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:
|INTEGRATION LIGHT||TRADITIONAL (HEAVY) INTEGRATION|
|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
“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.”
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.