Robots and Human: Working together in Industry 4.0
Germany, the undoubted and unrivalled leader of the manufacturing industry, introduced the concept of Industry 4.0 which aims to transform industrial manufacturing with the help of IoT, AI, Robotics, 3D printing. ‘Robots would render humans jobless’ is the prime reason why this concept has been facing a backlash. Though every driver is capable to bring about disruption, the robots are the ones which score the most amongst the intelligentsia. Team StitchWorld, in this article, demystifies the disadvantages surrounding the human-robot association.
Let’s have a glance at some of the interesting findings that have surfaced recently:
Robots can create, not eliminate jobs: UN report
Robots won't kill the workforce. They'll save the global economy: The Washington Post
Why Robots won't be coming for all our jobs: Forbes
Why Robots won't be taking our jobs: Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak
Half of all jobs in the US will be fully automated over the next 20 years: University of Oxford
The fear of losing jobs among the workforce has heightened conjecturing that robots would take the place of humans in retail stores and warehouses. One such case is of SoftBank Mobile Stores in Japan which is using a humanoid robot. Pepper, the robot, can be programmed to chat and interact with customers, give directions and answer questions. The robot can also play music, light up, dance and take selfies with passers-by. Another latest example of robots invading retail can be seen in case of Walmart. The US retailer has employed Bossa Nova's robots which are able to perform various tasks such as identifying when items are out of stock, locating incorrect prices, and detecting wrong or missing labels. The growing popularity of robots, the attention they receive and the increased productivity they offer are some of the reasons why people have developed the fear of redundancy, thus making them neo-luddites. Various survey findings which support robotic disruption are based on the fact that robots are meant to work in collaboration with humans to support them. And thus, collaborative robots (cobots) are the next big thing.
Cobots are cheap, lightweight, and easy to program. Designed to work alongside humans, they can also be introduced into an existing manufacturing process without any major transformation or expense. Whereas conventionally, robots are meant to handle ‘dull, dirty and dangerous jobs’, the new age robots are able to work along with human counterparts.
Both McKinsey & Co. and A.T. Kearney have mentioned collaborative robots as the drivers of Industry 4.0.
Automation, until now, has worked only in two ways: lightsout automation and robotcentric automation. The first approach completely eliminates humans from the process. Manufacturing operations can go on unsupervised for weeks at a time without light (or heating and air-conditioning) because there are no humans in the facility. While the robot-centric approach limits the interaction between humans and robots by placing robots behind barriers and implementing protocols to mediate how and when people can enter a robot workspace. Having humans working around very large, heavy, fast-moving robots can put people at greater risk of injury, which all businesses want to avoid.
None of the approaches focus on putting humans and robots together, leveraging each one’s expertise to ring out the best. But the human-centric automation allows robots to work with humans, as some tasks will always need human intervention. And most of the times, robots are required to perform a small part in the task. These are designed with the help of technology,
Collaborative robots market is forecast to reach US $ 4.2 billion by 2023 from US $ 176.7 million in 2016 at a CAGR of 56.94 per cent during (2017-2023) driven by high ROI rates and low price of collaborative robots leading to growing attraction from SMEs and increasing investments in automation by industries to support Industry 4.0 evolution.
taking into consideration the safety aspect. Some are built on technology that allows them to be aware of their surroundings, so if a human comes close to them, they either slow down or stop. Being Force-limited by nature, if they come in contact with a human, they only transfer a small amount of force that will not cause injury. Other cobots are also wrapped in soft padding to cushion any potential contact.
Another factor that makes robot a must for supporting the workforce in manufacturing is investment. While industrial robots are expensive and require skilled workforce to handle them, cobots are much cheaper and require no large upfront investment.
There are a number of examples of Cobots used in conjunction with apparel machineries. In garment industry, the garment folding and packing is carried out by the robots. They take the garments, fold them and then pack them. The robots used are YASKAWA MOTOMAN and Kuka KF 200. Another application where they can be used effectively is during the cutting of clothes according to the design. Cut pieces can be collected by ABB ROBOTS replacing end effectors. Sewbo revolutionized the world with its innovation, using a robotic arm to pick up and handle the stiffened fabric panel. Universal Robots, a Bangalorebased firm, offers three different types of collaborative robots (cobots) which can be integrated into the existing production environments. UR3 weighs 11 kg but has a payload of 3 kg, 360-degree rotation on all wrist joints, and infinite rotation on the end joint covering a radius of 500 mm. Another type UR5, weighs around 18.4 kg and has a payload of up to 5 kg. Ideal for optimising processes such as picking, placing, and testing, it covers a radius of 850 mm. The largest of them all, UR10 can be used to automate processes and tasks with payloads that weigh up to 10 kg and have a radius of 1300 mm.
Grabit’s solution uses electroadhesion to pick up the fabric, move it, and then release it flat. The technology can be used to stack and un-stack pieces or pick up pieces from a cutting table without distortion or wrinkling – a level at par with what one would get from picking up the fabric manually or a hand-like robotic end effector.
Baxter robotic arm form, Bostonbased Rethink Robotics, is able to feed a two-headed sewing machine without human intervention. A number of other providers are also present in the market, some of which are FANUC, Kawada, Gomtec (acquired by ABB).
The robot-centric approach limits the interaction between humans and robots by placing robots behind barriers and implementing protocols to mediate how and when people can enter a robot workspace. Having humans working around very large, heavy, fast-moving robots can put people at greater risk of injury, which all businesses want to avoid.
Cobots are lightweight, easy to program and are designed to work alongside humans
Baxter robotic arm can feed two-headed sewing machine without human intervention
Universal Robots offers three types of arms based on the nature of work