Will Robotics Be The Game Changer?

The constant quest for innovation to provide agility to the manufacturing industry that reduces production cost while increasing the precision and effectiveness has given rise to a new breed of machines, the industrial robots. The industrial robots and their applications are manifold; they not only perform the repetitive tasks with a precision that can be tedious for a human and without mistake, but they also maintain the speed and consistency. Thus upholding the quality of the product. The industrial robots and their applications have made them the highly coveted machines in the manufacturing industries like automotive, electronics, metals, chemicals, and food. In 2017 industrial robot sales reached the highest and it is estimated to reach at least a 15% increase on average per year until 2020. Industrial 4.0 is another factor that will result in robots being the game-changer in the future.  So what are the emerging trends that might answer the question will robots be a game-changer in the future?

Manufacturers Turning Towards Industrial Robots – Why?

Both SMEs and large manufacturers are benefiting from industrial robotics. Since most of the industrial robots in the market are standardized and have intuitive programming methods they are user-friendly and ensures accuracy and consistency in the manufacturing process. Typically an industrial robot does works like soldering, material handling, drilling, cutting, assembling, polishing, etc. The primary factors that are influencing the usage of industrial robotics in the market are :

  • The rapid growth among the industrial sector that is based on the operation, which is grounded on increased efficiency, reduction of human errors, and improved worker safety.
  • The rise of labor cost that has resulted from a shortage of skilled workers, whose works are now being assigned to robots.
  • With the increase in robotic engineering and the demand for industrial robots, there has been a significant decrease in the price of robotic devices, almost by half in the last 30 years whereas the human labor costs have increased.
  • Both in terms of cost and effort, the process of assembling, installing and maintaining robots have become simplified because of the technological advances in software and networking.

Types of Industrial Robot:

Based on the mechanical structure the robots can be classified as per the International Federation of Robotics. The following articulated robots have been accounted for the maximum share in the industrial robotics. These are the most functional industrial robots that have been extensively used in the healthcare and packaging sectors.

  1. Articulated Robots: This robot has rotatory joints in its design, which can have from a couple of simple joints to 10 or more. These are generally used for metal casting, welding, palletizing, and painting.
  2. SCARA Robots: This robotic arm is typically cylindrical in design and is commonly used for assembly and packaging applications.
  3. Linear/Cartesian Robots: These have three linear joints in their design and are also called rectilinear or gantry robots. Cartesian robots are typically formed with the Cartesian coordinate system X, Y, and Z. They are generally used for laser welding, pressing, sealing, and handling of plastic molding.
  4. Parallel Robots: These are spider-shaped robots that have jointed parallelogram that is connected to a common base. The typical functions of this industrial robot are picking and placing, assembling, and handling and are hence used in the food, pharmaceutical, and electronics industries.
  5. Polar: This robot has quite a few joints in its design with the arm connected to the base with a twisting joint while having two rotary joints and a linear joint. The polar robot is also known as the spherical robot that is used in picking and placing, handling, and assembly.
  6. Cylindrical: This robot has a minimum of a prismatic joint that connects the links and a minimum of a rotary joint at the base.

Main Robotic Operating System Platforms (Posted on Kinja)

Most robotic operating systems have been the result of researches and initiatives by industry leaders and universities. As a result, most of the platforms are open-source, thereby providing the developers the opportunity to modify and enhance the system’s capabilities. This factor itself is indicative of answers to the question will industrial robotics be a game-changer in the future. Primarily because it can be accessed by anyone with the know-how and can be easily used for improving efficiency and effectiveness of the machinery used in various industries.  Here are some of the main robotic operating system platforms:

  • Intelligent Robot Software Platform (iRSP): This is an open platform that helps in developing intelligent robots is by Bonavison Inc. The specialty of the iRSP robot is its ability to integrate and provide support for artificial intelligence.
  • ROS Industrial (ROS-I): This is another open-source robotics software that is advanced with the skills of Robot Operating System (ROS) software to manufacturing. The key benefits provided by ROS-I are its support to industrial robotics that has the capacity for interchangeability of hardware components, access to standardized applications, and manufacturer-independent drivers.
  • VxWorks: This is an RTOS, i.e. real-time operating system, which is used in manufacturing industrial robots by ABB, Kuks, Stäubli, and Yaskawa Electric Corporation.
  • NAOqi OS: the humanoid Nao robot of SoftBank’s is managed by this operating system.

Some of the Leading Industrial Robot Manufacturers:

The research and development for industrial robots continue with the aim to upgrade them as mobile robots and co-bots with better features and applicability. Here are some of the leading robot manufacturers:

  • Abb
  • Fanuc Robotics
  • Yaskawa
  • Kuka
  • Omron

The Ecosystem of Industrial Robotics:

In the space of industrial robotics it is the interplay between several sectors, the ones who are manufacturing the industrial robots and the equipment for the robots, then the companies that are developing software to enhance the functions of the robots, system integrators and lastly, the developers for the OS system. All these have to come together to bring the robot that can function the way manufacturing industries expect robots to.

In the coming years, the fact that robotics will change how the industries operate is a redundant statement. Rather it will be interesting to see what changes it will bring about with robots already becoming an active part in the everyday operation of the businesses and they are being used to interact with the customers.

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