Robotics show opens at McCormick Place in Chicago

A trade show right out of a Sci Fi movie is happening this week at McCormick Place.

Hundreds of robots, programed to help businesses, are on display. It's the annual Automate Show, the largest robotics trade show in North America.

"People should be excited about the future of where automation is headed. It's going to make us be able to live longer, better, happier lives and I think that's sometimes not reported," said Jeff Burnstein the president of the Association for Advancing Automation.

Nearly 1,000 robots are on display. There are free roaming robots, hauling freight. Some of the robots look like human arms, and are practicing fine motor skills like installing screws. Other robots are larger than humans and can lift great amounts of weight over the over.

"One of the key things that these robots are doing that are different to traditional robots is trying to take over the repetitive, let's say ergonomic difficult things that humans don't like doing," said Jurgen Von Hollen, the president of Universal Robots, one of the exhibitors.

Just South of Chicago, Kay Manufacturing Co. is using Universal Robots to make drive train components in everything from Corvettes to Fiats. In the factory, robots and humans work side by side.

Shift supervisor Jose Sustaita has worked for Kay Manufacturing for 25 years, well before the robots.

"It was a positive thing for the future, I mean that's all we could see it," Sustaita said about the installation of the robots. "It was something good for the company because now we are competing with other companies."

Kay Manufacturing has never replaced a human worker with a robot. The automation has given the company a competitive edge in the market. The efficiency has allowed the company to take work back from China, Japan and Mexico.

"We don't have the low labor costs as say China or India, that just means we have to innovate better, so the automation helps us save jobs," said Kay Manufacturing automation engineer David Bacon.

He's been with the company for 20 years, starting as an entry level operator, then getting his engineering degree to program and build the automatic parts.

"Just logistics-wise we're able to compete with China with the automation, and able to bring jobs back to America that was originally given to China," Bacon said.

Automate runs through Thursday. It is free and open to the public.

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