According to several studies, the robotics industry should experience a period of rapid growth over the next several years. Advances in technology have made it possible for robots to perform many useful tasks that previously were not possible. Other industries related to robotics should also have similar success as parts and supplies will be in high demand.
Allied Research predicts that the global industrial robotics market will grow annually at a rate of 5.4 percent from $26.78 billion in 2012 to $41.17 billion in 2020. Several different sources account for the increase. The food and beverages sector, which is expected to grow 6.9 percent annually, relies heavily on robotics. The healthcare industry and increased demand in South America and Asia will also contribute substantially to industry growth.
One of the boldest examples of how far robotics technology has advanced the past few years is the da Vinci surgical robot. This device is used for minimally invasive surgeries. A surgeon in a room separate from the patient can control a set of arms and levers to manipulate surgical instruments. As the levers move, a corresponding movement in the robotic arms holding the surgical instruments also occurs.
This setting can be tweaked for more precision so that for every three inches the surgeon moves a lever, the surgical instruments only move an inch. A camera provides a higher resolution image than the naked eye would, with a more detailed view of the surgical site.
Robots have proven to be useful in their ability to go to areas that are unsafe or inaccessible to humans. At Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, which was badly damaged by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in 2011, robots play an important role in facility cleanup and radiation measurement.
Another report, this one by Wintergreen Research, predicts that the agricultural robotics market is expected to skyrocket. Over the next six years the market will grow from $817 million in 2013 to $16.3 billion in 2020. These devices will perform tasks like site-specific spraying, harvesting, plowing and weed control.
Related industries will also thrive. These companies do not build or sell finished products, but supply components or perform maintenance. Robots are really half-mechanical, half-computer so this work bears some similarity to automobile maintenance and the computer upgrades that IT departments often perform on office workstations.
Companies like A-1 ServoMotor repair the motors that make it possible for robotic arms to move with high precision. Other companies provide software programs that control physical actions or the circuit boards that make up the brains of the robot.
With so many predictions about the future of robotics through 2020, another prediction may also serve as a solid indicator of the industry’s future. Cisco has predicted that in six years, 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. With a global population of about 7 billion, that’s an average of about seven devices per person. This is not going to come from individuals buying smartphones, tablets or laptops and going online; it’s going to come from the Internet of Things (IoT).
Internet enabled devices will connect through the IoT and communicate with each other, often with little or no human intervention. Many of these devices will be robotic. They will perform tasks like collecting data and systems monitoring that have traditionally been performed by humans. With their ability to reduce labor costs combined with cheaper and more advanced technology like the IoT, it’s no surprise that the robotics industry will grow over the next few years as so many predict.
Image Source: Robot arm in a factory
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