Enhancing SMM competitiveness is key to ensuring U.S resiliency

The ARM Robotics Manufacturing Hub lowers the barriers to manufacturers adopting robotics through no-cost assessments and prototyping.

(Image: ARM Institute)

(Image: ARM Institute)

When the ARM Institute launched its Robotics Manufacturing Hub about a year ago, it quickly realized that manufacturers weren’t looking at robotics and automation because they weren’t interested in robotics, but rather the barriers to automation loomed so large that it was impossible for small and medium sized firms to know where to start. When the ARM Institute announced its no-cost Robotics Manufacturing Hub for manufacturers in the Pittsburgh region, its pipeline of interested manufacturers rapidly filled. With the ARM Institute offering a pathway to minimize the risks they associate with robotics and automation, manufacturers were, and still are, eager to explore the possibilities.

Larger manufacturing firms can more easily navigate the process of implementing automation. With greater general resources, in-house R&D, financing to invest in the upfront costs, and more time to explore solutions, they’ve more successfully been able to see the process through from start to finish. Small and medium-sized firms have to navigate more risk. They need to spend more time understanding how the changes will impact their operations, they often lack in-house robotics expertise, and they need solutions that will dynamically meet their needs without requiring constant upkeep when, in many cases, their workforce is already strained.

The ARM Institute’s Robotics Manufacturing Hub is a free resource that helps manufacturers navigate these barriers and others by identifying the best business cases for robotic solutions, testing the solutions within the manufacturer’s budget, and offering a path to implementation. Part of this solution includes the ability for small and medium sized manufacturers in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region to work directly with the ARM Institute’s team of robotics engineers and get hands-on with advanced technologies in the institute’s Pittsburgh facility.

Select Case Studies

Since the Robotics Manufacturing Hub’s creation around one year ago, the ARM Institute has worked with several manufacturers in the Pittsburgh region to explore their challenges and help them understand where robotics can address these challenges.

For example, the ARM Institute worked with a manufacturer of castings and forgings to automate its manual quality inspection process. Partnering with FARO and NEFF Automation through the Robotics Manufacturing Hub, the ARM Institute performed a proof-of-concept of a Universal Robot controlling a FARO laser scanner. The manufacturer plans to pursue implementation.

The ARM Institute also worked with a company that needed to package heavy iron and steel parts into shipping containers, creating an ergonomically uncomfortable task for a human worker. In this situation, requirements for the robotic end effector are highly specific and it’s critical to calculate the correct pick place on the parts and speed limitations of the robot to move heavy parts and prevent failure or injury. The ARM Institute is working with its member CapSen Robotics on a solution.

Inside the Physical Robotics Manufacturing Hub Facility

Much of this work is completed using the ARM Institute’s Pittsburgh facility as a neutral ground for exploration and prototyping, giving manufacturers access to equipment before they commit to installing any system.

This facility is modular, adaptable, and multi-use with OEM diversity to directly meet each manufacturer’s individual needs. ARM Institute engineers work directly in the lab and interface between suppliers and manufacturers to act in the manufacturer’s best interest and ensure that the work will address the specific challenges the manufacturer is facing.

Below is a brief overview of the equipment available through the Robotics Manufacturing Hub and application areas that can be addressed using this equipment: 

Collaborative Robots (cobot) Equipment:

  • Universal Robots (UR) 5e
  • Yaskawa HC10
  • Fanuc CRX-10 Ai/L
  • Fanuc CRX-20 Ai/L


The collaborative robots can be configured for the following applications:

  • Small part handling
  • Pick and place
  • Vision guided grasping for pick and place applications
  • Machine tending
  • Process tasks including glueing and dispensing
  • Inspection with Faro ARM Quantum with Laser line probe and CMM
  • Inspection with Cognex 2D imaging
  • Inspection with Cognex 3D imaging


Industrial Robots

  • Epson VT6L
  • Yaskawa GP-88
  • Yaskawa GP-180
  • Yaskawa Weld Cell with positioner


The industrial robots can be configured for the following applications

  • Large part handling
  • Large part palletizing
  • Large part pick and place
  • Force controlled grinding and polishing
  • Welding

How to Get Involved

Small and medium sized manufacturers in the Pittsburgh region can get a free automation assessment and leverage the Robotics Manufacturing Hub at no-cost thanks to funding from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Region’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge Award. Now is a great time to get started with the Robotics Manufacturing Hub as the ARM Institute is looking to work with more manufacturers. In the future, the ARM Institute hopes to expand these services to manufacturers beyond this region and encourages those with interest in using or housing these services to reach out here. Additionally, the ARM Institute’s member organization ecosystem can leverage the Robotics Manufacturing Hub as a benefit of membership.

U.S. manufacturing resiliency is the cornerstone of our national security. The ARM Institute’s Robotics Manufacturing Hub addresses a critical need in helping to provide small and medium sized manufacturers with the resources that they need to explore and implement automation, enhancing their competitiveness and benefiting the full manufacturing ecosystem.