This research presents a thorough analysis of the Robotics industry. It defines a robot, addresses its history and future predictions, and an overview of the top industries in terms of robot installations.
FACTORS THAT QUALIFY TECHNOLOGY AS A ROBOT
A Robot must have a Body
- The mechanical construction makes up the body of a robot. The mechanical aspect of a robot defines its structure within its environment. It determines the robot's tasks/abilities. Typically, they are designed with a focus on function rather than appearance. Most robots require a drivetrain, which consists of a powered method of mobility. Some may perform their tasks without the need to move.
A Robot must have a Control System
- Computer programming that is specific to different robots defines its control system. It determines how the robot is controlled, how it computes, and how it reacts. The level of computer programming in robots is what communicates with it to fulfill its tasks.
- The control system would, in this context, be the translation of the central nervous system in a human being. This system manages the information and the decisions based on a specific logic that controls the robot. It gathers information from sensors, human commands, or inputs. The control unit also allows human operators to issue commands. This could be done using input devices such as joysticks. This can be sent to the robot wirelessly.
A Robot must have Sensors
- A robot must have the ability to sense its surroundings. Sensors determine the position of the robot and provide feedback. There are different sensors used by robots: encoders, resolvers, and potentiometers. Other factors that robots may need to sense include force, temperature, light, linear displacement, distance, velocity, among others. All these are essential in mapping the environment and avoiding obstacles/collisions. The technology that can be used here includes infrared, ultrasonic sensors, lasers, and depth camera.
- Once the sensors have picked up data, this is processed and the robot reacts based on its programming. Drawing a parallel, sensors are similar to the senses of a human being. They are the eyes and ears.
A Robot must have Manipulators
- Manipulators are how robots interact with their environment. These are the parts of the robot that move objects around. This part of the robot consists of joints and links.
- A manipulator is similar to a human arm. It provides the robot with the ability to stretch, reach, turn, grasp, and manipulate. These are ideal in the collection or deployment of objects.
A Robot must have End effectors
- End effectors are attached to manipulators and perform tasks similar to fingers. This is how robots interact with their environment in terms of performing their tasks. These tasks vary based on design and purpose.
- Industrial robots use end effectors to perform tasks that may be difficult for a human. This is a critical component of industrial robots as they are a part of automating manual processes in order to increase profitability and efficiency and eradicate human error.
A Robot must have Motors
- Most robots need to move, not only across surfaces. Some parts of the robots may need to move independently. These movements are powered by motors. There are three types of sources of energy for locomotion in robots: electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic.
- Robots require motors to move. There are several types of motors that are used for different purposes. Apart from aiding in motion, motors could also serve as actuators in the robot's mechanical design. Robots apply motors for locomotion; vertical, radial, and rotational motion; pitch motion (simultaneous up, down, and rotation motion); and yaw motion (right and left swiveling).
- Although there are several types of motors, the ones typically used in robots are classified as AC motor, brushed DC motor, brushless DC motor, geared DC motor, servo motor, and stepper motor.
- As we searched through various publications, articles, and reports, we were unable to identify quotes from experts (individuals) identifying the characteristics that would identify a robot. As such, we gathered our data across various sources so that each component discussed here draws these factors from two or more sources.
FACTORS TO IMPROVE TO INCREASE IMPLEMENTATION
- The capital cost of implementing industrial robots is very high even though they may have a high ROI. Before implementing robots, one would need to comprehend the investment against the expected ROI. Governments could play a role in encouraging investments in machinery.
- In addition to the large upfront investment, it would be best-practice to evaluate whether the robots can be modified to fit alterations for future operations. Researching one's requirements consists of considering all costs such as installation and configuration.
- Robots need a constant supply of power and require maintenance and repair of both the software and the hardware components as well as additional equipment. In the event that a robot breaks down, the repair costs are very high. Restoring lost code/data from the software application would be too costly and time-consuming.
- The cost of robots has been declining over the years. This decrease in cost will increase the use of robots over the coming years. Between 2015 and 2025, the cost of robots will have reduced by 65%. However, the cost of labor has been on the rise. For this reason, the idea of automation has become a growing concept across various industries.
- When a company first implements robots in their business processes, there will be a heavy reliance on experts in this area. It will involve extensive training so that all parties adjust accordingly. Although the initial integration will require the assistance of automation companies, it is of paramount importance to train engineers within the company with the skills necessary to program the robots.
- The maintenance, operation, and programming of robots are highly sophisticated. As the robotics industry grows, the number of skilled experts is constantly increasing. However, this pool is still not large enough to manage the growth rate of the use of robots. As such, personnel investment is critical. One would need to either hire experts or equip existing staff to take this on.
- In 2015, the Henn na Hotel in Japan opened its doors to the public with robots playing every role ranging from the concierge all the way to room service. This was a glimpse into the future where a lot more processes will be dependent on robots.
- By late 2018, the hotel could not keep using the robots as people were irritated by the voice-controlled AI. By this time, the robots were already three years old and required frequent maintenance and expert retuning. For this reason, the manager reduced their numbers quickly because the robots were heavily reliant on human resources.
- Safety is critical when implementing robots. Either the end-user or the machine builder should carry out risk assessments to ensure that the robots are fully assessed and CE marked. People assume that collaborative robots would be safe to implement, although it is still necessary that a full risk assessment is carried out.
- Some robots may need to be connected to the internet. This IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) connection means that one would need to enhance security protocols to guard against cyberthreats.
- The Robotics industry has to ensure that their implementations are compliant with requirements of trade associations and declarations of conformity. Companies such as HAHN Robotics ensure that all these are met when implementing. The safety advice offered here include compliance with legal requirements, CE marked machine, safe machine operation, among others. Additionally, the experts here are certified in CMSE® — Certified Machinery Safety Expert, CECE® — Certified Expert in CE Marketing, and Safe human-robot collaboration.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1987. It set guidelines for the robotics industry to ensure safety. At that time, the agency stated the following: "With the burgeoning use of robots in industry, it is feared that without adequate guarding and personnel training, injury rates for employees working with robots may increase."
TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES IN THE ROBOTICS INDUSTRY (PAST 3-5 YEARS)
- Within the past three to five years, drones have been booming. They have had a lot of attention and funding. Companies and startups have secured eight-digit investments. GoPro began this journey in 2016. Other companies here include DJI, 3DR, Parrot, among others. Applications here vary from imagery to surveillance.
Sensors and Sensibility
- In the past, digital cameras were very expensive. However, within the past few years, smartphones have come with built-in cameras that have a high resolution and visual sensors that increase precision and 3D sensing capabilities.
- As giant companies such as Google, Honda, and Boston Dynamics invest in robotics, people will have a safer way to interact with robots within real-world settings. Additionally, the robotics industry will increase its ability to thrive based on factors such as the current successful capable implementation of IoT. As their brands depend on it, these large companies will not only improve sophistication, they will invest in safety measures.
Industrial Robots in the Warehouse
- Within the past three to five years, large retail companies have increased their adoption of robots within their warehouses. One example here is how Amazon has installed robots to ensure that their picking and packing processes are accurate and streamlined. As of 2017, they had about 45,000 robots across 20 facilities.
- Ocado is an online supermarket that not only uses robots for their own deliveries, but they also supply robotic warehouses to other retailers.
Training Robots using VR
- One major obstacle when installing robots is the time and expertise that goes into teaching them. Within the past three to five years, companies such as OpenAI and Embodied Intelligence have worked toward using virtual reality to teach the robots. By creating virtual environments, robots can mimic human teleoperators. Imitation learning would allow robots to learn several skills in a short amount of time, with limited risk, and at a lower cost.
- The standardization of this software allows people without advanced training to command the robots to carry out certain tasks. This will improve both the quality and quantity of the assigned tasks.
- The RaaS model aims to address several factors such as the tight labor market, reducing cost, the hesitation to invest in robots, among others. This model was expected to be implemented by 2019. In the US, less than 15% of warehouses are automated. RaaS is being adopted quickly because of the flexibility it offers and its ability to adapt to existing infrastructure.
NON-TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES IN THE ROBOTICS INDUSTRY (PAST 3-5 YEARS)
Increase in Sales
- According to the International Federation of Robotics, the increased automation of the electronics/electrical industry (E&E) has resulted in a 30% increase in sales for the robotics industry. In 2017, approximately 381,000 robots were sold to various companies across the production industry. This number is double what it was in 2013. By 2018, there were over two million robots that are actively in use across various companies/industries. This is according to the IFR’s new World Robotics 2018, Industrial Robots’ report.
- Additionally, the E&E industry is also a ready market for robots. In 2017, there was a 33% increase in the use of robots in this industry. Collaborative robots (cobots) can also be used in production lines. As the robotics industry advances, so does the E&E, and vice versa.
Sofia, the Robot
- Sofia was activated in 2015 and made her initial public appearance in 2016. Sofia is a humanoid robot that was named the first-ever United Nations Development Programme’s Innovation Champion for Asia and the Pacific in 2017. She made appearances at TV stations and shows, addressing audiences at various key events and at the UN.
- After her unveiling, several cultural concerns and questions have come to the surface. It has brought into question the 21st-century society's position toward robots and their place in this world. Sofia's development and her rise to fame have raised issues of consciousness and morality. This has brought the world into a new era of seeking discernment and understanding.
- The manufacturing industry presents robots as hard and mechanical. Even as the public is wary of robots, the tech industry seeks to discourage the negative perception or the concept of robots being used in warfare.
- It seems too easy to enable a robot to fire a weapon. A small fleet of robots could result in a catastrophe. As nations take a stand against fully autonomous robots, remote-controlled robots are a recognized concern on a global scale. 26 countries have called for a ban on the development of such weaponry. However, the ease in developing such robots seems inevitable.
- Recent incidents surrounding self-driving cars has increased concern. Additionally, companies that pioneer any breakthroughs in robotics stand a chance at making a lot of money. This can result in the negligence of public/human safety. Society as a whole is tasked with the responsibility of encouraging innovation in a safe and ethical context.
- Despite the added benefits of implementing the use of robots across industries, many people fear that they will lose their jobs. Although experts do not agree on the numbers, they believe that as some will lose their jobs to robots, new job opportunities will arise.
FUTURE PREDICTIONS IN THE ROBOTICS INDUSTRY
Jobs Will Change
- In both North America and Europe, manufacturing jobs are increasingly being affected by the implementation of robots. Right now, about 48% of hours were either manual or physical labor. This means that nearly half of the time spent by workers is manual or physical labor. It is estimated that by 2030, this percentage will drop to 35%.
- According to the Forbes Technology Council, some jobs that will most likely be automated by 2030 include, insurance underwriting, warehouse and manufacturing, customer service, banking services and retail checkout, outbound sales, production line evolution, fast food service, long-haul trucking, delivery serves, and basically any skill that can be learned.
- The Forbes Technology Council is an invite-only team that consists of CIOs, CTOs, and technology executives. Some executives that highlighted the list above include; Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC; Marc Alacqua, Signafire; Artem Petrov, Reinvently; and Todd Rebner, Cyleron.
- According to a PwC report, the greatest impact on jobs will be felt in the mid-2020s, and this impact will continue to increase. This means that by 2025, about 10%-15% of jobs in manufacturing, transportation and storage, and wholesales and retail trade could become automated. By 2035, this number could increase to anywhere between 35% to 50% of jobs in these industries.
- With time, robots will become more advanced and much safer. At this point, working side-by-side with robots will be easier. Some companies have already started setting this trend as humans increasingly interact with autonomous robots.
Expansion of the Robot's Roles
- Warehouses and logistics operations have experienced a rise in the automation of their business processes. According to the Tractica forecasts, robots deployed annually to these facilities will increase from 194,000 in 2018 to approximately one million by 2022. Additionally, the annual global revenue will shoot from $8.3 billion to $30.8 billion.
- Beyond warehouses, experts predict that robots will increasingly become consumer-facing. As public perception improves, robots will begin to handle tasks such as selling goods at a counter. We will continue to see a rise in the use of robots on tasks that were fulfilled by transient temporary employees. These experts include Lior Elazary, inVia Robotics and Fergal Glynn, 6 River Systems.
New Jobs Created
- Although we may not conceive it today, it is clear that an increase in automation and AI could create new jobs. This is based on history. With every advancement, even when people lost jobs, new opportunities would rise up. We can safely state that technology has, in the past, created more jobs than it destroyed. Additionally, AI is projected to have a $15.7 trillion economic impact by 2030.
- According to a recent report by The World Bank, the fear of losing jobs is unfounded. It continues to state that technological advancements constantly reshape the work environment. For this reason, it is important that companies adopt new ways of running their operations: production, market expansion, and marketing.
- By 2022, it is estimated that the robotics industry will collectively create approximately 60 million new jobs, globally.
TOP INDUSTRIES USING ROBOTICS
- The number of robots installed globally is expected to grow at an annual rate of (CAGR) 12% between 2020 and 2022. The chart below is based on global data. This first chart demonstrates the top 10 industries.
- This chart presented by the International Federation of Robotics demonstrates the increase/decrease in the number of robots installed between 2016 and 2018. As we observe, the automotive and the metal and machinery industry saw constant growth. However, the electrical/electronics industry witnessed a massive increase between 2016 and 2017, but a drop in 2018.
- Approximately 30% of the total number of industrial robots are in the automotive industry. This industry has increased the need for robots since General Motors implemented Unimate, the first-ever industrial robot, in 1959. Within 2018, this industry installed 130,000 new robots.
- In 2017, this industry installed 42% of all robots. Between 2013 and 2018, the use of robots in this industry increased by (CAGR) 13%, on average.
- Key companies benefiting from the implementation of robots in this industry include Rethink Robotics, Rockwell Automation, Acieta, Universal Robots, among others.
Electrical and Electronics
- In 2018, this industry installed over 100,000 new robots. This industry has been implementing robots for a number of years, although this count was a slight drop in comparison to the previous year. In this industry, robots are primarily used in the cleanroom environment where the main task assigned is the assembly process and pick and place tasks.
- In 2017, this industry installed 28% of all robots. Between 2013 and 2018, the use of robots in this industry increased by (CAGR) 24%, on average.
- Key companies benefiting from the implementation of robots in this industry include Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, YASKAWA Electric Corporation, among others.
Metal and Machinery
- In 2018, this industry installed approximately 50,000 new robots. This industry is the third-largest consumer of robots. Robots in this industry fulfill several tasks including, welding, loading and unloading, painting, among others. KUKA, a robot manufacturer, has the following statement on their website: “The metal industry is one of the most versatile industries and therefore predestined for robot-based automation solutions.”
- Between 2012 and 2017, the use of robots in this industry increased by (CAGR) 26%, on average. One company that has benefited from the implementation of robots in this industry is Caterpillar, Inc. These advancements have enabled this company to evolve over 90 years. Teams in the manufacturing department are primarily problem-solving and looking for better alternatives.