George Charles Devol, often referred to as the father of robotics, invented the Unimate in 1954. This first industrial robot soon went online in a General Motors automobile factory in New Jersey. Devol and engineer Joseph Engelberger’s Unimate performed spot welding and extracted die castings.
Now 60 years later, a new generation of robots are on their way—they are smarter, more mobile, more collaborative, and more adaptable. They promise to bring major changes to the factory floor, as well as potentially to the global competitive landscape. Industrial robots are on the verge of revolutionizing manufacturing. They’re taking on more “human” capabilities and traits such as sensing, dexterity, memory, and trainability. As a result, they’re taking on more jobs including picking and packaging, testing or inspecting products, or assembling minute electronics.
As per a report by research firm International Data Corporation, global spending on robotics and related services will be a whopping $135.4 billion by 2019. Global robotics spending in 2015 was $71 billion, and is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17%.
With more companies looking for lean manufacturing solutions, industrial manufacturing robots provide many benefits that companies require to stay competitive. The key advantages of using industrial robots in manufacturing industry are:
Industrial automated robots have the capacity to significantly improve product quality. All the applications are performed with precision and high repeatability, every time. This level of consistency can be hard to achieve any other way.
With robots, throughput speeds increase, which directly impacts production. Because an automated robot has the ability to work at a constant speed without pausing for breaks, it has the potential to produce more.
Robots increase workplace safety by taking over dangerous tasks. Workers are moved to perform supervisory roles where they no longer have to perform dangerous applications in hazardous settings. Light screens or barriers are available to keep workers out of harm’s way.
Improved worker safety leads to financial savings with fewer health care and insurance concerns. Also, improved quality and higher customer satisfaction means returning customers and more business.
As industrial robots become smarter, faster, and cheaper, they are being called upon to do more jobs. Some manufacturers believe that greater automation is harmful, resulting in less innovation because only people can develop ideas to improve processes and products. Consequently, robotic implementation is evolving into a different path where robots are employed to complement rather than replace workers. This concept is known as “cobotics” and is rapidly gaining momentum in the world of manufacturing. The successful implementation of cobotics to date has focused largely on specific ergonomically challenging tasks within the aerospace and automotive industries. But these applications will expand as automation developers introduce more sophisticated sensors and more adaptable, highly functional robotic equipment that will let humans and machines interact deftly on the factory floor.