Cobots Deliver Specialized Turnkey Solutions

Powerful cobot payload and reach capabilities are transforming palletizing applications. Image courtesy of Universal Robots.

2023 Promises to Be an Exciting Year for Industrial Automation

By Joe Campbell, Senior Manager, Strategic Marketing & Applications Development at Universal Robots A/S

The next 12 months promise to be an exciting time in the world of industrial automation with collaborative robots (or ‘cobots’) continuing to be a primary source of excitement for the packaging industry. Here are some key trends that to be watching throughout 2023:

Expanding ecosystem innovation

A decade ago, cobots were a niche technology. Today, cobots are a global industry with its own ecosystem of specialist turnkey solutions – complete software and hardware packages designed to integrate seamlessly with the cobot arm to tackle specific applications, such as case pack, palletizing, box-erecting, machine tending and inspection.

Building on the ever-expanding capabilities of collaborative automation, these ready out-of-the-box solutions streamline automation deployments by reducing engineering complexity to a minimum. Moreover, the simplicity of these systems make automation accessible to companies of all sizes and to businesses with little (or no) previous robotics experience.

Expect lots more innovation in the cobot ecosystem in 2023 as third-party firms release a range of solutions that enable you to precisely target automation deployments using application-specific kits.

Complete software and hardware packages, designed to integrate seamlessly with the cobot arm to tackle specific applications, is one of the trends we will see much more of in 2023, predicts Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots. The company debuted the new 20kg payload cobot, the UR20, showcased in Robotiq’s Palletizing Solution earlier this year at Automatica in Germany and PACK EXPO in Chicago. Image courtesy of Universal Robots.

Powerful cobots to boost palletizing capabilities

The payload and reach capabilities of cobot arms have been on an upward trajectory for over a decade, but in 2023 a new cobots will a whopping 20 kg (44.1 lbs) payload and 1750 mm (68.9 in) reach will become available. These powerful cobots will drive extra power and innovation across many applications, with palletizing tasks expected to see the most immediate impact. These extra payload capabilities will give manual workers reasons to rejoice in 2023, by improving ergonomics for everyone involved.

In tandem with existing third-party palletizing hardware and software solutions, such as the Robotiq Palletizing Solution, and RocketFarm’s Pally Palletizing Software, the landscape for palletizing applications will be transformed in the year ahead. Specialist palletizing digital twin functionality (as found in Rocketfarm’s ‘Pally’ software and other solutions) will also grow in popularity. Digital twins greatly simplify deployments: end users input basic product and production specifications and the software’s algorithms design the most effective palletizing solution.

Today, cobots are a global industry with its own ecosystem of specialist turnkey solutions – complete software and hardware packages designed to integrate seamlessly with the cobot arm to tackle specific applications, such as case pack, palletizing, box-erecting, machine tending and inspection. Image courtesy of Universal Robots.

New frontiers

In 2023, the ongoing trend of cobots being deployed on novel applications will continue and grow. In recent years, cobots have made their debut in the construction space, with one solution relying on cobots to install drywall. Meanwhile, cobot-powered baristas show what cobots can do in fun, customer-facing applications.

This trend will partly be driven by the ingenuity of end users and the growing capabilities of cobot platforms, but the main driver will be necessity as companies face ongoing labor shortages across all industries and verticals.

Growing cobot adoption

The Collaborative Robot Market 2022 Report by Interact Analysis predicts that the global cobot industry will reach $2.2 billion by 2026. In addition to the trends listed above, adoption drivers include reshoring efforts inspired by supply chain uncertainty; the trend towards sustainable manufacturing practices; and increased collaboration between cobot makers and customers in product development.

About the Author

Joe Campbell is the Senior Manager, Strategic Marketing & Applications Development at Universal Robots A/S. Learn more at www.universal-robots.com.

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