Supply chain
Digitimes Research: Collaborative robots to drive Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing
Hana Hu, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei

Buoyed by increasing investments by makers and rising popularity in use, collaborative robots, which are designed to promote collaborative operations between human being and machines, are expected to become a major force to push forward Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing, according to Digitimes Research.

Meanwhile, the release of the ISO/TS 15066 safety standards not only ensure the safety of the human being and machines, but also endorses the ongoing collaborative robot business model, paving the way toward low-cost and multi-application developments for industrial manufacturing, Digitimes Research said.

The development of collaborative robots has made headway recently as manufacturers have been seeking to roll out new products or solutions to cope with the rise of Industry 4.0. Collaborative robots are packed with soft materials to cover sharp edges and are equipped with advanced sensors which will enable them to slow down or even stop to protect the safety of workers; the built-in vision systems within the robots allow operators to directly stimulate robotic arms to move and guide the actions, and even enable robots to operate independently utilizing their memory pathways.

Switzerland-based ABB (YuMi brand robotic products), Germany-based Kuka (LBR iiwa), Japan-based Fanuc (CR-35iA), and Yaskawa Electric (Motoman-HC10) all launched their respective collaborative robots in 2015 with prices ranging from EUR20,000-25,000 (US$22,350-27,938). While Japan-based makers currently are still focusing on development of collaborative robot products, fellow companies in Europe have expanded their R&D efforts to include the development of system products and low-cost robotic models, Digitimes Research indicated.

While industrial robots are designed to work in the segments which have a long production cycle such as the automotive industry, collaborative robots, which are easy for installation, relocation and teaching, are suitable for the electronics industry where production cycle is short and automation is not so prevailing. They are also favorable for small and medium businesses as they are less expensive.

The release of ISO/TS 15066 safety standards in April 2016 will help foster a fast growing collaborative robot market as the document highlighted the design and installation requirements for collaborative robots, as well as the guidelines for security risk assessment, allowing manufacturers and parts developers to develop related products complying to the standards, Digitimes Research commented.

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