ABCO Automation and 3M Abrasives Feature SmartForce at IMTS 2018

At this year’s IMTS 2018, ABCO Automation will feature SmartForce a self-contained turnkey grinding, deburring, and polishing robotic cell. Developed in conjunction with 3M, KUKA, and PushCorp, SmartForce is a flexible automation solution for manual machining processes. SmartForce will be on display in the 3M Abrasive Systems’ Booth #236941 and is available for purchase at IMTS.

“We designed and built SmartForce to address the growing need to automate manual grinding, deburring, and polishing,” says Brad Kemmerer, president, ABCO Automation. “Today’s manufacturers recognize that new employees entering the workforce do not want jobs that are gritty, taxing, and hazardous. SmartForce offers companies a solution that removes employees from working under those conditions, repositions employees in auxiliary roles, and replaces direct labor with a robot that delivers consistent, quality results.”

With a compact footprint that is less than 100 square feet, SmartForce is mobile and flexible. The robotic cell is pre-engineered and pre-assembled on a metal skid base, which allows manufacturers to not only use it right away but easily move the cell from one section of a facility to another. In addition, other components, such as conveyors and post-processing inspection equipment, can be added to further automate the cell. The cell’s key components include:

• KUKA KR-60 3 F Robot
• 3M™ Abrasives
• PushCorp End-of-Arm Tool
• Safety guarding
• Coolmate™ Coolant System
• Metal skid base
• Dial part infeed table

Kemmerer went on to say, “What makes SmartForce so effective is the combination of PushCorp’s End-of-Arm tool with 3M’s abrasive discs. PushCorp’s End-of-Arm Tool features a tool holder mounted on a force control actively-compliant tool. The tool enables the robot to have human-touch capabilities that can grind, deburr, or polish in any orientation, even over contours. The tool’s unique capabilities in conjunction with ABCO programming provides our grinding, deburring, and polishing solution its ‘SmartForce’.”

The IMTS SmartForce robotic cell will feature 3M™ Cubitron™ II Fibre Disc 982C, which is well-suited for edge chamfering, beveling, and removing carbon steel welds, mill scale, pits and imperfections, and machining grooves as well as the Scotch-Brite™ Light Grinding and Blending Disc, which achieves a high cut-rate for optimal weld grinding and blending in mild-steel applications.

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ABCO Automation Announces the Availability of its Turnkey Self-Contained Laser Wire and Cable Marking Systems

ABCO Automation announces the availability of its LM Series laser wire and cable markers. Designed specifically for wire and cable manufacturers that need high-speed marking, the LM Series laser wire markers are certified Class 1 and available in two models: LM-1000 (ytterbium pulsed fiber) and LM-2000 (diode-pumped Nd: YVO4 laser). Both models are all-inclusive and include a laser marking unit (interface unit and marking scan head), supply unit, software, and an ABCO Safe Guard Stand.

“We designed and built a completely safe self-contained system that is ready to use right out of the box,” says Jack Walsh, executive vice president sales and marketing, ABCO

Laser wire marker

Automation. “Both models are simple to install, easy to use, and require minimal operator training, which makes wire and cable marking effortless.” LM Series laser markers are offered as “off-the-shelf” units and readily available via ABCO’s Quick Ship Program.

LM Series laser wire markers are compact, mobile, and robust, featuring a small 24″ x 26″ footprint. The Safe Guard Stand includes four adjustable feet on casters, which allow users to easily move the unit from line to line. The stand features high-end industrial components including:

  • Main frame construction of 2″ x 2″ x 1/8” T-3-4 stainless steel square tubing
  • Shielding enclosure fabrication of 16-gauge T-304 stainless steel
  • Hinged and gasketed safety interlocked access door with nickel-plated cam latches, stainless steel hinge, and a Kentek laser window
  • Roller guides to maintain a vertical wire position
  • Infeed and outfeed cable round tube portal
    (light leakage prevention)

Walsh continues, “One of the value-added benefits of our LM Series laser wire markers is the laser safety package. Users receive conversion documentation, which includes a LSO risk assessment review, photo documentation, FDA product registration report, and FDA annual product shipment report. This along with our safety guarding helps ensure that end users adhere to federal regulations.”


ABCO Automation Announces Membership in ABB’s Authorized Value Provider Program

ABCO Automation, designer and builder of high-end factory automation systems, announces the signing of an authorized Value Provider Program (VPP) agreement with ABB, a technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation, and power grids. VPP is a global third-party channel program for panel builders, installers, machine builders, original equipment manufacturers, and system integrators. The program’s objective is to ensure participating companies deliver services that reflect ABB’s leading level of quality.

“As a factory automation systems integrator, it is key that ABCO have access to a wide-range of high-end robotic solutions,” says Jack Walsh, executive vice president sales and marketing, ABCO Automation. Our designs run the gamut, and ABB robots can handle virtually every robotic application, including palletizing, machine tending, small parts assembly, picking, and material handling, as well as provide an array of payload and reach options.”

Walsh continues, “With this partnership agreement, ABB will train our engineers and sales representatives to become ABB robot experts on dimension calculations, robot selection, quotes, and warranty claims. Our competence with ABB robots will not only give us a competitive advantage as a systems integrator, it will let us instruct our clients on the best deployment and maintenance of their robot(s).”

VPP provides channel partners with the most current and relevant information, allowing participants to better serve customers. The program extends partner access to the following channels and platforms:

  • Local and global support network
  • High quality, channel-focused product integration training
  • Sales and quotation tools
  • ABB channel partners portal


ABCO Automation Hosts Follow-up Open-Shop Build Day for FIRST Robotics

On Saturday, January 21, 2018, ABCO Automation hosted a follow-up open-shop build day at its Greensboro, N.C. facility for area FIRST Robotics Competition teams. In the spirit of “Coopertition,” members of the multi-team “Triad Alliance” returned to ABCO two weeks into their six-week build cycle, collaborating on design concepts and manufacturing components. The event was planned by Brian Page, coach of FRC team “Triple Strange.”

After a brief company introduction and safety overview by Dwight Marcellus, director of operations, ABCO Automation, team members, coaches, mentors, and parents, spent the morning working out design details, programming, and preparing part drawings. ABCO engineering and manufacturing staff were on hand to support the teams, fielding technical questions and spending time talking with students about various career opportunities with an automation company like ABCO.

After a quick break for lunch, the flurry of activity continued with parts being routed through manufacturing, more design work, and programming.  The teams have just four weeks remaining in the 2018 FRC season to complete and ship their robots to the FRC competition.

ABCO has been a proud supporter of US FIRST Robotics for many years. Our highly skilled engineering and technical staff volunteers and our in-house manufacturing capability make us uniquely qualified to support FIRST and encourage students to pursue STEM education and careers. For additional information visit:


ABCO Automation Launches Stingray Modular Belt Conveyor

ABCO Automation, Inc., announces the availability of Stingray, a robust, low-profile modular belt conveyor
that employs micropitch plastic belts. Modular Belt ConveyorJust as its name suggests, Stingray is powerful, yet gentle. This heavy-duty stainless-steel conveyor provides extremely reliable product transfer, smooth transitions, and product accumulation, making it ideal for delicate, small footprint, or unstable products that may be damaged by a conventional conveyor.

“We designed and built this custom conveyor to not only provide our clients with key features and options but to fill out our product line with a material handling solution that met ABCO’s quality standards,” says Jack Walsh, executive vice president sales and marketing, ABCO Automation. “Our clients expect only the best from us, whether in design, quality, or service—and offering an ABCO designed, built, and supported conveyor further allows us to provide clients a single source for automation solutions.”

Stingray is modular and scalable with sections available up to 20′ and belt widths include 4, 8, 12, and 24 inches, allowing easy integration into virtually any floor space. In addition, conveyor sections easily accommodate 90° transitions for smooth, precise movement from one conveyor to another. Stingray includes these distinct features:

  • Conveyor frame and spanners constructed of 11-gauge stainless-steel and optional powder coating for increased durability
  • Hardened steel nose ends for better wear and adjustability
  • Additional bearings to provide greater load capacity
  • Nose roller transfers as tight as .90″ provides for smooth transitions from one belt to another
  • Customizable position sensors

Stingray conveyors are pre-engineered, built to order, and available on a quick-ship basis from ABCO’s Build-to-Print group.


ABCO Hosts Area Robotics Teams to Help Start the 2018 “Power Up” Competition

On January 7, 2018, ABCO Automation hosted a “Coopertition Event” to help jump start the 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition for area robotics teams. More than 80 students, coaches, mentors, and parents representing six local teams attended the event at ABCO’s facility in Greensboro, NC. The event was planned by Brian Page, coach of Triple Strange. In addition, the HotBotz, Team Apollo, and Girls on Fire teams were well represented.

Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO ABCO Automation, welcomed the group and presented a brief overview of ABCO Automation and a review of the engineering design process. Ernie Collett, manufacturing manager ABCO Automation, discussed how designs are turned into parts via drawings, models, cutting, machining, and welding. Attendees were given a tour of ABCO’s manufacturing areas before getting to work.

The teams reviewed the 2018 “Power Up” rules and worked on strategies to play the game. The teams have just six weeks from January 6th to ship their robots to their FIRST competition.

The teams will return to ABCO on January 20th for help with prototyping concepts, making parts, designing, and programming. US FIRST Robotics is a great way to encourage students to pursue STEM education and careers. With ABCO’s technical skill base and engineering personnel, ABCO is uniquely qualified to support FIRST. For additional information visit:


ABCO Plays Secret Santa to Eight Reidsville, NC Families

In conjunction with the Reidsville, NC Salvation Army, ABCO once again committed to support the Angel Tree Program. According to Tina Peterson, payroll and benefits coordinator, ABCO Automation, “Last year we had great success with the Angel Tree Program, so we decided to expand our efforts and support eight families this year. And, our employees stepped up, so we could meet our promise.  By combining cash donations with employee-purchased items, we presented the Salvation Army with a variety of clothes, toys, games, personal care items, puzzles, sports equipment . . .” The Salvation Army has been running the Angel Tree Program for nearly 40 years and has provided Christmas presents to millions of children and families in need.



ABCO Automation Hosts Annual Guilford Apprenticeship Partners Open House

ABCO Automation hosted a Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) open house at its facility on November 30, 2017. ABCO had nearly 70 attendees, including 18 students plus family members, Lydia Craddock, transitional career counselor, Rockingham County Schools, and Dr. Kenneth Scott, director of classified personnel/career and technical education, Rockingham County Schools. Brad Kemmerer, CEO and president, ABCO Automation provided a welcome and company overview, and Ernie Collett, ABCO’s manufacturing manager, provided an overview of the GAP program and introduced Jacob Mohan, GAP fabrication apprentice. In addition to the presentations, several ABCO employees provided tours of the ABCO facility, including its machining/fabrication center and two main project assembly and test buildings.

ABCO Automation is a charter member of Guilford Apprenticeship Partners. As part of the alliance, ABCO provides apprentice positions for local high school students. For everyone it’s a win-win—ABCO supplements its current manufacturing team, and the students are paid for  gaining on the job experience while earning a college education.


ABCO Automation and Visual Components Announce Value Added Reseller Agreement


ABCO Automation, designer and builder of high-end factory automation systems, announces the signing of a Value-Added Reseller (VAR) agreement with Visual Components, a global leader of 3D manufacturing factory simulation software. With this agreement, ABCO adds Visual Components simulation software to its service offerings. The software extends ABCO’s current service portfolio, which includes field support, on-site installation, laser safety, system training, project management, and engineering.

“As part of our concepting and designing process, we use Visual Components to provide clients a digital 3D model of their potential system,” says Jack Walsh, EVP ABCO Automation. “Visual Components is key to helping our clients visualize the design and layout configuration as well as simulate the design’s functionality.”

Walsh continues, “Now as a Visual Components VAR, we can provide our customers with an ancillary product that supplements our Build-to-Print and Design Build processes. We are already gaining interest from clients who see the value in using the software to further vet their design ideas.”

Visual Components combines three engineering disciplines in one platform, including material flow, robotics simulation, and controls validation. With Visual Components 4.0, users design factory layouts with numerous models and factory components, such as pre-engineered conveyor units and industrial robots. Through the software’s visualization, users get an approximate graphical view of a factory or production line, while the simulation function creates an accurate version of the factory or production line with all the components operating in a real environment.

“The key benefit of using Visual Components is cost savings by avoiding process and equipment mistakes on the manufacturing floor,” states Bob Axtman, CEO Visual Components. “Simulation allows users to see design flaws, test different operations, and make adjustments before committing to a final design. By eliminating virtually all the guesswork, companies can be confident that they will not spend money to rework their system.”


ABCO Automation Featured in Industry Week Article

North Carolina Prepares for the Future through Training and Redevelopment

North Carolina schools and manufacturers work together to prepare the skilled workforce of the future.

Michele Nash-Hoff 1 | Oct 19, 2017

She said too many educators don’t realize the need for hands-on workers such as machinists, welders, plumbers and electricians. Too many parents are focused on their children getting a college education, which is why we have millions of unfilled jobs requiring hands-on training. She recommended combining HEART and STEM to be more competitive as a country in the global economy.

Fortunately, there are more and more cities, regions, and states that have awakened to this problem and are doing something about it. Charleston, S.C. and the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina are among the problem-solving regions.

Machine Specialties Inc.

After visiting the Guilford Technical Community College aviation training center, my hosts took me to visit one of the companies involved in the apprenticeship program, Machine Specialties Inc., where we met with Rob and Tammy Simmons, president and executive vice president of the company.

Rob Simmons said, “The company was founded by Carlos Black in 1969 after he moved to the U.S. from Argentina where he had apprenticed as a machinist. I started in 1980, and we were primarily a small machine shop supporting the textile industry. In 1990, we expanded into screw machine parts. We got our first government contract in 1995. I became part owner in 1998, and we moved into a new building in 2003. We expanded into doing large parts like aircraft landing gear and added in-house anodizing and chem film. We bought this building in 2009 with all of the office equipment. We added a large laser cutting machine in 2009, and now have two lasers. Then, we bought two large multi-axis WFL machines to be able to machine titanium. We are open 24/7, but our weekend shift works three days. We are AS9100 certified for aerospace, ISO 9001 for commercial, and ISO 13485 for medical parts.

He added, “We realized that we had a problem because about 15% of our employees will be old enough to retire within the next five years. So, we need to train new workers to take their place.”

Tammy Simmons said, “We were one of the first six companies to work with Guilford County Schools in starting a new apprenticeship program in the fall of 2016 for those interested in the advanced manufacturing field. Students will undergo a 3-4 year program where they can receive an associate’s degree in Manufacturing Technology, a journeymen certificate as a machinist or welder, have their school paid for, and then end up with a manufacturing job.

“About 50 students, juniors and seniors, applied for the program, and 27 students were selected to start the program initially. This year we are up to 20 companies participating in the apprenticeship program. During the summer, the students took classes for six weeks and then worked full-time for six weeks.

“The students, who are seniors when they start the program, spend half the day at school and then the other half working at our company. The students who applied as seniors and then graduate, go to school one day a week at GTCC to pursue their associate’s degree in manufacturing technology and then spend four days working. GAP pays students hourly wage while on the job and when they sit in class at community college. I think it’s important to note that apprentices are paid while they are in class earning their degree because I don’t know of any other programs that do this. We also pay the students for their tuition and books while at GTCC.”

ABCO Automation

Then, we drove to Browns Summit, near Greensboro, to visit ABCO Automation, where we met with Brad Kemmerer, president and CEO, and Jack Walsh, executive vice president, Sales and Marketing. Kemmerer said, “We build custom automation equipment and are a FANUC and KUKA robot integrator. Our company was started in 1977 by Graham Ricks, but we converted to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) in 1998. We started working with Coca Cola in the beginning to build electrical control systems and custom packaging equipment. We designed the system that McDonalds uses to pump the syrup into their restaurants.”

He explained, “In the late 1980s, we began to diversify our customer base by building custom equipment for a broader range of manufacturers. We began to go beyond packaging projects into manufacturing assembly, material handling, and inspection equipment. Now, our customer base is very diversified — all of the typical industries represented in North Carolina — aerospace, automotive, chemical, food & beverage, electronics, healthcare, pharmaceutical, tobacco. Most of our customers have 25-30 plants around the world, and the average price of a system is $1 million.”

When we heard about the Guilford Apprenticeship Partners (GAP) program, we hosted the meetings and helped with the high schools. We currently have four apprentice students learning the skills of an electrician, mechanic, fabricator and machinist. Two are first year apprentices and two are second year apprentices. We believe this is a win-win for all—we supplement our current manufacturing team, and the students gain paid, on-the-job experience while earning a college education.”

Redevelopment at Revolution Mill

By this time, it was late afternoon, so we headed back to Greensboro to enjoy dinner at Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, which is a combination micro-brewery, farm-to-market restaurant, and store located in a redeveloped textile mill. Natty Green’s is in one of the buildings of Revolution Mill, a 45-acre historic textile campus that brings apartments, restaurants, events, history, and innovation together as the “Place of Choice to Live, Work and Create in Greensboro.”

Nick Piornack, business development manager, gave us a tour of two of the former textile mill buildings — one that has been re-purposed for offices and studio space, and the other as an apartment building. Between two of the apartment building is an outside event space where one of the finalists of The Voice was performing. There is one classic building yet to be redeveloped on the property.

From the website, I learned that Revolution Mill is “a historic textile mill campus encompassing the Revolution Mill and Olympic Mill sites, with adjacent land connected by North Buffalo Creek. Located just north of downtown Greensboro, Revolution began operations as the South’s first large flannel mill in 1899 and for decades anchored a thriving community of workers and craftspeople. The facility included over 640,000 feet of working space before the textile industry decline led to its closure in 1982. For the next few decades, limited sections of Revolution were renovated into office space, while other parts of the property fell into disuse and disrepair. In 2012 Self-Help assumed ownership of Revolution Mill and is completing the property’s transformation into a mixed-use development…Self-Help is a development credit union and lender headquartered in Durham, N.C.”

After the tour, we met with co-founder, Kayne Fisher, of Natty Green’s Kitchen + Market, who gave us a behind-the-scene tour of the restaurant. Fisher told us that he had dreamed of owning his own chop house and neighborhood market since childhood. So, when the opportunity to open a restaurant in the Carpenter’s Shop at Revolution Mill came around, his brain-child came to life. The market included a butcher’s counter where you could buy cuts of meat the restaurant used in its menu. As a non-beer drinker, I actually enjoyed tasting a beer that had chocolate in it. Besides the usual steak, chicken, hamburgers, and salads, the menu offered pork chops, lamb chops, and braised brisket, the latter being my choice. All of our diners were delicious.

At the end of a very fully day, it felt good to have seen the results of the redevelopment of an important industrial region with new industries, the re-purposing of old textile plants, and the creation of an apprenticeship program to foster the development of the next generation of manufacturing workers.

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