The Alabama Robotics Technology Park, a key to new industry in the past decade, announced a new era in economic development with the unveiling of Robotics Technology Park II earlier this week.
“RTP II has been a time for us to take a step back and make an assessment and how to revamp operations so that we not only train employees for the current industry in the state but also for industries of the future, as industries change,” says Kristie Bain, assistant director for AIDT for north Alabama.
AIDT (Alabama Industry Development Training), the lead state agency for workforce training, opened the Robotics Park in Decatur in 2010. It was expanded in two following phases, the last in 2015.
What is styled as RTP II is not so much a physical expansion as an overall retooling to meet the demands of today’s rapidly evolving manufacturers, explains Bain.
Direction for changes made and still ongoing came from a two-and-a-half-month survey of Alabama manufacturers made by Jay Baron, founder of Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research. Now director of CAR’s manufacturing, engineering and technology group, Baron reported his findings to AIDT.
The recommendations from that report, says Bain, fall into five major areas, the first of which is improvement across the board in additive, or 3D, manufacturing — a field that as developed was to do things “faster and lighter,” incorporating rapid prototyping and additive processes for both metal and plastics.
A second area of improvement comes with the addition of adhesives technology, as well as welding, to make components that are lighter and more economical.
In addition to basic robotic welding, RTP II adds spot welding and plasma cutting.
A fourth major area of improvement is to bring operations into accord with the cloud-based, data-driven processes of Industry 4.0, which replaces traditional predictive maintenance with empirical data tracked by tags and censors.
The fifth area encompasses new technologies in painting, especially hyperthermal painting, which incorporates techniques of radiation, now metallurgy.
“In our constant mission to stay ahead of the demands of the ever-changing manufacturing world, we needed to upgrade the Robotics Technology Park with the latest advancements in robotics and automation,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT. “This upgrade once again makes the RTP a world-leader in robotics and automation training.”