14th September - Valencia.
Automation and ‘Industry 4.0’ Automation has come of age, and as industrial technology grows increasingly pervasive, this wave of automation and digitization is being labelled “Industry 4.0,” as in the fourth industrial revolution.
Robotic automation will be a crucial driver behind Industry 4.0 in the coming years, with robots ultimately becoming commonplace in both the workplace and homes. There will be some hurdles to overcome but it’s clear that the reliance on robotic automation will continue to grow as the decade progresses.
However, the central role once played by industrial robots in the factory is being challenged by the rise of collaborative robots, also known as cobots. As a result the future vision of manufacturing is changing.
Industrial robots continue to be used for linear and repetitive tasks such as moving, assembling and manufacturing components. However, they are heavy and can pose additional risks to human workers compared with their lighter, more agile, cobot counterparts. Unlike cobots, they are programmed offline and therefore are less intuitive and constrained in their ability to respond to new stimuli mid-task. Whereas, cobots have sophisticated force-torque sensors that allow them to sense human presence and be programmed to power off instantly if a worker gets too close.
In high tech manufacturing, it is R&D that is taking the lead in new robot development as it is this area that is increasingly critical for delivering the latest and greatest technology. More and more companies are exploring robotics, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence as avenues to improve the R&D process and reduce uncertainty when going into production. But the process of hypothesis testing has room for improvement, and tightening iteration time will translate to faster and better discoveries.
The use of collaborative robots in non-industrial applications will play a significant role in the coming years in sectors such as life sciences, logistics, hospitality and the connected home sector. This is because they are flexible and easy to set up, making them attractive to smaller companies that may not have previously considered using robots.
Consultants Accenture state in their 2020 Tech predictions, “advances in sensors, speech recognition and computer vision are combining with lower hardware costs to make robot technology more accessible for companies in every industry, and the rollout of 5G networks is set to unlock new opportunities outside of controlled environments.”
Now, businesses are already looking at the next frontier for robot technology: the open world.
The new horizon has been enabled by developments in IoT opportunities in robotics called RIoT. RIoT hinges on the three foundational elements of IoT: sensors, sensor-friendly devices, and their capability to communicate via machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, and data analytics technologies which process raw sensor data. These elements function as the glue between the digital and physical worlds. By bridging the gap between robotic software and hardware, robotic systems are capable of heightened perception, mobility, object manipulation, and decisional autonomy.
Aided by specialised connection protocols for M2M, such as ZigBee, Bluetooth Low Energy, NFC and Wireless Mesh Networks so further markets particularly in automating the connected home or in applications for self-driving car applications using robotic automation are opening up.
The automation and robotics to help humans
According to Deloitte the market for professional service robots is poised to take off with a vengeance because of 5G and AI. These are mainly used outside of manufacturing, and they usually assist humans rather than replace them.
Sectors such as Agriculture are already open for robotics to take on specific tasks. Companies like Farmwise are looking to deploy robotics to handle weeding, seeding and harvesting. Devices combine computer vision, sensors, and learning algorithms to gather and act on data specific to individual plants.
In the surgical healthcare market Robotics play a significant part to help efficiencies, precision during action and limiting post-surgical complexity and is expected to exceed more than US$ 91.5 Billion by 2025. Computer-assisted surgery, Robotics surgery or robotically assisted surgery include partially or fully requirement on specially designed machines and equipment and devices so as to carry out some surgical methods. Surgical robotic systems are a mix of software, equipment and devices, accessories and services that help to play out a few negligibly intrusive surgeries. It also represents the body parts and increased skills which help specialists to take a shot at difficult to reach body parts. Further, robotic surgery diminishes the danger of blood loss and infection, offer shorter recovery time, and leave least scars in contrast with the conventional open surgery.
Future robotic technology has also been introduced by NASA through the use of PUFFERs (Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots) which utilize a folding printed circuit board (PCB) as the rover chassis, enabling the platform to fold into a minuscule, palm-sized volume. With this feature, many PUFFERs can be integrated into future spacecraft or packed into Earth science experiments at low cost.
Here on Earth, scientists hope to deploy swarms of PUFFERs to track ice fluctuations in the Polar Regions. Teams of researchers could deploy PUFFERs over ice sheets of interest from the air, dropping the impact-resistant rovers from helicopters. The PUFFERs would then remain behind and autonomously rove over the ice while making measurements. The units would recharge themselves using solar energy, allowing them to operate for months and possibly years at a time.
And according to The Fast Company robots that are helping humans form a set of the most innovative companies on the planet. From swifter delivery of essential medical supplies to more efficient recycling, these companies are putting robotics to work in ways that are as inventive as they are practical.
Challenges to find the right engineering talent
Introducing robots into the world includes challenges around talent, questions of human-computer interaction and a testbed that consists of the entire world. It encompasses a high degree of knowledge from different domains such as electronic engineering, mechanical engineering with expertise in measurements and control in the design of products and processes.
Finding the right skills to advance many of the robotic technologies is not easy, and as many of the new markets are in their infancy and the knowledge is still growing. That is why many companies turn to specialist agencies in the field to resource the required level of expertise.
Companies like CIS has an abundance of experience in helping customers with the supply of highly skilled engineers for the design and development of control software, wireless communications, embedded engineering and even artificial intelligence in automation. They have been working with M2M technologies such as Zigbee, Near Field Communication, Bluetooth Low Energy and Wireless Mesh Networks since their inception. And have helped develop everything from major Industrial Robots and Collaborative Robots for SME's through to complete Home Automation Systems.