The latest version of industrial robots with the potential to change the way humans use machines and break the existing industrial robot market.
The biggest difference in the new generation of robots is that they do not have to operate in a closed area. Instead, they can safely fight alongside and even cooperate with human workers. Therefore, these machines are often referred to as collaborative robots or "cooperative robots". Fully automated factories are not always desirable because modern manufacturing companies need the flexibility to quickly change various products and custom processes. Instead, in this case, manufacturers are looking for user-friendly automation.
This is where collaborative robots come in. Even if larger, faster industrial robots are more efficient for full automation, collaborative robots can enable factories to increase output while maintaining a certain degree of flexibility. Cooperative robots may look like toys, but they are powerful machines. Universal robot.
Collaborative robots are currently used to perform specific tasks. For example, collaborative robots take the tedious and repetitive task of tightening each screw in a battery pack from a partner. Collaborative robots can replace applications to create new jobs instead of human jobs, in which their strength, durability, and accuracy are combined with human flexibility and problem solving capabilities.
In industrial assembly, multiple parts are integrated into the final product. In this part of the manufacturing process, humans still perform 90% of their tasks. In the future, collaborative robots will select, place, and install components, while humans will finalize and check the output.
But for industrial robots, the risks of being replaced by collaborative robots are more real than for human workers. At present, the sales volume of collaborative robots is less than 5% of the industrial robot market. In this market, a few large companies still dominate. However, we believe that the relatively small number of new entrants already has the opportunity to make disruptive innovations in the robotics industry.
Existing companies tend to focus on conventional, heavy-duty industrial robots used for mass production of cars, electronics or food. However, these robots also exceed the needs of small and medium-sized businesses that lack the funds or expertise to use such systems.
Collaborative robots, on the other hand, can do things that are generally not relevant to current customers of large industrial robots, but are very attractive to other users. For example, they can be moved around the factory floor and can be easily equipped with fixtures for new applications.
Cobots are easy to set up and change, are versatile, and can collaborate with humans. These capabilities will become even more important as more and more new customers adopt collaborative robots and find new uses for them. Our research on drones has shown that the potential of new technologies often even exceeds the imagination of manufacturers.
As cobots are constantly getting better in speed, accuracy and ability to carry heavy objects, in the coming years, they will increasingly be able to compete with traditional industrial robots, so there is a good chance that mainstream customers will also start Use them.
This poses problems for existing manufacturers. Compared to new entrants such as Denmark's Universal Robots, companies such as ABB, Kuka and Fanuc have a small market share in collaborative robots. This is because they are used to meeting the needs of their existing customers and have difficulty understanding the needs of cooperative robot users in emerging markets.
However, they can solve this problem by listening to their own employees who already use industrial robots to make industrial robots. This will allow existing companies to understand emerging user needs and protect themselves from the impending impact.
Although it is difficult to predict the future, it seems reasonable that in the long run, the "social skills" of collaborative robots will eventually make them more popular than industrial robots. In the future, collaborative robots may become the mainstream of multifunctional and powerful productivity in factories.