"

Even back then, Otto Schott was considered a pioneer in the science of glass, and SCHOTT AG, the company he founded, continues to break new technological ground today.

Even back then, Otto Schott was considered a pioneer in the science of glass, and SCHOTT AG, the company he founded, continues to break new technological ground today. In the glass laboratory of its Mainz research center, the international technology group uses a collaborative application for quality testing - and in doing so relieves the laboratory staff of more demanding tasks. This gives SCHOTT more capacity for development projects and enables it to efficiently handle the growing volume of samples. This is made possible by a gripper from OnRobot. Thanks to integrated sensors in its fingertips, the RG2-FT can handle individually shaped glass samples and operate highly sensitive measuring instruments. 

Whether in aerospace, medical technology or the automotive industry: The diverse products of SCHOTT AG are used in almost all areas of life. The technology group with its focus on glass and glass ceramics has been producing new innovations for 130 years. At that time, company founder Otto Schott initiated the special glass industry as a separate branch of industry by using novel manufacturing processes to develop glasses with precisely defined properties for the first time. Since then, Schott has considerably expanded the range of applications for the material over the years. 

Technology pioneer SCHOTT: always one step ahead

In keeping with its founding idea, today's SCHOTT AG is also always operating at the limits of what is possible and is continuously expanding this through technological progress. The SCHOTT Research Center in Mainz plays a key role in this process. In the glass laboratory there, employees test glass samples for their physical properties. Through their measurements, they generate data that are incorporated into the company's numerous research projects. On the other hand, they regularly test samples from production. 

"The material that is processed has to meet very specific specifications to ensure that a flawless product is ultimately created," explains Dr. Axel Engel, Senior Manager Physical Analytics at SCHOTT. "This ensures high product quality and helps to reduce waste." For example, when it comes to ceramic glass for hotplates or glass for fireplace doors, it must not be allowed to deform under any circumstances when exposed to heat. "Quality control is therefore very important for the entire manufacturing process." Today, SCHOTT automates part of this step with the help of a collaborative application using a gripper from OnRobot.

Challenge: Increasing number of samples

The impetus for this was a sharp increase in the number of samples that have to be tested for research purposes. "In the last three years, the volume of samples here in the laboratory has increased by about 30 percent," reports Dr. Engel. This posed several challenges for the manager and his team: SCHOTT needed more capacity to test so many samples in the time available. However, additional measuring equipment and personnel would only have limited space in the limited laboratory space. In addition, it took the employees a lot of time to load the measuring device. A measurement takes between three and 15 minutes, after which the employees have to interrupt other activities in order to insert a new sample. This is where the idea of automating the measuring process first came up. 

Gripper with a sure instinct needed

"We put a lot of time and effort into selecting a suitable automation solution," recalls Dr. Engel. "The solution had to be space-saving and be able to work right next to the laboratory technicians. A conventional industrial robot was out of the question: it would have needed an additional protective enclosure, and there is no room for that". There was also another difficulty: the measuring device, a so-called transmission spectrometer that records the optical properties of the glass, is extremely sensitive. Inserting the samples in such a way that the expensive device is not damaged requires great sensitivity. "After looking at solutions from various manufacturers, we finally found what we were looking for in OnRobot," reports Dr. Engel.

The transmission spectrometer records the optical properties of the glass (copyright: OnRobot)

SCHOTT decided on an application in which an RG2-FT gripper from OnRobot is mounted on a collaborating robot arm. The special thing about the electric two-finger gripper is that both force/torque sensors and optical sensors are located in its fingertips. These enable him to "think along": The sensors feed their process data back to the robot arm, which adjusts its course accordingly. This enables the gripper to precisely meter the force applied to the arm. This gives the application as a whole the necessary sensitivity to load the spectrometer with millimeter precision. 

Application relieves employees

"With the help of its sensor technology, the gripper is able to identify the position of objects and grip them in the center without knowing the exact parameters in advance," explains Florian Grabowski, Project Engineer at SCHOTT. "In this way, it can also efficiently support the measurement process." For this purpose, the glass samples are lined up next to the application in a holding fixture, the so-called tray. On their sides are barcodes that the RG2-FT uses to identify which sample it should pick up next. The RG2-FT is coupled with the software of the measuring instrument for this purpose. Thus, it knows which sample is to be measured next. He picks up the corresponding sample and places it in the spectrometer, where it is clamped in a pneumatic cylinder. Then the measurement begins. The robot then automatically removes the sample and places it back in the tray.

Glass samples are lined up next to the application in a tray (copyright: OnRobot)

Physics laboratory technician Nicole Mück used to operate the spectrometer manually. Now she benefits directly from the new application. "I have more time for documentation tasks, for example elaborate test reports," says Mück. "I can use the spectrometer more for more complex measurements involving test objects of different shapes and sizes - this is more complicated and requires me to process the samples myself. The application can continuously load the measuring device. This means it can work overnight and on weekends without a break. As a result, the robot has already handled a large part of the sample volume when Ms. Mück and her colleagues start their working day.

Intuitive operability

SCHOTT worked closely with OnRobot and the local system integrator Fichtner to integrate the gripper and robot arm, as project engineer Grabowski reports: "We were in active communication with both OnRobot and Fictner during implementation. We also developed special fingertips to optimally adapt the application to our requirements. These consist of aluminum and are coated with foam rubber. The background: The glass samples are handmade at SCHOTT so that each sample is individual. "With the help of its sensor technology and the adapted fingertips, the RG2-FT can still grip the sample glasses perfectly," Grabowski explains. 

The robot arm and gripper can be controlled via an intuitive user interface that the team accesses via a tablet. "The interface is clearly structured so that it is easy to find your way around," explains Grabowski. "Even users without special programming skills can easily assign tasks to the robot".

Extending automation

Dr. Engel is satisfied with the pilot project: "With the application we can work much more efficiently and relieve our employees," he sums up. Thanks to the rapid integration and smooth processes, the application also promises a rapid ROI: "We expect the purchase to pay for itself within five to six months". 

Soon, SCHOTT also wants to use collaborative applications in other areas of its internal value chain. One conceivable area would be glass processing, for example, where many process steps, such as drilling, milling or grinding, are currently still done by hand. With collaborative applications, such tasks can already be automated cost-effectively today. In this way, SCHOTT is making itself fit for the future and focusing on always be one step ahead of the status quo.

The industrial robotics market in China achieved strong growth with a new record of 243,300 installations in 2021 – a rise of 44% compared to the previous year. These preliminary data have been published by the International Federation of Robotics.

“China was leading the global recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic and accounted for half of worldwide robot installations in 2021,” said Marina Bill, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Growth is strong across all industries with electrical and electronics being the dominant sector – up 30% to 81,600 installations. The automotive industry also showed a strong recovery. This was mainly driven by electric vehicle manufacturing in China. It rose by 89% in 2021 with 50,700 installations.”

Chinese government supports robotic automation

In China aging population's demographics causes shortage of labor and drives the growth of robotic automation. The continued robotization of industries has been announced earlier this year by the government. The Five-Year plan for the robotics industry, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing, focuses on promoting innovation - making China a global leader of robot technology and industrial advancement.

New profession: “robotics engineering technician”

At the same time, state authorities aim to boost employment and entrepreneurial opportunities among college graduates. In June, 18 new professions including “robotics engineering technician” were announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. The profession focuses on the research and development of control algorithms and operating systems for robots, as well as the use of digital simulation technology.

“China still has high potential for further growth,” said Marina Bill. “The country´s robot density in the manufacturing industry amounts to 246 industrial robots per 10,000 employees thus ranking ninth worldwide in 2020. Ten years ago, China´s robot density was 15 units only.”

IFR Press contact

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

The International Federation of Robotics IFR will present the sales figures of industrial and service robots of 2021 on 13 October 2022 in Frankfurt during their annual press conference. These figures will cover the global market.

The detailed figures will be published in separate studies World Robotics Industrial Robots and World Robotics Service Robots. Customers with pre-orders will get access to the data on the publication date, others may place their order now. A press release and presentation of selected markets will be available on this webpage as well.

Preliminary figures are promising

IFR published already preliminary figures in June predicting a strong recovery of industrial robots: A new record of 486,800 units were installed globally – an increase of 27% compared to the previous year. Asia/Australia saw the largest growth in demand: installations were up 33% reaching 354,500 units. The Americas increased by 27% with 49,400 units sold. Europe saw double digit growth of 15% with 78,000 units installed. 

The World Robotics reports

World Robotics - Industrial Robots: This unique report provides global statistics on industrial robots in standardized tables and enables national comparisons to be made. It presents statistical data for around 40 countries broken down into areas of application, customer industries, types of robots and other technical and economic aspects. Production, export and import data is listed for selected countries. It also offers robot density, i.e. the number of robots per 10,000 employees, as a measure for the degree of automation.

World Robotics - Service Robots: This unique report provides global statistics on service robots, market analyses, and forecasts on the worldwide distribution of professional and personal service robots. The study is jointly prepared with our partner Fraunhofer IPA, Stuttgart.
 

With an innovative adaption an ABB robot is making designer furniture from what would otherwise be waste material.

A staggering 640,000 tons of fishing nets are dumped into the sea every year. An additional 150 million tonnes of garbage floats in the world’s oceans.

In a pioneering project, Swedish sustainable design house Sculptur is turning the discarded nets and plastic waste into furniture using a specially adapted robot from ABB. The industrial robot functions as an advanced 3D-printer.

Because the robot can apply the injection molding of the plastics from any angle, it is far superior to conventional 3D-printers and helps save around 50 percent of the required base materials. ABB's simulation and offline programming software RobotStudio, offering a complete digital twin of physical assets, and a newly developed add-on for 3D-printing, ensure that the printing robot can be programed in just a few minutes. A complete designer piece can be manufactured in less than two hours.

Sculptur and ABB share the same philosophy that by using recycled products and cutting-edge technology they can together make the world a better, more sustainable place.

Milton Guerry started the roundtable discussion with an introduction on the North American robotics market showing preliminary figures of industrial robots shipped in 2021.

Companies across North America are deploying robotics and automation at record rates as they continue to face labor shortages, decreased productivity and a disrupted supply chain.

Executives from FANUC AMERICA, TERADYNE, UPS, ZEBRA TECHNOLOGIES and NVIDIA discussed on June 7th 2022 at IFR´s EXECUTIVE ROUNDTABLE in Detroit, sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

Please see all videos on our YouTube channel. 

This year’s “Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Robotics & Automation” (IERA) goes to Drishti, a video analytics company based in Mountain View, California. Drishti technology supports workers on assembly lines to avoid errors and be more productive. To achieve this, the company has developed the pioneering technology “action recognition”.

Drishti streams video at every station of the production line, then uses their AI networks to translate the video streams into data. The action recognition technology delivers feedback to operators in mere seconds, thus avoiding errors. The information is also used retrospectively to help manufacturers improve productivity, quality and training as well as safety.

"Drishti has developed a pathway towards successful robotics and automation suitable for any size of company," said jury chair Andra Keay. "This opens up significant benefits, both for manufacturers and their employees. We are pleased to honor this achievement with the IERA Award 2022."

“Action recognition technology provides unparalleled business insights to all parties in the factory, from the line associate to the CEO,” said Gary Jackson, CEO, Drishti. “The IERA Award is a phantastic recognition of how Drishti helps to optimize production.”

Drishti´s IERA Award-winning technology helps manufacturers

Worldwide, 72% of manufacturing tasks are performed by humans. With Drishti video analysis manufacturers have succeeded to reduce defect rates by up to 50% in just three months, improved throughput by 15% on already optimized lines and reduced time to train new line associates by up to 50%.

“The pioneering technology invented by Drishti uncovers new improvement opportunities on assembly lines while at the same time empowering humans on the factory floor,” said Milton Guerry, President of the IFR at the IERA award ceremony in Munich, Germany. “This is an outstanding example of humans and machines working together. I congratulate Drishti on winning the IERA award 2022. All four finalists have presented their story of a successful innovative product in robotics and automation.”

The other three finalists

Bosch Rexroth presented its Smart Flex Effector – a module which allows large industrial robots to “feel” their environment and produce smarter. 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. Neura Robotics presented MAiRA® – a cognitive robot that is able to see, hear, and speak as well as safely interact with human workers and learn from experience.

from left to right: Dominik Boesl, Micropsi; Prasad Akella, Drishti, Michael Danzberger, Bosch Rexroth; David Reger, Neura Robotics © Frommel fotodesign

Video

A video explaining AI power for smart factories is available on the vimeo platform

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

The Executive Board of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has elected Marina Bill of ABB as its new President. Kenji Yamaguchi of FANUC appointed as IFR´s new Vice President.

“I am honored to head the IFR as President and serve our industry and I thank the members of the IFR for their trust and support,” said Marina Bill. “The unprecedented pace of change we’re experiencing in global business provides a historic opportunity to shape industry for the next generation. Robotics and automation create flexible, sustainable and efficient solutions for businesses of all sizes that minimize cost, promote resilience and benefit society.”

Bill thanked her predecessor for his work: “Milton Guerry took office at the starting point of the COVID-19 pandemic and served the industry dealing with a great number of challenges. He worked relentlessly as our ambassador and I am proud to continue this mission together with our new Vice President, Kenji Yamaguchi.”

Marina Bill heads Global Marketing & Sales for ABB’s Robotics business which has approximately 11,000 employees, operating in over 100 locations in 53 countries. She has over 25 years of experience in a number of management and sales and marketing roles across automation at ABB. The Swedish and Swiss national holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Kenji Yamaguchi has been serving as Representative Director, President and CEO of FANUC CORPORATION since April 2019. After joining the company in April 1993, he started his career with research and development of industrial robots and has contributed to the development of several successful models. His main past responsibilities include heading the Production Engineering Department and Production Division, along with the CNC Business Division. He completed the master's course at the Department of Precision Mechanical Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo in March 1993.

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

Sales of industrial robots have reached a strong recovery: A new record of 486,800 units were shipped globally – an increase of 27% compared to the previous year. Asia/Australia saw the largest growth in demand: installations were up 33% reaching 354,500 units. The Americas increased by 27% with 49,400 units sold. Europe saw double digit growth of 15% with 78,000 units installed. These preliminary results for 2021 have been published by the International Federation of Robotics.

“Robot installations around the world recovered strongly and make 2021 the most successful year ever for the robotics industry,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “Due to the ongoing trend towards automation and continued technological innovation, demand reached high levels across industries. In 2021, even the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 installations per year in 2018 was exceeded.”

Strong demand across industries

In 2021, the main growth driver was the electronics industry (132,000 installations, +21%), which surpassed the automotive industry (109,000 installations, +37%) as the largest customer of industrial robots already in 2020. Metal and machinery (57,000 installations, +38%) followed, ahead of plastics and chemical products (22,500 installations, +21%) and food and beverages (15,300 installations, +24%). 

Europe recovered

In 2021, industrial robot installations in Europe recovered after two years of decline - exceeding the peak of 75,600 units in 2018. Demand from the most important adopter, the automotive industry, moved at a high level sideways (19,300 installations, +/-0%). Demand from metal and machinery rose strongly (15,500 installations, +50%), followed by plastics and chemical products (7,700 installations, +30%).

The Americas recovered

In the Americas, the number of industrial robot installations reached the second-best result ever, only surpassed by the record year 2018 (55,200 installations). The largest American market, the United States, shipped 33,800 units – this represents a market share of 68%.

Asia remains world’s largest market

Asia remains the world’s largest industrial robot market: 73% of all newly deployed robots in 2021 were installed in Asia. A total of 354,500 units were shipped in 2021, up 33% compared to 2020. The electronics industry adopted by far the most units (123,800 installations, +22%), followed by a strong demand from the automotive industry (72,600 installations, +57%) and the metal and machinery industry (36,400 installations, +29%).

Video: “Sustainable! How robots enable a green future”

At automatica 2022 trade fair in Munich, robotics industry leaders discussed, how robotics and automation enable to develop sustainable strategies and a green future. A videocast by IFR will feature the event with key statements of executives from ABB, MERCEDES BENZ, STÄUBLI, VDMA and the EUROPEAN COMMISSION. Please find a summary soon on our YouTube Channel. 

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

I am excited to start this letter with excellent news: during the Automate Show in Detroit last week, the IFR published preliminary figures on the global robotics market in 2021. The main finding in this report: Robot installations not only exceeded pre-crisis levels, but hit a new record high. In 2021, 487,000 units were installed. This is up 27% compared to 2020 and 15% compared to the previous record year 2018.

Dear Reader,

I am excited to start this letter with excellent news: during the Automate Show in Detroit last week, the IFR published preliminary figures on the global robotics market in 2021. The main finding in this report: Robot installations not only exceeded pre-crisis levels, but hit a new record high. In 2021, 487,000 units were installed. This is up 27% compared to 2020 and 15% compared to the previous record year 2018.

The North American market grew by 18%. While Canada and Mexico saw a strong rebound driven by the automotive industry, installations in the United States are substantially growing in the general industries.

The outlook for 2022 looks bright. First quarter 2022 figures from A3 show strong growth in orders and turnover. In the United States, the Great Resignation and staffing shortages are driving automation. Another very positive sign: the diversification of customers continues, driving robotics beyond automotive. Nevertheless, global headwinds make any prediction hard. China‘s COVID policy interferes with global supply chains, and the Russian invasion in Ukraine burdens economies not only in Europe, but also in North America.

Preliminary data for Asia and Europe will be published during the IFR Executive Roundtable in Munich on June 21. The final data for 2021 will be published in World Robotics on October 13, 2022.

In two Executive Roundtables, we will take a closer look at the two most important questions for the robotics industry at the moment:

How are robotics and automation transforming the North American market and what are the drivers behind market development? During the Automate IFR Executive Roundtable in Detroit, Michael Cicco of FANUC America Corporation, Greg Smith of Teradyne, Greg Brown of UPS, Melonee Wise of Fetch Robotics/Zebra, and Deepu Talla of NVIDIA discussed this question and examined the impact of the pandemic, reshoring, supply chain issues and the labor shortage on market development. A summary video of the roundtable will be published shortly.

How will robots enable a green, sustainable future? During our second IFR Executive Roundtable in Munich on June 21, Marc Segura of ABB, Dr. Stephen Travers of Mercedes-Benz, Christophe Coulongeat of Stäubli, Dr. Joachim Döhner of VDMA Battery Production & KUKA Systems and Gwenole Cozigou from the European Commission will discuss. Please let us know if you would like to participate.

On June 20-21, the 54th International Symposium on Robotics – ISR Europe 2022 - will gather participants from both industry and research in Munich and offer an insight into state-of-the-art robot technologies. The new Business Track will offer invited speakers from the industry the opportunity to present their latest developments. Last but not least, a jury from IFR and IEEE RAS will select the winner of this year's IERA Award for innovation and entrepreneurship in robotics and automation.

As this President's Report will also be my last one, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for contributing to the IFR work during my Presidency and for your active support and participation in numerous virtual meetings. Despite the difficult times, IFR substantially increased its membership base, we were able to futher develop the IFR strategy over the two years, and we drafted a vision and mission for the federation. This should smooth the way for my successor, who I am happy to introduce in Munich next week.

Take care and see you soon!

Milton Guerry

The North American robotics market experienced its best quarter ever to begin the year: Companies from the US, Canada and Mexico ordered 11,595 industrial robots – up 28% compared to the first quarter of 2021. Revenue rose by 43% and reached a value of USD 664 million. These results are in line with a positive trend worldwide: Preliminary data for 2021 show, that 486,700 industrial robots have been installed globally (+27% year-on-year).

“A strong recovery of the international robotics markets is currently in progress: Worldwide installations of industrial robots in 2021 even exceed the record year 2018,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “In North America, first quarter order volumes for both units and revenue were at all-time highs. Across industries, the post-COVID crisis boom creates double-digit growth over the same quarter of last year.”

Automotive orders up

In North America, car makers and manufacturers of components accounted for 47% of robot orders in Q1 2022, their orders grew by 15% year-on-year. Several car manufacturers have announced investments to further equip their factories for new electric drive car models or to increase capacity for battery production. These major projects will continue to create demand for industrial robots in the next few years. The United States has the second largest production volume of cars and light vehicles in the world, following China. Worldwide installations of industrial robots in the automotive sector reached 109,400 units in 2021 (+37% year-on-year).

Non-automotive sectors surpassed automotive

Continuing a trend, non-automotive customers have ordered more robots than automotive customers. Worldwide, the electrical & electronics industry is the strongest adopter with a record of 132,200 units installed in 2021. In North America, automotive customers orders in Q1 2022 were 5,476 units, while non-automotive customers ordered 6,122 units the same period. In seven out of the last nine quarters, orders from non-automotive customers surpassed orders from automotive customers.

How Robotics and Automation Are Transforming the North American Economy

At Automate 2022 trade fair in Detroit, robotics industry leaders discussed how robotics and automation are transforming the North American economy in an executive roundtable co-sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

A videocast by IFR will feature the event with key statements of executives from FANUC America, Teradyne, UPS, Zebra and NVIDIA: IFR YouTube Channel.

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

The final IERA Award session, the International Symposium on Robotics and the IFR Executive Roundtable will get the stage such events deserve. The automatica trade show in Munich will host these highlights - and many more - from 21 to 24 June.

We are glad that our established events once again take place on-site, after a covid-19 pause of two years. 

IERA Award final session

Since 2005, IFR and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society have jointly sponsored this award honoring outstanding achievements in commercializing innovative robotics and automation technology. 

This year, four finalists have been nominated: 

  • Smart Flex Effector by Bosch Rexroth AG, Michael Danzberger
  • AI-powered production that empowers humans on the production lines by Drishti, Prasad Akella
  • MIRAI: Flexible automation for complex manual workstations by Micropsi Industries GmbH, Dominik Boesl
  • MAiRA® - The world’s first cognitive robot by NEURA ROBOTICS, David Reger

The session will be part of the International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) on 20 June. The winner will be officially announced and honored during the ISR gala dinner the same day, together with the awardees of the Joseph E. Engelberger Award. 

54th International Symposium on Robotics (ISR)

The Symposium will be held on June 20 and 21 at the Conference Center North Messe München. In three conference tracks and a poster session over two days, the ISR Europe 2022 will offer an insight into state-of-the-art robot technologies to participants from both industry and research. Selected conference topics include Modeling, Planning and Control, as well as Components and Technologies or Future Industrial and Service Robotics Applications. The Business Track will offer invited speakers from the industry the opportunity to present current product developments. The traditional Conference Gala Dinner will be complemented by the Scientific Society for Assembly, Handling and Industrial Robotics' (MHI) festivities - celebrating its 10th anniversary - in the presence of esteemed guests from politics, business and robotics research. Presentations of the final nominees for the Joseph F. Engelberger Award and the IERA Award are further highlights of the ISR 2022 Gala Dinner.

IFR Executive Roundtable 

On June 21, “Sustainable! How robots enable a green future” will be the theme of the first European IFR Executive Roundtable to be held as an in-person event after four years of enforced break due to the pandemic. 

IFR President Milton Guerry will present preliminary figures on the global robotics market in 2021. Then, experts from ABB, MERCEDES BENZ, STÄUBLI, VDMA and the EUROPEAN COMMISSION will discuss the transformation and how robotics helps to reach sustainable development goals across industries. Please find the details on our extra page

Meet the IFR staff

Please visit us at our booth in hall B5, 121B. You will have a chance to take a look at World Robotics 2021 and meet and greet the IFR staff in person. We are looking forward to welcoming you in Munich.
And don't forget to register for the numerous IFR meetings taking place in a hybrid format.

The use of robots plays an important role in reaching the sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations (17 SDGs). The International Federation of Robotics identified 13 SDGs, where robots help to create a better planet.

“The use of robots responds to the UN´s call for action,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “The IFR supports the United Nations´ sustainable development goals. There are fantastic new ways in which robots save resources and produce green technologies of the future.”

“The transformation on the way to a sustainable use of resources is proving robotics and automation to be key technologies,” says Dr Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the International Federation of Robotics. “Intelligent automation reduces production costs: This helps battery technology achieve a breakthrough in e-mobility for example or fuel cells production for hydrogen-power as an alternative to fossil energy. At the same time, highly efficient production technology reduces CO2-emissions.”

Clean energy, industrial innovation and sustainable agriculture are just three examples which show how the use of robots contribute to achieve these UN sustainable development goals:

Energies of the future - electricity and solar heat – Clean Energy (UN´s SDG 7)

Pivoting away from fossil fuel makes solar heat and electricity energies of the future: Solar panels are predicted to provide roughly a third of the world's total electricity demand by 2050 – says the International Energy Agency. Heat usage makes up for half of the world’s energy usage. Keeping pace with this booming customer demand for solar panels and reflectors mean being able to produce units in greater quantities.

Solar collectors made by Absolicon © Absolicon

Industrial robots are now used as part of an automated factory production line in Sweden. Solar energy company Absolicon has developed what it sees as a gamechanger for the widespread adoption of solar heat as an energy source: A parabolic reflector focuses the solar irradiation on a receiver and turns it into steam with a temperature of up to 160 degrees for the use in industrial production. Almost all industries require heat for production processes. The solar collector´s emission-saving potential: every square meter of a solar thermal collector can produce the equivalent energy of 100 liters of oil.

ABB robot in the production line of Absolicon © ABB Robotics

The automation at Absolicon´s factory in Härnösand using two ABB robots has increased production drastically. Where the company previously produced three solar collectors per day with manual production methods, the newly installed robotic production line now has the capacity to produce a finished collector every six minutes.

“Prepare-to-repair” - Industrial Innovation (UN´s SDG 9)

Prepare-to-repair is a successful strategy for robot manufacturers and their customers to save costs and resources. This takes into account that a robot has an average service life of up to thirty years. Using less parts translating into lower risk of future failure is the first step of this approach. To offer long-term repair to customers, storage of parts is a challenge. In order to keep the large number of spare parts in stock, Japanese robot manufacturer Fanuc e.g. runs a central warehouse for Europe. It is located in Luxembourg and has the size of a football pitch with 600,000 spare parts on stock.

Since every hour of machine downtime costs the customer money, it is oftentimes more resource-efficient to transport the spare parts to the customer and repair the machine on site – rather than to manufacture and ship new machines. Manufacturers like ABB, Fanuc, KUKA or Yaskawa all run dedicated repair centers where thousands of industrial robots are refurbished and upgraded for a second life.

“Robots eliminate chemical agents” - Smart Agriculture (UN´s SDG 2)

In agriculture, new field robots eliminate the use of chemical agents. These agricultural robots travel slowly up and down the rows of crops. Equipped with cameras and artificial intelligence software, they are able to locate weeds and burn them selectively with a laser shot. The new technology does not only completely eliminate the use of herbicides. Organic farmers now have an alternative to a related process called “flaming” using propane torches to kill weeds. Flaming could only operate before crops were planted - otherwise it would also have killed the crops.

The Fraunhofer EZRT research centre and partners equipped a farming robot with navigation technology for mechanical weed control in sugar beets. The BlueBob 2.0 also does the job autonomously, so that farmers can devote their time to tasks with higher added value than manual or chemical weeding. Since manual weeding is a very tedious task for humans, the new technology also helps to improve conditions of farm work. Taking over dirty, dull and dangerous tasks is something robots excel at.

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

On February 20, the global community was rocked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. We are saddened to see the impact of this violence, particularly that which is directed toward civilians. IFR strongly opposes any use of weaponized automation. Our mission is to support robotics for peaceful use, human efficiency and economic progress.

Dear Reader,

On February 20, the global community was rocked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. We are saddened to see the impact of this violence, particularly that which is directed toward civilians. IFR strongly opposes any use of weaponized automation. Our mission is to support robotics for peaceful use, human efficiency and economic progress.  

This sad and disturbing news hit our community after two years defined by the pandemic, just as the world was about  to roll back restrictions and trade fairs were opening their doors again.  It is too early to predict how quickly this conflict will be resolved or what kinds of implications it will have on our sector. Nonetheless, I would like to look forward, to focus on the opportunities available within the robotics community today.

From March 9-12, iREX 2022 fair in Tokyo once again opened its doors to present the latest developments in industrial as well as service robots. Although the event was based in Japan, there was an online extension to allow the rest of the world participate in the show. This year's theme, "The Way towards Friendlier Society, bridged by Robots", is timely and certainly should set an example to other parts of the world.

At the end of March, Advanced Factories 2022 in Barcelona is showcasing robotics and industry 4.0 technologies, mainly to the southern Europeans.

The busiest time of the year for roboticists certainly will be June. Automate (June 6-9 in Detroit) and then automatica (June 21-24 in Munich) will both physically open their doors for the public for the first time in three and four years, respectively.

We are looking forward not only to face-to-face business meetings and networking, but also in-person meetings of the various IFR bodies. For those who cannot join in-person, we will hold IFR meetings in hybrid format, so that the latter can join us at least virtually.

In two Executive Roundtables, we will take a closer look at two of the most important questions for the robotics industry at the moment:

  1. How is robotics and automation transforming the economy? What impact will the pandemic, reshoring, supply chain issues, and the labor shortage have on the market development?
  2. How do robots enable a green, sustainable future? Are circular economy, sustainable mobility, and the shift to renewable energy sources enabling sustainable production?

The Roundtables will gather executives from leading robot suppliers, end users, and politics. For those who cannot attend on-site, we will provide a summary afterwards.

On June 20-21, the 54th International Symposium on Robotics – ISR Europe 2022 - will gather participants from both industry and research in Munich and offer an insight into state-of-the-art robot technologies. The new Business Track will offer invited speakers from the industry the opportunity to present their latest developments. Last but certainly not least, a jury from IFR and IEEE RAS will select the winner of this year's IERA Award for innovation and entrepreneurship in robotics and automation.

Take care and see you soon!

Milton Guerry

Printing concrete rather than pouring it: the Belgian BESIX Group is working to revolutionize traditional construction methods. A KR QUANTEC from KUKA is assisting in this. It prints columns, sculptures and facade elements in 3D using concrete. Fast and environmentally friendly.

290 concrete panels form the facade of the BESIX 3D studio in Dubai, part of the Belgian BESIX Group. 290 panels, each of which was printed in around ten minutes with the aid of a KUKA robot and then simply mounted on the building on site. It was the construction group’s first groundbreaking project and is currently considered the largest 3D-printed concrete facade in the world.

BESIX in Dubai: the world’s largest 3D-printed concrete facade was created with the help of a KUKA robot.© KUKA

Fast, environmentally friendly and safe: 3D printing with concrete is set to revolutionize traditional construction methods. The additive manufacturing process avoids waste and delivers customized solutions or even entire series in just a few hours. Construction companies around the world are currently working to find the best method for 3D printing. One of them is the BESIX Group, headquartered in Brussels. Founded in 1909, the company set up a 3D studio in Dubai for this purpose in December 2018 and installed a robot from the KR QUANTEC family for carrying out the printing.

Strong partners for new methods in additive manufacturing

“For us, it was particularly important to find a reliable partner at the start of the project who was prepared to think in new dimensions with regard to printing. We found this partner in KUKA and can now implement our project automatically,” says Benoît Meulewaeter, Senior Project Manager for Design and head of the BESIX 3D team. Together with automation specialist KUKA from Augsburg, the company developed its robot application for 3D printing with concrete as the material. All the shaped elements required by the customer are modeled in advance using 3D software.

3D software passes specifications on to KR QUANTEC

“There are no limits in additive manufacturing – even for complex requirements. 3D printing enables us to individually produce any customized shape,” explains Meulewaeter. Once the model is ready, the software transfers the data to the KR QUANTEC, which has a nozzle on its articulated arm for 3D printing. The robot then prints sculptures, facade elements and other components for buildings layer by layer according to the specifications. Fast and effective. In this way, a two-meter high column is produced in less than an hour. 

With 3D printing using concrete, customized fabrication of any shape is possible. © KUKA

No waste and low CO2 emissions through use of a robot

The customer also has flexibility when it comes to color: colorfast pigments can be mixed into the concrete material before printing to achieve the customer’s desired color. The robot not only carries out its work quickly, but also does so in near silence and in an environmentally friendly manner. The liquid concrete material is converted 1:1 into the end product, so that no waste is produced in the process. Use of the KR QUANTEC also reduces CO2 emissions since the robot can print the desired prefabricated concrete element directly at the construction site and it does not have to be specially transported.

3D printing with environmentally friendly material

Benoît Meulewaeter notes: “Through 3D printing using concrete, we are resolutely pursuing our corporate goal of offering efficient and environmentally friendly solutions.” KUKA provides support here as well. Alois Buchstab, head of the KUKA team overseeing the 3D project, says: “We are delighted that the BESIX Group has chosen KUKA as a cooperation partner. Thanks to our energy-efficient robotic solutions and expertise, we are living up to our responsibility to create a sustainable future.”

The BESIX 3D team is currently working with other partners to develop environmentally friendly concrete mixtures for additive manufacturing. These can be used in areas such as the construction of breakwaters. The company is also considering having the KUKA robot print directly on site in order to avoid transport costs. “We are highly satisfied with our collaboration and certainly will be able to move forward with many more projects with KUKA in the near future,” says Benoît Meulewaeter. The company is considering expanding its production facility in Dubai or even opening similar studios in Belgium or the Netherlands.

The quality of cheese ultimately depends on proper storage and aging. This is why the Leupolz Emmental cheese dairy in Germany’s Allgäu Alps opted for an innovative, fully automated storage and maintenance system in which round cheese loaves, each weighing approximately 80 kilos, are handled by a large Stäubli six-axis machine.

The Leupolz farm cheese dairy is located near Wangen, just north of Lake Constance, in a truly idyllic setting surrounded by forests, pastures and meadows. Founded in 1960, the cooperative employs 25 people and obtains its milk from around 170 suppliers. It processes around 45 million liters per year, equivalent to about 125,000 liters per day. Among the dairy’s specialties are cheese “wheels” weighing approximately 80 kilos, some 6,000 of which leave the farm every year, with around 10% qualifying for the Demeter organic label.

The correct maintenance and care of these huge cheeses is a laborious business. Achim Baumgärtner, Executive Assistant at Leupolz, explains: “Each cheese wheel has to be attended to about three times a week to ensure optimal quality. With an average maturation period of four months, the cheeses have to be washed, brushed and salted between 40 and 50 times, which is potentially costly in terms of labor and expenditure.”

Achim Baumgärtner, Executive Assistant at Leupolz, is enthusiastic about the cheese maintenance system. © Stäubli

The management team at Leupolz was looking for a solution that would be as efficient as it was economical, so that they could offer this natural product at a competitive price despite the intensive effort that goes into its storage and care. The vision of a fully automated system began to take shape…

Hygienic robots in preference to problematic linear axes

To realize this vision, they brought in Lemmermeyer, a plant manufacturer based in the Bavarian town of Deiningen. The company has extensive experience in the field of stainless steel plant construction and has built an especially strong reputation for itself in the food sector.

The stainless steel cheese maintenance system, which entered operation in 2019, is a prime example of Lemmermeyer’s design expertise. Attention was paid to compliance with stringent hygiene standards, avoidance of dead spaces, and the right choice of robot for handling the cheese wheels – in this case, the large six-axis Stäubli TX200L HE.

“If we had used classic linear axes for the handling processes within the plant, we would have come up against a major hygiene obstacle,” says Manfred Görthofer, Head of Project Management at Lemmermeyer. “Condensation buildup and lubricant contamination via the joints of the axes could not have been avoided, and this is of course problematic when processing unwrapped foodstuffs. That’s why we are increasingly moving towards the use of encapsulated Stäubli robots with their superior hygiene design for such processes.”

80 cheese wheels per hour

The Leupolz setup clearly demonstrates that the robot-assisted cheese maintenance system not only complies with strict hygiene standards, but is also impressive in terms of performance, with around 80 cheese wheels passing through the system in the space of an hour. The task of the TX200L HE (HE = Humid Environment) is to load and unload racks with either four or eight shelves on which the cheese wheels are stored. A forklift collects the racks from the maturation chamber, delivers them to the processing area, and returns them afterwards.

The six-axis robot is equipped with a special gripper that resembles the prongs of a forklift. It uses this to pick up the wooden board on which the cheese rests and places it on the system’s conveyor belt. The next step is to separate the board from its cheese wheel. The board is then cleaned, while the cheese is washed, brushed, sprayed with salt and dried with a blower. The final step is to place the cheese wheel back on its board and move it to a defined transfer position on the conveyor belt. Here, the TX200L HE picks it up and places the board together with the cheese wheel back in the correct compartment of the rack.

The giant six-axis TX200L HE removes a cheese wheel from a storage rack. © Stäubli

To ensure that the six-axis machine can approach all stations without hindrance, it is mounted on a base unit. The TX200L has a reach of just under 2.6 meters, and with a total weight of 100 kilograms to be handled (80-kg cheese wheel, 5-kg wooden board and 15-kg gripper), axis 6 operates at its full payload limit.

Trouble-free operation from day one

Even when the robot is lifting and carrying its maximum payload, it can still easily cope in continuous operation. As Achim Baumgärtner says, “Our TX200L HE has been running absolutely trouble-free since commissioning. The same applies to the entire system. We have not experienced any failures here, and even our daily cleaning procedures are incapable of harming the system or the robot.”

Stäubli’s HE robots have indeed been designed to endure even the toughest cleaning procedures with aqueous media in the 2pH - 12pH range. These robots even withstand spraying by a high-pressure water jet without any problems. This means they can be operated without an additional protective coating and cleaned quickly and thoroughly. Plus, the HE versions are just as capable as the standard robots, which puts them among the fastest on the global market, even when operating with food-grade oil.

Higher quality – happier employees

The use of robots has also resulted in impressive savings. “In the past, we needed three people to attend to the cheese. Today, it’s done by ‘half’ an employee,” says Achim Baumgärtner. “Of course, this saves on labor costs and, much more importantly, we can relieve our staff of weekend working, deploy them where they are needed more urgently, and do not have to constantly ask them to work overtime. The shop floor atmosphere and the workload have improved significantly due to the higher degree of automation.”

The innovative installation, which meets stringent hygiene standards, handles around 80 cheese wheels every hour. © Stäubli

Another important aspect concerns the care and maintenance of the cheese wheels themselves. The enormous capacity of the robotic system makes it possible to significantly shorten the washing intervals and thereby enhance overall quality. Achim Baumgärtner: “Thanks to the robot, we can now attend to the wheels up to three times a week. In the past, we had to get by on just once or twice. The more intensive care has a positive effect on the quality of the cheese, and we have a higher product yield. This works to the benefit of the end consumer, too. Our Allgäuer Emmentaler has never tasted better!”

In the first half of 2021, China's photovoltaic (PV) industry has maintained rapid growth and continuous expansion while pursuing the goal of Carbon Peak and Carbon Neutral. Without a doubt, there are bright prospects for the industry whilst China achieves its 3060 goal.

As a manufacturer of autonomous mobile robots, Standard Robots is trying to make its mark on the PV industry, attempting to accelerate the automation of the industry. In this case, Standard Robots helped a well-known domestic PV company transport loads automatically by providing 63 AMRs for its entire factory. The company's director said, " After operating stably, Standard Robots’ 63 AMRs are able to successfully replace the manual handling and free the employees for other duties. Not only has it reduced production cost, but it has also greatly improved the productivity and safety of the company.” 

Project Demands

  1. Overall demands
    The company needed to use AMR and the upper system to achieve fully automatic transportation of raw materials across the entire factory. This process includes: dispensers to surface texturization, surface texturization to diffusion, diffusion to lasers, lasers to etching, etching to annealing, annealing to PERC(Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell), PERC to rear paste, rear paste to top paste, and top paste to laser slotting.
  2. Detailed demands
    Double-decker driving shelf: length-1450mm, width-880mm , height-1300mm, weight-400kg.
    ·Automatic transportation of raw materials: AMR transports the double-decker driving shelf to connect with the powerless drive belt which has to convey flower baskets from AMR’s machine station to the next process.

Project Challenges

  1. Stringent positioning requirements
    Since the drive belt is powerless, it requires more precision to dock the back gear.
  2. High handling capacity of AMR
    The company has tight production schedule and challenging time constraint of some processes (materials must be delivered within 5 minutes).
  3. Strict safety requirements
    Conditions of on-site operation is complicated in the PV company.
  4. Strict cleanliness
    Workshops in the PV industry are kept very clean but some dust will be generated while AMR operates.

Solutions

  1. Hardware
    63 Standard Oasis 600C units, several automatic charging piles, 1 manual charger.
  2. Software
    Matrix deployment software, FMS scheduling system, Standard central control system
  3. Operation
    First, Standard Robots provides the latest FMS scheduling system with a navigation accuracy of ±5mm, combined with partial beacons attached to the machine station to achieve the docking accuracy.

    Second, Standard Robots optimizes the scheduling system and rationalizes the allocation of cyclic tasks during the pre-design process.

    Third, Standard Robots uses double diagonal laser radar for 360° bar code scanning, and cooperates with the vision module to ensure the safety.

    Fourth, Standard Robots reduces components that easily produce dust and employs wear-resistant soft wheels to reduce dust produced by friction with the ground.

Customer Values

  1. Promote the automation of the company
    Raw materials handling, loading and unloading are successfully automated to reduce the workload of workers.
  2. Add benefits for the company
    Direct machine-to-machine docking effectively reduces the possibility of material damages caused by falling silicon wafers.
  3. Promote the IT management of the company
    A full information equipment management solution has been employed to monitor AMR status in real time.
  4. Promote the digitization of the company
    The line side cache is effectively controlled to further optimize the site management and accelerate material turnaround.
  5. Help the company overcome recruitment issues
    Recruitment challenges and low reliability of workers are effectively resolved.

To accelerate the PV industry’s development in the new sector, Standard Robots has offered flexible industrial logistics solutions based on its laser SLAM navigation AMR and RIOT management system. In the future, Standard Robots will make every endeavor to boost the automation of companies in kinds of industries.

Every working day, a 350-ton nacelle for an 8MW offshore wind turbine leaves the Siemens Gamesa factory in Cuxhaven. In the ultra-modern flow production environment, four heavy-duty AGVs supplied by Stäubli WFT assist in transportation from station to station within the factory.

The manufacture of wind turbines for offshore installations is on a completely different scale from standard mass production. The rotor blades of the 8MW SG 8.0-167 DD turbines that Siemens Gamesa builds for offshore wind farms are 81.4 meters in length. The turbine’s total height is 167 meters (10 meters higher than Cologne Cathedral) and the nacelles weigh around 350 tons. These machines for sustainable energy production are in demand all over the world. The nacelles are built at the Cuxhaven plant, which was newly constructed in 2018 for this very task. The rotor blades come from other sister plants of the Siemens Gamesa Group.

Just as impressive as the dimensions of the turbines are the workflow and capacity of the plant in Cuxhaven. More than 250 nacelles are produced each year and loaded directly onto specially built transporter ships. In other words, the 600-strong workforce builds a complete wind turbine nacelle every day. This is flow production on a mega scale.

Clearly structured, highly flexible flow production

The three main components – the hub, the two-story “backend” machine house, and the generator itself – are assembled on three parallel production lines. The magnets that go into the generator are also manufactured at the Cuxhaven plant, with a similarly high degree of vertical integration. These three massive components are brought together to form the complete nacelle, which is then comprehensively tested at an inspection station.

The generator is the central and heaviest component of the wind turbine nacelle. © Siemens Gamesa

Assembly takes place in cycles at individual stations, and the components, which weigh many tons, are placed on frames that allow them to be transported from station to station. This is mainly done by crane, but in order to ensure maximum flexibility, driverless heavy-duty transport systems (AGVs) from Stäubli WFT are also used for transport around the factory. The AGVs maneuver themselves into position underneath the frames, lift them up, and move them to the next assembly station.

Three high-precision AGVs with 200-ton load capacity

Three heavy-duty platform AGVs from the Stäubli WFT range with a load capacity of 200 tons are in service. They get around with the help of eight omnidirectional drive units – a patented in-house development by Stäubli WFT. Eight fixed rollers provide support when transporting the load.

A human operator moves the 8.00 x 2.62-meter platform under the frame by remote control and raises the platform by 200 mm at the push of a button. At a maximum speed of 1.2 km/h (2.1 km/h when unloaded), the operator transfers the component to the next assembly station. This ensures smooth travel and is gentle on tires as well as floors – thanks to the patented Stäubli WFT drive technology, rotary movements cause minimal abrasion.

Stäubli WFT's heavy-duty platform AGVs perform an important function in transporting components around the factory in which wind turbine nacelles are assembled. © Siemens Gamesa

RFID tags installed in the floor create the right conditions for semi-automatic operation. The AGVs then move between pre-programmed positions. And this is only the first stage in the integration of heavy-duty AGVs into automated material flow concepts. The control system also allows integration into Industry 4.0 environments and warehouse management systems. In addition, Stäubli WFT can provide AGV data for process optimization.

A highly efficient material flow concept

The combination of transport by crane and/or AGV has been adding value since the start of production in Cuxhaven. Ample proof of its unique advantages was provided during the first model changeover. “Production started with our 7MW offshore turbines,” says Nils Schattenmann, who is in charge of rolling equipment at the plant. “Later, and without any interruption to production, we switched to the current, much larger 8MW turbines. The time and effort involved was minimal, with the AGVs only having to be reprogrammed.”

Senior management is also completely satisfied with the vehicles supplied by Stäubli WFT in more conventional operations. “The AGVs work reliably and with high precision. Because these vehicles are an integral part of the internal material flow, we cannot afford any downtime here,” Schattenmann adds.

Transport to the test stand with 450-ton AGVs

The reliability factor applies all the more to the fourth heavy-duty AGV supplied by Stäubli WFT. Its load-bearing capacity of 450 tons is more than twice that of its predecessor, and with a platform dimension of 10.5 x 3.02 meters, it is also significantly larger. Here, 16 drive units, supported by 19 fixed castors, ensure mobility.

This AGV is essentially reserved for the final process step – the transport of the finished nacelles to the test stand. It therefore also has a fixed role in the mega-scale flow production.

The vehicle can lift and transport more than eleven times its own tare weight of around 40 tons, bringing a total weight of more than 400 tons to the weigh station. There are very few AGV manufacturers in the world that can compete in this payload class, but Stäubli WFT goes one better: For loads of 500 tons and over, multiple vehicles can be hitched together. AGV control systems are basically set up for this.

Future prospects: Two 450-ton AGVs in synchronous operation

Siemens Gamesa plans to purchase a fifth heavy-duty AGV from Stäubli WFT for the Cuxhaven plant in the near future. “We are currently setting up production for the next generation of offshore wind turbines, which will be significantly larger and also deliver an enhanced 11 MW of power,” says Schattenmann. In concrete terms, this means that the SG 11.0-200 DD will have a rotor diameter of an incredible 200 meters, and the nacelles will weigh a third more. They will also be equipped with a helicopter landing pad.

Flexibility again played a central role in planning the in-plant heavy-load material flow. For this reason, the system designers at Siemens Gamesa opted for a second model of the existing 450-ton platform rather than a single, even larger AGV. As Schattenmann explains, “We will then transport the finished nacelles of the new turbines from final assembly to the test stand on the two 450-ton vehicles operating in tandem. The fact that Stäubli WFT has the technical expertise to enable synchronous operation of vehicles of this size is a great advantage for us. It allows us to use the vehicles individually or paired up for maximum flexibility.”

Robot manufacturer FANUC and intelligent waste management start-up Recycleye are together supporting UN Sustainability Goal No 11 (Sustainable Cities) by deploying modular robotic picking systems to material recovery facilities.

The robotic picking system helps improve the efficiency of sorting at the facilities and ensures meeting higher purity standards. To date, the limited availability of scalable recognition technologies has pushed the waste management industry towards a reliance on manual waste pickers to identify and extract high value materials. Together, FANUC and Recycleye have addressed this issue by delivering intelligent automation to the industry, combining Recycleye’s validated AI computer vision technology with FANUC’s 60+ years of experience in automation.

Recycleye Robotics performs the physical tasks of identifying, picking and placing material, at a rate of 55 successful picks per minute. The novel solution automates current manual operations and enables facilities to double their total throughput. FANUC’s team of expert automation engineers designed Recycleye Robotics to weigh 75 percent less than any existing robotic waste picker currently in the market. The plug-and-play installation eliminates traditional expensive retrofit costs.

© Recyleye

Recycleye Robotics is powered by Recycleye Vision, an AI vision system, which has been deployed across the UK and French markets, exceeding human vision in identifying and classifying all items on waste streams – by material, object and even brand. Recycleye Vision works to constantly train and learn new object detection, enabling for the robotic waste picking system to adapt to changing waste composition without any need for manual upgrades.

Japan is the world´s number one industrial robot manufacturer – delivering 45% of the global supply. In recent years, the country’s robot suppliers have increased their production capacity considerably: Their export ratio rose to 78% in 2020, when 136,069 industrial robots were shipped. These are results published by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) ahead of the International Robot Exhibition (iREX) in Tokyo, March 09 to 12, 2022.

“Exports of Japanese industrial robots on average had a compound annual growth rate of 6% in the last five years”, says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “At the same time, imports of robots have always been extremely low. In 2020, only 2% of Japanese installations were imported. The domestic Japanese robot market is the second largest in the world after China.”

Japan´s success in China

36% of the Japanese exports of robotics and automation technology were destined for China. Like other international robot suppliers, Japanese manufacturers also serve the Chinese market directly from their factories in China. These factories on the world´s largest market for industrial robots proved to be a major advantage in 2020, when international supply chains were disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese suppliers were able to benefit comprehensively from the Chinese post-crisis boom that started in the second quarter of 2020 and gained momentum in the second half of the year.

Rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic

With a market share of 22%, the United States is the other top market for Japanese exports of robotics and automation technology. Both countries – the US and China - are expected to further rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic. Together with the domestic market, the major export destinations will secure demand for Japanese robotics.

“Robots in Daily Life” - iREX Tokyo

“Japan is a highly robotized country and a global frontrunner in the use of robots for everyday life”, says Dr Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the International Federation of Robotics. “This year´s iREX exhibition in Tokyo will focus on ways towards a friendlier society, bridged by robots. iREX will display how robots are increasingly shaping our daily lives, e.g. by improving the quality and availability of the products we receive, the reduction of carbon emissions, health outcomes or care for elderly people.”

Downloads

For more background information about “Robots in Daily Life” – please download the Information Paper here.

iREX International Robot Exhibition Tokyo Big Sight, East Halls – March 9 – 12, 2022

The International Robot Exhibition was first held in 1974, and it has since been held once every two years, marking its 24th exhibition this year. The previous exhibition, held in 2019, saw participating exhibitors from 637 companies and organizations, with a total of 3060 booths which is the largest number ever. Exhibitors from outside Japan grew to 95 companies and organizations from 16 countries. Total visitor numbers exceeded 140,000 people, and the exhibition continued to capture attention from around the world as one of the largest robot trade shows in the world, with approximately 7,000 overseas visitors from 64 countries. This year, the fair will be held in a hybrid format for the first time: iREX

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

The International Federation of Robotics updated its paper on Artificial Intelligence in Robotics. The paper analyzes current applications of AI in robotic applications, future directions, and safety and certification considerations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great potential for robotics, enabling a range of benefits in sectors as diverse as manufacturing and healthcare. Though AI is already making its mark on robotics, it is at a much slower pace and in a far narrower field of application than is commonly assumed. This paper summarizes the most common applications of AI in robotics currently in commercial use and provides an overview of market potential over the next 5 to 10 years.

This paper looks at the most common uses of AI in commercial robotic applications and discusses market trends. It also discusses safety standards and regulation for AI in robotics. The impact of AI in robotics on work and jobs is also a topic. 

Download the paper for free at https://ifr.org/papers

After a successful kick-off during the ISR Europe 2020 virtual conference, the organizers continue to offer an attractive package deal to showcase your brand in the major digital event during the “week of automatica”.

The Business Track will offer invited speakers from the industry the opportunity to present current product developments. 

The business track package includes

  • 30-minute presentation slot for your technology – the focus should be on technical innovation and/or novel applications
  • Listing of your company as sponsor of ISR Europe 2022 (logo displayed on the ISR Europe 2022 website)
  • Use the best way to present your company on the event program and webpage.
  • Take advantage of the interactive communication at the conference with participants from industry, research and academia.
  • Reach a global audience with your presentation via live streaming.

For more details on the business track please proceed to the ISR webpage. 

About ISR Europe 2022

The 54th International Symposium on Robotics – ISR Europe 2022 will be held again in Munich, Germany on June 20/21, 2022.  ISR Europe 2022 takes place parallel to the automatica exhibition (June 21-24, 2022.). In two conference tracks and a poster session over two days, the ISR Europe 2022 will offer an insight into state-of-the-art robot technologies to participants from both industry and research. Selected conference topics include Modeling, Planning and Control, as well as Components and Technologies or Future Industrial and Service Robotics Applications. The special session for the IERA Award finalists rounds up the conference program.

Marina Bill has been appointed as new Vice President of the International Federation of Robotics with immediate effect. She represents IFR along with IFR President Milton Guerry.

The IFR Executive Board has elected Marina Bill as IFR Vice President, following Klaus Koenig’s resignation from his positions at IFR.  

Marina Bill is Global Head of Marketing and Sales Robotics at ABB, member of the IFR Executive Board and current Chair of the Robot Suppliers Committee.

"There hasn’t been a more exciting time to be in our industry than right now," states Marina after her election. "We are in a period of unprecedented transformation, for robotic automation itself, and in the rapid acceleration and adaptation of its use across a wide range of industry sectors.  I’m looking forward to help steer that transformation, through the IFR.”

Press contact

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

Downloads

The operational stock of industrial robots hit a new record of about 3 million units worldwide – increasing by 13% on average each year (2015-2020). The International Federation of Robotics analyzes the top 5 trends shaping robotics and automation around the globe.

“Transformation for robotic automation is picking up speed across traditional and new industries,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “More and more companies are realizing the numerous advantages robotics provides for their businesses.”

1 - Robots adopted by new industries

Segments that are relatively new to automation are rapidly adopting robots. Consumer behavior is driving companies to address demand for personalization of both products and delivery.

The e-commerce revolution was driven by the pandemic and will continue to accelerate in 2022. There are thousands of robots installed worldwide today that did not exist in this segment just five years ago.

In an effort to address labor shortages, companies that have not previously considered automation will reconsider. Businesses that rely on service workers, such as retail and restaurants, are unable to fill job openings, and as a result, we can expect to see them invest in automation to meet patrons’ needs. Relatively new robotics customer industries like delivery and logistics, construction, agriculture and many more benefit from technologies advancing by the day.

2 - Robots easier to use

Implementing robots can be a complex task, but new generations of robots are easier to use. There is a clear trend towards user interfaces that allow simple icon-driven programming and the manual guidance of robots. Robot companies and some 3rd party suppliers are bundling hardware packages together with software to ease implementation. This trend may seem simple, but offerings that focus on complete ecosystems are adding tremendous value by reducing the effort and the time to operation.

The trend for low-cost robotics also comes with easy setup and installation, with specific applications pre-configured in some instances. Suppliers offer standard programs combined with grippers, sensors, and controllers. App stores provide program routines for various applications and support lower-cost robot deployment.

3 - Robots and Humans up-skilling

More and more governments, industry associations, and companies are seeing the need for basic robot and automation education at an early stage for the next generation. The journey of data-driven production lines will focus on education and training. In addition to the training of workers in-house, external education routes can enhance staff learning programs. Robot manufacturers like ABB, FANUC, KUKA, and YASKAWA all register between 10,000 and 30,000 participants in their robot classes across more than 30 countries every year.

Robotics is changing job profiles of factory workers for the better. As the recent “Great Resignation” shows, people want to work in a modern environment where they can build a career. New training opportunities with robotics are a win-win strategy for companies and employees alike: Dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks get automated while people learn key skills for the industrial workplace of the future and increase their earning potential throughout their careers.

4 - Robots secure production

Trade tensions and COVID-19 are driving manufacturing back closer to the customer. Supply-chain issues lead companies to consider nearshoring with automation as a solution.

One particularly revealing statistic from the US shows how automation is helping businesses get back to business: According to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), robot orders in the United States in the third quarter of 2021 were up 35% over the same period in 2020. More than half of the orders are from non-automotive sectors.

And this record growth isn’t just robotics either—machine vision, motion control, and motors are also seeing big increases. “The pandemic and the resulting disruptions to supply chains and labor availability appear to have been the push that many needed to justify the investment,” says Dr. Susanne Bieller, General Secretary of the IFR. “The companies most likely to invest in automation are those that have been considering it for a while but just hadn’t taken the final step.”

5 - Robots support digital automation

In 2022 and beyond, we see an emphasis on data as key enablers of future manufacturing. Data collected from intelligently automated processes will be analyzed by producers to make more informed decisions. With a robot’s ability to share tasks and learn through AI, companies can also adopt intelligent automation more easily in new environments, from construction to food and beverage packaging facilities to healthcare labs.

AI for robotics is maturing and learning robots are becoming mainstream. The industry is past the pilot phase, and we can expect to see a larger deployment of these technologies in 2022. 

Press contact

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

Videos on YouTube

Downloads

Further robot pictures are availabe for download at our press area. 

The new 5-year plan for the robotics industry in China, released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in Beijing, focuses on promoting innovation - making China a global leader for robot technology and industrial advancement. The statistical department of the International Federation of Robotics reports about the domestic and foreign engagement on the world's largest market.

“China is by far the biggest robot market in the world regarding annual sales and the operational stock,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). “IFR´s robot density statistics is a useful indicator of China´s dynamic developments, counting the number of industrial robots per 10,000 employees: China´s robot density in the manufacturing industry currently ranks 9th globally (246 units) - compared to 25th (49 units) just five years ago.”

Automation Race in China

The automation race in China today is mainly catered by foreign robot manufacturers with a combined market share of 73%. With some volatility in the past 8 years, this share has been constant. In 2020, installations of robots from abroad - mainly imported from Japan, Korea and Europe - grew strongly by 24% to 123,030 units. This number also includes units produced in China by non-Chinese suppliers. Chinese robot manufacturers mainly deliver to their domestic market, where they held a market share of 27% in 2020 with 45,347 units shipped.

Second robotics development plan

“China released the second five-year development plan for the robotics industry – following 2016-2020,” says Song Xiaogang, Executive Director and Secretary-General of the China Robot Industry Alliance (CRIA). “The plan has great guiding significance for promoting the high-quality development of China's robotics industry during the 14th period. Robots are the key equipment of modern industry. The new 5-year plan leads the digital development and intelligent upgrading in China and also helps to promote the global robot technology progress.”

IFR China data overview - new peak in 2020

Sales

  • 168,377 new robots installed (thereof, 45,347 units from Chinese suppliers), 
    20% higher than in 2019
  • CAGR 2015-2020: +20%
  • Global ranking 2020: No.1
  • Shares of total supply: Handling operations 42%, welding 21% 
    electrical/electronics industry 37%, automotive industry 16%

Stock of operational robots

  • About 943,200 units, 21% higher than in 2019
  • CAGR 2015-2020: +30%
  • Global ranking 2020: No. 1

Please see also FACTS about Industrial Robots on our YouTube channel. 

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

The coronavirus crisis has caused untold damage to the personal health and finances of people throughout the world, as well as damaging national economies. However, industry has been able to play a key role in developing solutions that can mitigate the crisis.

For instance, the retail, manufacturing and public sectors are increasingly turning to innovative robotics, sensors and AI (artificial intelligence) technologies to ease the pressure on employees, accelerate processes and improve compliance with hygiene requirements. The Technical University of Darmstadt reports that the acceptance of robots has increased significantly in recent months.

Companies wanting to benefit from this trend need to act quickly and to form partnerships with organisations that have expertise in these areas. The power of such co-operation has been illustrated recently by the work carried out by German medical technology company, Senova, in conjunction with robotics experts from OMRON and mechanical engineering specialists from Kraus Maschinenbau GmbH. Senova is a leading developer and manufacturer of rapid test systems for marking biomarkers, viruses and microorganisms.

Senova brought the fi rst coronavirus antibody rapid test to the market inrecord time. © Senova

Working closely together over the past six months, the three companies have developed and built production machines that include smart robotics. These have automated, accelerated and improved the very time-consuming manual production of coronavirus antibody rapid tests. This met a vital need, as the increased testing of more and more people for the virus meant that the production of kits had to be hugely ramped up. At the same time, there needed to be more interlinked production and packaging.

The new, rapid antibody test

Senova specialises in lateral flow assay (LFA) technology. Some 30 employees are involved in the research, development, production, sales, logistics, quality management and assurance. Senova’s most recent - and most popular - product is a rapid COVID-19 antibody test. This shows within ten minutes whether someone has already been infected with the virus.

An international research team, including the Jena Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT), developed the test. It has been available since spring 2020. A blood sample shows whether someone is currently infected with the virus or is already immune. There are two types of antibodies. The IgM antibodies are found in the blood a few days after infection, whilst IgG antibodies are only formed during the course of the infection. They often remain detectable for months and indicate an existing immunity.

This enables people including caregivers, nurses or doctors to find out whether they are immune to the virus. The research team completed the tests together with Chinese partners and a medical device distributor, Servoprax, and confirmed their effectiveness. As a result, Senova brought the first coronavirus antibody rapid test to the market in record time.

The need to boost production

Due to the worldwide demand for the new tests, Senova needs to produce them in ever-increasing quantities. The previous manual production and packaging of the test kits was unable to keep up with the thousands of order requests. The company therefore needed a more flexible, faster and more reliable way of manufacturing and packaging the test kits – all within a very tight timescale. A machine would ease the pressure on employees by streamlining and combining the various work steps (such as cutting the test strips and packaging) much more efficiently. The concept and implementation needed to be carried out particularly quickly to meet the demand - and to help contain the spread of the virus.

Joachim Kraus, Managing Director of Kraus Maschinenbau GmbH, comments on the start of the project: “Senova asked how the feeding of the packaging pouches could be automated in the best possible way. In the following discussions, we worked with the customer to develop an overall concept for feeding and packaging the test cassettes for the rapid antibody test.” 

This new concept was rapidly approved. But that’s not all: following the design review, the co-operation between the two companies was expanded further. The precise cutting of the test strips and the subsequent transfer of the section and the insertion of the cut into the test cassette are now performed by machines from Kraus Maschinenbau. These are complemented by robotics and technology from OMRON, a partner of Kraus for 11 years.

Handling the blanks with a size of 3.5 to 5.0mm proved to be a particular challenge, but this was solved after a few adjustments. With the help of the new machine, 30 to 45 rapid coronavirus tests can now be cut and packaged per minute. As the demand is so great, the capacity must be continuously increased, so more machines are now planned. Production currently runs for six days a week, from 7am to 10pm.

OMRON’s robots provide precise material handling

The tests (which look similar to a pregnancy test) are produced using machines from Kraus, along with OMRON’s eCobra600 robots, Quattro 650 H four-axis parallel robots, OMRON TM5-700 cobots, PLC controls, drives and sensors. Due to the increased production volume, OMRON has already delivered additional eCobra600 Pros and integrated them into the production line. These robots are particularly reliable, flexible and powerful. 

Components of the flexible COVID-19 test kit production include the Quattro 650 H four-axis parallel robots. © Omron

The SCARA robots are ideal for the precise processing, assembly and material handling used in medical technology. The four-axis robot has a range of up to 800mm and can be easily adapted for different applications, such as test production. The eCobra technology also offers high repeatability and a payload of up to 5.5kg. The amplifiers and controllers built into the robot reduce the number of cables needed. The overhead mounting configuration enables the efficient use of space, even in clean rooms, which are so essential in the medical technology environment.

The SCARA robots are ideal for the precise processing, assembly andmaterial handling used in medical technology. © Omron

The control and drive of the cutting and packaging machines also comes from OMRON, and is built into the production lines of Kraus Maschinenbau. Further components of the flexible COVID-19 test kit production include the Quattro 650 H four-axis parallel robots. These can be controlled by Ethernet, using the familiar programming language (IEC 61131-3) of the NX / NJ machine controllers. The four-axis arm distributes the load evenly to the robot, which supports fast and high-precision transport and assembly. The Quattro robots are designed for high payloads and multi-hand applications: several parts can be picked up at the same time. This also accelerates the production of the coronavirus test.

Cobot eases pressure on employees

But that‘s not all: another technology used in Senova‘s production line is the OMRON TM5-700 cobot. This is specially designed to work with people and machines. It can be easily transported and has an integrated image processing system, which enables quick start-ups and product changes. Due to the intuitive software, the cobot can be taught different tasks. For example, it relieves employees of recurring tasks involving test cutting and packaging and helps to increase productivity. The integrated vision camera and lighting technology enables objects to be detected precisely in a wide field of view. This system helps Senova to increase reliability, consistency and precision (e.g. in pick-and-place processes). Other functions available include pattern and colour recognition and barcode reading.

But how are the test strips cut and packaged? First, the preliminary products are fed to the line. They are then separated, positioned and placed in a servo linear unit. The product can then be positioned under the cutting knife and cut precisely. The robot inserts the blank into the plastic test cassette and assembles the front and back. The machine for packaging the rapid antibody tests then takes over the test cassettes.

The pre-assembled packaging pouches are separated by a JoKer friction feeder and dispensed onto the packaging machine. A labeler applies the labels with the relevant product data to the pouch. Another robot takes the test cassette from the upstream machine, transfers it in a special form and inserts it into the pouch. Finally, the bag is closed by thermal sealing and transferred to the delivery belt. 

Christoph Waldenmeier, Sales Project Consultant at OMRON Industrial Automation Europe, comments: “During the past six months of the coronavirus crisis, the co-operation with Senova and Kraus has continued to develop. The latest generation of COVID-19 tests are now produced in a new production hall. The production lines are fully equipped with OMRON technology.“

He adds: “We are pleased that we can use our technology to support the global efforts in the fight against the coronavirus to a small extent. In times like these and in a flexible production of the future, co-operation is the be-all and end-all.“ Joachim Kraus adds: “The fast and uncomplicated implementation of this challenging project was only possible thanks to the perfect interaction and good chemistry between the customer, machine builder and system and control supplier.“

Another year is coming to an end - a year of many ups and downs. In January, there were hopes around the globe for a return to normal. In the recent weeks, Europe is speeding towards new lockdowns and restrictive measures to fight the pandemic. Last-minute cancellations of trade fairs felt more like the prior year. At the same time, China seems to have the situation under control by compromising freedom of travel and other restrictive measures intended to keep infections low.

Dear Reader,

Another year is coming to an end - a year of many ups and downs. In January, there were hopes around the globe for a return to normal. In the recent weeks, Europe is speeding towards new lockdowns and restrictive measures to fight the pandemic. Last-minute cancellations of trade fairs felt more like the prior year. At the same time, China seems to have the situation under control by compromising freedom of travel and other restrictive measures intended to keep infections low.

2021 brought about the phrase "new normal", but we long for the "old normal", being able to travel freely and meet each other in person.

Looking to our market there are encouraging signs.  Robotic sales are on the rise. A record 3 million industrial robots are operating in factories around the world. Despite the global pandemic, robot sales grew slightly in 2020 at a rate of +0.5%. China led the rebound ahead of the Americas and Europe. Overall, 2020 was the third most successful year on record for the robotics industry. The outlook for 2021 is even more optimistic with a double-digit growth projected.

Several market trends are propelling the growth outlook. Localization and regionalization of supply chains will make them more resilient by bringing production closer to the customer. New business models such as Robots-as-a-service (RaaS) or Pay-as-you-use lower entry barriers. The growing supply of low-cost robots will further reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) opening robot usage in new markets. Lastly, “Batch size 1” production allows customized product variations at the unit costs of serial production. These trends will be a driver for advanced robotics systems and provide a platform for fully digitalized production from order to delivery. The case for robots has never been stronger.

Looking to COP 26, sustainability in manufacturing is no longer a "nice-to have". This initiative will increasingly impact investment decisions where robotics have a multitude of impact:

First, robots are crucial for cost-efficient production of green technology, for example solar panels and batteries for electric vehicles.

Second, robotic production reduces the share of rejects, lowering the carbon footprint by improving input-output ratios.

Third, robot manufacturers play a crucial role in further reducing the overall energy consumption of production systems, by designing energy-efficient units and end-of-arm tools.

With a bit of luck, 2022 will be the year where we are back meeting face to face, with all three major international robotics events taking place within the first six months. We are looking forward to our industry coming together again for lively discussions, Executive Roundtables and physical IFR meetings.

I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a happy and successful start to the New Year.

Milton Guerry
IFR President

Sun Chemical, a member of the DIC group, is a leading producer of printing inks, coatings and supplies, pigments, polymers, liquid compounds, solid compounds, and application materials. Together with DIC, Sun Chemical has annual sales of more than $7.5 billion and over 20,000 employees supporting customers around the world. At its production site in Frankfurt am Main Sun Chemical manufactures printing inks for direct delivery of products to customers in Europe and the rest of the world. In the summer of 2019, Sun Chemical implemented a new robotic application in Frankfurt to support its continued growth.

Recently, the demands on the production capacities at Sun Chemical in Frankfurt am Main increased considerably, so that the need for appropriate automation quickly became clear and was also confirmed by the US group management. The goal of the new solution: to achieve a sustainable improvement in the efficiency and productivity of existing processes.  

The premises in an industrial area in the eastern part of Frankfurt posed several challenges for the planning: The limited space in the older building had already been used to a considerable extent, the floor was partly uneven, the ceiling was low and there was a wide window front directly behind the future robot cell. Nevertheless, the new robot system had to be integrated into the existing production and a smooth pallet transfer had to be possible.

Becker Sonder-Maschinenbau and Kawasaki Robotics were Chosen

Initial contact with the system house and robot manufacturer was established at Fachpack 2018 in Nuremberg. While offers were also obtained from Denmark, Spain and Italy, the choice quickly fell on Becker Sonder- Sun Chemical in Frankfurt am Main Maschinenbau and Kawasaki Robotics after the initial meeting at the trade fair.

The presence in Germany was definitely a decisive factor: high quality and flexibility, reliability as well as the local proximity of the Becker Group were important.  

In particular, maintenance and fast support are enormously important for smooth operation of the plant and long-term investment security. Becker Sonder-Maschinenbau has been working with Kawasaki Robotics products for a long time, and the customer was also quickly convinced of the quality and reliability of the robots. 

Shortly after the FachPack, Sebastian de Man, Division Manager Robotics of Becker Sonder-Maschinenbau, visited Sun Chemical for the first time and got an idea of the requirements, production and infrastructure on site. After examining several options, the order was placed in April 2019 and the new system was already commissioned in October of the same year.  

It has not been the first experience with robots for Sun Chemical in Frankfurt: For several years now, a cartesian robot with three linear axes from a Danish manufacturer has been used elsewhere in the production facility. However, the 5-axis jointed-arm palletizing robot from Kawasaki Robotics clearly surpasses it in terms of precision, flexibility and working range.  

Production at Sun Chemical Frankfurt is usually run in two shifts and can be run through the new robot cell without interruption. However, three shifts are also possible at any time if required and are used regularly depending on the required production volume. The robot-supported system allows maximum throughput without breaks. 

Manuel Krause, Engineering & Maintenance Manager Germany at Sun Chemical, explains: "With two shifts, automation by robots definitely pays off. For three shifts it is absolutely essential".

8 to 10 buckets per minute and up to 12,000 kg of paint per day

The finished ink is filled into 3 kilogram buckets, sealed and automatically labelled.  

A Kawasaki RD080N robot is equipped with a specially designed vacuum gripper and transports the closed, labelled buckets to a waiting pallet. With a maximum payload of 80 kg and a reach of 2,100 mm, the RD080N is designed specifically for palletizing applications. With industry leading work range and reliability, the high-speed palletizing robot helps companies improve production line efficiency.

The vacuum gripper reliably picks up the paint buckets © Kawasaki Robotics

As soon as the pallet is completely loaded, it is removed by an employee via a roller conveyor for film wrapping as well as further loading and replaced by an empty pallet. The robot can resume operation immediately after the change. 

Particularly good for long-term planning: the system and the robot are currently running at only 50 to 80 percent of the available maximum capacity - there is still plenty of room to adapt to increasing requirements.

The system forms the end of the production process and can quickly become the bottleneck of production. But since it has been commissioned, the production capacity has been consistently higher.

Relief for the employees 

In addition to increasing production capacity and long-term cost savings, the focus was also on relieving the ergonomic strain on employees. The handling of the paint buckets, the pallets as well as the regular readjustment were challenging for the employees in the long run - especially for older colleagues or those with physical complaints.  

Despite initial scepticism, the system and the robot were quickly accepted and appreciated by all employees, reports Manuel Krause: "The solution must be robust and reliable - then it will be accepted. And if it is not too complex and makes the daily work of our colleagues easier, even more so". 

The next robot cell is already in development

The next step in the automation of Sun Chemical's Frankfurt production is already planned: A similarly designed robotic cell for palletizing the paint buckets - but with two parallel feeders. At present, a manual feeder is used at the point of production, but this will be automated together with a second one in the future.  

The new double-deck palletizer - an innovation at Sun Chemical - will reduce downtime to a minimum. If the employee removing the finished pallet is on a break or otherwise not present, the system will stop until the pallet is removed. "This can take up to 30-40 minutes in individual cases - valuable time in production and filling. With the new system, the robot can continue packing even when the pallet is full and the system can continue to run around the clock," says Krause.  

A centrally positioned Kawasaki robot takes over the palletising. The new system will also have directly integrated labelling and will also handle larger containers and other coloured products. This would also significantly reduce the workload of employees. Becker Sonder-Maschinenbau is currently implementing the design and first tests - the commissioning of the new system is planned for late 2020. 

The use of industrial robots in factories around the world is accelerating at a high rate: 126 robots per 10,000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries – nearly double the number five years ago (2015: 66 units). This is according to the 2021 World Robot Report.

By regions, the average robot density in Asia/Australia is 134 units, in Europe 123 units and in the Americas 111 units. The top 5 most automated countries in the world are: South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Sweden. 

“Robot density is the barometer to track the degree of automation adoption in the manufacturing industry around the world,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

Asia

The development of robot density in China is the most dynamic worldwide: Due to the significant growth of robot installations, the density rate rose from 49 units in 2015 to 246 units in 2020. Today, China’s robot density ranks 9th globally compared to 25th just five years ago.

Asia is also the home of the country with the world´s highest robot density in the manufacturing industry: the Republic of Korea has held this position since 2010. The country’s robot density exceeds the global average seven-fold (932 units per 10,000 workers). Robot density had been increasing by 10% on average each year since 2015. With its globally recognized electronics industry and a distinct automotive industry, the Korean economy is based on the two largest areas for industrial robots.

Singapore takes second place with a rate of 605 robots per 10,000 employees in 2020. Singapore’s robot density had been growing by 27% on average each year since 2015.

Japan ranked third in the world: In 2020, 390 robots were installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry. Japan is the world´s predominant industrial robot manufacturer: The production capacity of Japanese suppliers reached 174,000 units in 2020. Today, Japan´s manufacturers deliver 45% of the global robot supply.

North America

Robot density in the United States rose from 176 units in 2015 to 255 units in 2020. The country ranks seventh in the world – ahead of Chinese Taipei (248 units) and China (246 units). The modernization of domestic production facilities has boosted robot sales in the United States. The use of industrial robots also aids to achieve decarbonization targets e.g. in the cost-efficient production of solar panels and in the continued transition towards electric vehicles. Several car manufacturers have announced investments to further equip their factories for new electric drive car models or to increase capacity for battery production. These major projects will create demand for industrial robots in the next few years.

Europe

Europe´s most automated country is Germany - ranking 4th worldwide with 371 units. The annual supply had a share of 33% of total robot sales in Europe 2020 - 38% of Europe’s operational stock is in Germany. The German robotics industry is recovering, mainly driven by strong overseas business rather than by the domestic or European market. Robot demand in Germany is expected to grow slowly, mainly supported by demand for low-cost robots in the general industries and outside traditional manufacturing.

France has a robot density of 194 units (ranking 16th in the world), which is well above the global average of 126 robots and relatively similar compared to other EU countries like Spain (203 units), Austria (205 units) or The Netherlands (209 units). EU members like Sweden (289 units), Denmark (246 units) or Italy (224 units), have a significantly higher degree of automation in the manufacturing segment.

As the only G7 country – the UK has a robot density below the world average of 126 units with 101 units, ranking 24th. Five years ago, the UK´s robot density was 71 units. The exodus of foreign labor after Brexit increased the demand for robots in 2020. This situation is expected to prevail in near future, the modernization of the UK manufacturing industry will also be boosted by massive tax incentives, the “super-deduction”: From April 2021 until March 2023, companies can claim 130% of capital allowances as a tax relief for plant and machinery investments.

 

Please see also FACTS about Industrial Robots on our YouTube channel. 

IFR Press contact

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

 

Downloads

VOLA, a Danish manufacturer of luxury sanitary and kitchen fittings, has opened a new factory that incorporates a fleet of nine mobile robots from OMRON. This represents one of the most ambitious industrial mobile robot projects in the Nordics. The new robot fleet works side-by-side with people, and is controlled by an advanced fleet management system.

With over 50 years of experience, VOLA is one of Denmark’s leading manufacturers of high-quality sanitary fittings, with product lines such as bathroom mixers and kitchen taps. Due to increasing market demand for a wide range of product variants, VOLA decided to expand its plant by 5,500 square meters. This area includes a new high-bay warehouse, an assembly hall and facilities for the delivery of goods.

In one of the most ambitious projects involving industrial mobile robots in Northern Europe, VOLA commissioned a fleet of nine OMRON LD robots. These have replaced roller conveyors, leading to a more flexible production and logistics set-up that matches the company’s single-piece production process, in which everything is produced to order.

Peder Nygaard, factory director at VOLA, explains: “Roller conveyors are really efficient, but I don't know what our production set-up will look like in ten years. If we installed more conveyors in the production line, we could quickly compromise the flexibility on which we pride ourselves. That’s why we’ve chosen the autonomous robots from OMRON, as these are much more flexible.”  

Seamless control of the robots

The robots have been tasked with transporting components and finished items back and forth between the high-bay warehouse and assembly hall. The robots are controlled by the OMRON Enterprise Manager - a unique fleet management system which, like a control tower at an airport, ensures a smooth flow of traffic. The system tells each individual robot where and when to move, including when it’s time to take a break to charge its batteries.

“There are only a few robot manufacturers that are able to handle the advanced fleet management of so many robots. The solution by OMRON is by far the best that we’ve seen in the market, and this is why we opted for the LD mobile robots,” says Peder Nygaard.

Seamless collaboration between people and robots

To take full advantage of its investment, VOLA designed the new factory so that it is ideal for collaboration between people and robots. For example, the locations of the mounting tables and walkways are designed for safety, convenience and the free movement of both people and robots.  

The workflow has also been designed to ensure the perfect alignment of the tasks of the workers and the robots. Previously, the assembly staff would call up a job list on their screen but this is now managed by the central team. The job list will appear on the employee's screen onc they have scanned the item that the robot is transporting.

The LD mobile robot fleet works seamlessly alongside people working in the facility © OMRON

A novel implementation

“We are implementing something that hasn’t been seen before. That is why we also recognize that there will be an adjustment period when we have to ensure that our employees become used to collaborating with the robots,” says Peder Nygaard.

According to OMRON’s Area Sales Manager, Thomas Jansen, the project has taught him a lot. “Implementing mobile robots may be seen simply as a question of plug-and-play. However, we need to make sure that aspects such as the production layout, logistics and organization are taken into account in the planning phase."

The nine mobile robots at VOLA are scheduled to be supplemented by eight more robots in the next phase of the project.

The spread of COVID-19 is restricting people's activities, having a devastating effect on all industries. Under these circumstances, the resumption of travel by people for economic recovery has become an urgent social issue of concern not only for Japan but also for governments and industries around the world.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, together with Medicaroid Co., Ltd. and Sysmex Corporation, has been working since the early stages of the spread of COVID-19 to develop an automated PCR testing system using robots to protect healthcare workers from infection risks.

This system automates and automates processes that involve infection risks using robots to protect the safety of medical personnel and to implement the procedures from the acceptance of specimens to the notification of test results in a short time (within 80 minutes) in cooperation with hospitals.

The system also packages the inspection system into 40 foot containers (processing capacity per container: 2,000 samples/16 hours), making it easy to move to a place where many people gather, and by increasing or decreasing the number of units, it is possible to flexibly respond to the number of inspections required.

The use of general-purpose robots makes it easy to change the process, making it applicable to various infectious diseases such as influenza.

First, Kawasaki started introducing pre-flight inspections at international airports in order to recover demand in the airline industry, which has been greatly affected by the decrease in international traffic. On September 22, 2021, the PCR Test Service for International Departure Passengers started at the PCR Test Center opened in Kansai International Airport (KIX) with Kansai International Airport Clinic of Kinki University School of Medicine.

With this service, the inspection time at the airport can be significantly shortened, and a negative certificate can be issued in as little as three hours from the reception of the PCR test.

In addition, by installing them at stations and at venues for sports and large-scale events, Kawasaki will contribute to the recovery of people's traffic and the elimination of restrictions on activities, and to the resumption and restoration of economic activities.

Features of the Mobile Automated PCR Testing System

  1. Reduced time with the default PCR test, a method already recognized in the world (testing in 80 minutes or less)
  2. Robotic automation and automation reduce the burden on physicians and healthcare professionals
  3. Simplifies operation and saves personnel while ensuring safety by remote control
  4. Mass production at the request of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Medical Association
  5. Space-saving (Inspection system fits in 40 foot container and can be moved)

In this case, due to the introduction of the door/hood/lid assembly and adjustment line, the full automatic assembly has been realized for the four doors, engine hood, trunk lid, bumpers, and bolts in the vehicle, thus achieving the goal of changing about 80 production workers from heavy manual laborers to skilled operators, and reduced the labor cost of the production enterprise by about RMB 15.6 million every year.

This case promotes the intelligent development of the automotive industry, ensures a sustainable consumption and production mode, and promotes inclusive and sustainable industrial development by innovating manufacturing technology.

The body-in-white door/hood/lid production line is the production line with the most challenging automatic integration in the automotive field. This time, Risong Technology launched the leading automatic, intelligent and flexible door/hood/lid production line and took the lead in mass production. Adopting all-round high-tech automation schemes—"Intelligent Visual Guidance Technology", "Intelligent Tightening Technology" and "Intelligent Quality Control Technology", with many core technologies reaching the international advanced level, the assembly line belongs to the model line case of intelligent manufacturing industry.

© Risong Technology

The production line includes processes such as automatic grabbing from the EMS line in the air, automatic calibration, gap measurement, visual guidance, automatic tightening assembly, quality monitoring, and torque monitoring, and deeply integrates intelligent elements such as laser and binocular vision, automatic tightening system, information monitoring system, flexible NC, high-speed conveying, and intelligent IoT. The entire line is fully automated by NC fixtures, and the shuttle system is used for body conveying, thus realizing the automatic assembly for the four doors, engine hood, trunk lid, and rear bumper in the takt time of 54 second/unit, automatic tightening of 64 screws, 4-second station conveying, and mixed line production for 8 models, with an annual production capacity of 200,000 units. It is of innovative and advanced significance to have achieved a high automation rate, high production efficiency, high production quality and high flexibility of automatic assembly.

Ultra-high-speed conveying technology assists high-efficiency assembly in 54 seconds/unit

It is difficult for people to travel at high speed under extreme load, but robots can do so with the help of technology.

Risong Technology applied the self-developed ultra-high-speed conveying technology to the assembly and adjustment line of the door/hood lid of the vehicle body, and adopted the reciprocating circular conveying device; through the developed two forms of lifting in the middle of the body and lifting the doorsills on both sides, and through the auxiliary motion control unit cooperating with the multiservo drive system, the assembly and adjustment line has achieved high-speed and accurate conveying, and created a record of conveying among 18 work items of the body in white in 4 seconds! The assembly line not only ensures the stable conveying, but also has the advantages of adapting to multi-model production and occupying a small space, which greatly improves the production efficiency! The entire line is able to complete the intelligent assembly of the four doors, engine hood, and trunk lid for one unit of vehicle in 54 seconds.

© Risong Technology

Mixed line production for 8 models satisfied the challenging customization requirements

In the era of high-speed operation and constant change, people's pursuit of vehicle models is also changing with each passing day, and the demand for high elasticity, flexibility and customization of automotive manufacturing becomes inevitable. The NC flexible positioning system developed by Risong Technology enables the assembly line to realize the collinear production of any vehicle model, random mixing and seamless switching in the production process. The assembly and adjustment line is provided with more than 230 sets of flexible NC positioning systems, which are capable of seamlessly positioning and grabbing the body chassis and door/hood/lid of each vehicle model, thus realizing fully automatic and random switching, satisfying the requirement of random mixed collinear production for 8 vehicles, and realizing the maximum production efficiency in the minimum space.

The flexible mixed production for 8 models is a big challenge for the assembly and adjustment line. The mass production in the door/hood/lid area needs to be matched with the mixed production in the assembly line exactly item by item. In the project, through nearly 100 logic programs in each location, with the help of vehicle type identification and vehicle type information conveyed by MES, each door is intelligently and automatically matched and then conveyed to the assembly line, thus realizing the intelligent system. The flexible technology can be controlled independently, so that automotive manufacturers can easily adjust the takt time, production models, etc., achieve high flexibility and high customization, and reduce production costs such as the costs in updating automotive manufacturing devices and upgrading personnel skills.

3D vision technology realizes efficient machine intelligence

While human visual recognition is limited, machine vision can be accurate and precise. In unmanned intelligent manufacturing, machine vision plays a major part in ensuring that the production quality reaches the standard. The assembly and adjustment line consists of 4 sets of vision systems, and the 3D laser vision accuracy is as high as 0.1 mm. The vision guidance technology sends the deviation value to the robot controller after the accurate comparison of the measured images with calculation, automatically corrects and compensates the robot's motion trajectory, and guides the robot to the accurate actual working position, thus realizing the accurate grabbing and positioning of the mounting holes of the vehicle body, the door and the door hinge, and the accurate measurement and assembly of the door frame of the vehicle body. The machine vision intelligent assembly technology developed by Risong Technology has the characteristics of a large measuring range, good flexibility, and high precision; it can realize automatic assembly with a high automation rate, high production efficiency, high production quality, and high flexibility.

© Risong Technology

The "quality door system" becomes a model of intelligent IoT to achieve the optimal production quality

In terms of quality control, the "quality door system" introduced along with the assembly and adjustment line is a model of intelligent IoT. The system collects all quality information of the entire production line and sends it to the cloud platform to form a complete data feedback and monitoring database. By comparing and analyzing the fluctuation through big data, the assembly quality of each vehicle body can be traced at any time, and the information of each production cycle can be monitored, thus forming a complete closed-loop production line system from automatic production to quality monitoring and feedback. Furthermore, the defect removal and process optimization are completed, which ultimately improves the automotive manufacturing quality and increases the manufacturing efficiency, while effectively avoiding the possible loss due to device failure.

Contributions to UN's Sustainable Development Goals

In this case, through innovative and advanced manufacturing technologies, it promotes the intelligent development of the automotive industry, ensures sustainable consumption and production patterns, and promotes inclusive and sustainable industrial development. It also further strengthens the implementation methods of sustainable development and activates the global partnership for sustainable development through technological innovation and global promotion and popularization of new production technologies. It complies with Articles 9, 12 and 17 of Sustainable Development Goals.

To promote the digitalization, networking and intelligent transformation of enterprises and accelerate the integration of manufacturing and Internet, Risong Technology has established a remote operation and maintenance platform for robotic and intelligent devices based on remote operation and maintenance of robots and aiming at process data management.

I. Background

The project case was developed by Guangzhou Risong Intelligent Technology Holding Co., Ltd., and was selected as the application direction of platform integration innovation for the 2020 Industrial Internet Pilot Demonstration Project of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. To promote the digitalization, networking and intelligent transformation of enterprises and accelerate the integration of manufacturing and Internet, Risong Technology has established a remote operation and maintenance platform for robotic and intelligent devices based on remote operation and maintenance of robots and aiming at process data management. The platform integrates technologies such as the device cloud platform and process expert database, and can provide customers with services such as device status monitoring, operation and maintenance order management, spare parts management, fault statistical analysis, spot check and tour inspection, remote operation and maintenance assistance, etc., thus enhancing customer service experience and increasing customer engagement, from selling devices alone to providing customers with digitalized factory overall solutions. Therefore, the corporate competitiveness and profitability are improved. The implementation of the industrial Internet platform project has helped us realize the transition from the traditional on-site service to the remote robotic operation and maintenance plus mobile app service, greatly reducing the number of business trips and reducing carbon emissions. The number of after-sales service personnel has been reduced by 30%, thus saving labor costs and enhancing the sustainable corporate competitiveness.

The project provides an efficient technology for remote cooperation and communication based on the industrial Internet platform, integrating the industrial Internet, cloud computation technology, mobile communication, etc., with the remote device operation and maintenance as the target application scenario, and has developed a remote device operation and maintenance system, providing reliable data bases for operation and maintenance service personnel through the cloud platform, and effectively solving some common difficulties and tricky points in the operation and maintenance processes of the industry.

In this project, artificial intelligence technology is applied to industrial application scenarios, and advanced AI technology is used to guide and assist actual production, thus reducing labor costs and improving production and management efficiency of enterprises. As the foundation of industrial artificial intelligence, huge amounts of high-quality operation, maintenance and process data is particularly important for intelligent manufacturing enterprises to become digitalized and smarter. According to its rich experience in the industry and advanced information technology, Risong Technology has developed a process management platform based on IT-based management methods, which can effectively manage all kinds of data generated in the production process, and with overall consideration of historical data, recommend the optimal parameters according to the target scenarios, effectively improving the accuracy of parameter selection, reducing the rejection rate and shortening the time for launching customers' new products, and fully activating and utilizing the company's invisible data assets.

Functional Block Diagram of Risong Technology Remote Operation and Maintenance Platform © Risong Technology

II. Main Practices

1. Methods and measures

Firstly, by combining the experience of engineers with information management technology, the process management platform can help enterprises effectively manage the process data involved in various industries and processing methods, and fully solve the problem of lack of effective management methods due to the wide range of processes involved.

Secondly, besides process data, the process management platform also provides data sheets such as the device library, joint library, and knowledge base to help enterprises manage more process data. In addition, the process database utilizes the process data accumulation by Risong Technology for years and advanced artificial intelligence technology to further develop the automatic planning of path and process parameters on the traditional process management platform, and automatically complete the functions of process design, process flow optimization, and quality prediction, so that enterprises can obtain direct practical value from the data, and the accumulated data can guide the process links, reduce the production and management costs of enterprises, and promote the transformation of enterprises into digital and digital-driven enterprises.

The remote operation and maintenance module of Risong Technology Industrial Internet Platform integrates the knowledge base of Risong Technology robot corrective maintenance, which can effectively support Risong Technology's field engineers, partners and customers in detecting, checking and dealing with various problems in the operation of devices.

2. Main work

The process database expert system independently developed by Risong is based on artificial intelligence technology. It realizes automatic planning of path and process parameters through machine learning and deep learning, and automatically completes process design, process flow optimization and quality prediction. According to the process qualification data and production verification data, the database can carry out self-learning based on the Internet of Things, using controllers and sensors to acquire all kinds of parameters and quality data, constantly improving the database, and realizing self-adaptive and self-adjusting advanced process technology through artificial intelligence technology.

3. Issues to be solved

The service objects, service scenarios and issues of the project include but are not limited to: (1) For device manufacturers: improving after-sales efficiency and reduce after-sales costs, increasing after-sales revenue, improving sales of devices and accessories, and providing big data support for product improvement. (2) For device users and operators: improving production efficiency and reducing energy consumption, preventing device failure and reducing losses, improving operational efficiency and reducing maintenance costs, improve product quality and reducing production ramp-up time, and reducing production cost.

The platform can interact remotely to effectively reduce the contact frequency between people and the spread probability of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, when the pandemic is still raging, it can play an important role in ensuring the normal operation of customers' site devices, showing strong resilience. Different from the traditional site-oriented face-to-face operation and maintenance assistance, the platform fundamentally eliminates the possible spread of the COVID-19, so it ensures the health of operation and maintenance personnel and service personnel, and at the same time effectively ensures the normal operation of customer site devices. In the face of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to innovative operation and maintenance methods, the platform is not affected by the pandemic at all, and it is full of resilience.

The platform can significantly improve the timeliness and economy of the platform's participation in corporate operation and maintenance businesses, reduce energy waste and effectively reduce carbon emissions. Traditional operation and maintenance methods require operation and maintenance service personnel to provide on-site services for customers. For both Party A and Party B, the timeliness and economy of operation and maintenance services are not high. For Party A, failure to locate and solve problems the first time when faults occur means device downtime, which means idling of other devices and letting personnel waiting. For Party B, whether arranging personnel for long-term on-site attendance or on-site service after problems occur, it means the additional transportation cost and the waste of effective working hours. For traditional service organizations or departments, the annual transportation cost is a high-expenditure item. All these can be effectively solved after the emergence of the remote operation and maintenance mode. In the remote operation and maintenance mode, after problems occur, the timeliness of operation and maintenance services is greatly improved, and Party B's transportation cost can be greatly reduced. The improvement in energy efficiency of Party A and Party B will eventually translate into the reduction of energy consumption, thus effectively reducing carbon emissions.

III. Effectiveness and Experience

1. Characteristic achievements

Compared with the existing traditional process database, Risong Technology's process management platform covers a wider range of industries, involving more comprehensive processing methods and processes, and incorporates the expert system based on process big data into the database, which not only realizes efficient data management, but also realizes information extraction from data to guide the processes for improving production efficiency.

With a wider range of industry standards and data and full coverage of all kinds of process specification parameters, the real omni-directional, multi-angle, and high-efficiency data management is realized.

With "data-driven" as the core idea, the functions of self-learning, self-adaptation and self-adjustment are realized to a great extent using artificial intelligence technology and advanced process technology.

The establishment of the process management platform is, so to speak, able to meet the needs of enterprises for data management, and at the same time, it can generate direct guidance for the process through the expert system to help reduce production costs and improve efficiency. With its knowledge and experience in manufacturing technology, management technology and information technology application, the project is obviously advantageous in competitiveness.

With this project, Risong Technology can share and exchange on-site experience with its partners and customers, and form a knowledge system of device operation failure among them, so that the three can fully communicate in the system, and make use of the advantages of the Internet, so that more customers can experience more efficient and considerate on-site support services.

2. Experience that can be replicated and popularized

Based on the industrial Internet, the project can form solutions such as remote device operation and maintenance and process management, solve key problems such as process optimization and intelligent tour inspection, and form application cases in automotive equipment and construction machinery industries, and has the feasibility of being promoted to other industries.

This project can accelerate the transformation of the manufacturing production mode, management mode and business paradigm, and help improve the quality of manufacturing products and services. After the first demonstration of the project technology, its technology and application mode can be extended to many fields such as aviation, aerospace, shipbuilding, machinery, automotive, electronics and electricity. The project is of important theoretical significance and practical engineering value.

On the basis of comprehensive consideration of advancement, operability, economy, industrialization and other factors, the research scheme and technical route are formulated based on the relevant research results of the relatively mature and advanced technology and the existing corporate technical solutions. Through pilots and demonstration, new models and formats that can be replicated and promoted will be formed, promoting the innovative development of the industrial Internet and artificial intelligence.

Contributions to UN's Sustainable Development Goals

The project establishes resilient infrastructure, promotes inclusive and sustainable industrial development, and ensures sustainable consumption and production patterns by accelerating innovation. In addition, it also further strengthens the implementation methods of sustainable development and activates the global partnership for sustainable development through technological innovation and global promotion and popularization of new production technologies. It complies with Articles 9, 12 and 17 of Sustainable Development Goals. 

Handling tasks are one of the most typical task executed by robots. So far, programming and setup costs are still quite high and worthwhile for low mix high volume (LMHV) productions.

But what if, in times of increasingly personalized production, the variety of parts increases? Often, these efforts become uneconomical. The same applies to the use of robots in warehouses, logistics centers, or in the retail trade: The variety of articles is extremely high and teaching in each individual object that a robot should be able to grasp is too costly.

In this context, AI technologies can make robots more autonomous and more flexible and enable new applications. Automation solutions become economically feasible even under challenging conditions. Researchers from Fraunhofer IPA are showing what such an example might look like in the deep picking project. Among other things, they are working with the company »Premium Robotics« and develop AI-based image processing solutions that enable robots to recognize and grip unknown packaging units on pallets.

In the past, classical image processing approaches that require a high degree of domain and expert knowledge were used for the localization and gripping of objects by robots. However, these methods are often not sufficient for more demanding tasks, such as gripping closely stacked products that all have a very similar appearance. In addition, the time-consuming training of new products is another obstacle. An experimental setup developed by Fraunhofer IPA and Premium Robotics illustrates the use case and benefits offered by AI. The closely stacked objects on the load carrier cannot be gripped or approached arbitrarily without affecting other objects. The task was to investigate different approaches for object detection and to test their application in the field of goods picking by robots. 

In addition, methods based on convolutional neural networks (CNN) for object recognition and pose estimation were investigated. Since training new products is correspondingly costly – training samples of image data have to be generated and manually annotated – the model training was performed in a simulation environment and the trained model was subsequently transferred to the real world. Successfully tested objects were all kinds of packages like open and closed boxes, trays with bottles, cans and cups, transparent objects, different types of packaging of any shape encountered in a warehouse and all of this under challenging illumination conditions and background reflections.

The market for professional service robots reached a turnover of 6.7 billion U.S. dollars worldwide (sample method) – up 12% in 2020. At the same time, turnover of new consumer service robots grew 16% to 4.4 billion U.S. dollars. This is according to World Robotics 2021 – Service Robots report, presented by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).

“Service robots continued on a successful path proving the tremendous market potential worldwide,” says IFR President Milton Guerry. “Sales of professional service robots rose an impressive 41% to 131,800 units in 2020.”  

Five top application trends for professional service robots were driven by extra demand of the global pandemic:

© IFR International Federation of Robotics

One out of three units were built for the transportation of goods or cargo. Turnover for Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) and delivery robots grew by 11% to over 1 billion US dollars. Most units sold operate in indoor environments for production and warehouses. The trend goes towards flexible solutions, so that the AMR´s act in mixed environments together e.g. with forklifts, other mobile robots or humans. There is also a strong market potential for transportation robots in outdoor environments with public traffic, e.g. lastmile delivery. Marketing and monetarization options will depend on the availability of regulatory frameworks which currently still prevent the large-scale deployment of such robots in most countries.

Demand for professional cleaning robots grew by 92% to 34,400 units sold. In response to increasing hygiene requirements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 50 service robot providers developed disinfection robots, spraying disinfectant fluids, or using ultraviolet light. Often, existing mobile robots were modified to serve as disinfection robots. There is a high ongoing potential for disinfection robots in hospitals and other public places. Unit sales of professional floor cleaning robots are expected to grow by double-digit rates on average each year from 2021 to 2024.

In terms of value, the sales of medical robotics accounts for 55% of the total professional service robot turnover in 2020. This was mainly driven by robotic surgery devices, which are the most expensive type in the segment. Turnover increased by 11% to 3.6 billion U.S. dollars.

A tremendously growing number of robots for rehabilitation and non-invasive therapy make this application the largest medical one in terms of units. About 75% of medical robot suppliers are from North America and Europe.

The global pandemic created additional demand for social robots. They help e.g. residents of nursing homes to keep contact with friends and family members in times of social distancing. Communication robots provide information in public environments to avoid personal human contact, connect people via video for a business conference or help with maintanance tasks on the shopfloor.

Hospitality robots enjoy growing popularity generating turnover of 249 million US dollars. Demand for robots for food and drink preparation grew tremendously - turnover almost tripled to 32 million US dollars (+196%). The Covid-19 pandemic created increased awareness to avoid contact with food products. There is still a huge potential for hospitality robots with medium double-digit annual growth predicted.

Service robots for consumer use

Robots for domestic tasks are the largest group of consumer robots. Almost 18.5 million units (+6%), worth 4.3 billion US dollars, were sold in 2020.

Robot vacuums and other robots for indoor domestic floor cleaning were up 5% to more than 17.2 million units with a value of 2.4 billion US dollar. This kind of service robot is available in almost every convenience store, making it easily accessible for everyone. Many American, Asian, and European suppliers cater to this market.

Gardening robots usually comprise lawn mowing robots. This market is expected to grow by low double-digit growth rates on average each year in the next few years.

Service robotics industry structure

“The service robot industry is developing at a high pace,“ says IFR President Milton Guerry.” “Lots of start-up companies appear every year, developing innovative service robot applications and improving existing concepts.  Some of these young companies disappear as quickly as they emerged. The activity remained high in the service robotics space with acquisitions by incumbents and acquisitions by companies from industries with a desire to expand and work in this exciting area.”

Company structure of service robot manufacturers © World Robotics 2021

Worldwide, 80% of the 1.050 service robot suppliers are considered incumbents that were established more than five years ago. 47% of the service robot suppliers are from Europe, 27% from North America and 25% from Asia.

World Robotics 2021 edition

Orders for World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots and Service Robots reports can be placed online. Further downloads on the content are available here.

Downloads

Graphs, presentations and German press release are available below. 

Press Contact

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

#WorldRobotics

The World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report shows a record of 3 million industrial robots operating in factories around the world – an increase of 10%. Sales of new robots grew slightly at 0.5% despite the global pandemic, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020. This trend was dominated by the positive market developments in China, compensating the contractions of other markets. This is the third most successful year in history for the robotics industry, following 2018 and 2017.

“The economies in North America, Asia and Europe did not experience their Covid-19 low point at the same time,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Order intake and production in the Chinese manufacturing industry began surging in the second quarter of 2020. The North American economy started to recover in the second half of 2020, and Europe followed suit a little later.”

“Global robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow by 13% to 435,000 units in 2021, thus exceeding the record level achieved in 2018,” reports Milton Guerry. “Installations in North America are expected to increase by 17% to almost 43,000 units. Installations in Europe are expected to grow by 8% to almost 73,000 units. Robot installations in Asia are expected to exceed the 300,000-unit mark and add 15% to the previous year’s result. Almost all Southeast Asian markets are expected to grow by double-digit rates in 2021.”

Asia, Europe and the Americas - overview

Asia remains the world’s largest market for industrial robots. 71% of all newly deployed robots in 2020 were installed in Asia (2019: 67%). Installations for the region´s largest adopter China grew strongly by 20% with 168,400 units shipped. This is the highest value ever recorded for a single country. The operational stock reached 943,223 units (+21%). The 1-million-unit mark will be broken in 2021. This high growth rate indicates the rapid speed of robotization in China.  

Annual shipments by country © World Robotics

Japan remained second to China as the largest market for industrial robots, though the Japanese economy was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic: Sales declined by 23% in 2020 with 38,653 units installed. This was the second year of decline following a peak value of 55,240 units in 2018. In contrast to China, demand from the electronics industry and the automotive industry in Japan was weak. Japan’s operational stock was 374,000 units (+5%) in 2020.

The outlook for the fiscal year 2021 is positive with an expected GDP growth rate of 3.7%. The Japanese robotics market is expected to grow by 7% in 2021 and continue to do so by 5% in 2022. Independent of the domestic market for robotics, the major export destinations will secure demand for Japanese robotics. Even though a major share of production today takes place directly in China, 36% of the Japanese exports of robotics and automation technology were destined for China. Another 22% of the exports were shipped to the United States.

The Republic of Korea was the fourth largest robot market in terms of annual installations, following Japan, China and the US. Robot installations decreased by 7% to 30,506 units in 2020. The operational stock of robots was computed at 342,983 units (+6%).

The export-oriented economy has coped with the pandemic remarkably well so far. In 2020, GDP was down by just 1%, and for 2021 and 2022 strong GDP growth of +4% and +3% is expected. The electronics industry and the semiconductor industry, in particular, are investing heavily.  An investment support program launched in May 2021, will further boost investment in machinery and equipment. The demand for robots both from the electronics industry as well as from the automotive suppliers is expected to grow substantially by 11% in 2021 and by 8% annually on average in the next years following.

Europe

Industrial robot installations in Europe were down by 8% to 67,700 units in 2020. This was the second year of decline, following a peak of 75,560 units in 2018. Demand from the automotive industry dropped by another 20%, while demand from the general industry was up by 14%.

Germany, which belongs to the five major robot markets in the world (China, Japan, USA, Korea, Germany) had a share of 33% of the total installations in Europe. Italy followed with 13% and France with 8%.

The number of installed robots in Germany remained at about 22,300 units in 2020. This is the third highest installation count ever - a remarkable result given the pandemic situation that dominated 2020. The German robotics industry is recovering, driven by strong overseas business.  Robot demand in Germany is expected to grow slowly, mainly supported by demand for low-cost robots in the general industry and outside of manufacturing.

In the United Kingdom, industrial robot installations were up by 8% to 2,205 units. The automotive industry rose by 16% to 875 units - representing 40% of the installations in the UK. The food and beverage industry almost doubled their installations from 155 units in 2019 to 304 units in 2020 (+96%). The food and beverage industry had a high share of foreign workers, often from Eastern Europe, is facing a massive labor shortage. With continued Covid-19-related travel restrictions as one reason and Brexit another, the demand for robots in the United Kingdom is expected to grow strongly at two-digit percentage rates in 2021 and 2022. [struggling to connect] The modernization of the UK manufacturing industry will be boosted by a massive tax incentive. The newly installed 2,205 units in the UK are about ten times less than the shipments in Germany (22,302 units), about four times less than in Italy (8,525 units) and less than half the number in France (5,368 units).

North America

The USA is the largest industrial robot user in the Americas, with a share of 79% of the region´s total installations. It is followed by Mexico with 9% and Canada with 7%.

New installations in the United States slowed down by 8% in 2020. This was the second year of decline following eight years of growth. While the automotive industry demanded substantially fewer robots in 2020 (10,494 units, -19%), installations in the electrical/electronics industry grew by 7% to 3,710 units. The operational stock in the United States increased by 6% CAGR since 2015.

The overall expectations for the North American market are very positive. A strong recovery is currently in progress and the return to pre-crisis levels of industrial robot installations can be expected for 2021. Robot installations are expected to grow by +17% in 2021. A post-crisis boom will create additional growth at low double-digit rates 2022 and beyond.

Shipments by industries © World Robotics

Outlook

The “boom after crisis” is expected to fade slightly in 2022 on a global scale. From 2021 to 2024, average annual growth rates in the medium single-digit range are expected. Minor contractions may occur as a statistical effect, ‘catch-up’ occurs in 2022 or 2023. If this anomaly takes place, it will not break the overall growth trend. The notable mark of 500,000 units installed per year worldwide is expected to be reached in 2024.

World Robotics 2021 edition

Orders for World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots and Service Robots reports can be placed online. Further downloads on the content are available here.

Video

FACTS ABOUT ROBOTS on our YouTube channel

Downloads

Graphs, presentations and press releases on the German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, US, UK, Swedish and Spanish/Brazilian/Latin American market are available below. All graphs are also part of the presentations.

Press Contact

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

#WorldRobotics

A push to automate is changing the way humans and machines work together. The number of industrial robots installed in factories reached about 3 million units worldwide in 2020 – more than doubling in ten years. The IFR has researched how robotics training shapes current and future workforce education, enhancing skills development for employees.

“Automating dull, dirty and dangerous tasks is changing job profiles of factory workers for the better,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Academies run by robot manufacturers play a key role in making this transition possible. Employers send thousands of workers to robotics training every year.”

Robot manufacturers drive education

Robot manufacturers like ABB, FANUC, KUKA, and YASKAWA all register between 10,000 and 30,000 participants in their robot classes across more than 30 countries every year. The training programs range from basic programming for the first-time user to complex workshops: “The automotive industry traditionally plays a leading role in upskilling workers for the use of robotics,” says Gerhard Müller, Vice President Global Customer Services at KUKA. “Volkswagen, for example, decided to host one of our KUKA colleges directly at their headquarter factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. We start with basic training for people who have never used a robot before. For professionals, we offer about 70 different modules ranging from basic operation and programming to complex commissioning of entire robot systems.”

“Training programs set up by international robot manufacturers provide key skills for the industrial workplace of the future,” says Alexander Bongart, Head of the FANUC Academy Germany. “What participants learn in our headquarter school near Mount Fuji in Japan is what they also get in our training schools established in the United States, Europe or China. Robotic certificates for workers are valid around the globe and qualify for fantastic new career opportunities. This is not limited to the classic adopters of robotic and automation like the car industry but also true for small and midsized companies from a wide range of branches.”

As more industries move towards automation than ever before, robotics training also becomes part of public education in the US, Europe and Asia: “In China for example, ABB Robotics’ cooperation with vocational schools dates back to 12 years ago,” says Arno Strotgen of ABB`s Robotics & Discrete Automation business area. “Today, 700 vocational schools are part of the project. We use industrial robots for our trainings and provide 1,000 new robots every year, only to China. At the same time, simulation software and augmented reality open up new ways of teaching. The days, when everyone needed to be an engineer to handle a robot, are definitely over.”

With more than 50 academy facilities around the globe, Yaskawa sets the stage to be in touch with their customers - not only with production but especially with services: “Trainings are part of the core of our strategy” says Armin Schlenk, Director Marketing and Business Development of Yaskawa Europe. The company headquartered in Japan, also partners with public schools. The Hans-Dietrich-Genscher-Schule near Bonn, Germany, for example runs a program for participants to gain a foundation in programming and operating industrial robots. Students can earn a certificate that recognizes their proficiency in operating a robotic arm from manufacturer Yaskawa — the same certificate as adults.

Education policies need updates

“Governments face the need to update their education policies. The qualification to program and use a robot is an essential skill required of workers before they even enter a job on the shop floor,” says IFR´s president Milton Guerry. “To enable the transition, robot manufacturers are the best possible partners, providing the right skills necessary to work with intelligent automation systems. The International Federation of Robotics invites public authorities to team up with the experts and to use their know-how to deliver education for the workplace of the future.”

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

The global robotics industry looks at the proposed European Artificial Intelligence Act. What impact will it have on our economy and the automation industry?

Dear Reader,

On October 28, IFR will publish the final figures of World Robotics 2021. In the meantime, we would like to share a first outlook:

The COVID-19 pandemic presented both a challenge and an opportunity to the robotics industry. The electronics industry strongly benefited from the transition to work from home and the push in digitization, thus heavily investing in robots and automation. Regionally, declining figures in Europe and in the Americas were compensated by growth in Asia.

Robotics have proven to be key for organizations requiring the flexibility to quickly adapt production and respond to changes in demand as well as smaller batch sizes. The benefits of increased productivity safeguards jobs by keeping companies competitive. The outlook for the robotics industry is optimistic. OECD projects global GDP growth to be 5.5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022.

Robotics and Automation increase economic competitiveness, enable technology development through advancing manufacturing capability and reduce our carbon footprint with localized production. Individuals, companies and countries recognize the roles robotics and automation are playing and welcome their future potential, which - at least to a certain extent - will hinge on developments like Artificial Intelligence (AI) for robotics. Not without certain concern does the global robotics industry looks at the proposed European Artificial Intelligence Act. What impact will it have on our economy and the automation industry?

While lawful, safe, and trustworthy AI applications are imperative, we are alarmed that this future piece of legislation may hamper innovation. Ensuring legal certainty for investments and creating acceptance for new technologies certainly will help our industry. On the other hand, we are concerned that the role of "unpredictable AI" in industrial applications is overemphasized and overestimated, leading to disproportionate barriers and huge administrative burdens. This could result in a lack of competitiveness and sustainability for the European manufacturing industry and society at large.

The opportunity for leadership is once again in front of our industry. Responsible and transparent development will promote reassurance of the intent for good. IFR is working on a joint position of the global robotics industry to support its members to start the dialogue with the legislators. Reach out to the IFR secretariat to learn more.

Stay safe, and all the best to you.

Milton Guerry
IFR President

IFR and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS) are looking for applicants for the next IERA Award presentation. In 2022 the event will be hosted on 20 June at the International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) in Munich, Germany.

The IERA award is jointly sponsored and organized by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE/RAS) and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). It highlights and honors the achievements of inventors with value creating ideas and entrepreneurs who propel those ideas into world-class products.

All submitted entries will be evaluated based on criteria that give equal consideration to both innovation and entrepreneurship. The winner will be awarded with a plaque and a $2000 cash prize. For additional details on the award and a list of the winners from the previous years, please see IEEE webpage.

In 2022 IFR will host the IERA Award presentation. The finalists will present their innovation at a session which will be part of the ISR. The ISR takes place during automatica on 20 and 21 June 2022 in Munich, Germany.

The call for application has been closed on 28 February 2022.

Robots can significantly improve health at work in industry sectors that involve heavy lifting, including manufacturing, logistics, healthcare and retail. Chronic and acute injuries due to heavy lifting and unergonomic work take a heavy toll, both on employee health, and on the economy.

Over forty percent of European employees report having to work in tiring or painful positions more than one quarter of the time, with 32% being called to lift heavy loads according to Eurofound. In the U.S. MSDs cost approximately one trillion dollars in treatment and lost wages in 2014, accounting for 5.76% of GDP, exceeding defense spending for that year according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative.

Robots carry the load

Robots carry out dull, repetitive and frequently unergonomic work, fetching and carrying loads and completing tasks that often cause muscle strain. For example, Svedplan uses a fleet of 30 robots to pack 2.6 million wardrobes per year into self-assembly packs for IKEA, doing the heavy lifting of placing the parts in the packages. Using robots has improved productivity at the plant by 45%, enabling Svedplan to remain competitive and avoid job losses.

Mobile robots fetch and carry materials in manufacturing, logistics,healthcare and retail, bringing parts to assembly lines, products to workers in e-commerce who are assembling orders, and linens and other items to nurses and nursing aids.

See the IFR paper ‘A Mobile Revolution - How Mobility is Reshaping Robotics’ for examples of how mobile robots are assisting workers

Cobot assistants improve work for manufacturing employees

Robots support overall wellbeing by enabling workers – from production operators to nurses – to focus on more interesting and satisfying tasks. In manufacturing, for example, robots increasingly work directly alongside production operators as assistants. Many of these are ‘cobots’ – lightweight robots with specially rounded edges, able to slow or stop when a worker comes into their field of operation. They perform parts of the overall task that are the least ergonomic for the employee, while the employee completes the other tasks and ensures the process is carried out correctly. In this video, for example, the robot lifts and places heavy automotive transmission cases, and the production operator then completes assembly.

Exoskeletons take the strain

Exoskeletons – wearable robots – are increasingly adopted in manufacturing and logistics. They are used to provide support for lifting and for working in unergonomic positions, for example screwing parts overhead. They consist of a frame, made from hard or soft materials depending on the manufacturer, attached to the user’s body generally at the hip as well as the thighs and upper-arms. They can be mechanical, providing support once the wearer’s arm is in place, or motorized, providing extra force for lifting.

There are also wearable robotic stools which enable workers to sit when part of their work is carried out in a stationary position. These lightweight exoskeletons are attached to the feet and hips and adjusted to the wearer’s height and shoe size. They extend to allow walking and then compress into an ergonomic seating position when the wearer bends their knees.

Robotic stool © Noonee

At some point, nurses may wear exoskeletons for support in moving patients - however healthcare organizations typically have budget constraints which would require a lower price-point than is currently the case. However, other robotic support for lifting patients in hospital is being trialled. For example, the Patient Transfer Assist from Toyota Motor Corporation combines weight-supporting arms with a mobile platform to help caregivers transfer patients from beds to chairs or toilets and back.

Watch videos on YouTube

It’s not just patients and healthcare staff that are on the move in hospitals.

An 800-bed hospital may handle up to 27 tons of materials every day, covering a distance of about 800 km.  Nurses spend a significant amount of time fetching and carrying medications, linen and waste, walking at least 4 miles per day according to one study. Robots can significantly reduce this, giving nurses more time to focus on patient care. Mobile robots loaded with linens and medication can find their own way around hospitals, some operating lifts and opening doors.

For example, in a hospital in Garbagnate Milanese, Italy, shown in the YouTube video, mobile robots are used to transport material – including meals and medication, personal protective equipment, and waste material – to 147 reception stations throughout the 500-bed hospital. The robots navigate autonomously using an internal map and sensors to locate their position and avoid obstacles. They also navigate to charging stations when required. More information here.

Assistance robots provide services directly to patients and care home residents

Robots are increasingly interacting directly with patients and residents in care homes, with a number of assistance robots in trials.

For example, the Lio mobile personal robot from F&P Robotics is aimed at supporting healthcare professionals in nursing, geriatric institutions and rehabilitation centres by carrying out tasks such as greeting patients, grasping and carrying objects, offering and serving drinks, clearing dishes after meal, reminding patients of, and accompanying them to, upcoming appointments and providing entertainment. The robot navigates and re-charges autonomously, has a multifunctional arm and communicates by voice as well as through a touchscreen. (see video on YouTube)

The SeRoDi Service Assistant, © Fraunhofer IPA

Self-service robots that allow patients or care-home residents to selects drinks or snacks from a mobile vending machine are also being trialled. For example, the SeRoDi Service Assistant, developed by Fraunhofer IPA, allows care home residents to select from a choice of 28 drinks on the robot’s touch screen. The chosen drink is then served to them by the robot. The service assistant returns to the kitchen when empty, to be restocked by the staff before being directed back to the day room via smartphone. In addition to reducing workload for staff, the robot also improves residents’ hydration through regular verbal reminders to drink.  

See the IFR paper ‘A Mobile Revolution - How Mobility is Reshaping Robotics’ for more examples of how mobile robots are assisting healthcare workers

Watch videos on YouTube

Robots support wheelchair-bound people who have limited mobility in their hands and arms. Robotic arms can be attached to a wheelchair, enabling people to open doors, pick up objects and perform a wide variety of other tasks, including feeding themselves.

There are different modes of operation. In some cases, such as Jaco from Kinova, the robot arm is operated through the joy-stick or other device used to operate the wheelchair itself.

In other cases - like the Dowing from Focal Meditech shown in this YouTube video – the robot arm is a splint into which the user lays their own arm. The robot arm senses the motion intended by the wearer and calculates the support needed.

There are a number of other robotic aids for people with restricted motion in hands and arms, for example robotic feeding devices such as the Obi and the Bestic that are remotely controlled by the user from another part of the body (foot or chin for example).

The Obi robotic feeding device, © Obi 

Most electric wheelchairs use joysticks or other manually-operated input devices, which makes them unusable for people unable to move their hands and arms.  Autonomous wheelchairs that respond to eye movement and can map their environment to navigate autonomously and go up and down stairs are being developed. For example, researchers at MIT in the US are working on a voice-controlled autonomous wheelchair for people who have lost mobility due to brain injury or the loss of limbs, but who retain speech.

Watch videos on YouTube

In the field of robotics, bin-picking is a challenging task. And critically speaking, the spread of bin-picking is still far behind expectations. AI offers promising technologies to push bin-picking applications forward.

Every year, more than 200,000 new robots are installed worldwide for handling. Of these, only a fraction in the per mille range performs bin-picking despite the task’s high potential. One reason for the little spread: Bin-picking cells are the first station of an interlinked production or assembly line. The balancing of such a line is based on the fact that each station provides a guaranteed output. Bin-picking brings along two uncertainties: It is often not guaranteed that the box can be emptied. Furthermore, the cycle time also increases significantly with increasing crate emptying. These uncertainties are often the result of suboptimal parameters which are difficult to set for non-experts.

© Liebherr-Verzahntechnik GmbH

For this reason, Fraunhofer IPA and Liebherr-Verzahntechnik GmbH, who have been working together on reliable, high-performance bin-picking solutions since 2012, are using artificial intelligence to automate the parametrization of new parts. AI based optimization methods are used to determine the best parameters for the localization of a given part. The parameters are rated based on several factors like the number of correctly detected parts or the accuracy. This automatic approach reduces the time needed for a manual setup by the operator and leads to a reliable detection of parts and therefore to a robust bin-picking process.

Robot mobility is booming worldwide: Unit sales of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in the logistics sector e.g. will increase by 31% between 2020 and 2023 annually. At the same time, the use of AMRs in public environments will also go up rapidly – IFR predicts unit sales will grow by 40% per year worldwide.

How mobility is reshaping robotics and why this is a game-changing revolution has been researched by the International Federations of Robotics and published in the new paper “A Mobile Revolution”.

“Mobile robots have traditionally operated in industrial settings to transport parts throughout the factory or feed machines,” says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics. “Today, AMRs also work in applications where contact with the general public is intended. They provide information to shoppers, deliver room service orders in hotels or support police officers by patrolling city areas. IFR´s mobile revolution paper gives an overview of the main use cases for mobile robots and their most significant impacts.”

A short history of autonomous mobility

While researchers have worked on technologies for autonomous mobility since the 1940s, autonomous mobile robots have only become commercially viable over the last decade. This is primarily due to the availability of far more powerful and cheaper computing power. This has led to rapid developments in sensor, vision and analytics technologies which enable robots to connect in real-time to their environment. Today, “Autonomous Mobile Robots” show double digit growth. AMRs navigate and perform functions autonomously in industrial and service sectors and pave the way for mobile robot adoption around the world.

BlueBotics mini™ mobile robots in operation at ABB’s semiconductormanufacturing plant in Lenzburg, Switzerland. © ABB

Outlook

“Mobile robotics is a dynamic field of development and we expect exciting advances over the next decade,” says Milton Guerry. These advances will take place in both hardware and software. Mobile robots will become lighter and more flexible. AMRs and service robots will be able to navigate in a range of indoor and outdoor environments more easily as advances in sensors and software algorithms mean that navigation and vision become more and more precise.

IFR Press contact

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

Downloads

  • “A Mobile Revolution - How mobility is reshaping robotics” - paper download
  • Graph, photo and press release in German - please see below
  • further mobile robot photos are available here
  • case studies on mobile robots are available here
  • Video FACTS about SERVICE ROBOTS on YouTube

"IFR is a unique international association having members from groups, companies and research institutes from around the world who are involved in robotics. IFR widely offers useful data, opportunities and other benefits not only to its members, but also to the world at large. There are high expectations that IFR will enhance the synergy and mutual support among all its members to become drivers to energetically establish a sustainable society."

“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]

Downloads
 

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.

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]

Downloads

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]

Downloads
 

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

Downloads

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.

Downloads

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.

Downloads

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]

Contact IFR

Dr. Susanne Bieller

IFR General Secretary

Lyoner Str. 18
DE-60528 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69-6603-1502
E-Mail: secretariat(at)ifr.org

Dr. Christopher Müller

Director IFR Statistical Department

Lyoner Str. 18
DE-60528 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69-6603-11 91
E-Mail: statistics(at)ifr.org

Silke Lampe

Assistant IFR Secretariat

Lyoner Str. 18
DE-60528 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69-6603-1697
E-Mail: secretariat(at)ifr.org

Nina Kutzbach

Assistant IFR Statistical Department

Lyoner Str. 18
DE-60528 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69-6603-1518
E-Mail: statistics(at)ifr.org