Now the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has announced the top five trends shaping industries around the globe.
“The mission to combine traditional production with 'go digital strategies' puts robots in a pole position,” said Dr Susanne Bieller, general secretary of the IFR.
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.
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.
In the smart factory, different products are assembled subsequently by the same equipment; the traditional production line no longer exists.
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.
When productivity is levelled 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,” said Dr Bieller. “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.”