The potential of artificial intelligence and robots to assist humans with laborious and complex tasks and the effects of industrial automation on jobs in general have been bringing monumental changes among early adopters. A dramatically thriving area of robotics – industrial robots – represents a recent milestone, and is all set to become a multi billion-dollar market within the next few years. Industrial robots and intelligent machines are capable of accomplishing routine tasks faster and more efficiently compared to humans, ultimately aimed at replacing millions of workers in transport, logistics, and manufacturing sectors. Additionally, in the service industry, many tasks could be made redundant by smarter software programs and modern algorithms.
In the past decades, numerous industries have invested heavily in industrial robotics in order to replace workers with collaborative robots (cobots), especially in the U.S., as one robot can replace six human employees. The operational cost of these cobots is between one-fifth and one-eighth of the hourly cost of a worker in Europe. Moreover, in China, sales of robots have increased, as they are available at an economical price than labors.
In the current scenario, cobots are used in smart factories and other industries for specific tasks. Rather than replacing human jobs, these robots will create more jobs in applications, in which their endurance, strength, and precision are combined with human dexterity, problem solving, and flexibility. Moreover, manufacturers in developed countries are focusing on deploying robots at their premises to help attract new employees to facilitate continued growth. For instance, in February 2020, Teradyne-owned Universal Robots (UR) and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) acquired a 50,000 m2 building site in Odense. Teradyne will invest US$ 36 Mn in constructing a major cobot hub in the cobot capital. The company continues to invest enormously in the development of new solutions, products, and sales channels considering it to be a new growth strategy.
The Future of Work: Investments in Cobots on Upswing
According to the Industrial Federation of Robotics, the installation rate of cobots increased 23% in 2018 over 2017. This growth is largely dependent on increasing deployment of cobots by manufacturing and e-commerce industries. For instance, Amazon uses collaborative warehouse robots to significantly reduce the cost of free returns and ensure rapid fulfillment. This, in turn, has eased complex segregation of products and subsequently accelerated the delivery system. Similarly, various manufacturers are adopting cobots to make them their most valuable asset and further investing in developing innovative cobots for more efficient and faster outcomes.
- Introduction of Lightweight Collaborative Robots by FANUC
In February 2020, FANUC introduced two new 10 kg payload collaborative robots – CRX-10/A and CRC-10/A/L – that provide a reach of 1249 mm and 1418 mm respectively. The sensitive detection in the robot allows to work safely alongside people in several industrial and manufacturing jobs. A user with no experience can also easily install these robots straight out of box, and the compact and lightweight arms fit virtually in any floor space configuration.
- Toshiba Launches Two New Cobots, Set to Enter the Market in 2021
Toshiba Machine (TM) has been producing industrial robots for more than two decades. In February 2020, the company announced the launch of two new collaborative robots with an objective to expand its line of industrial robots. SCARA duo-arm cobot and humanoid duo-arm cobot are the paramount cobots from TM, which will be available in 2021. Both the cobots will be available with vision guided robotics. Likewise, companies such as Vinacomin Motor Industry Joint Stock Company (VMIC) are deploying cobots in their manufacturing plants as they can work alongside the employees safely.
- Smart Collaborative Robots Take on More Industrial Tasks
More than 90% of the tasks at manufacturing plants cannot be automated due to physical and budgetary limitations. Smart collaborative robots are well-equipped with the underlying technology and an array of sensors that make them easy to program. Smart cobots and their unique capabilities are becoming highly desirable among manufacturers altering their entire supply chain. Low price points, enhanced durability, and intelligence of collaborative robots will lead to widespread adoption of the technology in smaller factories in the near future.
- 3-D Machine Meets a New Standards
A 3-D sensing system is developed for collaborative robots, which implements separation monitoring standards and speed. As the machine recognizes the violation of monitoring separation distance, it interconnects with the control system of cobots to stop or slow the robot before it comes in contact with anything that can be harmful. Such innovation is making it safer for humans and cobots to work together. Moreover, machine vision allows a robot to understand the world, imitate the way humans respond to certain work environment, and process the information.
- Development of New Gripper Technology
Most challenging prospect for all robots is the incessant tooling, which is essential when using new materials. Collaborative robots have a wide variety of new gripper opportunities built to deal with high part mixes. Soft grippers and latest gripper inventions allow robots to handle hard or soft parts by utilizing flexible material and fluid. Other innovative grippers use electro-adhesion or a multitude of sensors for gripper supervision. Recently, Amazon filed a patent for a gripper measured by fluid volume – it can handle durable items, heavy along with, soft parts. Massively enhanced grippers eradicate the need for constant changeover or retooling, which is a major drain on productivity and one of the biggest challenges in robotics today.
Future of Cobots Holds Exponential Growth
When compared with industrial robots, collaborative robots include a number of technological innovations that make them ideal in number of applications. Due to high level of productivity, safety, and flexibility, demand for cobots is poised to increase sharply over the next few years, and therefore, manufacturers should be looking at a period of sustained demand.