Hannover Fair is now less than 10 weeks away. The show, which is the world’s largest industrial trade fair, will be held from April 24-28 in this northern German city of a half million people. But even in this IFPE year, Hannover will still be an important show—the Fairs held in odd-numbered years have a special focus on motion control and fluid power technology, making the 2017 event a must-attend event for design engineers. Last week, I attended the special press preview and spoke to representative from many leading manufacturers, including Festo, Bosch Rexroth, Schaeffler, Parker Hannifin, Sick, igus, Harting, Ashcroft and Aventics.
The 2017 event will include a record 500-plus Industry 4.0 applications, including self-learning robots with near-human touch sensitivity and sustainable energy solutions. The show is expected to have about 6,500 exhibitors; this year’s partner county is Poland, with 150 Polish companies exhibiting.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, will have prominence at the show. Cobots are becoming more productive as they connect to the cloud, can self-learn, and are as easy to operate as a smartphone. Cobots are expected to develop into a mass market that will give rise to a wealth of new business and industry ideas—not unlike the way that we’ve seen drones explode onto the marketplace in an exponential way.
Dr. Jochen Köeckler, Member of the Managing Board, Deutsche Messe AG, Hannover noted that the show turns 70 this year.
“In 1947, we had the first export trade fair, and from the start, it was a huge success,” he said.
The theme this year is “Integrated Industry—Creating Value.” Köeckler explained that in 2016, there were more than 400 Industry 4.0 applications at the show and 190,000 visitors, which was a 100% increase. 55,000 of the visitors were from abroad, which was a 25% increase.
He noted that Adidas has created a new speed factory, where running shoes are not produced in Asia, but in Germany. Here, shoes are custom produced for each runner, based on their performance on a treadmill. Most surprising, Köeckler noted, is that customized product is produced at the same cost as the mass produced one.
“There won’t be any factories without people, but the jobs that the people do there will change,” he said, returning to the Industry 4.0 theme.
This year’s Fair will also feature Young Tech Enterprises in Hall 3—here, young startups who want to get in touch with some of the big players in the industry will be stationed. These people don’t want to go work for one of the big companies, Köeckler said. They want to network and pitch, not take out a traditional booth. Last year, 116 young entrepreneurs participated, and this year, 150 are taking part.
Dr. Ansgar Kriwet, President, Sales, Festo AG, Esslingen also spoke to the assembled journalists from across the world, asking whether Industry 4.0 means an evolution or a revolution?
“I am firmly convinced that it is both,” Kriwet said, explaining that the driver of this trend is the people whom the products are produced for.
Festo’s new Scharnhausen Technology Plant features highly flexible automatization. There are robots working closely with the humans in the factory. Festo needs the quality and inexpensive robotic workforce, but also the communication skills of humans. As lifelong learning is essential for humans, they have created a learning center that is part of the factory.
Kriwet also teased one of his company’s new products, dubbed the Festo motion terminal. The company claims this is “the future of pneumatics.” While I couldn’t get much from the company representatives to its nature (they had it hidden in a mysterious silver briefcase), they did say it is a key new product in automation and “a crucial interface between the physical world and the Internet.”
At lease we only have to wait 10 more weeks to find out for sure.