Despite strong media attention, the market for collaborative robots is still in its infancy, writes International Federation of Robotics (IFR) President Junji. Just under 14.000 robots installed in 2018 were cobots; a modest share of just 3% of the overall industrial robot market.
Though still a niche, figures point to considerable growth in the area. In 2017, the number of installed collaborative robots (or cobots) amounted to 11.000, thus indicating an annual increase of 23% in 2018 – a significant development compared to the overall increase of industrial robot installments of 6%. If this trend continues, the number of installed cobots will reach 28.000 in just three years, notes Robotics and Automation.
Collaborative robots still a niche
The share of collaborative robots (robots with inherent safety features designed to work alongside humans) installed is still very low: 14.000 units in 2018 compared to 409.000 traditional industrial robots. Users and integrators are still in an experimental phase, feeling their way with design and implementation of collaborative applications, writes the IFR President.
However, various technological developments are expanding robot adoption all over, notes the report. These include intelligent components such as smart grippers as well as “plug & play” solutions and cloud computing that make interfaces more intuitive for both cobots and traditional industrial robots.
Cobot growth sparks optimism
Modest as the actual share of installed cobots might be, the growth in 2018 sparks optimism at the company OnRobot: “We have only seen the beginning of amazing growth in the cobot area”, says CEO Enrico Krog Iversen, whose target is to expand the number of products from 10 to 50 next year.
Despite some short-term volatility (IFR expect a short stagnation in growth in robot installments in 2019), the “future for robots is very bright” notes the report. Reasons for optimism are the already mentioned technological advances as well as increased manufacturing flexibility and demographic development.
The market for collaborative robots might still be “in its infancy”. However, despite the expected short-term stagnation in the industry, the positive forecast from IFR does seem to suggest that it will grow up fast.