Collaborative Robots Break the Mold
If you work in the robotics industry, you're probably well aware of the burgeoning field of collaborative robotics. Cobots, as they’re called, have garnered a lot of attention in the field of robotics lately, because of how quickly they're being adopted in an industry that has traditionally progressed slowly.
A collaborative robot is one that is meant to collaborate with humans. Generally speaking, cobots are actually cheaper than standard robots, and easy to use; they may be programmed without any prior knowledge of coding or robotics. The user-friendliness of smart phones has really impacted robotics: these robots feature simple, easy-to-use programming interfaces such that even a child, provided they have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, can actually program them.
One feature that allows cobots to be more cost-effective and user friendly, is that unlike traditional smart machines, they don’t require an integrator, and they’re also usually more secure.
The Market at a Glance
Universal Robots (UR) from Odense, Denmark, is the global leader in collaborative robots. UR changed the market by recognizing the critical need to not just sell and install, but also maintain cobots in factories all around the world for a wide range of applications, as well as train people to use them.
Rather than focusing on a large workforce of sales agents and technical support, UR chose to partner with distribution companies. The outcome of this distribution method is that there are now more people selling robots than ever before.
Linatex in Denmark purchased the first UR robot in 2008. After ten years, 27,000 UR robots have been sold. Teradyne bought out UR $272 million in 2015. With 60% of the market, UR is now the industry leader. It had sold 39,000 robots by January 2019.
Universal Robots may have innovated the robotics market, but the changes they created only brought more players into the fray, and now there’s a lot of sharks in the water, all looking to overthrow UR.
Traditional industrial robot firms such as ABB, KUKA, EPSON, Yaskawa Motoman, and FANUC have all launched collaborative robot models, despite the fact that most of them were late to the game.
Other names to enter the robotics market recently include Carbon, Kinova, Techman and a few others. As the industry grows, it’ll be fascinating to see how they compare against industry veterans.
Collaborative robots are reaching new heights thanks to a variety of innovative technologies. The usage of sophisticated embedded vision systems is one of the most important. These vision systems are crucial to collaborative robots' ability to work securely by detecting the presence of people and hazardous operations. In addition, integrated vision aids collaborative robots in locating and orienting parts.
Collaborative robots can now operate with a wider range of materials in a wider range of applications thanks to new gripper technology. New types of soft grippers, for example, allow collaborative robots to gently grab objects like fruit and vegetables without harming them.
Cobots have been connected to nearby machinery thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Connectivity also brings machine visibility, data analytics, and enhanced predictive maintenance. Precision, flexibility, and efficiency have all improved as a result of this relationship.
Collaborative robots have shown to be quite beneficial in the field of testing. Cobots can stand in for human users by evaluating the appropriate performance of a gadget and completing rigorous input and output tests, thanks to advancements in camera, sound, and other sensor technology. Humans may focus on more complex work instead of spending time on these extremely repetitive activities.
A Passing Fad?
The robotics market has been on some what of a down turn since 2019, and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly didn’t help. Here’s a few reasons the robotics market has taken a slump:
The Future of Cobots & the Robotics Industry
Even though the robotics market has slumped in terms of value, it continues to expand in terms of competitors I the market. As more players enter the robotics industry, we should see some healthy competition and innovation drive value of the market going forward.
Industry experts predict that the next market innovation will come by way of automating quality insurance in technology manufacturing, especially when it comes to small parts that have always required human intervention. If this process can be automated thanks to cobots, it would allow the general robotics industry to produce much faster.
Interactivity and immersion are expected to be one of the most immediate advances that collaborative robots will see; this might take the shape of voice instructions being recognised for more seamless collaboration with human workers. Advanced vision systems that recognise which stage of production a human worker is completing may be included in more advanced versions of interactivity.
Cobots capable of moving unrestrained might be another innovation we see in the near future. Rather than repeating pre-programmed activities, collaborative robots may be smart enough to deviate from pre-programmed instructions in order to find new ways to execute any given talk.
As more research and development is done to improve deep learning and vision systems, these technologies should help cobots evolve as well. All in all, the future is looking bright for this niche technology, and perhaps it won’t stay niche much longer.