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The continued rise of collaborative robots (cobots) was apparent at the Automate Show in June. “Integration light,” a new term for deploying cobots, emphasizes the difference between deploying cobots and traditional industrial robots for factory automation.

Integration light is highly disruptive to the existing industrial robot sales channel. It changes the way manufacturers buy, deploy and use robots to automate manufacturing tasks. At a glance:

Collaborative robots (cobots)   Traditional industrial robots
Configure systems   Integrate systems
Teach processes   Program processes
Staff is empowered   Staff is dependent on integrator
Starting at $100K   Starting at $1M
Install in 3 months   Install in 12 months
ROI of <1 year   ROI of 5 years
High mix, small batch runs   Low mix, long runs
Inherently safe   Active safety features

Integration light empowers manufacturing teams to deploy robotics without a systems integrator. They can configure, purchase and teach a cobot system to perform production processes in less than three months, starting at $100K.  They can easily teach it to perform additional different tasks depending on production needs.

Traditional industrial robots, in contrast, typically require a systems integrator to specify, integrate, install and program. Projects take a year or more, starting at $1M. They include active safety features and fixed keep-out zones. Reprogramming the system to perform a different task is expensive and depends on the systems integrator, and is not often done.

A number of traditional industrial robot manufacturers have introduced cobots. However, Universal Robots has a strong lead and continues to dominate the cobot market. This was reinforced at Automate 2022, as shown in this graph created by Matt Malloy of Buffalo Manufacturing Works (operated by EWI).

Image credit: Matt Malloy, EWI

Matt writes:

“One of the things I love most about automation and robotics trade shows is watching how cobot technology is evolving – and changing the industry. This year’s Automate show in Detroit is no different. There are a TON of cobots on display across the show floor – 273 by my count (which I’m sure is not perfect). A lot of the usual players, some notable ones missing, and some new cobot companies joining in the fun. There is clearly more focus on cobot applications this year which is great to see.”

Continue reading Matt Malloy’s summary of Automate 2022 on LinkedIn

David Henderson has more than 35 years of experience in motion systems engineering, manufacturing, and business operations. He is founder and CEO of New Scale Robotics and New Scale Technologies.

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