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The Past, Present and Future of Industrial Robotics

Author: Simon Hopes
by Simon Hopes
Posted: Sep 21, 2018

Historically, robots in factories have been dangerous, intricate machines that are confined to a large industrial setting. Now, however, small collaborative robots popularly known as cobots are overcoming most of the significant traditional challenges in the industry of robotics. When the idea of a programmable robotic arm was pitched, it was met with skepticism, but this robot had one advantage over the human hand because it could work 24 hours or three shifts.

By the early 1960s, the first industrial robot found its home to the factory floor of General Motor’s where its task was to stack hot die-cast metal. This robot whose hydraulic arm’s path was programmed using a magnetic drum hard drive could drill, grip, spray, and weld. Fast forward 50 plus years later, the landscape of modern robotics which is defined as programmable cyber-physical machines has significantly changed. However, this excludes aerial and auto drones.

Present day robotics

Typically, robots in factories have been large, caged machines that perform dangerous, repetitive tasks instead of humans. However, the development of autonomous vehicles and smartphone revolution have driven down the costs of off-the-shelf hardware paving the way for the creation and increase of dexterous robots on the factory floor.

These lower cost and lighter weight robots are called collaborative robots. They are outfitted with sensors that allow them to work collaboratively with human beings in the industrial name thus the name collaborative robots. Cobots were created about ten years ago in Odense, Denmark which is the birthplace of Universal Robots, the market leader in collaborative robotics. Having sold over 22,000 cobots all around the world to date, Universal Robots has a 60% market share. If you want to know more about cobotics, go to universal-robots.com

Traditional robots vs. cobots

Collaborative robots have an advantage over traditional robots because they can see and learn how to tackle ‘edge cases’ as well as perform tasks such as gripping small objects. And even though they are gaining popularity, a plethora of people still don’t fully understand the difference between traditional robots and cobots. Here are four significant differences:

  1. Collaborative – Unlike traditional robots, collaborative robots can act as an assistant to a human operator. For this reason, they are typically used in applications that require them to work alongside human operators. Also, cobots are designed with human safety as their key priority, unlike traditional robots which operate behind safety cages and fences to prevent accidents.
  2. Safety – Cobots are designed with features that allow seamless collaboration. Many of them are equipped with detection features thus allowing them to work in the same envelope and people. With the slightest touch, cobots immobilize to prevent injury to its colleague or any other person that is nearby thus eliminating the need for cages and safety fencing
  3. Functionality – Collaborative robots can easily be moved and utilized in different areas of production, unlike traditional robots. A majority of them can be mounted on any surface either vertically, horizontally or on the ceiling. Also, they are often light enough to be moved around by just one person which is not the same case with traditional industrial robots.
  4. Ease of use – Cobots are not only easy to use but are also capable of learning very quickly. They can be given work instructions without coding, unlike traditional industrial robots which require advanced programming skills. With collaborative robots, human operators can reprogram and use them for a variety of tasks.
The future

While more sophisticated machines may populate our world, for robotics to reach its full potential, creation for robots that are more self-sufficient is paramount. However, this doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been progressing especially where cobots are involved. Even though collaborative robots only account for a fraction of the $40B industrial robot market, researchers estimate that they will witness a market growth of over $10B over the next few years. Their sale will dramatically increase thus revealing their productivity potential in a wide range of industries.

About the Author

With extensive research and study, Simon passionately creates blogs on divergent topics. His writings are unique and utterly grasping owing to his dedication in researching for distinctive topics.

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Author: Simon Hopes

Simon Hopes

United States

Member since: Feb 14, 2017
Published articles: 97

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