Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), simulation and modular hardware continue to contribute to greater capability for robot dexterity, creating more flexible, skillful, and even easier, robotic systems. Highly beneficial to addressing high-mix, low-volume production runs, these solutions are helping manufacturers of all sizes effectively deal with labor gaps, supply chain woes and more.
Robots as a Service
Companies, such as Ambi Robotics
, are seizing the opportunity to help supply chain and logistics
customers even further via these technologies by offering a unique concept known as Robots as a Service (RaaS). "Robots have been making an impact in the automotive and manufacturing space for decades, but the RaaS model is now reducing barriers to entry for new supply chain brands to take advantage of automation," says Sandra Kazee, VP of Finance at Ambi Robotics. "We understand each customer has different needs, so we not only design unique solutions for them, we also offer flexible pricing models so they can meet their financial requirements."
Ambi Robotics combines advances in simulation-to-reality (Sim2Real) artificial intelligence and modular hardware configurations to build highly dexterous solutions at scale. Their ability to accelerate training during simulation opens up new capabilities in robotic dexterity – using more flexible and powerful robots that perform successfully in unique operations from day one. Capable of sorting boxes, polybags and envelopes from bulk input flow (i.e., chutes, totes and bins) into destination containers over 50% faster than manual labor, Ambisort – the company’s flagship solution – is used by global shippers to expedite parcel sortation to last mile delivery couriers. Powered by AmbiOS, the company’s AI operating system, AmbiSort can train robotic systems 10,000x faster than alternative solutions, increasing adaptability with effortless integrations and providing the ability to handle new items without item-specific training.
Welding as a Service
Addressing the need for RaaS in the welding space, Path Robotics
offers a concept known as Welding as a Service (WaaS). “We provide WaaS,” says Joe Onderko, VP of Business Development and Marketing at Path Robotics. “Our cells are not a CapEx, but rather an OpEx, pay as you go, solution. Manufacturers can conserve cash and mitigate risk (as a subscription term is only 12 months), and it enables the utilization of a capital budget toward other improvements.”
Packaged as a complete workcell, Path’s patented solution uses advanced technology, including a proprietary version of AI software, to determine part shape and weld seam locations. Also giving a QA analysis of the weld performance, this technology effectively provides users access to the equivalent of many skilled welders. “Given that our cells are completely turnkey,” continues Onderko, “The added overhead of robotic programmers, weld engineers, etc. is unnecessary. Just press GO.”
Frequently used for fabricating specialty automotive components, Path’s solution complements evolving industry trends, including the shift toward high-mix, low-volume production. With Path workcells, “there is no risk of obsolescence,” concludes Onderko. “Our cells are always up to date; they need to be to keep earning their place on shop floors. And, given that our AI is wrapped around the entire tech stack, the cells get smarter and faster every day.”
RaaS and WaaS solutions like these significantly lower roadblocks toward robotic implementation, facilitating key benefits:
- Increased automation confidence – not all manufacturers employ a highly trained robot operator (aka: a workcell champion) that knows all the ins and outs of robotic automation. In fact, this scenario is quite rare. That said, the RaaS business model is especially ideal for small- to medium-sized companies looking to test out robots before committing to long-term utilization.
- Lower implementation costs – when it comes to robotics, smaller operations may be hesitant to heavily invest in up-front costs. Robots as a Service helps to alleviate this, providing organizations a logical alternative to buying a robot outright and usually realizing immediate payback. Whether through a monthly leasing agreement or a rent-to-own approach, RaaS can help organizations maintain their bottom line.
- Greater production scalability – traditional business models are being challenged. Safe out-of-the-box robotic solutions that provide easy-to-use programming allow manufacturers with limited staff to adjust to short-term or long-term needs (i.e., seasonal business) accordingly. From collaborative machine tending systems to pre-assembled robotic welding workcells, companies are using these assets to accelerate throughput as requirements change.
- Easy robot maintenance – many companies that offer RaaS remain integral key players to their clients by monitoring the robotic system remotely, providing troubleshooting capability and system reprogramming, as needed, for maximized uptime and ROI.
Whether the reason is to “try before you buy”, forgo a capital expenditure or something else, the quickly evolving realm of RaaS is bringing robotic automation to organizations of all sizes and industries. Decision makers interested in learning more about highly flexible, capable and affordable robotic automation, should contact a knowledgeable robot supplier, like Yaskawa, or integrator today.
Sarah Mellish is a Marketing Content Specialist