The Automation Fair

Automation Fair 2011
This week I had the pleasure of attending the Automation Fair at the McCormick Center. This is about the sixth or seventh time I have gone since the early 1990s but my first time in Chicago.

For those who don’t know about it, the Automation Fair is held yearly by Rockwell Automation. Of course it features their products heavily but also includes a lot of other vendors. Allen-Bradley and Rockwell Software constitute about half of the display space but there are also many other large companies; Hoffman (enclosures, now owned by Pentair), Numatics and SMC (pneumatics), Pepperl + Fuchs (intrinsic safety and sensors), Autodesk (CAD software), ProSoft (various control devices) are just a few.

Even some of the more basic component manufacturers had something to show… Thomas & Betts makes primarily wiring devices and hardware.

Several magazine publishers had booths, including Automation World, and As usual there were about 10 universities there also.

Some of the products that stood out were the PlantPAx controllers, which appear to be Allen-Bradley’s answer to the DCS. On the other end of the spectrum they have come out with small PLCs for less than $100 and free software! This seems to be aimed squarely at Automation Direct/Koyo.

As usual there was a lot of safety oriented controls. Safety PLCs and controllers have become very popular over the last few years.

Lots of bells and whistles… literally…

As usual I had a good time seeing all of the products and talking with vendors. I always run into friends I have made over the years and enjoy “talking shop”. Usually I try to attend some of the seminars and training sessions but this year I didn’t go to any.

I did hand out quite a few of my new business cards… for those who don’t know I am re-starting my old business Automation Consulting. I am still at Wright Industries until mid-December, heading to Central America for a month after that and will be back in business on February 1. More on that later. My new business site is up at for anyone interested.


Electrical Engineer and business owner from the Nashville, Tennessee area. I also play music, Chess and Go.