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Soft Robotics Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 - 2026)

Soft Robotics Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 - 2026)

  • September 2021
  • 136 pages
  • ID: 6155634
  • Format: PDF
  • Mordor Intelligence LLP


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The Soft Robotics Market was valued at USD 1049.05 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 6369.04 million by 2026, registering a CAGR of 35.17% over the forecast period (2021 - 2026). Though soft robotics is still in its early stages, with the variety of benefits offered by soft robots compared to traditional robots, the penetration of soft robots is expected to grow dramatically over the forecast period. Also, the global COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the demand to automate to alleviate workforce challenges and develop operational and food safety in factory environments, which led to the growth of the market.

Factors driving the development of the soft robotics market include the increasing demand for safety across the various end-user industries and the growing need for automation in industries such as food processing, e-commerce, etc. The growing investments/funding in research and development across various nations is fueling the growth of the soft robotics market.
Exoskeletons are an emerging developing technology that has the potential to protect and save warehouse and manufacturing workers from shoulders, back pain, and neck pain and injuries related to heavy and repetitive lifting. Various researchers are developing soft, wearable robots that mimic muscle movements. As of April 2020, General Motors designed a battery-powered exoskeleton glove developed by a Swedish firm, Bioservo. The ’Iron Hand’ glove has sensors and motors in each finger, which automatically responds to a level of force that the glove wearer applies to their hand when lifting or gripping something.
The decrease in the cost of sensors and the popularity of the existing robots are significant signs indicating that the robotics field is undergoing significant transformation and development. With the advent of self-learning soft robots through AI, the soft robotics market is expected to witness drastic changes over the forecast period. For instance, in February 2020, MIT researchers enabled a soft robotic arm to understand its configuration in 3D space by leveraging only motion and position data from its sensorized skin. It uses flexible sensors and artificial intelligence models to tell robots about their body position in the 3D environment.
Also, many R&D projects were funded by various governments across the world despite the Covid-19 crisis to support the contribution of robotics and automation to the industry and society. For instance, China’s strategic plan of Made in China 2025 includes advanced robots among the top 10 core industries.
Despite the growing need for these robots, only a handful of soft robots are in the market, and the fabrication of soft robots is not fully conventional yet. The scenario is, however, expected to change over the years, considering the aggressive research activities.

Key Market Trends

Medical and Surgical Applications to Register Highest Growth

Soft robots inherently have the advantage of being compliant with the natural tissues of humans and living organisms. Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is one of the research areas with the big potential of adopting soft robotics. This is because it overcomes the limitation of traditional MIS methods, such as a low degree of freedom.
The limitations involved in open surgeries and laparoscopic procedures coupled with the increasing advantages of robotic surgery systems are expected to boost the adoption rates of robot-assisted surgeries worldwide. For instance, the advantages of smaller incision sizes, fewer complications, minimization of infection rates, and shorter recovery times drive surgeons to adopt these robotic systems to perform various surgeries.
Soft-robotic surgery on a human body has been inspired by soft-bodied animals with applications specifically designed for minimally invasive surgery (MIS), opening up areas previously inaccessible to surgeons using current keyhole surgery techniques. With similar research being active across multiple researcher labs, soft robots are likely to shape the way physicians perform surgeries. If developed further, this technology could lead to the emergence of tiny and soft robots that can be sent into the human body to implement microscale surgery or perform an endoscopy.
Furthermore, the use of biocompatible soft materials, superelastic materials, and 3D-printed soft plastics such as silicone elastomers allow for greater safety during surgeries. These allow changes in robotic shape and mechanical properties in response to touch, thus enhancing their greater intrinsic safety. Such developments are likely to expand the scope of soft robotics and become relevant to procedures in minimally invasive surgery, such as laparoscopy, single port laparoscopy, etc.
The robotic surgery market is expected to benefit from the growing incidence of chronic diseases such as urology, gynecology, orthopedic, and other chronic disorders worldwide. According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, are currently responsible for almost 71% of global deaths. It accounts for 41 million people dying each year of these NCDs.?

Asia-Pacific to be the Fastest Growing

Asia-Pacific is one of the fastest-growing markets for soft robotics mainly due to the massive adoption of the technology with increasing domestic production in the market. The regional vendors are also playing a significant role in the innovation and development in the soft robotics field. For instance, in 2020, Samsung introduced a wearable exoskeleton named GEMS (Gait Enhancing and Motivation System) as a working device, which has to be paired with AR glasses. The system is still in its very early stages of development.
When it comes to wearable exoskeleton development, two countries in Asia stand apart from Japan and China. Both countries view exoskeletons as key to preventing workplace injury and allowing aging workers to stay in the workforce longer. They are profoundly investing in the development of robotic exoskeletons for their ability to assist injured or disabled people and to keep aging populations in the workforce longer.?
In China, many research organizations and engineers are developing exoskeletons for military applications. For instance, The 202 Institute of China Ordnance Industry Group is developing an exoskeleton for military applications. These exoskeletons can carry more than 100 lb. and walk for more than 12 miles at a speed of 2.7 miles per hour.
Additionally, in Japan, the government is collaborating with universities and companies to develop a robotic surgery system that allows doctors to operate with more precision and accuracy and simultaneously monitor MRI readings and data from other devices. Like many other countries in the region, Korea is adapting robots for healthcare.
Additionally, in China, exoskeletons are beginning to be covered by insurance providers, signifying that more widespread use is likely to occur in the near future. In recent years, US-based Ekso Bionics Inc entered into an agreement with China-based Zhejiang Youchuang Venture Capital Investment Co., Ltd (ZYVC) and another partner to serve and develop the exoskeleton market in China and other Asian markets and to create a global exoskeleton manufacturing center.

Competitive Landscape

The market has seen huge investments in the technical front, and new entrants are expected to emerge in the market. Currently, soft robot manufacturers have very specific solutions, and the market is moderately competitive. However, with the advent of big players in the robotics market, venturing into soft robotics is expected to increase the competition.

April 2021 - Soft Robotics Inc. announced the expansion of its mGrip Modular Gripping System with new capabilities and an IP69K rating to enable safe protein and dairy product handling. These new features offer machine builders more options for designing flexible end-of-arm tools that can withstand high-pressure washdown environments.
April 2021 - Righthand Robotics Inc announced the launch of Rightpick 3, which features dense packing and damage-free item handling, and it handles an even broader range of items. In addition, the announcement aligns with ProMatDX’s virtual material handling automation showcase.
December 2020 - BKK Mobil Oil Insurance has signed a contract with ReWalk Robotics to deliver ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton devices to qualifying beneficiaries with spinal cord injuries. After finishing the training program, eligible people will get a ReWalk Personal 6.0 exoskeleton, which will allow them to stand and walk in their homes and communities.

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