The global operational robots market reached $15.7 billion in 2021 and is predicted to continue to show strong growth over the decade. It is predicted that the industry will propel economic growth and productivity and create new career opportunities worldwide. Here, we look at the top five trends driving the industry in 2023.
Trend 1: Energy efficiency
Similar to many technology segments, energy efficiency is a key trend in robotics. Capitalizing on energy efficiency will help improve companies’ competitiveness, particularly given rising energy costs. In manufacturing, in particular, adopting robotics often reduces energy consumption. For example, compared with traditional assembly lines, robotics can reduce energy usage, wastage, and production time while increasing efficiency and safety.
Modern robots are designed to run on smaller amounts of energy. This helps companies meet sustainability goals, such that have become increasingly important as the world works to meet climate change goals to save the future of the planet. Many companies that use industrial robots embrace those equipped with energy-saving technology. For example, some robots are equipped with the feature to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy, which can then be fed back into the grid, thus reducing the net energy expenditure of operations.
Additionally, a relatively new smart power-saving mode has become common in robots across industries, particularly in industrial robots; this feature uses sensors to help manufacturing companies cut energy usage associated with robotic use.
Overall, this trend will likely continue through the decade and beyond due to the responsibility of all companies to take action against climate change by reducing their carbon footprint.
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Trend 2: Reshoring
The COVID-19 pandemic was also a social and economic crisis, as well as being a global healthcare crisis. Restrictions to movement and stay-at-home orders caused serious supply chain issues across the globe, with 98% of global supply chains affected. Leading up to the pandemic, some manufacturers in the US had been considering reshoring - bringing business operations back home to be geographically close to target markets. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the potential benefits of doing so.
Car manufacturers, in particular, are considering reshoring. With the help of robotics, car batteries for electric vehicles can be manufactured cost-effectively close to home, eliminating the costs of shipping heavy products from overseas. This is important given the readily growing electric car industry and the trend for logistics refusing to ship batteries for safety reasons.
Another industry that is using robotics to bring production back to the US is microchip manufacture. An example of this type of reshoring includes Intel’s new chip factories that have opened up in Ohio.
Trend 3: Easier to Use Robots
In recent years, robotic programming has become easier, to the extent that a non-expert can now program a robot. This has helped the widespread adoption of robots across industries where before, robots may not have been integrated due to the need to hire trained staff to manage them. Now, people with no prior programming experience are capable of learning how to program robots. This has allowed a new area of specialization to open up in robotics. For the first time, software startups are designing robots that meet the specific needs of small and medium-sized companies, who now have the capacity to manage integrating robotics into their processes.
The birth of easy-to-use programming interfaces is also driving the segment of low-cost robotics. With many companies reacting to the pandemic by trying robotic solutions for the first time, robotics manufacturers and software companies have recognized the growing market for easy-to-use robotics with pre-configured software. Over the coming years, we will likely see this segment of robotics grow further.
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Trend 4: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Automation
Manufacturing is being transformed by connected robots, those that are integrated into the digital ecosystem of connected technologies, including big data analytics and cloud computing. Artificial intelligence (AI) is pushing robotic capabilities forward, allowing them to respond intuitively to their environment, resulting in reduced operational costs thanks to process optimization, predictive maintenance, and increased efficiency. AI also helps manufacturers, wholesalers, and logistics companies cope with variability and unpredictability in consumer demand, further helping to increase profit margins.
Trend 5: Second Life for Industrial Robots
There is a trend worldwide to reduce emissions as well as to create sustainable practices and circular economies to secure a safer and healthier world for the future. This has helped to ignite the trend of revamping old robots to give them a “second life”. The average industrial robot will last roughly thirty years. Rather than disposing of them when they are no longer working, they are taken to specialized repair centers where their components can be refurbished or upgraded in a resource-efficient way. This reduces waste, cuts costs and resources, and contributes to the circular economy.
These five trends will likely dominate over the next few years and potentially for the rest of the decade.
References and Further Reading
Katie Rapp (2022). Infographic: Reshoring and the Pandemic – Bringing Manufacturing Back to America [online]. NIST. Available at: https://www.nist.gov/blogs/manufacturing-innovation-blog/infographic-reshoring-and-pandemic-bringing-manufacturing-back
Mukund Nilakantan, J., Huang, G.Q. and Ponnambalam, S.G. (2015) “An investigation on minimizing cycle time and total energy consumption in Robotic Assembly Line Systems,” Journal of Cleaner Production, 90, pp. 311–325. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.11.041.
Ravi Rao. (2023). Robotic assembly lines have revolutionized production processes, enabling manufacturers to achieve high levels of efficiency, productivity, and quality [online]. Wevolver. Available at: https://www.wevolver.com/article/what-are-robotic-assembly-lines-history-components-advantages-limitations-applications-and-future (Accessed April 2023)
Top 5 Robot Trends 2023 [online]. International Federation of Robotics. Available at: https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/top-5-robot-trends-2023