Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing
June 2, 2015
They are nimbler, lighter and work better with humans. They might even help bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
Built to collaborate
Another big trend at work: The Renault robots are “collaborative,” designed to work in proximity to people. Older types of factory robots swing their steel arms with such force that they can bludgeon anyone who strays too close. Using sonar, cameras or other technologies, collaborative robots can sense where people are and slow down or stop to avoid hurting them.
JCB Laboratories will use robots to pick up syringes, fill them with medications and snap on caps, among other tasks. The production line, designed by ESS Technologies Inc. of Blacksburg, Va., involves three robots from Japan’s Fanuc Corp. The robots will be five to six times faster than the people who now do the work
ABB’s global robotics chief, expects increasing demand for robots from makers of watches, razors, toothbrushes and toys. He also thinks robots could help make muffins in local bakeries, slice vegetables and meat, and wash windows.
Even if robots allow manufacturing to relocate, the impact on the workforce itself will be mixed. Greater use of robots means fewer people are needed on factory floors; those doing routine tasks requiring little education are most vulnerable. Yet even highly automated factories create or sustain jobs in design, engineering, machine maintenance and repair, marketing, logistics and other services.