robotDid you know that sales of industrial robots grew by 8% this year? According to the Boston Consulting Group, this trend is no accident. Rather, it’s merely the beginning of a wide-scale “robot revolution” in which manual labor will be replaced with machines on a wide scale.

For most advanced manufacturers, robots are nothing new. At Distefano we have welding robots, among others, that drastically increase the efficiency and productivity that we can offer our clients. In theory, robots can automate tasks like unloading materials or stacking boxes, allowing the human workforce to become more productive. The statistics of these industrial robots are pretty extraordinary: “A robot the size of a person can easily carry a load over one hundred pounds and move it very quickly with a repeatability of +/-0.006 inches,” 24 hours a day, for years on end.

Traditionally, the field of industrial robotics has been defined as the study, design, and use of robot systems for manufacturing. For the most part, these industrial robots are robot arms applied in welding, painting, ironing, assembly, product inspection, and testing. Recently, however, the robot revolution has started to move in some really interesting ways, from the robot arm into a large-scale implementation of industrial robots on the factory floor.

Here are some of the fascinating new industrial robots that just may transform your factory floor sometime soon.

Cobots: As you might be able to tell from the name, cobots are a fascinating new attempt to revolutionize cooperation between humans and robots in manufacturing. Peggy Hollinger, industry editor for the Financial Times, notes that low-cost collaborative robots are both safe for human interaction and helpful to the workers with whom they collaborate. In SEW-Eurodrive’s factory in Baden-Wurttemberg, worker Jürgen Heidemann notes, “Everything is just where I need it. I don’t have to lift up the heavy parts.” Heidemann has worked at SEW for 40 years, since he was 18. “This is more satisfying because I am making the whole system. I only did one part of the process in the old line.”

The OTTO: OTTO is the world’s first self-driving vehicle intended for intralogistics and heavy materials handling in warehouse and distribution centers, potentially saving time and money for advanced manufacturers. As the company notes, “Modern factories and warehouses need to be reconfigurable, responsive and efficient to meet the growing demand for product customization; they need to maintain an edge against low-cost offshore competition. Traditional automated guided vehicles – or AGVs – required costly and rigid changes to infrastructure, cannot easily adapt to changing environment, and are not safe to work with, or around, warehouse personnel.” So, OTTO operates autonomously and can intelligently optimize time from docking to loading stations, which is pretty incredible. The possibilities of a robot that could move pallets in a warehouse or be applied in kitting and assembly line delivery are immense. Watch a video of the robot in action navigating a factory floor here.

SCARA Robots: SCARA robots, which stands for Selective Compliant Assembly Robot Arm, are ideal for high-speed assembly, kitting, packaging, and other material-handling applications. While many industries are already familiar with these popular robots, Material Handling & Logistics notes that industrial use of SCARA robots continues to grow in the United States, thanks to their high rate of accuracy and precise speed control. In fact, SCARA robots are actually one of the top three robotics trends for the entire year, since they’re so disruptive to the traditional robotics industry. Whereas traditional industrial robots like the cobot have to be installed and fenced to ensure human safety, SCARA robots are easier to maintain and easier for advanced manufacturers to use. Expect to see these precise arm robots on more factory floors than ever before.

The robot revolution has been imminent for a very, very long time, and the nature of advanced manufacturing indicates that automated technology will become necessary in many areas of the factory floor, even in places it hasn’t existed before. Are there industrial robots in your factory that have changed the way you work? Leave a comment or question in the section below, anytime!

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