To cobot, or not
Growing demand for easily programmable robots is also evident in the rapid increase in sales of collaborative models — robots that can work without protective barriers between machine and employee. Collaborative robots, or cobots, currently account for 3 per cent of the total robotics market, but this figure is expected to reach 34 per cent by 2025.
These machines have been marketed as easy to program, but despite this, they should not be considered as a total alternative to traditional industrial robots. While cobots do boast some impressive responsive features, these machines generally cannot tackle the dangerous, repetitive and heavy-duty tasks usually associated with industrial robots — and this is something that new automation users aren’t always aware of.
In fact, 55 per cent of respondents to the Global Robotics Report do not believe that cobot technology is advanced enough to deliver the performance required for manufacturing, and a further 25 per cent were unsure of their capabilities.
To encourage investment from small and medium-sized businesses, robot manufacturers must ensure their machines are easy to program and don’t intimidate potential automation users. What’s more, unlike the large-scale automotive manufacturers of Germany, Britain’s robot customers may require more consultation and guidance to choose which robot is right for them — a cobot, or not.
The IFR predicts that the world will experience a further robotics boom in 2019, with an estimated 2.6 million robot units set to be deployed. Regardless of the initiatives and investments in place to encourage Britain to embrace robotics, efforts must begin with robotics manufacturers themselves. Simplified robot programming is key.
About the author:
Nigel Smith is managing director of industrial robot distributor TM Robotics - www.tmrobotics.co.uk