According to authoritative data, the global market share of industrial robots is booming, accounting for more than 50% of the total robot market. Global annual sales of industrial robots are projected to increase to $23.18 billion by 2020, up from $16.82 billion in 2017.
In the future, industrial robots will embody the following five trends.
1. Man-machine cooperation
Man-machine cooperation is an important trend of industrial robots and the driving force of this growth. Cobots, designed to interact safely and physically with humans in shared workspaces, are finding their place in a wide range of industries.
In an environment where people need to work closely with robots in a more sporadic and intermittent way, safe coexistence becomes more and more important, such as bringing different materials to robots, replacing programs and checking new operations.
Collaboration is essential to improve manufacturing flexibility to adapt to high mixing and small batch production. People can add their unique abilities to adapt to change and improvisation, while robots increase tireless endurance for repetitive tasks.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will also have a significant impact on the next generation of industrial robots, which will help robots become more autonomous and work with their colleagues.
One of the trends I've been following closely in 2019 is the convergence of AI, robotics and machine vision. This convergence of relatively different technologies opens up new opportunities that have never been used before.
3. New Industrial Users
As other industries accept the efficiency and flexibility that industrial robots can provide, reducing dependence on the automotive industry is another key trend. With the acceleration of robotics in other industries, this situation has begun to change in recent years.
Traditionally, the automotive industry accounts for more than 60% of the North American market, but by September 2018 the number had dropped to 52% and non-automotive orders had reached 48% - the two segments closest to the historical RIA report can be traced back to 1984. New record-setting non-automotive industries include life sciences, food and consumer goods, plastics and rubber, and electronics. We believe that as robots become more dexterous, safer and have a variety of shapes, they are becoming more and more attractive to new users in various industries.
Digitalization is also having an impact, because as part of industry 4.0, connected industrial robots occupy a place in the digital manufacturing ecosystem.
Digitalization enables greater collaboration across the value chain - horizontal collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers and distributors, or vertical collaboration within factories, such as collaboration between e-commerce front-end and CRM systems, business ERP systems, production planning and logistics automation systems. Both types of collaboration can create better customer experience, improve manufacturing efficiency and engineering efficiency, so as to flexibly switch between products or launch new products faster.
5. Smaller and lighter robots
Promoting simplification, together with smaller and lighter designs, will open up new opportunities for industrial robots.
As more sophisticated technologies are added to industrial robots, industrial robots become smaller, lighter and more flexible, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.