"

“Joining IFR is a source of pride, the sharing expertise of the worldwide members is key to progress rapidly in the deployment of robotics, build up a powerful innovation ecosystem and drive excellent research. IFR strengths are the possibility to create new opportunities of partnerships, to promote the transfer of knowledge in order to shrink the distances between robotics world and the society and the excellent research networks”.

ABB announced it will acquire ASTI Mobile Robotics Group (ASTI), a leading global autonomous mobile robot (AMR) manufacturer with a broad portfolio across all major applications enabled by the company’s software suite. This will expand ABB’s robotics and automation offering, making it the only company to offer a complete portfolio for the next generation of flexible automation.

The acquisition, a key part of ABB’s external growth strategy, was signed on July 19 and is expected to close in mid-summer 2021. Both parties agreed not to disclose any details regarding the purchase price.

Founded in 1982, ASTI is headquartered in Burgos, Spain and employs over 300 people in Spain, France and Germany. It is majority owned by Veronica Pascual Boé, who is also CEO. Other shareholders include European Growth Buyout investor Keensight Capital. Today it supports one of Europe’s largest installed fleets of AMRs and has a broad customer base in automotive, logistics, food & beverage and pharmaceuticals in 20 countries. Since 2015, the company has enjoyed close to 30 percent growth on an annual basis and is targeting approximately $50 million in revenue in 2021.

“With their industry-leading portfolio, comprehensive suite of software and deep domain expertise across growth segments, ASTI is the perfect choice for us as we support our customers with the next generation of flexible automation,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation business. “With this acquisition, ABB will be the only company to offer a full automation portfolio of AMRs, robots and machine automation solutions, from production to logistics to point of consumption. This is a gamechanger for our customers as they adapt to the individualized consumer and seize opportunities presented by significant changes in consumer demand.”

AMRs will support an unprecedented degree of flexibility, from production, logistics, intralogistics and fulfillment through to retail and healthcare environments. This will enable ABB’s and ASTI’s common vision to help customers replace today’s linear production lines with fully flexible networks, where intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate materials, parts and finished products between smart connected workstations, in factories, logistics centers, laboratories, shops or hospitals.

Veronica Pascual Boé, ASTI CEO said: “ABB’s vision is a perfect match for us, as we both support our customers’ flexibility and competitiveness through accelerating automation in the workplace. This is the next exciting stage of our journey and together we will accelerate our innovation plans, expand our global customer service, partner network, production and execution capacity and leverage ABB’s market access globally and particularly in China. I am delighted to join the extended Robotics management team and lead the AMR business to deliver this ambitious growth plan.”

ASTI’s industry-leading AMR portfolio includes autonomous towing vehicles, goods-to-person solutions, unit carriers and box movers as well as a comprehensive software offering, ranging from vehicle navigation and control, fleet and order management and cloud-based traceability systems.

These will be integrated with ABB’s portfolio of robots, machine automation, modular solutions and software suite including RobotStudio®, ABB Robotics’ simulation and programming tool, creating a unique and comprehensive automation portfolio for ABB’s customers.

ABB and ASTI offer deep domain expertise in manufacturing industries including automotive, food & beverage and consumer packaged goods, as well as in new growth segments including logistics, e-commerce, retail and healthcare.

With global AMR sales expected to reach approximately $14 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of approximately 20 percent (Internal ABB analyses), ABB plans to expand AMR sales and service support globally to 53 countries.

ASTI’s headquarters in Burgos, Spain will become ABB’s AMR business headquarters, led by Pascual Boé, with core functions, including R&D, engineering, product and project value chain, continuing at ASTI’s facilities. ABB will significantly expand production capacity at the AMR business headquarters to support the planned sales expansion in Europe and the Americas. To facilitate the growth potential for AMRs in China and Asia, ABB will also establish an Asia AMR hub, including full value chain and manufacturing, at its new robotics factory, which will open in Shanghai in 2022. China, the world’s largest robotics market, is projected to account for $1.8 billion of AMR sales annually by 2025.

ABB Robotics’ acquisition comes shortly after the company’s announcements to expand robotics automation for new sectors and first-time users, including the launch of its new GoFa™ and SWIFTI™ collaborative robot families and its announcement that it will advance automation in the construction industry.

"IFR brings opportunity to network and engage with other professionals and entrepreneurs in the field of robotics to together ensure both that more companies and more people benefit from adopting technologies. I believe we are witnessing one of the greatest technological shifts in the history of mankind, during which Robotics, AI and related technologies have the potential to transform every industry and aspect of our lives within the next decade."

Manual end of line packaging operation in a warehouse involves challenges such as Labor shortage, Longer idle times, Slower pick speeds resulting in conveyor stoppage and Order packing errors.

Solution

Wipro devised a smart packing solution with the features such as End-to-end orchestration by software, UI based order creation and tracking, Integration of robot, conveyor and computer vision, AI based volume estimation and stacking pattern generation in real time and Zero robot teaching.

Process

The order is placed through the order fulfilment system. Once the order is triggered, the robot erects a carton from the stacked cartons. The robot system determines the volume of the empty carton that has been erected using computer vision. Then, formulates the optimum stacking pattern in the carton based on the order using Artificial Intelligence.

The robot picks and places items in cartons © Wipro

Interfaced with Wipro’s robotics software platform, the robot detects the ordered items on the conveyer, picks them on the go and places them as per the AI generated stacking pattern in the carton. Any outliers such as damaged or unordered items are segregated into a separate area. In case the items that are to be packed last arrive early on the conveyor, the robot moves them to a temporary storage and continues packing in the AI generated pattern.

Once the carton is packed with the ordered items, the robot closes the flaps and seals the cartons. The packed cartons are then palletized.

Benefits

  • Error free packing solution
  • Elimination of manual robot teaching
  • Elimination of labor dependency

A shoe manufacturer was looking for an automated solution for glueing shoe soles to increase quality.

Manual application of glue on shoe sole results in excess fills, under fills, glue being sprayed outside the sole. These result in glue wastage and inconsistent output. Automation with an industrial robot involves manual robot teaching for every variant so that the shoe sole can be precisely located. This is highly time consuming and requires skilled robot programmer to be available on floor.

Solution

Wipro developed a dynamic vision based solution that can detect any sole variant, generate the glue application trajectory and pass on the coordinates to the robot to apply the glue.

The shoe sole arrives at the robot for glue application on a conveyer. The sole is scanned on the move by a Photoneo vision camera. Wipro’s vision algorithm collects the point cloud data and generates the glue application trajectory.

Wipro’s robot camera interface software converts this trajectory into robot coordinates and communicates the same to the robot controller.

The robot dispenses glue on the shoe sole © WIPRO

Once the coordinates are received, the robot moves along the trajectory and the Nordson glue dispensing system sprays the glue on the sole. This solution is agnostic of robot, camera, PLC and dispenser make and model. Any model can be integrated into the platform.

Benefits

  • Quality improvement by over 40%
  • Improved consistency over 75%
  • 50% reduction in labor cost during manufacturing
  • Reduced dependency on skilled robotic programmer (No need of training/ teaching for new sole type)
  • Optimization of glue consumption
  • Consistent quality deliverable

The preliminary World Robotics data for China released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) shows a sales increase of industrial robots by 19% in 2020.

“The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic”, says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “In China, where the coronavirus lockdown came into force first, the robotics industry started to recover already in 2020. In total 167,000 industrial robots were shipped.”

Market growth in China also has a strong positive impact on foreign suppliers – up 24% or 123,000 industrial robots were shipped from abroad. Japanese suppliers have a dominant market share. Domestic suppliers delivered 44,000 units to their home market which is an increase of 8% compared to 2019.

Worldwide, North America and Europe

Global robot installations in 2020 were down 2%, particularly under the impact of the Corona pandemic. Still the decline in sales was more moderate than expected.

OECD projects global GDP growth to be 5.5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. Nevertheless, the situation is mixed in different countries.

The order intakes of the robotics industry 2021 give reason to expect strong growth in North America and Europe. Order books in the US for example are filling up fast. In Germany, the forecast for the current year shows a strong recovery and signifies a positive turning point for the industry. Even better sales figures will be achievable if the current supply bottlenecks for key components can be quickly overcome.

Reduction of carbon footprint

The global path to climate neutrality is generating new business. In order to achieve the ambitious climate targets, economies have started to scale renewable energies and environmental technologies to unprecedented dimensions. Robotics and automation enable companies of all sizes to produce the components needed, e.g. fuel cells for hydrogen-powered cars or batteries in the transport sector and solar panels in the energy sector. The new generation of easy-to-use robotics helps to optimize performance in the production process and move manufacturing closer to regional markets at competitive cost.

“Robotics have proven flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand as well as smaller batch sizes,” says Milton Guerry. “The benefits of increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive.”

Please see also video FACTS about INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS on YouTube.

IFR Press contact

Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

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FANUC Corporation, one of the world's most prominent suppliers of automation technology, produced its 750,000th industrial robot, which is more than any other manufacturer in this segment.

At present, FANUC produces around 8,000 industrial robots every month at its factories in Japan, although monthly capacity is available up to 11,000 units. The company is renowned for its highly automated production facilities, where thousands of robots demonstrate reliability, dexterity and speed in the build of FANUC products that include robots, controllers and machine tools. The company will deliver its 750,000th robot to a European customer.  

FANUC’s largest customer group are car producers and their suppliers, although manufacturers from other industries - such as electronics, food, pharmaceutical and medical - are also growing their base of industrial robots. While the coronavirus pandemic initially led to a decline in robot orders, FANUC has since witnessed a strong rebound in sales, especially from Asia and the USA.

“In Europe, the recovery has truly begun,” states Shinichi Tanzawa, President & CEO of FANUC Europe Corporation. "Although FANUC’s overall order intake for robots in Europe increased only slightly during the past fiscal year, sales in the past few months are at a historical high.”

FANUC is pursuing ambitious plans in Europe, where the company is steadily expanding its sales and service network. In the past four years alone, FANUC has invested more than €120 million in new facilities across Europe. Further underpinning its growth plans, the company will invest another €100 million in the coming three years.

Tanzawa says: “We are confident that the trend towards robotization will grow further and that FANUC robots will help customers to automate their manufacturing plants and save cost like FANUC does at its own factories. We will do everything necessary to support our customers in these endeavours.”

While many countries around the globe are still struggling to seize control of the global pandemic, we are already on the road of global recover. In the recent months, global economic prospects improved markedly, and, according to OECD, by mid-2021 the worldwide output is expected to rise above the pre-pandemic level. Global GDP growth is projected to be 5.5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022.

Dear Reader,

While many countries around the globe are still struggling to seize control of the global pandemic, we are already on the road of global recover. In the recent months, global economic prospects improved markedly, and, according to OECD, by mid-2021 the worldwide output is expected to rise above the pre-pandemic level. Global GDP growth is projected to be 5.5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022. Nevertheless, the situation is mixed in different countries, and some may remain below the level expected prior to the pandemic.

The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic at the moment, although the recent IFR quarterly surveys confirmed a mixed picture. Asia has already started to recover in Q3/2020, while North America and Europe still were slightly below pre-crisis level in the first quarter of this year. The current order intake gives good hope for strong growth. Yet, we also have to concede that there is a large spreading between different reporting companies, so some companies were more successfull to overcome the crisis, while others were somewhat left behind. The chances for our sector overall are promising, but we now need to reap our industry’s potential to support the overall economic growth.

In the past months, robotics could already prove its flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand and smaller batch sizes. We see a need for improved resilience to deal with production peaks and withstand systemic shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the blockage of the Suez Canal. Moreover, the global endeavor to lower our carbon footprint and thrive towards carbon neutral production greatly are esupported by robotics - both by optimized performance in the production process and the possibility to move manufacturing closer to the customer - thus lowering the energy consumption by logistics. Last but not least, increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive and finally robotcs can significantly increase the workplace quality for manufacturing employees. So in a nutshell: long-run perspectives for robotics remain excellent.

IFR support the robotics industry in staying on top of the trends, by providing joint positions and information on topics highly relevant to the industry, e.g. cobots, robotics and AI, smart robots transforming manufacturing and -soon to be published - mobile robots. Not less important: monitoring the effects of robotics on the employment, the workplace of the future and future skills needs is covered by our positiong papers.

The IFR has a very unique structure, which significantly contributes to its strength: serving as a federation of assocations on one hand, but at the same time connecting companies and R&D institutes in direct membership. Not least important is to serve as a platform for global exchange - collect the insights from different parts of the world and openly communicate. This strong and growing association will keep pushing the industry forward - at your service.

Stay safe, and all the best to you.

Milton Guerry
IFR President

Australia-based Designed Mouldings is an injection moulding specialist, producing plastic caps and seals for customers in the packaging industry. With COVID-19 disruptions to global supply chains, companies in Australia turned to local manufacturers like Designed Mouldings for their production.

Challenged with the sudden rise in demand, Designed Mouldings implemented a collaborative automation solution in its product assembly application, increasing productivity and decreasing cycle time significantly.

Designed Mouldings witnessed a spike in orders during Covid-19, as border closures meant more companies were sourcing their products locally. “From a production volume of 10,000 to 20,000 products a month, we were facing orders of 50,000 to 100,000 caps a month. Manual assembly was no longer a viable option for us,” said Paul Neumeyer, Managing Director of Designed Mouldings.

Australis Engineers guided the installation © OnRobot

Australis Engineers guided the installation © OnRobot

The company looked for an effective solution to automate their processes and increase their productivity. They reached out to systems integrator Australis Engineering – one of OnRobot’s distributor partners – who suggested a collaborative application and recommended that they start by selecting the end-effector; an integral part of the automation solution.

Simplicity and Ease of Implementation

The OnRobot VGC10 electric vacuum gripper was an obvious choice for Designed Mouldings. With unlimited customisation to fit various needs, the small, lightweight gripper is perfect for tight spaces. The gripper also does not require external air supply, speeding up deployment while reducing maintenance costs.

The VGC10 gripper – integrated with a Techman Robot cobot – works as a stand-alone system and does not require extra cabling, piping or air, resulting in a collaborative application with a small footprint. This allows it to be easily moved and plugged in anywhere. Importantly, the collaborative application is able to work safely alongside employees; no safety fence is needed.

Australis Engineers guided the installation © OnRobot

Simple and easy to use © OnRobot

Additionally, the VGC10 provides simplicity and ease of use. “Setting up the VGC10 gripper was fairly quick. While Australis Engineering provided us with some guidance, we were able to do the complete installation and programming ourselves within just three to four days,” said Daniel Neumeyer, Plant Supervisor of Designed Mouldings. “The simplicity saves us a lot of expensive engineering hours that is usually required with typical automation projects.”

Efficient Collaborative Automation

The OnRobot VGC10 gripper is used to automate the sealing of wads on plastic caps. Wads are used to seal containers and protect their contents from deterioration or contamination through exposure to air, moisture or other impurities.

First, the cobot’s vision system detects the wad on the table. The image is stored in the cobot’s database and programmed to trigger the machine to move and send instructions to the VGC10 gripper to pick the wad up. The gripper then inserts the wad into the bottom of each plastic cap. Once the wad has been fitted, the gripper drops the assembled cap into a hole in the centre of the table, where finished goods are stored before being packed and shipped.

Benefits Aplenty with Collaborative Application

The shift from manual hand assembly to collaborative automation has helped Designed Mouldings shorten the production cycle time, increase productivity and maintain consistent output quality. Designed Mouldings has also seen a reduction in material waste by one to two percent, and employees are now relieved from a tedious task – allowing them to focus on higher value jobs.

The company is now able to cope with the increase in orders without putting pressure on their current workforce or having to hire any contract staff, saving costs.

“The OnRobot VGC10 gripper can easily complete a 20,000 product run in 24 hours – three times faster than if it were done manually. With a constant stream of jobs, we are expected to achieve ROI in six months,” said Paul.

New Automation Possibilities

With the successful implementation of the collaborative application with the VGC10, Paul and his son Daniel are looking at other collaborative automation opportunities. Specifically, Designed Mouldings is looking to use the OnRobot RG2 gripper to assemble filters for hospitals.

“As one of the leading injection moulding companies in the industry, ensuring we stay competitive is crucial. Collaborative applications through OnRobot is an important step towards securing our future and enhancing our competitive edge,” added Paul.

About the VGC10

The VGC10 electrical compact vacuum gripper has unlimited customization possibilities. It has changeable suction cup options for nearly any application need. The VGC10 can fit into tight environments to extend your automation possibilities. It can lift small, odd-shaped, and heavy objects with a smaller robot arm. The VGC10 features two independently controlled air channels that allow it to act as a dual gripper with pick-up and release in the same action, further increasing efficiency and reducing cycle time. With no compressor or air supply needed, this compact electrical gripper is easy to move, and simple programming makes it quick and easy to redeploy for greater production flexibility. Seamless integration with the robot of your choice.

Order your morning latte macchiato conveniently via app from the bus, quickly scan the QR code and let the robot barista serve it fresh - MyAppCafé makes it possible.

Order your morning latte macchiato conveniently via app from the bus, quickly scan the QR code and let the robot barista serve it fresh - MyAppCafé makes it possible.The 160 variants of coffee specialties - including espresso doppio, cappuccino, chocciato or latte - can of course also be ordered directly on the touchscreen.

The idea came to Karlsruhe-based MyAppCafé founder Michael Stille during a “Tatort” episode in which a catering robot played a central role. First conversations quickly began. A similar solution was already on the market in the USA - but without interest for the European market. Together with two other Karlsruhe companies, IBS and Rothweiler Feinwerkmechanik, Stille developed its own solution.

High economic efficiency and minimum personnel costs

MyAppCafé delivers the whole concept - turnkey and automatically. The decisive goal during development was cost effectiveness: Each franchisee only needs to spend a maximum of one hour a day refilling and waiting, the rest is fully automated. MyAppCafé only needs to be refilled after around 650 issues - of course the system informs the operators in good time. An important argument for the fully automated gastronomy solution, says Michael Stille: “Almost no personnel is required, a maximum of one hour of working time for refilling and cleaning must be scheduled after 650 issues. By comparison, four employees would be needed to provide the same service. With our robot Barista, you are in the profit zone much faster”. The integrated fully automatic cleaning systems combine the highest hygiene standards with minimum effort.

The first MyAppCafé Cell with Kawasaki Robotics RS005L in Karlsruhe © Kawasaki
The first MyAppCafé Cell with Kawasaki Robotics RS005L in Karlsruhe © Kawasaki

A robot is the heart of the cell: The engineering office IBS has been a close partner of the international robot manufacturer Kawasaki Robotics for years. After reviewing and comparing several options, the choice for the robot quickly fell on Kawasaki - also by recommendation of IBS. The prototype as well as all further cells were built based on the Kawasaki Robotics RS005L.

With a maximum payload of 5 kg and a maximum reach of 903 mm, the RS005L is part of the universal R series for small to medium payloads, suitable for assembly, material handling, machine tending and many other applications. Its special design enables the high-speed robot to have a longer reach and an extended working range.

In addition to the technical aspects, the RS005L convinced Michael Stille with its appearance, which fitted well into the design of the cell: “We wanted to have a real industrial robot inside, not a ‘toy’. And Kawasaki was very accommodating to us as a partner and through the quality of the robots.”

Challenging development and rapid success

IBS finally developed the approximately 7 square meter large cell according to the detailed ideas of Silence. The implementation was demanding, among other things for a smooth communication between Kawasaki robot, WMF coffee machines, the output and the app. Via business and technology networks in Karlsruhe, the experts were called in for all components and aspects. Thus the startup ROCK5 from Karlsruhe developed the intuitive App. Within a few months, the development led to the successful prototype, which completely met the high demands - full automation, intuitive operation and reliability.

Just in time for the Franchise Expo in Frankfurt am Main in November 2019 the MyAppCafé cell was ready for the market and was presented to the public for the first time - with great success and numerous inquiries. Home game in Karlsruhe: For the first MyAppCafé cell, the Postgalerie shopping center was quickly found as an optimal location - also easily accessible for tests and presentations. Besides Karlsruhe, there are already locations in Böblingen and the Stadtgalerie Heilbronn aktuell, Saarbrücken will follow soon.

How MyAppCafé works

After ordering the desired coffee specialty via app or touch screen, the Kawasaki robot takes a cup and transports it to one of the two high-end coffee machines of WMF type 9000 S+ as well as to two syrup stations and a specially developed milk system, if required. It then moves the finished coffee to one of the dispensing stations where it can be removed for immediate enjoyment. The robot can prepare and serve up to 120 coffee per hour.

Ordering via App or Touchscreen © Kawasaki
Ordering via App or Touchscreen © Kawasaki

A cool highlight: the hot drinks can be decorated with an individual text or picture on the milk foam using a food printer, at no extra cost. Even your own photos can be uploaded via app and displayed on a fresh cappuccino. “Our customers can be as creative as they like: They can upload a vacation selfie directly from Milan and order the printed coffee in Karlsruhe for their return,” says Michael Stille.

Sustainability and fair trade have been important components of MyAppCafé right from the start: the cup and lid are made of environmentally friendly and compostable corn starch and all ingredients have organic and fair trade seals - from coffee to optionally available soy milk.

The robot barista never gets tired: MyAppCafé is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week - without waiting or queuing. Practical in times of Corona: Payment is made with all common contactless methods, including EC and credit cards, PayPal, ApplePay and GooglePay.

High demand: Growth despite Corona

The Corona pandemic has naturally slowed down the momentum, as in all industries, but new inquiries are still coming in every day worldwide. Among other things, talks are currently underway with several listed companies in Germany who plan to integrate MyAppCafè. On average, it takes two months from ordering a MyAppCafé cell to the start of operations at the desired location.

Even though Corona has slowed down the search for a location, the prospects are very positive: By 2021 at least 50 boxes should be in place in Germany. Demand is also strong internationally - the first cells in action as well as appearances at franchise fairs have generated interest from Dubai, the USA, Poland, Sweden, France and Israel, among others. As locations are so far among other things shopping centers, universities, stations or airports in the focus, but the possibilities for the integration of the robot-supported MyAppCafé cell are versatile.

With no robotics experience, the family-owned Zippertubing Company integrated Universal Robots in vision-guided applications tending snap fastening machines for wrap-around cable jacketing.

The Challenge

“What integrator are you using?” A question Tim Mead, operations manager with Zippertubing in Arizona kept hearing as he visited robot manufacturers at trade shows. “But we wanted something that we could integrate ourselves. Something that would save us a lot of money and bring the installation down to a price point that made sense for us,” says Tim Mead. His company was facing a very large increase in demand for its thermal wraps used by automotive and aerospace industries to protect hoses, pipes and cables. On Zippertubing’s production line, workers had a hard time keeping up with the fast-paced, highly-precise, highly-repetitive task of correctly inserting the cable jacketing into snap machines. That’s when the company started to look into more user-friendly collaborative robots, or “cobots.”

The Solution

“We chose Universal Robots’ UR5 for a few reasons. After a quick demo we realized this was a collaborative robot we could integrate on our own. We were also looking at the versatility,” says engineering manager at Zippertubing, Matt Hesselbacher, explaining how Zippertubing’s products can change from month to month. Safety was another concern as operators would be working around the robot, feeding it raw parts and take away the finished pieces.

“The biggest benefit we’ve found with the UR5 is that our product quality really has improved; the robot has been running for eight months now and we have gone from having some product returns to now zero defects on parts produced,” says Mead. “With the robot itself, we can specify 300 percent more tolerance on our parts than with manual operation,” he says, adding that Zippertubing’s customers are noticing this improvement as well.

Placing the fabric correctly into the snap machine was difficult for manual labor © Universal Robots
Placing the fabric correctly into the snap machine was difficult for manual labor © Universal Robots

Tim Mead’s background is in chemical engineering, not robotics programming, so he was initially hesitant to build a robotics cell from scratch. “The demo convincing us was done by Universal Robots’ distributor In-Position Technologies and it looked very straightforward, there’s also a lot of cool training stuff on the UR website” says the operations manager who used the free Universal Robots Academy to get up to speed after purchasing the robot.

It took Zippertubingabout a week to program the entire robotics cell © Universal Robots
It took Zippertubing about a week to program the entire robotics cell © Universal Robots

The Arizona company programmed their first UR5 to pick up pre-cut fabric material that the cobot moves through a snap-set machine where five male snaps are inserted, then it moves over to a second machine where five female snaps are added. The 25 second cycle concludes as the UR5 presents the piece to a vision camera that inspects whether the snaps are added correctly. Depending on outcome, the UR5 is directed to place the finished piece in either the “good” or the “scrap” pile.

The UR5 places the fabric under a camera lens for quality inspection © Universal Robots
The UR5 places the fabric under a camera lens for quality inspection © Universal Robots

UR5 enables lights-out manufacturing

Zippertubing is now working on a more compact, second UR5 installation that reduces cycle time while increasing the quantity of parts to run after-hours by integrating a turntable for delivery of the fabric. “We can have the robot run all night and double our production output. We can also have it handle two or three additional parts and cover even more of our production,” explains Mead, detailing how the collaborative robots enabled the company to reduce its labor force by 32% in those applications. “We can now take that freed up labor and move them to other more customized high-skilled, high-demand sections of our production line, where our operators can use their skills in a more beneficial way.”

For change-overs requiring different tools, the company went to the UR+ Solution website, an online platform with certified plug & play products for UR cobots and found the Milibar tool changer. “The benefits of using this is quick changeability, adding a new tool to the end of the robot arm is not an issue now,” says Mead.

Automation assistance to Chinese colleagues

Zippertubing estimates about a two year ROI on their UR5 purchases. “The return on investment is not just a return on the money we spent on the robot and the system; it’s also a matter of quality for us and for our customers,” says Hesselbacher, who stresses that a continuous lights-out production will push the ROI much lower as well. The success of Zippertubing’s Arizona plant has resonated with its sister facility in China too. “Our Asia facility is totally manual at the moment, and they’ve reached out to us to see if we could build them some of these robotic cells,” says Mead, who will refine the next UR robot application and provide it to his Chinese colleagues. The Arizona company is now also looking at other tasks UR robots could automate. Sewing is one of them.

“It will be a unique challenge as we want the robot to do snaps and sewing with the same tool,” says Mead, who is optimistic that his team will get the sewing project figured out in the foreseeable future.

To be prepared for the rapid changes of the new industrial age, the automotive supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors is relying on collaborative robotics and is joining forces with KUKA. With the use of cobots, completely new forms of production can be created and the production processes are to be converted step by step to Industry 4.0.

Identification of the task

Components supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors (YFAI) is one of the world’s leading vendors of solutions for automotive interior trim. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has more than 110 locations worldwide, including a production facility in Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, where numerous components such as instrument panels, door linings and armrests are manufactured. The company’s customers are all renowned automotive manufacturers.

“The automotive industry is undergoing a profound transformation. As part of the future-proof orientation of our locations, we intend to adapt our production processes step by step towards Industrie 4.0,” says Michael Oji, plant manager at YFAI’s Lüneburg site.

In the first step, the company decided to integrate a cobot into the production line, to enable completely new forms of production. Unlike their conventional counterparts, Cobots are robots that are designed to collaborate directly with humans (Human-robot collaboration (HRC)). Conventional industrial robots are usually not sensitive and are therefore installed behind protective fencing for safety reasons. With cobots, such costly structural measures are not necessary.

Solution

YFAI opted for an HRC-capable KUKA LBR iiwa, which was put into operation in collaboration with system integrator Schulz Systemtechnik GmbH. The cobot at Lüneburg assists the employees in assembling armrests. A decisive factor in Yanfeng’s choice of the KUKA lightweight robot was its ability to move payloads up to 14 kilograms.

High payload: The Cobot carries a 13 kilogram screw head. © KUKA
High payload: The Cobot carries a 13 kilogram screw head. © KUKA

“The robot must be capable of handling a screwdriving head weighing 13 kilograms. What’s more, the KUKA robot also offers the CE marking required in Europe,” explains Dennis Rittmann, responsible for implementing the LBR iiwa application at YFAI. One major challenge in setting the application up was to ensure operator safety at all times. This safety is assured by joint torque sensors integrated in each of the LBR iiwa’s seven axes. If any of these sensors detects a shock, the robot stops moving immediately. Furthermore, the robot is designed entirely with smooth shapes, thus reducing potential hazards for humans. The safety equipment eliminates the need for the rigid separation of the fully automated operations and the manual work, the two areas consequently merging together. Besides the safety devices already incorporated in the robot, an automatic screwdriver from Stöger Automation GmbH specially designed for HRC systems ensures safe collaboration. The screwdriving head is mounted behind a protective cover. If the cover encounters an obstacle, the robot is switched off immediately.

Robot assembles armrests in a screw-fastening application

The KUKA LBR iiwa has the task of assembling the armrests for all four doors of the Opel Insignia. To do so, it shares the workspace with two human operators. The first step is for the operator to prepare the component. For this purpose, he loads the injection molding together with the leather covering into a machine tool which laminates the two elements of the component.

No safety fences are required for direct collaboration between robot and worker © KUKA
No safety fences are required for direct collaboration between robot and worker © KUKA

The operator then takes the laminated component and clips it to another injection molding to complete the armrest. The next step is carried out by the LBR iiwa. In preparation, the operator places the component into a fixture of the LBR iiwa application. He presses a button to inform the robot that the processing operation can begin. The robot moves to the fixture and screws the two components together. “The robot is programmed to always choose the most efficient route for screwing the components together as quickly as possible,” explains Dennis Rittmann. The screws are fed automatically through a tube attached to the protective cover. Next, the operator removes the finished armrests and racks them ready for shipment.

Evaluation of the solution of the challenge

The resulting direct collaboration between humans and robots offers numerous advantages: humans are highly flexible and can adjust very quickly to new situations. Robots work with consistent precision. HRC combines the respective strengths of humans and robots. “Cobots like the KUKA LBR iiwa enable us to make production processes even more efficient,” adds Michael Oji. Additionally, the cobots make entirely new production processes possible. The elimination of safety equipment like fences also reduces the space requirement. Rigid production lines thus become obsolete and flexible production islands are created, which are also capable of manufacturing a variety of products. A milestone in the optimization of production. Moreover, cobots also relieve humans not only of strenuous work but also of monotonous and frequently recurring activities. Employees no longer have to perform ergonomically unfavorable tasks, which helps them to stay healthy for longer. An important aspect in view of demographic change.

HRC combines the respective strengths of humans and robots. © KUKA
HRC combines the respective strengths of humans and robots. © KUKA

Cobot successfully integrated

The system with the cobot has meanwhile been in operation since December 2017. The initial experience has been entirely positive, as Michael Oji confirms: “The KUKA robot has already paid for itself. On top of that, our colleagues have quickly familiarized themselves with it. They are able to operate the robot themselves in the event of an error message to eliminate the error. The employees did not require any special training for operating the robot.” The two operators and the robot produce sets of armrests for 45 vehicles per hour. That corresponds to 180 assembled armrests. The company is planning to deploy further cobots in its plants over the medium term. “In response to the constantly increasing demands in our industry, cobots provide a means of relieving our employees of tiring and repetitive work processes,” explains Michael Oji.

The 2021 “Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation” (IERA) goes to PixelPaint technology of ABB. Two high-precision robots make car painting faster, more sustainable and flexible – helping manufacturers to efficiently respond to individual demands. Two-tone and customized designs are applied in one pass. The technology eliminates overspray benefitting the environment.

“The jury is pleased to honor ABB’s PixelPaint technology,with the 17th IERA Award,” says Jury Chair Rob Ambrose. “The innovative solution for automated car painting combines more flexibility and customization with reduced wasted paint for the well-being of the environment.”

No more paint is lost

In the past, 20 to 30 percent of paint was wasted due to overspray. By contrast, the inkjet head of PixelPaint applies 100 percent of the paint to the vehicle surface – improving environmental impact. The technology also significantly increases efficiency in car painting. Previously, applying a two-tone or customized design was a time and labour-intensive process. The vehicle had to be put through the painting line twice. With the new technology, customized painting speeds increased by 50 percent. PixelPaint also eliminates the process of masking and de-masking each car, helping to reduce bottlenecks.

© ABB Robotics

© ABB Robotics

“In today’s fiercely competitive automotive manufacturing market, vehicle producers need solutions that can help them to improve their flexibility, efficiency and cost competitiveness while delivering a high-quality paint finish, including individualized options to meet the growing demand for non-standard and customized designs,” said Joerg Reger, Managing Director of ABB Robotics Auto OEM Business Line.

International Federation of Robotics (IFR) congratulates

“I congratulate ABB on winning the IERA award 2021 against strong competition,” said Milton Guerry, President of the IFR. “The four finalists have all presented a success story of an innovative product in robotics and automation which combine the needs of today’s manufacturers with a high degree of user-friendliness.”

The finalists

Barcelona-based INFAIMON presented its InPicker – a universal pick and place system for industrial applications. Berlin-based Micropsi Industries took part with its MIRAI software – an AI-driven control system that enables industrial robots to deal with variance in production. Mobile Industrial Robots from Odense in Denmark presented the MiR250, a user-friendly mobile robot that optimizes material handling workflows across industries.

About IERA-Award

The IERA Award highlights and honors the achievements of innovators with value creating ideas and entrepreneurs who propel those ideas into world-class products. The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS) and the IFR jointly sponsor the award - underlining their determination to promote stronger collaboration between science and industry in robotics.

IFR Press contact

Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

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Copyright for all pictures and video: ABB Robotics

Leading product design experts recognize ABB’s GoFa™ collaborative robot for innovative design to make robots more approachable.

ABB’s GoFa cobot was awarded the prestigious Red Dot Best of the Best design award in recognition of its unique design concept to make the new robot appealing and accessible to users.

The global Red Dot Design Awards recognize achievements in product design, with the jury assessing thousands of entries every year. Red Dot’s “Best of the Best” award is for groundbreaking design and is the highest award in the competition, reserved for the most aesthetically appealing, functional, smart or innovative design.

GoFa is the fastest cobot in its class and is intended to work side-by-side with humans, without the need for fences, on a wide range of tasks. Advanced safety features, including intelligent sensors in each joint which bring the cobot to a stop in milliseconds if it senses any unexpected contact, allow GoFa to safely operate directly and continuously alongside workers.

The brief for the product designers was to create an intuitive, user-friendly, approachable design to encourage people, and particularly first-time users, to confidently use and interact with GoFa.

“Making robots more approachable, easier to use and more intuitive is key to our vision to make robots as familiar in the workplace as a laptop is today,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation Business Area. “I am delighted that our new cobot GoFa has been recognized by the Red Dot jury for how user-friendly it is. GoFa is a game-changer, reinforcing the importance of good industrial design to make it easier for more people to work with robots. Creating an approachable design will ensure robots are adopted across a range of workplaces outside traditional factory environments, helping us to unlock automation for new users and new industries around the world.”

GoFa’s design is a departure from the look of traditional industrial robots, narrowing the boundaries between industrial and consumer products. It employs slim, straight arms that give the cobot a user-friendly yet strong appearance, while the advanced use of color, material and finish gives GoFa a modern, sleek look. Its simple arm-side interface design with two buttons and light ring echoes the easy-to-use interfaces of consumer products. This makes it accessible even for first-time robot users more accustomed to consumer technology and who may be unfamiliar with industrial machinery.

“Industrial design is not just about the aesthetic! Form follows function, and our emphasis on human-centric design, using the approach of a consumer product means GoFa communicates the proposition of usability, utility and ease of use,” said Andie Zhang, Global Product Manager, Collaborative Robotics for ABB Robotics. “Creating an attractive, approachable design allows people to get the best out of their cobots. We not only want people to feel comfortable working alongside it, we want users to enjoy working with the robot. GoFa is programmed by touching the robot’s arm and leading it, so it’s important that users are comfortable with holding and guiding the cobot as they teach it.”

ABB’s cobots are intuitively designed so customers need not rely on robot programming specialists. This will help industries that have low levels of automation, with customers able to operate their cobot within minutes of installation, straight out of the box, with no specialized training.

“With their ease-of-use digital tools, integrated safety features and higher payloads, our new cobots represent the future of human and robot collaboration. This next generation will enable even more businesses to automate repetitive, mundane and dangerous processes, to enhance productivity and flexibility while leaving employees free to do more value-add activities,” added Andie Zhang. “If you can use a tablet or smartphone, you can work with our cobots.”

The launch of ABB’s new GoFa cobot builds on the success of ABB’s YuMi® family, which has been helping businesses safely automate key tasks since YuMi launched in 2015. The design concept of YuMi, the world’s first truly collaborative robot, also won the Best of the Best Red Dot award in 2011.

As the economies reopen from the pandemic, Asia, Europe and America adjust their robotics research funding programs (R&D). What are the targets of the officially driven government programs today? This has been researched by the IFR and published in the 2021 update paper of “World Robotics R&D Programs”.

“The first version of World Robotics R&D Programs was introduced in June last year. Since then, dozens of countries have updated their robotics R&D programs.” says Prof. Dr. Jong-Oh Park, Vice-Chairman IFR Research Committee and member of the Executive Board. “The five most advanced robotics countries, South Korea, Japan, Germany, USA and China follow up a very different strategic focus.”

Robotics R&D programs - officially driven by governments

The strategic plan Made in China 2025 comes as a blueprint to upgrade the manufacturing capabilities of Chinese industries. In order to promote the rapid development of intelligent robot technology, the key special projects of “Intelligent Robots” are being deployed in accordance with the requirements of the “Innovation Chain”. The focus is on basic cutting-edge technologies of intelligent robots, new-generation robots, key common technologies, industrial robots, service robots and special robots. The development objectives aim to generate continuous growth of the industrial scale. China wants to cultivate at least three leading enterprises with international competitiveness and create more than five clusters of robot-supporting industries. The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR shows that China reached a robot density of 187 units per 10,000 workers in the manufacturing industry – the country ranks 15th worldwide.

In Japan, the “New Robot Strategy” aims to make the country the world´s number one robot innovation hub. The rate of robotization in the manufacturing sector targets an increase of 25% for large-scale companies and 10% for SMEs. Key performance indicator also is an expansion of the system integrators market – they are intermediate between the user and the manufacturer. The action plan includes important service sectors like agriculture, infrastructure and healthcare. Nursing & Medical alone has a budget of 997.3 million USD and supports the data health reform by promoting practical applications of robots and the use of artificial intelligence. According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR, Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer and delivered 47% of the global supply in 2019.

The Intelligent Robot Development and Supply Promotion Act of Korea is pushing to develop the robot industry in Korea as a core industry in the fourth industrial revolution.
Focus areas are: manufacturing businesses (with a special program to enhance competitiveness of SMEs Manufacturing Sites), selected service robot areas (including healthcare and logistics), next-generation key components and key robot software.

For the trans-governmental Full Cycle Medical Device Development project, the government is planning to budget 1.07 billion USD (1.2 trillion KRW) from 2020 to 2025. The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” showed a new record stock of about 319,000 operational industrial robots in the Republic of Korea in 2019 (+13%). Within five years, the country has doubled its number of industrial robots in operation. Following Japan and China, the country ranked third in 2019.

The new European Framework Program Horizon Europe has been launched on research and innovation over the period of 2021 to 2027. Building on the achievements and success of Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe will support top researchers, innovators, and general citizens to develop the knowledge and solutions needed to ensure a green, digital, and healthy future.

The robotics-related work program is embedded in Cluster 4: Digital, Industry, and Space. Robotics-related R&D&I projects will focus on the digital transition of the manufacturing and construction sectors, autonomous solutions to support workers, enhanced cognition, and human-robot collaboration. The robotics-related work program 2021-2022 in Cluster 4 will provide total funding of 240 million USD (198.7 million EUR).

Germany´s High-Tech Strategy 2025 is the fourth edition of the German R&D and innovation program. The goal is for good ideas to be translated quickly into innovative products and services. Most of the framework of the High-Tech Strategy promotes partnership between companies, universities, and research institutions in order to bring together institutional research and entrepreneurial expertise. It has been set the target of 3.5 percent of GDP per annum investment in R&D by 2025. In several program lines of the mission “Shape Technology for the People”, the robotics-related program “Together Through Innovation” was launched in 2020. With this research program line, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will provide around 84 million USD (70 million EUR) annually until 2026.

The National Robotics Initiative (NRI) in the USA was launched for fundamental robotics R&D supported by the US Government. With NRI-2.0, collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged in order to accomplish better connections between fundamental science, engineering, technology development, deployment, and use. one A key sector is “Space Robotics”, where NASA launched a lunar program named “Artemis”. The purpose of the Artemis lunar program is to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024 and to construct promising capabilities for Mars missions after 2024. The Artemis lunar program is a joint spaceflight program by NASA, the US commercial aerospace institution, and international partners including the ESA (comprising 22 countries), Canada, Japan, and Russia. The US government is planning a budget of 35 billion USD from 2020 to 2024. The largest investor in unmanned systems technologies remains the United States Department of Defense (DOD) with 7.3 billion USD budget projected in 2020 and 2021. According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR, robot density in the manufacturing industry had been growing by 7% CAGR since 2014 to 2019 with 228 robots per 10,000 employees – ranking 9th worldwide. Regarding annual installations of industrial robots, the country takes third position.

Files for Download

Please find the information paper “World Robotics R&D Programs” by IFR here.

Further IFR Position Papers are available here.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
econNEWSnetwork
Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

In order to boost efficiency and maintain its competitiveness in logistics distribution and retail supply chain within specific region, LQ invested high level of warehouse automation.

LQ Group is a giant trans-regional and comprehensive commercial group in FMCG industry, and it is one of the top 500 enterprises in China. LQ had traditionally used conventional human-operated warehouse system.

In order to boost efficiency and maintain its competitiveness in logistics distribution and retail supply chain within specific region, LQ invested high level of warehouse automation. At the near end of the system, four depalletizing cells with ABB IRB660 are designed to pick specific number of cartons according to the orders.

There is only one kind of cartons on each pallet; however, there are thousand kinds of cartons with various sizes, colors, patterns, shades, and etc. to be processed everyday which are not able to be handled by conventional robot solution. To solve these problems, Mech-Mind 3D vision system provided an alternative to ABB robot.

Requirement for the vision system

examples of cartons colors and cartons shape © Mech-Mind Robotics
examples of cartons colors and cartons shape © Mech-Mind Robotics

Comprising with Mech-Mind industrial 3D camera, vision system (Mech-Vision), and code-free robot programming system (Mech-Viz), the automated solution aimed to reach 1000 cartons/hour for one robot station, the cycle time between each pick is 10s, which means the vision system should also support for picking three cartons at one time pick.

The Mech-Eye deep is mounted on a stand 1700mm above the top of cartons.

The max weight of one carton is 30 kg.

The FOV (field of view) is 1000*1200*1300 (length*width*height).

The recognize accuracy of vision system should be larger than 99.99%, the time consuming of the visions system should be within 2s and the locating accuracy is±3mm. The vision system is perfectly compatible with ABB robot and the communication protocol is TCP/IP.

The vision system should determine the coordinates and the pose of the cartons which should be picked; therefore the path planning and collision detection of the robot can be taken care of.

Multiple sizes and colors cartons for FMCG (length:600~300mm,width: 500~200mm,height: 500~200mm)

Automating procedure of the depalletizing cell

Arrangement drawings for two cells © Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies
Arrangement drawings for two cells © Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies

In order to reduce the downtime of waiting for new pallets, two cameras are installed on the left and right of the conveyor and guides the robot to execute the order alternatively. The pallets are conveyed to the left and right of the depalletizing station. Once the pallet arrives at a certain position, the host control system sends the signals of the cartons on the pallet including size, weight and quantities to the robot.

As soon as the robot receives the arrival signal from the host system, it triggers the camera to take a picture and sends the picture to Mech-Vision. The vision combines the coordinates and poses of cartons into grasping points and sends it to Mech-Viz.

The Mech-Viz receives the order information and grasping points, afterwards, it guides the EOAT on how many suction cups have to be activated in order to pick a specific number of cartons and which specific cartons have to be picked on the same layer; moreover, Mech-Viz should also inform the robot of the cartons direction when it is put on the conveyor.

Repeat the procedure.

Illustrate the picking logic for the depalletizing cell © Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies
Illustrate the picking logic for the depalletizing cell © Mech-Mind Robotics Technologies

The intelligent solution

The key element of LQ depalletizing solution are Mech-Mind industrial 3D camera, graphical machine vision software and intelligent code-free robot programming environment.

  • Complete and rich function package of 3D vision solutions including hardware, vision system and robot programming.
  • Stable and reliable hardware (passed 7000 hours endurance test)
  • Advanced algorithms with deep learning, able to handle various complicated situations.
  • Fully automated calibration with high accuracy.
  • Fast and accurate object locating.
  • Code-free programming environment.
  • Fully visualized interface with only one-click simulation of robot movement
  • Simple and intelligent software with ensuring the stability of robots in the meantime.
  • Adaptable to various mainstream robot brands.
  • The cameras and vision system are implemented with robots within 2 weeks.

How the vision system improves the robot depalletizing

  • Highly improved flexibility of robot, by putting intelligence into robot and guiding the robot to solve complex tasks in a much easier and cost-effective way compared to conventional robot station.
  • Higher production capacity provided by code-free robot programming system, can support multiple suction cups on the EOAT to handle multiple cartons at the same time.
  • Robust, the advanced vision algorithm can still identify cartons with unfavorable conditions such as binding, reflection and tightly packed objects.
  • Thanks to the advanced deep learning algorithm, all types of cartons can be recognized, and there’s no need for registration.
  • Saving a lot of deployment time and reducing the usage difficulty and deployment costs
  • Lower maintenance rate compared to conventional way due to less simple structure, less part, code free environment

The team of Authorized System Integrators and automation equipment suppliers are working tirelessly with companies that manufacture life-saving products including personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectants, medical diagnostic equipment, ventilators and many other items used in the fight against the coronavirus.

New and innovative automated systems are also helping companies minimize product handling to create more space on the production floor and meet social distancing requirements.

“We’re extremely proud of the work that our Authorized System Integrators and automation equipment suppliers have done throughout the pandemic,” said Mike Cicco, president and CEO, FANUC America. “We live in unprecedented times that require a rapid response to make protective and life-sustaining products, and minimize person to person contact, and I think everyone involved has answered the call.”

Interactive Design - Lenexa, KS

Robotic System to Line Track, Pick and Package COVID Test Swabs

As COVID testing escalates across the globe, a major producer of test kit swabs needed an automated solution to help meet the increasing demand. Interactive Design quickly engineered and designed a flexible system equipped with multiple machine vision guided FANUC SR-6iA SCARA robots to automatically orient, feed, and load swabs into horizontal form, fill, and seal packaging machines. FANUC iRVision allows the robots to locate the swabs as they are conveyed from the machines that produce them. Depending on the position of swabs on the moving conveyor, each robot accurately picks 75 to 90 swabs per minute.

“Interactive Design’s integration team responded at record speed,” said Nate Maholland, sales manager, Interactive Design. “These systems are going to start hitting the customer’s facility in less than half the time they would under normal conditions. We’re very proud to help at this critical time.”

ESS Technologies – Blacksburg, VA

Flexible Filler/Capper for Vials and Small Bottles

As cases of COVID-19 began to intensify across the U.S., a diagnostics manufacturer reached out to ESS Technologies to build two identical filling systems with automated cap torque for diagnostics vials to be used in manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. Speed and urgency drove the project, which required the system to fill up to 120 vials/min.

Though originally developed for vials used in COVID testing, the machines can be used for applications using vials or small bottles. Available in semi-automatic and fully automated configurations, ESS’ flexible filler/capper uses a circular puck conveyor system to transport vials or small bottles to the inline filling system. A timing screw drive positions six vials beneath the six-up diving nozzle assembly where a precise amount of diagnostic reagent is dispensed. The cap placement is automated using FANUC’s SR-6iA SCARA robots and a cap feeder. A three-up final torque station then applies the precise amount of torque to the caps. The machine uses Allen Bradley PLC controls and a 6 in. color touchscreen HMI for ease of operation. An optional 10 in. HMI is available. The system provides fast changeover - under 10 minutes.

The Flexible Filler/Capper is designed to use a circular puck conveyor system to transport vials or small bottles to the inline filling system. © FANUC America
The Flexible Filler/Capper is designed to use a circular puck conveyor system to transport vials or small bottles to the inline filling system. © FANUC America

In addition to filling and capping COVID test kits, a second diagnostics manufacturer has asked ESS to build several end-of-line packaging systems comprised of 13 robots for collation, cartoning and case packing sterile test kits. ESS has been able to offer fast delivery times for these systems, allowing the manufacturers to ramp up their important production capacity. According to Kevin Browne, president and founder of ESS Technologies, Inc. “Everyone at ESS immediately understood the urgency of building high speed, high performance packaging machinery to increase the manufacture of test kits and prepare for future vaccine packaging. As a critical manufacturer for the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries, ESS worked with suppliers to keep the supply chain flowing, and we were able to deliver two complete systems in just a few weeks.”

PaR Systems - Shoreview, MN

Automated Assembly System for Respirators

A major manufacturer of personal production equipment (PPE) needed to quickly ramp up production of their respirators to aid in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
PaR Systems was able to design and build four robotic dispensing systems in just five weeks. Each system includes a FANUC LR Mate 200iD robot for automated dispensing. Since implementing the system, parts are produced within 25 minutes, just a fraction of the time it took with the previous automation. Now, the customer is able to assemble nearly 20,000 respirators per week.

“I’ve never seen a faster or more seamless delivery. It was truly a collaborative effort between PaR, FANUC, our customers and suppliers - all united to help produce this important equipment towards a cause,” said Jon Sakry, SVP of Operations at PaR Systems. “Our team went from concept to install for the customer in just five weeks! We took advanced measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and customer teams were not compromised, including working extended hours and weekends to meet deadlines, safely separating testing groups and maintaining safe social distancing measures throughout the entire production process.”

Automated Dispensing System for Medical Respirators © FANUC America
Automated Dispensing System for Medical Respirators © FANUC America

This example underscores PaR’s mission to help manufacturers solve production challenges with automated solutions to get critical supplies to those who need them.

“In my years at PaR, we’ve done some important work including protective equipment for our military personnel, and assisting with the clean-up at various nuclear reactor sites. I count this latest automated system to produce respirators that protect first responders as another very important project, and I’m proud we were able to deliver the system in an extremely quick timeframe,” said Dan Hagen, Business Segment Leader at PaR Systems.

Sealed Air – Charlotte, NC & Soft Robotics – Bedford, MA

Touchless Packaging System

Sealed Air, the originator of the BUBBLE WRAP® brand and CRYOVAC® food packaging technology as well as other sustainable packaging solutions has partnered with Soft Robotics to integrate their respective technology platforms to create an end-to-end packaging system. A key goal of this technology partnership was to minimize person to person contact typically found in order fulfillment applications. The new system uses Soft Robotics’ Superpick 3D piece picking solution that includes a FANUC LR Mate 200iD six-axis robot. The SuperPick system pairs Soft Robotics proprietary vision and software with the company’s patented soft gripper technology to accurately pick variable products from unstructured totes.

Automated Dispensing System for Medical Respirators © FANUC America
Automated Dispensing System for Medical Respirators © FANUC America

The new touchless systems will allow people to social distance, take them out of potentially dangerous areas, and enable them to manage the robotic system versus manually handling the products. It also gives companies dealing with a labor shortage the ability to meet their customers’ growing demands and reallocate their workforce to higher-level tasks.

The new TS2 SCARA series from Stäubli is not only well received by the industry, now the innovative four-axis robots have won one of the most coveted design awards, the Red Dot Design Award 2021 in the "Product Design" category.

A great success for the still young robot series, which sets benchmarks in terms of dynamics, precision and cleanroom.

“We are very proud to receive this prestigious prize. It rewards the passion and commitment of the Stäubli teams designing products and solutions with unmatched performance, precision and reliability to various environments from harsh to sterile,” emphasizes Christophe Coulongeat, Group Division Manager Stäubli Robotics.

The new four-axis impresses with their unique cylindrical working area which caused a sensation among experts when they were launched. The compact, closed design with internal media and supply lines knows no interfering contours, no sources of error and no unnecessary particle emissions. A completely sealed housing, the connections concealed under the robot base if desired, dead spaces consistently avoided - this is how hygienic design works today. This makes the robots the first choice even for sensitive applications in the pharmaceutical, medical and food sectors.

Please find more on this series on the Stäubli webpage.

It has now been a full year of facing the coronavirus pandemic and although we see some faint light at the end of the tunnel, we are still far from the “old” normal.

Dear Reader,

It has now been a full year of facing the coronavirus pandemic and although we see some faint light at the end of the tunnel, we are still far from the “old” normal.

By now, we can clearly state that the pandemic has accelerated automation adoption. We especially see a push towards robotization in sectors beyond automotive, sectors that have so far been more ambivalent to the opportunities offered by automation technologies. Technological advances, e.g. in sensing and AI, spiced up with further progress in usability and ecosystems, are lowering the hurdles and will drive further deployment of robotics solutions, making robotics a mainstream technology.

Mobile robots are conquering warehouses and e-commerce, and are also poised to revolutionize smart factory solutions. - Early examples are deployed in the automotive industry; other sectors are likely to follow.

The automotive industry will presumably be the driver for another critical trend: reducing energy consumption and optimizing resource efficiencies in manufacturing processes. Combined with efforts to shorten the supply chains and produce closer to consumption (driven by insights gained in the past 12 months), this has the potential to massively reduce the carbon footprint of the goods produced.

Soon you will have the opportunity to find out more about these and other trends, which the robotics community will showcase during the fully virtual trade show and conference Automate Forward (March 22-26, 2021). We are looking forward to an exciting exhibition highlighting the latest innovations, lively panels and enlightening keynotes.

IFR is co-sponsoring an Executive Roundtable on “How Collaborative Automation is Driving Productivity” on March 25, 2021. Please join us for the conference and check the IFR booth in the exhibition area.

Stay safe, and all the best

Milton Guerry
IFR President

The robot density in the US automotive industry hit a new record of 1,287 installed units per 10,000 employees. The United States ranks seventh worldwide. The density is similar to Germany (1,311 units) and Japan (1,248 units). China is in twelfth place with 938 units.

“Automation is the key not only to post-pandemic recovery, but to post-pandemic growth and progress,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “In the upswing after the 2008 financial crisis, companies like General Motors, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, and Tesla invested extensively in robotics and automation. As a result, thousands of new jobs were created within the automotive industry. So many years and technological advancements later, we have the opportunity to learn from this success story and emerge even stronger than before.”

Growing interest by “general industry”

Robot density in the general industry is still comparatively low with only 139 units per 10,000 employees. Overall in all surveyed countries worldwide, the potential for robot installations in the general industry is tremendous. In the United States for example, yearly orders of robots from non-automotive sectors surpassed automotive robot orders for the first time. Sales of robotic units in the US increased 7% in 2020 from 2019. Year-over-year orders in life sciences increased by 72%, food and consumer goods grew by 60%, and plastics and rubber saw a 62% increase.

How to apply robotics

“To help educate companies about how to successfully apply robotics, AI, machine vision and related automation technologies, we’ve launched AUTOMATE FORWARD, a virtual show and conference taking place March 22-26,” says Jeff Burnstein, President of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3). “High-profile industrial experts and over 250 automation suppliers report about cutting-edge use cases for automation and what they recommend for the automation journey of companies either just starting or expanding their automation journey.”

REGISTER - AUTOMATE FORWARD

Please register for free at the organizer’s webpage.

IFR Video – The World´s Top 10 automated countries on YouTube

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heerphone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

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Fast Forward to Automation - that is the motto of Automate Forward, the trade show and conference held virtually for the first time, as the in-person Automate show had to be postponed to 2022.

The event - taking place from March 22 to 26, 2021 - has its finger on the pulse of the time and promises its attendees that they will learn how automation will help them to move forward.

Industry has to do more with less. Whether it’s less manpower or tighter budgets, demand is increasing even if resources are not. Automation is the key to not just getting through these difficult times, but to growing during them.

Automate Forward offers a mix of virtual exhibition hall, networking center and conference.

The conference is featuring more than 80 speakers on robotics, machine vision, motion control, artificial intelligence, and smart automation technologies in eight keynote presentations, four executive roundtables and a series of technology sessions.

On Thursday, March 25, 10-11 am EDT, the Executive Roundtable co-sponsored by IFR is looking at “How Collaborative Automation is Driving Productivity”. IFR President Milton Guerry (President of Schunk USA) will discuss with

Joe Gemma (Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Calvary Robotics), Greg Smith (President of the Industrial Automation Group at Teredyne) and David Robers (Robotics Sales Manager - Americas, Denso Robotics).

Join the panelists for further insights.

IFR is also happy to welcome you at our booth in the exhibition area. Come by and find out more about World Robotics, our latest positioning papers, and how to become part of our network.

View the full agenda:
https://www.automateshow.com/automate-forward-agenda

Register for free:
https://a3.a3automate.org/a3/events/EventDetail?EventKey=AUTOFWD21

IFR Statistical Department is still accepting contributions to the service robot statistics 2020. This survey will be the data source for global service robotics market statistics published in chapter two of World Robotics Service Robots 2021.

Service robot suppliers who contribute their data will receive the statistics for free.

For more information please contact Dr. Christopher Müller and Ms. Nina Kutzbach ([email protected]).

Sales of cleaning robots have boomed since COVID 19, helping keep patients and staff safe. Cleaning robots are also used in public spaces such as hotels and public transport.

Infections caught during hospital stays account for around 37 000 deaths per year in Europe and almost 100,000 in the U.S. The cost of treating hospital infections runs to around €7 billion in Europe and US$6.5 billion in the U.S. Ultra-violet disinfection robots can destroy 99.9% of all microorganisms in a hospital room within 10 minutes. While the room must be empty during disinfection, there are no negative effects of the UV rays. These robots do not replace cleaning staff, who are still required to remove ‘hard’ stains such as blood and urine.

The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly accelerated the adoption of disinfection robots and expanded their use from hospitals to hotels and public spaces such as airports and public transport. However, the increase in infections resistant to antibiotics is also spurring a focus on the prevention of infection, particularly in hospitals. Drug-resistant diseases cause at least 700,000 deaths a year according to the World Health Organisation, which estimates this figure could increase to 10 million deaths globally per year by 2050.

Sales of professional cleaning robots increased by 20% to 55 million in 2019 over the previous year and the IFR expects this to be a booming market as a result of the COVID19 pandemic (IFR World Robotics 2020: Service Robots). Disinfection robots are provided by a wide range of suppliers and vary in design. Danish company Blue Ocean Robotics, won the 2019 IERA innovation award from IEEE and IFR and the Frost & Sullivan 2020 European Professional Service Robots Product Leadership award for its UVD disinfection robot, which moves autonomously around hospitals emitting UV-C light. The robot stops emitting if there is unexpected movement which would indicate a person entering the room. The robot uses LIDAR sensors to create a map of its environment which can then be marked up by an operator to show which rooms and other areas should or should not be disinfected. The robot then navigates autonomously around the hospital.

The TMiRob from Chinese company Taimi Robotics Technology provides three types of disinfection; UV, hydrogen peroxide and plasma air filtration which can be used separately or together depending on disinfection needs. UV-C, for example, cannot travel through objects and therefore cannot clean surfaces blocked from line-of-sight by other objects whereas hydrogen peroxide misting is very effective for full surface cover, but takes longer and requires more intensive preparation, such as removing absorbent material and sealing ventilation points.

Siemens Aucma disinfection robot © Siemens
Siemens Aucma disinfection robot © Siemens

While most disinfection robots move on small-wheeled bases, a number of companies such as Indian robot manufacturer Milagrow, and Siemens together with its Chinese partner Aucma, have developed disinfection robots that run on caterpillar tracks to expand the robot’s scope of operation to include steep slopes and uneven surfaces.

Robots are also being used to make hotels and public spaces safer for people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are they used for cleaning, they are also being used to minimize human contact, for example providing room service deliveries in hotels.

Robot disinfecting the Hong Kong metro © MTR Corporation
Robot disinfecting the Hong Kong metro © MTR Corporation

A number of transportation companies are using cleaning robots. For example, Hong Kong transportation company MTR Corporation has deployed a Vapourised Hydrogen Peroxide Robot (VHP Robot) to clean train compartments and stations. The robot, developed by MTR and Avalon Biomedical sprays atomised hydrogen peroxide which penetrates small gaps that normal cleaning methods cannot reach. The robot can be operated remotely through a pre-programmed floor plan or it can be operated manually. East Japan Railway has used cleaning robots at major stations for some time. Pittsburgh (US), Hong Kong, Singapore, Heathrow (UK) and Narita International (Japan) are among the airports using cleaning robots. Pittsburgh airport has retro-fitted its existing floor-cleaning robots with UV fixtures, collaborating with Carnegie Robotics.

A number of hotel chains including Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriot and Waldorf Astoria are using robots for room cleaning and / or to make room service deliveries. Most hotels use robots to disinfect rooms using UV light following the regular clean by staff. Robot butlers feature a mobile robot base with a secure storage box. The ordered items are loaded into the storage box and the robot is then dispatched. These robots are able to navigate their way autonomously through the hotel – including using lifts - using an inbuilt map and real-time sensor data. Guests enter a PIN on the storage box to access their items. A number of hotels in Tokyo, Japan, used to house mildly ill coronavirus patients in an effort to unburden Tokyo hospitals, have used robots to greet guests and clean areas used by guests to pick up food and other necessities.

ADLATUS CR700 is an autonomous professional cleaning robot. It addresses logistic centers, supermarkets, public transport and industrial surfaces © ADLATUS robotics GmbH
ADLATUS CR700 is an autonomous professional cleaning robot. It addresses logistic centers, supermarkets, public transport and industrial surfaces © ADLATUS robotics GmbH

A number of food retailers and mall operators are trialling or using cleaning robots. Amazon has tested a UV robot in its Whole Foods Markets, for example, while various shopping malls in Singapore use PBA Group’s ‘Sunburst UV Robot’ (which is also deployed in hospitals in Malaysia and Singapore).

Video Examples on YouTube

Annual installations of industrial robots more than tripled within ten years (2010-2019) reaching 381 thousand units in factories around the world. The International Federation of Robotics shows top 5 trends shaping industries around the globe.

“The mission to combine traditional production with ´go digital strategies´ puts robots in a pole position,” says Dr Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the IFR.

Robots learn new tricks
 

Artificial intelligence software in combination with vision and other sensing systems, allow robots to master difficult tasks. One such task is bin picking, that in the past was only feasible for a human hand. New generations of robots are easier to install and program and they are connectable. Advances in communication protocols integrate robots seamlessly into automation and Industry 4.0 strategies.

Robots work in smart factories

The automotive industry pioneered smart factory solutions utilizing industrial robots throughout assembly lines that have dominated traditional automobile production for more than 100 years. The future belongs to networked interaction of robots and autonomous guided vehicles - or rather autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Equipped with the latest navigation technology, these mobile robots are much more flexible compared to traditional production lines. Car bodies are conveyed on driverless transport systems. They can be decoupled from the assembly line flow and redirected to assembly stations where individually equipped variants can be assembled. When models are changed completely, it is only necessary to reprogram the robots and AMRs rather than to dismantle the entire production line. With the integration of human-robot collaboration workstations picking up momentum, robot suppliers report robots working hand-in-hand with humans without fencing.

LARA (Lightweight Agile robotic assistant) mounted on MAV (Multi-Sensing Autonomous vehicle) palletizing products © NEURA Robotics GmbH

LARA (Lightweight Agile robotic assistant) mounted on MAV (Multi-Sensing Autonomous vehicle) palletizing products © NEURA Robotics GmbH

Robots enter new markets

The connectivity breakthroughs contribute to increased robot adoption in manufacturing sectors that have only recently turned to automation, such as food and beverage, textiles, wood products and plastics. Ongoing digital transformation will lead to completely new business models, because producers can diversify more easily than ever. In the smart factory, different products are assembled subsequently by the same equipment - the traditional production line no longer exists.

Robots reduce carbon footprint

Investments in modern robot technology will also be driven by the requirement for a smaller carbon footprint. Modern robots are energy-efficient, thus directly reducing energy consumption of production. Through higher precision, they also produce fewer rejections and substandard goods, which has a positive impact on the ratio of resource input over output. In addition, robots help in the cost-efficient production of renewable energy equipment, such as photovoltaics or hydrogen fuel cells.

Robots help to secure supply chains

The pandemic situation has made the weakness of globalized supply chains visible. Manufacturers have the opportunity to rethink supply with a completely different outlook. When productivity is leveled through automation, manufacturers have increased flexibility that may not have been available in high-wage countries like most of the European Union, North America, Japan or the Republic of Korea. Robotic automation offers productivity, flexibility and security.

“Advances in robot technologies are contributing to increased robot adoption,” says Dr Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the IFR. “The COVID-19 pandemic hasn`t started any new trends but it accelerated the use of robotics beyond established practice. In this respect, the pandemic has proven to be the biggest single driver for change in industry.”

For more trends on the global robotics market please check this website

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Please find pictures and press release in German language for download below.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

The average robot density in the manufacturing industry hit a new global record of 113 units per 10,000 employees. By regions, Western Europe (225 units) and the Nordic European countries (204 units) have the most automated production, followed by North America (153 units) and South East Asia (119 units).


The world´s top 10 most automated countries are: Singapore (1), South Korea (2), Japan (3), Germany (4), Sweden (5), Denmark (6), Hong Kong (7), Chinese Taipei (8), USA (9) and Belgium and Luxemburg (10). This is according to the latest World Robotics statistics, issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“Robot density is the number of operational industrial robots relative to the number of workers,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “This level measurement allows comparisons of countries with different economic sizes in the dynamic automation race over time.”

The country with the highest robot density by far remains Singapore with 918 units per 10,000 employees in 2019. The electronics industry, especially semiconductors and computer peripherals, is the primary customer of industrial robots in Singapore with shares of 75% of the total operational stock.

South Korea comes second with 868 units per 10,000 employees in 2019. Korea is a market leader in LCD and memory chip manufacturing with companies such as Samsung and LG on top and also a major production site for motor vehicles and the manufacturing of batteries for electric cars.

Japan (364 robots per 10,000 employees) and Germany (346 units), rank third and fourth respectively. Japan is the world´s predominant robot manufacturing country - where even robots assemble robots: 47% of the global robot production are made in Nippon. The electrical and electronics industry has a share of 34%, the automotive industry 32%, and the metal and machinery industry 13% of the operational stock. Germany is by far the largest robot market in Europe with 38% of Europe’s industrial robots operating in factories here. Robot density in the German automotive industry is among the highest in the world. Employment in this sector rose continuously from 720,000 people in 2010 to almost 850,000 people in 2019.

Sweden remains in 5th position with a robot density of 274 units operating with a share of 35% in the metal industry and another 35% in the automotive industry.

Robot density in the United States increased to 228 robots. In 2019, the US car market was again the second largest car market in the world, following China, with the second largest production volume of cars and light vehicles. Both USA and China are considered highly competitive markets for car manufacturers worldwide.

The development of robot density in China continues dynamically: Today, China’s robot density in the manufacturing industry ranks 15th worldwide. Next to car production, China is also a major producer of electronic devices, batteries, semiconductors, and microchips.

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Please find graph and press releases in other languages for download below.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heerphone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

Production is faster – while the quality has increased. With a new ABB robot, Tiki Safety is equipped to meet a record demand for respiratory protection.

The challenge

The company needed to quickly boost production of its protective respiratory face masks to meet a sudden rush of demand from Sweden and the rest of the world.

The solution

Tiki Safety installed an ABB IRB 2600 compact robot that places and picks masks in and out of a machine that molds a sealing rubber strip around the respirator. Automation with the highly reliable IRB 2600 robot has made production at Tiki Safety ten times faster, improved the quality of the life-saving masks and created a better environment for employees who are excited to work with the robot.

The application

Pick and place masks between two sections of a production line.

There are busy days at Tiki Safety in Bro outside Stockholm. Demand for the company’s respiratory protection has grown exponentially both in Sweden and globally. In order to meet the high demand, production was streamlined, and the solution became an ABB robot.

“Thanks to the ABB-robot, we now have a cycle time that is ten times as fast. This enables us to meet our orders and help hospitals in Sweden and around the world to get products as quickly as possible, says Mikael Klockseth, CEO tiki safety.

Tiki is one of the most advanced and at the same time most easy to use respirators on the market, a unique overpressure mask with a small fan at the top. But even though the respirator is world class, the machinery of manufacturing did not keep as high a standard. In order to manage Tiki Safety to increase their production rate, 3Button Group together with ABB developed a tailor-made solution: a new production cell where an ABB robot, IRB 2600, picks masks in and out of a machine that mold the sealing rubber strip that is placed around the respirator.

RobotStudio being the key enabler and ABB Robots, helps to meet orders by manufaturng at 10x cycle times © ABB
RobotStudio being the key enabler and ABB Robots, helps to meet orders by manufaturng at 10x cycle times © ABB

“Thanks to cooperation with 3Button Group and ABB, we got a turnkey solution in record time. It works great. Already the day after commissioning, we were up and running and making masks at a rate quite different from the one we had in the past, says Mikael Klockseth.

RobotStudio – an enabler (for development)

The phase of production that had been modernised took six minutes earlier. Now it doesn’t take more than 40 seconds. And faster it will be. “In a week or so, we hope to be down to 20 seconds. It’s just amazing! In addition, no special competence is required to work with the new line, and less needlework than before provides better quality of the product, says Mikael Klockseth.

RobotStudio has been an important key to the fast and successful robot delivery. ABB:s programming- and robot simulation software can create, simulate and test a complete robot installation in a virtual 3D environment. When tool design and programming of Tiki Safety’s new robot cell was added to RobotStudio, everyone could quickly see new opportunities and make decisions.

“In RobotStudio we immediately saw that there was more time for the robot to do other things in the cell. Therefore, we will introduce our test station in the same cell, so that the robot tests the masks while it manufactures and molds the plastic parts. It saves us an enormous amount of time if we don’t have to test manually, says Mikael Klockseth.

Improved working environment

Increased production capacity, higher quality and more parts in the same cell. The replacement of old messy machines with a modern robot brings many advantages. It has also been a boost for the working environment at Tiki Safety.

“The ABB robot has solved much of the machine trouble we had before. Thanks to the robot, production works without problems, and the staff is much better able to manufacture the product now. They think it’s fun to work with new, cool machines!

Tiki Safety is very pleased with the new ABB robot. Now the company is better equipped to meet the high demand for respiratory protection, and according to Mikael Klockseth, the next step is already being thought about.

“Since the technology has proven to work so well, we have talked about buying another ABB robot. Then we could double production.”

HPM began a gradual investment in industrial robots in 2005, driven by the emergence of a tightening labor market and the opportunity to produce an extremely fragile product

The challenge

Back in 2005 Hitachi Powdered Metals faced two challenges at the same time. First a labor availability issue. It was very difficult to hire and retain skilled employees. And secondly, the customer demand to produce extremely small and fragile parts which were barely handable by hand.

The solution

The solution to solve both issues at the same time was robot automation. HPM started with a pre-used robot to get familiar with robots and gain experience. Fast forward to today, over 200 robots working at HPM’s Greensburg plant.

The application

HPM started with a handling application to tend the fragile parts. With its electric magnetic gripper the robot was able to handle the parts more gentle than the most cautious employee, reducing the scrap rate of the new product from 11% to 0.5%.

Powdered Metallurgy (PM) or sintering is the process of compacting custom blends of elemental or alloy powders in prefabricated dies to efficiently make machine parts of varying complexity. Once compacted, the shapes are heated in a controlled atmosphere furnace to bond the particles and harden the parts.

Also known as green compacting, the process yields near-net components that typically use more than 97% of the initial raw material in the finished part. Custom powder alloy mixtures provide the ability to produce complex, even intricate parts that meet the strength and tolerance specifications required for highly demanding applications.

The Hitachi Powdered Metals (HPM) plant in Greensburg, Indiana is one of nine such Hitachi facilities worldwide. It specializes in producing valve train and transmission components for automotive tier suppliers in the United States, with a growing presence serving motorcycle and landscape equipment manufacturers.

The initial motivation

HPM began a gradual investment in industrial robots in 2005, driven by the emergence of a tightening labor market and the opportunity to produce an extremely fragile product.

“We started with robots because we had a part to make for a customer that had small, very fragile teeth that couldn’t be handled manually, and at that point all of our compacting presses were tended by hand,” said Gregory Owens, president of the HPM Greensburg plant. “Reducing labor costs was also a factor, but shortly after the first installation a major automotive OEM opened a manufacturing facility in town, and our labor cost issue transitioned to a labor availability issue, as it became extremely difficult to hire and retain employees.”

In an effort to keep costs down and to minimize any exposure during the initial trial period, HPM purchased a used, vintage 1993, ABB S3 robot from CIM SYSYEMS INC. in nearby Noblesville, Indiana. James Adams, who had joined HPM several years earlier as a manufacturing development engineer, was familiar with CIM, the longest-tenured ABB Robotics Value Provider (i.e. system integrator) in the US, from his work with robots at his previous employer.

“CIM had a used robot that would allow us to ease our way into robotic automation, limiting our initial exposure just in case it didn’t perform as intended,” said Adams. “They also provided us some much-needed support with programming and integrating the system into the existing operation.”

Reduced scrap, more efficient labor allocation

When the powdered metal parts come out of the press, before they are hardened in the oven, they can easily crumble with even the lightest touch. With the newly installed robot, featuring an electric magnetic gripper to handle the part, the scrap rate of the new product went from 11% while manually tended to 0.5%.

“When the parts were manually being pulled out of the press there was considerable handling damage. The part could be imperceptibly deformed, but you wouldn’t know it until it came out of the oven five hours later. Properly programmed and outfitted, robots are much more gentile at handling the parts,” said Adams.

The new system allowed HPM to move several of the manual machine handlers to less mundane positions in the plant, reducing the stress of a repetitive task and reallocating the labor in a more efficient manner.

Production increases 400%

Over the next year HPM added five more used S3 robots, applying what they learned from the initial system to automate other compact presses. After 18 months HPM had saved enough on scrap and labor to invest in its first new robot.

Fast forward to 2019. Now with over 200 robots installed, the Greensburg facility has the same amount of employees as it did ten years ago, but produces four-times the volume, easily delivering more parts with less people than any of the global Hitachi PM plants.

“Once the first robot was installed for the fragile part, it became very obvious that we can really take advantage of further robot automaton,” said Owens. “Robots far exceeded our initial expectations, and with the labor shortages we continue to face, quite frankly I believe robots saved us from potentially not existing.”

With the success of the first robot, the pace of subsequent installations was steady. It took ten years to reach 100 installed robots, and then as business and the economy continued to improve, only four more years to reach the recently installed 200th robot.

When the opportunities arose, HPM continued to buy used ABB robots in good condition, though more and more new robots were added to the fleet. In fact, every robot added since #147 in 2015 has been new.

HPM’s installation base includes a range of ABB small- and mid-range 6-axis robots, one Delta robot and several recently added SCARA models. Together with 350 employees the automation investment is well utilized, running three shifts five to six days a week.

“Our corporate headquarters is in Japan,” said Adams. “Once they saw how the robots performed and the rapid return-on-investment, they were very supportive of our robotic agenda.”

Some of the robots, both new and used, are ABB Foundry Prime, IP67-rated models which have extremely well-sealed connections that protect the robots’ inner workings from the fine, sharp edged metal powders that float through the plant atmosphere. The many standard, IP65-rated robot models on HPM’s floor are very robust and have been able to withstand the dusty environment.

Continued expansion

The proliferation of robots at HPM was supported by replicating existing applications and expanding automation to other functions in the facility.

© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory
© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory

After the installation of the first robot tending the compact press for the most fragile product, Adams and his team sequentially automated the removal of the compacts from other presses. Part of this process was to place each part on a scale to verify its integrity. Once verified, the part was placed on a conveyor leading to the furnace.

Additional labor efficiencies resulted, and with the deft touch of the robot, the scrap rate of the less fragile parts went from 7% to the same 0.5% of the initial part.

At the end of the conveyor the parts are put on sintering trays that, when filled, are placed in furnaces for the hardening process. This furnace-loading process became the second major function to be automated.

Continuing at a measured pace, robots were then installed to take the parts off the trays and place them on pallets, while also inserting dividers between each pallet layer.

“As we got more familiar with robots, we took what we learned and duplicated applications around the facility,” said Adams. “Programming became much easier, and on the last day of line installation we would tweak existing programs, copy and paste and we were up and running in a couple of hours.”

RobotStudio

RobotStudio®, ABB’s offline simulation and programming software, became a valuable tool in expediting HPM’s increasing adoption of robotic technology. Built on the ABB VirtualController, an exact copy of the real software that runs robots in production, RobotStudio allows very realistic simulations to be performed, using real robot programs and configuration files identical to those used on the shop floor. With RobotStudio, Adams was able to design the optimal cell layout and verify its performance before integrating the robots in a particular operation.

“It is the best software ever developed,” said Adams. “It saves time and money both in creating systems for new applications and in replicating those we had already installed in other areas of the plant.”

Introduction of vision

The relative simplicity of replication exists only after a certain application has been installed and refined on the plant floor. New applications are often more challenging. After eighteen months and the successful integration of six press-tending robots, HPM had the confidence to engage vision-enabled technology, in its infancy at the time (2006), to robotically automate the complex “coining” or “repress” operation.

After parts come out of the furnace they can often warp, which requires them to be put in a press that coins them back to being straight or flat. Many parts have keyways or teeth that need to be placed in the mold with all aspects precisely lining up. Before the arrival of the robots, the parts being coined were handled by a hard automation system that, with many different product variations, required frequent, time-consuming changeovers. The changeovers were so long that backups of 250 product lots, each with approximately 100 parts were common.

© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory
© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory


With the vision-enabled robot there is no downtime. The robot is able to identify the part from group of many different parts, pick it up, radially orient it and accurately position it in the repress.

Because the vision system needed to interface with the latest robot technology, this was the first new ABB robot installed at the Greensburg facility. Soon after it was up and running, two more new robots were purchased for the same application.

“Prior to the installation of the coining station robot, the repress staff was working every day,” said Adams. “In six months after the first vision robot was installed there were no more backups and the staff had their weekends off!”

Further vision

HPM used vision again down the road in the last of the major processes to be automated, the depalletizing of parts that had been sent out for specialized heat treatment. Though the parts are sent out neatly positioned on tiered layers on a pallet, they come back in relative disarray and are difficult to unstack. An ABB robot with integrated vision is able find the parts and grip them securely so they can be safely depalletized.

“That is one of the unique capabilities of ABB robots,” said Dave Fox, president of CIM SYSTEMS, who helped integrate the various vision systems. “The parts are really disoriented on the skids, not in uniform rows, with some being upside down. A typical 6-axis robot would have all sorts of singularity issues, getting into a position where it can no longer move. But the ABB robot using advanced singularity avoidance is able to find the parts, grab them and place them safely on a conveyor without missing a beat.”

SCARA robots for quality inspection

Not surprisingly, a recent search for a more efficient system to inspect valve guides led back to robots, in this case a group of ABB SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) models, which are typically used for small part assembly and material handling.

© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory
© Hitachi Powdered Metals factory

HPM protocol calls for 100% inspection of all valve guides, which is quite an undertaking given the variety of parts that must be tested: 30 different size variations and 16 detect points for each part. With the prevailing hard automation testing system unable to sufficiently keep up with the volume, Adams began to search for a better system.

After looking at various options, all of which had too many moving parts and required complex engineering, Fox suggested designing a system around the SCARA robots, which ABB added to its portfolio in 2016. They were certainly fast enough, with great repeatability, and had a small footprint and an unhindered form of mounting that fit within a confined space.

A relatively simple system was designed with three SCARA robots picking individual valve guides from a hopper conveyor and presenting them to vision cameras and a stationary “comparator” at the various angles needed to access the 16 detect points. The parts that passed were placed on one conveyor and those that didn’t were placed in reject bins.

With the flexibility to dexterously handle each different part variation with similar ease, the system is able to inspect a part every two seconds, 30% faster than the previous method. Since the movements are confined to a short distance and the parts are very light, a six-axis robot would not work as effectively as the sleek, limited-reach SCARA.

“The SCARAs are a great addition to the ABB portfolio. If not for that solution Hitachi probably would have had to pursue another technology for part inspection,” said Fox. “It was nice to be able to find another application for robots, even though that wasn’t the first option that came to mind.”

CIM SYSTEMS

One constant that has been on the scene, either in the foreground or the background, from the first robot installed at HPM to the present day is CIM SYSTEMS. Always available when needed, CIM has set-up HPM with new and used robots, helped program and troubleshoot, but perhaps most importantly, taught the HPM staff to do many things themselves.

When HPM integrated robots into a new application, with vision or otherwise, CIM did the set-up and programming, always mindful to share their expertise, including use of RobotStudio. During the occasional lull in HPM’s robot acquisition timeline, CIM was available to update programs, find elusive spare parts for older models or offer advice on working with robots across a range of vintages.

“As we hit each of the different processes we had CIM do the initial integration and programming. Once we began replicating processes across the plant we had learned enough to do a lot ourselves,” said Adams. “Because of his close relationship with ABB, Dave Fox always knows when new technology is coming down the pike and which robots would be optimal for our various applications. The support we got from CIM SYSTEMS and the service from ABB was an ideal combination.”

With such a long-standing relationship, it’s no surprise that when the first robot rolled off the line at ABB’s United States manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, MI in 2017, it was commissioned by CIM at HPM. The one-of-a-kind IRB 2400 robot was custom-painted red, white and blue at the factory, and is positioned prominently at HPM’s facility, performing inspection and palletizing tasks.

“We are excited we were able to procure the first American-made robot for HPM,” stated Fox. “It is especially significant because the Indiana plant has the most flexible automaton of HPM’s many global facilities.”

Support of other HPM facilities

HPM’s corporate management in Japan took notice of the major productivity improvements the Greensburg team achieved with robots, and in 2017 assigned Adams and Owens to lead a “Global Robotics” initiative to support the other Hitachi powdered metal plants around the world expand their use of robots.

The two-year program is past the midpoint and the affiliate companies are beginning to realize significant productivity improvements, even with the lower labor costs in the other countries.

ABB Ability™

Adams has set up ABB’s Remote Monitoring function at HPM so he or members of his team can see how robots are operating, and troubleshoot most issues from anywhere outside the factory on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. With the newer robots, HPM hopes to take advantage of ABB Ability Connected Services, ABB’s unified, cross-industry, digital offering, which provides real-time data about robot status and performance from any location.

Future plans

HPM’s ongoing mission includes improving their operations with robotic automation.

“We expect to grow at 10% per year for the foreseeable future, and we must do whatever we can to remain competitive,” said Owens. “We are looking at what transmission parts we will be able to make for electric vehicles, and have set our sights on penetrating non-automotive segments like heavy equipment where powdered metal may be able to replace parts made of other materials at a lower cost.”

“I certainly anticipate the pace of robot installations to remain steady or even increase.”

The 2020 Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation (IERA) goes to Photoneo’s high resolution MotionCam-3D. This 3D scanner captures quick moving objects and delivers the sharpest eyes in the world for industrial robots.

“The jury is pleased to announce the selection of Photoneo’s Motion Cam-3D as the winner of the 16th IERA Award,” says Jury Chair Robert Ambrose from IEEE-RAS. “The award celebrates the combination of innovative concepts with entrepreneurial efforts to bring those ideas to market. This year’s winner is a novel 3D imaging system merging the benefits of both stereo vision with structured light approaches to yield a fast and accurate perception system with applications in society and industry.”

From left to right at the virtual award presentation: Alexander Verl, Chairman ISR; Enrico Krog Iversen, OnRobot, IERA finalist; Robert Ambrose, IERA Awards Chair; Milton Guerry, IFR President; without mask: Svorad Stolc, Photoneo, IERA Award winner.

Eyes for robots that spot submillimeters

„MotionCam-3D gives eyes to robots with the highest resolution and accuracy in the world,“ said Jan Zizka, CEO of Bratislava-based maker Photoneo. „Our camera is able to inspect objects moving as fast as 140 kilometres per hour. Its qualities are useful in various fields: e.g. in e commerce and logistics, for object sorting and autonomous delivery systems. The camera also helps in food processing and waste sorting as well as harvesting in agriculture. Thanks to accurate machine vision, robots can also analyse objects with high resolution images, which is important in quality control.“

Making automation affordable for SMEs

Smart cobot applications like the IERA award winner considerably lower the hurdles for small and medium-sized companies to use robotics for automation. “A traditional industrial robot can easily be equipped with new tools to transform them into truly collaborative helpers”, said Milton Guerry, President of the IFR.

IERA Award 2021

In 2021 the IERA Award session will be hosted by IEEE RAS at the ICRA conference from May 30 to June 5, 2021 in China. The call for application has been released and is available below. Applications must be submitted until February 28, 2021.

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A very unique year, in many aspects, is coming to an end. Back in January, no one would have expected nor predicted the events that unfolded.

Dear Reader,

A very unique year, in many aspects, is coming to an end. Back in January, no one would have expected nor predicted the events that unfolded. It is uncertain when we will be able to meet again in person to bring together the robotics community from around the globe. There is optimism the first vaccines will become available early next year, so we will look forward to future face-to-face collaboration with enthusiasm.

For the time being, we have learned to adapt to a new normal. December will be busy with the full series of virtual IFR meetings. Web-based teamwork has proven to be more important than ever. I’m proud to see that reflected in record participation by the IFR community.

Other positive effects of the pandemic are the growing interest in robotics and automation. Industrial sectors and organizations that had been reluctant in the past to invest in this technology are showing renewed interest. Additionally, the IFR has registered an increased number of media requests resulting in an all-time high in press citations.

Robots will play a vital role in automating production and accelerating the post pandemic economy. At the same time, robots are driving demand for skilled workers. Governments and companies around the globe must focus on providing the right skills necessary to work with robots and intelligent automation systems. Educational programs must effectively adjust to this demand. The IFR has prepared a position paper on Next Generation Skills, creating awareness and a call to action for all stakeholders involved.

The IFR Executive Roundtable on December 8 will be hosted in collaboration with the automatica fair organized as a virtual event that is focused on “Next generation workforce - upskilling for robotics”.

The 52nd International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) will be held on December 9 and 10. For the first time in its history this event will take place as a purely virtual conference. Another first, a business track has been added, giving companies that cannot exhibit at fairs the opportunity to showcase their latest developments.

Organized with the ISR will be the 16th Annual Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation (IERA Award), two finalists will present their impressive innovations followed by the presentation of the prestigious award.

In closing, I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy successful start of the New Year.

Stay safe!

Milton Guerry
IFR President

Executives from robot suppliers, end-users and policy-making will draw a picture of the future of work in the factory and discuss what it takes to support the current and next generation workforce with the proper skills and develop a culture of lifelong learning.

With the online format automatica Talk, Messe Munich is expanding its digital presence of automatica. Top-class experts as well as automation suppliers and users illuminate current issues and trends around robotics and automation in each episode. In the next edition on December 8, 2020 from 13:00 to 14:30 CET, automatica Talk will represent the IFR Executive Roundtable. The focus of the English-language panel discussion is on the topic:

Next generation workforce - upskilling for robotics

Increasing needs for flexibility and resilience of production as well as an urge towards more energy and resource efficiency are currently driving automation. This trend is even speeding up with the coronavirus pandemic.

Increased robot adoption provides also great benefits for the manufacturing workers, by creating new, interesting roles with new skills profiles. With further advances in robotics this trend will continue over the next 10 and more years.

However, there is already today a shortage of properly skilled manufacturing workers – and if no action is taken, this shortage will further increase and hamper the competitiveness of this important industry sector. Manufacturers, education institutes and governments must collaborate to promote attractive career paths in manufacturing especially for young people.

The Panel

  • Jeff Burnstein, President of Robotics Industries Association (RIA)
  • Mike Cicco, President & CEO of FANUC America
  • Felix Rohn, Policy Officer at European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion
  • Anna Byhovskaya, Senior Policy Advisor of TUAC (The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD)

To whom is this session addressed?

To users and suppliers of automation technology who are interested in how the impending shortage of skilled workers in production can be averted and / or who would like to find out more about future job profiles in production.

You missed the live discussion?

Please follow the recorded discussion on the automatica webpage.

The finalists of the 16th Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation (IERA) showcase the latest skills robots have acquired to assist humans at work.

The finalists of the 16th Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation (IERA) showcase the latest skills robots have acquired to assist humans at work: OnRobot’s applicant is an intelligent gripper named RG2-FT: With the fingertips it “feels” and picks up delicate materials like thin glass or test samples and passes them on to humans. The second finalist is Photoneo’s high resolution MotionCam-3D. This 3D scanner captures quick moving objects and delivers the sharpest eyes in the world for industrial robots.

“We are very impressed by the creativity that the participants of the IERA Award 2020 demonstrated,” said Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “This year’s finalists yet again show great ingenuity put into practice: Both applications show how automation can further develop how humans and robots work together in industry.” The Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation is one of the most important distinctions in the world of robotics. It is jointly sponsored by The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS) and the International Federation of Robotics.

Robot with fingertip sensibility like humans

“The gripper RG2-FT has the same fingertip sensibility as a human hand,” said Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of the Danish collaborative application company OnRobot. “Our gripper thus handles very delicate work pieces, such as thin glass or medical testing samples - even without knowing the exact location in a box.” To do this, the RG2-FT uses advanced proximity and force-torque sensors. The way it works can be compared to humans picking up a pencil with closed eyes: Proximity sensors “feel” the object until the grip is perfect – substituting the human eye. The gripper then doses its force precisely: It picks up the object, safely passes it on to humans, knowing to let go when handing over.

RG2-FT gripper

RG2-FT gripper © OnRobot

Eyes for robots that spot submillimeters

„MotionCam-3D gives eyes to robots with the highest resolution and accuracy in the world,“ said Jan Zizka, CEO of Bratislava-based maker Photoneo. „Our camera is able to inspect objects moving as fast as 140 kilometres per hour. Its qualities are useful in various fields: e.g. in e commerce and logistics, for object sorting and autonomous delivery systems. The camera also helps in food processing and waste sorting as well as harvesting in agriculture. Thanks to accurate machine vision, robots can also analyse objects with high resolution images, which is important in quality control.“

MotionCam-3D © Photoneo

MotionCam-3D © Photoneo

Making automation affordable for SMEs

Smart cobot applications like the IERA award finalists considerably lower the hurdles for small and medium-sized companies to use robotics for automation. “A traditional industrial robot can easily be equipped with new tools to transform them into truly collaborative helpers”, said Milton Guerry, President of the IFR. Smaller plug and produce solutions are ready for immediate use, no external programmers are needed and the investment starts to pay off quickly.

IERA award session and ceremony at the International Symposium on Robotics ISR

The award session will take place during the 52nd International Symposium on Robotics ISR – held virtually on 9th December 2020, 14:45-15:45 CET. The award ceremony takes place 10th December, 13:20-13:40 CET. The two-day conference will offer an insight into the latest state-of-the-art robot technologies to participants from both industry and research. The new Business Track will provide an overview on the latest trends and developments in industry. Please find the ISR program for download here.

Register for ISR (December 09-10, 2020) and attend the “IERA award session” online, December 9th at 14:45 CET.

Videos

OnRobot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWNP6lHeWkc
Photoneo: https://youtu.be/HOnQFhkQNaI

Downloads

Exoskeletons from a variety of manufacturers enable people who were wheelchair bound to walk again, improving their physical and mental health.

Exoskeletons from a variety of manufacturers enable people who were wheelchair bound to walk again. Not only does this vastly improve their mental health, it also reduces complications from sitting in a wheelchair such as obesity, cardio-metabolic problems, sores and bone deterioration. It improves digestive function and enables many patients to reduce or eliminate pain medication and its associated side-effects such as fatigue. As one physiatrist commented, “There’s a lot of data that the sooner you can get patients and walking, the better they do.” One study found that after only five training sessions, people with either paraplegia or tetraplegia were able to safely ambulate using a powered exoskeleton on a variety of different surfaces.

The ReWalk, from ReWalk Robotics, for example, is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal cord injury to stand upright, walk, turn, and climb and descend stairs. The ReWalker controls movement using subtle changes in his/her center of gravity. A forward tilt of the upper body is sensed by the system, which initiates the first step. Repeated body shifting generates a sequence of steps which mimics a functional natural gait of the legs.

ReWalk patient Robert Woo was able to eliminate all of his pain medication which also increased his energy levels. He has built muscle tone and his digestive system has improved. He commented, “I feel great! I look forward to being able to walk and go out with my family, hug my wife, take my children to the park, and do many things using the ReWalk that I thought I couldn’t do after my injury and being confined to a wheelchair.”

Sasha, who used an exoskeleton from Ekso Bionics after a spinal cord injury, went from not being able to walk at all, to walking unassisted without a cane for periods of time through training with the exoskeleton.

The EksoNR from Ekso Bionics © Ekso Bionics
The EksoNR from Ekso Bionics © Ekso Bionics

Using exoskeletons also improves work for physical therapists, by reducing load and accelerating visible and measurable results for patients. One therapist commented, “The exoskeleton gives us feedback so we can see how much the patient is working and how much the machine is assisting them. We can structure the exoskeleton around the patient’s walk and not have the exoskeleton walk them.” It also improves the overall productivity of rehabilitation units. As one therapist working with Ekso Bionics commented, “We went from taking 20 steps with 3 physical therapists to hundreds of steps with one therapist.”

Published Case Studies

ReWalk Robert Woo testimonial

Videos

ReWalk personal testimonial – Robert and Vivian Woo

Rewalk personal testimonial – Claire L

Esko personal testimonial – Sasha P.

Explore how exoskeletons and other robots are helping patients recover faster from stroke and other neurological disorders.

Robots are used extensively to help patients recover from stroke and other severe neurological disorders. The market for rehabilitation robots is expanding rapidly. The IFR’s World Robotics 2019 - Service Robots, reports 2,400 rehabilitation robots sold in 2018, an increase of 83% over 2017.

The advantage of robot devices over rehabilitation exercises guided only by a therapist is that the robot device ensures that the movement is repeated in exactly the same way each time, training the brain to enable muscles to carry out the movements alone. Repetitions per session are also generally higher with robot-assisted rehabilitation. The robots collect data on the patient’s performance, enabling therapists and doctors to assess progress accurately. A number of studies indicate that the ability of the robot to assist in very accurate, repetitive movements, means that patients recover faster through robot-assisted therapy than un-assisted (see for example Kim et al. 2017 Is robot-assisted therapy effective in upper extremity recovery in early stage stroke? and Mehrholz et al. 2017 Electromechanical-assisted training for walking after stroke). Robot-assisted rehabilitation is also safer for both patient and therapist as the therapist is not required to support the patient, and can conduct more precise, targeted training sessions with improved outcomes.

Most robotic rehabilitation devices comprise exoskeletons – robotic external skeletons adapted for a particular body part, linked to a programme that transfers data from the training programme to the exoskeleton and vice versa. The level of assistance, or force, provided by the robot can be adapted and the systems come with pre-programmed routines that can be set to the patient’s level of mobility.

ReoGoTM robotically assisted joystick © 2020 Moss Rehab
ReoGoTM robotically assisted joystick © 2020 Moss Rehab

Exoskeleton rehabilitation robots for the upper body are typically used to restore gross motor skills in arms and / or hands after loss due to a stroke or brain injury. Generally, a robotic exoskeleton arm attached to a chair and a video screen enables patients to perform movements directed by the therapist and / or a video. Some, such as the ReoGoTM, from Motorika, use a robotically assisted joystick. At first, the exoskeleton moves the joystick. Over time, as the patient gains strength through repetitive movement, the patient’s arm controls the joystick movement independently. One exoskeleton patient commented, “At first my hand was immobile but over time it was able to repeat the robot movement on its own.” (see YouTube video above)

There are also exoskeleton gloves focussed on regaining fine motor skills in the hands. Gloreha Sinfonia™ from Reha Technologies, for example, is a robotic glove attached to a 3D video system. Support for the movement of finger joints can be adjusted based on the patient’s own level of finger mobility. 3D videos are used to demonstrate exercises but also to stimulate mirror function in the brain that triggers motion.

Gloreha Sinfonia © omnia-health
Gloreha Sinfonia © omnia-health

Gait-training exoskeleton robots frequently combine a treadmill - or in some cases foot plates - and an exoskeleton. The Hocoma Lokomat® is an exoskeleton with a weight-supporting system and adjustable knee and hip joints, for example. The exoskeleton joint sensors collect data on the patient’s performance. Many systems are provided with video exercises that motivate patients to achieve specific goals. Not all robotic gait-training devices require exoskeletons. Some are mobile frames or treadmills with a robotic harness that supports the patient as they walk. Sensors in the harness predict and respond to the patient’s movement intention, correcting hip and torso support to encourage the desired gait. One clinic reported a 300% increase in its treatment productivity using the exoskeleton.

The Hocoma Lokomat © Hocoma
The Hocoma Lokomat © Hocoma

Some systems, such as the ReoGo AmbulatorTM, combine a harness with pedals attached to an external robotic frame that controls movement. Exoskeleton manufacturer ReWalk Robotics recently received approval in the US for its ReStore system aimed at patients that do not need their weight to be supported by a harness. It is comprised of a soft, garment-like design which connects to a lightweight waist pack and mechanical cables that help lift the patient’s affected leg in synchronized timing with their natural walking pattern.

Videos

ReoGo arm rehabilitation robot

BionIk arm rehabilitation robot

Hocoma Lokomat gait-training robot

Hocoma Lokomat Case Study

GE-O gait-training robot

A complete automated welding solution utilizing ABB robots boosts production quality and creates a safer working environment for CIMC Containers

The challenge

The maker of shipping containers needed to increase their production efficiency and achieve a high weld quality for custom-built containers.

The solution

ABB installed an automated solution with made up of ABB welding robots that were distributed across the base frame, front and back end, and general assembly areas. The welded parts have consistent shapes and the seam width is stable, thanks to the excellent repeatability and motion control of ABB robots. Moreover, automatic welding reduces the occurrence of pores, making the welding seam of the container more aesthetic.

The application

Automatic welding application using ABB’s Multi Move controller and ABB Ability Connected Services for optimized robotic operations.

CIMC produces a wide range of containers, including dry cargo and special containers, that are custom-made for different industries at its first automated cargo container manufacturing facility in Fenggang, southern China.

CIMC entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with ABB for a completely automated welding solution that would not only increase production quality but also create a safer working environment for CIMC’s employees.

The automated welding solution adopts 65 ABB welding robots distributed across the base frame, front and back end and general assembly areas. Twenty-four ABB IRB 1410 robots handle the previously manual task of welding the container base frames. Robots in the front and back end areas perform several types of welding including front corner post welding, inner and outer welding, front end vertical welding, and upper and lower ripple welding for the front end. In the general assembly area, eight more IRB 1410 robots are responsible for welding the front and rear reinforcing plates of the bottom beam of the containers.

Welding production line where ABB robots are performing welding tasks © ABB
Welding production line where ABB robots are performing welding tasks © ABB

Traditional manual welding comes with many problems including shape deficiency and width change by the welding wire and welding flow. However, in automatic welding the welded parts have consistent shapes and the seam width is stable, thanks to the excellent repeatability and motion control of ABB robots. Moreover, automatic welding reduces the occurrence of pores, making the welding seam of the container more aesthetic.

ABB has also fitted several robots at the factory with its advanced Multi-MoveTM controller that allows two robots to simultaneously weld the front corner posts. This not only increases the cost-effectiveness of the entire welding process, but also saves time.

In addition to improving product quality, automatic welding also creates a better working environment for human workers as they no longer have to interact with gas flames, hot metal surfaces or be exposed to noxious fumes. Nowadays, the workers just need to monitor the production panel and learn to operate the robots.

“As a traditional industry, we have been using manual welding, which inevitably affects health even though workers wear protective equipment. However, the use of robots can help us effectively avoid this problem,” said Du Li, the workshop supervisor of CIMC’s Fenggang factory.

Robots not only make the production automated but also intelligent. Currently, the Fenggang Base is able to manufacture 275 containers per day, with an annual production capacity of 100,000 containers. These containers are ordered by different customers, with different specifications and process requirements. The flexible ABB automatic welding solution has many preset functionalities that have been installed on the robots, enabling the system to make rapid changeovers, seamlessly.

To help protect production against any unforeseen issues, ABB will also provide the ABB AbilityTM Connected Services suite to help CIMC monitor the status of its robot fleet in real time. Connected Services will allow the company to upload manufacturing data to the cloud and take preventive maintenance steps to boost its manufacturing capabilities by safeguarding against production downtime.

“The application of robots in the Fenggang Base is only the first step in the upgrading of the CIMC’s container plants. Based on the ABB AbilityTM Connected Services, we will focus on smart factory, data acquisition, data connection and platform construction as the next steps,” said Mr. Tan, the manager of Longteng Project, CIMC.

“Fenggang Base is a model plant for the renovation of our other plants.” Following the Fenggang Base, ABB has also provided other subsidiaries of CIMC with automatic welding solutions, to assist them in achieving more advanced and more intelligent upgrading of production lines,” Mr. Tan added.

ABB Ability Connected Services helps Olofsfors’ transition from single robot maintenance to advanced robot fleet supervision, unlocking significant improvements in performance, availability and equipment lifetime.

Founded in 1762, Olofsfors AB is a successful Swedish developer and manufacturer of boron steel products for forestry and construction industries. Its headquarters and sole factory are located in the city of Nordmaling, some 600 kilometers North of Stockholm. Here a fleet of over 30 ABB robots are involved in material handling and arc welding.

ABB has a long and successful relationship with Olofsfors which has steadily grown since the company purchased its first ABB robot, an IRB 2400, some 15 years ago. In 2016 Olofsfors contracted ABB’s service team for a lifecycle analysis to uncover the robot fleet’s service needs. Robot service had earlier been handled internally or via non-ABB vendors. The study found four arc welding IRB 1400 robots in the obsolete life cycle phase, which means that neither this robot model nor spare parts are being manufactured. Following ABB’s performance improvement advice, Olofsfors placed a replacement order for four brand new IRB 1600ID robots and positioners.

Impressed by the results of the robot lifecycle analysis, ABB’s service recommendations and thorough service protocols, Olofsfors awarded ABB a three-year service agreement for improved performance, availability and extended robot fleet lifetime. The contract covers preventive maintenance, six hour guaranteed onsite response time, Life Cycle Management and ABB Ability Connected Services.

We set up a meeting between Olofsfors and one of our largest automotive Tier 1 customers that had connected their robot fleet to ABB Ability Connected Services and asked them to share their experiences. Listening to the perceived benefits from another ABB customer helped Olofsfors quickly see the value of ABB Ability Connected Services in optimizing the performance of their own robot systems,” says Anders Lundkvist, a Regional Sales Manager, Sweden, ABB.

“Understanding what ABB Ability could do for us, convinced us to connect all our robots with four of the five services in the ABB Ability Connected Services suite: Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics, Backup Management, Fleet Assessment, and Asset Optimization. We plan to mirror the MyRobot dashboard on screens in the factory to always be able to get a quick status overview. We also know we can depend on ABB to keep an extra eye on our robots remotely, should anything unexpected occur,” says Leif Ake Holmlund, Maintenance Manager, Olofsfors, Nordmaling, Sweden. ABB began connecting its robots to advanced services in 2007, and today some 7,000 ABB robots are connected to the ABB Ability Connected Services platform, at more than 750 customer sites, in 40 countries, with more than 40,000 robots delivered with embedded connectivity. Every new ABB robot can be connected to the Internet of Things to unlock leading digital technologies for greater performance and reliability.

ABB Ability Connected Services optimizing the performance of their robot systems © ABB
ABB Ability Connected Services optimizing the performance of their robot systems © ABB

Since Olofsfors was ready to get closer to the digital factory and had started to use the myABB business portal, we set up a myABB training session with a group of users from Olofsfors on how to download documentation, check the availability and price of spare parts, and how to purchase spare parts online,” continues Anders.

myABB business portal is a digital tool, available 24/7 for all ABB customers, providing value in optimizing lifecycle management, improving asset performance and boosting operational efficiency. The service agreement with ABB is a perfect match for us, while we need to move from traditional “break and fix” maintenance on individual robots towards advanced supervision of our fleet of over 30 robots. This makes sense with an increasing number of robots and makes it much easier to plan our service needs. The built-in connectivity of ABB’s robots and the benefits of connecting them to the ABB Ability Connected Services platform are key enablers of this transition. Moving forward, we will continue to connect future ABB robots and register all other ABB products via myABB,” says Leif Ake in closing.

With one of Northern Sweden’s largest robot fleets, Olofsfors needs a strong robot service organization to support its growth today and in the future. Looking beyond 2017, ABB will, together with a local partner, upgrade one cell with both new robots and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). As the Olofsfors plant gets more digital, ABB becomes a reliable partner always with the latest technology.

The International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) will be held as online event after the cancelation of the automatica trade fair. Five keynote speakers will support the program.

The “International Symposium on Robotics” (ISR) is not only one of the oldest, but also the world’s leading robotics conference. The 52nd edition is going to take place for the first time as online event from December 9th to 10th, 2020.

Organized by VDMA Robotics + Automation and the Information Technology Society in the VDE (ITG), the English-language conference offers insights into the latest technologies - with exciting insights on industry and research trends.

The topics? Everything that moves the industry

The thematic spectrum includes components and technologies, robots in new markets and applications, industrial / service robots and artificial intelligence in robotics. For the first time in 2020 there will be two parallel conference tracks. The newly created business track offers international guest speakers from the industry the opportunity to present their current products and innovations.

The following keynote speakers are already been confirmed

  • Carl Doeksen - 3M
  • Carme Torras - Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (CSIC-UPC)
  • Alin Albu-Schäffer - German Aerospace Center (DLR)
  • Anna Valente - SUPSI Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana
  • Andrew A. Goldenberg - University of Toronto

Business track presentations

  • KUKA AG
  • Wandelbots GmbH
  • FANUC Deutschland GmbH
  • Kawasaki Robotics GmbH
  • YASKAWA Europe GmbH
  • Hahn Automation GmbH
  • Photoneo
  • Universal Robots (Germany) GmbH
  • Wipro

IEEE/IFR Joint Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics and Automation

Two applicants for the IERA Award 2020 have been nominated and will introduce their story of the genesis of a successful innovative product in robotics and automation from its very inception to the final state of commercialization.

  • Photoneo - MotionCam-3D
  • OnRobot - Smart Gripper RG2-FT

The ultimate winner will be chosen by an evaluation board consisting of distinguished individuals from industry and academia (IEEE and IFR).

Award ceremonies at the ISR

The highlight of the robotics conference marks the presentation of the IERA Award.

More information about the event at: www.isr-robotics.org

Remote presence robots help elderly people live in their own homes for longer and improve patient care in hospitals.

Telepresence robots from a variety of manufacturers help elderly people remain in their homes for longer, staying connected to their carers, friends and family. The image of the remote user is displayed on the screen and the robot can be driven around to view anything in its vicinity. Most of these robots are controllable from any location with a smartphone or computer and internet connection. Family members, friends, doctors, and care-givers can all log into the telepresence robot, drive it, interact with others, and explore the environment with audio and video.

Giraff Telefpresence Robot
Giraff Telepresence Robot: The visitor embodies the robot simulating a real visit © Giraff

Telepresence robots are increasingly used in hospitals to enable specialist physicians to consult with a patient without having to be physically present. For example, Dignity Health began using telepresence robots to quickly diagnose stroke patients and now uses the machines in emergency and intensive care units at most of its 32 California hospitals. As one doctor commented, “ No longer does distance affect a person’s ability to access the best care possible.” In many cases, a doctor simply clicks on a map of the hospital and the robot self-navigates to that spot. A cardiologist, who uses a telepresence robot to conduct late night rounds finds the benefit of being able to see the patient, and sometimes interact directly with family members. “ It’s a more personal conversation when you can see eye-to-eye. I used to have to call the unit secretary, who would then have to find the nurse, so it saves time. The return on investment is huge.” Many telepresence robots can be connected directly to medical equipment such as ultrasound machines, to provide remote doctors with real-time results.

Sometimes the robots are navigated by patients. For example, in one Chinese hospital, a telepresence robot is used as a patient’s personal assistant, informing them of their next therapy appointment, connecting them with their physician, calling their patient’s granddaughter and playing a radio station.

Double Robotics
Telepresence Robot © Double Robotics

Telepresence robots are also used to connect long-term patients to the outside world. For example, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital has used a telepresence robot to take young cancer patients on a tour of the St. Louis Science Center. Another young cancer patient was able to attend school through a telepresence robot which connected him directly to the classroom. He was able to navigate the robot around the classroom and activate a light on the robot when he wants to ask questions and participate interactively in the class.

Videos

Personal video testimonial (Giraff telepresence robot)

VGo Robot Enables San Antonio 10-year-old with Leukemia to Go to School (NSD TV)

Dignity Health (Associated Press)

Telepresence robot in Chinese hospital (video quality low, sub-titles)

Cardiologist at Bon Secours Hospital discusses advantages of using a Double Robotics telepresence robot

Sales value of professional service robots increased by 32% to USD11.2 billion worldwide (2018-2019). The COVID-19 pandemic will further boost the market. High demand for robotics disinfection solutions, robotic logistics solutions in factories and warehouses or robots for home delivery are examples of this trend.

In terms of value, the sales of medical robotics accounts for 47% of the total professional service robot turnover in 2019. This was mainly driven by robotic surgery systems, which are the most expensive type in the segment. Sales hit a new record of 5.3 billion U.S. dollars – up 28%. By 2022, medical robot sales have the potential to more than double by reaching 11.3 billion U.S. dollars. About 90% of medical robots are from American and European suppliers. This is according to World Robotics 2020 – Service Robots report.

Professional Service Robots – logistics

The market value of logistics robots sold or leased was up 110% to 1.9 billion U.S. dollars. Almost all of the logistics turnover was generated with robots for indoor use. Autonomous mobile robots have initially been used in warehouses but with digitalization of production, they are also part of today’s smart factory. Therefore, a continued strong turnover growth of 40% or more per year seems possible. “The investment in service robots for logistics in manufacturing processes is amortized rapidly,” says IFR President Milton Guerry. “Assuming 24 hour operation, the investment in service robots for logistics may be repaid within 2‐3 years and often much quicker. Given a 15 year lifetime, operating costs are around 5% of the annual investment. Highly developed systems often provide operational availability in the 98% plus range.”

Graph Service Robots © World Robotics 2020

Graph Service Robots © World Robotics 2020

The trending Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) business models lower the hurdle for customers to automate with robots. The benefit is not to invest in hardware, so the companies have no fixed capital, no fixed costs and no need for robot operators. The use of logistics systems in non-manufacturing industries has been strongly driven by warehouse solutions for major e-commerce companies. A strong potential can also be found in hospitals running their logistics with the help of professional service robots. In the segment of professional service robotics, about 90% of the sampled logistics robots were produced in Europe and North America - about 10% in Asia.

Professional Service Robots – field

The segment of field robotics consists of robots for agriculture, dairy, livestock farming and other field applications. Sales value increased by 3% to USD 1.3 billion U.S. dollars. The Covid-19 pandemic might have an impact for further supply of such robots. Travel restrictions for workers from Eastern Europe for instance, who usually travel to Western Europe in harvest season, caused a shortage of labour supply. Farmers might compensate this with the use of field robots. Sales value growth rates of more than 30% for agricultural robots seem possible.

Personal and Domestic Service Robots

Service robots for personal and domestic use, which are produced for a mass market, are mainly in the areas of household robots. This include vacuuming and floor cleaning robots, lawn-mowing robots or entertainment robots. The total number of service robots for personal and domestic use increased by 34% to more than 23.2 million units sold in 2019. The value was up 20% to 5.7 billion U.S. dollars. Unit prices for the two major segments, robot vacuums and toy robots, have been declining in recent years. Today, basic robot vacuums are already available for less than 100 U.S. dollars. 75% of the sampled domestic service robots - vacuum and floor cleaners, lawn mowers and other domestic robots - were produced by American companies in 2019. Asian companies had a share of 19% - European companies of 6%.

Graph Service Robots © World Robotics 2020

Graph Service Robots © World Robotics 2020

A growing market is the use of assistance robots for elderly or handicapped persons. The estimated sales value increased by 17% to 91 million U.S. dollars. Numerous national research projects in many countries focus on this huge future market for service robots. In contrast to most entertainment robots, these robots are high-tech products.

“We expect sales of both professional and personal service robots will continue to increase strongly,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

Orders

Orders for World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots and Service Robots reports can be placed online and grant immediate access to the 2019 figures.

Downloads
 

Please find graphics, press releases in other languages and presentation for download below.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heerphone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284 
E-Mail: [email protected]

#WorldRobotics2020

With the new online format "Let's talk" by automatica, Messe Munich is further expanding the digital presence of automatica. The third edition features the World Robotics Report 2020 of the IFR with an English-speaking panel discussion.

Especially in the time between the big events, the regularly held webinars offer additional orientation knowledge and exchange opportunities. Top-class experts as well as automation suppliers and users illuminate current issues and trends relating to robotics and automation in each episode. The third edition features the World Robotics Report 2020 of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) with an English-speaking panel discussion. The focus on October 15, 2020 from 13:00 to 14:00 CEST will be on the question:

The global robotics market – where are we headed?

After years of booming robotics sales, the COVID-19-induced economic slowdown has not left the robotics industry unaffected. But the medium- to long-term prospects for increased robotics use around the world are bright. Both developed and emerging economies will continue upgrading their manufacturing sectors to achieve higher levels of quality and competitiveness. New products, many of them related to increased sustainability, rely on robotics to be manufactured. Indeed, the COVID-19-crisis itself is seen by many expert commentators as a booster for robotics and automation in the longer term.

“World Robotics” is the most authoritative source of robotics data, used by governments, researchers, the financial community, businesses and think tanks around the world.

The webinar provides:

  • World Robotics 2020 – market data “hot of the press”
  • Medium- to long-term outlook
  • COVID-19: a driver for robotics
  • Insight on Mega trends: what role will robots play?

Our Panel

  • Marina Bill, Chair IFR Robot Supplier Committee and Global Head of Marketing & Sales of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation Business
  • Milton Guerry, IFR President and President of SCHUNK USA
  • Klaus König, IFR Vice President and CEO KUKA Robotics
  • Moderator: Ken Fouhy, Editor in Chief, VDI Nachrichten

To whom is this session addressed?

To users and suppliers of automation technology who would like to find out more about the state of the international robotics market and the future of automation.

Let’s talk by automatica is organized in cooperation with the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association and the Informationstechnische Gesellschaft (ITG) of the VDE.

In case you missed the event

You may watch the panel discussion here.

Download the presentation by IFR President Milton Guerry:

Dr. Seiuemon Inaba, founder and honorary chairman of FANUC, passed away on October 2, 2020, at the age of 95. He significantly contributed to the development of the robot industry not only in Japan but also in the world.

Dr. Seiuemon Inaba, founder and honorary chairman of FANUC, passed away on October 2, 2020, at the age of 95. He significantly contributed to the development of the robot industry not only in Japan but also in the world.

Seiuemon Inaba has graduated from the University of Tokyo with an engineering degree and joined FUJITSU Ltd. in 1946. In 1956, he developed the first numerical control (NC). In 1972, he became Executive Director of Fujitsu Fanuc, which had been founded as a spinoff of Fujitsu (later to be renamed FANUC Corporation). FANUC is developing and producing industrial robots since 1974. Dr. Inaba stepped down as president in 1995.

Please join us in offering heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be missed dearly.

The new World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots report shows a record of 2.7 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world – an increase of 12%. Sales of new robots remain on a high level with 373,000 units shipped globally in 2019. This is 12% less compared to 2018, but still the 3rd highest sales volume ever recorded.

“The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Driven by the success story of smart production and automation this is a worldwide increase of about 85% within five years (2014-2019). The recent slowdown in sales by 12% reflects the difficult times the two main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, have experienced.”

“In addition to that, the consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed yet,” proceeds Milton Guerry. “The remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by adaption to the ´new normal´. Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year. China might be an exception, because the coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and the country already started its recovery in the second quarter. Other economies report to be at the turning point right now. But it will take a few months until this translates into automation projects and robot demand. 2021 will see recovery, but it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis level.”

Asia, Europe and the Americas - overview
 

Asia remains the strongest market for industrial robots - operational stock for the region´s largest adopter China rose by 21% and reached about 783,000 units in 2019. Japan ranks second with about 355,000 units – plus 12 %. A runner-up is India with a new record of about 26,300 units – plus 15%. Within five years, India has doubled the number of industrial robots operating in the country´s factories.

The share of newly installed robots in Asia was about two thirds of global supply. Sales of almost 140,500 new robots in China is below the record years of 2018 and 2017 but still more than double the numbers sold five years ago (2014: 57,000 units). Installations of top Asian markets slowed down – in China (minus 9%) and Japan (minus 10%).

Annual installations of industrial robots TOP 15 countries © World Robotics 2020 Report

Annual installations of industrial robots TOP 15 countries © World Robotics 2020 Report


In China, the broad majority of 71% of new robots was shipped in from foreign suppliers. Chinese manufacturers still mainly cater to the domestic market, where they gain increasing market shares. Foreign suppliers deliver some 29% of their units to the automotive industry, while it is only around 12% for Chinese suppliers. Therefore, foreign suppliers are more affected by the decline of business in the Chinese automotive industry than the domestic suppliers.

Europe
 

Europe reached an operational stock of 580,000 units in 2019 – plus 7%. Germany remains the main user with an operational stock of about 221,500 units – this is about three times the stock of Italy (74,400 units), five times the stock of France (42,000 units) and about ten times the stock of the UK (21,700 units).

Robot sales show a differentiated picture for the largest markets within the European Union: About 20,500 robots were installed in Germany. This is below the record year 2018 (minus 23%) but on the same level as 2014-2016. Sales in France (+15%), Italy (+13%) and the Netherlands (+8%) went up. Robotics in the United Kingdom remains on a low level – new installations slowed down by 16%. The newly installed 2,000 units in the UK are about ten times less than the shipments in Germany (20,500 units), about five times less than in Italy (11,100 units) and about three times less than in France (6,700 units).

Americas
 

The USA is the largest industrial robot user in the Americas, reaching a new operational stock record of about 293.200 units – up 7%. Mexico comes second with 40,300 units, which is a plus of 11% followed by Canada with about 28,600 units – plus 2%.

New installations in the United States slowed down by 17% in 2019 compared to the record year of 2018. Although, with 33,300 shipped units, sales remain on a very high level representing the second strongest result of all time. Most of the robots in the USA are imported from Japan and Europe. Although, there are not many North American robot manufacturers, there are numerous important robot system integrators. Mexico ranks second in North America with almost 4,600 units – a slowdown of 20%. Sales in Canada are 1% up to a new record of about 3,600 shipped units.

South America´s number one operational stock is in Brazil with almost 15,300 units – plus 8%. Sales slowed down by 17% with about 1,800 installations – still one of the best results ever - only beaten by record shipments in 2018.

Worldwide trend in human-robot collaboration
 

The adoption of human-robot collaboration is on the rise. We saw cobot installations grew by 11%. This dynamic sales performance was in contrast to the overall trend with traditional industrial robots in 2019. As more and more suppliers offer collaborative robots and the range of applications becomes bigger, the market share reached 4.8% of the total of 373,000 industrial robots installed in 2019. Although this market is growing rapidly, it is still in its infancy.

Collaborative and traditional industrial robots © IFR International Federation of Robotics

Collaborative and traditional industrial robots © IFR International Federation of Robotics

Outlook

Globally, COVID-19 has a strong impact on 2020 - but also offers a chance for modernization and digitalization of production on the way to recovery. In the long run, the benefits of increasing robot installations remain the same: Rapid production and delivery of customized products at competitive prices are the main incentives. Automation enables manufacturers to keep production in developed economies - or reshore it - without sacrificing cost efficiency. The range of industrial robots continues to expand – from traditional caged robots capable of handling all payloads quickly and precisely to new collaborative robots that work safely alongside humans, fully integrated into workbenches.

Orders

Orders for World Robotics 2020 Industrial Robots and Service Robots reports can be placed online and grant immediate access to the 2019 figures.

Downloads

Please find graphics, press releases in other languages and presentation for download below.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

#WorldRobotics2020

The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history. This good news is driven by the success story of smart production and automation. Worldwide nearly 85% more robots were installed within five years (2014-2019).

Today, IFR announced the final figures of World Robotics 2020.

The stock of industrial robots operating in factories around the world today marks the highest level in history. This good news is driven by the success story of smart production and automation. Worldwide nearly 85% more robots were installed within five years (2014-2019).

Sales of new robots remain on a high level with 373,000 units shipped globally in 2019. This is 12% less compared to 2018, but still the 3rd highest sales volume ever recorded. This slowdown reflects the difficult times in the two main industries, automotive and electrical/electronics.

The share of newly installed robots in Asia was about two thirds of the global supply. Installations of all top Asian markets slowed– in China ( -9%) and Japan (-10%). Within Europe, robot sales show a differentiated picture for the largest markets: Germany decreased (-23%), while France (+15%), Italy (+13%) and the Netherlands (+8%) all went up. New installations in North America also considerably slowed: United States (-17%), Mexico (-20%) and Canada (+1%).
The consequences from the coronavirus pandemic for the global economy cannot be fully assessed, the remaining months of 2020 will be shaped by adaption to the ́new normal ́. Robot suppliers adjust to the demand for new applications and developing solutions. A major stimulus from large-scale orders is unlikely this year. 2021 will see recovery, but it may take until 2022 or 2023 to reach the pre-crisis levels.

Despite these difficult times, the robotics industry shows a great optimism. COVID-19 offers the huge opportunity to modernize and digitize production on the way to recovery – and our community is eager to take this challenge and open up new markets.

On December 9-10, during the annual ISR (International Symposium on Robotics), the IFR and IEEE RAS jointly will honor innovations and entrepreneurship in robotics and automation with the IERA Award. Two finalists have been chosen to present their latest achievements. You are cordially invited to join this event!

Best wishes,

Milton Guerry
IFR President

Five hospital departments at Zealand University Hospital in Denmark now receive daily autonomous deliveries from the hospital’s sterilization center.

The implementation of a mobile robot from Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) is helping realize the goal of flexible and automated logistics throughout the upcoming 190,000 square meter super hospital.

His name is Optimus. This is how the staff at Zealand University Hospital in Denmark refer to the MiR100 robot that has automated the internal transport of sterile disposable equipment in the hospital since June 2018. Optimus travels more than 10 kilometers per week, improving service, minimizing storage space, saving steps, and preventing shortages, which has made him quickly become popular at the hospital.

“I am really surprised by how quickly both staff and patients have become accustomed to Optimus,” says Johnny Hansen, Operations Manager for Zealand University Hospital. “They refer to the robot as a colleague, and “he” has—in a few weeks—become part of the environment. It is indicative of the way we humans quickly perceive new technologies as a natural part of everyday life. With MiR’s technology, we free service assistants from logistics tasks to warmer tasks like patient care. We have already achieved enormous gains by introducing this autonomous technology.”

Before Optimus arrived, service assistants were providing weekly deliveries of disposable equipment to hospital departments. The manual procedure involved heavy lifting and an uncomfortable twist in the body. Now the robot delivers equipment daily, making sure that the departments do not run out of goods.

“Heavy, monotonous and repetitive tasks must be taken over by technology,” states Hansen. “I am happy that our cooperation with MiR and the distributor, Flextek, has shown that we can create great workplace health benefits by automating physically demanding transportation tasks.”

Hansen explains that robot technology changes the way tasks are carried out, requiring job descriptions to be reorganized and redefined in order to get the most value. “This changes the way we work,” he says. “We have all the reasons to believe that we started a positive automation wave. We have freed up both the human resources that were deployed for transportation and expensive square meters used as depots. At the same time, we can improve the entire flow and minimize waiting times thanks to more frequent and targeted deliveries.”

One robot and 10 carts

Flextek, a Danish distributor of Mobile Industrial Robots, was responsible for the technical implementation of the hospital’s first mobile robot. This consists of four parts:

  • At the base is the MiR100robot, with a lift capacity of 100 kg.
  • A top module by the accessory manufacturer ROEQ is installed on the robot’s load surface.
  • A wheeled cart clicks onto the top module when the robot autonomously drives underneath the cart.
  • A cabinet is mounted on top of the cart, which is sealed by the sterilization center.

At the sterilization center, the staff packs disposable equipment and sterile tools into the cart-top cabinets. The mobile robot then runs between the sterilization center and ten different stops in the hospital. Service assistants in the different departments empty the carts.

© MIR
Optimus with transport box © MIR

The hospital staff has seen the possibilities of the mobile robot and has continuously provided useful inputs for a smooth and safe implementation. For example, Optimus has been programmed to politely warn patients and staff that it is getting closer before it silently drives through automatic doors or out of the elevator. Signs have also been mounted on its front, which indicate the robot’s current destinations to the people around it.

Optimus passing hospital staff © MIR
Optimus passing hospital staff © MIR

The experience with the first mobile robot from MiR has actually given the hospital more ideas for automation of other transport tasks in the facility. One of the scenarios envisioned by Zealand University Hospital is the transport of customized equipment packages for every planned operation. This will have tremendous impact once the number of operating rooms is quadrupled. The pilot project has shown that the hospital can program operation plans into the MiR robot’s daily program and ensure deliveries of the right equipment at the right time. The automated delivery of medicines from hospital pharmacies and laboratories is another obvious task for mobile robots in a super hospital.

About Zealand University Hospital (Køge, Denmark)

The hospital is being expanded with 130,000 square meters to a super hospital and will become Region Zealand’s flagship with its 190,000 m2, which will gather the region’s medical expertise into efficient units. The hospital is expected to receive 400,000 outpatient visits and 90,000 hospitalizations per year.

In 2020, the COVID-19 Global Pandemic has completely changed everyday life. Daily routines involve working from home, social distancing, wearing masks, and washing our hands religiously.

Sanitizing has become an increased area of concern, especially in highly populated areas. These places include restaurants, hospitals, hotels, airports, and schools to name a few. Because of this, we are seeing more and more companies and institutions turning to automation for disinfecting rooms and public spaces.

OMRON and its partners across the world have joined forces to automate the disinfection processes. OMRON is working with its non-factory automation customers to address the growing demand for disinfectant robots. Some of OMRON’s partners are systems Integrators such as ControlTec, DoF Robotics, Techmetics, and Sir Steward.

Meanwhile France’s XuP-Steri S is fully integrated with OMRON’s LD mobile robot to provide disinfection of surfaces. © Meanwhile SAS, France
Meanwhile France’s XuP-Steri S is fully integrated with OMRON’s LD mobile robot
to provide disinfection of surfaces. © Meanwhile SAS, France

To address this problem, most hospitals and restaurants will have employees manually wipe down and disinfect high-touch areas. This is problematic, considering there is always the threat of employees contacting the virus, and research has shown that not all high-touch areas tend to be cleaned.

However some companies have requested the assistance of mobile robots to help combat the virus.

Benefits UV-C

Ultraviolet light has been used has an effective solution to killing harmful bacteria, viruses in hospitals for decades. The UV-C light has been previously used to combat other coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS, and as well as the Ebola virus. This method of cleaning is thorough, faster and less labor intensive than manual cleaning.

UV-C also reduces the need to clean with powerful chemicals. You can simply use non-harmful soap and water for the cleaning and then rely on UV-C for a chemical free disinfection. An issues that chemicals pose is being corrosive on certain surfaces. Additionally, powerful chemicals should only be used in areas that are well ventilated.

Automating UV-C

Mobile robots mounted with ultraviolet (UV) light attachments are ideal for disinfecting hospital rooms, shopping centers and other public spaces. The automation of disinfection with ultraviolet light improves health and safety, thus contributing to the fight against COVID-19. Mobile robots are ideal to be used with the UV lamps, which are not safe for humans to operate.

Utilizing Omron’s LD Series mobile robot, UV-C lighting structures can be integrated onto the robot. The robot then navigates autonomously throughout the hospital, hotel, and other areas of public gatherings. With no humans present, the robot can work uninterrupted and autonomously for up to 8 hours. The robot can locate a charging station and self-charge when the battery is running low. It only take 3.5 hours to fully charge one robot. New software updates can also be easily implemented, thus increasing the productivity and efficiency of the robot.

The customer has the ability to operate a fleet of robots, which sets OMRON’s mobile robots apart from other solutions. Multiple mobile robots can operate within a facility as a fleet thanks to OMRON’s fleet management software.

The OMRON LD Series autonomous mobile robots are ideal for disinfecting various areas, as unlike traditional AGVs, they navigate the natural features of the area and require no expensive facility modification. The robots are equipped with safety lasers and other sensors, allowing them to detect obstacles and prevent collisions.

Orders for OMRON’s UV-C lighting solution have been requested from customers located all over the globe. Globally OMRON is using its innovative technology to help prevent the spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Bruno Adam, Mobile Robots General Manager at OMRON Europe comments: “The pandemic poses huge challenges for many companies and institutions. Many of them have realized that automated processes, innovative robotics and technologies such as UV disinfection can provide them with valuable support in coping with this challenge. Such applications relieve the burden on employees while improving safety and meeting regulations. OMRON’s experts and partners can provide comprehensive information and advice on which technology is best suited for which field of application.”

By 2022, an operational stock of almost 4 million industrial robots are expected to work in factories worldwide. These robots will play a vital role in automating production to speed up the post-Corona economy. At the same time, robots are driving demand for skilled workers. Educational systems must effectively adjust to this demand.

“Governments and companies around the globe now need to focus on providing the right skills necessary to work with robots and intelligent automation systems,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “This is important to take maximum advantage of the opportunities that these technologies offer. The post-Corona recovery will further accelerate the deployment of robotics. Policies and strategies are important to help workforces make the transition to a more automated economy.”

World Economic Forum - Future world of work

“Very few countries are taking the bull by the horns when it comes to adapting education systems for the age of automation,” said Saadia Zahidi, in her role as Head of Education, Gender and Employment Initiatives at the World Economic Forum. “Those that are, have long had a clear focus on human capital development. Countries in northern Europe, as well as Singapore are probably running some of the most useful experiments for the future world of work.”

Economist Intelligence Unit - Automation Readiness Index

According to the “automation readiness index” published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), only four countries have already established mature education policies to deal with the challenges of an automated economy. South Korea is the category leader, followed by Estonia, Singapore and Germany. Countries like Japan, the US and France are developed and China was ranked as emerging. The EIU summed up the order of the day for governments: more study, multi-stakeholder dialogue and international knowledge sharing.

How to change hiring

On a company level, change hiring is an option as a short-term strategy: “If you can´t find the experienced people, you have to break down your hiring practices to skill sets and not titles,” advised Dr. Byron Clayton, as CEO of Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) at the IFR Round Table in Chicago. “You have to hire more for potential. If you can´t find the person who is experienced then you have to find a person that has potential to learn that job.”

Education of the workforce

Robot suppliers support the education of the workforce with practice-oriented training. “Re-training the existing workforce is only a short-term measure. We must already start way earlier – curricula for schools and undergraduate education need to match the demand of the industry for the workforce of the future. Demand for technical and digital skills is increasing, but equally important are cognitive skills like problem-solving and critical thinking,” says Dr. Susanne Bieller, IFR´s General Secretary. “Economies must embrace automation and build the skills required to profit - otherwise they will be at a competitive disadvantage.”

December, 8–11, 2020 automatica - IFR Executive Round Table

The topic “Next Generation Workforce - Upskilling for Robotics” will be discussed by the IFR Executive Round Table on December 9 at the trade fair for smart automation and robotics “automatica” in Munich.

IFR positioning paper

Robots and the Workplace of the Future.

Video

IFR Video FACTS about ROBOTS – worldwide

Further downloads

A high resolution picture is ready for download. The press release is also available in other languages. You will find a German, Spanish, French, Korean and Chinese version below. The translation of the Japanese version is in progress.

In order to address the safety concerns of the industrial robots in Qisda’s human-robot collaboration manufacturing line, Touché Solutions provided a complete HRC safety solution – T-Skin. T-Skin can reduce the risk of collisions between humans and robots by its “contact-stop” feature.

Human-Robot Collaboration is the best solution for Qisda Corp.

The labor shortage is among one of the most common challenges in Taiwan’s manufacturing industry. Qisda would like to figure out a new production line design and scenario to overcome this issue. Qisda, an electronic ODM/OEM leader with services spanning multiple business sectors, has been maintaining its leading position in the global LCD monitor and projector markets. To fulfil the rapidly-changing market demands, Qisda intended to build an effective and highly automated production line. This new automated production line would solve their labor shortage issue as well as the yield rate issue caused by the high labor turnover rate.

Qisda’s conclusion was to build a human-robot collaborative production line with traditional industrial robots. Why not choosing unmanned factory? Although the demand for labor would be lower and human errors could be fully mitigated in an unmanned factory, some difficulties remain unaddressed. First, robots cannot perform all tasks in the production line. From experience, only 10% of the tasks can be fully automated in an electronic product assembly line. Second, the changeover time is very long in an unmanned production line and will reduce capacity. These two factors contributed to Qisda’s decision for a human-robot collaborative production line. In Qisda’s HRC line, robots are responsible for heavy, repetitive and high-precision tasks while humans attend to tasks requiring flexibility and judgement.

© Touché Solution
Qisda HRC production line © Qisda Corporation

For example, using robots to lock screws or perform automated optical inspection would enhance quality, speed, and yield rate, whereas the internal wiring and appearance inspection and cleaning are better done by human. In addition, with HRC application adopted, production line layout would allow for higher flexibility. The long production line could be divided into several cell stations connected by robots to increase the flexibility of production lines and reduce the changeover time. In Qisda’s new HRC production line, the capacity per square meter increased by 52%; production efficiency increased more than 80%.

T-Skin is the key to HRC

A main concern of Human-Robot collaboration in an HRC production line is the risk of collisions between humans and robots in the same working space. Qisda selected ABB’s high-quality robots for its heavy-payload, high-precision and long-reach. However, ABB robots, not equipped with anti-collision related mechanisms, have posed a safety challenge for Qisda and brought them to Touché Solution’s safety product: T-Skin. TSkin, certified by CE and complying with ISO/TS 15066 collision measurements, is a customized safety product for robots. It can be used in all kinds of robots and provide contact-stop function to protect humans under the HRC scenario.

To guarantee the safety in the factory, Qisda adopted three safety mechanisms. First, Qisda defined a collaboration working space, clearly set apart robots’ working spaces from humans’. Second, they adopted safety optical sensors, using safety light curtains to detect person’s presence in robots’ working area. When a person walks into a robot’s area, the robot would slow down. Third, Touché Solution’s safety T-Skin has been installed. When collisions between human and robots occur, T-Skin would detect the contact and immediately send out alerts and bring the robot to a halt within very short time. It not only protects humans from accidents but also prevents robots from losing position accuracy caused by collisions and, in turn, provides safety, reliability, and quality.

© Touché Solution
Qisda working space © Qisda Corporation

Qisda’s case of human-robot collaboration is exemplary in its emphasis on efficiency but not at the expense of safety. Qisda set out to select ABB’s robots to fulfil the tasks in the production line and then went on to install Touché Solutions’ T-Skin as the final safety mechanism. Their choices of robots were not constrained by human-robot collaboration. On the contrary, with Touché Solutions’ T-Skin, Qisda would be able to choose any kinds of industrial robots which best fit the requirements of production lines without lowering its safety standards in the working place and ensure production safety.

Human-Robot Collaboration is the future of manufacturing industry. HRC not only increase production yield and productivity per labor hour, but it also enhances in production line safety. T-Skin safety solutions from Touché Solutions plays an instrumental role in enhancing safety and efficiency in the HRC environment. With TSkin, HRC is no longer a privilege of flexible joint robotic arms and will be made possible on all variety of robots.

Production as a service enables to start with robotics without capital investment in equipment and the need to develop competencies in robotics. It offers transparent costs of production and On-the-fly robots control with ABAGY software. The customer will only pay for the actual work done (meters of weld seam, or area of painted surface). ‍

Technology used for that case

ABAGY technology for adaptive robot manufacturing: effective for low volume-high mix manufacturers The basis of ABAGY technology is a cloud software that automatically process 3D CAD models and production operation parameters into real-time and adoptive execution of production process by robot. ABAGY software is installed on robotic cell and operates all the equipment from one center. Thanks to machine vision (3D and 2D laser scanners) that is required for proper solution performance, software gets feedback from the working area and updates master control programs in accordance with the received information. Robots become adaptive to changes in work process.

Detailed description of the solution

  • Industrial robot – 2 pcs.
  • welding equipment – 2 pcs.
  • linear axis – 2 pcs.
  • Machine vision (3D and 2D laser scanners)
  • ABAGY software

Process Steps © Abagy
Process Steps © Abagy

The system’s total production capacity is 290,000 linear meters of welding per year

  • Maximum dimensions of welded structures: 18,000 mm x 3,000 mm x 1,000 mm (LxWxH).
  • Main products: metal structures such as beams, piers, tie elements, and trusses
  • Assembly is manual, and parts are tack welded; robots do the final welding
  • Welding used: arc welding, by melting a metal electrode (a wire) in an inert or active shielding gas environment with automated wire feed
  • The system is controlled using ABAGY software. The user interface can be viewed on a monitor installed directly in the cell (as part of the system), as well from any workplace within the company’s network. To start welding a new product, its 3D model should be loaded
  • There is no need to position products in the work area at the specified zero points. Products can be placed arbitrarily, also with a crane.

Challenges

  • Find a solution that can weld 8,000+ different products
  • Make robots weld manually-preassembled products
  • Avoid the staff growth including hiring of highly paid professionals in automation field
  • Reduce costs. No capital investments possible.

To weld 8,000+ different products

Robots on ABAGY platform can adapt to variations in or between production runs. With that technology it is unnecessary to constantly re-program and re-calibrate robotic cell for each new or non-standard activity or motion robots need to make. Software automatically converts 3D CAD drawings and technological instructions into instructions for robots, without any need of programming by human engineers. ABAGY-enabled robots are truly flexible and adaptable, capable to change the process in response to changing environment. Work parameters are controlled and set by the end user staff via simple and convenient user interface.

Abagy technology could be named an on-the-fly programming. In order to guarantee user real-time command execution on the equipment of the robotic cell (determining the geometric orientation of the work item for processing in the working area, the regeneration of the geometry of objects, and the comparison of the real geometry of the work item with a 3D model, generating and re-generating of the control programs) software at the same time have to process huge data sets. Only the cloud computing makes it possible. Eventually the arc time now is 70%, the target is to reduce the time for supporting operations (like program generating, scanning and so on) and bring arc time to 85-90%.

Welding of manually-preassembled products

The technology is designed to adapt robots to work with anomalous feedstock, the positioning in the work zone can also be random. It is possible with the help of machine vision. The software processes data from vision sensors in order to deliver the task of determining the geometric orientation of the work item for processing in the robotic cell working area, the regeneration of the geometry of objects, and the comparison of the real geometry of the work item with a 3D model. After that it generates the control program not for the ideal product from the 3D model but the live product placed in the working area.

The main goal of that function is to increase the versatility and adaptability of robotic systems, giving them the opportunity to work with non-ideal work items that differ from their CAD models, it is important especially for finish welding operations when products were assembled manually that means that each product is unique in terms of robotics.

Avoid staff growth

Using of Abagy technology does not require additional specialists and experts. Only existing manufacturer`s staff members are involved in the production process with Abagy technology:

  • Construction engineer who makes the 3D model of the product to be welded and uploads it to Abagy software. He also specifies the technology requirements if necessary.
  • Production head who manages the equipment loading based on production plan
  • Operator of the robotic cell who receives tasks for production, provide the robotic cell with the production blanks for welding and make the simple maintenance of the cell (changes consumables, uploads wire and so on).

No specialists are needed to control and maintain the equipment or program it required. All maintenance is the responsibility of Abagy as a service provider. There’s also no programming required as the software generates all the programs automatically.

To save costs of production at current level. No capital investments

Company N uses Abagy solution on a pay-per-use basis. It means that Company doesn`t own/buy the equipment but only pay for the actual work made with robots (meters of welds done). Cost savings are possible because the weld meter made with robots is 30% cheaper than with manual work. In that case Company N uses robots for finish welding and can reallocate part of its workers between other tasks.

Detailed calculation
Detailed calculation © Abagy

Results

4 months of operation of the cell, that included 2 months tests, showed:

  • 70% arc time in the production cycle (only 30% of time goes to additional operations like loading 3D models, scanning, generating the programs and so on)
  • The ability of the cell to weld without breaks for hours
  • Possibility to set all necessary technological settings used by the Company
  • Near zero reject rate

About the Company

  • The manufacturer is the leading producer of metal bridges in Russia. The company has been around since 1948.
  • The robotization project was implemented in August 2019.
  • Manufacturing task: Robotic finish welding of manually preassembled high-complexity carbon steel bridge metalwork.

The IFR Committees recently gathered in a series of virtual meetings. These conversations replaced our regularly scheduled meetings during the automatica tradeshow, which would have been last week.

Dear Reader,

The IFR Committees recently gathered in a series of virtual meetings. These conversations replaced our regularly scheduled meetings during the automatica tradeshow, which would have been last week. Even though they lacked our usual opportunity for face-to-face, one-to-one networking, our virtual assembly worked astonishingly well, creating a feeling of solidarity in these difficult times. In total, 75 people gathered in five web discussions to review preliminary results of the IFR statistics, exchange views and ideas, and push our industry further after COVID-19.

The coronavirus has impacted our economy and our personal lives for more than four months now. While it is hard to imagine what the future will look like, there are hopes that the market will slowly recover, and that business will return to normal in fall. The situation differs across the globe. Some countries are leading the way toward recovery, while infection rates are increasing in others. One would imagine that economic recovery will also come at varying times.

The past months proved to be a showcase of the benefits of robotics, demonstrating how automation can help companies become more flexible and adapt to volatility in the marketplace. Robots were used to quickly adapt manufacturing lines for production of personal protective equipment, respirators, and other goods desperately needed by frontline personnel. New solutions have been developed and deployed for robots in service. For example, disinfectant robots and robots for home delivery and telepresence robots saw unprecedented attention.

Over the course of time, automation is expected to become even more important to a company’s success by safeguarding competitiveness, maintaining supply chains, and reducing human contact in manufacturing to avoid infections. The media have quickly acknowledged these success stories, and robotics has received tremendous attention in the news and from the broader public. It is clearly integral to the future of manufacturing.

We should move forward with confidence, patience and persistence to get through this crisis, to learn from the opportunities it presents, and to come out stronger.

Stay safe, and best wishes to you, your families, and your teams.

Milton Guerry

The IFR General Assembly elected Marina Bill (ABB), Kenji Yamaguchi (FANUC) and Masahiro Ogawa (Yaskawa) as new members for the IFR Executive Board. The delegates are following Steven Wyatt (ABB), Junji Tsuda (Yaskawa) and Shinsuke Sakakibara (FANUC).

Marina Bill currently serves as Global Head of Marketing & Sales for ABB’s Robotics and Discrete Automation business, Kenji Yamaguchi is President and Chief Executive Officer of FANUC Corporation and Masahiro Ogawa holds the position of Managing Executive Officer of Yaskawa Electric Corporation and General Manager Robotics Division.

Association delegates Hiroshi Fujiwara (JARA), Xiaogang Song (CRIA), Jiegao Wang (Estun) and Patrick Schwarzkopf as well as the representatives of the Research Committee, Prof. Alexander Verl (University Stuttgart) and Prof. Jong-Oh Park (Chonnam University) were confirmed as Executive Board members.

For the first time ever, the annual IFR General Assembly meeting was held as web meeting due to the corona pandemic. Delegates from around the globe were joining the meeting at different local time. This was a new challenge for both the attendees and the organizers.

The IFR Robot Suppliers Committees also met in the same week and elected Marina Bill as its new Chair, supported by Marcus Mead (Yaskawa) as Vice-Chair, following Andreas Bauer (KUKA) and Bruno Schnekenburger (Yaskawa).

After her election, Marina stated: “I am honored to bring my experience, education and skills to IFR, and look forward to putting them toward a good cause. I would like to use the knowledge and international experience gained in my career to help raise the voice of the global robotics industry.”

Melonee Wise (Fetch Robotics) replaces Martin Haegele (Fraunhofer IPA) as Chair for the IFR Service Robot Group and Armin Schlenk (Yaskawa) took over the IFR Marcom Committee from Steven Wyatt (ABB) already end of last year.

After a week of meetings and elections, all important positions have now been filled again. The General Secretariat is looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with all delegates in these challenging times.

The role of robots becomes increasingly important with the growing need for automation. They help unburden workers of repetitive and dangerous tasks, increase productivity and reliability, and save costs. And their assistance became priceless with the outbreak of COVID-19.

AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) have also joined the coronavirus response and support hospitals, production facilities, and warehouses to maintain the continuity of their processes.

A small assistant saving time and maintaining safety

AMRs equipped with UVD units or helping with safe distribution of medical materials in hospital quarantine zones have lately been at the forefront of automation. Hospitals around the globe have been deploying AMRs to keep their workers and patients safe. One of them is a hospital located in Kosice, Slovakia . The facility has been using an AMR manufactured by a Slovak company for some time now, and its importance increased with the outbreak of the virus. The AMR helps the hospital staff transport pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and other stuff between the individual hospital departments based on eleven stories. The robot was primarily aimed at unburdening employees of heavy material handling, as well as at saving time and increasing efficiency . This allowed the hospital to free its staff for tasks necessarily requiring the human workforce. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the potential of the robot was extended to unprecedented levels. Saving the employees’ time and energy, and enabling a safe distribution of drugs and other materials without personal contact has become more important than ever. The need to enter hospital zones with special restrictions or quarantine areas has been eliminated to a significant degree.

Autonomous, vision-guided performance

The robot can autonomously navigate itself on the basis of a lidar, 3D camera, and a virtual map - throughout the individual floors as well as between them, getting in and off the elevators. Thanks to this, it does not require any wires, magnetic tapes attached to the floor, nor any other infrastructure adjustments . This is of great benefit as such robust solutions are rather susceptible to damage or need to be rebuilt in case of changes in the trajectory. Because the robot understands its surroundings, it can operate very flexibly and reliably. The laser scanner area covers 360°, and the body of the robot has an interchangeable front and rear with a zero turning radius, which allows reversible movement. The robot allows trajectory creation with custom curves and instant map redrawing.

The AMR was designed to meet the hospital requirements, such as dimensions of elevators. Though it can move very fast, it is absolutely safe, meeting the requirements of the safety class SIL2 PL.d Category 3. It reaches its destination without posing any risk of colliding with other objects or people. This is thanks to the fact that the robot checks its surrounding environment 33 times per second and its system is able to detect obstacles every 30 ms with a minimum width of 30 mm. The laser scanner prevents collisions with objects up to 200 mm above the surface and the 3D camera does so significantly above the safety layer. In addition to this, the robot enables the setting of adaptive safety zones.

Variability of applications

In this particular use case, the mobile robot can carry up to 100 kg and pull up to 350 kg of medical stuff and other materials. Its variability makes it suitable for many applications and resides in the fact that is can be combined with various add-on modules. One of them is a UV light system that is able to kill germs, viruses, and disinfect the environment. The AMR was co-developed by the Technical University of Kosice, Slovakia.

What started with a vision – eyeglasses as an accessory – back in 1964 has since grown into the world’s leading brand of lightweight glasses with sales in excess of € 100 million: “Silhouette”.

Silhouette is the brand name of the lightest glasses in the world, manufactured with painstaking detail and an individual design language. They are made in Austria using the best materials and latest technologies by a workforce numbering more than 800 people, and exported all over the world (export quota 95 percent). Since 2013, a KUKA KR 5 arc robot has been a firm feature of the production process at Silhouette.

A clear vision of what matters

Silhouette has stood for technical perfection and innovative design for 50 years. These are eyeglasses without frames, screws and hinges, combining functional and esthetic appeal with vision. Right from the beginning, the product range has been characterized by a consistent approach to paring things down to the essentials. Silhouette glasses have been launched into space more than 35 times on board NASA missions, and they are also worn by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on its world tours as well as by a host of prominent celebrities, businesspeople and politicians.

The effects of wear over time combined with increasing maintenance costs of the facility prompted Silhouette to rethink its own production process in 2011. According to the Linz-based glasses producer, there are no fully automatic production systems available on the market able to handle the complete manufacturing process end-to-end; as a result, the existing equipment would have to undergo a complete overhaul. The project was taken on by Siemens and KUKA. It was possible to start operation after a conversion period lasting only four months. Since then, the system has been running smoothly in three-shift working.

The solution in detail

High-quality Silhouette sunglasses are made in a manufacturing process that is first-class throughout. The polycarbonate glasses are cut precisely to shape using the modernized multiple-spindle production system in which a KR 5 arc ensures that the blanks are fed in with the necessary precision. The KUKA robot uses its vacuum grippers to take the allocated eyeglass blanks out of the stacking magazines, places them in a centering station where they are exactly positioned and transfers them to the milling machine. This mills and drills the contours of the polycarbonate glasses in several steps. In this process, the multiplespindle center is capable of achieving tolerances of ± 0.015 mm and surface qualities with an average surface roughness of Ra = 0.1 μm. At the end of the machining process, vacuum grippers come into play again, placing the completed glasses into transport boxes. The KR 5 arc makes it possible to run a fully automated night shift thanks to its great flexibility, reliability and extreme degrees of freedom.

The robot and the machine tool are controlled using a centralized, high-end CNC, a Sinumerik 840D sl. This was extremely important for Silhouette, because although the machining technicians know precisely how to operate the machine tools, they are not familiar with handling a multiple-axis jointed-arm robot. The Siemens RunMyRobot software interface meant that these inhibitions could be dispensed with.

From today’s perspective, it is apparent that the investment has proven to be extremely sensible because of significant advantages in terms of productivity, reliability and user-friendliness. As a result, Silhouette, with KUKA and the mxAutomation software interface, always succeeds in producing optically correct lenses – 20 percent faster than before the system was renewed. “mxAutomation allows the KUKA robot to be programmed in the familiar environment of the machine tool – that saves long familiarization periods and helps overcome any initial reservations associated with robots,” says Joachim Strobel of KUKA Roboter GmbH.

Genesis’s virtual solutions helped expertly automate and quickly deploy challenging agricultural equipment manufacturing processes.

Great Plains Manufacturing, an agriculture equipment manufacturer, needed a unique robotic welding solution to reduce their time to market as well as their overall production costs.

The company began as a small shop in Salina, Kansas, and has grown into one of the largest privately-held manufacturers in their industry. They understood that as their company continues to grow, automation is essential to remain competitive and strengthen their growth potential.

The Challenge

Great Plains Manufacturing had complex production schedules that were not easily automated. Their production runs were between 5 and 1,000 pieces, with cycle times from 10 seconds to 60 minutes. It wasn’t unusual for them to produce 30 product lines in one month. The amount of tooling this required posed significant obstacles to the efficiency and cost benefits of robotic automation.

The Solution

Genesis leveraged virtual solutions for proof of concept, design and process prior to building or implementing the system. Virtual solutions simulate successful automation to ensure that mistakes and inefficiencies aren’t built into the system.

Virtual solutions for robotic welding included 3D simulation of welding processes, 3D immersive virtual environment simulations and reach studies to demonstrate the capabilities and limitations of the proposed automation system.

The Results

Leveraging their in-house Virtual Solutions Center, Genesis was able to provide Great Plains with a clear understanding of the proposed robotic welding system. Together they were able to make the necessary tweaks to fine tune the system. Using the virtual system design, Great Plains was able to develop the custom tooling they needed in-house, and prepare offline programming, all while Genesis was building the system.

The result was a streamlined integration project that saw the system fully operational on the very same day it was implemented.

Great Plains Manufacturing received a custom robotic welding solution that helped improve their time to market and speed of production, ultimately increasing their competitiveness in the agriculture equipment manufacturing space.

With KUKA Toledo Production Operations (KTPO) KUKA set a new milestone in terms of the digital supply chain and Industry 4.0. The manufacturing solution consisting of networked systems and architectures was set up as long ago as 2006 and was ahead of its time. The plant enabled a quantum leap in productivity.

Up until 2006, the efficient production of high volumes and a wide range of models and variants on the same production line had always been considered impossible. KTPO proved the opposite: the body-in-white plant for Jeep® Wrangler bodyshells is pioneering in terms of networking and process control – as well as offering unprecedented flexibility. KUKA was already implementing Industry 4.0 in reality back then.

The “Internet of Things in a Box”

A vehicle body – of whatever model and whatever version – comes off the production line every 77 seconds. Reliably, day in, day out, for the last ten years. To achieve this, KUKA linked the plant’s 259 robots and 60,000 other devices with powerful back-end monitoring systems and a master data management system. This was essentially the development of “IoT in a Box” which has evolved dynamically and continuously ever since.

For years, the plant has been one of the most efficient body-in-white lines in the US automotive industry and one of the pioneers of Industrie 4.0. So far, at a rate of nearly one a minute, around one and a half million bodies-in-white for the Jeep® Wrangler have rolled off the same line, irrespective of whether they are for the classic two-door model or for the four-door “Unlimited” series.

Pioneering operator model

The Jeep® Wrangler is a success story – in terms of both production and demand. In order to keep up effortlessly with the increasing production figures, KTPO made use of an intelligent control system to enable non-stop output of bodyshells in two-shift operation. “KTPO reliably produces top-quality vehicle bodies,” emphasizes KTPO Managing Director Jake Ladouceur.

With Industrie 4.0, the strong demand for the Jeep® Wrangler success story can be met with ease
With Industriy 4.0, the strong demand for the Jeep® Wrangler success story can be met with ease © Kuka


The operator model at KTPO is also pioneering. In the four production facilities at the “Toledo Supplier Park”, several suppliers take on responsibility for the manufacture of entire preliminary stages in their own production shops. Chrysler itself is responsible for painting and final assembly.

KTPO as an intelligent lifecycle management platform

What began with the networking of production processes via back-end monitoring systems, has meanwhile developed into an intelligent lifecycle management platform as part of Industrie 4.0. The fully digitized solution, linked to production, controls and monitors the entire value chain in real time, from receipt of materials to the actual production processes and goods dispatch. It also identifies weak points and optimizes capacity utilization.

Day in, day out, KTPO impressively demonstrates that KUKA is operating a body-in-white production facility that can meet the most exacting standards of the global automotive industry in terms of quality and efficiency as well as the requirements of Industrie 4.0.

LT Automation and Intelligent Systems have developed a robotic system with transport boxes for automatically checking and sorting blood samples at Aalborg University Hospital.

Aalborg University Hospital is the largest hospital in the North Jutland region of Denmark. Up to 3,000 blood samples arrive here in the lab every day. They must be tested and sorted – a time-consuming and monotonous process which was done manually until now. The university hospital has now automated the procedure: a robot-based system and intelligent transport boxes ensure the quality of the samples – and show how workflows in hospitals can be simplified by automation.

New process reduces the workload on employees and optimizes workflows

Up to 3,000 blood samples are delivered to the lab in Aalborg University Hospital every day and need to be presorted in accordance with the requested test. This task is monotonous on the one hand, and requires particular care on the other. In order to free up lab technicians from this work, the hospital set itself the goal of automating the sorting process for blood samples. Two local companies were involved in achieving this: LT Automation A/S designed and implemented the robotic solution. The software developer Intelligent Systems A/S developed the software that monitors the temperature of the blood samples during transportation.

The previous manual process was as follows: the lab staff opened the transport boxes on arrival, removed the blood samples and sorted them for further clinical analysis. Because of the large number of boxes, the hospital employees often suffered from tendon and muscle injuries as a result of the repetitive work. “We wanted to automate this process to ease the burden on our employees,” explains Annebirthe Bo Hansen, Department Head at Aalborg University Hospital. “Furthermore, we were looking for a solution to improve monitoring of the quality and temperature of the blood samples.”

KUKA robots and RFID logger facilitate quality assurance

In order to optimize the workflow, LT Automation and Intelligent Systems developed a robotic solution as well as an innovative transport box. Two KUKA KR AGILUS series robots, a KR 3 and a KR 10, were installed in the sorting system. “There were several reasons for choosing a robot from KUKA,” states LT Automation CEO Lasse Thomsen. “One of them was that the robots meet the technical requirements. And another reason was that the white external appearance fits with the image expected in a sterile environment.” The robots are controlled via the mxAutomation control system. A conveyor belt feeds the transport boxes to the robots shielded by Plexiglas screens.

© KUKA
A conveyor belt feeds the transport boxes © KUKA

The special feature of the “intelligent transport box” is the integrated RFID data logger, which not only tracks the transport route of every single box. The logger also saves what temperature was present inside the box at what time. A key factor, as explained by Annebirthe Bo Hansen: “In order to ensure the quality of the blood samples, the temperature must consistently be 21° C +/- 1° C.” By introducing the “intelligent transport box”, the hospital realized that this was not always guaranteed in the past. “The new technology has helped us to discover and rectify sources of error,” states Annebirthe Bo Hansen, expressing her satisfaction. “That is an important improvement.”

Robot automatically segregates incorrectly transported blood samples

The blood samples travel long distances before reaching the hospital: they are taken in general medical practices in the region surrounding the hospital. Doctors place the glass tubes filled with the samples vertically into the transparent transport boxes, which are stored in an appropriate cabinet ensuring the optimal temperature. At time of collection the courier scans the boxes, enabling their transport route to be tracked. The courier brings the blood samples to the hospital where they are scanned and registered on arrival.

In the lab, a technician places the transport boxes on the input conveyor of the robotic system. At that moment, an RFID scanner installed in the room reads the data logger. “If the scanner detects that the temperature inside a box has deviated from the specified temperature at any time during its journey, it automatically sends a notification to the robot,” explains Lasse Thomsen. “The robot offloads the affected box from the system to the lab technician’s workplace.” The employee takes a close look at the data saved on the logger in order to decide whether the blood samples in the box can still be used.

© KUKA
Robots sort the glass tubes © KUKA

If the data logger does not indicate any improper temperatures, the first robot opens the box, takes the blood samples out and sets them down for sorting. Then the robot places the cover back onto the box and offloads it so that it can be reused for transportation. At the same time, the second robot sorts the unpacked glass tubes by the color of their stopper, which it identifies with the aid of a scanner. The presorted samples are output from the system such that the lab technician can carry out the blood test. On average, the system needs 1.5 minutes per box, which is equivalent to a capacity of forty boxes per hour.

Optimizing the process and improving the workplace

The new system was initially tested in March 2019 and went into full operation in August. “We are highly satisfied with this solution,” concludes Annebirthe Bo Hansen. “The working environment and workflows have improved considerably with this change.” The lab technicians now have more time not only to analyze the blood samples but also to spend with patients. In addition, the automated sorting and continuous temperature control in the transport box have reduced potential sources of error.

“The new system makes Aalborg University Hospital a forerunner on the path to ‘Hospital 4.0’,” says Lasse Thomsen. “Automation can help simplify workflows and assure high quality especially in times when there is a shortage of skilled personnel.” For this reason, he sees great potential in the robotic solution: it would be of interest to all hospitals with their own clinical biochemical lab, in this form or similar.

Every five minutes, KUKA robots in northern Italy print head brackets for face shields. More than 1,000 are thus produced every day. The Italian company Caracol-AM is donating parts of the production to local hospitals and institutions.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for face shields has risen rapidly. Caracol-AM has used its experience in the field of additive manufacturing to develop an automated 3D printing solution with KUKA robots. Head mounts for face shields are printed. Additionally, industrial 3D-printers print reusable protective masks.

© KUKA
© KUKA

“During the COVID-19 emergency, we want to make a contribution with our 3D printing processes. Thanks to our experience in this field, we were able to react quickly and convert our production,” says Francesco De Stefano, CEO of Caracol-AM. “Our robotic systems and industrial printers are running at full speed to produce protective equipment. The headgear printed by the KUKA robots is complemented by a plexiglas, which Caracol-AM purchases from a partner company, to protect against droplet infection.”

Caracol-AM has been active in the field of additive manufacturing for three years and employs 15 people. “Our KUKA robots help us to produce quickly and meet the high demand for protective equipment. The robot systems are in operation around the clock,” explains De Stefano.

In the post-pandemic era, in response to the concerns on workforce and productivity, the global manufacturers will need to actively set out a forward-looking strategy to expands the scope for the use of safe collaborative robots.

Due to limited resources and land, how factories can quickly set up, relocate or increase production capacity with their existing plant and workforce is a highly concerned issue. Therefore, Touché Solutions launched the safe, efficient and easy to install T-Skin, the world’s first tactile sensor safety technology to obtain CE ISO 13856-3 certification. Once installed, T-Skin immediately enables industrial robots to collaborate with human workers. Moreover, it also enhances workplace safety, makes quick production line reconfiguration possible without being constrained by the fixed workspace, and increases productivity to stay competitive.

During the post-COVID era, solutions for safe, efficient, and quickly implementable production line modification are required

Touché Solutions C.E.O., Andrew Lu “In the post-pandemic era, it’s a must for workers to keep a safe distance on the production line. To meet the post-pandemic demand, in manufacturing industries such as automobile and electronic assembly or metal stamping, factory managers need the solutions to quickly increase level of automation or modify production line to increase the productivity and efficiency. Among all, safe human-robot collaboration is the best solution.”

“This is why fast and easy installation is an important design concept of T-Skin. It quickly gives any robot arm safety protection for use in any industrial environment. After completion of a risk assessment, a robot installed with T-Skin ensures the workplace safety of human staff during collaboration and protect collaborative robot arms from being damaged during operation. In response to the post-pandemic workforce planning, the safe human-robot collaboration to deploy robots installed with T-skin for the repetitive tasks is the biggest boon to the production line.” Moreover, after being upgraded as collaborative industrial robots, it’s possible to remove robots from fences to optimize the use of workplace that increases production efficiency per unit space.

T-Skin (formerly called Contact Skin), Touché Solutions’ pioneering technology for use on a robot arm, is an actual touch-and-stop system. In April, 2020 the system obtained the European Union’s CE ISO 13856-3 and ISO 13849-1 certification: its product safety and functional safety were both certified.

To provide more comprehensive protection for users, besides T-skin, Touché Solutions has also developed the T-Skin Pad Module. With its modular design, it can be quickly assembled to fit the end effectors of different sizes. When installed, the safety protection mechanism is more comprehensive.

New impetus- CE certification and rebranding Touché Solutions

Touché Solutions (formerly Mechavision) will soon mark its third anniversary. Company chairman Camus Su: “The feedback on our products from the market over the last three years has given us even greater confidence in tactile technology and its applications for future robots. We have chosen the time of obtaining CE certification to rebrand as Touché Solutions, reflecting our commitment to make headway in the international market and become the leading brand for tactile sensor technology. We will continue providing solutions for human-robot collaboration, and help clients achieve their production capacity and quality optimization goals.”

The Corona crisis highlights the important contribution that robots make to industry and to society. Research funding programs (R&D) are vital to enable and further support these developments. IFR summarized national funding programs in the new "World Robotics R&D Programs".

New technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and 5G, drive government funding in Asia, Europe and America. What are the targets of the officially driven government research funding programs and what can we learn from these findings? This has been researched by the International Federations of Robotics and published in the new paper “World Robotics R&D Programs”.

“Each country has its own characteristics of robot programs based on its specific background and history,” says Prof. Dr. Jong-Oh Park, Vice-Chair IFR Research Committee and member of the Executive Board. “Therefore, we see that robotics programs set up by the most advanced robotics countries have a very different strategic focus.”

Robotics R&D programs - officially driven by governments

The strategic plan Made in China 2025 comes as a blueprint to upgrade the manufacturing capabilities of Chinese industries. This includes advanced robots among the top 10 core industries. The Robot Industry Development Plan sets out the goals for China in 2020, including: (1) developing three to five globally competitive robot manufacturers, (2) creating eight to ten industrial clusters, (3) achieving 45% of domestic market share for China’s high-end robots, and (4) increasing China’s robot density to 100 robots per 10,000 workers. The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR shows that China reached a robot density of 140 units per 10,000 workers in the manufacturing industry in 2018. In 2019, the Chinese government invested 577 million USD in the development of intelligent robots.

The New Robot Strategy in Japan is a key policy of the Abenomics Growth Strategy. The robot-related budget for 2019 has been increased to 351 million USD, with the aim to to make Japan the robot innovation hub in the world. The action plan includes manufacturing as well as important service sectors like healthcare, agriculture and infrastructure. According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics” by IFR, Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer and delivered 52% of the global supply in 2018.

The Intelligent Robot Development and Supply Promotion Act of Korea is pushing to develop the robot industry in Korea as a core industry in the fourth industrial revolution. The 3rd basic plan for Intelligent Robots published in 2019 promotes systematic selection and concentration of promising public and private sectors. Focus areas are: manufacturing businesses, selected service robot areas (including healthcare and logistics), next-generation key components and key robot software. The robot-related budget for 2020 is 126 million USD (151 billion won). The statistical yearbook “World Robotics” showed a new record stock of about 300,000 operational industrial robots in the Republic of Korea in 2018 (+10%). Within five years, the country has doubled its number of industrial robots in operation. Following Japan and China, the country ranked third in 2018.

Robotics projects funded by Horizon 2020, the European Union´s 8th Framework Program, represent a wide variety of research and innovation topics – ranging from manufacturing, commercial and healthcare use to consumer, transportation, and agri-food robotics. Through this program, EC provides an estimated 780 million USD funding for robotics research and innovation over its seven-year runtime. The main topics of the Work Program 2018-2020 are related to digitization of industry through robotics, robotics applications in promising new areas, and robotics core technologies such as AI and cognition, cognitive mechatronics, socially cooperative human-robot interaction, and model-based design and configuration tools with the total budget of 173 million USD.

As part of its High-Tech Strategy, Germany support the use of new digital technologies within industry and administration. The “PAiCE” program with a funding budget of 55 million USD (50 million euros) over five years emphasizes the development of digital industry platforms as well as collaboration between companies using these platforms. In particular, the robotics-oriented projects are focusing on the creation of platforms for service robotics solutions in the various relevant application areas including service, logistics, and manufacturing fields. Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world and number one in Europe, followed by Italy and France. In 2018, the number of robots sold increased by 26% to almost 27,000 units – a new all-time record.

The National Robotics Initiative (NRI) in the USA was launched for fundamental robotics R&D supported by the US Government. The main goals focus on fundamental science, technologies, and integrated systems needed to achieve a vision of ubiquitous collaborative robots assisting humans in every aspect of life. Moreover, in NRI-2.0, collaboration between academia, industry, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged. The budget of NRI for 2019 is 35 million dollars. Additional robotics funding for application in defense and space is provided through the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Mars Exploration Program. According to the statistical yearbook “World Robotics”, robot installations in the United States increased for the eighth year in a row to a new peak in 2018. Regarding annual installations, the country has taken third position from the Republic of Korea.

Files for Download

Please find the information paper “World Robotics R&D Programs” by IFR for download here.

Press contact

International Federation of Robotics
Press Office
Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

Gui-Deog Kang, Chief Operating Officer of Robostar, has been elected as the new President of Korea Association of Robot industry(KAR) recently.

He has more than three-decade experience in robot and automation business. He established Robostar in 1999 with several collegues at LG Electric. Before joining Robostar, he had worked at the robot business division in LG Electric since 1987.

“I will dedicate myself to the growth of the robot industry by making use of my 30 years’ experience in this field.” says the new President.

At the inaugural speech, the president also pointed out the importance of collaboration with other industries, strengthening the buildup of the robot industry ecosystem and exchange with overseas partners and customers.”

He received the “Industrial Service Medal of 2019”, from the South Korean government, the most prestigious award in robot business field.

Companies around the world are increasing their use of industrial robots: Within five years, the global operational stock rose by about 65% to 2.4 million units (2013-2018). For the same period of time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a positive impact on the job market: Employment in the automotive industry – the largest adopter of robots – increased by 22% from 824,400 to 1,005,000 jobs (2013-2018).

These facts contradict the conclusions recently published by MIT´s news office on economist Daron Acemoglu´s research. Based on data between 1990 to 2007 he deduces an overall negative effect of robots on employment in blue-collar working communities in the US. Yet, recent experience in the US, Europe and Asia proves the opposite: robot adoption will likely be a critical determinant of productivity growth for the post-COVID-19 economy. These are results of the International Federation of Robotics.

“The impact of automation on employment is not in any respect different from previous waves of technology-driven change,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Productivity increases and competitive advantages of automation don´t replace jobs – they will automate tasks, augment jobs and create new ones.”

OECD Research: “Ten times more productive”

Research by the OECD shows that companies that employ technology effectively are ten times more productive than those that do not. To equip the workforce with the soft skills and technical knowledge required in the post-COVID-19 economy, a tight collaboration between industry, government and educational institutions is needed. Governmental policy incentives should encourage corporate investment in training and support funding of education.

Renaissance of industrial production

Companies around the globe are reassessing their global supply chain business models in reaction to the lessons learned from coronavirus. This will likely accelerate the introduction of robots, leading to a renaissance of industrial production in some regions – and bringing back jobs. After the crisis, IFR expects a considerable boost for robotics and automation, even if the industry cannot currently decouple itself from the economic downturn.

Press contact

econNEWSnetwork
Carsten Heer
phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
E-Mail: [email protected]

Downloads

“Robots and Jobs” - IFR positioning paper The impact of Robots on Productivity, Employment and Jobs
 

The world is currently facing an unprecedented situation: the novel coronavirus pandemic is spreading around the globe and is heavily affecting the global economy and our societies. No one can predict how long this situation will last nor the consequences that follow.

Dear Reader,

The world is currently facing an unprecedented situation: the novel coronavirus pandemic is spreading around the globe and is heavily affecting the global economy and our societies. No one can predict how long this situation will last nor the consequences that follow.

As representatives of the robotics and automation industry, we are best suited to find the solutions that support society and aid in its recovery. As IFR, our focus should be to use our skills and knowledge, leveraging what we know best, to tackle the issue at hand and become stronger in a world without borders.

IFR has already started collecting ideas, case studies, and best practices on how our technology provides beneficial solutions. This includes the use of robotics to safeguard local production and reduce dependency on global supply chains. Mobile collaborative robotics solutions are alleviating resource shortages caused by sudden illness and quarantine measures. Flexible production technologies have proven successful at increasing the production of goods in scarce supply, while mobile robotics is being used to relieve strain within hospitals and the logistics sector.

We welcome your input as we begin sharing this information with our broader communities through our blogs, press activities, and social media. Help us tell the story that will shape the direction of our industry for years to come.

Travel restrictions have limited our opportunities to meet in person and hold official IFR meetings at international trade fairs. Last week, the Automatica fair was postponed to December 8-11, 2020. As a result, we have decided to switch to webmeetings. Although different from our usual way to exchange ideas and make decisions, I am confident these virtual environments will enrich our opportunities for collaboration and relationship building and provide us with options for continued networking during the crisis and after.

While it is obvious that this pandemic will have an impact on our industry, it is too early to quantify it, as the global situation changes daily. However, IFR is uniquely positioned not only to weather this storm but also provide assistance to others along the way.

I am convinced that together we will get through this.

Stay safe, and best wishes to you and your family.

Milton Guerry

Robots play an important role in fighting the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 around the globe. Disinfection robot UVD for example has been in high demand since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese hospitals have ordered more than 2,000 UVD robots by Danish manufacturer Blue Ocean Robotics. They started to destroy viruses in Wuhan, where the global pandemic began.

The units operate in more than 40 countries – in Asia, Europe and the United States. UVD uses ultraviolet light (UV-C) to kill harmful microorganisms. The robot is the current holder of the IERA innovation award by IEEE and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“We are now helping solve one of the biggest problems of our time, preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria with a robot that saves lives,” says Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean Robotics. “The immediate demand has increased a lot with the outbreak of COVID-19. Existing customers buy many more units than before, and many new customers are ordering the UVD robots to fight coronavirus and other harmful microorganisms.” This is an ongoing success story for the IERA award winning robot. Blue Ocean Robotics has seen a growth in sales of more than 400 percent annually over the last two years.

Robot moves autonomously

The Danish robot moves autonomously around patient rooms and operating theatres - covering all critical surfaces with the right amount of UV-C light in order to kill specific viruses and bacteria. The more light the robot exposes to a surface, the more harmful microorganisms are destroyed. In a typical patient room, 99.99 % of all viruses and bacteria are killed within 10 minutes.

Robot helps at airports, schools or office spaces

“UVD is a supplementary device which assists the cleaning staff,” said Claus Risager. For safety reasons, it works on its own and automatically disengages the UV-C light if someone enters the room. The collaborative robot can be used in various enclosed spaces – not only in hospitals. The technology also works in environments such as office spaces, shopping malls, schools, airports and production facilities.

“UVD Robot” by Blue Ocean Robotics drives autonomously and eliminates bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in hospitals © Blue Ocean Robotics

“UVD Robot” by Blue Ocean Robotics drives autonomously and eliminates bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in hospitals © Blue Ocean Robotics

“Robots have a great potential of supporting us in the current severe corona pandemic,” said Dr Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the International Federation of Robotics.

“They can support us in healthcare environments, but also in the development, testing and production of medicine, vaccines and other medical devices and auxiliaries. Disinfection tasks performed e.g. by UVD units or safe distribution of hospital material in quarantine zones - without personal contact - provided e.g. by Photoneo´s mobile robot Phollower, are just two of many examples.”

Phollower 100 mobile platform © Photoneo

Phollower 100 mobile platform © Photoneo

By now, medical robots represent a well-established service robot market with a considerable growth potential. Sales of medical robots increased by 50% to 5,100 units in 2018. This is according to the statistics published in World Robotics by IFR.

Press contact

econNEWSnetwork
Carsten Heer
Tel. +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
Email: [email protected]

Videos

Watch UVD at work: https://vimeo.com/291756170

Watch Phollower at work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIckNx_Otq0&feature=youtu.be

Phollower (developed under the working title Pathfinder ) is a new-generation autonomous mobile robot for an ultra-modern material transport and handling in warehouses, hospitals, hotels and factories. It helps the staff in hospitals and other health care centers with distribution of medicines, laundry and other material to respective workplaces. It saves a lot of time and energy, and no adjustments of premises are needed to allow the robot to move in a given space, including via elevators, without any difficulties. Carrying (max 100 kg/ 220.5 lbs) and pulling (max 350 kg/ 771.62 lbs).

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The IFR Executive Round Table, the IERA Award presentation and the International Symposium on Robotics ISR are postponed to December 2020. All events are co-located at the automatica trade fair in Munich. The organizers of the event just announced a postponement related to the coronavirus.

Due to the increasing global spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and based on the recommendations of the German Federal Government and the Bavarian State Government, Messe Munich felt compelled to postpone automatica 2020. This measure has been taken in consultation with the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association as conceptual sponsor and in responsibility for the health of exhibitors and visitors. automatica 2020 will instead take place from December 8 to 11, 2020.

The IFR Executive Round Table as press event will now take place on December 9, 2020.

The International Symposium on Robotics ISR will now take place on December 9-10, 2020. The IERA Award final presentation as part of the ISR program will be held on December 9, 2020.

Please find the press release with the official communication on the automatica website.

The postponements of the automatica will also have an effect on the IFR General Assembly and Committee meetings. We will inform members of the respective groups directly on the changed schedules.

The World Robotics report shows that Europe is the region with the highest robot density globally, with an average value of 114 units per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. For more facts about robots watch IFR´s video news about Europe in one minute.

The Executive Board of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) elected Milton Guerry of SCHUNK USA as new President. Klaus Koenig of KUKA Robotics has been appointed as IFR´s new Vice President.

“I feel very honored to serve as new IFR President and look forward to a successful collaboration with Klaus Koenig and our IFR members,” says Milton Guerry. He held the position of IFR Vice President since December 2019. Milton succeeds Steven Wyatt (ABB, Switzerland), who is leaving ABB. Steven held the rotating post of President since December 2019 and prior to that served on a two-year term as IFR´s Vice President.

Milton Guerry thanked Steven Wyatt for his many years of successful work for the International Federation of Robotics: “Steven did a wonderful job to support the world of robotics. He inspired the robotics industry and their stakeholders, such as the representatives of national robotics associations from all over the globe, delegates of robot manufacturers and research institutes as well as the media. We will continue his mission to further improve the understanding of the rapidly changing world of robotics and automation.”

Milton Guerry heads the SCHUNK USA team as its President based in Morrisville, North Carolina. He joined SCHUNK in 2000 and has held various leadership roles, assuming his current role as President in 2007. Milton is a member of the Robotic Industries Association’s (RIA) Board of Directors. He began his career in the automotive industry in a number of engineering and technical functions.

Klaus Koenig serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KUKA´s Robotics division based in Augsburg, Germany. He joined KUKA AG in July 2017 as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Before, he had held various leadership positions in the German automotive industry. During his career he also took on international jobs, with multi-year assignments operating out of Canada and Italy. Klaus holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University RWTH in Aachen, Germany.

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Exporting to over 90 countries in five continents, Istanbul-based Erkul Cosmetics is a leading producer of beauty products such as foundation cream, compact powder blush, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, lip-gloss and nail varnish.

To fill eyeliner, nail polish and face powder containers and bottles, Erkul had traditionally used conventional human-operated filling machines. But consistency issues were impacting quality and output. To resolve these problems, FANUC modelled and evaluated three new automated solutions using its offline FANUC ROBOGUIDE simulation software. By looking at robot access, type of arm and cycle time values, FANUC was able to finetune and live test the solutions.

Automating the eyeliner line

Comprising eight FANUC robots, the new automated solution for eyeliners eliminates the quality issues the company was facing and increases output to 90 eyeliners per minute – a 30 percent improvement. The system includes a conveyor tracking application that transfers the finished products straight onto the belt.

A lot of care was taken in selecting the right grippers. These needed to be capable of running at high speeds but also be sensitive enough not to crush the delicate eyeliner containers. Using the gripper, the robot retrieves an empty eyeliner container from a magazine and places it precisely into the filling machine. To ensure the containers are filled completely without gaps, the robot completes a precise downward movement during the filling process.

FANUC achieved this precise synchronous motion by supplementing its standard line tracking software with a special Karel program. Thanks to high-speed skip input, the volumetric filling signal from the system filling machine is accurate to a millisecond and results in products being transferred quickly from the filling machine into the eyeliner magazine. At the end of the conveyor, a robot uses line tracking software to transfer the eyeliners onto the packaging line.

Picking the right colour with iRVision

For the next task – to place nail polish bottles in the filling mould – a very different approach was taken. Since they come in different shapes and colours, nail polish bottles would normally pose a problem for most vision systems. However, when used with RGB type backlight lighting technology, FANUC iRVision recognises the bottles as they arrive for separation on a vibrating circular table. Used in combination with three M-2iA/3S delta type robots located in different cells, the system recognises and handles 70 parts per minute.

Two of iRVision’s command tool features play a key role in detecting the location and angles of the parts in around 80 msec. These are the CSM Locator Tool [Curved Surface Locator Tool] for detecting cylindrical and curved surface parts and the GPM Locator Tool [Geometrical Pattern Model] for detecting bottle types with sharp lines.

Silicone type vacuum pads are used to hold the bottles firmly and prevent the risk of scratching. The robot also uses these pads to wrap and pack the bottles.

Part handling between robots – FANUC LR Mate 200iD/7L ©Fanuc Europe Corporation
Part handling between robots – FANUC LR Mate 200iD/7L ©Fanuc Europe Corporation

To ensure the line runs as smoothly as possible, alarm messages received from the robot are conveyed to the supervisor system and recorded. Data such as the product, cycle time, productivity, total stance, etc. are actively incorporated into production planning.

Thanks to its maintenance reminder feature, the robot also exports the mechanical and electrical servicing information required by the maintenance schedule.

Picking and placing

Finally, a FANUC LR-Mate 200iD/7L robot was installed to load the face powder container lids into the filling station and transfer the filled containers to the output conveyor. Previously this had been done be human operators, with both production loss and quality problems occurring. Installing the robot eliminated these issues and resulted in products being transferred at a rate of 75 units per minute.

Robot picking in cosmetics industry by using vision systems ©Fanuc Europe Corporation
Robot picking in cosmetics industry by using vision systems ©Fanuc Europe Corporation

The smart solution

Key to the Erkul Cosmetics solution are FANUC iRVision (integrated imaging systems) and FANUC ROBOGUIDE Simulation Software. But compared to the alternatives, the solution also offers the benefits of:

  • Advanced image processing thanks to in-built-iRVision control software (no need for 3rd party software and hardware).
  • Simple and easy to understand programming structure and customizable UIF menus
  • Advanced programming infrastructure (Karel language)
  • Precise positioning capability (0.01 mm repeatability)
  • Fast and precise line tracking software
  • Stable and fast robot cycle times.

Low maintenance costs, versatile and advanced training and technical support, lifetime spare parts supply warranty.

One platform, many solutions

FANUC’s One FANUC approach also meant that Erkul Cosmetics was able to benefit from other automation solutions such as FANUC ROBOSHOT plastic injection machine, ROBODRILL machining centre, PM-iA control unit. Thanks to FANUC’s common control system, using these is just like using any other FANUC product and requires a minimum of training for staff already familiar with FANUC controls.

The technical support provided to install and adapt these machines resulted in a production ecosystem that operates smoothly and efficiently with a bare minimum of downtime. Providing a full set of performance data, the system also offers Erkul Cosmetics high traceability and sustainable production volume on both robots and other machines. In addition, the lines have been designed to adapt to a wide range of different products with a minimum of setup time required.

To implement the solution FANUC Turkey, worked with Erkul Cosmetics’ technical and manufacturing team. FANUC training and support enabled Erkul to dispense with the services of a system integrator and train their own staff in the robot automation process. This reduced the cost of installing and implementing the solution considerably.

Erkul Cosmetics currently produces cosmetics around the clock using 25 FANUC 6-axis robots, 4 FANUC 3-axis delta robots, 36 FANUC ROBOSHOTS (full servo injection moulding machines), 1 FANUC ROBODRILL (machining centre) and 4 FANUC control units (PM-iA). The key benefit automation provides Erkul Cosmetics is the ability to minimise the problems and issues that were arising from the manufacturing process. This has enabled the company to spend more time on product development and R&D activities. By doing so, Erkul Cosmetics have reduced their manufacturing costs and become more competitive.

A high degree of automation – supported by elements of Industrie 4.0: component machining processes at KUKA provide insight into future-oriented production processes.

At first glance, production hall 10 at KUKA’s site in Augsburg looks just like any other production environment at a German or international machine manufacturer: a slight smell of oil is in the air, machine tools from various manufacturers are hard at work machining metal parts – and diligent employees are running the show. One of these employees is Rainer Eder-Spendier, Administrator for Automation and Robotics in Hall 10. “I am passionate about this hall,” says the 51-year-old. “The high and sensible degree of automation in production is what sets us apart. We embrace intelligent automation and digitization here.”

What you don’t notice at first sight: all of the machines in the hall are connected to the cloud and feature various Industrie 4.0 functions. Standing with a tablet in hand, in front of a Burkhardt + Weber safety fence that surrounds a machine tool, Rainer Eder-Spendier explains: “For instance, we have a digital overview of the entire hall. This is similar to the map apps for smartphones. It allows me to monitor all of the machines and retrieve their data.” With a quick tap of his index finger, he checks the status of two Heller machining centers which are loaded and unloaded by a KUKA robot on a regular basis. Similar to a smart watch or a fitness tracker, the robots and machines collect a wide array of data and transmit these data to the cloud. The data are then displayed in various visualizations on the user interface of the tablet. “But that’s not all,” says the Munich native, who has been working for KUKA for more than a quarter of a century. “If error messages appear, we can make use of a wiki-type service that has been compiled by our service technicians over a number of years. The database comprises almost half a million proposals for solutions. We can also retrace every process step in retrospect using the built-in technology – this works in a similar way to a black box on an airplane. What’s more, we can have the software notify us of any irregularities in the production process – this is similar to an ECG.”

Communication as the basis for smart production

There is a total of seven cells and eleven robots in Hall 10. The robots, which are from a number of different model series, were all manufactured by KUKA. The machines that they work on are commercially available machine tools from various manufacturers. The robots machine components such as base frames, rotating columns, arms and link arms. The components are assembled right next door in the robot assembly shop. “In this hall, the robots work on the various components that we need to manufacture our robots,” says Rainer Eder-Spendier, in summary. He then goes on to emphasize: “Not only was it important to test the new technical possibilities exhaustively, but also to deploy them in a truly sensible manner. It is also important that the machines have interfaces that accommodate what is referred to as the handshake.”

The handshake refers to the communication between the robot and the machine tool. This is essential if the components of the system are to coordinate with one another. In the cell, the robot can act either as a master or a slave. As a master, the robot specifies the procedures and notifies the machine that, for instance, a workpiece has been loaded and the door can now be closed. If the robot is deployed as a slave, it responds to commands from an external controller.

Shorter throughput times, greater efficiency

Machine tools are usually loaded manually by workers. The worker often stands around waiting for the machines to finish machining the workpiece. Once the machining proce-dure has been completed, the worker removes the workpiece and sets it down on a pallet before loading a new workpiece into the machine. Not only is this procedure monotonous, it is also relatively inefficient. As we can see from Hall 10, the process can be optimized using automation. “In our hall, the robots take on the tasks of loading and unloading the machines,” explains Rainer Eder-Spendier. “Consequently, very few human workers are involved in the production process. In fact, it is possible to run the production process without human involvement for a certain period of time, even on weekends and during night shifts.” To make this possible, the cells are equipped with feed units such as turntables and feed conveyors. The workers load these manually with the components that are to be machined. The robot therefore has access to a stockpile that will last up to eight hours depending on the number of prepared workpieces and tasks to be performed by the machine.

The level of productivity is also improved by the fact that the robots also carry out secondary tasks. “In some of our cells, the robot cuts helicoil threads into pre-drilled holes while the machine tool machines the next workpiece,” says Rainer Eder-Spendier, citing an example. In most of the cells, workpiece deburring is another task that the robots perform. In this way, waiting periods are used efficiently, and the throughput times of individual parts are shortened because the machines are relieved of machining tasks such as drilling holes and milling operations falling within a tolerance range of +/- 0.2 mm. Thus, better use can be made of valuable machining time on the machine tools and more parts can be produced.

Robots work hand in hand with machine tools from various manufacturers

In practice, one of the robot cells in Hall 10 could look like this: three machine tools from the manufacturer Grob have more than 30 of the system’s pallets at their disposal and can therefore respond quickly and flexibly to various requirements. The worker clamps the workpiece to be machined in a clamping fixture at a changeover station. Next, the component is loaded into the cell together with the pallet and the fixture. A KR 600 R2830 FORTEC robot performs the chain of individual steps and the material transport from the machine tool to the reworking cell where the machined metal parts are finished – for example, deburred, drilled or furnished with helicoils. The robot approaches the three machines via a linear unit and then brings the finished part back to the relevant operator position. The worker releases the clamping fixture, removes the part and sets it down on a pallet.

As soon as the machining process has been completed in the machine, the robot deburrs the part at the changeover station. © Kuka
As soon as the machining process has been completed in the machine, the robot deburrs the part at the changeover station. © Kuka

In another cell featuring two machining centers from the manufacturer Heller, the procedure is similar. With the aid of a pneumatic gripper, a KR 500 L480-3 MT FORTEC robot picks up a workpiece that has been placed onto a turntable and loads it into one of the two machines. To enable it to load both machines alternately, the robot is installed on a linear unit. Four feeding stations provide sufficient raw material. As soon as the machining process has been completed in the machine, the robot deburrs the part at the changeover station. Finally, the robot sets the part down on a turntable.

A machine tool from the company Burkhardt + Weber is also loaded and unloaded by a KR 500 FORTEC robot. The machine tool, which machines link arms and rotating columns, is equipped with a double pallet changer: one pallet holds the clamping fixtures for the link arms, the other pallet holds the fixtures for the rotating columns. While the robot loads a workpiece onto one pallet, the machine works on the workpiece that is clamped on the other pallet.

The advantages of automation and networking

“Automation makes the worker’s tasks significantly easier because, in most cases, the worker is no longer required to manually load the machine tools with heavy workpieces,” says Rainer Eder-Spendier. The worker is merely required to supply the material. This, however, takes a lot less time and physical effort, meaning that the system can achieve a greater level of productivity. Another advantage: it is not necessary to have profound robot-specific expertise to carry out the deburring tasks.

Similar to a smart watch or a fitness tracker, the robots and machines collect a wide ar-ray of data and transmit these data to the cloud. © Kuka
Similar to a smart watch or a fitness tracker, the robots and machines collect a wide array of data and transmit these data to the cloud. © Kuka

As soon as the cells have been switched to this mode, they can be operated in G-Code using the KUKA.CNC software like a conventional machine tool. The data that are recorded – even those that pertain to components manufactured by companies other than KUKA – are made available in the cloud. That way it is possible to have full visibility and exercise full control over the current production process, achieve a greater level of transparency and optimize task scheduling at all times.

Roboteco SpA recently developed a robotic welding cell for its customer Steel-Tech aimed at improving production and inserting into the production process a new machine that is totally interconnected with all stages of the manufacturing process.

With the installation of the new robotic cell, Steel-Tech aims to unify its processes, interconnecting the machines to increase speed and enable tracking and quality control the production flows in a systematic and reliable way.

Through its production management software, Steel-Tech is able to monitor and manage all the main machines in the factory; transferring production orders, controlling production flow and cycle times and, finally, observing the results.

Panasonic Desk Top Programming & Simulation DTPS allows off-line robot weld program development in a virtual 3D space followed by direct machine upload and interfacing with production management programs.

System interconnection allows parameter and quantity control enabling cycle control and optimisation.

The production management software automatically downloads analyses and saves the data from the welding robot in its own archive. One of the main benefits is having total interconnection of the production process starting from the offline programming, through the control of the production process and the parameters, to the tele-monitoring services in case of fault.

The Arc Welding Robot Solution

The cell developed by Roboteco-Italargon after a preliminary study phase together with the customer is composed of a Panasonic TAWERS TIG arc welding robot model TM-1400 with filler metal and two working stations with turn-tilt positioners.

TAWERS (The Arc Welding Robot Solution) robot is a unique architecture in which a single CPU controls and monitors the robot movement synchronized with the filler metal feeding and welding parameter control – “All in One” welding solution from one manufacturer. Integrated into the weld system is the Human Machine Interface Teach Pendant to facilitate program creation.

Installed Robotic Weld Cell
Installed Robotic Weld Cell © Roboteco

A single source software and a user-friendly HMI allow the operator to create and optimise welding programs using the wide range of functions available through the Teach Pendant and utilizing specific subprograms.

For example, the Welding Navigator subprogram assists the operator by calculating the welding parameters through selection of workpiece variables (material, thickness etc.) using data derived from extensive research.

The specific design of Panasonic TAWERS TIG torch simplifies the welding process. The wire is inclined towards the welding pool with an angle of precisely 30° and is pre-heated by passing close to the arc. By means of this special torch configuration the robot programmer can focus on TCP (the tungsten electrode) without having to worry about wire positioning, gaining high flexibility and better torch positioning.

This Panasonic torch design can easily support all robot functions including AVC (Arc Voltage Control), the adaptive software that allows to keep stick-out (distance between electrode and workpiece) constant.

Panasonic TAWERS TIG Welding Cell in Operation
Panasonic TAWERS TIG Welding Cell in Operation © Roboteco

Data Management and Industry 4.0

Roboteco-Italargon and Steel-Tech have agreed to make intensive use of arc welding data management software.

Through adaptive control, the CPU of the robot supplies and controls all process parameters (current, voltage, welding speed, wire speed, wire feeder servo motor’s electrical consumption etc.) and arc welding data management software allows the user to set alarm ranges, to view them remotely via an external PC and to record them in logs filed by welding section.

Data Output Screens
Data Output Screens © Roboteco

The robot system is also equipped with the Roboteco Industry 4.0 kit that allows interconnection with Steel-Tech general management software.

Roboteco Industry 4.0 kit is the result of a study with the goal of making interconnection of the robotic cell with external environment easy and flexible and enabling data and information exchange. For example transfer of production orders, quantity of pieces to produce compared with the pieces already produced, real welding parameters compared with set parameters, cycle time, robot alarms and status and many other available information.

All information is extrapolated from the robot in an external PLC with dedicated HMI and with a simple library open to be connected with all the main software languages (HTML, VB, C#, Java, etc.).

This kit could also enable remote access from a mobile device by implementing web pages, accessible via mobile devices (tablet, smartphone, etc.) external to the company network or PC connected to the same line.; the same kit could enable the connection through FTP Server.

The industry 4.0 kit allows also for remote control of the machine; Roboteco-Italargon’s technician can access from the service offices the robot status and alarms. In this way the technicians could analyse possible faults and cooperate with customer to solve them remotely.

Desk Top Programming & Simulation System (DTPS)

In order to make the programming more efficient, Steel-Tech utilizes the offline programming software Panasonic DTPS.

DTPS Offline Programming
DTPS Offline Programming © Roboteco

DTPS is a simulation software developed exclusively for Panasonic robots. With this software, users can create and edit robot programs and verify robot motion offline. DTPS enables a smooth transfer of robot programs from office PC to the robot controller.

DTPS makes it possible to run the robot program on the PC in simulation and optimise the robot movement with the corresponding welding parameters offline.

By importing the 3D CAD files of the pieces to be welded, the company can utilize DTPS to verify the accessibility of the robot in each position of the pieces to be welded, evaluate the cycle time, avoid collision, program the robot movement and all process parameters and edit or modify it by PC and various other functions which make it an indispensable tool for optimising welding processes.

The benefits are the reduction of welding cell machine downtime, time saving of programming welding lines by using special macros in DTPS software and analysis of product costs through process simulation.

Today Steel-Tech is utilizing the new welding robot for welding stainless steel parts for one of tis distinguished customer; the welding programs were designed totally in the 3D environmental of DTPS and transferred to the robot with the production orders.

Integrating the sophisticated TAWERS welding system with the Roboteco Industry 4.0 kit and DTPS under a general production management software enables complete process interconnectivity and smart data feedback. Understanding in real time the performance of the production processes allows for early identification of errors or uncharacteristic machine performance, which could help to avoid major faults and thus reduce downtime. Combining DTPS with weld data feedback allows for optimisation of cycle time leading to maximised output rates. With Industry 4.0 kit the robot is interconnected with Steel-Tech production management software that oversees also other machines and phases of the production exchanging with them data in term of IoT.

TIG Weld Example
TIG Weld Example © Roboteco

About the companies

Roboteco SpA was founded in 1988, having sensed a growing need in the market for automated arc welding and, thanks to the almost thirty-year partnership with Panasonic Welding System, Roboteco has specialized in the promotion and integration of Panasonic TAWERS technology, a revolutionary fully integrated welding robot solution, focusing on the Automotive and General Industry sectors. In 2017 Roboteco S.p.a. acquired Italargon, another historical brand manufacturer of robotic and automatic welding solutions. Since becoming Roboteco-Italargon, the company has continued to grow and has diversified from MIG and TIG to Laser Beam Welding (LBW).

Steel-Tech Srl is a company originally established as manufacturer of components for cereal mills and since has diversified towards a wider range mechanical metal processing. With the generational changeover, the company has evolved to introduce welding processes, mainly using TIG, in different sectors like medical, pharmaceutical, food & packaging and metal furniture.

The company development continued with the introduction of robotic TIG welding with a first Roboteco-Italargon cell some years ago and further today with a new robotic cell also equipped with TIG welding process and Panasonic TAWERS (The Arc Welding Robot Solution) system, but intended for integration into the new industry 4.0 company development.

As a global leader in gear systems whose customers demand just-in-time delivery, KOKI depends on reliability and uptime from its fleet of 60 robots. The German company, founded in 2003, makes precision gear shifters and boxes for some of the world’s leading automakers.

KOKI has a strong commitment to continuous improvement and innovation, as well as lean production. As part of this commitment, the company challenged ABB to find new ways of improving robot availability and productivity. It decided on the production site of Glauchau, Germany, which had experienced issues in the past. ABB was already supporting KOKI with service for its welding robots, which included annual maintenance as well as rapid response time for on-site issues. ABB proposed connecting one of KOKI’s welding robots in Glauchau to ABB’s Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics, part of ABB Ability Connected Services.

Digital services increase competitiveness

ABB began connecting its robots to advanced services in 2007, and today some 7,000 ABB robots are connected to the ABB AbilityTM Connected Services platform, at more than 750 customer sites, in 40 countries, with more than 40,000 robots delivered with embedded connectivity. Every new ABB robot can be connected to the Internet of Things to unlock leading digital technologies for greater performance and reliability. Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics is a secure service that monitors the condition of robots around the clock and alerts users to situations which could lead to unplanned downtime. It can send alarms by e-mail or SMS in case of critical issues or provide actionable data to operators through an intuitive web-based application. This data can also be used to better prepare service experts for more efficient on-site visits, for example giving them a snapshot of the system at the point of the failure.

An IRB 140 in a material handling application. © ABB
An IRB 140 in a material handling application. © ABB

During the course of the year, ABB’s Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics detected conditions which could have caused the robot to shut down and were able to proactively alert KOKI, so the problem could be addressed before a problem occurred. For many manufactures, the cost of downtime has dramatically increased the past several years. Experts estimate that it costs over $1 million an hour to have an unplanned stoppage at a large automotive factory. Given the just-in-time delivery expected by many of KOKI’s customers, a welding robot failure can have severe consequences to its commitments. In the past KOKI often had to convert another cell with the same robot model to duplicate the lost production, a time intensive process with risks.

Data evaluation increases availability and lifetime

Based on this positive experience, KOKI has connected all their 60 robots to ABB Ability Connected Services. KOKI’s entire manufacturing process benefits from the new options that are available through the networked ecosystem. Via ABB Ability Connected Services and the data derived from it, ABB can carry out condition-based maintenance and inspection more effectively. Ad hoc repair tasks can also be planned quickly and precisely together with KOKI using live data. This allows activities to be prioritized, supporting the efficiency and smooth running of the most important customer processes. The connected robots can also provide intelligence to benchmark the performance of their entire fleet and identify and correct underperforming robots. “During audits, automotive manufacturers ask us how we can guarantee the safety of the systems. Robot maintenance, monitoring, service and support all play an important and decisive role here,” underlines Sven Sparmann, Site Manager for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul at KOKI in Niederwürschnitz, Germany.

“The approach is very practical, and we are informed in advance. Error detection allows us to carry out adjustments when production has stopped, without interrupting the production process,” enthuses Sparmann. “We’ll be linking all new robots – both at our domestic and international sites – to ABB Ability Connected Services, that’s quite clear,” Sparmann concludes.

In measuring technology, maximum precision is the only thing that counts. This provides ideal conditions for the use of robots. For efficient use, however, they must be able to grip various large objects without damaging them. At measuring technology specialist Perschmann Calibration GmbH, the sensitive KUKA LBR iiwa robot performs the loading of a coordinate measuring machine and thus automates the calibration process.

Identification of the task

“A human hair is roughly 50 µm thick and the silk threads of a spider are approx. 5 µm. The precision with which we at Perschmann Calibration calibrate measuring instruments is approx. 0.5 µm,” explains Dr. Detlef Rübesame, Head of Technology at Perschmann Calibration GmbH. The calibration service provider from Braunschweig specializes in the calibration of manual measuring instruments. Among other things, it performs the high-precision inspection of gauges such as measuring pins and setting rings. The company’s customer base consists primarily of customers from conventional mechanical engineering, the automotive industry or the aerospace sector. The customers use the measuring instruments for quality assurance in their production processes. There measuring instruments must be regularly calibrated in accordance with Standard ISO 9001 to fulfill international quality standards. Exact values are thus measured during the calibration process so that not even small dust particles can influence the measurement. Besides dust particles, the temperature also has an impact on the measurement result. For this reason, the temperature is continuously maintained and the measuring instruments themselves are also subject to a controlled climate for a defined period of time so that no measurement variation can occur.

Medium-sized enterprises such as Perschmann Calibration GmbH are constantly searching for future-oriented solutions to remain competitive in their business segment. “In collaboration with KUKA, the company Hexagon – which also produces the coordinate measuring machine – introduced us to a concept for the automation of our calibration process and, as a result, to an even more customer-friendly option for the quick calibration of many different measuring instruments. We adopted the idea right away,” recalls Detlef Rübesame.

Solution

Since December 2017, the KUKA flexFELLOW solution upon which the sensitive KUKA LBR iiwa (intelligent industrial work assistant) robot is installed has been used at Perschmann Calibration. The KUKA flexFELLOW is a complete solution, consisting of a robot platform on which the HRC-capable LBR iiwa robot is installed.

The KUKA flexFELLOW is a complete solution, consisting of a robot platform on which the HRC-capable LBR iiwa robot is installed. © Kuka
The KUKA flexFELLOW is a complete solution, consisting of a robot platform on which the HRC-capable LBR iiwa robot is installed. © Kuka

Two transport units with fork slots are provided for this. In the first work step, the LBR iiwa moves to the first transport unit and checks whether there are measuring instruments in the individual slides. It then removes these instruments and moves them into the correct position for the scanner. Besides scanning, the measuring instrument has air blown on it to eliminate any dust and prevent incorrect measurement. Once the system has identified the type of measuring instrument, the LBR iiwa clamps it in the clamping device. The coordinate measuring machine then starts the calibration procedure. Once the process is completed, the robot grips the measuring instrument again and places it in the second transport unit. Meanwhile, the information about the calibration procedure is transferred to a computer where the certificate is issued for each part. The robot works in three-shift operation.

Automated measuring process: Sensitive LBR iiwa can handle different measuring devices. © KUKA
Automated measuring process: Sensitive LBR iiwa can handle different measuring devices. © KUKA

An important question while planning the production changeover was how the coordinate measuring machine and the LBR iiwa could detect and assign the various different geometries of the measuring instruments. The measuring instrument itself meets this challenge by controlling the measuring process. Equipped with a data matrix code, it forwards all important information (such as the type of measuring equipment or the diameter) on to the coordinate measuring machine. Using this special data matrix code (DMC), the coordinate measuring machine can independently initiate the measurement. Intervention by an employee is no longer necessary.

The robot detects if the compartment is empty and reacts by independently moving to the next full one. © Kuka
The robot detects if the compartment is empty and reacts by independently moving to the next full one. © Kuka

Evaluation of the solution of the challenge

Perschmann enjoys numerous advantages from the robot-based application and the fully automated calibration procedure thanks to Industry 4.0 elements. The procedure is shortened and the calibration process can become more customer-oriented since the collective processing of various measuring instruments is no longer a problem with the KUKA lightweight robot. “Automation makes sense since we deal with very large quantities. At the same time, the system is coordinated in a way that allows it to work autonomously for a long period of time,” explains Detlef Rübesame. The second advantage of the system is that the robot detects if the compartment is empty and reacts by independently moving to the next full one. This is real added value since the robot can therefore continue working autonomously during the night shift. The next morning, the employee finds a fully-calibrated unloading system.

With the KUKA LBR iiwa, Perschmann Calibration can now calibrate around the clock – and do so in two different modes. Whereas production during the day runs in the safer, slower HRC mode, a switch into full automation mode can be made at night when no people are in the robot’s working range. The KUKA LBR iiwa then works ten times as fast. This is possible because other safety regulations apply to operation without humans. Thanks to the additional, fully-automated calibration during the night shift, Perschmann Calibration GmbH gains additional inspection capacity. Detlef Rübesame is very pleased with the new process and believes that the investment in the system will soon have paid for itself. “The task of management is to ensure that we continue to be proactive and are not forced to react by the actions of others. With the full automation of the calibration process, we have taken a further step in this direction.”

The increasing networking of industrial production requires more and more intelligent solutions in the field of intralogistics. Mobile robots help to successfully meet the demand for a highly flexible and transparent material flow. A Danish manufacturer shows how it works.

The factory of the future has been taking shape for a long time; digital platforms are being used, people and machines are collaborating in everyday work, manufacturing technologies are becoming continuously more efficient. At the same time, the increasingly automated processes require innovative concepts for intralogistics. Industry 4.0 can only function optimally if production and logistics processes are efficiently linked.

However, such networking is often not taking place yet. Highly qualified employees often take care of in-house transports manually, at the expense of efficiency. Logistics 4.0 calls for solutions that act as a flexible link between individual production stages. One obvious answer is mobile robots, which enable simple, dynamic and cost-effective automation of internal flows of goods. In this way, processes can be linked, resources used purposefully and employees relieved.

Danish robotics expertise

One of the pioneers in this field is Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR). The company from Odense specializes in the development of autonomous, mobile robots for material handling. Autonomous because MiR robots can independently navigate in a dynamic environment thanks to their sensor systems and security algorithms without interfering with the infrastructure of production facilities. This enables them to operate safely side by side with humans. Top modules such as shelf units or cart-pulling hooks eventually make the robot colleague a flexible tool that can automate almost any transport task.

Doubling of production capacity at Kamstrup

The example of Kamstrup A / S shows how a seamless flow of goods between static production lines and production cells can be realized by mobile robots. At the manufacturer of intelligent meter solutions, four MiR100 robots equipped with conveyor top modules, transport semi-finished products and finished products without human intervention. The intralogistics solution meets the Industry 4.0 paradigm of digital networking by integrating it into the company’s ERP system. When a sales representative issues a new order, the mobile robots will receive a list of routes that they will gradually follow.

Kamstrup has almost completely automated its production through the transport robots, which are in continuous operation. The manufacturer uses maximum production capacity and keeps its delivery expectation of only 72 hours. “The MiR robots play a crucial role in maximizing our throughput. They even allowed us to double our production, “explains Flemming Møller Hanser, production manager at Kamstrup.

Intralogistics 4.0 made very user-friendly

A look at practical examples not only shows how mobile robotics makes factories fit for the future. It also emphasizes that innovative technology is for everyone because even users without prior programming skills can set up the MiR robots and make them work. The robots can be easily operated via an intuitive user interface with any mobile device or computer. The mobile robots are collaborative and designed to work safely side by side with its human colleagues. When the robot takes over the internal transportation tasks, it leaves time for its human colleagues to do more valuable tasks, ensuring smooth and efficient workflows.

After all, the focus of Industry 4.0 is always the well-rehearsed coexistence of man and machine. At Kamstrup, this means relieving the employees from monotone transportation tasks and letting them use their expertise for prototype development. This ultimately makes the manufacturer both future-oriented and competitive.

Video and image © MIR

The Miami startup Creating Revolutions was experiencing double-digit product reject rates in the assembly of their hospitality service pager. The UR3 cobot now handles soldering, drilling, silicone dispensing and light assembly while being controlled and monitored in a cloud-connected system, reducing rejects to near zero while increasing production efficiency almost five-fold.

The Challenge

Creating Revolutions makes a customer service paging system for the hospitality industry. The hockey puck sized Communication Disc connects guests with their waiter through their smart phone. Assembling the disc is a complex tasks requiring great accuracy and repeatability. “The problem is you can’t efficiently repeat a specific process the exact same way over and over again as a human being,” says Einar Rosenberg CEO of Creating Revolutions, who was on the lookout for an automation solution that could meet both quality and quantity requirements.

“We looked at about 40 different robot companies, and most of them didn’t have a very good way to program them; they required too many things for the environment; or they were too big or too jerky,” says Rosenberg who concluded his research by choosing a collaborative UR3 robot from Universal Robots.

The Solution

“The UR3 was elegant, it was fast and smooth. We knew it had the exact precision that we really wanted. Our project reject rate has gone from double digits to below 1%, our overhead is significantly reduced while the increase in our production is a high multiple,” says Rosenberg.

The UR3 handles two different cycles: first, the robot checks that the aluminum housing parts are lined correctly on a tray. The robot then picks up the part, places it into a clamp, picks up a silicone injector and aligns the silicone, then places an acrylic disc on top, before placing the assembled part back on the tray. Next step is drilling and soldering: The robot picks a disc with a copper base out of a dispenser, and places it into an optical laser sensor that aligns the disc, the robot then places the disk into a holder, affixing it by closing two clamps.

“The UR3 grabs a drill from the utility belt and performs a peck drilling process, because the acrylic shatters if you just force it. The robot is sensitive enough to basically pop it in until it makes a perfect hole,” says the Creating Revolutions CEO. With drilling complete, the UR3 grabs the soldering iron, adding three points of pre-soldering.

“Having the UR3 perform the pre-soldering has increased the efficiency of the process almost five-fold,” says Rosenberg. “The manual soldering process really required the operator to have three hands.”

“The UR3 was elegant, it was fast and smooth. We knew it had the exact precision that we really wanted. Our project reject rate has gone from double digits to below 1%, our overhead is significantly reduced while the increase in our production is a high multiple.” Einar Rosenberg, CEO.

The benefits of the UR3 integration

The UR3 was integrated in Creating Revolutions’ assembly line by Hirebotics, a Universal Robots Certified System Integrator that works like a staffing agency for cobots, letting manufacturers rent cobots by the hour without any upfront costs. Hirebotics handles all programming, deployment and maintenance of the robot, while Creating Revolutions pays for only the hours it’s operable.

It took just a few weeks from when Creating Revolutions first got in contact with Hirebotics until the UR3 was ordered, installed and programmed. Matt Bush, co-founder of Hirebotics, explains that in order to run a “robot staffing agency” quick deployment is imperative. “What has enabled us to do that is the ease of programming the UR robots. The UR interface makes it simple to get it up and running in production much faster than a lot of the other solutions we have worked with in the past,” says Bush, who also built a cloud-connected mobile app, enabling Creating Revolutions to receive real-time production data and notifications when the robot requires attention. “By gathering details on the number of units that the UR3 produces in a given period of time, we can combine all data and create realistic, very accurate forecasts of our production needs, such as how many humans are needed and what we need to focus on to produce at optimal levels,” says Rosenberg, who also has the UR3 work unassisted after hours.

Having a robot perform several assembly steps has become a huge selling point for Creating Revolutions.

“When our customers come here and see the UR3, they realize the quality and precision guaranteed because of the robot. Because we’re not an established company, they want to feel like the product that they’re going to be using is not going to fail on them,” he says. “The robot demonstrates to them a strength, which then reinforces the sale for us. “

Video and image © Universal Robots

From 2020 to 2022 almost 2 million new units of industrial robots are expected to be installed in factories around the world. New technology trends and market developments enable companies to react to changing requirements. The International Federation of Robotics shows top trends to innovate.

“Smart robotics and automation are vital to deal with new consumer trends, demand for product variety or challenges from trade barriers”, says Dr. Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the IFR. “New technological solutions pave the way for more flexibility in production.”

Simplification, Collaboration and Digitalization are key drivers that will benefit robot implementation.

Robots get smarter

Programming and installation of robots become much easier. How this looks in practice: Digital sensors combined with smart software allow direct teaching methods, so-called “Programming by Demonstration”. The task that the robot arm is to perform is first executed by a human: He literally takes the robot arm and hand-guides it through the movements. This data is then transformed by the software into the digital program of the robot arm. In future, machine learning tools will further enable robots to learn by trial-and-error or by video demonstration and self-optimize their movements.

Robots collaborate with workers

Human-robot collaboration is another important trend in robotics. With the ability to work in tandem with 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. Robot and worker operate alongside each other, completing tasks sequentially. Applications in which the human and the robot work at the same time on the same part are even 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 want them to adjust its motion to its environment, allowing for a true responsive collaboration. These solutions include voice, gesture and recognition of intent from human motion. With the technology of today, human-robot collaboration has already a huge potential for companies of all sizes and sectors. Collaborative operations will complement investments in traditional industrial robots.


Robots Go Digital

Industrial robots are the central components of digital and networked production as used in industry 4.0. This makes it all the more important for them to be able to communicate with each other - regardless of the manufacturer. The so called “OPC Robotics Companion Specification”, which has been developed by a joint working group of the VDMA and the Open Platform Communications Foundation (OPC), defines a standardized generic interface for industrial robots and enables industrial robots to connect into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The digital connectivity of robots with e.g. cloud technology is also an enabler for new business models: Robot leasing for example - called Robots-as-a-Service - has advantages that might be especially attractive for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): no committed capital, fixed costs, automatic upgrades and no need for high-qualified robot operators.

For more trends on the global robotics market please see our website.

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The new World Robotics report shows that more than 2.4 million industrial robots are operating in factories around the world. Global sales value hit a new record of 16.5 billion USD. For more facts about robots watch IFR´s video news in one minute.

 © World Robotics 2019 International Federation of Robotics

Steven Wyatt (ABB, Switzerland) has been elected as the new President of the International Federation of Robotics by its Executive Board. Wyatt succeeds Junji Tsuda (Yaskawa Electric Corporation), who has served in the rotating post since December 2017. Milton Guerry (SCHUNK, USA) has been appointed as IFR´s new Vice President.

The new IFR President, Steven Wyatt, has a decade of international experience gained in the flexible automation industry. He is currently global Head of Portfolio and Digital for ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation business. Prior to joining ABB in 2010, the native Scot worked in a series of executive marketing & sales roles within the plastics industry globally. Mr. Wyatt holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh. Before being elected President of IFR, Wyatt assisted his predecessor, Junji Tsuda, as Vice President, a role he held for two years.

Steven Wyatt thanked the outgoing IFR President, Junji Tsuda, for sharing his esteemed and valuable industry expertise with key international stakeholders and the world’s press. “As the voice of the robotics industry, Junji Tsuda did an exemplary job in setting forth our members’ viewpoint on the key topics impacting our industry. As its new President, it is my pleasure to carry on his successful work. Together with the new Vice President, Milton Guerry, I will continue Junji Tsuda´s mission to deliver improved awareness and a better understanding of the rapidly changing world of flexible automation.

The new IFR Vice President Milton Guerry began his career in the automotive industry in various engineering and technical functions. Today, he heads the SCHUNK USA team as its President. Guerry is a member of the Robotic Industries Association’s (RIA) Board of Directors. He joined SCHUNK in 2000 and has held various leadership roles assuming his current role as President in 2007.

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The Spanish Association of Robotics and Automation (AER) incorporates Alex Salvador as Managing Director, whose appointment was approved on October 22 by the AER Board of Directors. Alex Salvador replaces Marc Ollé, who leaves office after 7 years in the entity to undertake new professional challenges.

Alex Salvador is Bachelor in Economics and MBA from the University of Barcelona, and has developed his entire professional career in the industrial business environment, occupying management positions in both multinational and SMEs, in the areas of commercial-marketing and general direction. He has teaching experience and in recent times he has specialized in talent management and organizational transformation.

As the new Managing Director of the AER, he assumes the challenge of consolidating the organizational structure of the Association in addition to generating projects that allow the Spanish Robotics & Automation sector to be at the forefront of innovation and Industry 4.0.

It must be highlighted that AER – represented by Luis Basañez, current General Secretary of AER – was one of the founding partners of IFR in 1987 at the meeting held in connection with the 17th International Symposium on Industrial Robotics ISIR. Since then, AER & Barcelona have hosted two ISIR Symposiums, both in 1992 (23rd) and in 2009 (40th), thus demonstrating its total commitment with IFR.

The World Robotics report shows a new record stock of about 300,000 operational industrial robots in the Republic of Korea in 2018 (+10%). Within five years, the country has doubled its number of industrial robots. Following Japan and China, the country ranked third in 2018. But the dynamics of robot installations has decreased in recent years and for 2019 a continued decrease is expected.

“Robot installations declined by 5% to 37,807 units in 2018,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Both, the electrical/electronics industry and the automotive industry reduced installations – together they account for 82% of total demand.”

Trade dispute

South Korea is affected by the US-China trade dispute, but there could be positive as well as negative effects: China is an important export destination for Korea´s intermediate products. The conflict could result in decreasing demand from China. In contrast, Korean products might substitute Chinese products. But currently, the South Korean economy is in troubled waters. Declining demand for electronic products and announcements of investment reductions by major electronics companies point towards another year of decreasing robot installations.

Robots needed to remain competitive

In the long run, the extensive use of robots is vital in order to maintain competitiveness. Korea’s population is ageing rapidly. By the middle of this century, it will have one of the oldest populations out of all OECD countries, just behind Japan, Italy and Greece. In 2050, more than one third of the population will be over the age of 65 and around half of all workers will be aged 50 and over. This helps to explain why South Korea has already embraced robots, particularly in its manufacturing sector, where “robot density” ranks second place in the world - following Singapore. With 774 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, the Republic of Korea has more than twice the number of Germany (3rd with 338 units) and Japan (4th with 327 units).

Korea´s Workforce Development

The Workforce Development and Training Act, updated in 2019, is one important initiative in a series of government- driven programs. People get support to develop skills of how to handle robots and automated machines. The “Smart Manufacturing Innovation Strategy” announced the build-up of 50,000 smart factory workers by 2022. And the Third Robot Basic Plan with a runtime of 5 years will support training of 2,200 workers for small and medium-sized enterprises by 2023.

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Please find files for download below. Robot images for download in our newsroom. Further information on World Robotics, like Executive Summary etc., can be found in free downloads.

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These days, the global robotics community will meet at the 23rd iREX, hosted from December 18 to 21 at the Tokyo Big Sight. Robot manufacturers and robot-related companies from around the globe are going to display and demonstrate the latest advancements in robot technology.

Dear Reader,

These days, the global robotics community will meet at the 23rd iREX, hosted from December 18 to 21 at the Tokyo Big Sight. Robot manufacturers and robot-related companies from around the globe are going to display and demonstrate the latest advancements in robot technology. The IFR booth is located at W2-15. We are looking forward to meeting you there!

Prior to the iREX, on December 17, IFR members will already meet at the venue to review recent IFR activities and to exchange and discuss opinions on the market development and future IFR activities.

For me, this IFR meeting will be a special one. It will be my last meeting as IFR’s President, given that my term of office ends this day. I had the pleasure to take over this presidency in late 2017, a year known for the global robotics boom. The following years turned out to be exciting and challenging: We have seen new record figures in many countries and passed the mark of 400,000 new industrial robots globally installed per year. We have seen the global market for service robots expanding to almost USD 13bn. The IFR supports the robotics industry on its growth path by promoting the benefits of robotic automation for human workers, industry and society. Our positioning papers, key messages, and blog posts address the general public. Our press releases have been cited more than 10,000 times every year in newspapers and journals all over the world. IFR representatives participated in numerous politically relevant meetings, conferences and events and communicated our joint positions to policy makers.

I am looking forward to passing on the IFR president’s chair to my successor, whom I wish the best luck and success in guiding us into the future of robotic automation.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year,

Junji Tsuda

Zimber Verpackungen has expanded its production by introducing a fully automatic, flexible robot system for component assembly. At the heart of the system are three efficient Yaskawa Motoman MH5 industrial robots. The latter can grip complex components of diverse shapes and perform the most demanding automation tasks.

The company – based in Gutach im Breisgau in Baden-Wuerttemberg – specialises in the production of high-quality packaging. Over the last few decades its customers have found everything they need for packaging and shipping their merchandise. Based on the trust placed in it by its customers, Zimber Verpackungen has extended its business model. In a fully automated process, state-of-the-art machines package complete sets as well as small and large series to customer specifications.

Complex assembly operations broaden the product portfolio

The decision was already made eight years ago by Ralf Zimber, Managing Director of Zimber Verpackungen. As an additional service, the lucrative contract packaging sector was to be expanded by the assembly of a wide range of complex components. But how could they take on this ambitious challenge in view of the constantly increasing requirements in terms of quality and flexibility?

Following deliberations and enquiries with a number of mechanical engineers, it quickly became clear: the task was only economically feasible with a supervised in-house development. Together with a free-lance designer a detailed requirement profile was prepared and the options were weighed up in a cost-benefit ratio.

Flexibility and speed as a key criterion

“Our most important aim in the development of the system was to achieve maximum flexibility while ensuring minimum loss of time for setup procedures and assembly,” reports Ralf Zimber.

Wishes became reality in a 15-month development and construction phase. Today, Zimber Verpackungen is ideally equipped for jobs involving complex components. A state-of-the-art system with three Yaskawa Motoman MH5 industrial robots was installed. Now a wide range of parts for the electronics industry, e.g. plug connectors and cable glands, as well as components for the heating industry and for many other applications, can be accurately assembled in the shortest of times.

Speed counts at Zimber Verpackungen. For this reason, the company did not want to miss out on the advantages of 3D printing. The pickup heads, robot grippers and even the O-ring assembly fixtures are almost wholly fabricated by the 3D printing process.

Ralf Zimber: “Due to the extremely short replenishment time of about one week and the low manufacturing costs – only a fraction of those for conventional manufacturing – 3D printing has become indispensable in the production of components.”

Robots control all assembly fixtures

Depending on requirements, at Zimber Verpackungen either the high-speed robot or a round table can be used for parts transport. The round table with built-in screw-driving station is used for components that need to be screw-mounted. The latter can easily handle the right- and left-hand threads of the different components.

© Zimber Verpackungen
© Zimber Verpackungen
If the components do not need to be screwed, the high-speed Yaskawa robots take care of the complete parts transport. Individual parts are fed via universal conveyor belts. Pick-ups specially made in the 3D printing process and custom-made for the respective component are used.

The robot controller also controls all assembly fixtures. In addition to complex components consisting of up to eight individual components, at Zimber Verpackungen this enables the simultaneous assembly of two simple, but completely different components.

Motoman MH5 industrial robots perform complex tasks

The 6-axis Motoman MH5 robots are optimally suited for the diverse and complex tasks of the Breisgau-based packaging specialist. The model is specifically designed for use in the areas of handling, machine loading, processing and distribution applications. With a payload of 5 kg, a dead weight of only 29 kg and an extended range of up to 895 mm the MH5 is extremely efficient. It was designed for use in a confined working environment. Due to its flexible mounting possibilities on the wall, ceiling or floor, the robot saves valuable production space. The slim design facilitates setup procedures. The maximum workspace is generously dimensioned with 160 degrees in both directions.

© Zimber Verpackungen
© Zimber Verpackungen

In order to meet the challenge of maximum flexibility, each of the three “Motomen” at Zimber Verpackungen is equipped with several electrically powered grippers. These are geared to differing dimensions and thus flexibly adjusted to the respective components. A further advantage is the gentle handling of the components. Robust metal parts of different dimensions, or sensitive O-rings and thin-walled plastic parts, are securely held and transported by one and the same system. The repeatability of the MH5 is accurate to 0.02 mm.

Quality assurance by high-resolution camera

Individual parts are correctly positioned or assembled as required by a high-resolution camera integrated into the robot controls. If necessary, the latter can even accurately measure specific features of the components, e.g. the diameter or angle of grooves. Simple and fast integration and high quality were key considerations in the decision in favour of Yaskawa.

First practical applications

The newly designed system has meanwhile proven itself in industrial practice: the Motoman handling robots at Zimber are currently manufacturing 12-pole cable connectors for HUMMEL AG, a company with headquarters in Denzlingen, southern Baden. The latter comprise a total of six individual components that must be joined together with utmost accuracy, notwithstanding high cycle times.

HUMMEL, a medium-sized, family-owned enterprise, is a well-known manufacturer of joining technology, electrotechnical components and heating accessories, has for many years stood for quality, precision and reliability. A high level of vertical integration with development, construction, toolmaking, manufacture, electroplating and assembly under one roof offers the best prerequisites for implementing individual customer solutions.

Summary

A new fully automatic module assembly system enables packaging and assembly specialist Zimber Verpackungen to assume the most technically demanding packaging tasks and the assembly of single parts. Three Yaskawa Motoman MH5 handling robots execute customer orders flexibly and reliably. In an environment marked by a shortage of skilled labour, this enables the company to continue growing.

Authors

Ralf Zimber, Zimber Verpackungen, Waldkirch
Alexander Luna Garcia, Sales GI Robots & Products, Yaskawa Europe GmbH, Robotics Division, Allershausen

Sales of industrial robots in India reached a new record of 4,771 new units installed in 2018. That is an increase of 39 percent compared to the previous year (2017: 3,412 units). India now ranks eleventh worldwide in terms of annual installations.

“India is one of the strongest growing economies among the emerging markets in Asia,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Whilst the recent global results were quite moderate, India saw an impressive growth rate of 39% in 2018. The number of robot installations has been growing rapidly for several years now. Between 2013 and 2018, India saw a compound annual growth rate of 20%.”

Promising Outlook

Prospects for further increasing robot installations are promising. The Indian GDP is expected to grow by more than 7% in 2019 and companies across many industries intend to expand capacities. India has a young population, hence a strong workforce in need of jobs. The country needs to expand its manufacturing industry to create more job opportunities. Higher wages and the rising share of affluent citizens in India are the main drivers of a growing and promising consumer market.

Automotive industry

The automotive industry remains the largest customer industry by far, with a share of 44% of total installations. But the strongest growth driver in 2018 was the general industry, increasing by 28%, consisting of the rubber and plastics industry, the metal industry and the electrical/electronics industry. Robot use in non-automotive manufacturing is catching up with the automotive sector.

Robot stock and India´s potential

Regarding annual installations, India now ranks eleventh in the global annual supply – three places higher compared to the previous year and ahead of Singapore, Canada and Thailand. The operational stock of robots rose to about 23,000 units: +21% compared to 2017. The country’s automation potential is illustrated by a low robot density figure in the automotive industry: 99 industrial robots per 10,000 employees is less than a fourth of Indonesia’s density (440 units) and far away from China (732 units) and the frontrunner Korea (2,589). India’s robot density in the manufacturing industry only reaches a value of 4 industrial robots per 10,000 employees.

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The new World Robotics report shows an annual global sales value of 16.5 billion USD in 2018 – a new record. 422,000 units were shipped globally in 2018 - an increase of 6 percent compared to the previous year. IFR forecasts shipments in 2019 will recede from the record level in 2018, but expects an average growth of 12 percent per year from 2020 to 2022.

  • Chinese manufacturers gain domestic market share
  • US robot installations rose by 22 percent
  • Europe´s robot installations rose by 14 percent

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “The US-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments. But it is exciting, that the mark of 400,000 robot installations per year has been passed for the first time. The IFR´s longer term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth - with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”

Asia, Europe and the Americas - overview

Asia is the world’s largest industrial robot market. In 2018, there was a mixed picture for the three largest Asian markets: Installations in China and the Republic of Korea declined, while Japan increased considerably. In total, Asia grew by 1%. Robot installations in the second largest market, Europe, increased by 14% and reached a new peak for the sixth year in a row. In the Americas, the growth rate reached 20% more than the year before which also marks a new record level for the sixth year in a row.

Top five markets in the world

Five major industrial robot markets represent 74 percent of global installations in 2018: China, Japan, Republic of Korea, the United States and Germany.

China remains the world´s largest industrial robot market with a share of 36% of total installations. In 2018, about 154,000 units were installed. This is 1% less compared to the previous year but more than the number of robots installed in Europe and the Americas together. The value of installations reached 5.4 billion USD – 21% higher than in 2017.

Chinese robot suppliers increased their share of total installations on the domestic market by 5 percentage points (2018: 27% vs. 2017: 22%). This result is in line with China´s policy to promote domestic manufacturers. Installations of foreign robot suppliers on the other hand (including units produced in China by non-Chinese suppliers) decreased by 7% to about 113,000 units (2017: about 122,000 units). This reduction is also caused by a weakening automobile industry.

Japan´s robot sales increased by 21% to about 55,000 units, representing the highest value ever for the country. The average annual growth rate of 17% since 2013 is remarkable for a market with an already highly automated industrial production. Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer and delivered 52% of the global supply in 2018.

Robot installations in the United States increased for the eighth year in a row to a new peak in 2018 and reached about 40,300 units. This is 22% higher than in 2017. Since 2010, the driver of the growth in all manufacturing industries in the U.S. has been the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen the U.S. industries in both domestic and global markets. Regarding annual installations, the country has taken third position from the Republic of Korea.

The annual robot installations in the Republic of Korea declined by 5% – about 38,000 units have been sold in 2018. The robot market strongly depends on the electronics industry that had a tough year. Nevertheless, installations have increased by 12% on average per year since 2013.

Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world and number one in Europe, followed by Italy and France. In 2018, the number of robots sold increased by 26% to almost 27,000 units – a new all-time record. Installations are mainly driven by the automotive industry.

Robot use by industry worldwide

The automotive industry remains the largest adopter of robots globally with a share of almost 30%of the total supply (2018). After a very strong year 2017 that saw a 21% increase of installations, this level was maintained and slightly increased by 2% in 2018. Investments in new car production capacities and in modernization have driven the demand for robots. Using new materials, developing energy efficient drive systems and high competition in all major car markets pushed for investments. 79% of industrial robot installations took place in 5 key markets: China (39,351 units), Japan (17,346 units), Germany (15,673 units), the United States (15,246 units) and the Republic of Korea (11,034 units). Interestingly, India, the world’s fourth largest vehicle producer by OICA´s production statistics, had just about 2,100 industrial robots installed in its automotive industry.

The electrical/electronics industry was about to replace the automotive industry as the most important customer for industrial robots in 2017. However, in 2018, global demand for electronic devices and components substantially decreased. This customer industry is probably the one most affected by the US-China trade crisis as Asian countries are leaders in manufacturing electronic products and components. Robot installations in this industry declined by 14% from their peak level of about 122,000 units in 2017 to 105,000 units in 2018. 79% of the total installations in the electrical/electronics industry were installed in three countries with major production sites: China (43%), Republic of Korea (19%), Japan (17%). Vietnam saw a one-off boost of installations in 2017 driven by a few major projects (7,080 units), but dropped back in 2018 (689 units).

The metal and machinery industry established itself as the third largest customer industry. Installations accounted for 10% of total demand in 2018. Both producers of metal products (without automotive parts) and producers of industrial machinery, have bought substantial amounts of robots in recent years. Installations rose to about 43,500 units in 2018. This is
1% less than in the record year of 2017 (44,191 units). The metal and machinery industry was the largest customer industry in Finland (44%), Sweden (42%), Switzerland (40%), Belgium (30%), Austria (27%), Italy (26%) and Denmark (21%).

Robots designed for collaborative use (Cobots)

For the first time, World Robotics analyses the market for collaborative industrial robots (cobots). Cobots are designed to perform tasks in the same workspace as human workers. The IFR definition implies that a cobot is necessarily an industrial robot as defined in ISO 8372:2012. Despite a very strong media attention of cobots, the number of units installed is still very low with a share of 3.24% only. In 2018, less than 14,000 out of more than 422,000 industrial robots installed, were cobots. The year before that, roughly 11,100 units were cobots. From 2017 to 2018, annual installations of cobots increased by 23%.

Appendix

The annual global sales value of 16.5 billion USD in 2018 is a projection based on market values reported by various national robotics associations. This encompasses only the robots. If software, peripherals, and systems engineering is included, the value is approximately 50 billion USD.

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Sales value of service robots for PROFESSIONAL USE increased by 32 percent to 9.2 billion U.S. dollars. Logistic systems such as autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) represent the largest fraction in the professional service robot market (41% of all units sold). The second largest category is inspection and maintenance robots, (39% of all units sold). These two segments account for 80 percent of total market share.

Service robots for PERSONAL AND DOMESTIC use are mainly in the areas of household robots, which include vacuuming cleaning and lawn-mowing robots. Value was up by 15 percent to 3.7 billion U.S. dollars. The IFR outlook predicts a strong sales increase for professional and personal service robots (2019-2022). This is according to the 2019 World Robotics Report – Service Robots, presented by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“In terms of value, the sales forecast for 2019 indicates a cumulative volume of around 12.6 billion U.S. dollars for the professional service robot segment”, says Dr. Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the IFR. “Robots for logistics, medical and field services are the most significant contributors.”

Service robots for PROFESSIONAL USE – market overview

The total number of professional service robots sold in 2018 rose by 61% to more than 271,000 units, up from roughly 168,000 in 2017.

The sales value of logistic systems is estimated at almost USD 3.7 billion which is 53% more than the year before. In terms of units, almost 111,000 logistic systems were sold in 2018 – this is 60% more than in 2017 (69,000). 7,700 autonomous guided vehicles (AGV) in manufacturing environments and almost 103,000 in non-manufacturing environments are the driving force behind this rapidly growing market. The trend to use logistic systems in non-manufacturing industries has been strongly driven by warehouse solutions for major e-commerce companies. A strong potential can also be found in hospitals running their logistics with the help of professional service robots.

About 106,000 inspection and maintenance systems were sold in 2018. This accounts for 39% of total professional service robot units sold. The category of inspection and maintenance robots covers a wide range of robots from rather low-priced standard units to expensive custom solutions.

Sales of medical robots increased by 50% to 5,100 units. Medical robots account for 31% of the total sales value of the professional service robots. The total value of sales increased by 27% to USD 2.8 billion. Medical robots are the most expensive service robots with an average unit price of USD 548,000, including accessories and services. The demand for supportive robot solutions for the ageing societies in Europe and Asia also represents a considerable growth potential for medical robots.

The sales value of field robots increased by 8% to USD 1 billion, accounting for 11% of the total value of professional service robot sales. A total of 5,800 milking robots were sold in 2018 compared to 5,400 units in 2017, an increase of 8%. Sales of agricultural robots used e.g. for automation of crop farming and horticulture, are expected to grow strongly by an average of some 50% per year. In 2022, sales are expected to reach 2,400 units.

Exoskeletons support ergonomic working by reducing loads on the worker. Sales of powered human exoskeletons were up from 6,700 units in 2017 to 7,300 units in 2018. There is a high growth potential for this kind of robot.

Service Robots for PERSONAL and DOMESTIC USE – Market Overview

At the same time, the market for Personal Service Robots, is developing rapidly. It is projected that sales of all types of robots for personal and domestic tasks could exceed 22.1 million units (valued at USD 4.6 billion) in 2019 and 61.1 million units, with an estimated value of USD 11.5 billion, in 2022.

Vacuum and floor cleaning robots will enter more and more households in the world. It is estimated that in 2019 more than 17.6 million units of domestic robots - including autonomous lawn-mowers, pool cleaners and vacuum cleaners - will be sold. Unit sales are expected to increase by 46% on average per year so that more than 55 million units will be sold in 2022.

Service robot manufacturers for professional use by regions

European and American service robot manufacturers play an important role in the market for professional use: both regions have a market share of about 45 percent. American companies are very strong in logistic systems whereas European companies dominate in the field of medical robotics. European and Asian companies mainly produce the field robots – both with a market share of about 45 percent.

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We are happy to announce the final figures of World Robotics 2019 today: Both the industrial as well as the service robot markets grew considerably in 2018.

Dear Reader,

We are happy to announce the final figures of World Robotics 2019 today: Both the industrial as well as the service robot markets grew considerably in 2018.

The results for the industrial robots’ market exceeded those of our April forecast. Despite the difficult times for the main customer industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, and the lingering trade conflict between two of the main destinations, China and the USA, imposing uncertainty to the global economy, 2018 has been the sixth consecutive year with a record annual unit sales volume. 422,000 new industrial robots were sold in 2018, a growth of 6% compared to 2017. The global robotics market volume rose to US$ 16.5 billion. The global operational stock rose beyond 2.4 million robots.

This growth also comes as a surprise as two of the 5 major markets for robotics saw a downturn in the number of new installations: China and the Republic of Korea. But this was covered up by an above-average growth by the remaining three, Japan, the United States and Germany.

We are also proud to be able to present the first statistics on collaborative robots this year: Slightly less than 14,000 industrial robots installed were cobots, corresponding to only 3% of the overall industrial robot market. This figures underspins the IFR’s position that the market for collaborative robots is still in its infancy. Users and integrators are still gaining experience on what works and doesn’t in the design and implementation of collaborative applications. Technology developments in sensors and grippers hold promise for expanding the range of actions that the robot end-effector can perform. Programming interfaces will continue to become more intuitive, not just for cobots, but also for traditional industrial robots.

The service robotics market is also growing at high pace: The number of service robots for personal and domestic use increased by 59% to about 16.3 million units in 2018 reaching a value of US$ 3.66 billion (up 15%). The number of professional service robots sold in 2018 rose by 61% to more than 271,000 units, the sales value increased by 32% to USD 9.2 billion.

This flourishing service robotics scene, amongst other examples of robotics technology, can be witnessed during the 14th RobotWorld, which is the biggest specialized robotics exhibition in Korea, held from October 9 to 12 in Seoul.

The IFR community will gather again on December 17, in connection to the iREX exhibition in Tokyo. The 23rd iREX, hosted from December 18 to 21 at Tokyo Big Sight, will showcase next-generation robot technology from robot manufacturers and robot-related companies from around the world and provide the opportunity for business talks exchange of technology. We are looking forward to meeting you there!

Best wishes,

Junji Tsuda

Robots are being increasingly utilized in the medical field. For over 30 years, they have been supporting patient care in healthcare facilities worldwide. Despite this “tradition,” however, the age of medical robotics has only just begun, as a new breed of sensitive and collaborative robots is poised to shape the future of robotics in medicine.

The swiss-based company AOT AG has developed an innovative process for bone surgery, using a KUKA robot that is certified in compliance with the relevant standards.

Identification of the task

The greatest stories are based on real life, as they say – and real life sometimes has a way of coming up with the best innovations. Complex orthodontic surgery undergone by his daughter was the catalyst for a personal meeting between laser researcher Dr. Alfredo E. Bruno and Prof. Dr. Dr. Hans-Florian Zeilhofer, Head of the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery department of the University Hospital Basel and the Canton Hospital Aarau. The technical exchange of this meeting and the combination of the two areas of competence to create robot-guided laser ablation gave rise to Advanced Osteotomy Tools AG, or AOT for short.

„Our goal was to achieve radical improvement in the results of bone surgery by replacing mechanical cutting instruments with non-contact “cold” laser photoablation and medi-cal robots”, explains Dr. Alfredo E. Bruno, now Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and member of the administrative board at AOT. To achieve a high precision, the system requires not only the laser and the navigation system, but also a robot. This makes the programmed cuts with millimeter precision and meets the requirements in terms of high sensitivity. For this reason, the path from AOT AG lead to the LBR Med from KUKA.

Solution

Their joint brainchild was given the name CARLO, which stands for Cold Ablation, Robot-guided Laser Osteotome. How does CARLO work? The surgeon carries out the preopera-tive planning on the basis of data from a CT scan and feeds it into CARLO’s navigation system. An intuitive app guides the surgeon and technical staff through CARLO’s initiali-zation step by step. The robot then performs the operation independently. If anything does not go as planned, the physician merely has to touch the robot gently and the sys-tem stops immediately. “The LBR Med has a whole range of extremely fine sensors. It is quicker than stopping a human assistant,” says Prof. Hans-Florian Zeilhofer. “The robot then moves to a wait position and resumes the procedure from precisely this position as soon as it receives the all clear.” The system is rounded off with complex 3D planning, navigation and control software and hardware. It slots seamlessly into the operating room and works autonomously but provides the surgeon with full control of the proce-dure at all times.

Evaluation of the solution of the challenge

Until now, there was no solution for keeping the bone tissue in the area of the laser cut-ting surfaces intact and alive. CARLO now combines a laser and a robot for bone surgery in the form of the new “cold” laser technology with a small, lightweight, tactile robot designed for direct human-machine cooperation. Because its design was based on the sensitive, seven-axis LBR iiwa, the LBR Med already has sensitivity integrated into it. In the past, manufacturers had to develop this sensitivity for the robots they used for their products themselves, so they could be operated in the immediate vicinity of the patient. Efforts like these are now largely eliminated. “The LBR Med has installed force torque sensors in all seven axes, which makes it sensitive and safe. When there is even a little, unplanned contact, it remains still and interrupts its tasks. This sensitivity can also be used to operate the system intuitively and manually. Another advantage of the LBR Med is that the robot is already certified for integration into a medical product. It is the only robot component that has been certified according to CB Scheme process and can there-fore be easily incorporated into a medical product by medical technology companies. This has saved AOT AG a lot of time in the approval process.

Precision work through robot-guided laser ablation (© image AOT AG)
Precision work through robot-guided laser ablation (© image AOT AG)

This is all still in the future, however, as far as the laser and robot for bone surgery are concerned, because certification as a medical product is still in progress. “Since CARLO is the first system of its kind, the supervisory authorities are understandably placing very high requirements on its safety,” explains Dr. Alfredo E. Bruno. AOT AG is already work-ing on the development of the second generation of CARLO with enhanced safety and performance features. These are tools that will place further demands on the LBR Med. For Prof. Hans-Florian Zeilhofer, CARLO represents the future of surgery because the software-guided robotic laser system for bone surgery supported by the LBR Med can perform highly precise cuts with any required pattern. “There are far more options open to the surgeon than with previous procedures.”

With over 384,000 industrial robots installed globally in 2018, we again face another record year – according to our preliminary data presented in April. But the growth has slowed down significantly in 2018, compared to the high growth rates of the previous years. This slowdown is caused by several factors: uncertainties over the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, declining smartphone sales and certain geo-political trends.

Dear Reader,

Meanwhile, summer is approaching, but the pace in robotics is still not declining. In July, not less than two CEO Round Tables co-hosted by IFR will take place:

On July 9th, during the China International Summit of Robotics and Smart Manufacturing, the IFR-CRIA CEO Round Table will focus on “Robots + Intelligence and 5G”. Representatives of Chinese and international robot manufacturers will discuss how AI and 5G will influence the development of robotics industry and the new business opportunities arising thereof. The China International Summit is held in conjunction with CIROS 2019. This year, CIROS - China International Robot Show - is taking place for the eighth time in Shanghai from July 10 to 13.

On July 10th, the IFR-RAR CEO Round Table will discuss “Robotics as a driver for changes in production process”. Representatives from both Russian and international industrial enterprises, integrators and robot manufacturers will look, among others, at robotics as part of the overall modernization of industrial production, new markets and business models (Robots as a service). This Round Table is hosted during INNOPROM 2019, the main industrial trade fair in Russia, which will be held in Ekaterinburg, Russia, from July 8 to 11, 2019.

Finally, IFR is happy to announce that the 15th Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award in Robotics and Automation - the IERA Award – has been awarded to the UVD Robot by Blue Ocean Robotics. The UV disinfection robot runs autonomously through hospitals to eliminate bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in hospital rooms by emitting concentrated UV-C light. The IFR and IEEE RAS honor this development that reduces risks for patients and hospital staff alike and shows an enormous market potential. Congratulations to Blue Ocean Robotic!

Best wishes,


Junji Tsuda

The 15th Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award in Robotics and Automation (IERA) goes to the “UVD Robot” by Blue Ocean Robotics. The collaborative robot autonomously drives around hospitals while emitting concentrated UV-C light to eliminate bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. As a result, hospitals can guarantee a 99.99% disinfection rate – reducing the risk for patients, staff and relatives of contracting dangerous infections.

“The UV disinfection robot by Blue Ocean Robotics shows that robotics has a limitless potential of being applied in new environments,” said Arturo Baroncelli, former President of the International Federation of Robotics which co-sponsors the IERA award. “The combination of ‘classical’ mechatronic disciplines - typical of robotics – with the know-how of medicine and pharmacy is fantastic evidence of this path of progress. The IFR is happy to recognise and support this virtual trend.”

“We are incredibly proud of winning the IERA Award 2019 for a ground-breaking product,” said Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean Robotics. “Everyone can feel safe in rooms that have been disinfected by the robot. Our UVD Robot not only reduces the risk of patients contracting hospital-related infections, but also to a high extent visitors and hospital staff.” Blue Ocean Robotics is a Danish manufacturer of service robots for the healthcare, hospitality, construction and agricultural sectors based in Odense. The UV disinfection robot is sold by its subsidiary, UVD Robots.

UVD Robot disinfects all contact surfaces autonomously

Infections acquired in hospitals cause significant costs in the healthcare sector: In the EU, these costs amount to 7 billion euros. The source of infections can be other patients or staff and even equipment or the hospital environment. The UVD Robot drives around and positions itself autonomously in relation to its surroundings. The machine treats surfaces in a hospital ward with light from several angles and up close. The robot disinfects all contact surfaces, stopping at predefined hotspots that require a longer time of exposure. The UV disinfection robot does not replace the manual cleaning process - it is designed as a complimentary activity and always works in enclosed spaces.

“UVD Robot” by Blue Ocean Robotics drives autonomously and eliminates bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in hospitals © Blue Ocean Robotics
“UVD Robot” by Blue Ocean Robotics drives autonomously and eliminates bacteria and other harmful microorganisms in hospitals © Blue Ocean Robotics

Collaborative robot contains number of safety features

As exposure of UV-C light toward humans should be avoided, the robot contains a number of safety features: for example, a tablet which is placed on the door of the patient room acts as a motion sensor – it automatically disengages the UV-C light if someone wants to enter the room.

The technology has been developed in cooperation with leading hospitals in Scandinavia. First sales have been made in the Middle East and Asia. In future, the robot can also be applied to other environments requiring diligent disinfection such as food production or laboratories.

IERA Award honours collaboration of science and industry

The IERA Award is one of the world’s most prestigious awards in robotics. It honours the collaboration between science and industry in the production of robots and is jointly awarded by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS), the world’s largest technical professional organization.

Video of UV Disinfection Robot

Please find a video of IERA Award Winner “UV Disinfection Robot” here

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At Bischofszell Nahrungsmittel AG, a subsidiary of the Migros Group (Switzerland), the potential of new technologies is currently being explored. In a pioneering MRC pilot project over a fixed period, the management set out to achieve two objectives, namely the efficient production of food and the humanization of the workplace.

Bischofszell Nahrungsmittel AG, a company based in the town of the same name near St. Gallen, specializes in the production of convenience foods. The factory works around the clock making delicious ready-made meals that would not be out of place in a haute cuisine setting. Customer demand for these products, with their quality and convenience of preparation, continues to grow.

Steffen Knoll, Technology Project Manager at Bischofszell Nahrungsmittel AG and dedicated automation expert, is a major advocate of the MRC (Man-Robot Collaboration) concept, and not merely for reasons of increased capacity: “MRC offers a completely new range of possibilities. It obviously gives us the opportunity to expand our capacity relatively easily, but it also enables us to provide targeted support by means of robotics to the strengths of our employees in terms of flexibility and intelligence, thereby minimizing health hazards and the risk of injury to humans arising from stressful activities.”

What Knoll is referring to becomes apparent when the application is observed in operation. It involves taking fully packaged convenience dishes that have come direct from the production line and stacking them in multiple layers on metal trays, which are then slotted into trolleys for transportation to the pasteurization/sterilization unit. The stages of this process, when performed manually throughout, entail injury hazards and health risks for employees.

Maximizing work safety – Minimizing the Risk of Injury

While the distribution of the ready meals on the aluminum trays and the placing of spacers between the individual layers are among the more agreeable jobs on the packing line, stacking the large metal trays on the trolleys is by no means a popular activity. Manhandling the trays, which measure 900 by 900 millimeters and weigh in at a hefty five kilos, over a full eight-hour shift is heavy work. The trays have to be slotted accurately into the trolley, which brings with it the risk of crushed fingers.

A light bar indicates the operational status of the robot, similar to a traffic light.
A light bar indicates the operational status of the robot, similar to a traffic light.

“Our employees are very experienced in this work, but risk of injury cannot be ruled out,” adds Knoll. “What could be more appropriate than a division of the entire handling process between man and machine? Also, in direct collaboration at a single compact work station without being separated by a safety barrier, the more agreeable tasks can be assigned to the human employee and the strenuous operations involving risk of injury to the robot. It seemed to us that MRC presented an effective solution.”

Intelligent Solution Developed Inhouse

However, implementing the proposed scenario turned out to be more difficult than expected. After thorough analysis, the system integrators initially consulted expressed doubts about the viability of the application. Risk assessment, interface definitions, zonal sensory protection, selection of a suitable robot – there were a number of concerns that persuaded the cautious plant engineers to withdraw from the pioneering project.

Yet Steffen Knoll and his team were still convinced of its merits, so there was only one thing to do: they would simply have to implement the MRC concept by their own endeavors. The prerequisites for this were met, as the company already uses various robots in other applications and has proven expertise in the field. The MRC application would, however, be uncharted territory.

In the search for a suitable robot provider, Knoll recalled a visit to a trade fair in 2016 at which Stäubli was one of the exhibitors: “At a robotics conference, I saw the new TX2 series. Stäubli were advertising these six-axis machines as the world’s fastest in the safe robot category and, with their modular PLe/SIL3 safety features, as ideally qualified for MRC applications. Fast, easy-to-program robots for direct man-machine interaction with a suitably high payload – we realized that this could be the answer in our particular circumstances.”

The Perfect Robot for Man-Machine Interaction

Contact was immediately established with the Swiss offices of Stäubli at Horgen, and from that point onwards, matters proceeded apace. In consultation with Stäubli, the right robot for this particular instance of man-machine interaction was identified: a TX2-90L with CS9 controller. In contrast to classic cobots (co-robots), this collaborative six-axis machine has the necessary payload for the application in question. What was missing was a suitable universal gripper to handle both the aluminum trays and the spacers. In order not to lose any more time, the Swiss company designed and built the gripper as well as the complete system from its own resources.

Its multiple safety functions make the six-axis machine ideally qualified for MRC applications.
The gripper, which can handle both spacers and metal trays, is an in-house design.

The application comprises four main components – robot, tray magazine, spacer feed belt, and stacking trolley. The workflow of the cell is as follows. While a single human employee distributes ready meals on an aluminum tray and then places the spacers for the next layer, the Stäubli six-axis machine operating in SLS (Safe Limited Speed) mode picks up four spacers from the feed belt and places them on the top aluminum tray in the magazine. It then lifts the metal tray plus spacers out of the magazine, swings it in the direction of the stacking trolley and waits at a defined position until its human co-worker finishes distributing the current layer of ready meals, presses a button to confirm that the process is complete and withdraws from the work area. The robot, now operating at high speed, inserts the new tray in the stacking trolley ready for the next layer. A new cycle can begin. As soon as the employee re-enters the defined perimeter of the system, the robot automatically returns to Safe Limited Speed.

Apprentice Programs Complex MRC Application

Visitors who come to see the pioneering MRC concept in Bischofszell can hardly believe that the entire system – including risk assessment, zonal sensory protection, programming, etc. – was developed in just four months without any input from external specialists. Intensive training quickly enabled the Migros team to draw up risk assessments from their own experience and to acquire the relevant expertise to program a complex MRC process. Visitors are also impressed that Raphael Merz, a fourth-year Migros trainee with a passion for automation, was able to program the complete MRC application within a few weeks of completing a four-day VAL3 programming course at Stäubli in Horgen and two days of safety training.

Its multiple safety functions make the six-axis machine ideally qualified for MRC applications.
Its multiple safety functions make the six-axis machine ideally qualified for MRC applications.

Steffen Knoll is justifiably proud of the achievement of his team in designing the system. What particularly pleases MRC enthusiast Knoll is the thoroughgoing compliance with the most stringent safety standards: “MRC is the future, but only if safety is guaranteed. In my view, the collaborative Stäubli robots are the safest machines on the market capable of handling such a high payload. We were able to cover the complete range of zonal protection specifications with the Stäubli TX2’s unique set of modular PLe/SIL3 safety features – Safe Limited Speed, Safe Stop, Safe Zone and Safe Tool – and with two Sick laser sensors. As a result, our employees were able to work side by side with the robot, and even without a safety barrier at one station.”

With this pilot MRC application, the development team at Bischofszell have shown that man-robot interaction has enormous potential for many of the production and assembly lines in the Migros group. “Some final detailed improvements will, of course, have to be incorporated into the system before it can be rolled out, to ensure durability of service in a production environment,” adds Knoll. “But the prime objective of demonstrating the benefits that flow from this pilot system has been fully achieved.” Migros could therefore soon become one of the first food manufacturers in the world to have MRC applications as standard technology in its production facilities.

Author: Ralf Högel, freelance journalist, Industrie Kommunikation Högel
© all images: Migros

Installations of industrial robots in the United Kingdom fell by 3 percent to 2,306 units in 2018. In the previous year, robot sales in the UK had risen by 31 percent. The European Union´s recent sales numbers are still positive - up 12 percent. This is according to the preliminary results of the World Robotics Report 2019.

In terms of robot density by region, Europe has the highest level worldwide, with 106 industrial robots per 10,000 employees installed in the manufacturing industry – Germany (3rd), Sweden (5th), Denmark (6th), Belgium (9th) and Italy (10th) all make the top-10. The UK ranks 22nd worldwide with a density of 85 units, which is equivalent to the global average. China overtook the UK in 2017 and is currently ranked 21st with 97 units.

“The United Kingdom has been adding robot automation at a lower rate than our main competitors in all manufacturing sectors outside of automotive,” says Mike Wilson, Chairman of the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA). “Over many years, the UK has attracted workers from other countries, with businesses preferring to hire people rather than invest in capital equipment. The consequences of the Brexit vote and subsequent political developments are leading to reduced labour availability as the many workers who have come over from Eastern Europe are starting to return home. As a result, businesses have to ensure that they use their workforce effectively and find alternative ways of performing tasks for which they have a shortage of staff - robot automation being an obvious solution.”

What the experts at the IFR CEO Roundtable say

“Robot adoption is central to driving productivity growth and every nation should want faster productivity growth”, says Dr. Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), USA at the recent IFR CEO Roundtable 2019 in Chicago, where international experts discussed the global robotics and AI race.

Artificial Intelligence

“Robots play a major role in manufacturing,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “There are so many projects. Everybody is engaged in enhancing the capability of robots. We can apply robots in many areas – so everybody will be a winner. When it comes to AI the developer community is very open and they share the basic logic globally. There is a race for implementation. This implementation has a very close connection with robotics engineering which makes the difference. When it comes to AI for robotics, still Japan and Europe will be the major players for robot applications.”

Focus on implementation

“We need to focus more on the implementation side,” says Dr. Byron Clayton, CEO, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, USA. “The US government needs to follow international examples who are putting money and effort in policy towards the implementation and deployment side of high technology and getting it to the factory floor.”

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Video statements

Please find IFR CEO Roundtable statements on video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJQZvuT5q1g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFRz6AtpKRM

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The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) appoints Dr. Susanne Bieller as new General Secretary. The 41-year-old will take office on 1 May 2019 from Gudrun Litzenberger, who is retiring. At the same time, Litzenberger will hand over the management of the IFR Statistical Department to Dr. Christopher Müller.

The rapid rise of robot use and automation has significantly expanded the tasks of the International Federation of Robotics worldwide. “As an `ambassador of robotics`, I am looking forward to supporting the dynamic development of robotics and continue IFR´s successful work in future,” says Dr. Susanne Bieller. “One of my focus tasks will be to ensure a better understanding of the complex industry issues around the globe”.

Dr. Susanne Bieller has up to now worked as a project manager for the European Robotics Association EUnited Robotics for five years. She began her professional career as managing director of the flat-panel display group at the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) in Frankfurt, where she worked for seven years. After completing her academic career, the PhD Chemist went to the European Commission in Brussels where she looked into public relations and communications.

Dr. Christopher Müller (37) is head of the IFR Statistical Department and responsible for worldwide industry data and analyses. In this role, the PhD economist also takes care of the annual “IFR World Robotics Report”. Today, this study is regarded as the most important source for global robot statistics and covers all market-relevant activities of industrial and service robots.

Gudrun Litzenberger took over the responsibility for World Robotics Statistics in 2003 and has been General Secretary of the IFR since 2008. Last summer she received the Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award - the world’s most important industry award. The jury honored her outstanding commitment. She has developed the robot statistics and established the International Federation of Robotics as the voice of robotics worldwide.

The International Federation of Robotics represents more than 50 members like robotic companies, institutes and universities and national robot associations from over twenty countries and was founded in 1987 as a non-profit organization.

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The preliminary statistics of the World Robotics Report shows that a new record high of 384,000 units were shipped globally in 2018 – an increase of one percent compared to the previous year. This means that the annual sales volume of industrial robots increased for the sixth time in a row (2013-2018) – but only just.

Please watch Steven Wyatt´s outlook video from the AUTOMATE 2019 in Chicago


Download Steven Wyatt’s presentation

Robot sales in the United States hit a new peak of almost 38,000 units, setting a record for the eighth year in a row (2010-2018). Today, robot density in the US manufacturing industry is now more than double that of China and ranks seventh worldwide.

Robot density in the US manufacturing industry reached 200 robots per 10,000 employees vs. 97 in China (2017). The trend to automate production in both domestic and global markets is the main driving force of robot installations in the US. The general industry sector, particularly the food and beverage industry (+64%) and the plastic and chemical products industry (+30%), had the highest growth.

Automotive Industry

In terms of market share, the automotive sector is the most important customer for robots. The US car market is the second largest car market in the world after China. Within the US automotive sector, part suppliers account for two thirds of installations: Sales went up by 9 percent (2017-2018). However, car manufacturers (OEM) invested less in automation – installations went down by 26%. The average annual growth rate of robot sales to the US automotive industry between 2013 and 2018 was 7%. From a peak of 16,311 units in 2016, robot sales decreased by 5% from 15,400 units in 2017 to 14,600 units in 2018 - accounting for a share of 38% of total installations.

„Robot density in the automotive industry increased by 52% between 2012 and 2017, from 790 to 1,200 industrial robots in operation per 10,000 employees (robot density China 2017: 539 units). According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics USA, employment in the automotive industry increased by 22% from 824,400 to 1,005,000 jobs (2013-2018).

Electrical/Electronics Industry

The electrical/electronics industry was the second most important customer in 2018 with a market share of 18% of the total supply. From 2013 to 2018, robot installations increased by 15% on average per year.

The number of installations rose by some 2% to almost 6,700 units in 2018. In terms of new developments, several production sites for lithium ion batteries as well as for chips and sensors have been created in recent years and more will be established in years to come.

North America – USA, Canada, Mexico

“The North American countries (United States, Canada, and Mexico) represent the second largest operational stock of industrial robots in the world after China,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Whilst numerous important robot system integrators come from North America, most big robot manufacturers are based in Japan, Korea and Europe. At North America’s number one robot and automation event ”Automate 2019” in Chicago, from April 8–11th, you will be able to see the latest innovations in robotics, vision, motion control and automation technologies from around the world.

AUTOMATE 2019 - April 08-11, 2019 | McCormick Place, Chicago, IL

https://www.automateshow.com/

Press contact

E-Mail: [email protected]
Carsten Heer - phone +49 (0) 40 822 44 284

The Automate show will take place from 8th to 11th April 2019 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The IFR will present the first results on the global robot sales at the IFR CEO Round Table on 8th April.

Dear Reader,

On April 8th, the IFR will present the first results of the global industrial robot sales in 2018 at the Automate 2019 in Chicago. The IFR CEO Round Table will follow with a discussion on “Global race for leadership in robotics and AI”. We are proud to have these distinguished experts on the panel:

  • Dr. Robert Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), USA
  • Dr. Byron Clayton, CEO, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), USA
  • Junji Tsuda, President, IFR and Representative Director Chairman of the Board, Yaskawa Electric Corp., Japan
  • Henry Sun, Director of Strategy, Guangzhou MINO Automotive Equipment Co, China
  • Thomas Visti, CEO, MIR, Denmark

Don’t miss this high-level event at the Automate 2019!

“Win the Future” is the theme of the 51st International Symposium on Robotics, the ISR, at the Automate 2019, April 8 to 11, in Chicago. More than 110 conference sessions will explore how automation secures a company’s success in a technologically fast-paced world where artificial intelligence (AI), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart manufacturing, collaborative robots (cobots), machine vision and other innovations are rapidly shifting the dynamic of today’s manufacturing.

Furthermore, we will see a great cross section of the entire automation industry at the Automate 2019 fairground. The Automate is the most important robotics and automation exhibition of North America.

The Engelberger Award 2019 will be presented on April 10th. We congratulate Catherine Morris, group leader and director of automotive sales at ATI Industrial Automation, honored in the category of Leadership and Dr. Howie Choset, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, honored in the category od Education.

We are looking forward to exciting days ahead with robotics and automation in Chicago!

Respectfully,

Junji Tsuda

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s North American trade organization, announced the winners of the 2019 Engelberger Robotics Awards, the world’s most prestigious robotics honor.

At a special dinner in conjunction with the Automate 2019 Show and Conference in Chicago on April 10, RIA will honor Catherine Morris, group leader and director of automotive sales at ATI Industrial Automation, along with long-time RIA board member and former chairperson; and Dr. Howie Choset, robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute.

The award is named for Joseph F. Engelberger, known throughout the world as the ”father of robotics.” Engelberger was founder and president of Unimation, Inc., the world’s first industrial robot manufacturer. The Engelberger Robotics Awards are presented to individuals for excellence in technology development, application, education and leadership in the robotics industry. Each winner receives a $5,000 honorarium and commemorative medallion with the inscription: “Contributing to the advancement of the science of robotics in the service of mankind.” The awards recognize outstanding individuals from all over the world. Since the award’s inception in 1977, it has been bestowed upon 128 robotics leaders from 17 different nations.

2019 Engelberger Robotics Awards Winners

Catherine Morris is honored in the category of Leadership. “I can think of very few people in the history of the robotics industry who have been as committed to the growth of our industry as Catherine,” said Jeff Burnstein, RIA President. “In addition to helping build ATI into a global leader in robotic accessories and robot arm tooling, she has been a tireless advocate of robotics and the important role that groups like RIA play within it. In fact, over the past two decades she’s found time to hold virtually every key position in our trade group, from Membership Committee Chair, to Automate Show Committee Chair, to overall Chair of RIA (the first and only woman to hold that role to date), and now serves as a board member of our parent group, the Association for Advancing Automation. She’s also been an outstanding role model and mentor for women in robotics—getting more women involved in robotics will be a key to the long-term success of the industry. In her role at ATI since 1995, she has positively impacted the success of robotics end users, robot manufacturers, and system integrators through her high degree of process and mechatronic knowledge.”

Dr. Howie Choset will receive the award for Education. “In addition to being an inspiring professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Choset has lead key research efforts to help solve significant problems in diverse areas such as surgery, manufacturing, infrastructure inspection and search rescue,” Burnstein said. “Additionally, he has co-founded several companies, including Medrobotics for surgical system, Hebi Robotics for modular robots, and Bito Robotics for autonomous guided vehicles. His FDA-approved surgical snake robot has been in use in the U.S. and Europe since 2015. Add to that his role as a co-founder of the ARM Institute that is aimed at advancing technology development and education for robotics in manufacturing, and his role as a founding editor of the journal Science Robotics, and you see that Dr. Choset is well-deserving of our industry’s highest honor.”

Award Dinner

The award dinner will be held on Wednesday, April 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the McCormick Place – Vista Ballroom. Tickets for the event may be purchased when registering for the Automate 2019 show and conference.

Swiss household device manufacturer V-Zug, was looking for a safe, innovative and cost-efficient automated solution to help its human operatives assemble and test control panels. It found it in the FANUC CR-7iA/L collaborative robot.

As part of an automation system, the robot completes tasks such as button and control knob testing more accurately than humans using its sensitive Touchfinger. The benefits are increased efficiency and improved quality.

Identification of the task

To spearhead a new automated future for the company and keep it competitive, V-Zug launched a pilot project designed to improve the assembly and testing of the control panels for electric cookers and other household devices it manufacturers. After the panels are assembled manually and software is installed, the panels must be tested. Up to now, humans have done this. Thanks to their excellent repeatability and sensitive touch capabilities however, FANUC CR-7iA/L collaborative robots were identified as providing a more efficient solution.

Why human-robot collaboration was selected as a solution

Collaborative robots were introduced to improve quality and make processes more efficient. Before their introduction, the workers had to wait for the software download, which took about two minutes, before they could press the keys to test them themselves. All waiting times have now fallen away thanks to the collaborative robots. In addition, process quality has improved because the collaborative robot deals with the sensitive testing using a touch finger with an adjustable, always consistent pressing force, which is not possible for a human. The quality of the test results is now greater as a result.

A FANUC CR-7iA/L collaborative robot tests a control panel on an electric cooker.
A FANUC CR-7iA/L collaborative robot tests a control panel on an electric cooker.

How is it solved (configuration of the workplace and different steps of operation)

To launch the project, Patrick Meyer from V-Zug contacted the Swiss branch of FANUC, among others: “We are familiar with FANUC as a large robot manufacturer, which has been working with collaborative robots for years and offers a special model series.” Besides the requirements for the robot - it should possess process reliability and be easy to maintain - it was important to those making the decision to have a reliable partnership with good, rapid service.

The collaborative robot is actually suitable for direct collaboration with humans.
The collaborative robot is actually suitable for direct collaboration with humans.

A suitable model was found in the CR-7iA/L, a 6-axle robot with a range of 911 mm and 7 kg payload. For the specific project work at V-Zug, FANUC brought along an experienced industrial partner, R. Wick AG from Küssnacht, just a few kilometres away. For more than 15 years, the systems company has focussed on the development of automation solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises, whereby robotics technology plays a fundamental role.

Guido Lüönd, COO of Wick AG, explains: “Our main objective is to develop automation solutions which significantly increase productivity so that our customers also remain competitive in Switzerland as a place of production.”

Evaluation of the solution of the challenge

V-Zug is very satisfied with the procedure and result. Since the “panel testing” project certainly had a pilot character to it, the realisation that collaborative robots are actually suitable for direct collaboration with humans was important. Head of Planning Patrick Meyer says “… for our coming projects we will always consider collaborative robots because entirely new automation solutions are possible with this technology.”

All pictures: © FANUC

Sales of industrial robots in India reached the new record of 3,412 new units installed in 2017. That is an increase of 30 percent compared to the previous year (2016: 2,627 units). Between 2012 and 2017 India saw a compound annual sales growth rate (CAGR) of 18 percent.

Broken down by industry, India´s automotive sector is the main customer with a share of 62 percent of the total supply 2017. Sales rose by 27 percent compared to the previous year.

India´s automotive industry announces expansion

“The automotive industry will remain the main driver of the increasing robot installations in India,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Numerous new projects are announced by the international and domestic car manufacturers aiming to expand production capacities. Moreover, OEMs increasingly require local supply of automotive parts.”

General industry is catching up

A clear sign that the general industry is catching up with the automotive sector can be seen by the sales numbers of industrial robots in i.e. the rubber and plastics industry, the metal industry and the electrical and electronics industry, which increased by 46 percent in 2017.

“The general industry will further invest in production capacities and modernization to serve this growing consumer market,” says IFR President Junji Tsuda. “Therefore, an accelerated and strong robot sales growth is expected between 2018 and 2021.”

India´s robot success story started in 2009 – robot density still low

India is one of the strongest growing economies among the Asian emerging markets. Since 2009, the number of robot installations has been growing rapidly. In 2017, India ranked No. 14 regarding the global annual supply, following Thailand and Spain. Regarding the operational stock, India ranked thirteenth following Canada, Spain and Singapore.

India´s automation potential is illustrated by a rather low robot density figure: 85 industrial robots per 10,000 employees in the automotive industry is less than a fourth of Indonesia´s density (378 units) and far away from China´s (505 units).

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econNEWSnetwork
Carsten Heer
Tel. +49 (0) 40 822 44 284
Email: [email protected]

German chainsaw manufacturer STIHL, already uses hundreds of robots in its manufacturing facilities. Now it’s added collaborative robots to one of its production lines.

With the introduction of the FANUC CR-35iA, STIHL has taken a clear step forward in the development of production processes. Designed to work alongside humans, the FANUC CR-35iA is the world’s strongest collaborative robot and does all the lifting for staff on the disc cutter packaging line.

Identification of the task

The well-known German chainsaw manufacturer STIHL also manufactures a range of cut-off machines. A cut-off machine weighs around 10 kg, and without the assistance of the FANUC CR-35iA, the human operator has to lift each one single-handedly. Up to now, this has proven to be a considerable burden for the operator. Designed to do all the lifting and positioning work while interacting safely with humans, this is where the FANUC CR-35iA collaborative robot comes in.

Why human-robot collaboration was selected as a solution

Collaborative robots were introduced to reduce the physical strain on human operators and make processes more efficient. On STIHL’s new cut-off machine inspection and packaging line, the task of the robot is to remove the disc cutter from a suspended conveyor, carry out the shake test, and keep it suspended until a final visual inspection is completed. Subsequently, the robot then places the cut-off machine in a shipping box. To get the best results, the packing line staff were involved in the project from the outset. Not only were they able to give an expert assessment of the test set-up, but they also influenced the design and ergonomics, leading to the optimal solution.

How is it solved (configuration of the workplace and different steps of operation)

STIHL has taken a clear step forward in the development of technology using the FANUC CR-35iA. The start-up of production only took three days. This was due to the good preparation behind the deployment of STIHL’s first collaborative robot. Even on the first night shift, the robot ran without a single hitch. This is where the team of Group Leader, André Lange, who is responsible for service and hardware planning, benefited from the close familiarity with FANUC robot technology that they have developed over many applications.

The ability to use the FANUC CR-35iA with the normal FANUC control system, just like its yellow “colleagues”, proved to be one of the major advantages for STIHL since the control technology and user interface are all the same. The system components used, like the FANUC “Line Tracking” software, which is particularly useful for synchronisation with the suspended conveyor system, the integration of camera systems or the proven “Collision Guard” software option, are already well-known and appreciated by STIHL.

FANUC CR-35iA collaborative robots do all the lifting and let humans concentrate on carrying out the final inspection.
FANUC CR-35iA collaborative robots do all the lifting and let humans concentrate on carrying out the final inspection.© image: FANUC

This has huge benefits for STIHL. Since the first introduction of robotics in the mid-nineties, STIHL has accumulated a great deal of robotics engineering know-how, particularly with the hundreds of FANUC robots operating in across STIHL plants worldwide.

André Lange emphasises that “we adopt and follow relatively uniform production concepts at all locations. Production equipment, which is utilised worldwide, such as FANUC robots, makes life easier for us at various levels, from engineering and programming, right through to service.”

Evaluation of the solution of the challenge

The FANUC CR-35iA has been in daily operation for more than half a year, and it’s not just project managers André Lange and Markus Wahl that are satisfied with the robot. It has also been fully accepted by the workforce. Affectionately referred to internally as the Hulk, the collaborative robot is something that none of STIHL employees wants to do without.

Designed for use in Small Parts Assembly, YuMi will work side-by-side with a human counterpart at ABB Elektro-Praga on its socket lid assembly line.

Thanks to its inherently safe design, the collaborative dual arm robot solution will ensure the safety of those around it and elevate the nature of work at the plant by performing repetitive tasks to perfection.

“We are very excited to add YuMi to our production line. The robot solution brings unique advantages to this assembly process including greater flexibility, improved quality, increased safety and better workplace ergonomics,” says Tanja Vainio, Country Manager, ABB Czech Republic. “YuMi’s outstanding features for collaborative small parts assembly is the perfect solution for Elektro-Praga which wanted an easy to use robotic solution capable of working side-by-side with humans on similar tasks.”

YuMi will utilize connected services developed by ABB which will monitor the robot during production and operation. The ability to monitor YuMi in this manner will increase its efficiency, reduces service costs, secure uptime and extend its lifetime. Thanks to these diagnostic technologies a once reactive approved to fleet management is replaced by a predictive, proactive, and immediate one. Prior to the advent of the Internet of Things Services and People, robots were maintained according to a schedule.

“YuMi, short for you and me, will open up more opportunities for Czech businesses like Elektro-Praga to improve their productivity. Task sharing between humans and robots is a great way to accelerate production,” said Vainio.

YuMi, the world’s first truly collaborative dual arm robot, represents another step in ABB’s Next Level strategy aimed at accelerating sustainable value creation. The strategy is building on ABB’s three focus areas of profitable growth, relentless execution and business-led collaboration.

Assembly application

The collaborative workstation consists of YuMi, a human operator, sensor devices, conveyors, vibration feeders, and a spring disentangling system. YuMi handles springs, child locks and child lock covers. The assembly process is triggered by the human operator who places two socket lids and two child lock covers in front of the robot.

YuMi working together with worker, @ image: ABB
YuMi working together with worker, © image: ABB

YuMi uses its suction grippers to grasp the child locks which it then places into prepared socket lids. Next, YuMi takes springs from the feeder (two pieces per each socket), and puts them into the space between the child lock and the socket lid. The robot then grasps the child lock cover with its gripper and places it on the socket lid which is equipped with a child lock and spring. The socket assembly is completed by pushing the child lock cover into the socket lid. The operator inserts a screw into the lid and sends the completed socket for packaging. In addition to parts handling, the human operator is responsible for supervision of the overall assembly process.

Since 2013, global sales of industrial robots have accelerated reaching an all-time high of more than 380,000 units, twice as much as in 2013. After this period of high demand, installations of industrial robots only slightly increased in the first half of 2018.

Dear Reader,

This was a normal cyclical effect after continued large investments of the automotive industry and the electronics industry. But in the past months, uncertainties loom over investment plans in North America, China, and other Asian countries mainly due to protectionists measures damaging free trade. However, incentives for robot installations remain excellent. Numerous investment plans are aimed at using robotics and automation in almost all industries. Investments in automation may be restrained due to the increasing uncertainties of the global economy, but investments will continue perhaps shifted to a later point in time.

Automation is changing the way we work and, to an increasing extent, the way we live. Automation improves productivity and enables companies, and nations, to remain or become competitive. It enables new business models focused on providing new goods and services, and helps companies improve the efficiency and flexibility of supplying those goods and services. Economists agree that increased productivity is key to improving Gross Domestic Product, the value of goods and services produced in a country, and in turn, jobs and wages.

We will meet from 8 to 11 April 2019 at the Automate in Chicago. The theme is: Win the Future! Automate 2019 will explore how automation secures a company’s success in a technologically fast-paced world where artificial intelligence (AI), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart manufacturing, collaborative robots (cobots), machine vision and other innovations are rapidly shifting the dynamic of today’s manufacturing.

The robotics industry is still at the beginning of a demanding and exciting future. The best is still to come!

We are looking forward to a successful year 2019!

Respectfully,

Junji Tsuda

Specialist glass maker Saint Gobain uses a collaborative robot equipped with a force-torque sensor for glass polishing, reducing production time by one third and freeing workers from the constant vibration of manual polishing. Employees now program the robot by guiding the arm, prepare the glass and also wash the polished glass.

Saint-Gobain’s plant in Sully-sur-Loire, France, focuses on glass production for the armoured and aeronautical industries, and the civil market. In their shift towards industry 4.0, management has deployed collaborative robot cells to free employees from tedious, repetitive tasks. ​Robotiq’s FT 300 Force Torque Sensor​ ​​has​ ​proven​ ​essential​ ​to​ ​automate​ ​the​ ​grueling​ ​glass​ ​polishing​ ​process.

Saint-Gobain was founded in 1665 as a public society manufacturing luxury mirrors and glass under King Louis XIV’s reign. The corporation kept high quality standards through the centuries, expanding its business throughout the whole housing industry. Now a global company, it employs more than​ ​185,000​ ​people​ ​worldwide.

Near its original headquarters in the outskirts of Paris, Saint-Gobain still works on high-end glass production. Human labor provides high-value work to the finished product. But some tasks are more tedious than others. This is why the Sully-sur-Loire factory, like many other Saint-Gobain plants, began to deploy​ ​collaborative​ ​robot​ ​cells​ ​into​ ​their​ ​process​ ​about​ ​a​ ​year​ ​ago.

Building​ ​the​ ​factory​ ​of​ ​the​ ​future

Freeing employees from those grueling tasks begins with finding a technology that would do the job on their behalf. Saint-Gobain’s Digital Manufacturing Manager, Ignacio Sanchez, had to find a solution for a difficult glass polishing process. The operation is painful, frequently causing musculoskeletal disorders for workers.

“The operator had to polish all of the glass surface, repeating the same movement on and on,” Sanchez explains. “He then does the surface preparation of the glass before it becomes one of many layers of an armoured glass. This second step is a lot easier. We wanted an automated solution for the polishing part of​ ​the​ ​process.”

“We naturally chose to work with Universal Robots on this project considering safety​ ​requirements,​ ​the​ ​ease​ ​of​ ​use​ ​that​ ​was​ ​required,​ ​all​ ​this​ ​in​ ​a​ ​small​ ​space.”

Saint-Gobain turned to local automation solutions provider, HMI-MBS engineering and services, for expert advice. Their representative Nicolas Bouhet quickly presented a first option. “Saint-Gobain’s application had a very important diversity of reference points. There was also a problem of production space, since the cell had to be deployed in a small area in order to work in collaboration with the operators. We naturally chose to work with niversal Robots on this project considering safety requirements, the ease of use that was required, all this​ ​in​ ​a​ ​small​ ​space.​ ​We​ ​chose​ ​the​ ​UR10​ ​model​ ​to​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​reach​ ​every​ ​area​ ​of​ ​every​ ​type​ ​of​ ​glass.”

© image: Robotiq
© image: Robotiq

A​ ​different​ ​path​ ​for​ ​each​ ​glass

HMI-MBS performed many tests at their lab, which is about 15 minutes from Saint-Gobain’s plant. The first proofs of concept did not deliver viable options. “We ended up in a dead-end,” recalls Bouhet. “Then we had the idea to use the ​FT 300 module with the path recording function. We managed to integrate it into the robot and continued with tests at our offices. We then moved to Saint-Gobain and worked with the operator​ ​to​ ​see​ ​if​ ​the​ ​product​ ​met​ ​Saint-Gobain’s​ ​expectations.”

“Programming a robot movement that must follow a volume in space is a complicated thing to do. We were able to do it with the​ ​path​ ​recording​ ​function​ ​of​ ​the​ ​FT​ ​300”. Testing at HMI-MBS helped minimize the time needed to implement the robot into production. When everything was ready, the UR10 and FT 300 combo took part of the work over from the operator, and both started working together*. “Without the FT 300, this operation would have been quite complex since the programming of a robot movement that must follow a volume in space is a complicated thing to do,” adds Bouhet. “With the ​path recording function of the FT 300, the operator can grab the device and make the movement; the Universal Robots UR10 then records and reproduces​ ​the​ ​operator’s​ ​motion.”

© image: Robotiq
© image: Robotiq

We’re able to produce the same amount of work in two 8-hour shifts instead of three,​ ​before​ ​the​ ​robot​ ​arrived.” For Christophe Legeay, Methods Technician at Saint-Gobain Sully-sur-Loire, automating the polishing process of each layer of armoured glass gave relief to operators who were previously assigned to this task. “It allowed them to no longer experience vibrations in their shoulders or perform repetitive movements.​ ​The​ ​installation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​robot​ ​was​ ​more​ ​than​ ​welcome,”​ ​he​ ​explains.

From now on, all the operator has to do in the polishing process is program the proper path for the product and set the glass for polishing. “The robot asks us to place reference marks to check the positioning. You cannot run your application until you have validated your positions. As soon as the validation is done, you press​ ​start​ ​and​ ​the​ ​robot​ ​starts​ ​running.”

Human​ ​+​ ​machine​ ​collaboration​ ​increases​ ​productivity

While polishing is in progress, the operator simultaneously washes the glass that was previously polished. Then it’s time for surface preparation, a process in which human labor brings much more value into the product. “We assigned the robot to the hardest part of the polishing process,” recalls Sanchez. “During this time, the operator can focus on surface preparation. We’re able to produce the same amount of work in​ ​two​ ​8-hour​ ​shifts​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​three,​ ​before​ ​the​ ​robot​ ​arrived.​ ​We’ve​ ​achieved​ ​ROI​ ​in​ ​less​ ​than​ ​a​ ​year.”

“By​ ​empowering​ ​the​ ​operator,​ ​allowing​ ​him​ ​to​ ​do​ ​the​ ​program​ ​himself,​ ​we​ ​avoid calling​ ​an​ ​integrator​ ​every​ ​time​ ​a​ ​product​ ​comes​ ​back​ ​into​ ​production.” Capacity​ ​increased​ ​by​ ​30%,​ ​allowing​ ​Saint-Gobain​ ​to​ ​deliver​ ​orders​ ​on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​those​ ​initially​ ​scheduled.​ ​“A product​ ​might​ ​come​ ​back​ ​once​ ​every​ ​one​ ​or​ ​two​ ​years.​ ​We​ ​often​ ​have​ ​to​ ​create​ ​a​ ​new​ ​program.​ ​By empowering​ ​the​ ​operator,​ ​allowing​ ​him​ ​to​ ​do​ ​the​ ​program​ ​himself,​ ​we​ ​avoid​ ​calling​ ​an​ ​integrator​ ​every time​ ​a​ ​product​ ​comes​ ​back​ ​into​ ​production.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​goals​ ​of​ ​our​ ​digital​ ​manufacturing​ ​project,​ ​in which​ ​cobots​ ​will​ ​play​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​role,”​ ​Sanchez​ ​explains.

© image: Robotiq
© image: Robotiq

In​ ​a​ ​factory​ ​where​ ​human​ ​labor​ ​delivering​ ​high-end​ ​quality​ ​has​ ​been​ ​a​ ​tradition​ ​over​ ​the​ ​last​ ​350​ ​years, robots​ ​are​ ​seen​ ​as​ ​a​ ​helping​ ​hand​ ​for​ ​human​ ​workers​ ​aiming​ ​for​ ​perfection.​ ​“We​ ​do​ ​not​ ​cut​ ​jobs​ ​like​ ​it’s often​ ​perceived​ ​when​ ​a​ ​robot​ ​is​ ​installed​ ​somewhere,”​ ​concludes​ ​Sanchez.​ ​“It’s​ ​a​ ​collaboration​ ​between man​ ​and​ ​machine​ ​that​ ​allows​ ​us​ ​to​ ​remove​ ​grueling​ ​tasks​ ​from​ ​the​ ​hands​ ​of​ ​operators.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​the​ ​goal and​ ​it’s​ ​fairly​ ​well​ ​perceived​ ​here.”

Rosborg Food Holding, Denmark's largest producer of herbs and miniature plants, uses a collaborative robot in its packaging operations to pick up pots of herbs from a conveyor belt and place them in cartons. The robot is also used to pick up and position cardboard boxes in place for another machine to insert pre-packaged salad

The use of herbs was already common in Babylon about 4,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks developed and refined the cultivation of herbs for the up-and-coming art of healing and as a culinary delicacy. In the 21st century, it is robotic technology that increasingly provides us with herbs as a fragrant, tasty food.

In Odense, Denmark, Rosborg Food Holding’s greenhouses cover around 120,000 square metres. Mint, dill, tarragon and other delicious plants as well as miniature roses thrive in a state-of-the-art production facility. Here, a total of 130 employees produce, pack and sell 28 million herbal plants and 12 million miniature plants, which go by product names such as Gloria Mundi, Økologihaven or Eurostar. The Danish plant breeding company has been producing spices and mini flowers for retail and catering sectors since 1980. However, it can only meet the constantly growing demand for its broad product range subjected to a high degree of seasonality by comprehensive rationalization and automation measures.

Better working conditions with higher productivity

“We are continuously working to improve the productivity and efficiency of our processes,” says Henning Jørgensen, partner and plant manager of Rosborg Food Holding. “By finding automation solutions for monotonous, physically demanding tasks, we can relieve our employees. At the same time, it helps us to reduce the number of overtime hours and the employment of temporary staff”.

OnRobot’s collaborative grippers can be put into operation according to the plug & play principle, © image: OnRobot
OnRobot’s collaborative grippers can be put into operation according to the plug & play principle, © image: OnRobot

The executives at Rosborg were looking for a way to increase available capacities in day-to-day operations to be able to double production at peak times such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Easter without losing revenue due to overtime and replacement workers. “So far, our profit margins have been shrinking at such times with high production volumes. That’s why our employees have a positive attitude towards the prospect of using collaborative robot technologies as production support in order to work more efficiently and reduce overtime,” Jørgensen describes the situation.

In 2013, a new owner initiated a fundamental modernization process of the company’s entire production. 37 million Danish crowns were invested in new, highly efficient greenhouses equipped with automation technology and robots. At the same time, Rosborg has expanded its product range to meet the growing demand for herbs other than those traditionally used in Scandinavian cuisine. In addition to robots and employees, ten different types of useful insects operate in the greenhouses to keep pests away from the plants.

Robot hand with a sense of touch

One of the latest automation investments is a flexible packaging line with a so-called “Cobot” from Universal Robots, a collaborating robot equipped with an RG6 gripper from OnRobot. The two “fingers” of the robot gripper feature intelligent, advanced technology, that mimics the human sense of touch when intuitively gripping and moving objects.
“We were looking for a gripper that could gently lift the herbs and flowers without crushing them,” explains plant manager Jørgensen. “We chose an R6G gripper, which is characterized by gentle and careful gripping movements as well as precision and flexibility. Our new solution automates the folding of packaging cartons and the placement of herbal fine cuts in the folding boxes.”

The new generation of collaborative robots places extremely diverse demands on the robot hand at the end of the robot arm. “What the gripper needs to be capable of depends entirely on the selected task,” says Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO of OnRobot. “The more user-friendly, flexible and careful the gripper is, the greater the variety of tasks that can be automated, and the faster the robots and grippers pay off for the buyer.” This is also confirmed by Jørgensen: “When choosing our solution, the best possible payback period was of course a crucial factor.”

A playful and successful start

Rosborg Food chose a playful, interactive approach for the introduction of robotics in Denmark. “Before we even knew what exactly we wanted to automate, we purchased a robot arm and a gripper via the MELCNC integrator,” says Jørgensen. “We’ve experimented with it and invented some funny applications.” In this way, the employees got to know the robot arm and gripper right from the start as an easy-to-use, helpful tool. “Once we programmed the Cobot so that it could write the boss’s name on a blackboard on his birthday. And at the official inauguration of a new greenhouse, the robot handed over the scissors to Jane Jegind, member of Odense City Council, so that she could cut the red ribbon,” recalls the plant manager.

OnRobot’s new collaborating gripper RG6 can move loads of up to six kilograms with an adjustable force between 25 and 120 Newton, © image: OnRobot
OnRobot’s new collaborating gripper RG6 can move loads of up to six kilograms with an adjustable force between 25 and 120 Newton, © image: OnRobot

Configurating the applications and the automated packaging solution is so intuitive that even employees without prior experience can do it. It is sufficient to simply adjust the settings on the touch screen of the robot arm, for instance to configure the application for packaging other types of products. The software for controlling the RG6 gripper is extremely user-friendly, too. At the touch of a button, it can be installed on the robot arm like an app on a smartphone.

Henning Jørgensen is already planning the next steps regarding the automation of Rosborg Food Holding: “The next project will be the acquisition of a further collaborating robot with a gripper suitable for equipping a cutting machine for the herbs.” Perspectively, arm and gripper are supposed to carefully pick up the plants, turn them and then place them on the conveyor belt to the cutting machine.

Plastic component manufacturer Weiss Kunststoffverarbeitung uses collaborative robots to assemble complex components containing metallic parts as well as plastic parts moulded by Weiss. Workers place some of the parts into a fixture, then the robot inserts additional parts, and places the assembled valve in a device for pressure testing.

The collaboration of humans and robots is a hot topic in the field of automation technology. Weiss Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH & Co. KG has developed a robot cell ‘by its own resources’ in which the operator and robot share the complex assembly of a miniaturized safety valve.

The division of labour between plastics processors and their customers is changing. Rather than injection-moulded parts, customers are frequently asking for complete, ready-to-install components. That applies not only to the automotive industry, but also to other sectors, e.g. the household appliance and mechanical engineering industries.

For this reason, the assembly sector at Weiss Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH & Co. KG has been constantly expanding over the past few years. As an engineering-oriented enterprise, Weiss is striving to meet the latest trends in this sector.

The robot cell that was recently put into operation at the Illertissen plant is a good example. A safety valve with a height of only 15 mm is being assembled in the cell where, in addition to injection-moulded parts, filigree metallic bought-in parts such as springs, washers, valve tappets and balls are also used.

In doing so, the company’s assembly specialists implemented the principle of division of labour between humans and robots in practice.

Dipl.-Ing. Robert Heller, responsible among other things for the construction of production and automation technology at Weiss: “The robot works extremely accurately and reliably, while the worker – although he may make mistakes – is more flexible.”

The cell is designed so that each ‘colleague’ can leverage his respective strengths. In the first step the worker, standing in front of the cell, places the key components into an assembly fixture. The robot, situated in the cell, takes over by inserting further small parts, e.g. a tiny ball. The worker then gives the signal to compress the parts, and this takes place pneumatically by means of a cylinder.

Now it is the turn of the robot. It removes the assembled valve from the fixture and inserts it into a testing device, where it is subjected to two pressure tests at 0.9 and 2 bar. Following this 100% test (by which the valve remains closed for the 0.9 bar test and must open when a pressure of 2 bar is applied) a certification stamp is applied with a marking system, and the valve is ready for shipping.

human and robot in the common workspace, © image: YASKAWA
human and robot in the common workspace, © image: YASKAWA

The principle of human-robot-collaboration was put into practice by Weiss in a simple yet elegant way: human and robot each have access to the common workspace. They dispensed with a safety guard or other form of spatial separation of worker and robot. Instead, the workspace is secured on both sides by a photoelectric cell. The two photoelectric cells are interconnected for control and safety purposes, so that the robot does not reach into the joint workspace when the operator is inserting or removing parts. Conversely, the robot is stopped if the worker reaches into the workspace while it is operating there.

It goes without saying that the control of the robot is also integrated into this quite simple and practical safety concept. Robert Heller: “We took advantage of the robot manufacturer’s ‘Function Safety Unit’ that is now available as an option: a slot-in card with which, for example, safety zones can also be programmed.”

With the collaborative robot cell, the engineers at Weiss have once again demonstrated that innovative and highly efficient production solutions can be developed in-house – not only in plastics processing or tool and mould making, but also in the downstream processes of assembly and testing technology.

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