The presence of collaborative robots is increasing. The number of collaborative robots installed in 2021 will reach 39,000, with a clear growth trend. Collaborative robots do not require safety fences and can work in the same space as humans, so they are expected to be a solution to the labor shortage. Robot manufacturers are evolving their capabilities to meet demand. Furthermore, the introduction of models with high payloads is also a trend, and the collaborative robot market is expected to grow. However, issues of safety and social acceptance remain.
At the new product launch exhibition held at FANUC’s headquarters in mid-May, the world’s first collaborative robot boasting a payload capacity of 50 kg attracted attention. FANUC has provided the convenience of being able to support a high payload type by updating the software without changing the mechanical part of the existing collaborative robot “CR-35iB”. It is expected that customers will have more options to meet their demand as the cost of new purchases will be reduced.
The introduction of high payload models has become a trend for collaborative robots. Yaskawa Electric and Universal Robots (UR) have added 30kg and 20kg payload models in addition to collaborative robots with payloads of 10kg and 20kg. This has created demand for cobots in unexpected applications, with a growing need to automate heavy tasks, especially in hazardous environments.
Tsuyoshi Yamane, representative of the UR Japan branch office, said that the introduction of a collaborative robot with a payload capacity of 20 kilograms will enable automation of work areas that could not be proposed in the past, such as palletizing heavy objects and loading and unloading workpieces to processing machines. increase. FANUC is also implementing high payload support, and is expected to be used in the intermediate assembly process of on-vehicle batteries due to the increased demand for commercial truck tires and electric vehicles (EVs).
FANUC’s Managing Executive Officer Abe said that traditional industrial robots can handle objects weighing several hundred kilograms and have high operating speeds, so collaborative robots seem to have little merit in transporting heavy objects. I’m pointing out that you can see it. However, he says that some people dislike traditional industrial robots becoming dedicated machines, and that collaborative robots are expected in sites where people may cross. As a result, collaborative robots are regarded as important as being able to meet various needs.
According to the Yano Research Institute, the global collaborative robot market is expected to expand due to increased automation needs, reaching approximately 1,053.8 billion yen in 2032, more than seven times the size of the previous year. Collaborative robot prices are expected to drop by about 30% compared to 2022 due to an increase in the number of manufacturers entering the market and cost reductions in related parts. The prevalence of cobots in this high-growth market is controversial. An executive at a robot manufacturer points out that the adoption of robots in Japan is lagging behind Europe, the United States, and China, but he has the impression that adoption is increasing. Due to the serious labor shortage, it is possible that there is no room for hesitation to introduce it. On the other hand, some argue that because cobots are new and unfenced compared to traditional industrial robots, they have yet to create enough social acceptance on the part of users.
Even when a safety laser scanner is used to suggest slowing down or stopping, there are concerns about contact anxiety and where responsibility lies. Collaborative robots are also viewed as a problem in safety and health patrol activities. Some users have taken countermeasures by enclosing collaborative robots with safety fences, but some point out that “it is inconvenient to use and the resale rate may decrease.”
In addition, although the labor shortage is serious for small and medium-sized enterprises, system integrator companies (SIers) also have limited human resources and time, so they tend to prioritize large-scale projects that can be expected to introduce robots. There is a structural problem that the introduction of collaborative robots is not progressing.
Switzerland’s ABB has announced a new product that increases the operating speed of its collaborative robot six times over its predecessor. This product ensures the safety of workers by compensating for the weak point of slow movement speed compared to industrial robots.
Shuichiro Nakajima, President of ABB, said that the shortage of human resources who can realize automation using robot technology is a serious problem as the working population decreases and the demand for automation increases.
Collaborative robots can be installed in a small space, so they can flexibly respond to changes in the layout of the production site. In addition, teaching functions such as “direct teach”, in which the operator directly operates the arm to learn the movement, are also standard specifications. Currently, labor shortage is a serious social issue. In addition to technological development by manufacturers, government agencies, certification bodies, insurance companies, etc. are collaborating to accumulate cases that users can introduce with peace of mind, and SIer human resource development. is an ongoing challenge