Robotics @ BGSU

The Future of Robotics and Digital Manufacturing

Robotics is a fast emerging, multi-disciplinary field covering almost all the engineering and scientific areas. It is broadly classified as industrial robotics, and service robotics, and used in applications such as, medical assistance, pharmaceutical and food industry, agricultural care, home automation, entertainment, automotive and transportation, electrical and electronics, aerospace & defense, industrial automation, etc.

According to a market survey, there are tremendous growth and needs for industrial and service robotics systems. It is billions of dollars industry. These technologies have huge impact in widespread applications, particularly in automated manufacturing “or digital manufacturing”, health care, high-tech, agriculture, defense, and entertainment industries. The Midwest alone encompasses hundreds of companies that relate to robotics services. Moreover, most influential word-wide robotics companies exist in US. These are a few reasons why the federal government has recently announced digital manufacturing hubs, one of them is located in Ohio, with the goal of bringing innovations from industry and academia.

The global market for industrial robots grew by about 60% between 2007-2012 terms. The worldwide market value for robot systems in 2012 was estimated by $26 billion. There is a continued increase of robot sales to the automotive industry– the most important customer of industrial robots. 562 industrial robots are installed per 10,000 persons employed in the automotive industry, and 219 are installed in all other industries. The United States ranked fourth with a robot density of 1,091 units, but only 76 units were installed in all the other sectors per 10,000 employees. The potential for robot installations in the non-automotive industries is still tremendous, but it is also considerably high in the automotive industry among the emerging markets and in some traditional markets as well. This is mostly due to the necessary modernization and retooling that is needed in these market. From 2014 to 2016, robot installations are estimated to increase by 6% on average per year: about 4% in the Americas and in Europe, and about 8% in Asia/Australia. The trend towards automation continues to increase the volume of robot installations. But, the rate of increase in robot sales will be more moderate.

On the other hand, in 2012, about 3 million service robots for personal and domestic use were sold, 20% more than in 2011. The value of sales increased to US$1.2 billion. So far, service robots for personal and domestic use are mainly in the areas of domestic (household) robots, which include vacuum and floor cleaning, lawn-mowing robots, and entertainment and leisure robots, including toy robots, hobby systems, education and research.

As for entertainment robots, numerous companies, especially Asian ones, offer low-priced “toy robots”. But among those mass products there are increasingly more sophisticated products for the home entertainment market. Since many years, the LEGO® Mindstorms® programme has belonged to the more high quality products. The total value of the 2012 sales of entertainment robots amounted to US$ 524 million. About 22 million units of service robots for personal use to be sold for the period 2013-2016. The size of the market for toy robots and hobby systems is forecast at about 3.5 million units, most of which for obvious reasons are very low-priced. About 3 million robots for education and research are expected to be sold in the period 2013-2016. Sales of robots for elderly and handicap assistance will be about 6,400 units in the period of 2013-2016.This market will increase substantially within the next 20 years.

Since 1998, a total of more than 126,000 service robots for professional use have been counted. The total number of professional service robots sold in 2012 rose by a relatively low 2% compared to 2011 to 16,067 units up from 15,776 in 2011. With about 6,200 units, service robots in defense applications accounted for almost 40% of the total number of service robots for professional use sold in 2012. Therefore, unmanned aerial vehicles seem to be the most important application as their sales increased by 8% to 5,453 units.

Also, the value of sales of logistic systems is estimated at about US$ 196 million. Automated guided vehicles in manufacturing environments and 557 in non-manufacturing environments are building up an increase of 11%compared to automated guided vehicles sales numbers in 2011.

One of the key factors contributing to market growth of service robots is the increasing demand of professional robots for medical applications. The Global Service Robotics market has also been witnessing the increase in availability of service robots on a leased basis. The total value of sales of medical robots increased to US $ 1,495 million, accounting for 44% of the total sales value of the professional service robots. Medical robots are the most valuable service robots with an average unit price of about US$ 1.5 million, including accessories and services. Therefore, suppliers of medical robots also provide leasing contracts for their robots. However, the lack of effective product differentiation could pose a challenge to the growth of this market.