By Stewart Goulding, Managing Director, Electro Mechanical Systems
From recreational robots such as drones, to critical operational robots in the medical field, robotic technology is changing daily tasks and lives.
Robots are everywhere — from robotic hands and arms in industrial settings, to companion robots, operating theaters, and even as biomorphic drones that model the behaviour of bees.
Cobots in the workplace
Since arriving on the scene some ten years ago, cobots – or collaborative robots – have taken the market by storm. They offer many opportunities for production lines, particularly when it comes to cooperating with people, ultimately complementing each other’s work, safely. In fact, cobots can reduce human input on production by up to 50%.
The new trend for this type robots makes these machines more accessible, with more cost-effective options now allowing for greater distribution and adoption. With the current skills gap costing UK organisations £6.3bn over the past year, integrating cobots and other robotic systems has the potential to impact the economy positively.
In recent years, a significant focus has been placed on revolutionising non-invasive and minimally-invasive surgery, with many new surgical robots becoming market-ready.
Due to more accurate diagnosis methods, the amount of non-invasive and minimally-invasive surgeries has skyrocketed. This is putting an increasing strain, both physically and organisationally, on surgeons that carry out these procedures. Robot alternatives, therefore, offer an advantage to the public health service. This requires the robots to be accurate and reliable, to ensure they can alleviate the strain on the medical system. For example, endoscopy, which is a minimally-invasive surgery, is one procedure that robots support.
Endoscopy robots must be compact and consistently precise. For this reason, when French company EndoControl was developing its new endoscopy ViKY system, it chose a range of FAULHABER brushless DC motors, which help to achieve the required precision and consistency. With a complimentary gearhead fitted, these motors have a broad selection of reduction ratios available ranging from approximately 3:1 to 1500:1, which gives extensive adjustment of the speed and torque to the device. In the ViKY systems up to 700mNm of precise movement was achieved using AULHABER drive systems.
These types of developments are crucial in ensuring medical facilities cope well with the rising number of surgeries, all whilst reducing surgeon fatigue, preserving their wellbeing and avoiding burn-out.
Robotics in agriculture
A recent market research study reports that the demand for agricultural robots will see an increase of 24.1% by 2024. It is no wonder that more agricultural robotic applications are emerging, including biomorphic drones that model the behaviour of bees, which were demonstrated at UK-RAS.
Robots and drones could have a big effect on the effectiveness of farming. From drones that monitor and analyse crops, to automated tractors that can seed, fertilise and harvest, agricultural robot developments allow human labour to be channeled to more complex tasks.
In fact, some rural farms in China are starting to use heavy-duty industrial drones to water crops in hard-to-reach areas. The method is proving to be more fuel-efficient than transporting workers, and the computer-controlled sprayers waste fewer resources.
So, whether it’s across production lines, surgical theatres or vast agricultural fields, robotic applications are helping to provide innovative and reliable methods of working. Who knows what the future holds beyond 2020, but for now, advanced robots are here to stay.