According to IFR data(International Federation of Robotics) in the automotive industry, in 2021, South Korea will have 2,867 industrial robots in operation per 10,000 employees, ranking first in the world; followed by 1,500 in Germany, 1,457 in the United States, and 1,422 in Japan. Taiwan and 772 in China.
It’s reported that the world’s automotive industry has the largest number of robots used in factories – with a new record of about 1 million units in operating inventory. This figure accounts for about one-third of total robot installations across all industries.
Robot density in the automotive industry
As the one of world’s largest automobile PCB manufacturers, China is catching up quickly despite only having the fifth-highest robot density in the industry. In one year, the number of new robot installations in China’s auto industry will almost double in 2021, reaching 61,598 units, accounting for 52% of the total installed capacity of 119,405 units in global factories.
Vehicle electrification is driving automation industry growth
The data shows that in 2022, the sales volume of new energy vehicles in China will be 6.887 million, a year-on-year increase of 93.4%, and the market share will reach 25.6%. Previously, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicted that sales of new energy vehicles in China would reach 9 million in 2023.
It recently stated by professionals that the sales of new energy passenger vehicles in China will reach 8.5 million in 2023, achieving a growth rate of about 30%.
Automobile electrification is driving the world’s major economies to change their investment layout in this industry. For example, the European Union has announced plans to stop selling gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035; In 2019, all new cars sold in China must be “new energy”, half of which must be electric, fuel cell or plug-in hybrid vehicles, and the remaining 50% must be hybrid vehicles.
The IFR notes that most automakers that have invested in traditional “cage” industrial robots for basic assembly are now also investing in collaborative applications for final assembly and finishing tasks. Tier 2 auto parts suppliers, mainly SMEs, have been slow to fully automate. That could change, though, as robots become smaller, more adaptable, easier to program and less capital-intensive.
Five major trends in robotic in 2023
Robots play an important role in meeting the changing needs of manufacturers around the world. And new trends in robotics attract users from small businesses to global OEMs. In mid-February this year, IFR disclosed its analysis of five major trends affecting robotics and automation in 2023.
Energy efficiency is key to increasing the competitiveness of businesses amid rising energy costs. The adoption of robotics contributes to reducing energy consumption in manufacturing in many ways. Significant energy savings can be achieved by reducing heat compared to conventional assembly lines. At the same time, robots working at high speeds increase productivity, making manufacturing energy-efficient.
Today’s robots are designed to consume less energy, thereby reducing operating costs. In order to achieve sustainability goals in production, companies use industrial robots equipped with energy-saving technologies. For example, robot control converts kinetic energy into electrical energy and feeds it back into the grid. The technology significantly reduces the energy required to run the robot.
Another feature is the Smart Power Saving Mode, which controls the robot’s energy supply on demand throughout the working day. Even today, industrial facilities need to monitor their energy consumption, so this connected power sensor is likely to become the industry standard for robotic solutions.
Resilience has become an important driver of reshoring in various industries: automakers, for example, are investing heavily in short supply lines to bring processes closer to customers. These manufacturers use robotic automation to cost-effectively produce high volumes of powerful batteries to support their electric vehicle projects. These investments make the transportation of heavy batteries redundant. This is important because more and more logistics companies refuse to ship batteries for safety reasons.
Also, the relocation of microchip production to the US and Europe is another reshoring trend.
Since most industrial products today require semiconductor chips to function, supply close to customers is critical. Robots play a vital role in chip manufacturing because of their ability to meet extreme precision requirements. For example, specially designed robots automate the fabrication of silicon wafers, which can take over cleaning tasks or test integrated circuits.
And recent examples of reshoring, such as Intel’s new chip factory in Ohio, or the chip factory recently announced by semiconductor maker Wolfspeed and auto supplier ZF to operate in the Saarland region of Germany.
Robots are easier to use
Robot programming has become easier and accessible to non-professionals. Vendors of software-driven automation platforms empower businesses to let users manage industrial robots without programming experience. OEMs join forces with low-code and even no-code technology partners to make programming robots accessible to users of all skill levels.
An easy-to-use programming interface, allowing for user customization, is also driving the emergence of low-cost robotics. Many new users have responded to COVID-19 by trying out robotic solutions, and robot suppliers have catered to this demand: easy setup and installation, for example, with pre-configured software to handle grippers, sensors or controllers, support for low-cost Robot deployment. Such robots are usually sold through e-commerce, and various applications can be downloaded from application stores.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital automation
Driven by advances in digital technology, robotics suppliers and system integrators are delivering new applications and improving the speed and quality of existing ones. Connected robots are transforming manufacturing. Robots will increasingly operate as part of a connected digital ecosystem: cloud computing, big data analytics or 5G mobile networks provide the technical basis for optimized performance. 5G will realize fully digital production, and various cables in the workshop will no longer be bound.
Artificial intelligence (AI) holds great potential in robotics. The main purpose of using AI in robotics is to better manage variability and unpredictability in the external environment in real-time or offline. This is enabling machine learning-enabled artificial intelligence to play an increasing role in software products, benefiting the running system, for example by optimizing processes, predictive maintenance or vision-based grasping.
Reuse of industrial robot
As industrial robots have a lifespan of up to three decades, new technology equipment is an excellent opportunity to give old robots a “second life”. Manufacturers of industrial robots such as ABB, Fanuc, KUKA, Stäubli or Yaskawa have dedicated repair centers close to their customers to refurbish or upgrade used equipment in an efficient manner. This strategy of preparation or repair for robot manufacturers and their customers also saves costs and resources. Providing customers with long-term maintenance is an important contribution to the circular economy.