booths, which covered the company's offerings in components, information software, maintenance, motor control, network architecture, security, safety, and integrated motion.
Between exhibits, show goers had a chance to attend any number of tech forums, with tempting titles like "Basic Physics for Drive Systems Engineers," and "Using Excel in an Automated World." A 2 pm session Wednesday covering "The Ten Commandments of Applying Ethernet for Control," had prospective attendees overflowing the halls.
Long sign-up lines attested to the popularity of the hands-on labs, which served up short courses in everything from troubleshooting safety-relay systems to a session on PLC basics.
Altair has released an update of its HyperWorks computer-aided engineering simulation suite that includes new features focusing on four key areas of product design: performance optimization, lightweight design, lead-time reduction, and new technologies.
At IMTS last week, Stratasys introduced two new multi-materials PolyJet 3D printers, plus a new UV-resistant material for its FDM production 3D printers. They can be used in making jigs and fixtures, as well as prototypes and small runs of production parts.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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