When I attended my first A3 Business Forum 10 years ago, the event was called the “AIA Business Conference.” Clinging to the last bit of my 20s, I went to the event feeling a bit anxious, not knowing many people in the machine vision and automation space at all. (Luckily, my colleague at the time, Judy Leger, seemed to know everyone and still does.) 

Speakers that year included Adam Steltzner, the lead landing engineer for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Project, as well as several technical presentations on emerging and growing topics, including Time of Flight and the Internet of Things. In addition, familiar faces like Alex Shikany of A3 and Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics offered updates on the machine vision market and the global economic forecast, respectively. 

Flash forward a decade and another A3 Business Forum is in my rearview mirror. A lot has changed in the past 10 years. Technologies have advanced, markets have grown significantly, and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) has unified its different groups, which previously included the Automated Imaging Association (AIA), Robotics Industries Association (RIA), the Motion Control and Motors Association (MCMA), along with A3 Mexico and the new focus on artificial intelligence under one group. (In addition, my hair has become a lot grayer, but time, genetics, and three young boys will do that, I suppose.)

Onward with Automation in Orlando 

Looking at the event now, I understand why so many call it the best networking event in the automation space. The forum provides a unique and ideal platform for people within the industry to get together and catch up, meet new people, learn from informative conference sessions, and talk about everything from the latest trends in AI and vision-guided robotics to what the Chicago Bears should be doing with the first overall pick in the 2024 draft. It also allows A3 and its member companies to celebrate the achievements of those within the space who have dedicated their professional lives toward advancing automation technologies and propelling manufacturing and businesses worldwide into the future.

As a marketing professional and former journalist, it’s inspiring to spend three days largely in the same room with all the brilliant people who attended the event. From our perspective, this includes not only the many conversations we had in the main ballroom, at the networking events, in the foyer, and, of course, the hotel bar, but also the several discussions held on our Manufacturing Matters podcast, where we discussed developments and trends in technologies such as robotic end-of-arm tooling, 3D, deep learning, systems integration, optics and lighting, autonomous mobile robots, and much more. 

The energy is a bit different at the A3 Business Forum than other events, simply because it provides a more intimate setting for people to talk to each other, away from loud, busy tradeshow floors with (awesome) live demonstrations that other events do, and it grows each year. I encourage everyone who hasn’t been in a while — or has never attended — to do their best to get there, and for those who aren’t A3 members, I strongly urge you to consider making that leap. See you all in Orlando in 2025!

Jimmy Carroll is Vice President of Operations at TECH B2B Marketing.

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