IFR Report Offers Good News for Robot Developers

Collaborative robot developer Universal Robots is optimistic about lowering barriers to automation.

(Image courtesy of BMW Group.)

(Image courtesy of BMW Group.)

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) recently released their 2016 World Robotics Report, forecasting robotics use in manufacturing, and the results are looking promising for collaborative robot developers. 

The report has noted that by 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world – an increase of 13 percent on average per year from 2017 to 2019.

This is good news for robotics manufacturers such as Universal Robots (UR), which predict human-robot collaboration will have a “breakthrough” during this time period. This will mean significant growth for collaborative robots (cobots).

“Universal Robots welcomes the report, which confirms the validity of our mission: lowering barriers and enabling automation in areas previously considered too complex or costly,” said CCO of UR, Daniel Friis.

Like many other cobot brands, UR’s line of collaborative industrial robot arms have been proven in multiple industries and roles, from electronics assembly to automotive applications.

Cobots are different from conventional industrial robots in that they are both safer and easier to use. Unlike conventional industrial robots, which must be contained by fences and an array of security systems, cobots can be safer to work around for a number of reasons.

For example:

  1. Some cobots are small and relatively slow, with soft padding. These robots can also sense physical contact and will immediately come to a halt if they bump into a human or another robot, preventing injury or damage.
  2. Larger, faster cobots can sense the presence of humans and slow down according to their proximity.
  3. Many cobots do not have any pinch points, both to protect human hands and so they can be easily manipulated to suit the human worker’s needs.

The IFR states that Europe is currently showing the greatest increase in robotic automation in a global comparison. However, the IFR identifies that China is expected to be the main driver for growth in robot use over the coming years, with 40 percent of 2019’s global robot supply being installed in the country.

The report also notes that the automotive, plastics, electronics assembly and machine tool industries will lead the charge in adoption of cobots – sectors all noted by Universal Robots to have strong traction in this arena.

“China is a strong focus area for Universal Robots. We opened a Shanghai subsidiary in 2013 and are constantly expanding our distributor network in the region, where customers are increasingly using our cobots to optimize product quality and automate repetitive tasks that the Chinese have difficulty staffing with manual labor,” said Friis.

Universal Robots UR3, UR5, and UR10 collaborative robots. (Image courtesy Universal Robots)

Universal Robots UR3, UR5, and UR10 collaborative robots. (Image courtesy Universal Robots)

North America is also showing consistent increases in manufacturing automation and the use of collaborative robots, where the total number of newly installed industrial robots rose by 17 percent with 36,000 units in 2015. The leader here was the USA, accounting for three-quarters of all units sold.

“Our installed base of more than 10,000 cobots worldwide illustrates the dramatic growth potential of this game-changing automation technology,” Friis added. “We enable small and medium-sized enterprises to optimize their competitiveness on the global stage with an average robot payback period of just 195 days.”

The company has also recently launched Universal Robots+, a series of tools and resources to help customize a UR robot to a company’s specific needs.

For more information on the 2016 World Robotics Report, visit www.ifr.org