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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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Reducing Costs And Scrappage From Porosity Through Robotic Vacuum Impregnation

Reducing Costs And Scrappage From Porosity Through Robotic Vacuum Impregnation

For automotive manufacturers, cost control and quality are vital when it comes to high volume and critical engine components. Bob Remler, Technical Sales Manager in North America at Ultraseal International, discusses how one manufacturer managed to reduce costs and improve operational performance by using robotic vacuum impregnation to seal porosity, minimise scrappage and increase throughput.  

Trends and challenges

It is no surprise to learn that the automotive industry in the US is the single largest sector for metal die casting. In today’s vehicles, a high proportion of components – including cylinder heads, engine blocks, transmission cases, e-motor housings, and structural parts – are produced using high pressure die casting processes. 

As the industry faces the ongoing challenge of reducing environmental emissions, increasing fuel economy and delivering better performance, manufacturers are seeking methods to reduce vehicle weight and improve overall efficiency. As a result, many are turning to a combination of thinner walled castings and using lighter weight metals such as aluminium and magnesium. 

Hand in hand with the move to new production methods and significant research into new casting processes and techniques, comes the shift towards automation. Industry 4.0 is defining the competitive landscape of the industry, with many automotive manufacturers and OEMs turning to digital transformation initiatives to drive efficiencies through their manufacturing processes. This includes smart factories to ‘cobotics’ (the name given to the collaboration between a person and a robot), digital supply networks, artificial intelligence and automation of repetitive processes. 

However, while some industry pain points are removed as manufacturing technology and processes evolve, one legacy challenge remains – that of porosity. Porosity is one of the defects most frequently encountered in aluminium die casting. These microscopic voids reduce the density of components, leading to leaks. For parts that go into applications which need to be air or fluid-tight – for example in fuel or cooling systems – this can be an especially critical issue. 

Untreated, casting porosity leads to costly scrappage, creating waste inefficiencies in materials, energy and production time. 

Specific Challenges Faced by a Respected Engine Manufacturer

For a leading US based manufacturer of engines, off-road vehicles and motorbikes, creating best-in-class vehicles and achieving operational excellence is key to its operating ethos and continued success. 

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168 Motion Plastics Innovations From The Home Office

168 Motion Plastics Innovations From The Home Office

In a difficult environment, more innovations than last year – from the integrated robot drive up to the ball bearing with 21 times the service life

igus increases the pace of innovation despite the pandemic: high investments in digitalisation, logistics and remote consulting increased online sales by 30 per cent in 2020 and mitigated the decline in sales by 4.8 per cent. The motion plastics specialist is also breaking new ground in terms of sustainability and product innovation, and will be presenting more innovations than ever before with 168 tribo-polymer products in spring 2021.

Last year, the turnover of the motion plastics specialist igus fell by 4.8 per cent to 727 million euros in the wake of the Corona crisis. The company is optimistic for the current year, thanks to a significant increase in incoming orders. In addition, the pandemic period has led to a surge in innovation when working from home. The result is 168 new products, product extensions and digital offers this spring, more than ever before. igus will be giving a first preview at the Hannover Messe Digital Edition. The company will also be presenting all its spring news at its own physical-virtual trade show. It has just been awarded the “iF Design Award” and will be completely renewed for visitors from 5th May.

ReBeL accelerates cost-effective automation

After two years of development, the ReBeL, a new robot drive element, can be seen at the igus exhibition. Customers can construct their own robot arms quickly and cost-effectively from the modular kit. The core of the ReBeL is a greatly improved plastic gearbox. An integrated BLDC electric motor with power electronics can be connected to various controls. In addition, a suitable low-cost control system from igus is available free of charge as a download, so that the automation can be simulated in advance. In the field of “large” industrial robotics, igus is launching the TRX energy supply system, a solution that rethinks the subject of robot hose packs. The energy supply system twists, lengthens and shortens in a spiral, and cables are inserted in the form of a spiral. This enables a weight saving of 83 per cent on the 3rd axis, in less than half the space.

Dry-operating ball bearings with 21 times the service life

igus will also be presenting news in all areas of lubrication-free and maintenance-free bearing technology. In the case of ball bearings, the engineers at igus achieved a breakthrough in service life. In the application cases of low loads and high speeds, this was increased by a factor of 21. “What used to last a month now lasts almost two years”, explains Lena Woelke, the Development Manager for xiros ball bearings. Applications are found especially in fans or centrifuges

Plastic becomes a sustainable resource

How these lubrication-free plastic products not only have less impact on the environment during use, but are also produced in a CO2 neutral manner and recycled afterwards is part of the igus mission. The new factory building currently under construction will be climate neutral from the outset, and this will apply to the entire igus factory by 2025. To further reduce emissions, igus invests in modern technologies, for example, in extraction systems and filters; injection moulding machines that save up to 40 per cent energy and are barely audible have been purchased in large numbers. In addition to mechanical recycling in the chainge product range, igus also relies on new types of chemical recycling. Thus, igus increased its investment in Mura Technology to 5 million euros. Mura’s HydroPRS technology converts plastic waste back into oil. Investments increased by 29 per cent overall in 2020.

Investments in digitalisation and capacities bring customers forward

A significant part of the investments went into online shops and online tools. All webshops were renewed and made more informative for customers. New online tools for the configuration and calculation of gears, rollers, linear modules and stepper motors are accessible on the Internet free of charge and without registration. At the same time, igus expanded its stock at every location in the world. In addition to the USA with 23,000 individual parts and Europe with 88,000, 21,000 parts are now available in China in 24 to 48 hours and are assembled by igus in millions of models. The offer of easy online configuration and ordering together with the short delivery time was welcomed by many customers. Online sales increased by 30 per cent worldwide. The early expansion of machine and raw material warehouse capacities from the 3rd quarter of 2020 still ensures fast delivery times in the phase of a rapid economic recovery now.

Change as a duty and an opportunity

“Politics, technology, mobility, entertainment, climate and health – the world is changing rapidly at the moment”, says igus CEO Frank Blase. “We want to be active shapers. So I am proud of the igus colleagues for how they have applied themselves, changed and improved during these times.” The teams have been working predominantly from home since 13th March 2020. The offer for a self-determined quota of home office days with few rules and precise measurability is provided by igus until the end of 2022. At the same time, the company is experimenting with new work spaces and forms of on-site collaboration. “For our industry, the fact that everything is changing, absolutely everything, means everyone is making new products, and everyone needs new machines. This can trigger an enormous boom for our customers and us in the next few years.”

 

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Automation On Demand

Automation On Demand

Bystronic’s Bendikt Kreisel describes the benefits of a fully automatic bending cell in today’s sheet metal processing. 

Not long ago, automation was associated only with repetitive tasks. High and consistent quality as well as reliability over very long periods are decisive factors that ensure the profitability of automation in production environments. However, more complex jobs that require a high degree of customisation in the manufacturing process are still often performed manually. This is currently a widespread approach in the sheet metal processing sector.

Our industry has experienced a major transformation over the past five years–indeed, one could say it has been forced to transform. Increasing price pressure in the markets and the lack of skilled personnel are just two of the reasons for this, in addition to increasingly dynamic and uncertain business environments.

Automation Backlog

However, the unique advantages and disadvantages of manual processing by a human operator and automated manufacturing cannot be dismissed. Every decision in favor of or against automating a process is a balancing act involving many production-relevant variables. Besides productivity and quality, flexibility is another undeniable competitive advantage of any supplier in the manufacturing industry, especially in view of increasingly dynamic business environments. 

This is a dilemma that has led to a backlog of automation, especially in the sheet metal processing industry. However, when users do not wish to accept any compromises in terms of flexibility, productivity, and consistent high quality, the demands on the machines increase.

Intelligent Technology Solution

Bystronic’s Mobile Bending Cell addresses these demands and implements them by applying intelligent technology. The users’ requirements are particularly wide-ranging when it comes to bending technology. Being able to bend parts with extremely complex geometries in small batches while simultaneously being capable of handling the high-volume processing of simple geometries is a major challenge that many companies are currently facing. Also known as automation on demand, the Mobile Bending Cell is capable of overcoming these challenges—ensuring high flexibility as well as high quality and productivity. 

This is achieved by means of the Mobile Bending Robot, which can be positioned in front of the press brake or detached to allow manual operation. Thanks to an intelligent and fully automated measuring system, the robot references itself in front of the press brake without requiring manual intervention. Laser sensors measure the precise position of the robot relative to the press brake and it is referenced accordingly. This allows the press brake to be converted from manual bending to fully automated bending in less than ten minutes. The relative position of the press brake to the Mobile Bending Robot is determined so accurately that the need for manual calibration is completely eliminated. 

Once individual parts have been bent automatically, the process can be repeated without adjustments once the press brake and the Mobile Bending Robot have been connected. Depending on the requirements, the system can either be operated completely manually or fully automatically.

However, the “marriage” of press brake and Mobile Bending Robot is not the only critical factor for an efficient production process. The preparation of the parts that are to be bent is another process that incurs costs in every production run. For the automation on demand concept to really pay off, the process of programming the robot automation needs to be innovative and fast. 

With the Mobile Bending Cell’s programming system called Robot Manager, the robot’s movements are programmed using algorithms that factor in comprehensive collision models for each relevant application. All that is required is the definition of basic positions and all the other movements are automatically defined by the software. This increases quality and reduces process idle time.

Automatic measurement of the press brake and bending automation system in combination with intelligent robot programming makes the Mobile Bending Cell the ideal solution for bending automation on demand.

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Cobots Set To Benefit Businesses In Asia

Cobots Set To Benefit Businesses In Asia

Strong growth for cobot projected from 2020 to 2026 with Asia expected to surpass Europe by 2021

In a report by the World Robotics 2020 Industrial Report, it shows a record of 2.7 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, with 373,000 units shipped in 2019. In fact, Singapore has the highest density of industrial robots with 918 industrial robots used per 10,000 employees. In Singapore, top installations of industrial robots are found in electrical & electronics industry, followed by rubber and plastics, metal and machinery, food and others in no specific order of installation numbers. Increasing move towards automation in the production of electronic devices will continue to push robot installations in Singapore, and other Asian countries, including Republic of Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Amongst industrial robots, collaborative robots (cobots) continues to be fastest growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 41.8 percent globally during 2020 to 2026, in a report by MarketsandMarkets. Asia Pacific cobot market is projected to become the largest cobot market worldwide, growing at a CAGR of 45.46 percent, with an addressable cumulative market value of $13.17 billion over the next 7 years in terms of cobot hardware.

The growth of collaborative robots is fuelled mainly by the advantages it offers, such as effective employee utilisation, higher productivity and flexibility in redeployment. One of the most significant difference between industrial robots and cobots, is the ability of cobots to interact safely with humans in a shared workspace. Manufacturing and assembly plants, especially in developed countries, are expected to adopt cobots quickly.

“With the world battling COVID-19, 2020 delivered some ingenious cobot implementations. From personal protective equipment manufacturing to swab testing, collaborative robots (cobots) are improving the efficiency, safety, and quality of countless processes. The vast majority of cobot implementations are found in electronics and automotive manufacturing and industrial environments, but cobots have the flexibility to be used in a wide variety of sectors from agriculture and medical to pharma,” said James McKew, Regional Director of Asia-Pacific in Universal Robots.

“The experience of 2020 and the uncertainty that we are facing in 2021, are driving companies to review their business strategies and workspace transformation. The pandemic is accelerating interest in cobots as it enables safe distancing in manufacturing and assembly plants to minimise the potential spread of infections, while fully engaging workers productively and efficiently,” he added.

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The Best Manufacturing Technology Trends From 2020

The Best Manufacturing Technology Trends From 2020

Trend is generally defined in one of two ways. Firstly, it might refer to a general direction in which something is heading or developing. Alternatively, it might be seen as synonym for fashion. Here, John Young, APAC director at automation parts supplier EU Automation, looks at some of the key manufacturing trends from 2020 and assesses which of these are mostly likely to play a more prominent role in 2021 and beyond.

Here to stay (at home)

By forcing businesses to facilitate remote working during lockdowns, the pandemic has encouraged a cultural shift. As the vaccine rolls out in 2021, don’t expect companies to return to previous levels of onsite working. Aided by digital technologies, manufacturing has experienced some of the benefits of remote working and greater flexibility.

Teleoperation can take many forms, but one interesting growth area in 2020 has been remote controlled vehicles in industrial settings. For example, a forklift truck can be equipped with cameras and sensors and controlled remotely by a driver working at the desk from home.

A helping robotic hand

Robot installations continue but the key growth area has been collaborative robots, or cobots. In comparison with more traditional industrial robots, cobots are smaller and are designed to be used safely alongside human workers. The uptake of this technology in metalworking and the automobile sector looks set to continue. Ford, for example, now uses cobots to install shock absorbers, freeing up human workers for more strategic tasks.

Much of this trend is in fact being driven by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The size and startup costs of industrial robots shut out these companies from taking advantage of this area of automation. Cobots are small enough to be deployed in factories where space is at a premium and they require less initial investment, allowing businesses to increase their investment incrementally.

Smart learning about your suppliers

In a year where global values chains have faced unprecedented uncertainty, those companies that were quickest to embrace digital technologies in their supply chain management have braved the storm more readily.

Machine learning algorithms and their use in predictive maintenance is not an entirely new phenomenon, but its application continues to grow. As a supplier of automation parts, one growth area that has stood out for me is the use of machine learning algorithms to analyze supplier behavior, predicting when to expect a part from a supplier based on past patterns. This can improve inventory management and cash flow.

Let’s get personal

Increasing customization is being driven from both demand and supply side forces. On the demand side, customer behavior is showing preferences for greater levels of customization and personalization. The shift toward products-as-a-service business models and the ability to access and analyze large volumes of data about customer behavior is allowing manufacturers to understand this demand better.

On the supply side, there are many technological innovations that are allowing nimble manufacturers to incorporate greater customization. For example, ABB has implemented a manufacturing facility that revolves around cells of automation, in contrast to the traditional, linear production line. Instead, robots move from station to station for higher levels of customization.

Intelligence on the edge

Edge computing involves locating computer processing of data as close to the source of the data as possible. According to research by Gartner, around ten percent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside of traditional centralized data centers or the cloud. It is estimated that this figure will rise to 75 per cent by the middle of this decade.

Deployed intelligently as part of a blended or hybrid data architecture, edge computing can enhance predictive maintenance capabilities. For example, smart sensors deployed on industrial motors and pumps can enhance monitoring in real-time, alerting plant managers when it is time to contact a reliable parts supplier like EU Automation.  By locating the AI in the sensor itself, manufacturers save on cloud subscription services, enhance their cyber security and protect their operations from power outages.

5G rolls out and rolls on

5G is being rolled out, but its full potential will continue to roll on as it enables more and more manufacturers to transition to Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things. 5G, one hundred times faster than 4G, is not just a trend in itself, but a key enabler of many other technological innovations and something that will profoundly impact manufacturing over the next decade.

Here in Singapore, an interesting early application is a project involving IBM, Samsung Electronics, Singaporean telecommunications company M1 and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority. The collaboration is designed to pilot 5G manufacturing use cases, as part of the country’s Smart Nation Initiative.

To give just one example from this project, 5G is facilitating the use of augmented reality (AR) for factory field engineers carrying out preventative maintenance. Without the speed of 5G, these engineers would lose hours of productivity in downloading the right AR model or require several technicians on site to resolve and issue that could be tackled remotely.

Fashion trends come and go but some trends are here to stay. 2020 has seen the increasing use of many technological innovations in manufacturing that will become increasingly prominent over the next few years. From 5G to cobots, companies large and small across the APAC region are leading the world in their adoption of Industry 4.0 and automation technology.

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LVD Introduces Robotic Bending System Featuring Automated Tool Changing Press Brake

LVD Introduces Robotic Bending System Featuring Automated Tool Changing Press Brake

LVD introduces Ulti-Form, a new robotic bending system featuring an automated tool changing press brake. Ulti-Form follows the success of LVD’s Dyna-Cell robotic bending cell and takes automated bending technology a step further by incorporating an automated tool changing press brake to keep bending productivity at its peak, handling both small batches and long production runs efficiently with minimal changeover time. Ulti-Form delivers high productivity bending with unattended operation.

TOOLCELL-INSPIRED DESIGN

Ulti-Form features a 135-ton press brake designed using the ToolCell platform, LVD’s top-rated automated tool changing press brake, integrated with an industrial robot. The press brake houses a built-in tooling warehouse and uses a gripper mechanism in the machine’s backgauge fingers to quickly and efficiently change tools. The press brake and robot work together in synergy to keep changeover time to a minimum. As the robot picks the first workpiece from the input stack and centers it, the press brake completes the tool change. Ulti-Form handles parts from 50 x 100 mm up to 1200 x 800 mm weighing up to 15 kgs.

NO ROBOT TEACHING

Ulti-Form is automation that’s easy to use with a fast “art to part” process thanks to LVD’s powerful programming wizard. Programming of both the press brake and robot is handled offline and no robot teaching is required. CADMAN-B software automatically calculates the optimal bend program. The robot software imports all bending data and automatically calculates all gripper positions taking into account the gripper force, collision detection and robot reachability. It generates the fastest collision-free path for the robot across the complete bending operation. The system’s database contains all the setup information needed for the press brake and robot so that Ulti-Form is quickly readied for production.

AUTO-ADAPTING GRIPPER

The Ulti-Form robot gripper is an auto-adapting design engineered by LVD (patent pending). It has the flexibility to accommodate a number of part geometries, automatically adjusting to the workpiece size. This allows a series of different part geometries to be processed without the need for a gripper change, keeping production continuous and uninterrupted.

QUALITY ASSURANCE

Equipped with LVD’s Easy-Form Laser adaptive bending system, Ulti-Form offers automation with a quality guarantee. Real-time in-process adaptive bending technology adds advanced process stability to robotic press brake bending. The Easy-Form Laser system adapts to material variations, including sheet thickness, strain hardening and grain direction, automatically compensating for any changes to ensure consistently accurate bending results.

 

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