How easily we forget the time, not all that long ago, when robots were the “new kids on the automation block” and still seeking gainful employment.

Today’s robots, machine vision systems, and motion control devices build cars and appliances, assist in complex surgical procedures, vacuum carpets, and even mix martinis. How easily we forget the time, not all that long ago, when these “new kids on the automation block” were seeking gainful employment. Early in the boom, robotics was hailed as the next industrial revolution, forecast to become a $2 billion market by 1990. Then, when the bust came along in the mid-1980s, the ever-present critics and nay-sayers were ready to write the robotics industry’s obituary.

Nonetheless, the inventors, entrepreneurs, engineering geniuses and company presidents-often the same person-persevered, and the industry forged steadily ahead. Those pioneers surely set the stage for the success that robotics, vision and motion control enjoy today. But, no individuals have contributed as much to the success of the robotics community-builders and users-as Mr. and Mrs. Donald A. Vincent-Don and Kelley.

Back in 1974, Don, who is retiring this month, and a few other visionaries in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), founded what was then named the Robot Institute of America as an industry group within SME. Shortly thereafter, Don and Bernie Sallot left SME and established RIA as an independent entity, changing the name to the Robotic Industries Association. Don took over the leadership role when Bernie retired after a brief tenure, and Don has led RIA ever since.

For more than 30 years Don-the official association executive-and Kelley-the official creator of goodwill-have served as the ambassadors for the robotics industry, both domestically and internationally. Don has also served with the International Federation of Robotics, representing the industry at shows and through personal visits throughout the world.

One might say that Don and Kelley have come full circle with this month’s 2007 International Robots & Vision Show and the 38th International Symposium on Robotics, being held June 12-14. The very first North American Robot Conference and Exposition was held in October 1976, in the then-new O’Hare Exposition Center. Now called the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, this same facility is hosting the 2007 event.

Interestingly, that first robots show was held in conjunction with another event that was sponsored by this magazine. So it is entirely appropriate that we, the staff of ASSEMBLY magazine, take this opportunity to congratulate Don and Kelley for many years of service, and offer this public tribute in recognition of two genuine Industry Leaders.

-The staff of ASSEMBLY Magazine