Event designed to spark ideas, creative uses

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FARMINGTON — Innovators from around the Four Corners got an introduction to a robotic manufacturing arm at San Juan College today.

Chris Ziomek, co-founder of Build With Robots, gave a presentation about and demonstration of industrial robotic arms during an event organized by the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, an Albuquerque-based organization devoted to strengthening and growing manufacturing in the state.

Ziomek’s company is a regional distributor for Universal Robots, a collaborative robotic technology and development company based in Denmark.

Universal Robots produces machines designed to perform a variety of tasks, including assembly, drilling, packaging and welding, among other things. Ziomek said the robot arms feature a simple programming system that works safely in tandem with human operators.

With the Four Corners region and the state in general in the midst of attempts to diversify their economy to reduce dependence on the oil and gas industry, manufacturing could play an important role, according to Denise Williams, Farmington-based innovation director for MEP’s northwest region.

Events like today's play a part in putting heads together for innovative ideas and uses of technology to come into play, she said, citing the use of such tools in catering for cake decorating or as inspiration to find multiple uses for a product.

“It’s very important because with demos, people get to interact and talk among themselves,” Williams said. “Today, I felt like some of the early adapters of our community were here.”

More than a dozen people from around the region attended today’s event, which is the first in a series of such programs throughout the state, Williams said.

Jared Naranjo and Delwin Francis, both of whom work at defense contractor Raytheon’s Farmington manufacturing facility, were among those who attended. Naranjo said Raytheon is “beginning to implement some automation tools in our lines” and that robotic manufacturing could help employees do their jobs faster and with more consistency in precision, giving the example of the robot arm's analysis and review function that Ziomek discussed.

“I think one of the biggest applications of (this technology) is — for example, if you’re a defense contractor, the biggest thing about defense contracting is you have to meet certain quality criteria,” Naranjo said. “To be able to implement an assist (through technology like a robotic art) to identify what the quality of the product is before it goes off the floor is huge. Sometimes the human eye just doesn’t see that kind of stuff, but if you program it (to examine a product for manufacturing flaws or defects) and you’re able to see it, you’re catching every single thing that might be a suspect, which is big.”

Pamela Gathings of Tethering Ideas, a Four Corners inventors group based in Bloomfield, said manufacturing could significantly impact the region and its economy.

“Manufacturing brings high-paying jobs, and it creates opportunities. It can change our community,” Gathings said.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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