Automation in the manufacturing industry has been widespread for over four decades now. Advancement in technology, namely machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics, has entirely revolutionized manufacturing.
Collaborative robots (Cobots) are trending in the manufacturing industry. The cobots collaborate with humans in a workspace and help to improve safety and overall efficiency. Here are some of the robotic trends in the manufacturing industry.
RaaS Useful For Cost Management
Cloud computing tools and software as a service have brought revolution to industries, mostly midsize companies and small startups. These services allow a company to maintain and operate its essential systems efficiently.
RaaS (Robotics as a service) is a similar concept. It involves renting hardware in a bid to reduce overheads. This trend has allowed the penetration of robotics and sophisticated technologies into different industries such as agriculture, which is very sensitive to costs. Farmers can easily rent the equipment they would ordinarily not access, and they pay rates as agreed.
Drones as a Service (DaaS) are an extension of RaaS. Instead of buying drones, they can be rented just like robots. Wildlife monitoring, precision agriculture, nighttime security and others can significantly benefit from DaaS.
Increased autonomy levels allow the drones to fly with little piloting and can collect and send data back to the controller. The increasing popularity of RaaS or DaaS means that soon, we shall have IoT or Internet of Drones.
Drones are capable of reaching high altitudes and collecting more data faster than the human eye can, making DaaS a valuable service. A drone monitors it surrounding in real-time, and they only share what crucial data is. The controller sees things as the drone sees them.
Cobots in the Manufacturing Industry
Other than working alongside their human counterparts, cobots are more flexible than the earlier robots. The cobots are significantly smaller and able to multitask; for example, they can pick and place goods in a manufacturing line.
Cobots take care of repetitive, dangerous or dirty work, which leaves the human worker free to work on other jobs that require perception and thought processes. The cobots have the backing of AI platforms and machine learning, which allow them to perform tasks that are more complex and share what they have learnt.
Older Systems Upgrade
Manufacturing automation is not all about novel technologies. The older systems can be improved to become more accessible and improve efficiency. Improving older designs, manufacturers can save on costs of buying new hardware and probably free up much-needed space in the factory or warehouse. Some robotic companies help manufacturers in evaluating the possibility of modernizing the older system, or whether to automate with new technology.
Robotics and Internet of Things (IoT)
The new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) takes information from the connected devices and assists manufacturers to obtain real-time insights. IoT allows hardware to be smarter, faster and more cognitive.
For example, a mobile robot with sensors can identify when a person is in its vicinity and either slow down or come to a complete stop. A different robot could be programmed to speed up or slow down depending on its environment or timed according to the production of small batches. IoT sensors, when coupled with robots, usually connect to more extensive networks. Robots can be designed in such a way that they collaborate to work smarter.
Technology continues to advance every day. New trends keep emerging, and contrary to what some people think, robots are not going to replace the human worker. A Tractica study projected that the AI market was set to increase 25-fold by the year 2025, thereby extending the workers’ capabilities.
As automation in manufacturing progresses, there can only be good things that will come out of it. Today, production has been made more accessible; farmers can access the use of robots they might not otherwise afford. Tomorrow, the same farmer will be able to afford a robot or drone, the same way at some point a decade ago, and very few could afford a smartphone. Look where we are now!