Robots in the manufacturing industry might be a new concept in some areas. However, this technology has been around for a while. By merging traditional manufacturing methodologies with new technology, manufacturing plants boost their output rate exponentially. By utilizing this trick, many business owners and managers have been able to catapult their companies to success.
Robots have impacted the manufacturing industry positively in several ways. The change brought about by robots in this industry spread wide, boosting productivity and breeding success in many companies. However, unlike what many people assume, robots are not replacing the human workforce. On the contrary, robots are developed to perform tasks that are complex for humans and easy for machines. With these tasks out of the way, humans can focus on developing new ideas and methods to improve their knowledge. When robots are implemented correctly, they catapult an organization to success.
An overview of Manufacturing Robots
The term robot is derived from the word “Robotnik,” a Czech word that means “to slave.” Industries began to utilize robots back in 1960 to tackle mundane or dangerous tasks which humans did not want to undertake. However, these machines did more than fill unwanted factory jobs. When utilized correctly, they tackled these tasks at lightning speed and with great precision.
In the 21st century, robots are utilized to undertake all sorts of tasks which can be categorized using various criteria, for example:
- The robot’s ability to collaborate
- The robot’s movement
As the cost of labor increases, more manufacturers are turning to robot technologies. Actually, ninety percent of modern robots are found in industries that utilize them to optimize production.
The Main Components of Industrial Robots
Industrial robots feature four main components:
- The manipulator
- A controller
- A Human interface device
- A Power supply unit
The robot’s manipulator is simply the arm of the machine. It is called so because it can move in various directions. On a V5 work cell, the manipulator moves from an intelligent motor that acts as an actuator. The actuator provides the arm with the force it requires to move around. However, on a manufacturing bot, the force mostly comes from fluid pressure, air pressure, and electric motors.
The controller acts like the system’s brain. It holds the system’s program and receives input signals from the system. After receiving input signals, the controller process the signal and then transmits an output signal to the bot. That is how the system efficiently communicates with various components and with the surgeons.
The power supply provides energy to the robot’s actuators and controller. The energy is usually electrical energy. The industrial bot then takes this energy and utilizes it to make various movements.
The Evolution of Robots
Over the last couple of decades, robots have rapidly evolved. Their evolution has seen them gain application in many different sectors. What’s more, with time, the efficiency and precision of machines have gone up immensely.
Even though most people view robots as a science fiction, they have been around for some time. The first person to file a patent to develop an industrial robot was George Devol back in 1954. Devol then released a working prototype back in 1961. The bot functioned and even looked like a modern robotic arm. The bot could easily carry up to five hundred pounds and could also undertake tasks that most people thought only humans could handle.
As per the 21st century, robots now have multiple capabilities and features that automatically make them more productive, flexible, and unique. For example, Cobots (collaborative robots) can work alongside humans on factory floors for improved productivity. Moreover, most cobots can even handle physical interaction. For example, when a worker adjusts the robot’s movement, the machine can quickly memorize and then repeat the adjustment steps automatically.
Robots outside and within the manufacturing industry are slowly gaining senses, for example, vision and touch. These significant innovations have significantly impacted how robots are utilized in the production industry and have also boosted the robot’s application scope.
How have Robots gaining Senses Impacted the Manufacturing Industry and Human Workers?
The Sense of Touch
Due to robots gaining the sense of touch, now various recycling facilities are utilizing them to identify and then separate trash using texture variations. The robots simply “touch” the trash, and then depending on the trash’s texture, they separate it from the lot. Moreover, by combining touch with vision-based ML (machine learning) and artificial intelligence, robots become more efficient and undertake sorting tasks faster than humans. The best part is that, due to machine learning, their precision and speed, companies can entirely rely on machines to sort garbage relieving humans of these dangerous tasks.
Some industrial robots have LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors that help them judge various distances using laser reflections. LiDAR sensor functionality can be compared to how animals, animal-like dolphins, and bats “see” using echolocation. These animals utilize sound waves to pinpoint objects in varying locations. They simply send out sound waves and then estimate the location of an object according to how long it take for the waves to bounce back. Using laser reflections, advanced robotics can imitate this behavior and utilize it to “see” objects.
The Sense of Hearing
Much like echolocation and LiDAR, some machines utilize vibrometry to efficiently detect vibrations. By utilizing this technology, these robots can “hear” conversations and basic sounds with ease. However, this technology is, for now, primarily found in various consumer electronics, for example, smart gadgets. But with more innovations coming in, it will not be long before you find “hearing” robots in the production industry.
There exist six significant variations of robots that are utilized to undertake various tasks. They include:
These robots bear rotary joints, which help them move in a full range of motion. Due to this full range of motion property, these robots can achieve controlled and precise movements of advanced dexterity and flexibility.
Cartesian robots or gantry/rectilinear robots bear three linear joints. These joints move in three different axes, the x-axis, y-axis, and z-axis. Due to their rigid and unique structure, these robots can make simple movements with enhanced repeatability and precision. Moreover, these robots are cheap because they don’t require extensive movement. Plus maintaining this robots comes at a cheap cost due to the same feature.
Cartesian robots are primarily utilized to carry out assembly tasks, for example, picking and moving bottles from one location to another.
As the robot’s name suggests, the cylindrical robots bear a working area that is cylindrical. In addition, these robots have a robotic arm attached to the bot via one joint. The arm’s links are then connected using another linear joint to ensure perfect functionality.
The robotic arm connected to the bot can move up and down, and it can also move around a cylindrical pole. Just like gantry robots, manufacturers mainly utilize cylindrical robots to handle assembly operations. Manufacturers prefer cylindrical robots over gantry robots since they can move in between various points faster.
These robots are like a complex variation of cylindrical and Cartesian robots. Spherical robots can tackle operations that require 3-dimensional space movement.
These robots have a complex robotic arm attached to their base using a twistable joint. Due to the placement of the robot arm and its movement, the robot has a work area that is spherically shaped.
SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Arm)
SCARA robots bear a robot arm that imitate the human wrist movement. These arms have joints that help them make both horizontal and vertical movements. Due to the “Wrist” like movement, these robots are significant in terms of handling assembly operations, for example, packaging, kitting, et cetera.
Delta Manufacturing Robotics
The Delta bots are built using multiple jointed parallelograms, all attached to one base. Delta industrial robots have a spider-like structure which helps them make precise and delicate movements which are crucial in:
– The food industry
– The pharmaceutical industry
– The electronic industry
Delta robots can efficiently complete highly repetitive operations, for example, parts assembly very fast and with high precision every time. What’s more, manufacturing jobs that are highly repetitive tend to bring about a disorder known as musculoskeletal to human employees when done for an extended period. Therefore delta bots do not just increase productivity of a company. They also help in terms of keeping human employees healthy.
Tasks undertaken By Industrial Robots
Since multiple industrial bot variations exist, their application areas in the manufacturing industry are also vast. Typically most robots in this sector are required for:
– Packaging and labeling
– Assembly and disassembly
– Product testing
– Product inspection
What’s more, robots undertake all these tasks with incredible precision and speed that can’t be matched by human workers.
Manufacturing Companies that utilize Robotic Technology
The robotics industry is rapidly advancing, with new and innovative ideas coming in each day to try and further optimize the manufacturing process. Due to this growth, the following industries have opted to rely on robotics:
Electronics Manufacturing Sector
The demand for Flat-screen televisions, smartphones, and other electronic devices is pretty high. Therefore, for most manufacturers to stay afloat in this competitive market, they must deliver electronic devices at a rate that matches the demand. However, this is not possible when relying on human labor alone. Due to this, manufacturing organizations opt to utilize automation technology to optimize the manufacturing process.
By using industrial robots, electronics Manufacturing organizations can increase production rates without compromising on space. The electronics industry specifically utilizes Cobots due to their variability while handling challenging tasks. Plus, these robots function perfectly alongside employees.
The automotive manufacturing sector heavily relies on the automation brought about by robots. For over fifty years, this industry has steadily utilized robots to optimize the assembly process and test the finished products.
Most automotive manufacturing facilities merge robots with humans to speed up the rate of production. Moreover, since robots do not need rest and are more flexible, they can undertake repetitive tasks with accuracy and unmatched speed.
The medical industry/community has reaped tremendous benefits since the introduction of robotics in the sector. Surgeons are now utilizing robots to perform complex surgeries requiring a high level of precision. Actually, in a particular past occurrence, a semi-autonomous surgical robot performed surgery better than a human surgeon. The robot had more accuracy plus the surrounding tissues were less damaged. The precision of robots in performing surgeries ensures higher success rates during delicate medical operations. However, robots do not replace human workers. Instead, surgeons work together with the robots to achieve success.
Food Manufacturing Industry
Robots in this industry are utilized to boost the production quality of foods and beverages by detecting any errors in the entire manufacturing process. Robots use cameras, machine sensors, and vision plus processing software algorithms and hardware to detect mistakes.
The results of robots in this industry include better and consistent quality of drinks and food products and safer food products for human consumption.
The main aim of utilizing robots in the agriculture industry is to boost production rates while at the same time lowering production costs. Using sensor tech, farmers can now monitor pests and diseases that impact the yield of crops negatively. In addition, autonomous systems which handle tasks such as weed removal, pruning, and spraying are also rapidly gaining popularity in this industry.
How Robotics Technology has helped Manufacturers in Term of Cost savings
Industrial robots provide a lot of benefits which include cost savings. However, some may argue that this is not the case because purchasing an industrial bot can be expensive. It is due to this reason that many small-scale businesses tend to avoid utilizing robots in their manufacturing process. Even though the initial purchase cost of a robot can be pretty high, the benefits of owning one tend to outweigh the price tag. Over time, this robot saves the manufacturer a lot of time by reducing manual labor costs and improving productivity. So after a while, robots prove to be a worthy investment.
The first way that robots help manufacturers save in terms of manufacturing costs is by not requiring compensation. Even though purchasing a robot to incorporate in a company can leave a dent in your pocket. Most organizations view them as investments that have a long-term return; this is because:
– A robot can function 24/7 with little to no interruptions required
– They don’t need lights to be switched on for them to operate. They, therefore, reduce energy consumption
– High precision when undertaking repetitive tasks reduces the amount of time spent fixing errors
Quality and accuracy
Manufacturing robots provide manufacturers with better quality and consistency when undertaking monotonous tasks. They have predictable behaviors and precise movements, which boosts their accuracy immensely. What this means is that the manufacturer gets to produce pretty high-quality goods with great consistency and minimal variation.
Moreover, robotic workers don’t require constant breaks while undertaking tasks. They can hence function for 24 hours without interruptions or shift changes, unlike humans who get worn out and need to take breaks to work efficiently.
When a robot is correctly programmed to undertake a specific task, it can easily speed up the production of goods by reducing part cycle times. By doing so, robots generate more efficient manufacturing processes that help catapult an organization’s profits.
How has Manufacturing Robotic Technology helped Businesses become more Competitive?
The utilization of robots in any organization, small or big, is destined to breed more profits at reduced production costs. For example, rather than relying on overseas companies to manufacture assembly parts, now small-scale companies can utilize robotics to generate their parts. In doing so, these companies significantly reduce the cost of production and boost the quality of the products they produce.
Using robots has helped many organizations stay afloat in competitive markets, for example, the automotive industry and the electronics industry. In fact, most companies in the USA are now relying on robots to generate more job opportunities while they also stay competitive.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Robotics in the Manufacturing Industry
When manufacturers start to utilize robots in their manufacturing process, they instantly begin to reap the following benefits:
– Improved reliability
– Decreased energy and operating costs
– Higher ROI (returns on investments)
– Greater objectivity and higher precision when undertaking complex and detailed tasks
– Employees start to develop new ideas to help them scale up the company ladder to higher roles
However, even though robots are beneficial in the manufacturing industry, they still bear some disadvantages. These disadvantages include:
– Job loss to robots
– High initial purchasing costs of the robot
– A lot of resources and time go into training employees to work with the robots efficiently
– Higher safety risks befall employees who work near enormous powerful robots
– Robots tend to have limited capabilities in terms of executing human tasks
What is the Future of Manufacturing Robots?
Robots are already pretty efficient. However, robot manufacturing companies are still looking for ways to improve them. Here is a list bearing some advancements that you are likely to view in the near future:
Lights-out production lets robots function with minimal to no interference. The lights-out production trend is common in companies with few human workers. In this production process, robots handle the manufacturing process from start to end. As a result, manufacturers who have implemented this production process have reported increased production rates and decreased labor costs. Moreover, these companies experience less energy utilization, saving on power costs. Also, since robots are not affected by climatic changes, the manufacturers do not have to worry about climate control strategies.
Capability to Handle Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) simply connects various physical devices with internet apps, for example, the cloud, to make the machines more intelligent. By using this technology, various devices can now become more aware of their surroundings and adapt to them.
Robotic companies are now trying to integrate this technology into robots to help them adapt to their environment. By utilizing various sensors, robots can now scan their environment, send the data to external tools, and gain feedback on what action to take next. By utilizing this technology, robots can now make “wise” decisions on what to do when faced with a new problem.
Enhanced applications of IoT include location tracking and predictive analysis. Integrating this technology into existing machine sensors can propel robots to undertake more complex tasks autonomously. For example, a robot can start to predict the imminent breakdown of another machine or even start to prompt the production manager on its maintenance schedule. With this technology, the manufacturing industry could start to reap higher profits with minimal labor costs in the near future.
Cyber Security Transformation
Utilizing cloud-connected and artificial intelligence robotics in your company can boost your company’s production without a doubt. However, using this sort of technology will also make your company more prone to cyber-attacks. Therefore as more organizations turn to IoT and artificial intelligence to boost their productivity, they will also have to upgrade their defenses against cyber-attacks. Furthermore, when companies lag in cyber-security, they risk losing crucial and confidential information to hackers. Due to these reasons, cyber security has become a growing trend in the robotics sector.
Cyber security responsibilities mostly fall on the shoulders of three different groups:
– The manufacturer of the robot – this are the people that manufacture the robots from scratch
– The integrator of the robot – this are the people that integrate industrial robots into the manufacturing process
– And lastly, the human operator – this are the people that operate the industrial robots in an organization
Robotic software and firmware can be pretty vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Due to this reason, robot manufacturing companies have to install the bots with safety systems before selling them to manufacturers.
Defensive and offensive security that involves thoroughly testing for various vulnerabilities and then installing systems to protect the system helps keep the bots safe. However, for this tactic to become successful, operators and integrators have to work together.
Adjusting your Company to Feature Robotics in your Manufacturing Process
Due to the introduction of robots in the manufacturing industries, this field has grown immensely. What’s more, Robotic companies are still working on ways to make robots more efficient and intelligent. What this means is that the robots will become more efficient and productive with time. Therefore, handling complex tasks will become easier as time passes, and the production cost will also go down. With these two factors dealt with, many businesses will become more competitive. Therefore, if your company is left out, you might have trouble catching up with them.
To avoid being left out, try to seek guidance from experts who deal with robots that handle your company’s type of manufacturing process. You can find this experts online or even around your areas. These experts will guide you on the robot to utilize in your company to improve productivity. What’s more, they might even advise you on the price of new robots so that you can make a perfect purchase. Either way, you have nothing to lose.
Robotics has, without a doubt, transformed the manufacturing industry. From optimizing the production line process to boost productivity to decreasing the production costs of manufacturing products. Robotics has also allowed small-scale companies to compete in various industries. What’s more, robots are also generating job opportunities for people while shielding them from doing jobs that might cause harm to them, like waste management. We hope more innovations from robot manufacturers will make robots better and more efficient in handling challenging tasks automatically and with great precision. If this happens, then we can expect cheaper high-quality products.