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Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

The World Robotics report shows an annual global sales of robots value of 16.5 billion USD in 2018 – a new record. 422,000 units were shipped globally in 2018 – an increase of six percent compared to the previous year. IFR forecasts shipments in 2019 will recede from the record level in 2018, but expects an average growth of 12 percent per year from 2020 to 2022.

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

“The US-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments. But it is exciting, that the mark of 400,000 robot installations per year has been passed for the first time. The IFR´s longer term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth – with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”

Asia is the world’s largest industrial robot market. In 2018, there was a mixed picture for the three largest Asian markets: Installations in China and the Republic of Korea declined, while Japan increased considerably. In total, Asia grew by one percent. Robot installations in the second largest market, Europe, increased by 14 percent and reached a new peak for the sixth year in a row. In the Americas, the growth rate reached 20 percent more than the year before which also marks a new record level for the sixth year in a row.

The automotive industry remains the largest adopter of robots globally with a share of almost 30 percent of the total supply (2018). Investments in new car production capacities and in modernization have driven the demand for robots. On the other hand, robot installations in the electrical/electronics industry declined by 14 percent from their peak level of about 122,000 units in 2017 to 105,000 units in 2018. The global demand for electronic devices and components substantially decreased in 2018.

Furthermore, the metal and machinery industry established itself as the third largest customer industry. Installations accounted for 10 percent of total demand in 2018. Both producers of metal products (without automotive parts) and producers of industrial machinery, have bought substantial amounts of robots in recent years.

 

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Putting Automation In The Hands Of The People With Collaborative Robots

Putting Automation in the Hands of the People with Collaborative Robots

Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics. Article by Andie Zhang, ABB.

Collaborative robots (cobots) have been changing the rules of the industrial world over the past decade. With sensors and built-in safety functions, these dexterous industrial robots can work safely alongside humans, enabling greater flexibility in a wide range of industries around the world.

Technologies such as ABB’s SafeMove2 can make any connected industrial robot a collaborative one, which allow the cobots to be installed without the need for physical barriers such as fences and cages that have traditionally been a requirement for generations of industrial robots. Working with collaborative robots is more than just the robot themselves. It is about the application which can take place at many levels, with incremental benefits at each.

One such way is the ability for cobot to co-exist safely with humans on the same fenceless factory floor, which significantly reduces the space taken up by the robot. The feature is ideal for applications like palletising where the robot can maximise productivity without compromising on safety.

Another way cobots can maximise flexibility and efficiency is by synchronised collaboration where the human and the robot work together in a planned but more intermittent manner, for tasks such as machine tending that require some amount of human interaction along with the robot’s speed and precision. Finally, the highest level of collaboration is for the robot and human to co-operate with each other to share workspaces and tasks continuously. This is especially useful for small parts assembly lines.

Collaborative robots also provide manufacturers with the flexibility to manage the shift to low-volume/high-mix production. Collaborative robots add agility to change between products and introduce new products faster. The people on the production line contribute their unique problem-solving capabilities, insights and adaptability to change, while robots bring tireless precision and endurance for repetitive tasks.

Going large by going small

The global market for collaborative robots is estimated to be valued at $12.3 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

But where is that potential stemming from? One key driver for growth is the development of collaborative robots for workplaces outside large manufacturing environments. While robotic automation technology has evolved significantly over the years to meet the growing demands for high volume industrial production, it has also evolved to create smaller collaborative robots such as YuMi, which is designed to fit easily into existing production lines to increase productivity while working safely alongside people.

The inherent qualities of collaborative robots make them ideal automation solutions that can be game changers for smaller manufacturers by helping them boost productivity, reduce operating costs and even improve the safety and retention rate of employees. At the outset, collaborative robot installation is far cheaper than large industrial ones because of their smaller size and fewer peripheral equipment. This means that the investment needed for a robotic work cell can go down from over $200,000 to under $50,000.

Putting Automation in the Hands of the People with Collaborative RobotsRobots that create better work environment

Another attractive proposition to make the case for cobots is the lack of labour that is prevalent in most markets. The current generation of working people who have grown up in the digital world, are more qualified than their predecessors and do not want to spend hours performing dirty, dull, dangerous and repetitive tasks such as picking and placing products from bins, tending to machines or packaging finished goods. Also, with shorter product lifecycles, small manufacturers who operate in high labour cost countries and are closer to their end customers cannot simply outsource labour to low-cost countries like large corporations do. In these conditions, collaborative robots are ideal as they not only reduce the need for manual labour, but can work tirelessly and with higher quality, allowing their human co-workers to perform more stimulating work that can lead to higher job satisfaction.

By automating monotonous and often more tasking jobs, manufacturers can also improve the safety of their employees. For instance, Anodica, an Italian family-run business that makes high-end metal handles, knobs and trimmings for appliance and automotive industries use YuMi, a dual-armed collaborative robot from ABB, to assemble their products together with an operator. The robot cell was designed anthropometrically around the operator so that all activities are ergonomically managed. By doing this, the company helps employees avoid short- and long-term injuries related to working in a factory.

Hit the ground running

In the past, setting up an industrial robot could take days if not weeks, disrupting ongoing work that can lead to bottlenecks in production. On the contrary, the plug-and-play qualities of modern cobots such as the YuMi means that they can be installed much more quickly, leading to minimal interference with production processes. Also, their small footprint and features that make them easily movable make cobots suitable for automating existing production lines.

Technological advancements have made collaborative robots far more intuitive than their conventional counterparts. Features such as lead-through programming and user-friendly touch screen interface allow operators with no programming experience to quickly program the robot. Software simulation tools such as RobotStudio offered by ABB allows operators to program the robot and simulate the application on a computer without shutting down production. This helps speed up the time taken to get the robot running, which is especially useful for organisations that have short product cycles. Moreover, digital twin technology can be used to develop a complete and operational virtual representation of a robot on which diagnostics, prediction and simulation can be run to optimise the machine even before it is set up.

Full flexibility for all

Robotic automation in the traditional sense can be challenging for small manufacturers who make high-mix, low-volume products. Collaborative robots, which are more dexterous than fixed automation, offer much-needed flexibility to production. Their lightweight and easy-to-use features means cobots can be moved around a factory floor to perform different tasks.

Today, large corporations are also enjoying the benefits of cobots being able to work in close proximity with humans. For example, the automotive industry, which has a high degree of automation in areas like the body shop and paint shop, can use cobots to automate the final trim and assembly of vehicles. Here, the robots work closely with humans who add finishing touches to the vehicle while robots perform more repetitive tasks.

Suppliers to the automotive industry, like France-based Faurecia Group, which makes interior components, are also using collaborative robots like ABB’s YuMi to maintain flexibility and increase productivity at their plant in Caligny.

Where from here?

The future of collaborative robotics lies in developing enhanced software features such as cloud connectivity and machine learning that increase their functionalities and make them even safer and easier to use. Software features like ABB’s SafeMove2 ensure that industrial robots are also able to work collaboratively and safety with humans, while QuickMove and TrueMove guarantee superior motion control. Adding more intelligence to robots through artificial intelligence will take the advantages of collaborative robotic automation to the next level.

Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics.

 

Read more:

How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity
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How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. Article by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. The use of industrial robots offers great potential for handling the sawn sections: The mechanical helpers can take on numerous tasks, from picking to deburring, weighing, centring and marking to sorting and stacking. This provides more flexibility and performance in production, better working conditions and significantly lower operating costs.

Across all sectors, the demands placed on metalworking companies are steadily increasing: They must have a high production flexibility from batch size one to large-scale production, process more and more different materials and dimensions—in excellent quality and at the lowest possible cost. Those who want to be permanently successful in the ever tougher international competition must organise all their production processes in a variable and efficient, but also efficient way.

Countless Uses for Robots

Sawing technology plays a key role in metal processing and offers many opportunities for optimisation. More and more operators of sawing systems are intelligently linking their work processes and automating them with robot support. The benefits are obvious: Industrial robots are fast, reliable and precise, and if necessary, they can work 24 hours a day without human intervention. They don’t get tired or fall ill, and they can handle a wide range of tasks when equipped with the necessary tools. “Our robots help us with a number of handling and conveying tasks and efficiently perform many machining steps,” says Volker Bühler, group manager for robotics at the sawing and storage technology specialist KASTO.

Automation starts right with material feeding. The material to be cut is conveyed to the machine by means of suitable equipment, for example roller conveyors or magazines, thus sparing workers the effort of lifting and carrying, and reducing the risk of injuries. Depending on how it is equipped, the sawing machine itself can also run attended. Material is fed to it automatically, and an intelligent machine control system sets all parameters, such as cutting length and cutting speed, based on the job data. State-of-the-art production saws can thus carry out a variety of jobs in sequence, with different materials and diameters, and operate autonomously for long periods.

Removal, Machining, Stacking—Automatic from Start to Finish

Industrial robots also have considerable potential when it comes to handling and processing finished cut parts. For example, they can remove them from the machine, thus relieving workers of this repetitive task. When equipped with appropriate tools, robots can also perform tasks like deburring, chamfering, marking, centring or measuring workpieces. Cut parts can be weighed, sorted by size or job, and stacked on pallets or placed in containers. The parts can also be transferred directly to a driverless transport system. “For complex processes involving various work steps, we also use combinations of different robots and clamping devices,” explains Bühler.

When large quantities of material are sawed with only a few different component geometries, it is relatively easy to automate the downstream processes. The situation is different with custom sawing involving diverse materials and dimensions.

“The greater the variety, the harder it is to cover all the possibilities,” says Bühler. The choice of robot tools is an important factor. A robot must be able to deal with all the objects it encounters while using as few aids as possible. This reduces procurement costs, minimises idle times and increases productivity. Users have a choice of mechanical, magnetic or vacuum-operated grippers. The grippers should be as compact as possible to give the robot easy access to the cut parts.

Sawing Technology on Course to Industry 4.0

With the help of the right components, sawing can be combined with other automated operations to create complex, highly integrated systems that are seamlessly connected in a continuous material flow. This includes upstream storage as well as downstream handling and processing. For example, KASTO implements combined storage and sawing systems for its customers in which all storage, handling, sawing, marking, palletising and bundling processes are completely automated—from storage of the raw material to retrieval of the cut parts. The control software can be linked to existing ERP systems like SAP for greater transparency and efficiency. Sawing can be integrated with other processes like turning or milling in digitised, self-configured production systems such as envisioned in Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

Automated sawing technology offers significant advantages to users. Many processes can run unattended and much faster, which increases productivity and reduces the need for personnel. It is easier to make up the difference when employees are ill, and robots can keep working even during breaks or after shifts. The result is lower personnel costs and greater flexibility in terms of capacity utilisation.

Companies can react more easily to order peaks and dramatically reduce idle times. This can make a big difference economically.

“We’ve calculated that, depending on the shift model, an investment in an industrial robot with a machine like our KASTOvariospeed saw pays for itself in less than a year,” says Bühler. “When you consider that systems like this are used for more than ten years on average, users can reduce their operating costs for a very long time.”

Benefits for Both Users and Customers

Robot technology also helps to improve working conditions. It relieves employees of heavy, tiring and monotonous tasks. The risk of accidents and injuries is reduced. Moreover, the cut parts are of better quality, because robots machine them with equal precision, sort them reliably and stack them neatly. This provides benefits not only for operators of automatic sawing facilities, but also for their customers.

 

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Robotic End Of Arm Tools (EOAT) Sales Soar

Robotic End Of Arm Tools (EOAT) Sales Soar

A recent research study estimates global sales of robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) to surpass US$ 2,000 million in 2019, up from US$ 1,900 million in 2018. This growth in sales can be attributed to the ever-evolving demand of industrial ecosystems for high productivity via industrial robotics.

With industrial ecosystems facing the constant pressure to enhance productivity and reduce operating costs, the demand for collaborative robots is higher than ever. Subsequently, evolving roles for collaborative robots bring robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) into the fore with a crucial role to play i.e. offering the desired functionality to the robot systems.

As the quality of robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) is closely tied to the performance of robotic frameworks, the end-use industries are seeking lighter, faster, and cheaper models to boost their ROI benefits. This, in turn, has prompted the manufacturers in the robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market space to meet diverse requirements of the end-use industries who are functioning in an increasingly competitive environment”, said the report.

As per the analysis, grippers remain the ‘top-selling’ robotic end of arm tools (EOAT), with global demand estimated to exceed US$ 1,140 million in 2019. The demand for various types of grippers, such as jaw grippers, niddle grippers, magnetic grippers, bellows grippers, and others, varies according to the target application and associated specifications. According to the report, growing demand for grippers can be attributed to the high importance of ‘pick and place’ applications in the automation space.

According to report, demand for robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) in the automotive industry is estimated to surge, as automakers are rapidly gravitating toward robotic systems to handle complex manufacturing tasks. Automakers across the globe seek flexibility of robots to perform uninterrupted multi-tasking, which makes robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) a viable investment, both in terms of cost reduction and superlative performance.

APEJ To Remain The Largest Market For Robotic End Of Arm Tools (EOAT)

As per the report, APEJ will be highly lucrative region for the manufacturers in the robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market, as the end-use industries in APEJ aim to stay at the forefront of the ‘Industry 4.0’ trend. This, in turn, is creating untapped potential for the manufacturers in the robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market to reap sizeable profits.

Flexibility, controlled pressure, and cycle times remain three among the key considerations of end-use industries while opting for robotic end of arm tools (EOAT), unveils the report. By taking into account the aforementioned, manufacturers are adopting a collaborative approach for successful development of products that are well-aligned with the end-user requirements.

Apart from strategic collaborations and product launches, the manufacturers in the robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market are participating in exhibitions and conferences to demonstrate on their new product launches. This helps them in branching out to business-to-business trade and tapping into new customer segments.

The report analyses prime opportunities brimming in the global robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market. As per the report, the global robotic end of arm tools (EOAT) market is likely to witness growth at a CAGR of over 10 percent over the forecast period.

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Industrial Robot Sales Increase Worldwide By 29 Percent

Industrial Robot Sales Increase Worldwide By 29 Percent

Munich, Germany: Global sales of industrial robots reached the new record of 380,550 units in 2017. That is an increase of 29 percent compared to the previous year (2016: 294,300 units). China saw the largest growth in demand for industrial robots—up 58 percent. Sales in the USA increased by six percent; in Germany by eight percent compared to the previous year. These are the initial findings of the World Robotics Report 2018, published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

Broken down by industry, the automotive industry continues to lead global demand for industrial robots: In 2017, around 125,200 units were sold in this segment—equivalent to growth of 21 percent. The strongest growth sectors in 2017 were the metal industry (+54 percent), the electrical/electronics industry (+27 percent) and the food industry (+19 percent).

In terms of sales volume, Asia has the strongest individual markets: China installed around 138,000 industrial robots in 2017, followed by South Korea with around 40,000 units and Japan with around 38,000 units. In the Americas, the USA is the largest single market with around 33,000 industrial robots sold, and in Europe it is Germany with around 22,000 units sold.

“Key trends such as digitalisation, simplification and human-robot collaboration will certainly shape the future and drive forward rapid development,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

In the course of digitalisation, real production is becoming increasingly connected with the virtual data world, opening up completely new possibilities for analysis – right through to machine learning. Robots will acquire new skills through learning processes.

Correspondingly, the industry is working to simplify the handling of robots. In the future industrial robots should be easier and faster to program using intuitive procedures. Such technology is not only attractive to established users, but also to small and medium-sized companies, for example, companies who can use it to introduce automation without the need for highly experienced or expert personnel.

This development paves the way for the third major robotics trend: collaboration between humans and robots without protective barriers offers new approaches to new flexible production processes. In the future human-robot collaboration will support the flexible production of small quantities with high complexity.

Flexible Production With Bending Robots And Encoding Automation

Flexible Production With Bending Robots And Encoding Automation

The Automation trend towards flexibility in machining processes with a high degree of automation is enduring in many sectors. Contributed by transfluid

An efficient bending system for short and long pipes has been developed by trans fluid, and the automation system bends 6 m long pipes with small diameters at a consistently high speed. The production unit is capable of producing shorter pipelines of 500 mm featuring diverse bending geometry in large quantities. Handling coated pipes during processing can be demanding because of sensitive surfaces thus, special care and treatment are required during processing.

Chain Conveyor And Clever Encoding

To ensure that production Automation can be implemented safely, quickly and thoroughly, a machine shop equipped has equipped itself with two robots that are used as bending machines with different magazines. One magazine is a “chain conveyor”. It guides long pipes to the bending robot.

According to the markings placed on the pipes by the encoding beforehand, the robots are able to detect which geometries need to be produced. In this case, they are capable of bending a long pipe from one side to the centre.

Following processing, the workpiece is placed on a slide. The bending cell also possesses a separate step conveyor. This feeds in short pipe lengths, including two different pipes if this is required. Depending on the case at hand, each robot processes a different geometry or pipes with another diameter. This enables a large series of short components to be processed efficiently at the same time. Long components can be processed just as effectively.

Flexible Production With Bending Robots And Encoding Automation

Achieving Versatility

“An additional challenge for the development of our solution was that all the pipes have previously end formed ends on both sides or they already have cutting rings mounted,” said Stefanie Flaeper, general manager at trans fluid.

“With robot technology, bending geometry may be started at an extremely short distance from the bend on both previously mounted ends. And the process—for example preparing the ends first and then bending—is able to be implemented consistently for any pipe with this bending technique,” explained Ms Flaeper.

This allows prior processing of the ends to be significantly cheaper and faster, and with this process, there are no geometric limitations and the pipe can be sealed beforehand with caps. This makes it immediately available for use after bending.

Bending Directly From CAD Automation System

In addition to flexibility, an additional strength of the automation system offers another advantage that cannot be underestimated: The robots do not need to be programmed. As with any conventional bending machine, the necessary data may be loaded into the bending robots with a data file directly from the CAD system and transformed into a bending geometry. This makes the psychological barrier raised by programming a thing of the past, and the systems can be linked online with all relevant measurement systems.

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