While industrial robots are mostly still large, heavy items of plant designed to rapidly process repetitive tasks from behind safety barriers in big factories, they are now also making their way into smaller factories, where they are more compact and versatile and are able to work alongside their human "co-workers" without any safety barriers. This proliferation of new application areas, coupled with burgeoning worldwide demand, is driving strong growth in robotics sales. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reports that its members sold around 170,000 industrial robots in 2013, an increase of 12 percent on 2012, and that 2014 is headed for similar growth.
Fanuc, Güdel and Kuka will be presenting their products and solutions at HANNOVER MESSE’s Industrial Automation show, as will Comau, Kawasaki, Stäubli, Mitsubishi, Epson, IBG, ABB and several other leading providers of robot-assisted automation technology. Among the innovations on show will be robots that are wonderfully simple to program and feature intuitive touchpad control technology. There will be robots that are capable of taking on a much greater range of tasks than conventional machines thanks to the latest sensor technology. ABB, of instance, will be launching YuMi, a two-armed collaborative assembly assistant that can see and feel its way around. Its soft, padded arms ensure that it can interact safely with its human counterparts. Siemering: "These latest robots give factories the flexibility to accommodate today’s steadily growing demand for customer individualization in series production. They are also much more affordable and simpler to program, which puts them within reach of small and medium enterprises."