As we consider the future of industrial robotics, it’s helpful to remember how our technology has become successful over the past thirty years. The success of industrial robots has been marked by their ability to ease the burden of labor. Wherever robots can perform tasks at the same level of quality as their human counterparts, those applications quickly become automated. This allows the factory to focus human labor on tasks requiring more skill, dexterity or intelligence than robots offer. It’s this fluidity of human labor that leads to greater productivity and improved business outcomes.
Moving forward, the same rules apply. The robot industry will grow only insofar as it can further ease labor and allow personnel to apply their higher-level skills elsewhere in the production value chain. The challenge however, is that the tasks that traditional robots can be applied to are already saturated. For robots to help further, they must evolve further.
Our focus at Yaskawa is to make robots smarter and more skillful. The growth in vision-guided robotics is evidence that if you make the robot more perceptive, there will be more applications. This is the reason we have partnered with several leading vision companies – because vision technology is evolving rapidly and this allows us to leverage the best technology. As an example, it is likely that conveyor tracking will be replaced by direct vision guidance within five years. The robot will no longer be calculating the position of a part based on a trigger and a previous image. Instead, the robot will perform visual servoing, meaning it will simply see the next part and pick it on the fly.
Next time, we will discuss mobile robots and grasping technology.
By Erik Nieves, Technology Director