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There’s arguably no other industry that has changed more in the last couple decades than the manufacturing industry. Everything - from SCADA systems, wireless sensors, and articulated autonomous robots - has experienced considerable evolution, all to the benefit of manufacturers the world over.  The resulting expansion of operations is intrinsically tied to the manner in which communications and controls are performed throughout the facility - enter Wireless Local Area Networks. 

It wasn’t that long ago that performing regular preventative maintenance was the best and only way of ensuring a fleet of expensive industrial robotics remained in good operating condition. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, thanks in part to the integration of AI technologies and data analytics.

While technology continues to evolve by leaps and bounds, the number of workers with specialized skills seems to be trending in the opposite direction. And while robotics and automation are widely known to create jobs, many of them require specialized training - further exacerbating the shortage of specialists.

As the fields of robotics and automation grow ever more sophisticated, a greater number of technicians are required to lend their talents to the design, programming, and maintenance of robots and robotic automation systems. Not surprisingly, the complexity of these machines and autonomous systems has spawned five specialized areas within the field of robotics: 

Robots have become an essential element of the industrial production process, taking over repetitive, risky, and time-consuming work from people while simultaneously increasing productivity and quality. Technical breakthroughs and new inventive robots are quicker, more compact, and less expensive than earlier models. As a result, robots are now widely utilized in a variety of sectors like health care, agriculture, military, transport, and manufacturing.

Interested in learning more about the advantages of robots in manufacturing? You’ll want to keep reading.

Imagine working on a job that poses a serious risk to your health and safety—perhaps carrying close to 10 pounds of weight 350 times a day. Or imagine having to repeat the same mundane task over and over again when you could be doing something more interactive. This is why cobots, or “collaborative robots,” are leading the charge in manufacturing and taking over repetitive, even risky, tasks. 

If you’re interested in getting started in the field of robotics, then chances are you’ve heard about robotic control systems. Control systems have a rich and fascinating history and have allowed robotics to become ubiquitous in today’s society. 

Control systems help manage the movements and functions of robots, and every beginner must understand the concept of control systems if they would like to get into the field of robotics. Let’s take a look at the history of control system applications in robotics, the concept of the systems, and how they’re used today. 

 The potential that smart factories have to completely transform our world cannot be understated. With advancements in artificial intelligence and computer learning, manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to the benefits of implementing smart factories within their plants. While the concept of a smart factory is not new, there are still some manufacturers who are slow to jump on the trend due to a variety of reasons, but especially because of the recent global pandemic that brought the world to a standstill.

“Winona” was facing a unique problem. She has been working as the Director of Sales and Operations of a local retail chain. They just launched their e-commerce site and because orders are flowing in, they have acquired two new fulfillment centers in the suburbs. Workers were divided into three shifts: preparing, packaging, and delivering customer orders from 6AM – 12AM. With the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, Winona had a dwindling workforce, but still saw a steep rise in online orders. Additionally, she was now faced with the task of implementing new safety measure protocols.

Robots have been a fascination in our society, dominating pop culture through TV and movies for decades. But it’s likely that the general population is only vaguely aware of industrial robots and the global brands that manufacture them. 

The majority would be surprised to find out that the top industrial robots are dominated by four major brands: FANUC, KUKA, ABB, and Yaskawa Electric. All of these companies have been in operation for at least 40 years and have distinct advantages over the other. 

Robots have been growing in use in the industrial world since the early 1970s. They’re continuing to be deployed and utilized within the industrial sector, but also increasingly in other sectors as 2021 continues. The crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the increasing need to reduce overall carbon footprints, has pushed robotics even further beyond traditional uses within manufacturing environments.

1. Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or often referred to as Industry 4.0, is currently underway in all aspects of the global economy. Industry 4.0 represents the ongoing automation of both the traditional manufacturing processes and other industrial practices across non-manufacturing sectors of the economy.

In recent years, we’ve grown accustomed to the integration of smart technologies into our everyday lives. For manufacturing and industrial practices, this ongoing automation using modern smart technologies is referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution aka. Industry 4.0.

The continued adoption of industrial robots and cobots (collaborative robots) to work alongside humans in smart factories around the globe is a good sign that the robotic revolution is heading in the right direction. As engineers and designers seek to improve upon the autonomous actions that can be performed by robots (for example, being able to adjust their path to avoid obstacles in real time), there is also an undeniable need to elevate the level of safety standards that are required in places where the paths of humans and robots intersect.

Autonomous vehicles, once relegated to works of science fiction and, more recently, among the technologies that “weren’t quite there yet”, are actually becoming a much more common sight – and not just on the test tracks used by large auto manufacturers. Autonomous, self-driving vehicles are quickly making themselves a fixture of the smart factory floor in a way that is revolutionizing operations.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is constantly and rapidly evolving. New technological advancements in industrial smart factories seem to be happening all the time. This article will take a look at some of the biggest current tech trends in industrial manufacturing.

Advancements in technology are largely an iterative process, whereby design teams build upon last year’s breakthroughs to improve a product’s functionality, efficiency, and/or to lower its cost of production. The field of robotics is no exception; today’s robots are faster, more dexterous, are cheaper to produce, and work more collaboratively and intuitively with human operators than those built ten or even 5 years ago. It is therefore really no surprise that industrial manufacturers are pivoting towards having a more significant robotic presence on the factory floor.

Robotic technology combined with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications are working together to help policymakers, manufacturers, and key industry stakeholders manage and even reduce their carbon footprints. In fact, according to PwC and Microsoft, AI is projected to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by four per cent in 2030, which is equivalent to 2.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Industrial robots are all around us; they produce the goods we consume and the vehicles we drive. To many, these technologies are often viewed as simplistic in nature. After all, while they are uniquely capable of producing products quickly and at a high level of quality, they operate within a limited range of motions. So just how much really goes into programming an industrial robot? 

The beginning of this, the third decade of the new millennium, may have started out rather bleak, but it does not mean that things like innovation or advances in technology have come to a grinding halt. In fact, quite the opposite is true. As we find ourselves in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (more commonly referred to as Industry 4.0) the adoption of automated machinery in the manufacturing sector shows no indication of slowing down.

In today’s world, our lives are changing. From the way we interact with the environment, our friends and family, and even in the workplace. While the measures put into place due to Covid-19 are temporary, the pandemic will likely have a lasting impact on our lives. 

The image we carry in our minds about what robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are is usually polarized. For many people, what we think of robots is likely influenced by popular culture; movies, books or comics. Many people imagine robots like Star Wars droids or Pixar’s Wall-E or at the other end of the spectrum something like the humanoid AI-enabled robot virtually indistinguishable from humans from the movie Ex-Machina. Some tend to underestimate their capabilities and consider them fancy gadgets.

For decades, robots and sophisticated automation and control systems were relegated to the likes of large manufacturers, such as Boeing, GM and Procter & Gamble.

The beginnings of automation brought both ripples and tidal waves of change throughout the manufacturing industry over the past few decades. As the world enters into a fourth industrial age – one characterized by ubiquitous digitization and connectivity – many trade workers have expressed their fear of further automation, especially given recent reports of widespread job losses that continue to perpetuate this fear. However, automation could actually be a big upside for  employee growth, especially for those who wield the right skills.

Real-world robots are still very clumsy but this is changing fast.

As more self-driving cars hit the streets, there will also be more self-driving vehicles on factory floors. According to a 2018 study from PwC and The Manufacturing Institute, 9 percent of manufacturers use semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles within their operations today; this number is expected to climb up to 20 percent in the next three years.  

The US has revolutionized the manufacturing industry with its numerous contributions, such as introducing the assembly line. But in today’s industries, it’s falling behind. Robotic technology for automation continues to develop at a rapid pace—and the US manufacturing industry needs to catch up. Here are five reasons why US manufacturers need to invest in automation more than ever.

The world of manufacturing is drastically changing. New technologies are leading to what analysts describe as the fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, a term that was introduced at the Hannover Fair in 2012 by German workers. The fourth industrial revolution is marked by the introduction of disruptive technologies, where machines and robots can make decisions and perform tasks on their own without human intervention in an autonomous system.

Voice controlled speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are currently the biggest voice assistants in the market, and are part of the household trend in smart home devices. These smart devices enable people to retrieve information, dim their lights, or play music tracks by speaking their wishes.

With the most recent advancements in voice-controlled technology and robotics, these devices will soon be performing other tasks that are more labour intensive—such as doing your housework.

As companies such as Tesla and Uber continue to make progress in their plans to take over the automation industry with unmanned vehicles, we're living in a world where everything is becoming more automated. For instance, although trains have been semi-automated since the 1960s, recent technological developments have led to driverless train, as seen in Kobe, Japan and Lille, France.

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There are many countries around the world experiencing an aging and declining population and low birth rate. Its expected that these countries will increasingly rely on technology and automation to complete tasks which were once done by people. This is especially true when looking at the medial care sector. With an aging population and fewer numbers in the younger generations there is an expected strain on personnel, which a few countries are already experiencing.

When we think of robots and automation, we often think of Japan and the US: highly advanced societies with a huge amount of focus on technological solutions to problems. And it’s true that the presence of robots in Japan – and increasingly so in the US as well – is ubiquitous and growing fast as the manufacturing world moves ever onward to greater automation. However, other countries aren’t far behind, and there’s a possibility that the next big user and consumer of robotic technology might not be the US or Japan at all, but Mexico.

Robots on the Rise

Robots are continuing their unstoppable march into previously unheard-of sectors. Why should the restaurant industry be any exception?

Automated Kitchens

A completely automated kitchen might sound like something straight out of science fiction, but it’s actually closer to reality than you might think. Last July, the German-developed BratWurst Bot served, cooked, and took orders for over 200 meals to guests at a garden party, many of whom were surprised to learn that robots were capable of such tasks.

Milk production on dairy farms has used large amounts of automation for many decades, and cheese production is poised to follow suit. For decades, many industries have turned to automation to boost productivity, and the food processing industry is joining the fold. The use of robots makes food supplies and factories safer by reducing the potential for human error and the spread of diseases.

Modern Automation in the Cheese and Dairy Industry

Satellites traveling in geosynchronous orbit around the earth are tasked with performing some of society’s most important services – everything from maintaining the integrity of the global telecommunications network to the monitoring of weather systems and the environment.

Programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, have long been considered as one of the pillars of the modern manufacturing era, unobtrusively executing the ladder-logic instructions necessary in industrial automated processes. While versatile, PLCs rarely work alone; things like servosrobotics, testing equipment, and vision systems can all commonly be found working in conjunction with PLCs in the manufacture of goods.

When you think about all the complicated and dangerous tasks society could be using robots for in the not too distant future, what comes to mind? Will robots be used to pioneer deep space exploration to spare the fragile human body from the dangers of a frozen, irradiated void? Will robots replace human workers for things like search and rescue, fighting fires, or operating the oil platforms located in the middle of Earth’s most tumultuous seas?

Robots have been used in medicine since 2000 when the FDA first approved the da Vinci Surgical System. Sixteen years and 20,000 surgeries later, the concept of a robot performing surgery is not nearly as far-fetched as it seemed at the beginning of the century. Now the da Vinci system, and many others like it, perform surgeries every single day – and yet we are still only at the very beginning of the age of healthcare robotics.

In 2013, Amazon made headlines by announcing their plan for a drone delivery system. Although seemingly an amazing advance, the truth is that drone technology has come on in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so, and it was only a matter of time before someone decided to deploy them commercially. It’s a logical step: Amazon wants to stay ahead of the game and ensure that its reputation for fast, secure delivery isn’t compromised or overtaken by its competitors. Why not do something that nobody else was even thinking of?

Robots have often been thought of as the stuff of science fiction, but the truth is that robotic technology is quickly advancing and is becoming more and more useful in various situations. Already ubiquitous in manufacturing plants, robots are also becoming widely used for such applications as defusing explosives, remote surgery, and as companions for the elderly, particularly in Japan. But it is in disaster relief that the potential of robotic devices is really coming to the fore.