When you want to talk to someone about robotics and automation, especially in an industrial context, who better to talk to than an expert from Japan? Not wishing to compound any stereotypes, the “land of the rising sun” has shown itself to be an early adopter of many, possibly all, advanced technologies for many decades now.
When George Devol and Joseph Engleberger invented the first industrial robotic arm in around 1950, Japan was the most enthusiastic buyer of their product, the Unimate. Devol and Engleberger had found business tough in the US, where there was a general perception – perpetuated by Hollywood science fiction films – of robots as being an otherworldly, threatening menace. Which they are, of course.
Automation technologies such as the Jacquard loom were ubiquitous in the 1800s during the first industrial revolution. Such machines eliminated some of the most tedious and time-consuming jobs from factories, and raised production to record levels.
Then, in the mid-1900s, the robotic arm was invented. Like the loom, that too is a machine ubiquitous in the contemporary industrial landscape. And with the advent of computing, robotics and automation systems have been increasingly integrated into self-contained production systems, controlled through what might now be considered rudimentary forms of artificial intelligence.
That integration process is still ongoing, but meanwhile a number of new technologies have emerged – particularly in computing and networking – which are combining to form trends that are themselves coalescing. Experts are now encapsulating all these technologies, trends and developments into a relatively new catch-all term – Industry 4.0.
One of the key features of Industry 4.0 is, arguably, the gradual encroachment of AI into what used to be considered jobs that only humans could do – the robots were supposedly not clever enough. The common misconception was that computer-controlled robotics and automation systems can only perform simple manual labour tasks.
While this may be true to a large extent, Moravec’s paradox shows that this is not the whole story, and that, in fact, computers are more suited to high-level intellectual jobs. Which seems obvious when you think about it, or get your robot to think about it. However, neither the hardware nor the software has been available to demonstrate the implications of the paradox on a large scale, until now.
At least some of these views are shared by Alexander Khaytin, chief operating officer at the Yandex Data Factory. According to Khaytin, the gradual move to Industry 4.0 requires rethinking of the full implications of new, artificial intelligence-based technologies.
In exclusive comments to Robotics and Automation News, Khaytin makes the observation that many intellectual tasks are already undertaken by AI systems.
Exclusive interview with Erik Walenza-Slabe, CEO of IoT ONE
Apparently, we are all either living in the Age of Industry 4.0 already, or we are entering it. And one of the main features of this age is a relatively new connectivity technology called the “internet of things”, often abbreviated to IoT.
The IoT is, as you might imagine or know, a network of “things”. These things can be computers, industrial robots or any other type of robot, any device or appliance – anything that is a thing or a machine, which is why it’s also sometimes referred to as the machine-to-machine (M2M) network.
Perhaps it’s not a particularly accurate label for it, mainly because the IoT can be part of the general internet that we all know and use, in that it can use the same Ethernet cables and WiFi and whatever other connections there are available, although it’s thought M2M communications could mainly be carried through radio-frequency identification technology. Continue reading The IoT – with Chinese characteristics
According to Bharath Kanniappan, lead research analyst at Technavio for robotics, “The top four vendors in the global articulated robots market concentrate on the development of application-specific and industry-specific articulated robots, which help them to have a competitive edge.”
In what is described as a major push for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Make In India campaign, Tal Manufacturing Solutions, a Tata Group company, is all set to launch first India-made robot Tata Brabo in the next two months.
To be showcased for the first time at the ongoing Make in India Week in Mumbai, Tata Brabo has been developed in-house by a team of six engineers. On its official website, the company has also invited one and all to “join the robolution”.
Anil Bhingurde, chief operating officer of Tal Manufacturing Solutions led the group of six engineers whose average age is 24 years. In May last year, Bhingurde had made a presentation on the company’s robotic venture to Ravikant, the chairman, and to the board of the company. Continue reading Tata to launch first Indian-made robot Brabo
John Mitchell, business development manager at CP Automation, examines the essence of lean manufacturing
European manufacturers are estimated to spend over €400 billion every year on maintenance activities. Studies show that about 30 per cent of failed machinery can be repaired at half the cost of buying replacements, which suggests a potential 15 per cent saving. John Mitchell, business development manager at CP Automation, discusses the issues that stop manufacturers cutting costs and improving productivity – the essence of lean manufacturing.
Perhaps the first thing manufacturers should consider when addressing efficiency is keeping assets low.Manufacturers can easily eliminate excess inventory from their books, and thus get better return on net assets,simply by not purchasing the inventory until it’s needed. Methods of achieving this include Just in Time (JIT) inventory management, which is also sometimes called the Toyota Production System. Figures suggest thiscould result in a 60 billion saving in plants across Europe.
Investing an additional £1.2bn into manufacturing processes, to increase robotics and automation over the next decade, could add as much as £60.5bn to the UK economy over the next decade, forecasts new research from Barclays. This is equivalent to nearly two fifths of the manufacturing sector’s value to the economy today.
The “Future-proofing UK manufacturing” report reveals that investing in automation technology will help to increase the international competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing sector through increased manufacturing productivity and efficiency. As a result of additional investment, the manufacturing sector will be worth £191bn in 2025, £8.6bn more than currently projected and a 19.6% increase on today.
Simulation, 3D printing, lightweight robots – these are some of the innovative technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0. And they are already a reality at Siemens’ Electronics Manufacturing Plant in Erlangen, Germany. A key reason for the success of this plant is that people and machines work hand in hand.
Schorsch assembles small converters. Hannes does the big ones; he inserts a fan and a heat sink in the housing and fastens them with four screws – several hundred times a day. When Hannes takes a break, Schorsch keeps on working unwaveringly.
Aston University is playing a critical role in a €6 million EU project working to develop a robotic stem cell factory, which will reduce the cost of manufacturing adult stem cells and open up the opportunity to produce new therapies for a range of conditions.
The Autostem consortium, coordinated by NUI Galway in Ireland, has received funding through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to address the current challenges in manufacturing stem cells.
You know we’re in a lot of trouble when the World Economic Forum sees fit to issue a dire warning about the future of global employment, forecasting that more than 5 million people will lose their jobs across 15 developed economies by 2020 as a direct result of robotics and automation technology.
It’s difficult to say whether WEF is being conservative in its estimate, but since it is considered the mouthpiece of the leaders of the world economy, it’s in its interests to try and calm people’s anxieties over the issue.
In its report, The Future of Jobs, WEF says: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which includes developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology, will cause widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years, with enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.” Continue reading World Economic Forum warns of ‘widespread disruption’ to business by robots
In the age of Industry 4.0, “smart factories” are developing at an unprecedented rate. Nowadays, automated, networked and variable production lines are in high demand as companies aim to respond quickly and flexibly to ever shorter product life cycles.
At the same time, the issue of how to incorporate individual customer requirements into industrial series production is growing in significance.