Epson plans to introduce cobots
The Japanese electronics company Epson, which has an extensive range of multifunction printers, data and home theatre projectors, point of sale (POS) printers and large format printing solutions, robots and industrial automation equipment, is planning to have cobots in its product kitty. With the cobots, the Indian arm, Epson India is planning to have strong foothold in the Indian market. A cobot is a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots and is designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance. Epson’s robotic division designs and manufactures Cartesian, SCARA and 4 and 6-axis industrial robots for factory automation.
Talking about cobots, Satyanarayana P, Director of LFP, Visual Products and Robots, Epson India Pvt Ltd, said, “We are working on cobots (collaborative robot) and it is too early to share details about it. We will be working on the concept, development and prototype. So, we are working on cobots and we will come out at the proper time. Before introducing a product, we spend around 5 years on the development and come up with a right solution.”
Epson India markets and supports Epson Inkjet Printers, Inkjet all-inones, point of sale printers, 3LCD projectors, scanners, large format printers, robots and dot-matrix printers. “We have 2 types of robots here, the 4-axis and 6-axis. Right now, the trend is more towards the 4-axis. This is because it is affordable, easy to manage and suits the budget of many customers. The 6-axis, which is a little more expensive, requires better infrastructure and many of the manufacturers are not capable of that. We are trying to promote the 6-axis, but the major business is happening in 4-axis. Epson’s 6-axis robots can do a lot of operations and the 4-axis has a wider customer base because of the cost. Once people are at a comfort level with the 4-axis they will also start using the 6-axis. In the past 7 years, we have installed more than 500 robots in the market,” Satyanarayana said.
The robots division of Epson in India was started in 2011. “When you look at the global level, the usage of robots in industry is around 70 for every 10000 workers. This is the world average and it differs in countries like South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Japan and the US. They use more than the world average. For example, South Korea uses around 600 robots for every 10000 workers. In India, it is iust 3 robots for the ratio. So, this brings in huge potential for the robotics market. Slowly, the market is growing and in 2017, the estimated shipment of robots to India was around 3000. In 2020, we expect this to double,” he said.
Globally, Epson offers 4 different lines of SCARA robots including the T-Series, G-Series, RS-Series, and LS-Series. The performance and features offered for each series of robot are determined by
the intended purpose and needs of the robot. The T- Series robot is a high-performance alternative to slide robots for pick-and-place operations. G-Series offers a wide variety of robots in regards to the size, arm design, payload application, and more. The RSSeries offers two SCARA robots that are mounted from above and have the ability to move the second axis under the first axis. The LS-Series features several low-cost and highperformance robots that come in a variety of sizes. The company has a 30-year heritage and there are more than 30,000 robots installed in manufacturing industries around the world.
Epson uses a standardised PC-based controller for 6-axis robots, SCARA, and Linear Module needs. In 2018, the market estimation in India for the 3-20kg robots was around 3500. Around 60% of this went to heavy loads and 11-12% to the 3-5 kg segment. The rest 27-28% was for the x-y axis. The company expects to install 200-210 robots this year, which means it will have 58-59% market share. Epson does not have a manufacturing facility in India as of now. Last year Epson India had a turnover of Rs 1664 crore. The target for this year is Rs 2000 crore.
When asked if the robots would be India-specific, Satyanarayana, said, “It is not a question of bringing in India-specific robots. The mentality of implementing automation is still not comfortable for many manufacturers here. India is more price sensitive than other markets. With this in mind, we have positioned a cost-effective product called the T3 series. This is affordable for the Indian manufacturers. Another major aspect is to try and develop more proof of concepts on works that are carrying out. When this comes in, it can save time and increase productivity. Adaptation of robots is increasing, and we will witness the increase in robots here in the Indian industry too.”
In the robotic division, the company has many competitors. About the differentiating factors of Epson, Satyanarayana said, “It is not a question of how different or unique we are. We give out the solution that the customer requires. We have competitions, but we have got various products. Each industry is different and Epson is supplying according to the customer’s requirements.” The company’s internal team meets the customers and design to meet their expectations. The company works with a few system integrators who help it in designing and this helps Epson to reach a larger customer base.
“Initially, people felt that robots are needed only for the manufacturing industry. Slowly it is getting into other industries too. Epson has installed over 70 robots in the world’s biggest mobile manufacturing unit in Noida. We are expecting to do more there. In this industry, it is mainly used for pick and place and it can also be used for screw tightening, dispensing, inspection etc. Using of robots in such industries is also increasing,” he added.
Moving towards the future, the market is looking at Industry 4.0. Epson plans to adopt and take this to their products. The company is also looking at deep learning and more reliable robots for the connected markets. Satyanarayana said, “Our products will suit the Industry 4.0. We have a lot more to go to Industry 3.0 and we are progressing. Some of our new robots can be used in the connected ecosystem.”
With another major trend being the light-weighting robots, Epson has T3 series robots which are light in weight and affordable. Earlier, robots and the controlling units were sold separately and now it has changed. The T3 series comes with more automation and occupies less space.
Satyanarayana P, Director of LFP, Visual Products and Robots, Epson India