Editorial Feature

An A to Z of Industrial Robots

Industrial robotics has emerged as game-changers in various sectors, transforming manufacturing processes via advanced robots that combine precision, speed, and versatility, making them invaluable assets for businesses seeking to improve productivity and efficiency.

An A to Z of Industrial Robot Types

Image Credit: SasinTipchai/Shutterstock.com

History of Industrial Robots

Industrial robots are automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulators with three or more axes. The term "robota" exists in several Slavic languages, and the original meaning is heavy, monotonous work or slave labor. The origins of industrial robots can be traced back to the mid-20th century when engineers began exploring the concept of programmable machines capable of performing repetitive tasks. It was not until the 1950s that one of the first true industrial robots, the Unimate, was developed by Joseph Engelberger and George Devol. Unimate revolutionized the manufacturing industry, marking the beginning of a new era.

What Sectors Benefit From Industrial Robots?

There are five main types of industrial robots, including Polar, Delta, Cartesian, articulated and SCARA robots. These industrial robots find application across various sectors, including the automotive industry, electronics manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industry, offering numerous advantages like increased productivity, enhanced quality control, and improved worker safety.

For instance, industrial robots are utilized extensively in the automotive sector for tasks like welding, painting, and assembly for precision, consistency, and speed, enabling efficient production lines. Similarly, industrial robots play a vital role in electronics manufacturing, where delicate components and complex assembly processes require high precision. Industrial robots excel in soldering, surface mount technology, and circuit board testing.

Industrial robots are increasingly employed in food processing and packaging, ensuring hygienic production environments, accurate portioning, and high-speed packaging, optimizing efficiency in this sector. Moreover, industrial robots are making significant contributions to pharmaceutical manufacturing and healthcare, assisting in tasks such as medication dispensing, surgical procedures, and laboratory automation.

Commercial Landscape of Industrial Robots

The global market for industrial robots has experienced significant growth in recent years. According to a report, the global industrial robots market is projected to reach 142.8 billion dollars by 2032, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.4% from 2023 to 2032. This growth is driven by increasing demand for automation, advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the need for improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing processes. For instance, industrial robots, like cobots, are also gaining traction due to their ability to work with human operators safely and collaboratively. Key players in industrial robots' manufacturing include ABB Ltd., Fanuc Corporation, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, and KUKA Robotics.

Industrial Robots Examples

M-710iC/50 are standard 50 kg payload multipurpose industrial robots with a small footprint, rigid arm and slim wrist having six-axis versatility with high axis speed manufactured by FANUC. These robots can handle awkward payloads and perform several tasks, including waterjet cutting, deburring, polishing, grinding, and machine tending. Similarly, UR5e is a robot manufactured by universal robots for assembly, pick-and-place operations, and quality inspection.

Another prominent industrial robot is ABB's IRB 120: a six-axis robot perfect for the assembly and material handling application of small parts with superior control and path accuracy.

Similarly, the Yaskawa Motoman MH6 robot is also designed for material handling and assembly applications. Its slim design and high-speed capabilities make it well-suited for industries like logistics, automotive, and food and beverage.

Recent Developments in Industrial Robot Technologies

In recent years, robotics has become a crucial component of manufacturing systems due to technological advancements. The usage of industrial robots has become widespread across various industries, with the automotive industry being the largest customer.

The selection of industrial robots is a complex decision-making problem influenced by uncertainties and conflicting factors. Previous studies have used traditional decision-making approaches but lacked a reliable and industry-specific evaluation framework. To address these gaps, a fuzzy group MCDM model is proposed in a recent 2023 study, integrating the fuzzy SWARA (F-SWARA'B) and fuzzy CoCoSo (F-CoCoSo'B) techniques with the Bonferroni function.

The model considers specific criteria determined by experts in the automotive industry and provides an intelligent decision support system to overcome uncertainties and optimize robot selection.

Industrial Robots: Looking to the Future

The future prospects of industrial robots are highly promising. The global market is projected to reach $142.8 billion by 2032, with a CAGR of 11.4% from 2023 to 2032. Industries such as automotive, electronics manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, logistics, and healthcare will benefit from increased adoption.

Moreover, the impact of industrial robots on the environment is significant, which can contribute to fighting environmental problems like global warming. For instance, a 2022 study examines the carbon emission reduction effects of industrial robots application in the context of sustainable development. The research findings indicate that industrial robots significantly reduce carbon intensity by improving energy efficiency and productivity.

The effects vary across different fields and countries, with manufacturing, agriculture, and electricity sectors showing the most significant reductions. The study also highlights the mediating role of green total factor productivity and energy intensity, as well as the moderating effect of absorptive capacity. The research fills a gap in understanding the environmental impact of industrial robots and provides policy recommendations for achieving carbon emission reduction goals.

Continue Reading: Industrial Robot Technology.

References and Further Reading

5 types of industrial robots - NRTC automation: Industrial automation services (2023) NRTC Automation | Industrial Automation Services. [Online] Available at: https://www.nrtcautomation.com/blog/5-types-of-industrial-robots.

Arents, J., & Greitans, M. (2022). Smart industrial robot control trends, challenges and opportunities within manufacturing. Applied Sciences. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/12/2/937

Fanuc M-710IC/50 industrial robot [Online] . Fanuc. Available at: https://www.fanuc.eu/it/en/robots/robot-filter-page/m-710-series/m-710ic-50.

Garg, C. P., Görçün, Ö. F., Kundu, P., & Küçükönder, H. (2023). An integrated fuzzy MCDM approach based on Bonferroni functions for selection and evaluation of industrial robots for the automobile manufacturing industry. Expert Systems with Applications. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0957417422018814

Industrial robotics market value to hit US$ 142.8 billion in 2032, at CAGR 11.4% (2023) GlobeNewswire News Room. [Online]  Available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2023/03/09/2624175/0/en/Industrial-Robotics-Market-Value-to-Hit-US-142-8-Billion-in-2032-At-CAGR-11-4.html.

IRB 120: ABB Robotics - Articulated Robots portfolio: ABB Robotics (robots portfolio: ABB Robotics). [Online] Available at: https://new.abb.com/products/robotics/robots/articulated-robots/irb-120  

Li, Y., Zhang, Y., Pan, A., Han, M., & Veglianti, E. (2022). Carbon emission reduction effects of industrial robot applications: Heterogeneity characteristics and influencing mechanisms. Technology in Society. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0160791X22001750

UR5E lightweight, Versatile Cobot [online]  Lightweight, versatile cobot. Available at: https://www.universal-robots.com/products/ur5-robot/

Wallén, J. (2008). The history of the industrial robot. Linköping University Electronic Press. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:316930/fulltext01.pdf

Yaskawa Motoman MH6F [Online]  Yaskawa Motoman Robotics. Available at: https://www.motoman.com/en-us/products/robots/industrial/assembly-handling/mh-series/mh6f

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Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  

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