The industrial robot giant ABB launched the collaborative robot YuMi for the first time. ABB might not have thought that when the industrial robot market grew slowly, the emergence of collaborative robots would become a new tool to open the market. Data show that China's industrial robot market has shrunk for the first time in 2018 since it became the world's largest industrial robot market in 2013.
This may mean that the golden age of the industrial robot market is over, but as an industrial country targeting intelligent manufacturing, the demand for industrial robots has not stopped. Collaborative robots may become the focus of competition in the next stage of the industrial robot market.
Once the collaborative robot was launched, it attracted great interest in the industry. This lightweight and the safe new industrial robot can make up for the limitations of traditional industrial robots in industrial production and carry out customized and professional production operations. The emergence of collaborative robots not only represents the latest research direction in the robotics field but is also a weapon for the industrial robot market to lag behind to open up the market. In 2018, China's industrial robot market declined overall, with shipments increasing by only 5%, which is a big gap compared with the 70% growth rate in the same period last year.
According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, the slowdown in the growth of China's automobile and 3C electronics industries is the main reason for the decline in sales of industrial robots. About 60% of industrial robots are sold in these two industries, and in the past year, the performance of these two major industries has not been satisfactory.
The huge market potential of collaborative robots is becoming more and more important to the slowing domestic market. Although ABB was the first company to launch a collaborative robot, the industry quickly realized its importance and quickly followed up. Following ABB, several other giants including FANUC and KUKA have also launched their own collaborative machines. More than 30 collaborative robot manufacturers have been established worldwide, with more than 90 robot models.
Barclays Bank production analysts estimate that the collaborative robot market will grow from US$116 million to US$11.5 billion in just a decade from 2015 to 2025.
Earlier, at the 3rd Global Artificial Intelligence Conference, the computing power think tank learned from ABB that a high degree of automation does not mean that humans are not needed, but to improve human work efficiency through intelligent means. Among them, the addition of artificial intelligence enables machines to truly work with humans.
For example, in the automotive development stage, it is difficult for traditional industrial robots to cooperate with engineers for automotive installation tests, but collaborative robots can. For some large accessories, such as engine installation, engineers can instruct the robot to place the engine in a designated position. A robot with vision and perception systems is like an assistant, extracting heavy objects, identifying and searching for accessories.
Human-machine cooperation can be summarized into three stages: low-level human-machine cooperation coexists, and there is no shared working space. The human-machine collaboration in the middle is occasional workspace sharing. Advanced human-machine collaboration is a continuous work area sharing, and robots are more like working together rather than cold pipes.