In March, I had the opportunity to attend Automate 2011 at the McCormick Place in Chicago, which several of you may know as the former International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show.

I was curious to see how the turnout would be since it was the first time this was being done with a new name and venue. In addition, the show was bumped up from June to March, which are two completely different seasons in Chicago-winter and summer.

With that said, I was not disappointed. Upon entrance to the trade show floor, I was met by a pavilion of more than 20 system integrators who were demonstrating solutions for a number of industries to help improve productivity, quality and profits.

The reasoning behind this, according to Jeffrey A. Burnstein, president of Automation Technologies Council (ATC, Ann Arbor, MI), was so that visitors could see the solutions first. After visitors had a chance to see how everything worked, they could go meet with exhibitors that were showcasing the latest in products and technologies and find solutions for their own custom applications.

During the show, I ran into our editorial advisory board member, David Dechow, president of Aptura Machine Vision Solutions (Lansing, MI), who was there to teach a couple of tutorials on machine vision solutions. He also was impressed with the attendance numbers and hoped that this indicated a sign of movement in the industry and economy in general. According to Burnstein, this was the largest turnout in a decade for AIA.

“The show conference sessions were the best I have ever seen. The wide variety of course offerings was impressive, and from my unofficial estimation, attendance was the best since the mid-90s-at least for my tutorials,” says Dechow.

Dechow adds that the demonstrations of the brand-new CameraLinkHS and CoaXpress camera interfaces were standouts for him. Component offerings in machine vision seemed to be somewhat dominated by camera and sensor offerings, though there were some interesting recently new smart/hybrid camera products from a couple of vendors.

I also noticed a significant offering of lighting solutions from several companies for image processing applications. These booths were definitely not hard to miss with the constant strobe of red, white, green and blue.

Just in case you missed the keynote presentation from General Motors and NASA at Automate where they discussed the research involved in developing the first human-like robot for space, we are featuring a case study on this humanoid robot that was recently delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) in February. See page 23VS for the full story. This was the final mission for the Discovery space shuttle as a six-member crew safely completed the task of delivering Robonaut 2.

Inline with the theme from Automate, our cover story is on integration where we catch up with Ned Lecky, president of Lecky Integration (Little Falls, NY) and also our in-house columnist and member of the Vision & Sensors editorial advisory board, who has been busy on the road these past few months.

Lecky talks about the selection process when considering a system integrator, as well as the critical skills that are necessary if one is to be successful. Read excerpts from the interview on page 20VS.