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Cobots Continue To Gain Interest For Flexible Automation, Tipping The Market Over US$600 Million In 2021

Cobots Continue To Gain Interest For Flexible Automation, Tipping The Market Over US$600 Million In 2021

Despite the challenges facing the wider manufacturing industry during the coronavirus pandemic, collaborative robots continue to attract attention and investment, due to their ease of use, redeployability, and convenience to end-users who struggle to afford more traditional forms of automation.

According to a new report from global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, the cobot market is set to grow substantially over the coming decade. The market had a global valuation of US$475 million in 2020, which will expand to US$600 million in 2021 and US$8 billion in 2030, with a projected CAGR of 32.5 percent.

“The most direct benefit of cobots is not in their ability to collaborate with humans”, said Rian Whitton, Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “Rather, it is in their relative ease of use, improved interface, and the ability of end-users to redeploy them for different tasks”. This has made cobots popular with small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) which value flexibility and incremental automation where the maintenance cost is not prohibitive.

Universal Robots is currently the dominant player in the market, with 50 percent of the total shipments and posting US$219 revenue for 2020, but challengers like FANUC, ABB, and others are beginning to catch up after initially lagging in the space. They have done this by improving user interface and the usability of their systems

“The barriers between cobots and standard industrial robots are beginning to breakdown, as many vendors are experimenting with dual-mode robots that can have a cobot and industrial mode. What is more, cobots are beginning to develop heavier payloads, in line with evolving regulations” said Whitton. ABI Research projects that cobots are going to significantly expand the potential for automation for SMEs, while also enabling large vendors to develop a more flexible production line based on movable platforms and no need for fencing. The major industrial automation vendors will enjoy a greater share of the market as they utilise their existing partnerships and pour more resources into new cobot products.

 

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The Top 3 Applications Of Cobots

The Top 3 Applications Of Cobots

Automation has seen massive growth over the last decade where a variety of industries have unleashed the vast potential of robots. Amongst various implementations, collaborative robots (cobots) have seen an accelerating growth in adoption over the years even though they are relatively new.

According to Loup Ventures, cobots contributed to about three percent of robot sales in 2018, but are expected to increase significantly to 34 percent by 2025. Why?

Compared to the large and bulky industrial machines, cobots are designed to safely operate in close proximity to humans to complete tasks. Traditional industrial robots are often mammoth-sized machines that are static and difficult to repurpose and reprogram. By contrast, cobots are compact and flexible and can operate without safety cages or fencing directly alongside people (upon risk assessment), thereby reducing footprint and space usage.

Cobots can be deployed on a wide variety of tasks and are easily redeployed when there is a change in the tasks required.

Cobots, unlike humans, do not suffer from fatigue and can work 24/7/365, repeating each task in exactly the same way. Therefore, with none of the human errors caused by fatigue, cobots provide higher business productivity, efficiency, and product quality.

Most industrial robots offer a payback period that is too long to justify the investment. Whereas for cobots, the average payback period is as short as twelve months, making them more accessible to growing enterprises.

Cobots are highly flexible, allowing them to be reprogrammed for different tasks if manufacturing processes change, making them more investment-worthy.

What are the applications of cobots?

There are many collaborative robot applications across all industries.

Cobots, in general, are able to improve efficiency and safety of many industries by assuming dull, dirty, and dangerous work. These include assembly, dispensing, finishing, machine tending, material handling, welding, material removal, quality inspections, and more. The three common classes of cobot deployments are material handling, assembly and quality assurance, and material removal.

Material handling

In manufacturing, material handling refers to the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal. This is often one of the most dangerous jobs in manufacturing as materials such as metals, plastics, and other substances can pose a great risk to human workers. Additionally, many material handling tasks are repetitive, which can give rise to repetitive strain injury and errors due to fatigue. Manufacturing plants that use robots see significantly fewer workplace injuries.

In JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN), workers were performing menial and repetitive tasks such as soldering, separating cut pieces of Printed Circuit Board (PCB), and attaching a glass display on the car stereo units. JEIN manufactures over 400,000 products each month to serve global customers and this requires a fast turnaround time with minimal defects, to consistently meet production targets. The adoption of UR3 cobots relieved workers from handling these repetitive and high risk tasks, which emit hazardous fumes and dust particles.

“One of the key features of the UR3 robot is its force control for adaptive safety; it senses external forces and stops immediately when a collision is detected. Our workers are able to work in close proximity with the cobots with no safety guarding after an initial risk assessment,” said Sukijan, Plant Supervisor at JEIN.

Assembly and quality assurance

Universal Robots’ cobots are specifically designed to work alongside human employees and relieve them from tedious and difficult assembly jobs. This includes welding small pieces together, drilling screws, and similar assembly tasks.

Cobots can also be used to assist with quality assurance during the production process. Unlike humans, cobots perform the same task the same way, every time, without growing tired or suffering any loss in performance. For example, cobots can place a vision device in the same location for as many measurements and positions on as many workpieces as needed – all without optical recalibration.

Blue Star Limited is a leading manufacturer of air conditioning and commercial refrigeration products in India. A vital task in the plant is the copper tube expansion, which was done manually. The repetitive task is mentally and physically stressful, and as a result the plant faced issues of quality rejection. This is a task which requires human intervention and heavy industrial robots may be unsafe. Blue Star needed a solution where robots and humans can work together to complete the task safely, and hence chose to work with cobots. The company increased their production by 10 percent and eradicated quality rejects, delivering their vision of high-quality products.

Material Removal

Other tasks that are also crucial to production can be handled by cobots. For example, material removal by robots is needed for any process that involves filling moulds. These cobots can assess the moulded piece and take care of trimming any excess metal or plastic without damaging the part or subjecting human workers to the risk of injury.

Meanwhile, cobots fitted with dispensing tools and hardware can be used to add glue or other adhesives, while cobots fitted with a sanding kit from the UR+ platform can be used to polish pieces for a bright, smooth finish.

Cobots are growing in presence and popularity mostly due to an increasingly budget-friendly price tag, easier programming which reduces implementation and training time, and safety qualities. With these factors in place, cobots are expected to be major contributors to the growth of manufacturing, assembly and other industries.

Article by James McKew, Regional Director Asia-Pacific, Universal Robots

 

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Teradyne Appoints New President Of Universal Robots

Teradyne Appoints New President Of Universal Robots

Teradyne, Inc. has announced that Kim Povlsen has been appointed President of Universal Robots. Povlsen, brings global executive leadership from a high-tech and commercial perspective and will lead Universal Robots’ next stage of growth and innovation. Kim begins his new role at Universal Robots on March 1, 2021.

“I am delighted to introduce Kim Povlsen as the new President of Universal Robots” said Greg Smith, President of Teradyne’s Industrial Automation Group, and acting President of Universal Robots.

“Kim combines a fantastic track record as a dynamic executive with a background in and a tremendous passion for robotics. With Kim on board, Universal Robots is poised to strengthen its leadership in the global market for collaborative robotics. With Kim’s leadership, we can accelerate the growth in new applications and market growth for cobots.”

Kim has held various executive business and technology leadership roles at Schneider Electric, a global energy management and automation company. Most recently, he served as Vice President, Strategy & Technology, responsible for the technology strategy and execution within a multi-billion dollar global organization. Kim lives in Aarhus, Denmark, and holds a master’s degree in Computer Science & Embedded Engineering from the University of Southern Denmark.

“I have been impressed with Universal Robots for some time” said Kim. “To me, the company represents the pinnacle of innovation and potential and I was thrilled to be approached for this unique leadership role. The company not only pioneered the category of collaborative robots, created an ecosystem of partner technology solutions and a vast global distribution network to serve customers in their varied industrial automation needs, it also has the potential to fundamentally reshape automation across the global economy. I really look forward to working with, learning from and being part of the great people at Universal Robots.”

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