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Advances in Collaborative Robotic Systems (Technical Insights) 

  • May 2013
  • 69 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2043430


Table of Contents

Research Scope

This research service focusses on the use of collaborative robots for manufacturing operations. Collaborative robots are robots that can work collaboratively with human beings, assisting them in a number of tasks which are usually carried out by another human. Robots working with humans has been a long standing concept in the mind of researchers and industrialists alike. There has been keen interest in the development of robots which can work closely with humans, especially in manufacturing, without the need for fences or safety cages. Apart from the development of such robots, the report also deals with associated software and hardware developments which are enabling the robots to be more collaborative and adaptive. This report will be most useful for direct stakeholders in the robotics industry who deal with manufacturing industries, such as automobile, aerospace and customized manufacturing. Collaborative robots have found application in a number of fields with the automobile industry being the fastest potential adopter of such robotic applications. With enhanced visual guidance tools and better simulation and programming tools, they can satisfy the various manufacturing demands of the end users, such as reduction in cycle time, safer operating conditions, lesser costs, reduction in factory plant area and provide more sustainable solutions for flexible manufacturing demands in the future.

This research service provides the following:
•An overview of collaborative robotics for manufacturing, including technology snapshots and their capabilities
•Technology value chain and applications of collaborative robotics for manufacturing processes
•Key technology trends, drivers, challenges, and industry initiatives to tackle the challenges
•Key innovations throughout the value chain and their impact on various collaborative robotics applications
•An analysis of key end-user demands and some relevant solutions offered by stakeholder companies and research consortiums in adaptive robotics applications.
•OSE evaluation for potential areas for further R and D by the companies.

Key Findings

- There is a slow and steady increase in the number of companies and research institutes focused on the development of collaborative robots for manufacturing. Collaborative robots are robots which can work safely besides humans. With the growing lack of skilled labor in developed countries and the increasing median age of the population, collaborative robots will be beneficial for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across countries, such as China, India and Taiwan, which are heavily dependent on manufactured product exports.
- Collaborative robots can be used for a number of tasks which require the presence of a human supervisor or more than one human working on a process together. Some of the benefits of the use of collaborative robots for manufacturing include improved safety and reduction in footprint, an increased number of jobs (contrary to the popular idea of job reductions due to robots), greater flexibility in manufacturing and it will also help in embracing the concept of reconfigurable manufacturing.
- Collaborative robotics will be impacted by advances in actuation systems, energy and power systems, fabrication and materials technology, micro and nanotechnology, human-robot interfaces, communications and networking, planning and control, robustness and reliability, machine learning, and perception technologies. Currently, major companies, such as ABB, KUKA and Comau are focusing on the development of better methods for planning and control, communication, and networking, and improvement of perception technologies.
- Technologies for development of better collaborative robots already exist. A number of companies such as Sick, Inc. and Pilz Automation have already come out with hardware and software modules which can be installed directly on shop floors to make the robots/machines safer and eliminating the need for cages. KUKA’s Safe Operation, Fraunhofer IFF’s ViERforES and Fanuc’s Dual Check Safety System are some other notable innovations in the effort to make more human friendly robots.
- Robot manufacturers occupy a definitive position in the collaborative robotics scenario. Ancillary systems developers and R&D organizations are dependent stakeholders, implying that their power to dictate the movement of the collaborative robotics is limited. The simulation and programming segment, on one hand, occupies a dangerous position in the model. This implies that they have significant power and positional claim but do not have urgency. Hence, they can be potential game changers. System integrators occupy the definitive position, owing to their high power and need for involvement in development of more collaborative systems for the end users.
- The development of multi-arm robots has been taken up by a number of established participants in the robotics manufacturing space. Software development for collaborative robots has the highest probability of success and relatively low levels of attractiveness right now. This low level of attractiveness is due to the high technological challenges presented to software development for collaborative robots in manufacturing. Though numerous technologies for sensors and actuators used in collaborative robots exists, there is a need for incremental innovations in both.


•A collaborative robot is designed to be a helper robot who works alongside a human being in tandem to complete a specific task.
•Traditionally, robots are made to be autonomous in nature and are rarely designed to be safe for humans working closely with them, as they usually have high torque arms and movement speeds.
- Dedicated robots for manufacturing operations that work alongside humans in the manufacturing facilities will be commonplace in the future. Most such robots in the future will be used in automobile, aerospace, and job shops for custom parts. The idea of such manufacturing robots is based on the concept of high re-configurability and flexibility for performing tasks which will take a human some amount of time to learn. Currently, the aim is to have collaborative robots replacing humans for skills which requirexxto xx hours of training.
- As of now, collaborative robotics are in their research and development phase with some examples of applied research. A number of companies, such as ABB, Comau, Rethink Robotics, and KUKA have evinced keen interest in the development of such robots.

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