The global industrial robot market has experienced rapid growth over the past decade with no signs of slowing down.
Expected to reach a value of $73.51 billion by 2023,
industrial robots are a hot commodity in industries where
high speed and precision are “must-haves.” The electronics
manufacturing industry, for example, is now a major consumer
of modular robots. Unlike their human counterparts, modular
robots are consistently accurate and can assemble parts
quickly to meet increased demand for electronic goods.
From 2016 to 2017, industrial robot sales grew 31% worldwide, and 33% in the electronics industry alone. As demand
for things like batteries and chips increase, modular robots
will quickly become a staple on electronics manufacturing
Here are the steps to successfully adopt them into the
1. BE SELECTIVE
Prior to adding robots to the production process, manufacturers should carefully evaluate which products fit best
into their ecosystem to ensure longevity and sustained
productivity. When manufacturers neglect to consider the
lifespan of the robot, for example, they run the risk of investing in expensive tools that are only good for five years,
a relatively short lifespan in the robotics world. Robots can
offer the capability of adjusting to fit multiple manufacturing
and assembly needs especially if they’re maintained properly.
Variances, such as lubrication and proactive care programs
can help extend the life of the robot and optimize uptime
2. THINK AHEAD
Most electronic products have very short life cycles, with
new iterations pushed out to market as soon as the first
version hits the shelf. By selecting a robot that can perform a variety of applications, manufacturers can repurpose
machines for second, third, and even fourth life cycles.
Consider how robots can be recycled for future use cases
to help maximize ROI.
Robots are changing quickly. The global robotics market
is expected to grow 60% from 2016 to 2022, and many
technological advances will be made along the way. Staying
ahead of growing trends and investing in new technologies,
like robots, can help manufacturers prepare for these
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PARTNER
Given the industry’s rapid growth, buyers will have plenty of
options to choose from, whether they’re looking to increase
efficiencies or automate certain processes. But not every
robotics vendor carries solutions representing an entire
manufacturing portfolio. When vetting robotics vendors,
manufacturers should assess supplier alignment at both
the robotics level and the systems integration level.
Finding a vendor that can both support systems implementation and provide the technical know-how increases
your chances of ensuring a seamless adoption. This also
saves you valuable time and money not having to search
for and select multiple solution providers for the different
products and solutions that you are looking for.
4. OPEN UP COMMUNICATIONS
Both the electronics and robotics industries are becoming increasingly global in their interactions with other businesses. This can produce a number of cultural and language
barriers that impede business development and manufacturing coordination. Robotics integration is a combination of
both physical and intellectual resources, but the two don’t
often come from the same location. Product development,
for example, might occur in Silicon Valley, but the actual
manufacturing of goods is completed overseas in China
or Taiwan. When hundreds—if not thousands—of miles
separate teams, manufacturers risk running into miscommu-nications that could delay the production of electronic parts.
That’s why it’s important to find a robotics supplier with a
global footprint. This provides not only better communication,
it allows you to take advantage of business relationships
that they have already established, regardless of where your
manufacturing takes place.
Manufacturers are choosing collaborative robots, or
“cobots,” more and more. In fact, more than one-third of
robots sold by 2025 will feature collaborative applications,
according to a recent Loup Venture research report. And
for good reason. Collaborative robots can tackle the jobs
that fall between the capabilities of humans and industrial
robots. They also tend to be cheaper, easier to program, and
save money by eliminating the need for security fencing.
But there are still things to consider.
These cobots are designed to work alongside humans
at a similar space without the need for hard fencing. When
workers approach a cobot, the machine’s sensors tell the
robot to either slow down their movements or stop them
completely. Because of this, cobots tend to be slower
than their non-collaborative counterparts, but that doesn’t
mean that they still cannot be dangerous. Without the
proper safety fences in place, the application that the
robot is serving, along with its end of arm tooling, will
determine whether it still poses a risk to the worker or
workers in its area.
Understanding the long-term ROI of robotics and automation can be tricky to calculate. But without taking
the time to do a proper process analysis, manufacturers
may end up investing in tools that are short lived or that
don’t fully meet their needs. That’s why it’s important to
not treat feasibility as an afterthought.
As electronics manufacturers redefine their processes
to keep up with industry advancements, modular robots
will play a crucial role in helping manufacturers maintain
efficiency and precision. With thorough vetting and a
consideration for future needs, electronics manufacturers
can successfully implement modular robots to support
their long-term business goals.
About the Author
FLORENCE ACUNA is a technical account manager at
KUKA Robotics and has expertise in the injection molding
space, automotive space and design for manufacturability
practices. Before coming to KUKA, Acuna worked with Tesla
for nearly six years in numerous roles and departments
such as a senior controls engineer.
Five Things to Consider
by Flo Acuna
How to successfully adopt modular robots into the