As robots are among the hottest topics in IT today, it’s exciting to watch the field of industrial robotics take shape. From their earliest roots on the assembly line to advanced applications in and outside of the smart factory, industrial robots are here to stay — and they’re making significant progress in 2018.
1. Robotic Automation
Automated robots are the ideal choice for improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes, warehousing operations and the modern supply chain. Despite initial concerns over lost jobs due to increased automation, it seems next-gen robotics increase productivity. According to recent studies, the rise of robotic automation is directly responsible for upticks in productivity and efficiency.
Growth in robot-as-a-service is expected to take off in 2018 and continue for several years. Recent estimates forecast the RaaS sector to comprise 30 percent of the global robotics market by 2020.
The concept of RaaS is simple. These machines are likened to temporary or pay-as-you-go employees. As such, their functionality is highly specialized, focused and limited.
3. Collaborative Robots
Collaborative robots — or cobots — will gain a lot of traction in the manufacturing sector. Instead of replacing current employees, these machines work alongside their human counterparts to heighten productivity and increase efficiency.
Although most applications involving cobots are seen in manufacturing, they have relevant uses in other industries, too. Potential uses include tasks in food preparation, consumer packaging, healthcare and more.
Interest in aerial drones is growing. According to recent forecasts, the drone market will explode from just $2 billion in 2016 to more than $125 billion by 2020.
Drones are useful in many areas of manufacturing. Not only can they transport raw materials and even finished parts from one area to the next, but they can also monitor production lines, assess quality and count inventory. This frees up human workers for more meaningful jobs throughout the facility.
5. Cloud Robotics
Today’s robots aren’t necessarily designed for a singular purpose. Thanks to advanced technologies like the Internet of Things and the cloud, this hardware can connect to other machines, both inside the same facility and remotely, to learn new functionality, perform preventive maintenance and verify functionality. Much like their human counterparts, the upcoming generation of automated workers is trainable for various tasks and assignments around the factory or warehouse floor.
6. Market Segmentation
We’ll also see increased market segmentation in 2018. While the production of robotics was once a standardized process, we now see robotics in many different markets and niches. Specific models now exist for welding, handling materials, working on the assembly line and so on, and this robotics trend is expected to continue.
7. Robot-Specific App Stores
Smartphones and next-gen PCs already have app stores for the latest software utilities, but this robotics trend will soon carry over to robotics. It’s a natural transition — with the level of customizability expected from future robotics — and one that will let manufacturers achieve their exact goals via next-gen automation.
8. Customizable Robots
While costs remain one of the most prohibitive factors to full-scale implementation of next-gen automated systems, it’s clear manufacturers want to control and customize their hardware, too.
Companies explore the concept of modular robots to accommodate the need for customizable robots. Akin to a highly advanced LEGO set, these robots are the ideal solution for a future of customized automation.
9. Robotics Engineers
There are plenty of opportunities for robotics engineers in 2018. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, companies added more than 125,000 robots to factory floors between 2010 and 2017 alone — nearly all of which require human programmers, operators and maintenance personnel. We’ll undoubtedly see even more robots added in 2018 and beyond and, as a result, even more human employees.
10. Governmental Regulations
All of the newfound interest in robotics garners attention from governmental entities, too. As expected, they’re moving to introduce new regulations and standards regarding the use of robotics in 2018 and beyond. Proposed plans have covered everything from commercial aerial drones to driverless cars — but we’ll likely see even more guidelines established as robotics continue to penetrate the modern workforce.
Driving Productivity With Next-Gen Robotics
Although some jobs will almost certainly be lost to next-gen robotics, it isn’t all bad news. There are still many scenarios where robots work alongside their human counterparts to drive productivity or handle menial and dangerous jobs. When used correctly and morally, robots have a lot to offer the manufacturing industry in the 21st century.