The Future of Robotics: Key Trends to Watch
The world of robotics keeps evolving, with new advancements and trends developing each year. As we move forward, it’s essential for engineers, robotics enthusiasts, and industry professionals to stay updated on the latest developments. In this article we will delve into four of the most significant robotics trends of 2023, as highlighted by the International Federation of Robotics, and identify how the Archimedes Drive can empower robot manufacturers and end-users to future-proof their activities and reimagine possibilities.
1. Energy Efficiency – The Solution to Rising Energy Costs
In today’s industrial landscape, energy consumption is a pressing concern. According to the International Energy Agency, “energy efficiency is the single largest measure to avoid energy demand in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario”. Energy prices are rising, so businesses are constantly seeking ways to optimize their operations, reduce inefficiencies, and lower costs. A robot’s energy use varies greatly depending on several factors, such as:
- Robot speed
- Payload and force required
- Motion path complexity
Modern robots are being designed with energy efficiency at the forefront. They are not only more sophisticated in their operations but also consume significantly less power. This dual benefit ensures that manufacturing processes are not only faster but also more energy-efficient.
Employing more compact parts decreases the amount of energy wasted in setting everything in motion. Optimizing operations and reducing idle time increases productivity for the same amount of energy used. Regenerative braking is another method of making sure to put more energy to good use, by capturing the kinetic energy dissipated during braking and transforming it into electricity that powers operations.
The Power Play:
While backdrivability (the ability of a drive’s output to be driven in reverse by an external force) is not required for regenerative braking, the ability of a system to be backdriven can aid in regenerative braking. A backdriven motor takes the role of a generator, converting the mechanical energy from the output into electrical energy that can be reused in the system. The Archimedes Drive has high efficiency of up to 95%, high stiffness, and smooth contact patches, which makes it backdrivable and perfect to use in mechatronic applications that employ regenerative braking.
By integrating robots with high energy efficiency, companies can achieve substantial savings in operating costs. Optimizing cycle times and part manufacturing are alternative ways of making existing robots more efficient.
2. Robot-Driven Reshoring – Reshaping Global Production
Recent global events have underscored the importance of having resilient supply chains. Disruptions (whether natural, economical, or political) in one part of the world can have cascading effects, impacting industries globally.
Robots play a pivotal role in the reshoring trend. Until recently businesses were offshoring their activities to countries with lower wages in order to cut production costs, but that came at the expense of higher shipping costs and longer lead times. With automation, businesses can now relocate their processes closer to their customer base without incurring exorbitant labor costs. Robots ensure that these relocated processes are efficient, consistent, and meet the quality standards that customers expect. A 2021 study found that adding a robot per 1000 workers increased companies’ reshoring activities by an average of 3.5%.
Resilient Supply Chains:
If you build robots that are used in automating tasks, why not give them a boost in speed, precision, and efficiency with an Archimedes Drive speed reducer? Years of careful R&D and a top quality product ensure your robots will function without any backlash.
By leveraging robotics, businesses can ensure supply chain stability, reduce dependency on distant suppliers, and cater more effectively to local market demands.
3. Low-Code Robots – Making Complexity Simple
Gone are the days when robot programming was a niche skill, reserved for a select few experts. As technology advances, the barriers to entry are lowering.
The latest robots come with intuitive interfaces that make programming accessible even to non-experts, and robotics software companies are competing for the most user-friendly software. This ease of use is a game-changer, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises that previously viewed automation as beyond their reach, but who are now inundated with choice.
A company developed a low-code cobot that is great for repetitive tasks such as assembly or inspection. They assist companies who are not technically savvy with programming the robot, although its interface is more user-friendly than traditional robots.
Simplify to Amplify:
Thanks to its inherent working principle, our Archimedes Drive speed reducer benefits from high transparency, making it easily controllable and decreasing the time required for programming. You can get your robot up and running with ease in less time than before.
With easy-to-use robot programming, more businesses can harness the power of automation, leading to increased productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness in the market.
4. Second Life for Industrial Robots – Reduce, Refurbish, Recycle
The average lifetime or industrial robot hardware typically spans between 10 and 20 years. However, as technology advances, these robust machines can become outdated. Instead of discarding them, there’s a growing trend to refurbish or upgrade these robots, giving them a “second life.” This approach is not only cost-effective but also aligns with the principles of circular economy.
Efforts have been made to reengineer industrial robot controllers with update hardware and software, enabling them to successfully be utilized in more modern facilities.
A group of researchers has proposed a “6R practice” that would help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) acquire and integrate industrial robots in their activities, while reducing barriers to entry associated with cost and volume of activities. The 6Rs include: redesigning, reusing, remanufacturing, recovering, recycling, and reducing. Those processes would allow robots to complete new tasks, have a longer lifetime, and reduce unit production cost for the company.
In the last decade we saw a surge in demand for robots as organizations crowd to automate their operations, especially mid-pandemic when companies realized how much they rely on workers for repetitive tasks. These events caused shortages in common industrial components for robots, with manufacturers struggling to meet demand. Giving robots a second life would lower the surges in demand, while giving more companies the opportunity to participate in a circular economy.
From Outdated to Upgraded:
Robots with an Archimedes Drive speed reducer are more robust and suffer from less wear. The compound planetary traction working principle provides protection from overload failures, when the drive enters its “sliding mode”, which saves the internal components from damage. The rolling motion of the drive also reduces wear on the working parts, increasing the drive’s (and in turn the robot’s) lifetime.
The concept of a more sustainable robots emphasizes the importance of pooled resources in the robotics industry, promoting resource efficiency and waste reduction.
The Bottom Line
The robotics industry is at an exciting stage, with innovations that promise to redefine the way we think about automation. From energy efficiency to reshoring, and from low-code to refurbishing, the trends of 2023 highlight a future where robots are more integrated, accessible, and beneficial to businesses across the spectrum. At IMSystems, we remain committed to staying at the forefront of these developments, ensuring that our clients are always equipped with the best that robotics has to offer. Our dedication translates to the care we put into crafting a drive that reimagines the possibilities of engineering, pushing the limits of innovation further.