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Robots set to revolutionize the manufacturing industry

Robots set to revolutionize the manufacturing industry
The manufacturing segment have seen the use of robots for quite a few years now. But traditionally these machines were large and dangerous to anyone who strayed close to it, focusing on just one task at hand. But all this is about to change as a new generation of manufacturing robots that have come in that are smarter, more mobile, more collaborative and adaptable.

According to Charles Chiu, CEO of KUKA Robot Automation Taiwan, the world of work and industrial production is going to undergo fundamental change. This is a development rather than an abrupt change, a 4th industrial evolution rather than a revolution, but one that will be accelerated by megatrends such as digitization, demographic change and individuality.

“Industry 4.0 offers enormous potential,” Chiu said.And that is important because global megatrends are presenting huge challenges for our industrialized countries. Society is getting older and there is a hunger for increasingly customized products and services. Digitization and automation are helping to react appropriately to these developments. In the smart factory, we will be able to produce customized products at low, mass-production prices. Robots are carrying out physically strenuous work for us. Digitization offers many possibilities which are altering our lives and production environments.”

Collaborative Robots
Taking this point further, Paul Deady, Automotive Segment Manager in North America at Staubli Robotics said that we are now in the midst of two emerging trends in manufacturing and robotics. The first one obviously is Industry 4.0. The second, more significant change we are seeing is the introduction of collaborative robots or cobots.

“Up till now industrial robots needed to be segregated from humans to protect people from potential injury during their operation,” Deady said. “We are now engaged in a manufacturing shift where there are different stages of human and robot collaboration and robots can be put to work at tasks where humans cooperate in the manufacturing process.  These stages or defined in the graphic below and have two main segmentations.  The robot will slow down as human approaches and come to a stop before contact is possible.  Or, the robot will remain in motion working alongside the person and stop on contact, or is motion while being hand guided by a person. This safe capability to work with people is opening up all kinds of spaces where robots can add value.  As a result we are seeing more small to medium size manufacturers utilizing robotics in their manufacturing processes.”

Staubli’s major market is in the automotive sector, which represents 70 percent of their business. But there are several companies that are providing solutions in this segment as well. For example, at the car manufacturer Nissan’s Yokohama plant in Japan that was being hurt by an aging workforce, Universal Robots introduced its cobots as part of the process of installing engine block intake manifolds. Similarly, ABB, the Swedish-Swiss robotics company recently introduced its collaborative robot called YuMi that is approximately the size of a small human and can be taught a process by being physically guided through it, eliminating the need for complex, time-consuming code-based instruction. 

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