Based on the results of the IFR Quarterly Statistics, the IFR estimates that in 2013 about 168,000 industrial robots were sold, 5% more than in 2012.
Robotic start-up companies range from the whimsical to the amazing, from futuristic to topical, and from hubs of robotic activity in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York City (a new hub) and Switzerland to far-off places around the world: Turkey, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Christchurch, Reykjavik, Singapore, Shenzhen, Buenos Aires — essentially, everywhere that programmers program and engineers tinker.
In a joint research study by Israel-based RoboLogics Ltd. and the Israeli Manufacturers Association, 72% of respondents considered that their processes were suitable for robotics automation. However, 66% cited complexity and lack of familiarity with the technology as one of the main reasons for NOT having implemented robots in the past. Facilitating the user-robot interaction and robot-to-robot collaboration was what they were referring to when asked to define “complexity” and “lack of familiarity with the technology”.
The China International Robot Show CIROS was held July 2-5 in Shanghai. 30,000 people were expected to attend and 56 companies exhibited. Although most of the exhibitors were Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, German and other international robot vendors and their Chinese integrators, there were many new Chinese robot makers as well.
These days it is hard to read an article about the future of robots that does not include a reference to jobs. As a pure roboticist I object to the constant connection between the two, but as a concerned citizen I think it is a very worthwhile discussion. Since the year 2000, the US has lost more than 6 million manufacturing jobs — that is more than 1/3 of all direct manufacturing jobs in the US and the fastest drop in a single decade on record.
Do industrial robots really have a positive impact on employment? Of course they do and there are over 50 years of data proving that to be the case.
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Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for business use, and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche products. But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare. In fact, for all the excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when — or even if — this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though, it may well change the world.Bill Gates, Scientific American Reports2008 Special Edition on Robotics
Foxconn, a big contractor for Apple and others, breaks ground for robot facilities. It plans to replace 500,000 workers with 1 million robots.
|Workers are seen inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in China’s southern Guangdong Province in this 2010 photo. After a spate of employee deaths and complaints about working conditions, electronics manufacturer Foxconn has broken ground on new robot facilities. Within five years, it says it plans to replace 500,000 workers with 1 million robots. Photo: (Bobby Yip/Reuters/File)|