Top robotic trends for 2020

23 February 2020

From 2020 to 2022 almost two million new units of industrial robots are expected to be installed in factories around the world. The International Federation of Robotics explores why.

“Smart robotics and automation are vital to deal with new consumer trends, demand for product variety or challenges from trade barriers”, said Dr. Susanne Bieller, general secretary of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “New technological solutions pave the way for more flexibility in production.” 

Simplification, collaboration and digitalisation are believed to be the key drivers that will benefit robot implementation.

Robots get smarter:  Programming and installation of robots is becoming much easier. In practice this sees digital sensors combined with smart software allow direct teaching methods, ‘. The task that the robot arm is to perform is first executed by a human who just as to guide the  robot arm through the required movements. This data is then transformed by the software into the digital program of the robot arm. In the future, machine learning tools will further enable robots to learn by trial-and-error or by video demonstration and self-optimise their movements.

Robots collaborate with workers: Human-robot collaboration is another important trend in robotics. Working alongside humans, modern robotic systems are able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The range of collaborative applications offered by robot manufacturers continues to expand. Currently, shared workspace applications are most common with the robot and worker operating alongside each other, completing tasks sequentially. Applications in which the human and the robot work at the same time on the same part are more challenging. Research and Development (R&D) focuses on methods to enable robots to respond in real-time. Just like two human workers would collaborate, the R&D teams wants the robot to adjust its motion to its environment, allowing for a true responsive collaboration. Solutions to enable this include voice, gesture and recognition of intent from human motion. 

Robots go digital:  Industrial robots are the central components of digital and networked production solutions. This makes it important for them to be able to communicate with each other – regardless of their manufacturer. The OPC Robotics Companion Specification, which has been developed by a joint working group of the VDMA and the OPC Foundation defines a standardised generic interface for industrial robots and enables industrial robots to connect into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The digital connectivity of robots with cloud technology is also an enabler for new business models such as robot leasing. Robots-as-a-Service has advantages that might be attractive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – no committed capital, fixed costs, automatic upgrades and no need for highly-qualified robot operators.

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