ISSUE 2 FEBRUARY 2018
R O B OT I C S
P R O F E S S I O N A L
WHATâ€™S IN STORE FOR THE ROBOTICS SECTOR?
NEWS, VIEWS AND COMMENT FROM AROUND THE INDUSTRY
PRECISION ROBOTICS, COLLABORATIVE ROBOTS AND NEXT GENERATION AUTOMATION THE BUSINESS OF ROBOTICS
WORLDâ€™S LEADING AUTONOMOUS MOBILE DELIVERY ROBOT Serving Manufacturing and Healthcare markets
Automatic pickup and drop-off of carts
Fleets make over 5 million deliveries each year
Supported by patented cloud-command center
BOOTH 101 PROVEN
SAFE around people
FLEXIBLE fleet management
CONNECTED to your ERP
Headline News Top stories and latest news from the robotics industr y
News The latest news, far and wide, from the robotics industr y
Neil Martin Editor-in-Chief neil.mar email@example.com
Alex Sullivan Publishing Director firstname.lastname@example.org
ROBO Opinion Some of the more offbeat and colourful stories from the fascinating world of robotics
AMS New sensor technologies 2018 employed in today ’s robots
Editor Neil Martin asks around to see what senior sector executives think 2018 will hold for the robotics industry
Cally Bennett Group Business Manager email@example.com
2018 Robotics Editor Neil Martin asks around to see what senior sector executives think 2018 will hold for the robotics industry
Dominic Keen Increasing number of entrepreneurs moving into robot space
Facial Expressions Sports players beware – they are watching you
Ore Catapult How UK wind farms could be maintained by robots
Conferences The latest robotic events and conventions for 2018
Rozum Robotics First collaborative robot that can be operated from a smartwatch
46 Mobile Industries Collaborative Mobile Robot Offers Fast ROI to Help Argon Medical Compete in High-Cost Labor Market Robopro Magazine is published by IFA Magazine Publications Ltd, Arcade Chambers, 8 Kings Road, Bristol BS8 4AB Tel: +44 (0) 1179 089686 © 2018. All rights reserved ‘Robopro Magazine’ is a trademark of IFA Magazine Publications Limited. No part of this publication may be reproduced or stored in any printed or electronic retrieval system without prior permission. All material has been carefully checked for accuracy, but no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Wherever appropriate, independent research and where necessary legal advice should be sought before acting on any information contained in this publication. Robopro Magazine is for those who operate in the robotic and allied industries. Full details at: www.robopromedia.com
Xilinx Accelerating your Vision Guided Robotic Application
54 ROBO Business A round-up of the business stories from the sector, from deals to forward looking market reports
RoboPro In Focus In this new section we bring a selection of featured companies into Focus for you
WELCOME TO ROBOPRO The age of the cobot Firstly, a happy new year to you all. And as I’ll explore in a later article in the magazine, 2018 could be a pivotal year for the robotics industry, one which sees it really gain traction in the wider community. But, it struck me over the holidays, that much of the current focus is on hardware – the actual look and physical ability of robots when it comes to tasks such as replicating human moves. Robots physically copying humans is a great way to grab the headlines. It also keeps stoking the debate as to how long before robots replace us humans, another item to add to the list of fears as humanity struggles to adapt to a speed of technological change that we’ve never experienced before. Hardware is key, but it’s not that which will determine how robots progress over the longer term. It’s the software, the ability of robots to understand a particular task and do it without instruction. And how much will it come down to artificial intelligence, the ability of the robot to think their way through a problem and solve it without human interference? Some believe AI is the biggest threat that humankind faces, that it will eventually pass human intelligence and decide to rid the planet of us fleshy mortals. Others believe it will be the saviour of mankind, allowing us to develop further as a species. Which opinion is true only time will tell and will occupy the thoughts of the great and good for years to come, but what preoccupies most people is will robots (and AI) take away people’s jobs? And recent reports have set the alarm bells ringing. Again, it makes good headlines to shout that certain industries are about to be decimated with robots. It’s less spectacular to report, as do many studies, that over time, the effect could actually be to create more jobs. In this issue, I take a look at one of the latest reports to emerge which enters the debate.
The Institute for Public Policy Research has just declared that although robots should not have a detrimental effect on the economy, it will hurt those lower-skilled workers, whose jobs will be replaced, and hand the balance of power to higher-skilled workers who be able to ask for higher wages. In the short to medium term however, I think the next stage is the rise of the collaborative robot. Current robots are mostly geared to be in static positions and complete repetitive actions that require little thought, or ingenuity. The next stage is to get robots working with humans to complement their skills – to create a paring of the best of both worlds. Think how robots for example can allow a human worker to pick up heavier weights, and complete tasks that require mechanical force. The potential is endless. The age of the cobot is coming, lets embrace it, literally! All the best,
— Spend a day with us and transform your productivity Our Switch to Robots events give you all you need to help you decide whether robots are right for your shop floor. Over one day, we cover everything from how to identify whether you need a robot through to how to justify an investment. We’ll also show you how today’s robots are easier than ever to set up and program, with a hands-on training session. Visit http://bit.ly/S2RFeb18 to sign up for our free, no-obligation Switch to Robots event at our Milton Keynes training centre on Thursday 22nd February.
1.7 MILLION NEW ROBOTS TO TRANSFORM THE WORLD´S FACTORIES BY 2020 The International Federation of Robotics reckons that by 2020, over 1.7 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. In the lead is China, as the world’s number one marketplace. In 2017 robot installations are estimated to increase by 21% in the Asia-Australia region. What’s more, robot supplies in the Americas will surge by 16% and in Europe by 8%. Important drivers of this development: robot adoption is a response to faster business cycles and the requirement to produce with greater flexibility tailored to customer demand in all manufacturing sectors. A new generation of industrial robots will pave the way for ever more flexible automation. The figures come from the 2017 World Robotics Report, which has just been published by the IFR. President of the International Federation of Robotics Joe Gemma said: “Robots offer high levels of precision and their connectivity will play a key role in new digital manufacturing environments. Increasing availability enables more and more manufacturers from companies of all sizes to automate.” An extract of the report follows:
INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS IN OPERATION
expand their home market share to 31 percent in 2016.
In terms of units, it is estimated that by 2020 the worldwide stock of operational industrial robots will increase from about 1,828,000 units at the end of 2016 to 3,053,000 units. This represents an average annual growth rate of 14 percent between 2018 and 2020. In Australasia the operational stock of robots is estimated to increase by 16 percent in 2017, by 9 percent in the Americas and by 7 percent in Europe. Since 2016, the largest number of industrial robots in operation has been in China. In 2020, this will amount to about 950,300 units, considerably more than in Europe (611,700 units). The Japanese robot stock will slightly increase in the period between 2018 and 2020. About 1.9 million robots will be in operation across Asia in 2020. This is almost equal to the global stock of robots in 2016.
South Korea is the second biggest market in the world. Due to major investments by the electrical and electronics industry in robots, annual sales increased considerably. About 41,400 units were sold in 2016. This is a rise of 8 percent compared to 2015. South Korea has the highest level of robot density in the world, about 630 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry in 2016. Korea is a market leader in LCD and memory chip manufacturing.
TOP FIVE MARKETS IN THE WORLD There are five major markets representing 74 percent of the total sales volume in 2016: China, South Korea, Japan, the United States and Germany. China has significantly expanded its leading position as the largest market with a share of 30 percent of the total supply in 2016. With sales of about 87,000 industrial robots China came close to the total sales volume of Europe and the Americas combined (97,300 units). Chinese robot suppliers continued to
In Japan robot sales increased by 10 percent to about 38,600 units (2016), reaching the highest level since 2006 (37,400 units). Japan is the predominant robot manufacturing country. Since 2010, the production capacity of Japanese robot suppliers has increased in order to meet the growing demand for industrial robots: production more than doubled from 73,900 units in 2010 to 152,600 units in 2016 (52 percent of the global supply in 2016). In the United States robot installations increased by 14 percent to a peak of 31,400 units (2016). The driver for this continued growth since 2010 was the ongoing trend to automate production in order to strengthen the competitiveness of American industries in overseas markets. Investments have been made to keep manufacturing at home, and in some cases, to bring back manufacturing that
had previously been relocated overseas. Due to this dynamic development, the robot density in the United States increased considerably – in particular in the automotive industry. With a density of 1,261 installed robots per 10,000 employees the United States ranked second in 2016 after the Republic of Korea. Most of the robots in the USA are imported from Japan, Korea and Europe. Germany is the fifth largest robot market in the world and by far the largest in Europe. The annual supply and operational stock of industrial robots in 2016 had a share of 36 percent and 41 percent respectively of total robot sales in Europe. In 2016, the number of robots sold increased slightly to 20,039 units compared to 2015 (19,945 units). FUTURE TREND: SMART FACTORY Industry 4.0 – linking the real-life factory with virtual reality – will play an increasingly
important role in global manufacturing. As obstacles like system complexities and data incompatibility are overcome, manufacturers will integrate robots into factory-wide networks of machines and systems. Robot manufacturers are already developing and commercializing new service models: these are based on real-time data collected by sensors which are attached to robots. Analysts predict a rapidly growing market for cloud robotics in which data from one robot is compared to data from other robots in the same or different locations. The cloud network allows these connected robots to perform the same activities. This will be used to optimize parameters of the robot’s movement such as speed, angle or force. Ultimately, the advent of big data in manufacturing could redefine the industry boundaries between equipment makers and manufacturers.
FUTURE TREND: SMALL -TO-MEDIUM-SIZED MANUFACTURERS TO AUTOMATE Some robot manufacturers are also considering leasing models, particularly in order to accelerate adoption by small-to-medium-sized manufacturers. Simplification is a key trend for this market segment. The ongoing need for robots which are easier to use and to program and the increasing need for ever more flexible automation initiated the development of smarter solutions. This is especially useful for industries with a lack of specialized production engineers inhouse. Thus, it is important to provide easy-to-use robots that can easily be integrated into and operated in standard production processes. Robots that are uncomplicated to use will enable the deployment of industrial robots in many industries to sustain efficient and flexible manufacturing.
FIRST COBOT PROTOTYPE FROM SECONDHANDS
The SecondHands project has presented the first prototype of its collaborative robot (cobot). This will act as the main platform for testing and developing new technologies related to the maintenance and repair of automation equipment in Ocado’s highly automated warehouses. Ocado is a UK-based company and the world's largest onlineonly supermarket, which delivers over 260,000 customer orders per week using a network of automated facilities called Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs). Ocado Technology develops the kit which is used in the warehouses.
SecondHands is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project which aims to design a cobot that can proactively offer support to maintenance technicians working in Ocado’s CFCs. This robot will be a second pair of hands that will assist technicians when they are in need of help. The robot will learn through observation and will augment the humans' capabilities by completing tasks that require a level of precision, or physical strength, that are not available to human workers. The SecondHands project combines the skills of world class researchers focusing on a real-world industrial use case. The goal of SecondHands is to design a robot that can offer help to a maintenance technician in a proactive manner. They see this robot as a second pair of hands that can assist the technician when he/ she is in need of help.
The project revolves around four fundamental concepts: • the design of a new robotic assistant; • a knowledge base to facilitate proactive help; • a high degree of humanrobot interaction; • advanced perception skills to function in a highly dynamic industrial environment.
RESEARCH PARTNERS Together with its research partners École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Sapienza Università di Roma, and University College London (UCL), Ocado Technology is working to advance the technology readiness of areas such as computer vision and cognition, humanrobot interaction, mechatronics, and
perception and ultimately demonstrate how versatile and productive human-robot collaboration can be in practice. A summary of the research contributions for each of the project partners: • EPFL: human-robot physical interaction with bimanipulation, including action skills learning; • KIT (H²T): Development of the ARMAR-6 robot including its entire mechatronics, software operating system and control as well as robot grasping and manipulation skills; • KIT (Interactive Systems Lab, ISL): the spoken dialog management system; • Sapienza University of Rome: visual scene perception with human action recognition, cognitive decision making, task planning
and execution with continuous monitoring; • UCL: computer vision techniques for 3D human pose estimation and semantic 3D reconstruction of dynamic scenes; • Ocado Technology: integration of researched functionality on the robot platform and evaluation in realworld demonstrations. OCADO TECHNOLOGY Ocado Technology is a division of Ocado developing worldclass systems and solutions in the areas of robotics, machine learning, simulation, data science, forecasting and routing, inference engines, big data, real-time control, and more. The fusion between the Ocado retail and Ocado Technology divisions creates a virtuous circle of innovation that leads to disruptive thinking. For more information about Ocado Technology, visit www.ocadotechnology.com
AUTONOMOUS DUAL-ARM ROBOT FROM EPSON Seiko Epson (Tokyo, Japan) has commercialized a “seeing, sensing, thinking, working” autonomous dual-arm robot that will expand the scope of automated production. The company intends to roll out the new robot, named the WorkSense W-01, in stages beginning this winter. Epson said that manufacturers’ needs have grown more diverse with demand for products fluctuating sharply and a growing necessity to flexibly accommodate small-lot production and just-in-time production.
Therefore, industrial robots are conventionally installed in a fixed location on a line to perform a given task. However, the WorkSense W-01, has been developed for easy mobility so that it can be wheeled from place to place to perform assembly, transport, and other tasks. The following features enable the robot to automate production tasks that previously defied automation the company said in a statement:
SEEING The robot is equipped with 4 head-unit cameras and 2 armmounted cameras that give the robot human-like vision, enabling it to accurately detect an object’s position and orientation in threedimensional space. And even if the location of objects and obstacles changes, the robot is able to independently “see” and determine their position.
SENSING The robot arms are outfitted with Epson’s highly sensitive, precision force sensors, which are already available on sale. The robot is thus able to perform delicate assembly, transport, and other tasks that require human-like force control to avoid damaging objects. Multipurpose hands that can grasp, grip, and clamp objects of various shapes and sizes are included as standard end-of-arm tooling. They can manipulate tools and jigs that were designed for humans.
THINKING The robot is able to accurately detect the position and orientation of objects in three-dimensional space, so
even if the robot is relocated, it can immediately start work—with no programming change required. This gives the robot the ability to flexibly adapt to sudden changes in production. So, for example, it can be wheeled to different locations to perform different tasks every day, if need be. The robot independently decides the path and orientation of its 7-axis arms and is able to avoid obstacles.
WORKING The robot’s two 7-axis arms move like human arms. The dual arms move independently from one another to allow the robot to perform tasks that a singlearm robot cannot, such as tightening a screw in a component with one arm while holding the component in place with the other. Epson is targeting market segments where demand for small-lot production and JIT production are particularly high, such as automotive parts production. Yoshifumi Yoshida, chief operating officer of Epson’s Robotics Solutions Operations Division, said: “Epson’s Corporate Vision expresses a strong commitment to driving robotics innovation. We are refining our core technologies that combine sensors and smart features, as well as our efficient, compact, and precision technologies, with the aim of realizing a future in which robots are widely used to serve and support people. We see the WorkSense W-01, which harnesses the power of Epson’s deep portfolio of technology, as bringing us one step closer to bringing about such a future.”
TSUDA SUCCEEDS GEMMA AT IFR Junji Tsuda (Yaskawa Electric Japan) has succeeded Joe Gemma (KUKA, US) as the President of the Executive Board of the IFR. Each President serves a two-year term. Steven Wyatt (ABB, Switzerland) has been appointed as IFR´s new Vice President. Tsuda, 66, serves as the Representative Director Chairman of the Board of the Japanese robot manufacturer Yaskawa Electric. He began working for Yaskawa in 1976, after obtaining his university degree in mechanical engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Since the 1990s, Tsuda has headed various America-related business units and has been active in the parent company since 2003. Before being elected President of IFR, Mr. Tsuda assisted his predecessor, Joe Gemma, as Vice-President, a role he held for two years. The new elected Vice President, Steven Wyatt, is the global Head of Marketing & Sales for ABB’s Robotics
Business Unit. Prior to joining ABB in 2010, Mr Wyatt held a series of executive marketing and sales roles within the plastics industry globally. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh in his native Scotland. Wyatt and Tsuda were both elected by the IFR Executive Board which is composed of representatives of national robotics associations from all over the world, the IFR president and delegates of robot manufacturers and research institutes. Tsuda said: “The presidency of Joe Gemma followed the mission, to deliver a better understanding about what drives the rapidly changing world of robotics. He did a great job by communicating with our many stakeholders around the Globe. As its new President it is my pleasure to proceed with his work. Together with the new Vice President, Steven Wyatt, I will carry his mission forward – for the International Federation of Robotics.”
(picture shows, from left to right: Steven Wyatt, Joe Gemma and Junji Tsuda)
NEW PRODUCTS AND APPLICATIONS FROM OPTOFORCE OptoForce (Budapest, Hungary), the European robotics sensor manufacturer which brings the sense of touch to robots via multi-axis force sensors, has launched new products and applications. Two new versions of its multi-axis sensor, the HEX-E and the HEX-H, have been launched. Alongside the launch, OptoForce will also distribute a cable plier, a compute box and make applications of bulb insertion and connector insertion available for its sensors. The company said that equipped with the latest company’s product developments, the two sensors are easy to install, lightweight and robust. The HEX-E and HEX-H sensors benefit from improved calibration, providing greater accuracy, adding a mounting plate to handle an overload x5 (compared to x2 previously) and a new compute box, improving computational power to gain some adaptability with the Universal Robots, KUKA and ABB arms.
FASTEST PALLETISING ROBOT IN ITS CLASS FANUC UK has launched its fastest four-axis palletising robot yet.
and a maximum palletising height of 2,238mm.
The M-410iC-110 is based on the existing FANUC M-410 industrial palletising series. It can achieve a throughput of 2200 cycles per hour and is capable of highmotion performance within a working range of 2,400mm.
Andrew Armstrong, sales and marketing manager at FANUC UK, said: “FANUC’s M-410 series is already renowned for its high repeatability and strength within the palletising sector. The M-410iC-110 marks the next stage in the development of this series for more lightweight, compact applications. Not only is it the fastest robot in its class, but its compact size and FIELDBUS capability allow
Fanuc said its compact design makes it highly suited for palletising applications in a restricted workspace, such as end-of-line palletising or in-the-line integrated transfers. The robot boasts high-quality kinematics, with a payload of 110kg, a horizontal maximum reach of 2,403mm
it to be retrofitted easily to any existing palletising line, making the M-410iC-110 the perfect first step for any palletising business considering automation.”
NEW INDUSTRIAL WASHING ROBOT A new industrial washing robot has been launched by FANUC UK (Coventry, UK). Called the R-2000iC/210WE, FANUC says it is capable of withstanding high pressure
loads and forces, with a maximum payload of 210kg. Its outer coating and oil-equipped reducers prevent corrosion from water, detergent or mechanical stress, and the robot is waterproof to IP67 standard. It is designed to work, unmanned, for long periods of time without interruption. Operators can also check the status of the robot via the Teach Pendant, which
minimises the risk of unexpected downtime or process errors. The new robot will initially be targeted at the automotive industry, as well as other sectors with industrial washing requirements. Sales and marketing manager at FANUC UK Andrew Armstrong, said: “The R-2000iC/210WE is a great demonstration of how automated capabilities can be adapted and applied for any working environment, including those that are highly aggressive or aqueous.”
RIA ALLIES WITH OSHA, NIOSH North American trade group The Robotics Industries Association (ANN ARBOR, MI) has entered into an alliance partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
This new alliance with OSHA and NIOSH will help us to continue advancing worker safety as more robots enter the workplace.”
OSHA has established alliances with a number of industry groups to share expertise and knowledge about safety practices in the industries involved. The OSHA/ NIOSH/RIA Alliance will focus on communication and education about best practices in robot safety.
Director of Standards Development of RIA Carole Franklin added: “The robotics industry has a great track record of safety dating back to 1961 when the first industrial robot was installed. We’re trying to make sure every integrator and user of robotics in the country is aware of the best practices described in our R15.06 standard. This new partnership with OSHA and NIOSH will certainly help us in that effort.”
President of RIA Jeff Burnstein said: “RIA has a long history of helping to keep around industrial robotics. We developed the first American national robot safety standard, R15.06, in 1986 and we’ve kept it up-to-date since then.
Ongoing, the alliance will have the goals of enhancing technical expertise about robotics within OSHA and NIOSH; improving awareness of workplace hazards associated with traditional industrial robots and the emerging
technology of human robot collaboration (HRC) installations and systems; and identifying research that may be needed to help reduce workplace hazards. A statement said that the Alliance will foster technical exchange and information sharing among RIA members, OSHA, NIOSH, employers, and workers concerning hazards that may be present around industrial robot systems. It will also facilitate the sharing of information about how best to control exposure to such hazards during operations involving human interaction with the robotic systems in workplaces. Alliance participants will collaborate to develop technical training, resources, and tools for OSHA staff, NIOSH researchers, employers, and workers.
FANUC FOOD-FRIENDLY ROBOT FANUC UK has launched a new robot for cleanroom and food-handling environments. Called the M20iB/25C, it is designed to ISO Class 5 standards. It brings automated picking, packing and handling to applications for which hygiene and cleanliness are vital. The robot incorporates FANUC’s drives and controls, including advanced servo technology – which can increase cycles and throughput – and integrated user interface. The robot also has several additional features that meet cleanroom requirements.
colour also reveals dirt clearly and it uses an epoxy paint that meets FDA standard 21CFR 175.300. FANUC sales and marketing manager Andrew Armstrong said: “For any business handling
pharmaceuticals or food, cleanliness and hygiene are always paramount. This does not mean, however, that the doors to automation are closed. “The M-20iB/25C is one of many FANUC robots designed to meet the exacting standards of the cleanroom environment, while maintaining the high repeatability, accuracy and reliability for which the entire FANUC robot range is known.”
Cables and motors are enclosed in the body of the robot, making it suitable for full wash-downs with cleaning agents. Its white
ON ROBOT LAUNCHES NEXTLEVEL CUSTOMIZABLE GRIPPERS On Robot launches next-level customizable grippers for cobots with multi-size objects Danish (Odense, Denmark) manufacturer of innovative electric grippers On Robot has launched a flexible and energy-efficient gripper for cobots tasked with handling objects of various sizes. The RG6 is a bigger and stronger version of the company’s popular RG2, with higher payload than other twofinger collaborative grippers available on the market today. The higher adjustable force (25N to 120N) enables three times higher payload (6-8 kg or 13.2-17,6 lbs.) and wider stroke (160 mm or 6.29 in.), ideal for manufacturers automating the movement of
delicate or heavy objects in applications such as pick and place, computer numerical control (CNC), machine tending, packaging and palletizing, and assembly. Gary Eliasson, general manager, North America, On Robot, said: “Created after an extensive survey of our distributors worldwide, the RG6 extends the capabilities of the RG2 by providing an ideal userfriendly gripper that handles much larger objects,” said. “The RG6 is powerful and strong, as a large number of customers have requested, but it is still as simple, easy to install, and safe as the RG2, with no external wires and an infinite rotation of the end joint, which makes them as flexible and dexterous as the robotic arm itself.” Like the RG2, the RG6 is an electric gripper instead of traditional compressed air solutions that take up large amounts of space, are energyintensive and too complicated for many users. Compatible with all Universal Robots cobot arms, the RG6 mounts the arm with “click on” safety shields. It enables operators to quickly modify assembly on the factory floor without the assistance of an engineer. Eliasson added: “These grippers are so safe and user-friendly that employees can be directly interact with the cobot,” “As a result, instead of being intimidated by the technology, the employees become increasingly engaged and fascinated by the possibilities. They are quickly recognizing additional ways that the cobots can be used to optimize and develop their production.”
NEW ROBOT SKIN – TOUCHY AND FEELY A team of engineers from the University of Washington and UCLA have developed a sensitive robot skin. It’s officially described as a ‘flexible bio-inspired sensor skin’ and its designed to convey information, such as vibration and sheer forces, which are then used by the robot as it grasps and manipulates objects. The news of the skin was first disclosed via a paper published in Sensors and Actuators A: Physical. The senior author of the paper Jonathan Posner said: “Robotic and prosthetic hands are really based on visual cues right now — such as, ‘Can I see my hand wrapped around this object?’ or ‘Is it touching this wire?’ But that’s obviously incomplete information. “If a robot is going to dismantle an improvised explosive device, it needs to know whether its hand is sliding along a wire or pulling on it. To hold on to a medical instrument, it needs to know if the object is slipping. This all requires the ability to sense shear force, which no other sensor skin has been able to do well.” The skin, which is made from the same silicone rubber as used in swimmer’s goggles, is being manufactured at the UW’s Washington Nanofabrication Facility.
WORLD’S FIRST SIMULTANEOUS HORIZONTAL MULTI-AXIS MACHINE The world’s first simultaneous horizontal multi-axis machining centre is operational thanks to a partnership between Cambridge Dynamics and FANUC . Called the SOHMAX (Simultaneous Operation, Horizontal Multi-Axis), it was launched at EMO 2017 It has been specifically designed for machining operations on both ends of shafts, bars, axles and couplings – dramatically reducing set-up and cycle times. The SOHMAX uses both FANUC CNC for its programming and a FANUC robot for loading and unloading. It allows up to 12 machining operations to be performed on components simultaneously, from simple turning, drilling and
tapping operations, through to profiling, broaching, swaging, spline shaving, pressure testing and assembly operations. Technical Sales Manager at Cambridge Dynamics John Hawkins said: “The SOHMAX has been designed to provide an innovative machining solution to increase competitiveness and profitability, by dramatically reducing machining times for shaft and bar applications. We worked extensively with FANUC to develop this machine and we believe that we have delivered a world first. We had an enormous amount of interest in the machine at EMO, particularly from the Chinese market.” He continued: “The SOHMAX is ideally suited to high volume parts machining, such
as automotive and general industrial work, due to its ability to dramatically reduce set-up times set-up times and improve manufacturing flexibility, particularly with high mix product batches.” UK Sales and Marketing Manager for FANUC Andy Armstrong added: “We have been delighted to support Cambridge Dynamics in the development of the SOHMAX machine which is revolutionary in design and in its ability to deliver outstanding productivity improvements. The partnership demonstrates FANUC’s philosophy to support machine builders of all sizes, both during the development process, with applications work such as motor sizing, and as a solutions partner for both CNC and robotic machine tending.”
Pictured (from left): John Hawkins, Technical Sales Manager, Cambridge Dynamics; Andy Armstrong, UK Sales and Marketing Manager for FANUC; and Andre Becker, Managing Director, Cambridge Dynamics
FRAMOS APPOINTED AS A GLOBAL APPROVED SUPPLIER FOR THE INTEL REALSENSE FRAMOS Group (Munich, Germany) has been appointed as a global approved supplier for the Intel RealSense technology product line. The technology adds human like sensing and intelligence to devices and machines. It enables applications in the growing fields of virtual and augmented reality, mobile products and other segments, to benefit from adding sense to make the experience better. Under the agreement, FRAMOS will offer the entire Intel RealSense technology portfolio including its Intel RealSense Vision Processor, Depth Modules and Depth Cameras – all supported with the latest Intel RealSense SDK 2.0. FRAMOS will serve its global network of imaging clients, OEMs and camera manufacturers with the technology. CEO of FRAMOS Dr Andreas Franz said: “We enable our customers to make their machines see and think. The Intel RealSense technology product line is an excellent suite of components which lets machines make situational decisions. When integrated, any device will have the ability to naturally and intuitively interact with its environment.
“We are extremely proud to offer Intel’s RealSense technology products and to enable our customers to benefit better and faster from the major shift into intelligent devices and machines. When it comes to drones, robots, VR, automotive, surveillance and 3D applications, the Intel RealSense line is an optimal completion to our portfolio of imaging solutions ranging from sensors to systems.” The Intel RealSense cameras contain a vision processor and depth module in a small form factor. They provide stereo depth sensing capability, giving devices and machines a more realistic view of the world. Intel RealSense tracking modules comprehend device position and orientation, providing the ability to navigate, map and learn the environment. Intel hardware and software platforms, said FRAMOS, enable the next evolutionary step of ‘smart’ devices and machines.
SITE CHOSEN TO TEST AUTOMATED SHIPS The Norwegian west coast is to become the test bed for automated ships. Today the Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Norwegian Maritime Authority and a consortium led by local company GCE Blue Maritime, have signed an agreement paving the way for Storfjorden and its associated side fjords to become a test site for the remotely controlled, autonomous ships of the future. It was back in 2015 that the Norwegian Maritime Authority announced that Norway, as a major flag state, ought to become the first to introduce unmanned ships into the market. According to Per Erik Dalen, CEO of GCE Blue Maritime, Storfjorden is ideally situated in close proximity to no less than 14 shipyards and 20 shipping companies, several of which already use this area to conduct pre-commissioning trials for their newly built vessels. He said: “In addition, the area is important for national and international enterprises that are at the forefront of maritime and marine technology development and need somewhere to perform full-scale pilot testing,” he says.
FIRST TECHNOLOGY TO DECIPHER ‘DEEPER’ HUMAN PERSONALITY TRAITS IN REAL TIME VIA SUBLIMINAL FACIAL EXPRESSIONS Human, a pioneer in Artificial Emotional Intelligence (AEI), claims to have developed new ground breaking software that has the ability to read subliminal facial expressions and convert these into a range of emotions and specific characteristic traits in real time. The company said that their software is the first of its kind taking AEI and facial recognition a step further into the dynamic realms of characteristic detection. Human’s patent pending software goes beyond that using partial facial recognition, robust camera angles and state-of-theart pixelated raw data to reveal typical personality traits. Developed in-house by world leading data scientists, Human’s technology
provides advanced levels of unbiased insight to help companies better predict opportunities, manage risks and make wiser decisions in anything from employing the right person and cultural fit for the job, to supporting fraud detection, providing professional sports scouting intelligence and more. The innovative software is said to minimize human
bias, is cost effective and time efficient. CEO and Founder at Human explains Yi Xu explained: “Understanding what makes someone passionate, nervous, dishonest or curious for example, has to date been about the human subconscious biased view, which has always been a gamble. Our software adds another layer of certainty to simple gut instinct with supporting data. Using the power of deeper-rooted technology that not only looks at how someone is feeling at that point, but also at what kind of person they are, will allow us much greater insight into individual human behavioural traits which can be used to great advantage when making better, more informed decisions.”
OPINION Editor Neil Martin brings you some of the more off beat stories from the world of robotics
DRIVERLESS BUS CRASH SHOCKS MEDIA You’ve got to laugh at this one – a driverless bus, just two hours into its first foray onto the main road, was involved in an accident. Hold the front page, avert the children’s eyes! TV newsreaders looked shocked as they read out the details. But, actually, what happened, was the dutiful bus was going about its lawful business in Las Vegas when it was hit by a huge truck. Thankfully, it was a low-speed prang and no-one was injured. In fact, the bus sensed it was in danger and tried to move away, but the truck ‘allegedly’ rolled into the auto omnibus. So well done the auto bus. A spokesman for the City said that the lorry had hit the bus, but that any damage was not immediately apparent and
the plucky blue vehicle continued to work its route. This was all slightly awkward, because the bus had just been unveiled at a ceremony which bigged-up the fact that this was the self-driving project aimed at the public at large. And it appears a popular initiative, because people were queuing up to experience the novel public transport solution. The bus is designed to carry 12 and, ironically, comes with an attendant who can access an on-board computer monitor, but cannot rush to
a steering wheel, or brakes, should the worst happen. What would have been interesting to know of course, is how many driveroperated buses were involved in accidents across the US on the same day and how many of those were at fault. Stand-by for lots of stories like these as automated vehicles ‘hit’ the roads!
KILLER ROBOTS REPRIEVED Robot killing machines are not to be banned, at least not yet. Despite calls to the contrary, killer robots – those machines which can spot a target and destroy it without the help of a human operator – are not going to be declared persona non grata, or regulated. At least that’s the current position of a United Nations body which speaks on such matters. The United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) is responsible for saying what is acceptable and what is not. But, at a recent get-together, Amandeep Gill, India’s disarmament ambassador and chair of the meeting, played down suggestions that robots are about to be used as weapons. He was quoted in the mainstream media as saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge. I think we have to be careful in not emotionalising or dramatising this issue.” Fair enough. And I agree, at least for now. Having just been to another trade show where numerous
robots were on their worst behaviour and not working for the crowds, I don’t think they are ready to take over the world. But, and this is a big but, the UN has to be aware that we are only a few years away from fully functioning autonomous weapons systems and if they are linked with AI (in other words, let the computer figure out who the bad guys are), then we are going to have major problems just around the corner. At least the UN is starting to think about it. And things may change when they meet for two weeks next year to once again discuss the subject of bans and regulations. Most nations appear to want some form of instrument, which is legally binding, that controls how such sophisticated weapons might be developed and used. And what’s more, how humans must remain in control.
Some countries are taking upon themselves to ban autonomous weapons, but not everyone is so keen. There are countries which are actively developing AI controlled weapons systems. And many industry experts fear that it will take a major incident (such as an out-ofcontrol robot killing humans), for any bans to be introduced. But, given human nature, lets guess what’s really going to happen. There will have to be robot weapons systems because once one nation has them, others will have to follow. Imagine the scenario of one nation being able to fight a war with machines and not humans. It’s the nuclear bomb argument all over again. So another arms race in the offing? I think so, no matter what the UN might decide in 2018.
Parts of the international media were bewildered recently when Saudi Arabia made a robot woman a citizen. It’s believed to be the first time that a nonhuman has been a citizen of any country, although that cannot be totally checked. Political views aside for a moment and with people pointing out the obvious ironies of such a thing happening, this was for many a PR stunt which featured within the Future Investment Initiative summit, held recently in Riyadh. Whether a PR stunt, or not, the robot in question, called Sophia, has been getting a mass of attention as she does the rounds of media organisations.
‘ROBOT WOMAN’ SOPHIA GETS CITIZENSHIP OF SAUDI ARABIA She is reported to have said at the summit: “I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction.” Well, she would, wouldn’t she? Sophia is the product of a company called Hanson Robotics which says on its website: “Hanson Robotics creates amazingly expressive and lifelike robots that build trusted and engaging relationships with people through
conversation. Our robots teach, serve, entertain, and will in time come to truly understand and care about humans. We aim to create a better future for humanity by infusing artificial intelligence with kindness and empathy, cultivated through meaningful interactions between our robots and the individuals whose lives they touch. We envision that through symbiotic partnership with us, our robots will eventually evolve to become super intelligent genius machines that can help us solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world.” I’ll leave to decide what you make of that statement: noble, or slightly worrying! And whether these sort of media stunt, if that indeed what it was, is a good thing for the robots industry, or bad thing, remains to be seen. For me, I can’t decide if it’s a comic distraction, or a reflection as to where all this is heading!
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NEW SENSOR TECHNOLOGIES EMPLOYED IN TODAY’S ROBOTS By Senior Product Marketing Manager at ams AG Mark J Donovan Advancements in control and communications ICs have played an important role in realizing today’s next generation of robots. However, it is the advent and fusion of many new, small and low cost sensing technologies that are at the heart of these modern and sophisticated robots. Several key sensor technologies that are playing a major role in enabling the next generation of robots include magnetic position sensors, presence sensors, gesture sensors, force torque sensors, environmental sensors, and power management sensors.
MAGNETIC POSITION SENSORS – THE UNSUNG HERO IN THE ROBOT REVOLUTION One of the most ubiquitous sensor technologies found in today’s consumer, service professional, social, and even industrial robot is the magnetic angular position sensor integrated circuit (IC). See Figure 1.0. Today virtually every joint in a consumer, service professional or social robot uses two or more magnetic angular position sensor ICs. For each axis of movement, or joint rotation, at least one magnetic angular position sensor is used. Many of today’s robots utilize small, yet powerful, Brushless Direct Current motors (BLDC) for moving the robot’s joints and limbs. In order to properly drive the motors, motor position feedback is required.
Figure 1.0 – Magnetic Position Sensor with Target Puck Magnet
Increasingly, magnetic angular position sensor ICs are being used to provide the motor commutation feedback to the joint motor controllers. See Figure 2.0 on the next page. In addition, joint gear angular position feedback is also required for the closed loop motor control of the robot’s joint. Thus two magnetic angular position sensors are required in each axis of movement for a robot joint.
In the case of a robot ankle that requires axial motion in both pitch and roll, for example, a total of four magnetic position sensors are used. With this type of multiple for each joint, and the appreciation of the high number of joints required in most robots, it becomes quickly obvious why the magnetic angular position sensor is so prolific in today’s latest robot introductions.
Figure 2.0 – Robotic Arm with Magnetic Position Sensor
BUT WHY CHOOSE A MAGNETIC ANGULAR POSITION SENSOR IC? Today’s latest magnetic angular position sensors, such as ams’ AS5047P and AS5600L, offer many advantages over competitive position sensor technologies previously employed in robotic joints. These new magnetic angular position sensor ICs offer high resolution and repeatable accuracy. In addition, since they are fabricated in CMOS silicon, they require very minimal power, weight and space, compared to competing position sensor technologies such as optical encoders and resolvers. Moreover, magnetic position sensor ICs can operate in very harsh environments, including extreme temperatures, and dirty and dusty environments. Some magnetic position sensors, such as ams’ entire family of magnetic position sensor ICs, are even immune to magnetic stray fields that are often found in robot working environments. Lastly, because they are contactless and have no moving mechanical parts they don’t wear out, unlike for example, resisitive potentiometers commonly found in traditional servo motor assemblies used in low cost social/toy robots. It is because of all of these inherent benefits that magnetic angular position sensors are being utilized so commonly in today’s consumer, professional service and social robots, and now even industrial robots.
PRESENCE SENSORS Several presence sensor technologies are now being integrated into today’s robots and their information is being fused together for providing robot spatial vision sensing, and for object detection and avoidance. 2D and 3D vision stereo cameras are commonly found in many of today’s new consumer and professional service robots. However, new advanced sensor technologies such as Time of Flight sensors, which includes Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensors are also increasingly being deployed in robots. LIDAR provides high resolution 3D mapping of the space and surroundings that a robot is operating in so that it can better perform tasks and move around in. See Figure 3.0.
Figure 3.0 – LIDAR Mapping
Similarly, ultronsonic sensors are being utilized for presence sensing. Like their counterparts used in automobiles for safety alarm systems when backing up, ultrasonic sensors in robots are used for detecting obstacles in their near vicinity and preventing them from bumping into walls, objects, other robots, and human beings. In addition, they can perform a role in the robot performing its major functional tasks. Hence, ultrasonic sensors play an important role in nearfield navigation and obstacle avoidance, which ultimately provides for overall improved robot performance and safety. Ultrasonic sensors, however, have a limited range that spans from about one centimeter to a couple of meters, and have a maximum direction cone of approximately 30 degrees. They are relatively low cost and have good accuracy at close ranges, but their accuracy drops off with increasing range and measurement angle. They are also susceptible to temperature and pressure changes, and interfer-ence from other nearyby robots using ultroasonic sensors tuned to the same frequencies. Nevertheless, when used in combination with other presence sensors they provide useful and reliable position information. When all of these presence sensors’ (2D/3D camera, LIDAR and ultrasonic) data are fused together, as we are now beginning to see in higher-end consumer/professional service robots and industrial robots, these robots are able to achieve excellent spatial awareness of their surroundings, and move and perform more intricate tasks without damaging themselves, people or their surroundings.
GESTURE SENSORS USED IN HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTION Gesture sensors are also being increasingly integrated into some of today’s most sophisticated robots for aiding in providing user interface commands. Gesture sensor technology includes both optical sensors and control armband sensors worn by a robot operator.
With optical based gesture sensors a robot can be trained to recognize specific hand movements and perform certain task(s) based on the specific gesture or hand movement. These types of gesture sensors afford many opportunities in the home or hospital for people with disabilities and limited communicaton abilities, as well as in the smart factory. With armband control sensors, an operator wearing one can communicate and control a collaborative, industrial, medical or military robot to peform and/or mimic certain tasks based on how the operator moves and gestures his or her arm. For example, a surgeon wearing an armband sensor on each arm could control a pair of remote medical robot arms to peform surgery, possibly as far away as on the other side of the planet.
FORCE TORQUE SENSORS Force Torque sensors are also increasingly being used in today’s next generation of robots. Force torque sensors are used not only in robots’ end effectors and grippers, but now also in other parts of the robot, for example, the torso, arms, legs and head. These particular force torque sensors are used to monitor limb speed movement, detect obstacles and provide safety alerts to the robot’s central processor. When a force torque sensor, for example, in a robot arm senses a sudden and unexpected force due to the arm bumping into an object its controlling safety software can cause the arm to stop its motion, and retract its position. Force torque sensors are also working in conjunction with presence sensors, as well as other safety monitoring sensors, e.g. environmental sensors, for providing total safe zone monitoring functions.
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSORS Various environmental sensors are also finding their way into both industrial and consumer robots. Environmental sensors that can detect VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in regards to air quality, temperature and humidity sensors, pressure sensors, and even sensors
that can detect the presence of lighting. These sensors not only help to ensure a robot can continue to operate effectively and safely, but also make humans in the robot’s local area aware of unsafe environmental conditions.
The latest in sensor solutions for robot power management include, coulomb counting for the discharging and charging of batteries, precise and reliable over-temperature supervision sensors for voltage regulators, and current sensors in battery management devices.
POWER MANAGEMENT SENSORS
As a result of the integration and fusion of all off these Power management new and innovative sensors are also being sensor technologies, integrated into today’s today’s latest robots autonomous robots can operate more to aid in extending a independently and robot’s operating time safely. In addition, between charges, due to dramatic and for ensuring improvements in that Lithium-Ion computing power, batteries, the batteries software, and artificial most often found in intelligence, and today’s autonomous working in concert Figure 4.0 – Power Management critical in robots, don’t overheat with these new Autonomous Robots when being charged sensor technologies, or drained. See Figure this next generation 4.0. Power management sensors are also of robots can more easily be adapted to support used in the areas of voltage regulation, and a wide array of applications. Moreover, they can power and thermal management of robot joint perform their tasks more precisely and quickly than motors. All onboard robot electronics, such as their predecessors. And lastly, they can can operate microprocessors, sensors, and actuators, need and work more independently, collaboratively low noise ripple power supplies and regulation and safely with humans in a wider array of home, to ensure they work efficiently and properly. business and manufacturing environments.
AUTHOR Mark Donovan is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for ams AG’s Position Sensors Business Line. He has more than 30 years of industry experience in magnetic sensing, telecom, and radar signal processing, and holds eight patents in magnetic position sensing, radar signal processing and telecom communications. He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, as well as an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University.
2018 - ROBOTICS
Editor Neil Martin asks around to see what senior sector executives think 2018 will hold for the robotics industry
We sounded out a wide range of sources, concentrating of three major questions:
1. what are there main objectives for 2018;
2. what in their opinion will be the biggest robo sector trends next year; and, 3. what are the main sector challenges.
A3 Up first is Bob Doyle, Director of Communications at the Association for Advancing Automation. As for the first question, he told us: “As the association representing the robotics, vision, motion control and motors industries, we’ll continue to focus on educating, connecting, and leading the automation community. We want potential users to realize the benefits of these technologies, enabling them to be more competitive in the global marketplace. This will benefit all of our members and the industry as a whole.” On the subject of trends: “Collaborative technologies that allow robots to work side by side with humans will continue to proliferate in the market. Sensors and related technologies that make these systems possible are also expected to increase. Mobile platforms that allow robots to navigate complex environments will continue to be of interest to customers in certain industries.” And as for challenges: “The market will continue to
demand robust resources for education and training as these technologies continue to provide more value. Machine vision is playing an increasingly crucial role in successfully designing intelligent automation systems, and we’re seeing it used more in concert with robotics and motion control. As a result, we are seeing an increase in demand for our AIA Certified Vision Professional program from engineers all across the globe.”
ABB ROBOTICS Mike Wilson, ABB Business & Development Manager for ABB Robotics in the UK and Ireland, (Pictured below) told us that we are due a manufacturing metamorphosis and he spelt out why 2018 must be the year the UK embraces robots. He said: “2018 will be the year to initiate transformations in the UK manufacturing industry. As pressure grows to overcome the shortage of skilled workers whilst raising productivity, shop
floor engineers around the country will begin to ask themselves what changes must be made to ensure they meet the challenge. With Government only able to do so much, it’s up to robot suppliers to be prepared to provide support. Here we examine the goals to be set, the trends to be made aware of and the hurdles to overcome. “The future of manufacturing is changing. Now able to pick from a vast array of choices which can be bought and delivered quickly, today’s consumers, both in the domestic and industrial spheres, are becoming more demanding than ever. With this growth in power has come a rising expectation that goods will be delivered on time and at the right quality and price. “For the companies that manufacture and supply these products, meeting these expectations means doing things differently, adopting the latest techniques and technologies that will help them to stay one step ahead.
Less wiling “It would seem that in contrast to our international competitors, UK manufacturers are less willing to embrace the changes that need to be made. Evidence for this comes from the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APMG) 2013 report entitled ‘Making Good: A study of culture and competitiveness
in UK manufacturing’. This shows that British companies aren’t investing enough in new technologies which would boost the UK’s competitiveness and ultimately strengthen the economy. Instead the cultural norm is to make do and mend. Rather than replace old equipment for the latest innovations, UK manufacturers prefer to keep outdated machines running with little consideration for the impact this is having on costs, product quality or cycle times. “With manufacturing companies around the world investing in the latest innovations, there is a real risk that the UK will get left behind if something isn’t done soon to change attitudes towards investment in new production technologies.” “The Making Good report revealed that many respondents were unduly proud of their ability to keep outdated machinery running to avoid the need to invest in new equipment. While this may well save money in the short term, it also allows more forward-
thinking competitors to surge ahead and open up a gap that will be very difficult to close in the future. This is very much apparent in the world of robotics, where the latest set of statistics from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) shows a growing gap between the UK and the rest of the world in the utilisation of robots.” “One example of this growing gap can be seen by comparing Germany, which has 309 robots per 10,000 employees, with the UK, which has just 71. “In effect, if enhanced productivity and competitiveness are end destinations, the UK’s competitors are flying there supersonic while we’re still pedalling on our bikes. If UK companies truly want to be on board with the Government’s aim of becoming a world-leading manufacturing economy, then this must change, and fast. “ In Wilson’s opinion, the solution to changing attitudes lies in proactively
educating manufacturers not just about the technology available but also what they need to do to be able to successfully introduce it into their production lines. “We know from experience that decision-makers in manufacturing companies, especially smaller ones, lack the time and resources to be able to think about how to introduce new technologies into their operations. This is one of the key reasons why outdated negative perceptions continue to persist that are causing the UK to fall increasingly further behind in the adoption of robotic automation compared to its international competitors. “It is my belief that if suppliers of automation equipment such as ourselves want to change this, then we cannot wait for the solution to come from Government. Instead, it is incumbent on us all to do whatever is necessary to help educate the market and make our equipment as easy and as cost effective as possible to set-up, operate and maintain.”
ONE EXAMPLE OF THIS GROWING GAP CAN BE SEEN BY COMPARING GERMANY, WHICH HAS 309 ROBOTS PER 10,000 EMPLOYEES, WITH THE UK, WHICH HAS JUST 71
One way in which ABB is doing this is through its Switch to Robots campaign. Built around the results of a survey of 221 UK manufacturing companies undertaken in 2013, the campaign is dedicated to
creating a culture of change around robot automation in SME manufacturing companies through a combination of education, user testimonials and direct contact. Now heading into its fifth year, it has successfully made an impact in changing attitudes, with over 200 companies having attended one or more of its quarterly Switch to Robots seminars. Of these, a growing number have subsequently made the decision to install one or more robots into their operations. One example is metal casting manufacturer Castings PLC. Having installed multiple robots, the company has already achieved a number of significant improvements which have helped it to increase output by 50% with a 50% reduction in cycle times.
2013 Survey One of the key findings from the 2013 survey is that many SME manufacturing companies aren’t aware of the many benefits that robots bring, especially in terms of flexibility and ease of integration. “Many manufacturers continue to perceive robots as being highly complex systems which are suited to mass production only,” said Wilson. “The truth is that advances in robot technology such as programming software and integrated vision
mean that robots are now as applicable to smaller batch production processes as they are to mass production. “There is a growing raft of evidence showing how manufacturers are successfully using robots in low volume, high mix production, from picking and packing of assorted confectionery or the loading and unloading of a variety of metal components.” Much of this is being made possible by simplification of operator interfaces which allow a robot to change between different production tasks quickly and easily, enabling multiple products to be handled on a single production line.
Robot models Added to this is an expanding range of robot models, including modular options incorporating a robot, conveyor and associated equipment that can be easily moved around the factory floor to perform different tasks, without the time and cost of installing an entire automated system. Advances in collaborative robots are also having an impact. Their small footprint and safe design means they can be installed and moved across the shop floor to work alongside skilled staff in the areas which most require the robot’s support. “Collaborative robot YuMi is a dual-armed, small parts assembly solution that includes
flexible hands, parts feeding systems and camera-based part location. Weighing just 38kg and with a footprint of 497mm, YuMi can be carried from one application to another with ease,” continued Wilson. “Programming YuMi doesn’t require a degree in engineering either. The collaborative robot can effectively be taught new processes through its leadthrough programming software. Floor staff simply move the arms and gripper, logging waypoints as they go using the YuMi app installed on their tablet or laptop.” “We’ve seen YuMi’s popularity increase significantly over the last 12 months as UK manufacturers find collaborative robots easier to accept, integrate and program. We expect to see this trend grow throughout 2018 as UK manufacturers begin to realise that collaborative robots provide a good introduction to robotic solutions as a whole.”
The future is smart In the future, the ability to work smarter rather than harder will become a defining characteristic of top performing companies. Utilising joined-up data from across the factory floor, these companies will have a complete digital overview of their entire production processes, enabling them to produce more smartly, quickly and
efficiently and to spot areas for potential improvements. With many international companies already making the move to smarter production, UK companies must again follow suit and keep pace if they want to remain competitive. The potential scale of a switch to a digital production environment can, however, make it difficult to know where to start, not least because there is no onesize-fits-all answer. “Because every manufacturing company is different, it is not possible to buy an off-theshelf solution,” said Wilson. “What suits one company will almost certainly not suit another, as every company has its own structure, processes and nuances.” “The trick is to start off simply, looking for the ‘low hanging fruits’ that can be easily tackled, and then build up over time as you become more confident and gather the knowledge needed to branch out into new areas. Robots are actually a very effective way to begin the journey into smart manufacturing. They’re dependent on data and can therefore communicate with systems and equipment around them to ensure seamless production across the whole factory. They can also receive data which
has been sent remotely so that changes can be made according to new trends or simply to optimise production.” “Most UK manufacturers won’t be at this stage in the journey yet, but through introducing robots to the shop floor this year they will gain the experience and confidence needed to automate other areas later on. Before long they will realise the move to industry 4.0 needn’t be as complicated as they previously thought.”
The financial hurdle With those controlling the purse strings very much in control of the decision of whether and how much to automate, Wilson contends that suppliers such as ABB need to make it much easier to provide a compelling financial case for investing in the technology. “We’ve come to believe that there must be some sort of breakdown of communication between manufacturing engineers and finance directors whereby the collective advantages of robot automation aren’t being made clear or aren’t fully understood,“ Wilson explained. “’Future proofing UK manufacturing’, a 2015 study by Barclay’s Bank concluded that an increase of £1.24bn in robotics automation investment could raise the overall value added to the UK economy
by £60.5bn over the next decade. It’s our aim to get this message communicated loudly and clearly so that UK manufacturers can benefit from the return that can be had for decades to come.” Another great challenge for the robotics sector will be getting finance directors to think longer term as opposed to expecting payback in periods of 12-18 months. Some robot installation projects achieve this. However the robot system will operate effectively for many years, often more than 10 years. Once the initial investment has been covered, even if it does take 3 years, there will be a cost saving to the business for many years to come. It is also worth noting that those that purchase via leasing or asset based finance, will benefit from the equipment the day it starts to operate as the cost savings are substantially larger than the cost of the finance. “We have to start to consider the long-term effects of installing robots versus the effects of not investing,” urged Wilson, “It may be lower risk to do nothing in the short term but before long UK manufacturers risk losing business as their competitors adopt robotic automation and can offer lower prices as a result. The longer term risk is actually not investing.”
A forecast for robots
A number of factors are set to come into play in 2018 which, when combined, could spur the final push needed for UK manufacturers to finally make the switch to robot automation. The profile of productivity has been raised by the government whilst other political factors are causing concern among businesses dependent on a supply of low cost manual labour. As the year unfolds it’s down to robot suppliers to rise to the challenge of helping UK manufacturers to not only understand but also welcome robot automation into their factories, safe in the knowledge that the investment will not only be hugely beneficial to productivity but vital in raising competitiveness on both a national and international basis.
Giles Peckham, Regional Marketing Director at Xilinx, (Pictured below) relayed his thoughts, first on Xilinx’s main objectives for the year: “In 2018, we will continue to develop solutions for, and to capitalise on, four major growth areas for which our All Programmable FPGAs, SoCs, MPSoCs and RFSoCs offer significant value. These four megatrends are embedded vision, cloud computing, industrial IoT and 5G wireless. Additionally, our technology is facilitating the adoption of machine learning in multiple applications across each of those megatrends and we will continue to develop our offerings to support this rapidly evolving market. “As a broader range of communities including software developers and cloud users seek to benefit from the hardware acceleration capabilities of All Programmable technologies, we will continue to enhance our software stacks to support their development needs.” Regarding trends: “We expect to see growing demand for vision-guided, sensor-fusion autonomous systems in many of our markets, including robotics, as advances in both computer vision and machine learning enable smarter systems to see, interpret and respond to their environment. Vision is expected
to act as the primary sensor with a multitude of other sensors (e.g. radar, lidar, etc.) fused in real-time to properly perceive and map the environment. This generates massive amounts of data in different formats that need to be synchronized and formatted for real-time and low-power analysis. All Programmable FPGAs and SoCs excel at these tasks due to their abundant, flexible IOs and ability to feed those inputs without complex memory transactions into logic structures that implement efficient sensor fusion techniques using traditional or neural network based approaches. “The increased market demand for number of axes in robotic systems are driving interest in scalable embedded systems. These systems typically combine software intelligence with hardware optimization to support a growing number of axes without having the processor run out of bandwidth. Xilinx All Programmable SoCs and MPSoCs enable parallel, deterministic control that offloads the processor from the most intensive and time-critical control operations leaving bandwidth for other tasks. “The increasing number of cyber-attacks on insecure systems is driving continuous development of silicon and IP to facilitate the design of cybersecure robotics systems. We have announced our partnership with industry leaders, Avnet, Infineon Technologies, Microsoft, and Mocana, which has resulted in
the introduction of an industrialstrength, easy-to-adopt hardware + software cybersecurity solution. “With the increase in automation comes the need for functional safety and reliability to be designed in from the start. Our TÜV SUD certified design flow to simplify and accelerate certifications based on functional safety specifications has witnessed a lot of interest recently from our industrial customers. “As the IT and OT networks are converged in Industrie 4.0 systems, we expect to see increased use of Time Sensitive Network (TSN) in robotics applications that require deterministic real-time communication over a standard Ethernet infrastructure. As the robotics move in the direction of a modular paradigm, TSN is a critical enabler of that trend and Xilinx’s TSN IP has the widest adoption across various Industrial sub-markets due to its flexibility to keep up with future updates to the standard.” As for the challenges: “One of the challenges facing designers of robotics systems in 2018 will be in the area of integration and connectivity of various sensors and components. There is no shortage of ideas or proven capabilities to be introduced into the field of robotics but the bottleneck remains the complexity of integrating these features. TSN helps solve the low-level deterministic connectivity issue, but having a scalable and common building block like the Zynq® family of All Programmable SoCs and
MPSoCs coupled with a hardwareaware operating system and application layers to implement a wide array of features and functions, ranging from motion to vision to analytics and machine learning, helps solve this fundamental problem currently impeding the growth of the industry.
As for trends: “There are more and more collaborative robots on the market, so collaborativeness and collaborative applications especially will be the biggest trend. To make a true collaborative application – and not only a collaborative robot – you need to use a collaborative end of arm tool.”
“In the field of computer vision, we see new algorithms being developed at a rapid pace and many of these have performance, power and cost requirements that cannot be met with traditional software implementations. Meanwhile, fixed-function hardware implementations in the form of ASSPs or ASICs do not support the latest algorithms and are not flexible enough to be future-proof. Likewise, in machine learning, new and more effective neural network architectures are being developed at a rapid pace and designers do not want to be locked into an architecture that may become obsolete shortly after the product is launched. Again, All Programmable FPGAs, SoCs, MPSoCs and RFSoCs are seen by a growing number of designers as the most effective way of addressing those challenges.
And for the future: The biggest challenge in the robotics sector will be to educate the end user about the advantages of collaborative applications.
ON ROBOT Interim CEO of On Robot gave his views. Enrico Krog Iversen said: “Our main objectives for North America in 2018 is to cover the entire market with a professional and proactive team of distributors. Globally, our objective is the same. As more and more collaborative robots are on the market, more will need our equipment in order to implement true collaborative applications. To make that happen, we need to be present everywhere.”
In North America, it's also a challenge to inform the market about how easy it is to make reshoring with collaborative applications, which is what On Robot and OptoForce (another Odense-based company) is helping with.
EPSON EUROPE Head of Robotic Solutions at Epson Europe Volker Spanier spelt out his views: For Epson’s objectives: • Drive manufacturing innovation and grow faster than the overall market by drawing on our strengths to provide robots that meet a wide range of automation needs and solutions that accomplish sophisticated tasks. • Strengthen the Sixaxis market share with robotic technology that is compact and vertically articulated. These robots will perform complex tasks with vertical, horizontal, and diagonal movement. • Introduce our Dual arm system WorkSense W-01 into the market – targeting market segments where demand for small-lot production and JIT
promises to their customers and adjust accordingly.
AND FOR THE FUTURE: THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN THE ROBOTICS SECTOR WILL BE TO EDUCATE THE END USER ABOUT THE ADVANTAGES OF COLLABORATIVE APPLICATIONS.
production are particularly high, such as automotive parts production. • Further establish the newly entered “Entry level” automation with new T-series robots that will enable automation at low cost. Trends: • Robotics will increase efficiency, productivity and sustainability... and be affordable • Both large and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will increasingly reap the benefits of automation and robotics as they recognise growing accessibility – in fact, global spending on robotics and related services is expected to double to $188billion by 2020 according to IDC. • Robots such as Epson’s T3 entry level model will continue to drive ac cess to robotics for all levels of manufacturing. The T3 is expected to be one of the most sought after robots over the next 18 months in line with increased automation in Europe, contributing to anticipated growth in Epson’s industrial robotics unit, forecast to grow by 30% in the fiscal
year ending March 31 20181 and generate revenues of 22billion yen (about $200 million dollars) • Increased spending on robotics and automation means improved accessibility for sectors like logistics, healthcare, utilities and resources – where 35% of leading organisations are predicted to automate operations by 2019. • Increased automation will not only have an impact on the immediate robotics market in 2018, Darren Phelps, Business Imaging Director Epson Europe explains that “As more and more business look to integrate automation strategies, Epson sees their Enterprise workforce business inkjet technology gaining increased traction with office automation resellers.” Challenges: • With worldwide demand growing, robotics manufacturers will face potential delivery problems with certain component suppliers. They will need to anticipate the challenge of requested delivery dates as system integrators have given delivery
• We may face more competition within the SCARA market as we have seen more robotic companies entering or reentering this market. Several suppliers have also started to offer SCARA robots. Additionally, we need to be conscious of the challenge of Chinese suppliers now entering Western markets. • Collaboration is currently the topic of conversation. Now is the time to define what is really needed and how collaboration will be used. The alternative to collaboration would be a co-existence robot that enables faster production times without being collaborative. • The robotics industry is growing and a lot of players and companies are now trying to enter the market. This could lead to a bubble in automation, where false expectations are created or false expectations are created. There could also be inaccurate estimations being made in terms of price, delivery times or general feasibility that can disappoint automation beginners. This could then lead to another drop in automation.
HAMPLETON PARTNERS Heiko Garrelf, sector principal at Hampleton Partners, gave his comments. On the biggest AI sector trends: “I believe that 2018 will see AI adopted in the backdrop of services and sectors we have grown used to over the past three years: robotics and autonomy. Companies will tend to offer services on the backend of existing AI to stabilise the human interface, and improve financial, autonomous, and neurological networks, by attempting to predict and pre-empt AI ‘mood swings’ or erratic behaviour.” On the biggest AI challenges: “Today, we ask machines to make decisions around huge datasets – particularly in financial markets, where the perfect storm of input conditions can cause the entire system to exhibit erratic behaviour. The problem is that humans may not identify this erratic behaviour. In my opinion, asking ‘black box’ machines to make investment decisions is a terrible idea in the long term, and should therefore be regulated.” On the robotics sector in general: “2018 is an exciting year for robotics, telepresence collaborative robotics, as well as spatial tracking systems, which should make a major leap forward. I believe that VR also has a huge industrial role to play in our ability to set up complex robotic systems.”
MOBILE INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS CEO of Mobile Industrial Robots Thomas Visti said that the market for autonomous mobile robots is expected to increase significantly in 2018. And we “…want to seize the market opportunities. In 2017, we have seen many multinational
companies buying fleets of our robots for different plants after a period of testing and validating applications, and in 2018 we will continue to support this development. We've already established MiR as a market leader within the AMR space, and we are today the manufacturer with the most robots driving around in facilities worldwide. We want to maintain this position, with our objective being to sell twice as many robots in 2018. “MiR has already established offices in Barcelona, Dortmund, Singapore, Shanghai, New York, and just recently in San Diego, and in 2018, we will employ even more people within sales and technical support globally to be close to our markets and to provide the best support possible.” As for trends: “Over the last few years, we have seen the industrial robotics sector go through various important technological developments, which have provided new possibilities in the industry. I believe we will see the use of industrial robots increase in general over the coming years. “Human-robot collaboration, where humans and robots share workplaces without fences, will continue to drive the market in 2018. Robots with integrated vision guidance and enhanced sensors, like the robots from MiR, are adaptable to their environment and can flexibly- and more importantly, safely - work alongside human workers. “Another important trend in robotics is the ease of use and installation. From a market perspective, the need for robots that are easy to use and program, as well as the need for flexible automation, keeps increasing. This means they need smarter and better solutions. It will be even more important over the coming years to provide robots that are
easy to use and simple to integrate and operate in productions for manufacturers to be able to sustain efficiency and productivity. “We will definitely see more mobile robots in the industry in 2018. IFR expects the use of AGVs, including mobile robots, in the manufacturing industry to increase by 333 percent in total by 2020. The mobile robots can be implemented in fully automated productions as the flexible link between productions lines and/or robotics cells or to move parts between production and warehouse, or in warehouse logistics. As an increasing number of companies need to stay agile to compete in the global market, the flexibility AMRs will be even more important.” On challenges: “While there is an increasing demand for automation in all industries, there is a continuous need to educate the industry to understand the many applications that would benefit from robots. Companies want to automate tasks, but they do not always know exactly what tasks. "What can I do with this robot?” is a question we often hear when meeting customers or doing demos. AMRs can automate all in-house transportation tasks where employees are spending time pushing carts from A to B, and they can also be an alternative to traditional automated guided vehicles (AGVs). However, companies still need to be inspired and learn how they can use the robots, and this is a major challenge in the robo sector.”
UNIVERSAL ROBOTS The views from Universal Robot’s Mark Gray: “Our objective at Universal robots for 2018 is to educate people to the possibilities of using cobots so they can use them as part of their manufacturing workforce.
PICTURED ABOVE: MARK GREY UNIVERSAL ROBOTS
We want to continue to grow and maintain our presence as the most used cobot brand in the market. We have also identified key markets where we can help companies improve profits by using innovation to stay ahead of the game. On trends: “The main trends for the robo sector for 2018 is the increase in the cobot market the use of mobile easy to program robots at a relatively low cost means it’s possible for all sizes of company to use them. Machine tending and loading are the main growth areas we see as costs are low enough to make it viable to implement robots as part of a standard cell.” And on the challenges: “The biggest challenges to the Robosector in 2018 will be how to innovate to provide products that can be used across all sectors of manufacturing at a realistic cost. The emergence of cheap Chinese cobots with no safety certification is also a problem at the moment, buyers need to be aware of TUV Nord certification to assess the performance level of cobot.”
Managing director Jesper Bach said that his company’s main objectives for 2018 were to “…further penetrate existing markets and expand internationally to bring our user-friendly, advanced machine vision solutions, i.e. automated quality control, to food- and packaging producing companies, to increase production efficiencies, secure product quality and reduce waste.” As for trends: “Further integration of mechanical and digital products, i.e. sensor and AI into robots and sorting systems And challenges: “Translating technological possibilities into functional, userfriendly solutions that generate real impact.”
Q-BOT Q-Bot’s founder Matthew Holloway said that his company’s focus for 2018 is to roll the under floor insulation service out with social landlords across the UK and use this work to underpin the creation of delivery channels which will allow us to deliver the service to home owners in the future.
The backdrop for him is that the construction industry faces huge challenges. “It has had the slowest growth in productivity of any industry and one of the worst uptakes of digital tools and processes. Robotics and AI can help solve these challenges by empowering workers, making their jobs more interesting and opening up new possibilities. Therefore I think automation in construction will be one of the big trends for 2018. Q-Bot is at the forefront of this trend and in a prime position to capitalise on the opportunity.” He added: “The robotics industry is currently in the limelight, riding a wave of publicity and there are lots of exciting things going on. However to create sustainable growth and have a real impact that changes people’s perception of the industry we need to focus on solving real problems and today’s needs. The robotics industry needs to turn this buzz into action that transforms our world for the better.”
INCREASING NUMBER OF ENTREPRENEURS MOVING INTO ROBOT SPACE We caught up with Dominic Keen, CEO of High Growth Robotics, who launched in December 2016 the British Robotics Seed Fund (the first fund to specialise in UK-based robotics start-ups) and asked him some questions: 1
Generally, is it possible to put a rough value on the level of early-stage investment that went into robotics companies in 2017? I'd estimate that up to a hundred robotics and AI-related business would have got funding in 2017, both from Innovate UK grants (robotics and autonomous systems open calls) and from venture capital funds. Let's assume that a typical funding amount is £250,000, this would suggest up to about £25 million of investment through the year.
How much will that figure rise in 2018, by 2020?
We are seeing an increasing number of entrepreneurs moving into the space (maybe a 50% year-on-year growth in the number of start-ups) and much more acceptance of robotics and AI as an investment theme for mainstream investors. Consequently, I'd expect see about £1 billion going into earlystage innovation in this area by 2020.
Are investors savvy to what the sector has to offer, or happy to join the bandwagon? I think that AI and robotics companies are getting better at communicating their stories. Investors remain wary of hardwareheavy products so the onus is really on the start-ups to demonstrate that they have capital intensive business models (which is increasingly possible for robotics companies who use frugal manufacturing approaches and provide service-based offerings).
Is the UK a leader in terms of investment levels, or are there other countries on mainland Europe doing more? In particular Denmark, the Netherlands and France all have very active earlystage robotics scenes. However, their activities are very heavily supported by state funding. I think the UK probably has the most active private sector funding sources which arguably is a more sustainable system for the long-term.
In your view, is the UK Government doing enough to support the sector?
On the (grant) funding side, which is a help. However, I'd like to see more initiatives on the demand side. Robotics and AI will transform the operations of a wide range of sectors across the whole economy. It would be great to have a scheme that subsidises the cost of a robotics implementation for a business, also making available expertise and change management support to make it easier for businesses to automate.
What will be the biggest robo sector challenges in 2018?
As per my answer to question 5, I think there are too many barriers for medium-sized business to deliver robotics and automation projects and hence benefit from productivity improvements. Unless there are some centralised solutions to this challenge, I fear that the sector will be held back somewhat.
How has your fund grown in 2017?
We invested around ÂŁ600,000 our first full year of investing.
What are its ambitions for 2018?
We're hoping to raise more than ÂŁ1.5m for UK-based robotics and AI companies in 2018; and we'd expect the existing portfolio value to increase by at least 50%. If you had to pick two of your fundâ€™s companies to highlight in 2018, which ones would they be?
I'd pick: (i) ZOA Robotics, a London-based company building autonomous fourlegged robots that can walk up/down stairs and across uneven surface to carry equipment and make inspections; and (ii) Tethered Drone Systems that is building pilot-less permanent flying UAVs for surveillance and broadcasting applications.
In your opinion, what will be the biggest robo sector trends in 2018?
See non-industrial robots start to become more visibly deployed in the real-world in areas such as logistics, construction and agriculture, as well as the domestic environment. This public familiarisation with service robotics will be an important stepping stone in the mainstream adoption of the new technologies.
SPORTS PLAYERS BEWARE – THEY ARE WATCHING YOU If you’ve ever looked at your favourite sports person and said hang on, they don’t look to be on top of their game, now’s the chance to check them out New AI software claims to be able to decipher sports players’ mental state, in real-time, via live subliminal facial expressions. The company behind the idea is Human, a pioneer in Artificial Emotional Intelligence (AEI). It has developed what it calls ground-breaking software that has the ability to read and decipher sports players’ subliminal facial expressions live, during matches and while scouting for new players. It works by converting expressions into a range of emotions and specific characteristic traits in real time. The company reckons that the innovative software is well placed to support the sports industry in anything from pre-game and in-game psychological state analysis, to training, recruiting new players and live comparison. Human believes it is taking AEI and facial recognition a step further into the dynamic realms
of characteristic detection allowing coaches, scouts and high level executives to gain competitive advantage. In a statement the company explained: “Going deeper than simply deciphering human emotion, Human’s patent pending software goes beyond that using partial facial recognition, robust camera angles and state-of-the-art pixelated raw data to reveal typical personality traits of individual players. Having been developed internally by world leading data scientists, Human’s technology provides advanced levels of unbiased insight to help scouts to make better and more informed recruitment decisions. The highly accurate technology also minimises human bias and discrimination while providing a level of intelligence previously unattainable.” CEO and Founder at Human Yi Xu added: “Our software can be used during matches to monitor the mental state
of players during high stress situations, which helps coaches to make more informed, tactical decisions about substitutions and also adjust their tactics accordingly. Sports teams spend millions trying to gain competitive advantage and regularly send scouts to watch teams before and during matches. For example, live detection of deeper emotional and specific characteristics can identify which individuals are showing mental weakness or setbacks, which could indicate they are more likely to crumble or react a certain way in match situations. Having access to this level of detail both in-game and pre-game could be hugely beneficial. “Normally these kinds of reviews take hours and can be hugely costly, so to save time, potential players are often cherry-picked for review. Using our technology all potential candidates can be considered instantly and cost-effectively as well as be benchmarked against other
WHAT’S MORE, COACHES AND SCOUTS CAN SCREEN CANDIDATES BASED ON ABILITY ACCORDING TO SPECIFIC PERSONALITY TRAITS (OR THE BIG FIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS OF THEIR CHOICE: PASSION, HONESTY, CONFIDENCE, OUTGOING, STRESS, REACTION ETC.)
elite athletes. The ability to have completely unbiased data in sport is a big deal; seeing live nervousness, passion and confidence in both training and in real time also allows coaches to detect levels of honesty about ‘readiness’ and to see how their players would deal with and recover from certain situations.” What’s more, coaches and scouts can screen candidates based on ability according to specific personality traits (or the big five personality traits of their choice: passion, honesty, confidence, outgoing, stress, reaction etc.) So there we are, another added pressure for sports people on the field. If they’re knackered, they best not show it – they’ll have to take a leaf out of the politicians’ handbook and just smile inanely whenever they are in public. Let’s hope this doesn’t make its way into the office – they’ll be no hiding then!
ANALYSIS: HOW UK WIND FARMS COULD BE MAINTAINED BY ROBOTS Thoughts from ORE Catapult, a technology innovation and research centre for advancing wind, wave and tidal energy. It says that robots, AI and smart sensors are helping to reduce the cost of maintenance and repair in these hazardous environments People living around the UK could soon be witness to an army of robots servicing a network of clean offshore renewable installations – and helping to create a burgeoning new industry in the process. These devices could be set to revolutionise how we generate power – with UK innovators among those leading the way to cheaper, cleaner energy for all. And robotics developers north of the border have an unrivalled opportunity to steal an early march in this rapidly developing sector, with 4GW of offshore wind energy consented for development around Scotland’s coastline, enough to power 3 million homes.
TRACK RECORD The country’s track record in offshore innovation is well known. From Statoil’s floating wind demonstration, Hywind, off the coast of Peterhead, to the EnFAIT tidal power project in Shetland, we are already pioneering several technologies that can lead to a significant reduction in the cost of clean, renewable energy from offshore locations. For robotics developers, the immediate opportunity lies in operations and maintenance, currently a significant expense for offshore renewables – for several reasons. By their very nature, these developments tend to be built where there is abundant natural resource – which introduces challenges in accessing wind farms using vessels and getting staff onto turbines for essential operations, especially for offshore wind turbines.
AUTONOMOUS ROBOTS Developing autonomous robots that can navigate these conditions and provide accurate information on the operation and condition of these devices, or even carry out basic tasks, can significantly decrease the operating cost of offshore renewables. Substantial cost savings will result from the reduced requirements to use offshore vessels and crews, improving safety and reducing dependency on weather conditions. This work has already begun. The Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult is working with 12 companies who are making the most of our representative testing facilities to develop robots specifically for this sector and commercialise their technology. Our Levenmouth 7MW Offshore Demonstration Turbine in Fife is a prime example of this, with developers from across the country testing their innovative designs with a view to introducing them to the market.
DRONES From drones and blade crawlers to autonomous underwater vehicles that inspect foundations and sub-sea structures, the variety is as impressive as the technology itself. Robots could even lead to a truly 24/7 service – helping keep turbines turning even as their operators sleep. This is just the beginning. We are already talking to developers with even more ambitious
plans. Autonomous boats – ‘motherships’ – that travel to offshore developments with a battery of technology to service an entire field all in one go are a very real possibility, while some are already talking about developing hub stations that can operate entirely independent of human interaction. Look beyond operations and maintenance and you begin to imagine even greater possibilities. Seabed surveys could be carried out round the clock to find the best places to position new offshore developments – taking into account environmental, tidal and seabed conditions to determine which areas are most appropriate.
ROBOTS From there, robots could even be used in the installation of such developments, assisting with tasks such as cable installation. Logically, these same robots could even be used in decommissioning, limiting waste and protecting the workforce.
The possibilities are endless – and with countries all across the world starting to invest more heavily in offshore renewables, the potential for this sector can only grow. Done right, the UK can take a real lead in the development of a robotics sector designed specifically for the offshore renewables sector, creating many high-value technical jobs to meet the design, construction and maintenance requirements of these devices. With a rapidly maturing offshore renewables industry growing right on our doorstep, the opportunity has never been more within reach. The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is the UK’s flagship technology innovation and research centre for advancing wind, wave and tidal energy. It helps to reduce the cost of offshore renewable energy, transforming the industry and delivering UK economic benefit
2018 CONFERENCES SPS IPC DRIVES 2017 – THE BIGGEST EVER The final main trade fair of 2017, SPS IPC show, set a record in its 28th year. It featured 1,675 exhibitors on 130,000 square meters across 16 exhibition halls this year. It was the biggest SPS IPS Drives ever and also drew a record number of visitors in 2017, over 70,000. The event was officially opened Dr Thomas Schäfer, the Hessian Minister of Finance. He praised the SPS IPC Drives as a central platform for industrial automation, which is one of the core competencies of the German economy.
Thomas Höfling, Managing Director, SICK Vertriebs-GmbH, added: “The SPS IPC Drives is an absolute highlight in my annual calendar. Automation can be technical and dry but one can experience it as humane up-close at the SPS IPC Drives. At the end of the day people buy from people and it is important for us that alongside meeting technical decision-makers, we can encounter decision-makers from higher management levels. On the one hand, it’s about showing technical competence, on the other it’s all about trust which can be developed and built up with business partners.”
Proving popular was the newly aligned Hall 6, which had a focus on software and IT in manufacturing
• Exhibitors: 1,675 (2016: 1,605)
• Visitors: 70,264 (2016: 63,291) Markus Sandhöfner, Managing Director, B&R IndustrieElektronik GmbH, said: “This Fair affords us the opportunity to not only come together under one roof but also talk in detail about the requirements of the innovations, which are of particular importance to our customers, as well as plan the next steps for the upcoming months.”
Gunther Koschnik, Managing Director, Trade Association Automation, ZVEI, added: “I am so enthusiastic about this Fair. Anyone who wants to see current technology and innovation can certainly obtain an overview here within a short amount of time.”
AUTOMATICA 2018 IS GOING TO BE BIGGER A stand-out event next year in the conference diary will be automatica 2018. And it is set to be bigger than the last time it was held, back in 2016. The organizers of the event, which takes place in Munich from June 19 to 22, 2018, have already allocated more exhibition space than in 2016.
• Exhibition space: 130,000 m² (2016: 122,200 m²)
important to our customers – a real win-win situation. This really is a great Fair!”
Heinz Eisenbeiss, Head of Marketing Automation Systems, Siemens AG added: “The SPS IPC Drives has developed in leaps and bounds but has always been true to its core topic. Here we can meet the users or potential users of our products. Our Product Managers have the chance to discuss different subjects with them and in this way, customers can obtain information that they may have to spend a long time looking for. Our Product Managers, on the other hand, can find out what’s
They said that the increase in area from international exhibitors is 16% and the area increase for first-time exhibitors is 12%. Exhibitors include Dürr Systems, Rollon, SIASUN Robot, Siemens, Sumitomo, TÜV SÜD, Volkswagen and WAGO Kontakttechnik. CEO of Factory Automation at Siemens Ralf-Michael Franke: “At automatica, we want to show in particular how industries of any size can benefit from digital transformation along the entire value chain: from product design and production planning to the engineering process all the way to new services.
In addition, we will present the integration of robotics in mechanical engineering based on specific solutions.” The event will have its own topic area, IT2Industry, covering everything from robotics and automation to information technology, and cloud computing and big data. These topics will be discussed in an ICT exhibition area as well as the IT2Industry Forum. At the same time, the OPC Day Europe 2018 will again take place within the context of automatica. What’s more, the world’s leading robotics conference International Symposium on Robotics (ISR) 2018 will take place from June 20 to 21 within the context of automatica. More than 150
talks will provide insights into “state-of-the-art” robotics technologies.
The event is called “The Future of Robot Programming” and takes place on 19 June, 2018.
And look out for a special networking event being help by Robotics specialist Euclid Labs (Nervesa della Battaglia/Italy).
Euclid Labs is an Italian software OEM and service provider plans to introduce a highly intuitive and rapid approach to define sequences of movements and actions of robot arms without any programming skills.
The company is inviting operators, developers and integrators of manufacturing equipment to an evening, it says, of inspiring presentations and the chance to network with leading representatives from the industrial manufacturing field. Euclid promises it will be the first to experience a novel and entirely intuitive solution to controlling robot arms – without any programming.
Roberto Polesel, CEO of Euclid Labs, said: “This approach will revolutionize the application of robot arms. It reduces development cycles and costs of robot systems to a fraction. Thanks to our solution, it is possible to adapt robot arms to new processes at any time. This increased flexibility fulfils the requirements of modern manufacturing lines, which are built on the principles of Industry 4.0.”
KEY CONFERENCE DIARY •
A3 BUSINESS FORUM 17th - 18th January 2018 / Marriott Orlando World Center, Orlando, FL
AUTOMATICA 19th - 22nd June 2018 / Waldstraße 3, 88214 Ravensburg, Munich, Germany
SPIE PHOTONICS WEST 27th Jan - 1st February 2018 / The Moscone Center San Francisco, California, United States
UK ROBOTICS INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS FESTIVAL 21st June 2018 / Exhibition Centre Liverpool, Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront
INTERNATIONAL ROBOTICS WEEK 13th - 15th February 2018 / WTC, Rotterdam
VISION 6th - 8th November 2018 / Landesmesse Stuttgart GmbH, Messepiazza 1, 70629 Stuttgart
COBOTS & ADVANCED VISION 15th - 16th November 2018 / San Jose, US
SPS IPC DRIVES 27th - 29th November 2018 / Messezentrum 1, 90471 Nürnberg, Germany
EMBEDDED WORLD 14th - 16th March 2018 / Nuremberg
VISION CHINA 2018 14th - 16th May 2018 / Shanghai
HANNOVER MESSE (4.0/AUTOMATION) 17rd - 27th May 2018 / aris Expo, 1 Place de la Porte de Versailles 75015, Paris
FIRST COLLABORATIVE ROBOT THAT CAN BE OPERATED FROM A SMARTWATCH Editor Neil Martin takes a look at one company that we might be hearing more of in 2018, Rozum Robotics. The RoboPro team spotted their neat booth at SPS IPC 2017 (Nuremberg), last November
The Rozum Robotics booth at SPS IPC 2017 was very noticeable, not because of its massed array of gadgets, or elaborate signage, but because it consisted of a long black table, a computer screen and a robot arm. Its simplicity made it stand out and that attracted our attention. We got chatting with the companyâ€™s CMO Yauheni Kavalenka and CEO Viktar Khamianok. The company, headquartered in Minsk, Belarus (with a sales office in California), has developed and manufactured a wirelessly controlled robotic arm called PULSE. The company says that it removes the necessity for human presence in the workspace at all, and makes it possible for
just one person to distantly control any number of robots in different locations, even in different places on Earth. This is made possible because PULSE is the first collaborative robot that can be operated from a smartwatch. And from any other device, such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. The company adds that by using common-life mobile technology, PULSE blends the simple, wirelessly handheld life to the world of cobots, redefining portable control and making a step toward making robots a part of everyday life. The company was founded in 2015 by Khamianok, who remains the CEO. His background is in software whose claim to fame is that he developed
a toolkit that is used by every third internet marketer in the world. Rozum was born from a partnership between Khamianok and an engineer friend Siarhei Charomukhin (the current Rozum CTO). Together they worked on a robotics R&D project, the goal of which was to build a better collaborative robot than was available on the market. The problem they quickly discovered were the servo motors â€“ none of them which they could source were good enough. This led them to build their own, in-house, and now RDrive servo motors are available as a separate product. By early last year, the 10-strong team had built their first PULSE arm, capable of carrying an
up to 5kg payload. The product received a good response from trade shows throughout 2017 and it is now being marketed for sale. The mission of Rozum Robotics is clear: to democratize the use of robots. To make them a common part of life, in the same way that smartphones are today for most people. By making robots safe, compact and inexpensive for as many people as possible, the Rozum team believe they have done their bit for the evolution of both robot and human. Only time will tell if they achieve their ambition, but who can blame them for trying?
Photo: Twitter - @MobileIndRobots
COLLABORATIVE MOBILE ROBOT OFFERS FAST ROI TO HELP ARGON MEDICAL COMPETE IN HIGH-COST LABOR MARKET The MiR200 robot’s high payload capabilities, ease-of-use, and cleanroom compliance smooth production flow for surgical instrument manufacturer Argon Medical Devices. The robot allows skilled workers to stay gowned for cleanroom work, saving the equivalent of one full headcount from material transportation tasks
Argon Medical Devices makes specialty surgical needles and catheters in its manufacturing facility in Wheeling, IL, just outside of Chicago. The company has turned to collaborative automation to help it compete in this highcost labor market, while preserving jobs for its skilled, long-term employees. Material handling was an obvious target for cost savings, explains Argon Senior Engineering Manager Kevin Hess, who turned to Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR). “The MiR robot fit perfectly with our automation plans. We’re now able to take additional, non-value-added operations out of our facility, and it was easy to deploy.”
ROBOT’S EASE-OF-USE ADDRESSES CLEANROOM COMPLEXITY AND IMPROVES PRODUCTIVITY Two-thirds of Argon’s 85,000 square-foot plant is composed of ISO Class 8 cleanrooms where surgical instruments are manufactured and packaged. Cleanroom employees are required to wear gowns, hair nets, and safety goggles, and remove them any time they’re outside of the cleanroom transfer area. But gowning and ungowning wasted valuable time when employees needed to pick up and deliver material to the warehouse multiple times during the day.
As a result, material was left in large stacks in the transfer area, waiting for one of four batched warehouse pick-up times per shift. That batched approach caused inefficiencies in production flow, and didn’t solve the issue of manufacturing employees lining up at the warehouse to pick up needed materials and interrupting warehouse processes. “Now, it’s on demand,” explains Hess, noting that within a week of deploying the robot, employees were comfortably using tablets to access the robot’s intuitive interface and send it on missions. “If the molding department gets done with some product that they need to send to the warehouse, they’ll call up the robot right away, load it up, and send it back to the warehouse. We don’t have any queueing or any batch processing, which has been a huge benefit for our material movement and our throughput at the facility.” Raw materials also stacked up in the warehouse, with large containers from multiple departments in a central location, which department leads had to spend time to sort through to find specific job orders. With the MiR200 robot, Argon Warehouse Supervisor Jim Miller says that “productivity has improved dramatically” by allowing the warehouse to stage materials, load the robot with material for multiple departments, and send it on missions to deliver the material. That allows warehouse employees to continue staging material efficiently and production employees to continue operating at their stations. “The time that it took to do it previously, prior to the robot, is really non-existent now because we’re order-specific to department necessities,” says Miller. “It’s really streamlined what we’re trying to achieve.”
MIR200 EASILY HANDLES UP TO 400-POUND PAYLOAD When evaluating the MiR robot, Hess was impressed by the features that MiR offers, especially its ease of deployment that doesn’t require the expensive and disruptive installation of lines or sensors in the facility floor that other material transport robots require. He looked at both the MiR100 and MiR200, and says, “Both are the same footprint, same size, same interfaces, but when I looked at the fixturing we were going to require and the weight of the product that we were going to be moving, the MiR200 was an easy choice for us.” Even with that heavy payload, Argon staff has been impressed by the robot’s stability and safety. Miller says, “The largest totes that we use here in the facility are designed to hold anywhere from 45 to 55 pounds each. When we put eight totes on [the robot] you’re pushing 350-400 pounds without any concerns of safety once it leaves your visibility.”
EASY PROGRAMMING PUTS ROBOT IN PRODUCTION IN DAYS As soon as the MiR200 arrived at the Argon facility, Hess connected to it with his phone through the robot’s intuitive web interface and was able to drive the robot around the office right away. While the robot can use an imported CAD layout of the facility, simply walking it through the plant was an easy option. Argon Engineer Chuck Grossman explains, “When it came time to map the facility, it was as simple as hooking [the robot] up through the Wi-Fi in the building and then using the tablet’s touchscreen to manually walk it throughout the building. Using its sensors, it finds the location of every wall, every door, and everything else that happens to be in the room. Then it was just a matter of going back and putting in the way points where the robot was going to go.”
Grossman found that adding to the map and adding way points or missions is just as simple, and takes just a few minutes. He adds, “My initial expectations were that it was going to be kind of complicated and hard to figure out the software and how I was going to integrate it into the building, and what I’ve found is it’s just the opposite. It was so easy that I’m able to create new missions very rapidly and easily.”
EMPLOYEES QUICKLY GAIN CONFIDENCE IN MIR200’S SAFETY AND USE Within a week of delivery, the new robot was deployed on the production floor, running missions between the cleanrooms and the warehouse. Argon set up different permission levels for access to the robot’s software, and employees quickly became comfortable using tablets in each area to choose missions for the robot with the easy-to-use interface. And while there was some hesitancy in the part of employees at the beginning, Hess laughs as he describes employees playing “chicken” with the robot by moving in front of it to see it maneuver safely around them. Hess says, “Now they walk alongside the robot as if it’s another employee walking the floor. It’s just another part of our family here in the Wheeling facility.”
employees as well, that they’re not having to make that long walk back and forth from the warehouse time after time after time.” Hess also notes that loading and unloading the arm-level rack on the robot is easier on employees than the previous requirement to lift heavy containers from floor level.
FUTURE PLANS INCLUDE ROBOT EXPANSION Just a few months after installing his first MiR200 robot, Hess is already looking at additional opportunities in the Wheeling facility for a second robot and using the MiRFleet fleet management software for even greater efficiency. “There are a lot of times when the robot’s being called to different departments,” he explains. “If you look at the mission queue, there’s four or five different missions that are waiting, which tells me we probably have a need to get a second one in here so that we can manage the material a little bit better at the facility.” Hess is also talking to his colleagues at the Argon facility in Athens, Texas, which has a much larger footprint than the Wheeling plant and about 25 warehouse personnel that are responsible for material movement. “I think that we’ve got a lot of opportunity down there to bring these robots into that facility,” he states.
ROBOT REPLACES HEADCOUNT AND GIVES ROI IN JUST ONE YEAR Hess’s objective for the MiR robot was to take costs out of the company’s processes and make work more efficient for operators and warehouse staff. The company has now been able to redeploy personnel who were using their time moving product back and forth and who now have time freed up for more valuable activities. “That time equated to almost a full body,” Hess says, “so the return on investment for us was about one year, just on taking that one head and redistributing that throughout the facility. Along with that it comes with some of the benefits for our
THE ROBOT ALLOWS SKILLED WORKERS TO STAY GOWNED FOR CLEANROOM WORK, SAVING THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE FULL HEADCOUNT FROM MATERIAL TRANSPORTATION TASKS
CUSTOM PRODUCTION, MADE TO MEASURE QUALITY
I am sure that you have often seen robots “at work”. They are constantly moving. They twist and turn and they get on with things without complaining regardless of whether it is hot or cold or if they are exposed to water or chemicals. There is no doubt that a robot needs to be able to stand up to rough treatment. The same goes for the cables used in them. Particularly in the automotive industry, robots are now an indispensable part of production lines. As automation advances, the demand for perfectly adapted robot cables is constantly increasing. That is why, in addition to its well-known standard ÖLFLEX® ROBOT cables, Lapp Group also supplies special robot cables developed for individual requirements and applications. For the world-famous paint system manufacturer Dürr from Stuttgart, Lapp Group developed special robot cables for wiring the painting robots. This involved performing the required torsion and bending tests in Lapp’s in-house test laboratory, in close consultation with the customer. To guarantee 100% functionality, customer-specific test adapters were even produced and used. Dürr’s painting systems use cables that can withstand extremely high bending and torsion cycles (+/- 600 degrees per metre /10 million cycles) and are both flame retardant and oil resistant. The conductors are made of ultra fine copper braids with high quality TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) compound insulation. Teflon films keep the friction between the different elements to an absolute minimum. The special cables also employ special stranding techniques and use high quality polyurethane for the outer sheath. In the case of the Dürr painting systems, there are nine different special robot cables, from BUS lines to sensor leads to servo motor and feedback cables. The particular challenge and complexity of special robot cables lies in the fact that a tailored solution has to be developed for every application. The research and development team at Lapp Group has state of the art laboratories and testing facilities. All robot cables are developed in close consultation with the customer and all requirements in terms of cross-sections, movement and the surrounding location are incorporated into the development process. A prototype cable is normally developed first and then tested in every detail. In the case of Dürr, the first prototypes were produced in just three weeks. After a successful trial period of several weeks, the cables were approved for series production.
ACCELERATING YOUR VISION GUIDED ROBOTIC APPLICATION By Giles Peckham and Adam Taylor of Xilinx There has, and continues to be, a rapid increase in the use of vision-guided robotics such as drone technology. Within the civil application space, drones are being deployed widely across commercial, medical, agricultural, broadcast and law-enforcement applications. In many cases, the use of drones offers significant advantages over traditional approaches. In the broadcast and law-enforcement arena, for instance, they provide capabilities that have previously required the use of helicopters, but at a muchreduced cost. Drones can also implement a bespoke service, as is the case with the forthcoming Amazon Prime delivery service or the delivery of medical products to remote areas of Uganda. For agricultural applications, drones can use hyperspectral imaging to determine the health of crops, while in renewable energy drones are used to survey solar farms to identify problem elements in solar arrays. Of course, these diverse applications are just a subset of the areas that drone technology is currently being used within or being considered for. To be able to understand the environment and operate safely within it, drones employ embedded vision systems enabling them to perceive the environment and act upon it. As such, drones fall within the class of vision-guided robots, which respond to situations by sensing, processing, analyzing, deciding, communicating and controlling.
Vision-guided robotic systems also demonstrate trends which are seen across the wider embedded vision world: • Intelligence from machine learning at the edge – With embedded intelligence, the robot is required to extract information from its cameras and act upon that information to achieve its objective. • Open, high-level languages and frameworks – Implementing intelligence in a robot requires a high-level framework and associated language. The most commonly used of these are open-source multi-platform frameworks like OpenCV for computer vision and OpenVX for cross-platform computer vision acceleration within the embedded vision world and the Caffe deep learning framework within the machine-learning sphere. • Multi-level security – Security is needed at multiple levels to ensure that the robot remains not only operational, but also that its security and information is not compromised. Such an approach requires security at the device, system and network levels. • Ubiquity of embedded vision itself - While vision-guided robots including drones are not yet as ubiquitous as our smart phones, applications using them are experiencing significant growth as developers exploit new use cases.
UNDERSTANDING AND ACTING ON THE ENVIRONMENT To enable a vision-guided robot to understand its environment, algorithms such as simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and dense optical flows are used. These provide the platform with an enhanced perception and obstacle-avoidance capability. The vision system also couples the results from these algorithms with more traditional pattern and object-recognition algorithms, along with advanced machine learning inference engines to interact safely with the environment. Due to the nature of their application, robots such as drones require significant processing capabilities that necessitate a low and deterministic latency to enable a rapid decision loop. The implementation must also be able to be poweroptimised, whilst at the same time providing a scalable and future-proof solution. This is where All Programmable Zynq®-7000 SoC or Zynq® UltraScale+™ MPSoC devices offer a unique solution to the challenge at hand. These devices provide highperformance logic coupled with high-performance ARM® A53 or A9 processors for a tightly integrated heterogeneous processing unit.
For real-time control, as may be required for motor control, the Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC also provides a real-time processing unit that contains dual ARMÂŽ R5 processors capable of implementing a real-time processor. This heterogeneous processing unit enables efficient segmentation of the functionality within either the processor or programmable logic. Traditionally, implementing image-processing pipelines and machine-learning inference engines within programmable logic has required an HDL (hardware description language) specialist to replicate the high-level system algorithmic model, increasing development time and cost. The reVISIONâ„˘ acceleration stack for All Programmable Zynq SoC or Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC devices enables developers to work directly with high-level industrystandard frameworks and libraries to create a system model of the algorithms.
Figure 1 - The reVISION acceleration stack and its constituent frameworks and libraries.
(Figure 1) With reVISION, developers can accelerate several OpenCV functions into the programmable logic within the Zynq-7000 or Zynq MPSoC device selected. This enables a more responsive image-processing system as pipelines are inherently parallel in nature. Being able to execute this in parallel within programmable logic removes the main bottleneck, transferring data on and off the chip to double data rate (DDR) memory, as happens when a design is executed by a GPU. Keeping data within the device also reduces the power dissipation of a solution.
(Figure 2) Within an autonomous drone or other vision-guided robotic application, machine learning inference is often used to enable decision making. To support this, reVISION also makes it possible to implement machine learning inference engines within programmable logic. reVISION can take network and training information directly from a Caffe prototxt file definition of the network. By using programmable logic, designers can accelerate an inference engine and thus provide a more responsive, power-efficient solution.
Figure 2 - OpenCV functions capable of being accelerated today in programmable logic.
ACCELERATING MACHINE LEARNING INFERENCE ENGINES When machine learning inference engines are implemented in programmable logic with reVISION, the INT8 format is used enabling operations to target DSP48E2 slices within the UltraScale+ architecture. Using these DSP elements provides a performance increase as they are dedicated multiply accumulate elements designed for fixed-point math. The structure of these DSP elements also enables a resourceefficient implementation as each can perform up to two INT8 MACC operations, if they use the same kernel weights. This approach provides up to a 1.75 times throughput
improvement, enabling a cost-optimised solution which provides a two to six times increased power efficiency (GOPS per Watt) when compared with competing devices. Using reVISION to design image-processing systems for vision-guided robots and drones reduces development time and provides a more responsive, power-efficient and flexible solution. Compared with a GPU-based solution, an All Programmable Zynq-7000 SoC or Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC offers one fifth the latency along with a performance and power efficiency increase of up to 6X images per second per Watt for machine learning applications and up to 42X frames per second per Watt for embedded vision.
SECURING THE SOLUTION All Programmable Zynq-7000 SoC or Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC devices also provide the ability to encrypt and authenticate the boot and configuration process, along with supporting Trustzone technology. With Trustzone, the development team can create orthogonal worlds limiting software access to the underlying hardware, with the use of a hypervisor, while the inbuilt XADC or system monitor can be used to monitor device voltages and temperatures along with external parameters to provide an anti-tamper approach.
Figure 3 - reVISION machine learning example implementation.
CONCLUSION Vision-guided robotics such as drones are experiencing significant growth as the applications they are used for rapidly expand. Developers can best meet the challenges of generating a precise vision system with optimal performance per Watt by using an All Programmable Zynq-7000 SoC or Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC designed with the help of the reVISION stack in a software-defined programming flow. This gives them the opportunity to use industrystandard high-level frameworks and libraries to design a power-efficient, responsive, flexible and secure system. The reconfigurable nature of the devices in this fast-evolving arena is the guaranteed ability to upgrade to incorporate the latest neural networks, algorithms, sensors and interfaces into their designs.
BUSINESS NORTH AMERICAN AUTOMATION MARKET SHATTERS RECORDS IN 2017 The automation market in North America has set new records in the first nine months of 2017. This is according to new figures from the Association for Advancing Automation (ANN ARBOR, MI, US). The results revealed records set in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology. The latest findings show that:
ROBOTICS For the first nine months of 2017, 27,294 orders of robots valued at approximately $1.473 billion were sold in North America, which is the highest level ever recorded in any other year during the same time period. These figures represent growth of 14% in units and 10% in dollars during the first nine months of 2016. Automotive-related orders are up 11% in units and 10% in dollars, while nonautomotive orders are up 20% and 11%, respectively. For shipments, 25,936 robots valued at $1.496 billion were shipped in North America during the first nine months. These record high quantities represent growth of 18% in units and 13% in dollars over what sold in 2016. Automotive-
related shipments also grew 12% in units and 9% in dollars during that time, with non-automotive shipments increasing by 32% and 22% for units and dollars, respectively. The hottest industries were Metals (54%), Automotive Components (42%), and Food and Consumer Goods (21%).
MOTION CONTROL & MOTORS Total motion control shipments increased by 10% to $2.6 billion, marking the industryâ€™s best nine month mark since these figures began being tracked. The largest product category is Motors (38% of shipments), followed by Actuators and Mechanical Systems (18% of shipments), and Electronic Drives (17% of shipments). The fastest growing categories in the first nine months of 2017 were Motion Controllers (24% to $147m), Sensors & Feedback Devices (20% to $116m), AC Drives (15% to $295m), Actuators & Mechanical Systems (13% to $479m), and Motors (11% to $1b). The majority of suppliers believe that order and shipment volumes will increase in the next six months, with most
distributors feeling that orders and shipments will be flat in the same time period.
VISION & IMAGING The North American Machine Vision Market continued its best start to a year ever in 2017, with growth of 14% overall to $1.937b, 14% in systems to $1.657b, and 14% in components to $271m. Each of those three categories set new records in the first nine months of this year, and every individual product category experienced positive year-over-year growth for the same period last year. Some notable growth rates were Smart Cameras (21% to $295m), Lighting (20% to $54m), Software (16% to $15m), and Component Cameras (14% to $143m). Experts believe lighting, optics, imaging boards, and software will trend up, while camera sales will remain flat in the next six months. Additionally, expectations are for Application Specific Machine Vision (ASMV) systems to increase and smart cameras to remain flat over the same time period. The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in the second quarter (avg. PMI of 53.0) and is expected to remain strong through the end of the year.
FETCH RAISES $25M IN SERIES B FUNDING Fetch Robotics (California, US), which develops and manufactures collaborative AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robot) solutions for the warehousing and intralogistic markets, has raised $25m in Series B funding. The round was led by Sway Ventures with participation from existing investors O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures and SB Group US (“Softbank”). The Series B round brings Fetch Robotics’ total funding to date to $48m. The new capital will be used to meet accelerating worldwide customer demand for Fetch Robotics’ unique approach to delivering intralogistic technologies and systems.
CEO of Fetch Melonee Wise said: “We are seeing first-hand that the growth in e-commerce and an expanding on-demand economy are contributing to unprecedented labor challenges faced by the $5 trillion global logistics industry. With labor in short supply, our customers are still able to quickly realize significant, measurable productivity increases by deploying our Autonomous Mobile Robots.”
Founding General Partner at Sway Ventures Brian Nugent said: “The warehouse and logistics automation market is estimated at over $40 billion today, and is poised to double over the next five years. Our investment in Fetch complements and extends our portfolio of exceptional leaders who are transforming the global supply chain.”
The Fetch Robotics Platform combines the industry’s broadest line of mobile robots with a cloud-based software system. The Freight series of Autonomous Mobile Robots (“AMRs”) support multiple applications, including material transport systems and automated data collection.
Nugent joins the Fetch Robotics’ board of directors who are Bryce Roberts from O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Rob Coneybeer from Shasta Ventures, Lydia Jett from Softbank, Steve Hogan from Tech-Rx, and Fetch Robotics CEO Melonee Wise.
BRITBOTS INVESTS IN TETHERED DRONE SYSTEMS Britbots, which invests in and promotes UK-based robotic companies, has backed Tethered Drone Systems to the tune of £300,000. Tethered Drone Systems (TDS) builds unmanned multi-copters that can be used for aerial surveillance and broadcasting tasks. Most drones have limited air time, whereas TDS units are powered via a tether, so as to fly near-continuously. What’s more, TDS engineers are working on technology so that the vehicles can take-off and land by themselves. The only UK based tethered drone in commercial development, with a flight capability to 300m, will see a step change in operational activity.
The company has recently received the initial part of a £300,000 funding package from the British Robotics Seed Fund to complete the development of a fully-commercial product and build the order book. Founder of TDS Jim Gibson said: “Pilotless tethered drones will be transformative technology not only for the security industry but also for precision agriculture, telecommunications and the emergency services plus many more applications.” Britbots is behind the British Robotics Seed (SEIS) Fund and the equity crowdfunding platform, Britbots CROWD. Both support promising robotics-related businesses
performing autonomous tasks on land, air and sea. Founder and CEO of Britbots Dominic Keen said: “Much is written about tomorrow’s world of driverless cars, where we are to be seamlessly whisked around by an all-pervasive fleet of unmanned road vehicles. However, the complexity of the road network and the high consequences of failure suggest that the public’s first experience of self-driving objects is much more likely to happen well away from roads; and humanbeings probably won’t be the cargo. “Tethered Drone Systems is great example of an autonomous device that is ready for operation today, rather than a piece of science fiction for the future.”
JAPAN IS WORLD’S TOP ROBOT MANUFACTURER Japan has been confirmed as the world’s leading manufacturer of robots. The latest figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) showed that the production capacity of the Japanese suppliers reached 153,000 units in 2016 Currently, Japan´s manufacturers deliver 52 percent of the global supply, the highest level ever recorded. President IFR Joe Gemma said: “Japan is a highly robotized country where even robots are assembled by robots. The statistics show that automation strongly boosts exports and domestic investments as well – robot sales in Japan increased by 10 percent to about 39,000 units in 2016 – reaching the highest level in the last ten years.”
HIGHLIGHTS: • Japan exported a total of nearly 115,000 industrial robots in 2016 with a value of 309bn yen (US$ 2.7bn);
• highest export volume for one year; • export rate increased from 72% to 75% (2011-2016); • North America, China, the Republic of Korea and Europe were target export destinations; • Japanese imports of robots were extremely low, only about 1 percent of installations; • home market has strongly recovered since the financial crisis in 2009 and reached 39,000 units, the highest level since 2006 (37,000 units). The latest figures also showed that The automotive industry is the largest destination market for industrial robots in Japan with a share of 36% of the total supply. • car manufacturers bought 48% more industrial robots than in 2015 (2016: 5,711 units); • Japanese car suppliers are leading
in the production of hybrid cars and will increase investments in automated driving technologies; • development of new materials which reduce weight and save energy will also foster investments in robot automation; • however, the ongoing reduction of production capacities in Japan will impact domestic demand for robots. Investments abroad, on the other hand, will continue to increase; • Japanese car companies have been increasingly expanding production facilities overseas, particularly in China, as well as other Asian countries and in the United States and Mexico. After the strong growth of robots in the electrical/ electronics industry in 2015 (11,659 units), a decrease of 7% followed in 2016. However, the electrical/ electronics industry has
preferred to invest in production facilities abroad. Furthermore, continued investments in robots can be expected in this sector with the increasing demand for chips, displays, sensors, batteries and other technologies around electro mobility, and industry 4.0 (connected industries). The two most important customer groups of industrial robots in Japan – automotive and electrical/ electronics – had jointly, a share of 64 percent of the total supply in 2016. Robot sales to both sectors increased by 8% in 2016. In all other branches, as a whole, the market increased by 14%. In terms of outlook to 2020, the economy benefits from increased foreign demand, especially from China, the expansive monetary policy of the Bank of Japan and the weaker yen. Based on estimates provided by the Japanese Robot Association (JARA), the IFR expects an increase of around 10 percent in 2017 in domestic installations. Between 2018 and 2020 a further average annual increase of about 5 percent is likely, provided
the economic recovery in Japan continues.
IFR JAPAN DATA OVERVIEW Japan – new peak in 2016
SALES • 38,586 new robots installed (new record), 10% higher than in 2015 • CAGR 2011-2016: +7% • Global ranking 2016: No. 3 • Shares of total supply • Handling operations 36%, welding 22% • Automotive industry 36%, electrical/ electronics industry 28%
STOCK OF OPERATIONAL ROBOTS • About 287,300 units, slight increase over 2015 (286,600) • CAGR 2011-2016: -1% • Global ranking 2016: No. 2 • Shares of total stock: • Handling operations 36%, welding 23% • Automotive industry 35%, electrical/electronics industry 31%, metal and machinery industry 10%
UK BUDGET AIMS TO HELP TECH SECTOR
As the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond gave his autumn budget speech last November, it looked as though tech companies are in for some largesse. Partner and Head of Global Mobility Tax Services at Blick Rothenberg Mark Abbs said: “A long term vision and strategy to put the UK at the forefront of global digital innovation is absolutely critical for the long term welfare of the country. It is even more critical however that we continue to properly invest and support the digital sector and innovation is not treated by the Government as short term attention grabbing headlines.” The firm’s Partner and Head of Corporate Tax Genevieve Moore said: “Welcome announcement on increasing R&D tax credits. This shows the
Government continues to be committed to encouraging innovation in Britain. “Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief to be increased to support investment in knowledge intensive companies is a positive step and part of a package of announcements to increase investment in technology and innovation. A Budget encouraging technology and growth for Great Britain. “Increase in the EIS investment limits for knowledge intensive companies is welcome news. As ever, the devil will be in the detail but properly targeted, this could encourage private investment in innovation,” said Helena Kanczula, Corporate Tax Director. And partner Frank Nash said: “The Chancellor is keen to promote investment in the
‘super large’ rail projects. Those plans must include adequate car parks equipped with electric charge points, to support the new technology. Also, on the R&D question (the government is allocating a further £2.3bn in investment in research development and will increase the tax credit on R&D to 12%), Dominic Keen from Britbots, an organisation that supports UK-based robotics businesses, said: “the Chancellor’s additional support of innovation within sectors such as electric vehicles and AI today is welcome news indeed. AI will be a key element of the robotics sector, and this country is home to some world-class robotics technologies and this government backing will mean that robots can become job-makers, not jobtakers, for the UK economy.”
UK BUDGET – R&D TAX Mark Tighe, CEO of the R&D tax specialist, Catax, said: “In terms of futureproofing the UK economy, this was an extremely encouraging Budget. “The fact that the Chancellor focused on the need for innovation so early in his speech shows the structural importance of R&D to the modern UK economy. “The increase in the Research and Development Expenditure Credit from 11% to 12% is a crucial step forward for UK research and development. “With Brexit looming ever closer, the need for the UK to position itself as a major centre for global R&D has never been more important. “An increase to 15% would have been a far more robust statement of intent, and many in the industry had quietly been hoping for it, but a rise to 12% should be applauded.
“While the Chancellor has chosen the future, one element of his thinking about R&D remains stuck in the past: he once again made the same mistake of overly associating the research and development revolution with the most cuttingedge technologies, such as driverless cars, AI and 5G. “Yes, these sectors symbolise the vanguard of innovation but we should not forget that many everyday businesses are also performing R&D day in, day out.
“The lack of knowledge surrounding what constitutes R&D is a fundamental problem as the money companies get back through R&D tax credits is generally reinvested in further R&D, which is a virtuous circle for any economy seeking to increase its productivity and compete on the international stage.”
“The Government needs to drive greater awareness of what constitutes R&D in order that the many companies performing it unwittingly can take advantage of the lucrative tax reliefs available.
“While this rate increase is targeted at large companies, it is also available to SMEs that are in receipt of state aid for their R&D – through grants, for example. Unfortunately, this is an area of tax relief that is often overlooked and under-claimed.
ROBOPRO IN FOCUS
ROBOPRO IN FOCUS
In this new section we bring a selection of featured companies into Focus for you
Contact details Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +44(0)1908 350300
ABB Robotics offers a wide range of robotic solutions, integrated with the latest advances in robotic technology, for the entire scope of the manufacturing industry. From automotive and aerospace through to food and plastics production, all sectors can benefit from the added value that a robotic solution brings to the shop floor. Coupled with forward-thinking business initiatives and incremental adoption of digitalisation, the factories of today can become the smart factories of tomorrow.
A global race to achieve advanced automation has begun. Robots are at the centre of this race and support both large-scale OEMs and global enterprises through to mid-sized suppliers and micro-sized local startups. Whatever the business size or location, our robots can bring the same benefits of reliable production, greater productivity, improved precision and flexibility. Our robotic solutions span from large-scale high payload robots suitable for loading and unloading heavy parts, through to smaller collaborative robots which can be easily integrated to assemble components safely alongside skilled workers. We also support manufacturers wishing to fully embrace the digital revolution with our cross-industry digital capability ABB Abilityâ„˘. This includes Connected Services which, via the MyRobotApp, unlocks a world of possibilities in predictive, proactive and immediate robot support.
SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG of Lauffen/Neckar is a German family-owned company and global player in one. The company was founded in 1945 by Friedrich Schunk as a mechanical workshop and has developed under the leadership of Heinz-Dieter Schunk to a competence and world market Contact details leader for gripping systems and clamping technology. Today, SCHUNK the company is run by the third generation siblings Henrik 211 Kitty Hawk Drive A. Schunk and Kristina I. Schunk. About 3,000 employees in Morrisville, NC 27560 9 plants and 33 directly owned subsidiaries and distribution Web: www.schunk.com partners in more than 50 countries throughout the world Email: email@example.com ensure an intensive market presence. With 11,000 standard Telephone: 919-572-2705 components SCHUNK offers the worldâ€™s largest assortment of gripping systems and clamping technology from one source, and with 2,550 SCHUNK grippers the largest product range of standard grippers. The complete program of gripping systems comprises more than 4,000 components. The main customers are all manufacturing companies with assembly, handling and metal-cutting processes. The customer base includes the Who's Who of mechanical engineering, robotics, automation and assembly handling, and all the renowned automotive brands and their suppliers. Since 2012, goalkeeper legend Jens Lehmann has acted as brand ambassador for safe, precise gripping and holding in the SCHUNK team.
ROBOPRO IN FOCUS
Contact details Kinova Inc. Head Office 4333 Grande-Allée Boulevard, Boisbriand (Québec) Canada J7H 1M7 1-855-654-6682 Web: kinovarobotics.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kinova is a global leader in robotics. Founded in 2006, we embarked on a journey to design solutions that improve human capacity from a wide range of uses: from people living with upper-body mobility issues, to research teams and universities, to healthcare professionals striving to provide better outcomes for patients, the development of our product has always been governed by the philosophy of human empowerment. Our first robot, JACO, was a six-axis robotic manipulator arm with a three finger hand, launched in 2009. Since then, our robotic arms have touched the lives of over 500 people.
Today, our team of 200 strives to innovate in the field of service, assistive and medical robotics to provide life-changing products that help serve humans in dayto-day tasks and beyond. Our goal is to leverage technology through robotics to allow human beings to achieve the extraordinary.
Contact details Web: www.lmi3d.com Email: email@example.com
At LMI Technologies we work to advance 3D measurement with smart sensor technology. Our award-winning, FactorySmart® sensors improve the quality and efficiency of factory production by providing fast, accurate, reliable inspection solutions that leverage smart 3D technologies. Unlike contact based measurement or 2D vision, our product removes complexity and dramatically reduces implementation cost.
To learn more about how LMI’s inspection solutions can benefit your business, we invite you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.lmi3d.com to explore the possibilities of smart 3D technology.
Since 1982, Staubli have built a highly regarded robotics business, and more significantly, transformed the way thousands of manufacturing operations perform. Today Stäubli Robotics is a leading player in robotics around the world, consistently delivering engineering as effective and reliable as our service and support.
ROBOPRO IN FOCUS
Xilinx is the leading provider of All Programmable semiconductor products, including FPGAs, SoCs, MPSoCs, RFSoCs, and 3D ICs. Xilinx uniquely enables applications that are both software-defined and hardware optimized â€“ powering industry advancements in Cloud Computing, 5G Wireless, Embedded Vision, and Industrial IoT. Rising demand for multi-axis, vision-guided, safe, secure, and intelligent robotics are driving interest in scalable embedded systems. Xilinx All Programmable SoCs and MPSoCs enable parallel, deterministic control guided by realtime analytics that offload the processors from computationally intensive and time-critical operations leaving bandwidth for other tasks. This distinctive capability offers designers of robotic systems more degrees of freedom than traditional approaches and creates a flexible, complementary division of labour between previously disconnected hardware and software domains.
Cone Drive is a world leader in precision motion control technology. We work with our customers every step of the way - from design specifications to the final solution - to create highly precise and specific products that keep our customers' technology at the forefront of their industry. Cone Drive offers dedicated engineering support, unique solutions, and innovative technology across a breadth of industries and products to drive your company forward. Cone Drive Harmonic Solutions (also known as strain wave gearing) offer the ultimate in precision motion control technology. Our product range includes gearheads and component sets designed to exceed the most demanding motion control applications. Cone Drive delivers customer value with fast lead-times, dedicated global support, ability to effectively deliver engineered specials and product ratings that meet or exceed the competition. Cone Drive looks forward to enabling your company to meet and exceed your growth plans.
Consistent performance for higher productivity Redefining robot performance StĂ¤ubli TX2 robots come equipped with new functions designed to keep production running, protect the automation cell, and keep human operators safe. Man and Machine www.staubli.us
What will 2018 hold for the robotics industry? Neil Martin takes a look at the business of robotics.