Stimulate your Sensor-Application Creativity at FABTECHOctober 1, 2012
I will give a a little secret in this column, one that will help you find dozens of interesting sensor applications in places where you least expect them—if you keep an open mind. Keeping pace with the progress in electronics can be challenging. From cell phones to the sensors used for strip-feed detection, the devices are getting smarter, smaller and in many cases less expensive. While a glut of catalogs, web pages, PDF downloads, e-mails and blogs help keep us informed and up to speed on new technologies, there’s nothing like a seemingly old-fashioned walk through a trade show to learn first-hand of the new ideas and opportunities that await the curious metalformer.Why bother with FABTECH and METALFORM? While there will be many booths showcasing sensors in dies, there will be many, many more booths displaying technologies that have nearly or fully nothing to do with the world of metal stamping and forming. So here’s how I approach FABTECH: I walk the aisles very slowly at a pace that allows me to scan the booths and keep my eyes wide open for any sensors that may be utilized within the technologies on display. This takes a lot of patience, as it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the size of the show. But I persevere at this slow pace, looking right and left. I ignore the quick walkers who nearly jog up and down the aisles to see as much as they can, yet manage to see very little.
Some of the finest ideas for sensor target detection will come from booths showcasing disparate machinery and processes, such as waterjet cutting, laser welding, CNC machining, welding and robotic assembly. There may be, for example, a multiaxis robotic cell where a tiny part is being manipulated as it undergoes various delicate processes. Your eye and mind will become curious as to how such a small target can be precisely detected, despite the shower of oil that is bathing it.
But how to feel comfortable within a booth that has nearly nothing in common with one’s metalforming experience? I’ve learned to savor the “Aha!” moments of wisdom that can be gleaned while learning something new at a trade show. These moments are rare and precious and they benchmark our lives. During FABTECH, do the same as you zoom in on that camera, proximity, photoelectric, laser, ultrasonic, acoustic or strain sensor—look for and savor as many “aha” moments as you can.
Sensors have no intelligence, comprehension nor biases about the types of machinery or tooling in which they may be embedded. Neither should you. Like the sensor, you should remain completely neutral about the possibilities, and let FABTECH stimulate your sensor-application creativity.Whether you are a press operator, toolmaker, die designer or metalforming-company manager, your thirst for sensor knowledge will be quenched at FABTECH if you choose to walk the show slowly and concentrate on detecting that special sensor application. Don’t be bothered by the fast-moving crowds of people. MF
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