This week’s news roundup looks at trends in sales of cobot vs. sales of individual machines, Doosan’s new food-safe cobots, partnered cobots for space-saving and collision-free operations, steel mill quadrupedal safety robots, UN robotic supply trucks delivering goods when in danger, and robots devouring plastic bottles in Paris.
Sales of solutions are gaining popularity
Among robot and cobot vendors there is a trending movement to sell solutions rather than selling individual engines and components.
After all, a solution to a manufacturing or logistics need is a logical end game for the customer. They need to get the job done; showing potential customers exactly how to do the job is probably the quickest route to making a sale.
Korean cobot seller Doosan Robotics in collaboration with Telstar-Bumblebee, which is a joint venture between Korea’s Telstar Engineering and Germany’s Hommel-Wertic. Telstar-Hommel builds and supplies intelligent manufacturing solutions to automate factories to become “smart” factories.
Telstar-Hommel’s AI-powered smart factory platform, LINK5, together with the Doosan cobot, provide a complete, job-ready automation package, especially for SMBs, that may be too complex or expensive to do on their own.
Such partnerships facilitate processes to bring together complete cobot cells for welding, screw tightening, pick and place, machine maintenance, etc. It’s easy to see the appeal of such a cost-effective turn-key solution for SMEs.
Doosan’s new food-safe cobot
With partnerships such as Doosan-Telstar, cobot vendors then find it easier to scale selling solutions to a wider range customer. Doosan recently produced a Cobot F&B or new food & drinkit is a food safe automation solution for various types of food and beverages, such as coffee, ice cream, fried foods, confectionery, fast food, and barbecue dishes.
The key to the cobot’s appeal is its contamination-resistant coating and closed gaps between the connecting wicks, which have helped it gain food safety and hygiene certification from the US sanitary safety agency.
For 2024, Doosan plans its own AI-powered smart factory platform “Dart Suite”, which enables easy design and sharing of functions essential for collaborative robotic operations.
“The E Series was developed to address labor shortages in the food service industry,” said Ryu Jung-hoon, CEO of Doosan. “We will maintain our position as the No.1 collaborative robot company in Korea by providing the best F&B solutions.”
Cobot solutions that save space
Another popular cobot solution is to not only provide automation for a process, but also to save valuable floor space process. Again, partnerships are probably the fastest way to implement these capabilities.
At Automate 2023, Mitsubishi and Realtime debuted how their new collaboration would allow multiple robots to work in close proximity to one another for a variety of applications.
The alternative is time-consuming, complex, and expensive, especially when trying to quickly switch manufacturing processes from one process to another (see video).
“No automatic path planning and the collision avoidance capabilities of the software, the integrator or end-user has to program each robot independently and coordinate the robot’s movements, which only gets more complicated if you need to change the configuration of the robots inside the cell.”
Steel factory four-legged security guard
It’s not hard to imagine a stainless steel factory being a place where industrial accidents seem to be part of the job description. And when accidents do happen, they are very serious. Iron & Steel Technology reports: “Steel industry accident statistics demonstrates that steel manufacturing continues to be a hazardous work environment.”
In 2022, based in Finland owned by Otokumpu German facility at Krefeld, starts up researching the possibilities of AI in safety management. From that initial search, safety robotics emerged as the best alternative and “ANYbotics as the best supplier for robotics,” said Thorsten Piniek, vice president, health and safety at Krefeld.
The company entered into an agreement with Swiss robotics vendor ANYbotics for autonomous robotics solutions; In June 2023, the first 4-legged ANYmal robot arrived at the Outokumpu location.
While it is too early for any substantive statistics on ANYmal adoption, Piniek says ANYbotics’ robotics technology will help us improve safety by reducing employee exposure to hazardous substances and the environment, optimizing production through preventive maintenance, and reducing environmental impact.
According to Outokumpu, the use of robotics can reduce human exposure to hazardous substances by up to 80%.
UN robot trucks to deliver food and supplies
Autonomous road vehicles may not be ready for prime time on busy urban streets or even suburbanites, for that matter. But in South Sudan during the civil war, with UN aid workers being shot and killedautonomous trucks will do just fine, says Bernhard Kowatsch, who heads the innovation department at United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
“AI-powered robotic vehicles can deliver food packages to conflict and disaster zones,” said Kowatsch. Early in 2024, WFP will try it in South Sudan where attacks on humanitarian aid workers have increased in recent years. AI is used to combine data obtained from multiple sources including satellites and sensors.
Airdrops are expensive and require large space. As a practical matter, to save lives and deliver enough food and supplies, robotic trucks may be ideal.
The trucks are amphibious and can carry around 1-2 tonnes of food each. As part of the AHEAD (Autonomous Humanitarian Emergency Assistance Kit) project with German Aerospace Center (DLR)“WFP will be testing autonomous trucks early next year,” said Kowatsch.
The UN agency already uses around 50 vehicles in South Sudan but currently they need drivers; next year (2024), trucks will be driverless.
A robot with a big appetite for plastic bottles
There are 500 robots shredding plastic bottles across France, on average 500,000 bottles a day. Since 2021, robots have shredded more than 130 million bottles.
The numbers are so impressive that the robot company is calling b: botsjust appointed $22.3 million to continue his good work. “The plan is to double the size of the robotic workforce by the end of this year, expand into new markets and do further recycling of cans.”
“This investment will allow us to accelerate production and launch of our b:bot solutions while continuing our R&D efforts, as innovation is a core part of our DNA”, said Benoit Paget, president and founder of b:bot.
“Facing the global rPET market (rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate) with significant growth prospects but insufficient capacity, b:bot aims to become a major player in collection and recycling solutions.