The market for cobots is emerging as a fast-growing segment of the rapidly growing industrial robotics market. Demand for cobots is expected to rise at a CAGR of more than 50 percent over the next decade. Although there are some reasons to assume that the acceptance and implementation of cobots will slow growth somewhat, it is clear that the cobot market is rapidly expanding and the number of use cases will continue to rise. The steadily falling prices of components such as sensors make cobots accessible for SMEs. All markets are expected to see growth rates above 50 percent CAGR, but in a regional sense, expectations are especially high for China, because it still lags in the use of robots, when compared to countries like South Korea, Japan, the US, and Germany.
Automatica 2018 was all about smart automation and robotics for a fast-changing industry. I visited Automatica in Munich, the leading exhibition for smart automation and robotics in Europe. This year, the trade fair had 890 exhibitors and more than 46.000 visitors. These are my main takeaways. For successful automation, robots must become more flexible, easier to train and set up, and the need for complicated, custom-made jigs or magazines must be reduced.
The latest industrial robots look like petting zoo versions of the big machines found in many modern factories – small, cute and you can play with them. But don't be deceived by their cuddly appearance. They have the potential to change the way humans work with machines and disrupt the existing market for industrial robots. The big difference with this new generation of robots is that they don't have to operate in closed-off areas. Instead they can safely operate alongside and even collaborate with human workers.
This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. Collaborative robots (also called co-bots) are designed to work alongside human workers, assisting them with a variety of tasks. Because co-bots are affordable, highly adaptable, and almost plug-and-play, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are eager to adopt this technology, and some analysts (myself included) expect this segment will see massive growth in the next few years. There are many reasons for the emergence of collaborative robots: companies are using them because they can be placed alongside humans in small-spaced electronics assembly lines, because they are affordable and easily trainable, and because they are flexible to handle short runs, repetitive and boring jobs, and ergonomically challenging tasks.
We all know that robots are already here, changing the way industries across the world work. The robotics industry is evolving at a fast pace. In addition to the more traditional industrial robots, there is an emerging demand for modern cobots which are intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. One example of these modern cobots is ABB's YuMi, which was officially introduced to the marketplace at the end of 2015. YuMi is a "robotic co-worker" that will, according to the company, change the way we think about assembly automation.