May 26, 2024

Understanding the Growth of Industrial Robotics

The Rise of Robotics in Manufacturing

Robots have become Industrial Robotics commonplace in many manufacturing facilities across industries like automotive, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. Automakers like Ford, GM and Volkswagen have thousands of robots working alongside employees on their production lines. These robots help carry out repetitive and physically demanding tasks with precision and efficiency. Some key advantages of using robots for manufacturing tasks include reduced labor costs, improved productivity and quality, and increased safety. Robots don’t require breaks, healthcare benefits or overtime pay. They can work 24/7 without diminishing returns. This allows companies to lower production costs while meeting growing demand. Robots also improve consistency and reduce defects compared to human workers. Their precise movements allow for tight quality control. The controlled environment of industrial robotics eliminates hazards like repetitive stress injuries faced by human workers. This improves workplace safety.

Growth in E-Commerce Driving Demand for Fulfillment Robots

The boom in e-commerce has created huge demand for order fulfillment capabilities. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, and DHL are investing heavily in automation to keep up with online orders. Fulfillment robots handle various tasks like item picking, packing, transporting boxes within warehouses, and sorting items for shipping. Some popular types of fulfillment robots include mobile robots for transporting items, robotic arms for picking objects off shelves, and conveyor-based sorting systems. A study by Grand View Research estimates the logistics robot market will grow at over 20% annually to $12 billion by 2025. E-commerce retailers are under constant pressure to provide fast shipping while controlling costs. Robots provide the flexibility and scalability needed to dynamically adjust to fluctuating order volumes. Their deployment substantially improves productivity and order fulfillment speeds compared to manual labor alone. This enables companies to offer ever faster delivery windows to customers.

Emerging Applications of Collaborative Robots in Small Businesses

While large industrial robotics have transformed automobile plants, there is increasing interest in smaller, less expensive collaborative robots suitable for small and medium enterprises. Collaborative robots, also known as “cobots,” are designed to safely work alongside human workers without the need for guarding. They have integrated sensors, controls and software that allow them to automatically slow or stop movement if a person gets too close. This makes them suitable for a variety of applications even in pre-existing facilities not originally designed for robotics integration. Cobots are now being used by smaller manufacturers for tasks like machine tending, assembly, packaging, quality inspection and surface finishing. Their lower price point of $20,000-$50,000 compared to over $100,000 for industrial robotics is bringing automation within reach of more SMBs. Services like robot-as-a-service are also lowering the barriers further by allowing companies to pay per use rather than make large upfront investments. As cobots proliferate, we can expect to see more collaborative applications emerge across industries like food processing, plastics, furniture making, and metal fabrication.

Advancing Capabilities through Machine Learning and Vision Systems

Industrial robotics and artificial intelligence are converging to give automated systems new levels of intelligence and functionality. Machine learning algorithms and advanced computer vision systems are enabling robots to learn from examples and perceive the world in more human-like ways. For example, by training systems on vast datasets of images, AI is allowing robots to identify objects, read barcodes, detect anomalies and even manipulate plastic parts without precise mechanical fits. This expands the scope of industrial robotics applications from basic pick-and-place tasks to more complex processes like sorting materials, monitoring product quality, and assisting with assembly. Autonomous mobile robots with integrated cameras can now navigate uncontrolled indoor and outdoor environments without relying on pre-programmed maps. Advances in machine learning algorithms are also fueling innovations like tendon-driven hands that allow robots to grasp a wide variety of objects with flexibility and control matching or exceeding humans. All these capabilities are set to dramatically increase the use of robotics in manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, construction and transportation over the next decade.

Regulations and Safety Considerations

As robotics permeates more areas of the economy, ensuring workplace safety will be of increasing importance. Many countries and industry groups have established guidelines to govern the design, operation and human-robot collaboration aspects of robotic systems. In the United States, organizations like ANSI, ISO, RIA and SAE have developed standards focused on issues like safeguarding, design specifications and performance levels. These reference international standards like ISO 10218 on industrial robotics safety. Key safety features being mandated include built-in speed and separation monitoring, force limiting, power and movement discontinuity, transparent enclosures, light curtains and safety-rated monitored stops. Robot systems must undergo extensive risk assessments and certifications based on their intended applications and level of worker interaction. Regulators are also evaluating how to classify new categories of collaborative robots to affirm required safety levels. With concerns around job disruption, retraining programs and social protections for impacted workers will remain a priority as automation continues to accelerate across multiple economic sectors.

Conclusion

From large industrial robots to collaborative robots increasingly accessible to SMBs, robotics solutions are empowering manufacturers to improve productivity, quality and workplace safety. Meanwhile logistics robots are helping e-commerce companies scale order fulfillment capabilities. Advancing technologies like machine learning and computer vision are giving robots new levels of flexibility and autonomy. This drives the expansion of robotics into new domains. As adoption grows, governments and industry are focused on establishing appropriate safety regulations and social protections to manage the far-reaching impact of these revolutionary technologies. With careful oversight, industrial robotics is poised to be a major driver of productivity and economic growth worldwide in the years ahead.

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  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it