June 17, 2024

The Rise of Robots in Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry has seen a tremendous growth in the use of robots over the past few decades. Robots are increasingly becoming more advanced and more affordable, leading many companies to adopt robotic technology to improve efficiency and productivity. Let’s take a closer look at how industrial robotics is revolutionizing manufacturing.

Industrial Robots – Automating Repetitive and Dangerous Tasks

Industrial robots were first introduced in the 1960s to automate difficult, repetitive, and dangerous tasks performed by human workers on assembly lines. Some of the earliest robotic applications included welding and spray painting of car bodies. Robots allowed manufacturers to complete these tasks more quickly, consistently, and safely without human error or fatigue. Today, robots are used for a wide variety of manufacturing applications such as packaging, palletizing, machine tending, assembly, and inspection. They can lift heavy loads, work in tight spaces, operate 24/7 with minimal downtime, and perform tasks that are unsafe for people. This allows companies to boost production while reducing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries.

Advantages of Robotics in Manufacturing

There are several key advantages that robotic automation provides to manufacturers:

Improved Accuracy and Consistency – Robots can perform tasks with very high precision and repeatability. They eliminate human errors and inconsistencies in product quality.

Increased Productivity – Robots work faster than humans for repetitive tasks and can operate 24/7 with little rest. This significantly boosts production output and throughput.

Reduced Labor Costs – While the initial investment may be high, robots do not require overtime pay, healthcare benefits, or other labor expenses in the long run. Their cost is fixed over time.

Safety Improvements – Robotic systems eliminate risks to human workers from unsafe tasks like working with hazardous materials or heavy lifting in confined spaces. This reduces workplace injuries.

Flexibility – Robots can be reprogrammed quickly to switch between different tasks or product variations with minimal downtime compared to manual retooling. This enhances manufacturing flexibility.

Enhanced Ergonomics – Robots can be designed and positioned ergonomically to perform tasks that may strain or injure human workers over long periods. This improves workplace ergonomics.

Quality of Applications

Logistics and material handling robots – Logistics robots play an important role in automating warehouses and distribution centers. They transport materials, packages, pallets and other loads using automated guided vehicles and mobile robotic systems. This includes applications like palletizing, depalletizing, product sorting, order fulfillment and warehouse inventory management. Material handling robots free up labor for more value-added tasks.

Assembly line robots – Assembly robots excel at piecing together intricate products on a production line. They weld, solder, glue, insert components and perform repetitive assembly tasks faster and more precisely than people. Automotive manufacturing is a leader in assembly line robotics with robotic welding and vehicle component installation across factories worldwide. Electronics and appliance manufacturers also rely heavily on assembly robots.

Surface treatment and finishing robots – Finishing robots apply paints, primers, varnishes, coatings and other surface treatments using spray guns or deposition methods. They ensure consistent, optimized surface finishes which improves product aesthetics and protects surfaces from corrosion. Automotive paint shops feature robotic paint and coating application. Other industries like aerospace, marine, construction and furniture also utilize finishing robots.

Machine tending robots – Machine tending robots load and offload materials into machine tools like milling machines, lathes, presses, benders and so on at an optimized cycle time. This improves material flow and allows CNC machines and injection molding equipment to run unmanned during long production runs. Electronics, plastics, metal fabrication industries use tending robots.

Inspection and quality testing robots – Quality inspection robots examine product dimensions, finishes, identify defects and do final testing using computer vision, force-torque sensors and other means. This automates quality control inspections and statistical process control which ensures manufacturing consistency and improves first-pass yields. Food sorting robots are an emerging application.

Collaborative robots – Collaborative robots or cobots are a newer category designed to work safely alongside human workers, filling in where people and traditional robots fall short. They feature integrated sensors, controls and safety mechanisms to enable applications like product assembly or hybrid human-robot workcells with minimal guarding requirements compared to industrial robots. This expands robot deployment and eases workforce adoption challenges.

Growth of Industrial Robotics

The International Federation of Robotics estimates that over 2 million industrial robots are currently operational worldwide across various industries. The global stock of operational industrial robots grew by 15% per year on average over the last 5 years. Going forward, the market for industrial robotics is forecast to experience very strong growth driven by the following factors:

– Rising Labor Costs – High and increasing labor wages in developed nations and shortage of workers in certain industries will fuel demand for automation solutions that reduce reliance on human labor.

– Technology Improvements – Robotics and AI technologies continue advancing at a rapid pace, making robots smarter, safer, easier to program and more affordable for small and medium businesses.

– Mass Customization Needs – rising consumer demand for product personalization and small batch manufacturing requires manufacturing agility and flexibility that industrial robotics can enable through quick changeovers.

– Labor Shortages – Aging workforce demographics and lack of younger workers entering manufacturing in some nations necessitates robotics to meet production needs.

– Supply Chain Resilience – COVID-19 disruptions highlighted the risks of relying too heavily on long supply chains and offshore manufacturing. Reshoring and robotics to secure local supply will increase.

– New Application Areas – Robot adoption is growing beyond traditional industries into areas like food processing, semiconductor manufacturing, medicine, logistics and many more as technologies mature.

Overall, the Industrial robots significant advantages industrial robots provide over manual labor in terms of quality, speed, safety and cost will propel robotics installations higher across all regions and company sizes in the coming years. Manufacturing operations will increasingly complement human teams with robotic assistance to remain competitive in today’s dynamic global markets.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it