We made the trip to Chicago (Rosemont) last week to visit the Design & Manufacturing Midwest show. I did my due diligence the night before and printed directions and maps which looked fairly straight forward. Up I-65 to I-94 to I-294 and exit on River Rd. right at the convention center.
Unfortunately, I was distracted with the frequent toll stops and road construction. When I started seeing signs for Milwaukee, I began to worry. Luckily, we only overshot River Rd. by about 7 miles, but we paid for that little mistake. It took 15 minutes studying Google Maps on my smartphone to figure out how to get onto River Rd. when traveling South on the I-294. That I-294/I-90/I-190 intersection is a real mess (think spaghetti). We had to go past the River Rd. exit that we should have taken when heading North and take the following exit. From there, we used side streets to get back to River Rd.
I do have a GPS and it was even in the car, however I tend to not use it much. I find that it usually gets me there, but when I arrive, I’ve lost all sense of direction and location. Therefore, I almost always stick to good old fashioned maps. In this case, that cost me.
The show was good, with lots of interesting things to see. It was collocated with Assembly Technology Expo, Electronics Midwest, Quality Expo, Green Manufacturing Expo and MD&M Midwest. There were no less than 3 conference halls filled end to end with exhibitors.
I came away with 2 significant observations.
- PC’s continue to drive deeper into manufacturing processes.
- When a PC is present, USB can make acquisition and control simple.
At last year’s show, I talked to multiple people that used these technologies, but didn’t see any of them in action. This year, I saw 3 exhibits where a PC and/or USB was in use. I also talked to the representatives from Axiomtek who were selling industrial computers for use in automation.
The battle between PLC’s and PC’s is far from over, but there is no doubt that there is a place in automation for PC’s. Operators are familiar with PC’s, engineers are familiar with PC’s and PC’s have essentially unlimited processing power. All these factors will continue to drive the adoption of PC based automation.
It’s a Microsoft world, from barcode scanners to PC’s to ERP systems. There is no way to escape the influence of PC’s.