The global race toward smart manufacturing is driving the use of advanced automation technologies such as machine vision (MV). MV has become a key technology in both manufacturing and quality control; however, MV is rapidly becoming a crucial building block for Industrie 4.0-enabled smart factory infrastructure. MV is an essential element for smart factory infrastructure, due to its characteristics such as efficient communicating network and the intelligent exchange of information among sensors, devices, and machines. MV systems have demonstrated their cost effectiveness in inspection, measurement, scanning, and object detection in manufacturing to improve consistency, productivity, and overall quality. MV systems provide object recognition capabilities with varying degrees of accuracy and robustness.
The reputation and bottom line of a company can be adversely affected if defective products are released. If a defect is not detected, and the flawed product is not removed early in the production process, the damage can run in the hundreds of dollars per unit. To mitigate this, many manufacturers install cameras to monitor their products as they move along the production line. But the data may not always be useful. For example, cameras alone often struggle with identifying defects at high volume of images moving at high speed.
Industrial companies are confronted with several new trends that will fundamentally change production and logistics processes. For example, the term "Industry 4.0," which was coined in Germany, stands for the digital networking of people, objects, and systems to create integrated production processes. In international jargon, it is referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). All technologies, systems, and components that are involved in the industrial value creation process are connected to each other as well as to company networks and the internet. Smart factory is another trend that forms a part of the IIoT development.
For all the focus manufacturers have been placing on digitisation, and especially on intelligent automation technologies, AI has yet to have a significant impact on the factory floor. This is about to change, believes Harald Bauer of McKinsey. "Until now, AI has been applied in a few niche areas by some, though by no means all, manufacturers," he says. "The enablers are in place, however, to allow more manufacturers to apply AI in a wide range of uses, and at scale." These enablers include high existing levels of digitisation and automation, the availability of voluminous data and access to the enormous computing power existing in the cloud.
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.