Due to economic and environmental pressures industrial operations are moving toward a more automated future. This has been happening for quite some time as automation, powered by robotics in manufacturing, provides a host of benefits such as operational cost savings, higher efficiency and faster time to market. The global market for both industrial and non-industrial robots is expected to grow at a CAGR of 26 percent, reaching nearly $210 billion by 2025.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the robotics market?
Growth is not slowing
Despite shutdowns in factories, warehouses and offices, advanced robotics and automation continue to be a major focus for manufacturers and industrial operators. Some might even argue that across all industries, robots have become essential workers, helping limit human contact and carrying out various tasks.
An Industry Week technology survey reveals that almost half — 49 percent — of respondents say robotics is either critical or important to operations. They are also critical to digital factory configurations, or digital transformation, that’s happening within manufacturing facilities.
Another report from ABI Research points out that Covid-19 will not significantly disrupt the robotics market. In fact, it’s more likely the market will rebound as manufacturers boost efficiencies to increase output and make up for delays. Advanced robotics and automation, with the help of digital technologies and data, will be the key to securing that output.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a truly autonomous system including something as simple as a robotic arm. At the core of those technologies are the unsung heroes — the hidden components and applications that make it all possible.
Cable-wire protection, for example, tends to be an afterthought with most solutions but the way robotics move, contort, and operate it shouldn’t be. Wire and cable protection for robotics is an industry of its own and as critical as the robots themselves. High-performance wire and cable protection is used for a number of applications like robotic work cells, electrical raceways, cable and wire feeds and robot dress pack assemblies.
While robots are growing more advanced and capable, they also require more enabling technologies. Cameras and visuals are used in robots to assess an area; lift and operate arms with hydraulics; and for overall maneuverability of wheels or legs. These solutions help drive the industry forward, allowing manufacturers to tackle new applications, processes, and directives.
Robots are currently handling welding, painting, product testing, polishing, finishing, assembly, disassembly, pick and placement and other tasks. All the aforementioned applications are conducted with unmatched speeds and precision — robots are much more efficient than manual labor.
At the heart of it all: Data
Data and robots have always been interdependent but more simplistic robots don’t need complex data sets or information. Often they are designed to carry out rote and repetitive tasks on production line equipment. Today’s robots are much more advanced, tapping into huge troves of data empowered by AI and machine learning platforms.
One of the most consequential uses for modern robotics is delivery. A partnership between Ford and Agility Robotics has produced a bipedal robot named Digit. It folds up neatly to fit inside a car or truck when not in use. Ultimately, it can make deliveries throughout a surrounding neighborhood or area. The same type of system can be used in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. They’re designed to work alongside their human counterparts as a collaborative robot, or “cobot.” Essentially, they make jobs easier and safer.
Again, at the heart of it all is data or digital information. That content is being collected by smart sensors or IoT devices within the manufacturing facility and on the robots themselves. They can be likened to a self-driving or automated vehicle. The information about the surrounding environment helps the processing solution, or the brain, make decisions on-the-fly. The vehicle, or in this case the robot, uses that information to take action.
That could mean navigating a large warehouse to find supplies or goods or something more complex such as a robot that knows how to build structures and components without human input.
Robotics has not slowed and demand continues to climb. This is pushing the robotics industry forward and driving widespread adoption in manufacturing. Social and economic forces are driving manufacturers toward more advanced and automated solutions, including robots in all their forms.