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6 Differences between the Automate and Automatica Robotic Shows

Samuel Bouchard
by Samuel Bouchard. Last updated on May 06, 2016 11:54 AM
Posted on May 30, 2012 8:05 AM. 4 min read time

I am just back from a week in Munich where I attend the Automatica fair for the first time. Our products were exhibited in the Yaskawa Motoman booth with our integrator partners Robomotive, and TM Robotics, as well as in the Fraunhofer IFF's booth (thanks guys!). Being more familiar with the North American equivalent, the Automate show, some differences really struck me, so I'm taking a few lines to share them with you.

1. The History

Automatica was born 8 years ago when some local proponents (Kuka and friends) pulled out of the Hannover Messe, which is a trade show presenting a wider range of manufacturing technologies. The Automate show used to be known as the Robot and Vision Show. Organizers tried to give it a new swing after the audience had been eroded by vertical shows in the US (IMTS, Fabtech, Packexpo, etc.). Both shows in their current format have been around for less than 10 years.

2. The Venue

Automatica is held in Munich, which is a clean European city with a unique Bavarian character, beer gardens and Benz taxis. The convention center is great with outdoor alleys to go from one pavilon to the next. Automate finds its home in Chicago, a city with a thriving and diverse cultural life, blues bars, beautiful parks along the lake and the occasional NFL tailgate party on the Sunday when you setup your booth.

Both win on this aspect, both cities are incredibly interesting and are good locations to attract a lot of people.


automatica 2012
Working hard between Halls at Automatica


3. The Crowd

The population density of Europe and great show content makes Automatica a truly international show. All the major end-users and suppliers show up. There is also a strong staff presence from Asian manufacturers, making you feel it is a more important show from their point of view too. Though, I met very few people from the Americas at Automatica.

At Automate, the vast majority of the visitors will come from the US with some from Canada and South America.

Both shows claim to attract between 30,000 and 35,000 visitors.


4. The Booths

This is where the difference between the 2 shows is the most striking. At Automate, people will do interesting demos and fill the floor space with different cells, while putting applications and sales people in between. 

At Automatica many booths are theme booths with a special atmosphere, almost like a concert stage in some cases. They are much larger and represent a much bigger investment, both in terms of display as well as staffing. There are lots of places to sit down, have a coffee or of course another beer, while taking the time to discuss projects. The booths are staffed by pretty girls but you can't call them booth babes because every booth is a restaurant and a bar in itself and you know, a lot of high end restaurants hire good looking staff, right? 

kuka booth
25% of the Kuka booth at Automatica 2012. Quite a difference from their static display at Automate 2009 where the robots had been left on their pallets.


5. The Locals

Munich and Germany are a rich robotics area, with a lot of robot users (e.g. BWM, Audi, Daimler), important robotic product makers (e.g. Kuka, Schunk, Festo), and world class research centers in robotics (e.g. DLR, TU Munich, and assorted Fraunhofers). This brings a critical mass of innovation to display at the show. 

Chicago is a US hub easily accessible by a lot of end-users. In America, the territory is so vast, it's hard to generate that cluster effect, especially considering the small number of North American manufacturers of robotic products. I also believe that this distance from the head office of major robot manufacturers makes it harder to share the latest innovations.


6. The Technology

There are a lot more new technologies demonstrated at Automatica than at Automate. At Automate, the focus is on proven technology. At Automatica, there is this but also lots of new products, some even being just at the prototype or research phase. The fact that universities and research centers are exhibiting generates a lot of interest. Seeing the latest technology in action is one of the main reason why people attend this kind of show.

In North America, when it comes to conferences and trade shows, academia and industry work pretty much in silos. If you go to Automate, you will see the latest stable and working technology from different companies. If you go to academic conferences, you will see the latest research projects.

Robopal service robot
Robopal service robot concept from Yaskawa Motoman


So, Automate or Automatica?

Overall, Automatica is a more exciting show to attend. Robotic companies in North America seem to pay less and less importance to shows, arguing that they are expensive (they are) and that the return is not clear. But could it be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Putting less money into shows making them less interesting, bringing fewer people the next time, lower results and the spiral goes on. Of course, the investment is somewhat proportional to the number of industrial robots sold in a territory, being roughly twice as many in Europe compared to North America according to the IFR.

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Samuel Bouchard
Written by Samuel Bouchard
Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Robotiq. His mission is to free human hands from repetitive tasks. He is also the author of Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory. He lives in Québec City with his wife and four children.
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