Automation group celebrates 50th anniversary

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) celebrates its 50th anniversary as the robotics and automation trade group looks to the future.

By The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) January 17, 2024
The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) celebrated its 50th anniversary at the A3 Business Forum in Orlando. Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the world’s largest robotics and automation trade group, celebrated its 50th anniversary during the A3 Business Forum, which had its largest showing of more than 700 attendees. The A3 Business Forum is a three-day event highlights developing trends in the automation industry relating to robotics, machine vision, motion control and artificial intelligence (AI). The organization represents more than 1280 member companies as it promotes automation technologies and ideas that transform and redefine the business environment.

The event highlighted many developments such as a humanoid robot being developed and how robots are becoming commonplace in industries such as construction and in surgery rooms. This used to be thought of as impractical or foolish, but rapid technology developments, particularly with AI and machine learning (ML) are making the impossible seem very possible and realistic now.

“The success of A3 for the past five decades is directly attributable to the unflagging support of our members, the incredible advances in automation technology, and the resilience and talent of the team we’ve assembled,” said Jeff Burnstein, who joined A3 in 1983 and has served as president of the association since 2007 in a press release.

A3 highlights through the years; robotics and automation use grows

The Association for Advancing Automation began in 1974 originally as the Robot Institute of America (RIA), initially founded by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (now SME) and headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan. The first Robots Show, now known as Automate, took place in 1976, co-located with the Assemblex III show. In 1982, RIA separated from SME, changing its name to the Robotic Industries Association. In 1984, RIA began publishing the first industrial robot sales statistics, solidifying RIA as a trusted resource on market trends for the robotic industry. In 1986, RIA published the first Robot Safety Standard (R15.06), putting RIA on the map for its global leadership in safety and standards.

Headquarters then moved to Ann Arbor in 1986, and over the years, began adding support for other automation technologies with the AIA-Advancing Vision + Imaging and Motion Control and Motors Association (MCMA). Those separate associations remained until 2021, when A3 merged RIA, AIA, MCMA and A3 Mexico into one association while adding a new Artificial Intelligence group to help industrial automation companies navigate the AI landscape. That year, became the official home of the unified A3 and a hub for all automation industry resources.

During the event, a short video highlighting their history, particularly their advocacy for robotics during the early years and how former president Don Vincent had encouraged them to become their own organization and the trials and tribulations they endured during some of the leaner years when the robotics industry faced an uncertain future.

The first president of what was to become known as the Association for Advancing Automation, Don Vincent, and Jeff Burnstein, who took over the role in 2007 and still lead A3 today, discuss robot sales in 1987.

The first president of what was to become known as the Association for Advancing Automation, Don Vincent, and Jeff Burnstein, who took over the role in 2007 and still lead A3 today, discuss robot sales in 1987. Courtesy: Association for Advancing Automation (A3)

“I’ve had a front row seat to the growth of the industry for more than 40 years and expect even greater growth as more industries facing labor shortage and efficiency issues recognize what robotics and automation can do to help them succeed,” Burnstein said.

– Edited from an Association for Advancing Automation (A3) press release with additional notes from Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, A3 is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.