Universal Robots Cobot Awareness and 2022 Results

Two items from Universal Robots recently came my way. One discusses new uses for Cobots, while the other reveals Universal’s growth in 2022.

Turnkey robotic solutions, complete with all hardware, software, sensors and interfaces, will be powerful automation drivers in 2023, according to Universal Robots

“In 2023, cobot automation will become more sophisticated yet more straightforward to use,” predicts Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots (UR). “We are going to continue seeing phenomenal growth within complete robotic systems for applications such as welding, palletizing and machine tending, propelled by UR partners creating full solutions powered by our collaborative robot arms.”

Sales of UR cobots for integration in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) solutions grew about 50% in 2022. UR enters the new year with more than 80 OEM partners integrating UR cobots in turnkey systems, and over 300 UR+ partners launching application kits and components certified to work seamlessly with the UR cobots.

A significant share of new cobot-powered turnkey systems now handle welding applications. UR’s welding channel grew over 80% in 2022 as new cobot welders hit factory floors in places such as Raymath, a sheet metal manufacturer in Ohio, where the company CEO was able to visit a local UR partner, THG Automation, offering cobot welding solutions.

As more companies move towards cobot automation, many will want to handle heavier payloads. In 2023, UR’s new UR20 cobot becomes available to customers. The UR20 is built for 20kg payloads, with faster speeds and superior motion control all within a lightweight, small footprint system.

Universal Robots Reports Record Revenue Despite Global Uncertainty

Universal Robots, the Danish collaborative robot (cobot) company, has reported Q4 revenue of USD 85 million, bringing 2022 annual revenue to USD 326 million, up 5% on 2021. On a constant currency basis, growth over the year was 12%.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Kim Andreasen, said: “We are proud to have continued to grow our business despite facing a difficult macroeconomic environment in 2022. We focused on those things we are able to control, and we overcame supply chain challenges to report our highest annual revenue to date.”

The demand for automation in Europe slowed in 2022 following the start of the war in Ukraine. Universal Robots’ results have also been impacted by the change in exchange rates, which created an additional headwind to growth.

Despite the change in global markets, overall demand for automation is predicted to continue to grow in 2023 and beyond, driven by growing labor shortages and changing workplace expectations.

Universal Robots has taken steps in 2022 to meet this growing demand. The company’s President, Kim Povlsen, said: “We invested last year in building world-class expertise in welding, palletizing and machine tending. We have also been working with our ecosystem partners to make automation easier for our customers than ever before. 2022 has been an important year for the company overall. We started construction on new headquarters, reached our 1000 employee milestone and launched a ground-breaking new cobot.”

ABB Adds Power, Speed to Cobot Line

Collaborative Robots, also known as cobots, have added juice to the overall robot market. Just as I thought robotics was a pretty stagnant market, cobots arrived to bring automation to applications previously too small for the size and expense of industrial robots. 

What started with startup Danish firms has spread to large and established firms. ABB, one of the originals, has announced a new cobot series.

  • SWIFTI CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot is six times faster and five times more precise than other robots in its class
  • Combination of high payload capability – up to 11kg – and speed improves production efficiency by up to 44%
  • Features ensure safe deployment alongside workers and ease-of-use for non-robotics specialists

ABB has launched the SWIFTI™ CRB 1300 industrial collaborative robot, bridging the gap between industrial and collaborative robots. Combining class-leading speed and accuracy with expanded load handling capability of up to 11kg, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 can be used in a wide variety of production and product handling applications – from machine tending and palletizing to pick-and-place and screwdriving.

Powered by ABB’s OmniCore™ C90XT controller, the SWIFTI CRB 1300 is up to five times more precise than any cobot in its class, making it ideal for tasks requiring consistent accuracy and repeatability. This, combined with a top speed of 6.2m/s, and payload options from 7 kg to 11 kg and reaches from 0.9 to 1.4, enables the SWIFTI CRB 1300 to perform a range of higher payload tasks including screwdriving, assembly, pick-and-place, and palletizing. With protection against dust and moisture (up to IP67), it can also be used in demanding environments, making it ideal for machine tending applications.

The SWIFTI CRB 1300 prioritizes operator safety, with a safety laser scanner integrated with ABB’s SafeMove collaborative safety software..

AI Software for Robots and Flexible Automation

AI gathers so much media hype that I must curtail my natural bent toward contrarianism. Artificial Intelligence in its various forms has advanced many applications. However, its hype often exceeds the actual applicability. Some new products offer more potential than immediate use. Industrial and manufacturing announcements are often more immediately accessible than the more general one.

This news announces AI-based software that is now useful add-on for FANUC robots with some interesting use cases.

Micropsi Industries announced that its artificial intelligence (AI)-based software MIRAI is now compatible with numerous robots produced by FANUC. With MIRAI, FANUC customers can now add valuable hand-eye coordination to multiple FANUC industrial and collaborative robots (cobots) to handle difficult-to-automate functions such as cable plugging and assembly.

Using AI, the MIRAI controller generates robot movements directly and in real-time. Robot skills are trained, not programmed, in a few days through human demonstration, without requiring knowledge of programming or AI. To train a robot, a human repeatedly demonstrates a task by manually guiding the robot by the robot’s wrist. The recorded movements are then transformed into a skill.

Cable plugging applications such as flat ribbon cables for the electronics industry or industrial automotive connectors typically require a high degree of flexibility to accommodate shape instability, making it a difficult task for any robot. MIRAI makes this type of application possible, says Prof. Dominik Bösl, chief technology officer, Micropsi Industries.

Universal Robots Reaches 1,000 Employees

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Cobots (collaborative robots) have swept the industrial world. I can’t believe it’s been seventeen years. The advances over the past five or so have been remarkable. This is a short piece about one company’s growth with a bit of history.

Seventeen years after it was founded by three visionary young researchers in a basement, Universal Robots has just reached a 1,000-employee milestone.

Universal Robots, the largest company in a fast-growing Danish robotics hub, has become the cluster’s first organization to reach 1,000 employees – one of only a few Danish companies founded in this millennium to hit this milestone.

Since its first collaborative robot (cobot) was launched in 2008, Universal Robots has grown to be a global market leader in cobots with offices in more than 20 countries worldwide. The company’s success is reflected in the growth of an entire robotics cluster, meaning Denmark is now home to more than 400 robotics companies, making the Danish city of Odense one of the leading robotics hubs in the world.

Kim Povlsen, President of Universal Robots, comments: “This is an historic milestone for us, and we are proud of how we have evolved from being a local startup in the basement under the university to becoming a global cobot pioneer and market leader. Above all, it shows that we have a fantastic product and that many companies around the world can see the benefits of using our robots to develop their business.”

Universal Robots started in 2005, when three young researchers – Esben Østergaard, Kasper Støy, and Kristian Kassow – from the University of Southern Denmark were frustrated by how the robots of the time were heavy, expensive and complicated to use. This gave them the idea to create a robot that is flexible, safe to work with, and easier to install and program.

As Universal Robots has thrived, so too has the Danish robotics scene, centered around Odense, a city of 200,000 people. The number of people employed by Danish robotics companies is forecast to reach 23,000 by 2025, while total revenues from the industry are already more than €2.8 billion.

During the past year, Universal Robots has hired more than 200 employees to ensure the company is ready to realize the enormous growth potential that lies ahead.

The UR President predicts an increasing need for automation in the coming years, driven by several different things: a desire to protect employees from dangerous and monotonous tasks; reshoring, where companies move production closer to home in response to an uncertain world; and above all, a shortage of labor which will only get worse in the coming years.

Epson Robots Expands VT6L 6-Axis Robot Series and RC+ Express Software

Robotic innovation continues apace emphasizing ease-of-use and reduced pricing. I had thought that the technology had matured for industrial applications. A conversation with Epson product people recently revealed some new tricks that remain to innovate within the SCARA robotic technology.

How about adapting a 6-axis robot for mounting in an autonomous mobile robot (AMR)? This DC-powered version of the Epson VT6L robot shows the essence of creativity—bringing two ideas together to form something new and useful.

The VT6L-DC offers the same powerful features found in Epson’s high-end robots. With a built-in controller, reach of up to 900 mm and a payload of up to 6 kg, it enables high throughput and operational flexibility in a space-saving design. The VT6L-DC comes equipped with two development environments – Epson RC+ for full-featured, easy-to-learn programming and Epson RC+ Express for no-code programming.

Additional VTL6-DC features include:

  • SlimLine Design – compact wrist pitch enables access to hard-to-reach areas in confined spaces
  • Fast, Easy Integration – installs in minutes; requires less time and money for system integration
  • Integrated Vision Guidance Option – designed specifically for robot guidance; makes it easy to automate simple applications when vision is required
  • Simplified Cabling – hollow end-of-arm design makes end-of-arm tooling easier than ever
  • No Battery Required for Encoder – minimizes downtime and reduces overall cost of ownership
  • Application Versatility – ideal for machine-tool and injection-molding load/unload, pick-and-place, dispensing and mobile applications

Additional RC+ Express features include:

  • Simple to Navigate – clear, intuitive, visual user interface makes it easy to learn and manage key functions like jogging, gripper control and motion
  • Common Application Templates Included – quickly create common pick-and-place, palletizing and depalletizing applications with ready-to-use template programs and tutorials
  • Develop Applications with Low Risk – built-in 3D simulator lets you conveniently program and fine-tune applications before hardware setup; run robot at low power and speed in rehearsal mode when testing new programs
  • Tablet-Based Windows OS Environment –compatible with touchscreen devices, in addition to PCs, to easily create robot applications 
  • Low Total Cost of Ownership – Epson RC+ Express is included with robot purchases and no recurring licensing fees

ABB Rebrands Autonomous Mobile Robot Portfolio

A little marketing news plus a note about ABB extending its robotic reach.

  • ABB is the only company with a comprehensive and integrated offering of robots, AMRs and machine automation solutions.
  • ASTI Mobile Robotics’ solutions are now rebranded and integrated into ABB’s portfolio, grouped under the Flexley name. The first models to be released, Flexley Tug and Flexley Mover.
  • Building on ASTI’s use of laser scanner-based 2D SLAM navigation, the future ABB autonomous mobile robots will also benefit from pioneering VSLAM technology of Sevensense Robotics – a Swiss start-up in ABB’s portfolio of partner companies – that enables mobile robots to navigate complex and dynamic environments.
  • ABB has worked with strategic partner Expert Technology Group in the UK to deliver a complete assembly line based on AMRs for a technological. Transporting products between robotic automation cells and manual assembly stations, ABB’s automation solution combines the use of ABB robots, vision function packages and AMRs.
  • The integration of ASTI into ABB includes a complete rebranding of all its offices and facilities, as well as the launch of a new look web site at amr.robotics.abb.com
  • Continuing to use the ASTI name is the ASTI Foundation, which was founded in 2017 to educate and equip young people with the skills to thrive in an age of digital transformation. 

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