Open, 5G, Edge Dominate ARC Forum Conversations

Announcements and discussions at this year’s iteration of the Industry Forum sponsored by ARC Advisory Group were amazingly diverse. Another IT supplier appeared. Security remained an issue. Most conversations revolved around open (open source and open interoperability), edge, 5G, collaboration/partnerships, software-defined, machine learning, MQTT and its companion Sparkplug, and most importantly, solving problems for end users.

Following is a brief recap. Follow the links for in-depth information. Of course, many company announcements fit into more than one bucket.

Open

Examples one of a variety of open include Eclipse Foundation and the Open Group Open Process Automation Forum with the IT technology of Kubernetes thrown in.

The Eclipse Foundation launched the Sparkplug Working Group. Founding members Chevron, Canary Labs, Cirrus Link Solutions, HiveMQ, Inductive Automation, and ORing are defining an open standard specification to create interoperable MQTT IIoT solutions.

The Working Group will encourage the definition of technical specifications and associated implementations that rationalize access to industrial data, improve the interoperability and scalability of IIoT solutions, and provide an overall framework for supporting Industry 4.0 for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, smart cities and other related industries.

Sparkplug is relatively new which leads to interoperability problems since each supplier and end user must create all definitions of the data. Success of this WG is essential for any widespread adoption of is. The Eclipse Foundation pointed out the intent and purpose of the Sparkplug specification is to define an MQTT topic namespace, payload, and session state management that can be applied generically. By meeting the operational requirements for these systems, Sparkplug will enable MQTT-based infrastructures to provide more valuable real-time information to business stakeholders as well.

The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum progresses. This topic broaches on both open and software-defined control. The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), in the first major update to the standard for open process automation systems since February 2019, has progressed perhaps more than I would have predicted after its unveiling only a few years ago at the ARC Forum.

Its first release focused on interoperability while the O-PAS Standard Version 2.0 provides a vendor-neutral Reference Architecture which enables the construction of scalable, reliable, interoperable, and secure process automation systems. The latest release, which is a Preliminary Standard of The Open Group, has further emphasis on standardized system configuration portability to significantly reduce capital cost and time investment for end-users. With these capabilities, end-users can easily exchange equipment without being tied to a single vendor or requiring individual configuration parameters to be written in different operating languages.

With their standard moving from interoperability to portable configurations, leaders told me that the next release will expand on this portability theme.

Bedrock Automation integrates Flow-Cal Flow Measurement into Open Secure Automation (OSA) Platform.

Speaking of both software-defined and open, Bedrock Automation Founder, CEO, and CTO Albert Rooyakkers explained its extension to the “Open Secure Automation (OSA)” platform with the addition of Flow-Cal algorithms “bringing oil and gas measurement and custody transfer securely into the digital age.” This was essentially a software addition to the platform to bring a new twist on flow computer functionality.

The new OSA +Flow family embeds industry-leading Flow-Cal measurement applications. Flow-Cal’s software has long been the industry’s choice for flow measurement and production-accounting data. Affirming Flow-Cal’s stature is the fact that the American Petroleum Institute (API) has selected it to develop, support, and distribute its standard flow measurement calculations.

The OSA +Flow software has been incorporated across all Bedrock controllers providing scalability for PLC, RTU, or DCS flow control requirements at custody transfer stations, separators, and other oil and gas production facilities. These solutions include full support of multi-drop serial, Ethernet, and HART for Coriolis, ultrasonic, and smart transmitters.

The system API compliant library, OPC UA, Inductive Automation software, MQTT, as well as software-defined I/O.

Diamanti Accelerates Energy and Service Organizations’ Adoption of AI/ML

AI and ML applications often leverage GPU processing for training models and they benefit from containers and Kubernetes—an open source container project. However, these processes are often complicated to adopt and run at scale. With the recent announcement of GPU support in the Diamanti AI/ML platform, enterprises have an easier on-ramp to managing large-scale containerized workloads under Kubernetes.

“We’re pleased to share the early customer traction we are seeing on our newest solutions in a wide range of industries including energy, services and more,” said Tom Barton, CEO of Diamanti. “These customers are validating state-of-the-art technologies internally while also benefiting from the reduced physical footprint and cost-savings that come with the Diamanti AI/ML platform.”

The new solution, announced in late 2019, is in early access today and fully supports Nvidia’s NVLink technology for higher performing workloads, as well as Kubeflow, an open source machine learning framework for Kubernetes that provides highly available Jupyter notebooks and ML pipelines. Combined with Diamanti’s Kubernetes control plane, this allows customers to deliver highly scalable environments for performance-intensive AI/ML workloads, accelerating model development and training.

A major energy company turned to Diamanti for a new workload leveraging AI/ML for optical character recognition (OCR) to scan invoices. The customer needed to scan more than 15,000 invoices a day. The legacy infrastructure could not keep up with the demand and eventually accrued a backlog of more than 200,000 invoices. Deploying the Diamanti solution with GPU support eliminated that backlog within hours.

Edge – 5G

As the other influencers at an HPE event told me once, “Gary, everything you do is the edge.” So it is not surprising that I had many conversations about the Edge. But 5G technology was also on many minds. The consensus opinion–5G will drive decision making to the edge.

As an example of edge at the Forum, here is an announcement from Opto 22. For as long as I’ve known the company, it continues to push the latest IT technologies mashed up with control and automation. This product release highlights its pioneering role in IoT.

Industrial automation manufacturer and industrial internet of things (IIoT) developer Opto 22 announced groov RIO, a family of intelligent, distributed input/output (I/O) for IIoT and automation applications. groov RIO represents a first-in-class solution for its ability to quickly connect traditional wired switches and sensors directly to Ethernet networks, software applications, and cloud platforms without intermediary control or communication hardware, such as PLCs, PACs, or PCs.

The first shipping version of groov RIO is the GRV-R7-MM1001-10, a standalone, 10-channel, multi-signal, multifunction I/O unit for signals including thermocouples (TCs), integrated circuit temperature devices (ICTDs), voltage inputs, current inputs, millivolt inputs, discrete DC inputs, self-wetting discrete inputs, discrete DC sinking outputs, and Form C mechanical relays. In addition, two channels provide special features like pulse counting, on- and off-time totalization, software latching, frequency measurement, and more. GRV-R7-MM1001-10 is completely standalone and software-configurable through a browser-based interface.

“When we designed groov RIO, we were looking for ways to democratize I/O data, because that’s what the IIoT is all about,” said Vice President of Product Strategy at Opto 22, Benson Hougland. “Although groov RIO can be used as remote I/O with our groov EPIC system or another control system, we also wanted it to operate autonomously, facilitating direct connection between I/O signals and databases, business software, or cloud IoT platforms.”

GRV-R7-MM1001-10 supports 12 different types of field I/O circuits. It also provides no-hassle, enclosure-free installation with multiple power options, including standard 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet (PoE); an extended operating temperature range; and UL Hazardous Locations and ATEX approvals.

Once installed, groov RIO can be independently managed and configured through browser-based tools. Per-channel I/O type and signal-processing options through groov Manage eliminate the need for a master control unit, and support for standard enterprise network services like DNS, DHCP, and VPN facilitates network connectivity. Embedded communication options range from efficient data publishing with MQTT Sparkplug to advanced signal processing, data aggregation, and transactions with databases and web services, using the low-code Node-RED environment and runtime.

Data —> Action

It’s all about data they all say. But when I talked with Mike Brooks who is now advising at AspenTech, he counseled, “Not too much data.” The action is in using data, not collecting it. Therefore the drawback (indeed, failure?) of data lakes. Too much storage, not enough usability. AspenTech exemplifies using Machine Learning not just to say they are in AI, but to find usable information for the companies to use to improve operations.

Collaboration – Partnerships

The Eclipse Foundation and OPAF exemplify collaboration and partnerships. Inductive Automation has community as a strategic initiative. Both founder Steve Hechtman and chief strategy officer Don Pearson highlighted it at last year’s Ignition Community Conference.

This announcement highlights community along with edge and other trends. Inductive Automation announced improvements to three products and a new development resource within Ignition by Inductive Automation. Ignition is an industrial application platform with tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The solutions include:

  • New and improved products for Ignition Edge.
  • An expansion of the Ignition Onboard program.
  • Improvements to the Ignition Perspective Module.
  • A new, free resource for developers: Ignition Exchange.

Ignition Edge will soon have three new products. Ignition Edge is a line of lightweight, limited, low-cost Ignition software solutions designed for embedding into field and OEM devices at the edge. They allow organizations to extend data collection, visualization, and system management to the edge of the network. With the new products coming soon, the lineup will include Ignition Edge Panel, Ignition Edge Compute, Ignition Edge Sync Services, Ignition Edge EAM (Enterprise Administration Module), and Ignition Edge IIoT.

The Ignition Onboard program now has easier access to industrial hardware that comes with Ignition already installed, configured, and licensed. Numerous device manufacturers are embedding Ignition and Ignition Edge into their devices — including Advantech, Moxa, OnLogic, Opto 22, and ORing.

The Ignition Perspective Module lets users easily build mobile industrial applications in HTML5 for monitoring and control of their processes directly from their mobile phones.

A significant part of the Inductive Automation strategy is to promote community among its customers and partners. The development has been ongoing for some time culminating into Ignition Exchange — a new, online space where developers can get free Ignition resources provided by Inductive Automation and the Ignition community. These resources can save time for developers.

Software Defined

OPAF, Bedrock Automation- as in take hardware platform add flow metering, exemplify the trend toward software-defined hardware.

Machine Learning

I discussed ML in relation to AspenTech for decision making. Perhaps the industry is moving past the SciFi “artificial intelligence” part of the technology to emphasize real use cases deployed today.

Operations

To name a trend “operations” may sound archaic, but many conversations moved from technology to solving real problems for customers. This announcement from AVEVA exemplifies that trend.

AVEVA unveiled its new Discrete Lean Management software. The new offering improves operational efficiency through the digitalization of lean work management for both manual and automated production lines. AVEVA’s quick-to-deploy and easy to use digital tools enable access to production information, KPIs and notifications on dashboards, workstations and mobile devices to improve overall equipment and labor effectiveness, and to facilitate data-driven continuous improvement.

AVEVA Discrete Lean Management is designed to address the issues faced by operating manufacturing plants still using paper-based systems for lean and work order management, work instructions and data collection procedures. It enables physical records to be replaced with digital tools that mitigate the risk of manual processes and provides real time visibility into production performance allowing team collaboration in response to production issues.

The AVEVA Discrete Lean Management software solution is used in Schneider Electric’s manufacturing plants and has been successfully deployed in more than 70 smart factories globally resulting a 10% productivity increase due to downtime mitigation and 70% improved response-time due to automated escalation of production issues.

I actually visited one of the plants in the deployment—one in Lexington, KY. It was an excellent example of using software tools to enhance a lean process rather than getting in the way.

MQTT

MQTT was mentioned all over the conference. This is a data transport technology. It is usable for both OPC UA and for Sparkplug. Some companies touting their use of the technology include:

  • Eclipse
  • Inductive
  • Opto — also NodeRED
  • Cirrus Link
  • Bedrock

Security

I didn’t have as many security conversations as the past few years, but I did chat with some PAS Global executives, and the company announced several new products, along with some new branding.

PAS, now PAS Global, keeps building on the platform of alarm management and safety and its ability to see what is on the process plant’s network assuring integrity of the process control system.

While at ARC Forum, company executives stressed industrial operations must increase focus on cybersecurity while maintaining continuous vigilance on safety. Stated simply, organizations need to ensure OT integrity in the face of unprecedented opportunity and risk. PAS has introduced new and updated products to optimize the integrity of industrial assets and reduce cyber risk, improve process safety and reliability, and ensure OT data health.

PAS Cyber Integrity prevents, detects, and remediates industrial cyber threats. Version 6.5 introduces an enhanced user experience for OT asset inventory information and data collection and transfer. This release also provides support for multiple integration methods (REST API, Syslog, SQL, CSV, SDK), integration with Darktrace, and Microsoft Windows event analytics;

PAS PlantState Integrity Version 8.7 introduces enhancements to Independent Protection Layer (IPL) Assurance that include sensor monitoring and voting, analysis filtering, and process trip reporting.

PAS Decision Integrity enables trusted data for decision-making. Version 1.0 leverages capabilities from PAS Automation Integrity and adds support for OT data health monitoring (data chain accuracy and visualization) and data lake enrichment.

These new product releases will be generally available by the end of March.

Laser Micromachining Manufacturing Unveiled

As you add electronic sensing and control and networking to machinery, you can take a process to the next level. I’ve been impressed with the growing development of tighter tolerances and then better variety of materials for 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Here is an example of expanding the use of automated “subtractive” manufacturing—micro machining.

6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.

Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (www.6dlaser.com), and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.

6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.

At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices. Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.

The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.

​6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN. 6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.

Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”

Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile. Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns). Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.

Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”

About 6-D Laser LLC
6D Laser, LLC, an affiliate of ALIO Industries, Inc, was founded in 2018 by C. William Hennessey and Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn. ALIO Industries is an industry-leading motion system supplier, specializing in nano-precision multi-axis solutions. 6D Laser was formed with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems, including ALIO’s Patented Hybrid Hexapod. The integration of ALIO True Nano motion systems with key sub-system suppliers, through strategic partnerships with Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control, enables a new level of precision and capability for advanced manufacturing.

www.6DLaser.com ​​​​​
www.microprm.com

Manufacturers Wish For Open Additive Manufacturing Ecosystems

Manufacturers Wish For Open Additive Manufacturing Ecosystems

Originally 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, seemed more a Maker’s machine and novelty with possible future applications. “Printers” were developed for one material, and one company sold the package. I did not think deeply about the machines but continued to watch developments.

The first constraint I discovered for widespread manufacturing adoption was holding tolerances. Researchers and engineers have tackled that problem.

A recent survey of manufacturers revealed that virtually all (99%) manufacturing executives surveyed believe an open ecosystem is important to advance 3D printing at scale. While 85% of manufacturers reported that industrial-scale AM has the potential to increase revenue for their business.

However, the research sponsored by 3D printing / additive manufacturing company Essentium and said to be conducted by an independent global research firm also reported that 22% said their 3D printing efforts have resulted in vendor lock-in that limits flexibility. Note that Essentium manufactures open systems. I have witnessed and written about the value of open ecosystems as a fulcrum for fostering innovation. I don’t know enough to endorse Essentium, but I do endorse the concept.

According to Essentium, the industrial AM market has been dominated by closed systems where customers are locked into vendors’ hardware, processes and materials. As the technology obstacles around economics, scale, strength and speed of production fall away, the number of manufacturers using 3D printing for full-scale production has doubled compared to last year (40% in 2019; 21% in 2018). Manufacturers are now demanding open ecosystems to overcome system inflexibility and use the materials of their choice – 50% of companies said they need high quality and affordable materials to meet the growing demand for industrial 3D printed parts.

An open additive ecosystem will see more partnerships focused on giving customers greater control of their innovation, more choice in materials, and industrial-scale production at ground-breaking economics. Market demand for Essentium’s open 3D printing ecosystem, developed in collaboration with multinational chemical company BASF and 3D software developer Materialise NV, is a clear indication that an open ecosystem approach is addressing unmet needs in the industrial additive market.

Blake Teipel, CEO and Co-founder, Essentium, said: “At Essentium, we strongly believe that an open ecosystem will be key to the evolution of Additive Manufacturing. Being locked into proprietary solutions that limit flexibility and choice is no longer an option if 3D printing is to become a serious contender as an industrial process for end-use products. An open market focused on developing new materials and better and faster machines is the only way for manufacturers to unlock new applications and new business opportunities. With this approach, the future belongs to the customer, not to the OEM.”

162 managers and executives from large manufacturing companies across the world completed the survey on their current experiences, challenges and trends with 3D printing for production manufacturing. Participants included a mix of roles and were from companies across industries including aerospace, automotive, consumer goods and contract manufacturing.

Cobot and Mobile drive robot market growth

Cobot and Mobile drive robot market growth

I have received three different robotic market research reports from two different research firms. Both of these firms seem to do the work that it takes. I’ve done some private contract research and analysis and have an grasp on the work it takes. These reports have major agreements and a few different takes. The short take is that we finally have momentum in new forms of robotics–and that is a good thing.

[Note: In moving this post from my text editor this morning, I inadvertently had left the setting as “publish” instead of “draft”, therefore you received an email with no link. Oops. Sorry.]

Cobot Market Growth

Cobot Market to account for 30% of Total Robot Market by 2027 according to market research firm Interact Analysis.

  • The growth rate of collaborative robots is leading the robotics industry
  • Logistics will surpass automotive to be the second largest end user of cobots by 2023, with electronics in first place
  • In the next five years, the fastest growing regions for collaborative robot shipments will be China and the USA

Market intelligence firm Interact Analysis has released a new market report – The Collaborative Robot Market – 2019 – which indicates strong and sustained growth for the collaborative robot industry.

In 2018, global revenues from cobot production exceeded $550 million. This was almost a 60% increase over 2017; and over 19,000 cobots were shipped. Interact Analysis forecasts that revenues for cobots will reach $5.6 billion in 2027, accounting for almost one third of the total robotics market, and that <5kg and 5-9 kg cobots, popular in small to medium-sized industrial settings, will represent the majority of sales in 2023.

Material handling, assembly and pick & place will be the three biggest applications of collaborative robots. But these functions, which accounted for 75% of cobot revenues in 2018, will drop to below of 70% total revenues by 2023, as other functions for cobots are developed. The use of cobots in non-industrial applications will play a significant role in the coming years – in sectors such as life sciences, logistics, and the hospitality sector. In part this is because they are flexible and easy to set up, making them attractive to smaller companies which may not have previously considered using robots.

Labour shortages and the drive to improve efficiency mean that China will be the fastest growing region for cobot shipments. The demand for simple, cost-effective, entry-level robots, together with different regulations surrounding industrial equipment in China has fuelled the growth of Chinese cobot manufacturers who only supply their local market. This has arguably distorted the market figures. Interact Analysis has responded to this by including in its report two data sets, one with and one without the impact of China. It is important to note, however, that growth outside of China is still forecast to rise at a CAGR of over 30% in the next 5 years.

Maya Xiao, lead analyst on cobots for Interact Analysis, says: “The collaborative robot market is still relatively immature, but Interact Analysis has identified clear potential growth areas, both in industrial and non-industrial settings, enabling manufacturers to respond effectively, and take full advantage of what we predict to be an area which will occupy a significant market share in the coming years”.

Robot Market Declines then Rebounds

  • Automotive and smartphone production declines played a significant part in 2019 slowdown
  • New applications, lower prices and wider use cases will lead to a significant upturn by 2023
  • China shows its strength, both domestically and in attracting external investment

Market intelligence firm Interact Analysis has released a new market report focusing on the industrial robot market. The research outlines reasons to be positive in the sector, despite an immediate, short term decline in revenues.

The report goes into detail around specific headwinds that have challenged growth within the sector, including the slowing global economy, trade wars and uncertainty in the global automotive industry. Compared to 2017, where revenues associated with industrial robots increased by 20%, forecasted declines of 4.3 per cent in 2019 have caused some concern.

Jan Zhang, research director at Interact Analysis, said: “Automotive and smartphone production declines play a significant part in this downturn. As the largest end-user segment for industrial robots – accounting for over 30% share of revenues – any downturn in this area is always keenly felt in automation and robot investment.

“Despite this, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Long term drivers, both for industrial robots and for automation as a whole, remain very strong. Growth is expected to pick up on 2020, and then accelerate further in 2021 due to new industry applications, lower prices and wider use cases.”

The report’s findings, based on interviews with all leading robotics companies (as well as a wide selection of innovative robot start-ups, system integrators and component suppliers), highlight the importance of new robot types in fuelling this growth. In particular, cobots – collaborative robots – which work alongside humans are finding favour in industries not traditionally associated with the use of robots. Among those industries identified are food and beverage, logistics, packaging and life sciences.

“Growth in these industries can’t fully compensate for the decrease in the automotive industry, but it does warrant optimism for the future,” said Jan.

A central element to the report’s findings is the impact China is having on the global industrial robot market in 2019. While Japan remains the largest producer of industrial robots, with an estimated 45% of total production, there has been significant growth in production capacity and output in China. This can be attributed a number of factors, including Chinese vendors entering the market and inward investment from traditional industrial giants like ABB, Fanuc, KUKA and YASKAWA.

Jan added: “While it is true growth of industrial robot revenues has slowed down, the reasons for this are clear and, for the most part, beyond the control of the vendors. Despite this, however, there is evidence that the industry is diversifying and putting the foundations in place for significant future growth, making this one of the more exciting spaces to operate in.”

Mobile Systems Drive Robot Market Growth

Robotics Industry Set for Seismic Change as Growth Shifts from Fixed Automation to Mobile Systems in Enterprise.

Of the 8 million robots shipped in 2030, nearly 6 million will be mobile.

The robotics market is set to transform over the next 10 years, based on the most comprehensive robotics tracker yet released by global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research. There will be enormous growth across all subsectors, highlighted in a total market valuation of US$277 billion by 2030. That growth will not be distributed evenly, however. By 2022, the burgeoning mobile robotics space will start to overtake the traditional industrial robotics market. Currently, mobile autonomy is concentrated in material handling within the supply chain, but mobile robots are set to touch every sector of the global economy for a wide range of use-cases.

“Everyone talks about self-driving passenger vehicles, but mobile automation is far more developed in intralogistics for fulfillment and industry,” said Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “The automation of material handling will see huge segments of the global forklift, tow truck, and indoor vehicle market consumed by robotics vendors and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that bring indoor autonomy.”

Amazon Robotics is the leader that has driven growth in mobile robotics for the last 7 years since their acquisition of Kiva Systems. With an estimated 256,000 automated guided vehicles deployed to date, Amazon holds close to 50% of material handling robot market share and is broadening its portfolio of robot subtypes with autonomous mobile robots for transport and delivery. Other major Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) developers like Quicktron, JD.com, Geek, and Grey Orange are deploying thousands of robots yearly, while Automated Mobile Robot (AMR) developers are just beginning to scale up. Brain Corp. has deployed 5,000 systems primarily in retail, and BlueBotics has deployed some 2,000 robots for intralogistics in and around the supply chain. Meanwhile MiR, an AMR company acquired by Teradyne in 2018, is beginning to achieve growth rates in excess of the company’s other robotics acquisition of major cobot developer, Universal Robots.

The distinction between AGVs and AMRs can be contested, but AMRs do not require external infrastructure to localize themselves and are built with sensors and cameras to self-navigate their environments. Currently, AGVs represent the majority of mobile robot shipments, but by 2030, this will change. While there will be 2.5 million AGVs shipped in 2030, the total shipments of AMRs will reach 2.9 million in the same year. This is due to the declining costs of superior navigation and the desire to build flexibility into robotic fleets. “Many new verticals, like hospitality, delivery, and infrastructure, will demand systems that do not require external physical infrastructure to move about. While AGVs will thrive in intralogistics for fulfillment, especially in greenfield warehouses, AMRs solve the challenges faced by many end-users by offering incremental automation that does not require a complete change of environmental infrastructure,” Whitton explains.

In a major example of automation extending to new and important vehicle-types, the shipments of automated forklifts are set to grow from 4,000 in 2020 to 455,000 in 2030, with a CAGR of 58.9%. Meanwhile, the revenue for all mobile robotics is expected to exceed US$224 billion by 2030, compared to US$39 billion for industrial and collaborative systems.

Leading the way in mobile robotics are French manufacturer Balyo (which partnered with Amazon), Seegrid (who have sold over 800 units) and a number of smaller actors that are just beginning to scale. This opportunity is leading vehicle manufacturers such as Toyota, Yale & Hyster, and Raymond to partner with robotics companies to offer automation to manufacturers. Given the global shipments for forklifts is close to 1 million, half of all shipments could be automated by 2030.

Another significant sector for mobile automation will be maintenance and cleaning. There are already over 5,000 autonomous floor scrubbers in U.S. retail stores and commercial buildings. With Softbank’s deployment of mobile cleaners for offices being rolled out in Asia and the United States, cleaning robots will become a common sight within the service economy.

Even more esoteric form factors, like quadrupeds, are expected to increase significantly for data collection purposes, particularly for real estate, construction, and industrial inspection. ABI Research predicts that quadrupeds, exemplified by vendors like Boston Dynamics, Zoa Robotics, ANYbotics, and Ghost Robotics, will increase to 29,000 yearly shipments by 2030.  “As mature sectors of the robotics industry achieve growth more in line with established technology markets, mobile robotics are set to create lasting transformative effects across the supply chain and will become increasingly ubiquitous throughout the global economy,” Whitton concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s Commercial and Industrial Robotics market data report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial, Collaborative & Commercial Robotics research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Market Dataspreadsheets are composed of deep data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight where opportunities lie.

Manufacturers Wish For Open Additive Manufacturing Ecosystems

How Competitive is Your Manufacturing Business?

Buzz words could well be the story of the year–digital twin, digital transformation, internet of things, industrial internet of things, digital thread, smart manufacturing, Industrie 4.0, etc. and ad nauseum.

I spoke to a couple of hundred elementary school students this morning about my career path of technology, liberal arts, and writing (not in those exact words, of course). In preparation, I pulled out Volume 1, Issue 1 of Automation World from June 2003. [Note: I left there in 2013 to pursue my own thing. I have no idea what they do anymore. The entire team that put this together, except for a sales person, has left. That’s the way of the world.]

I had a theme to the 10 years I was Editor of the magazine. It wasn’t just to put words between ads. Or just regurgitate product news. It was

How do you apply technology intelligently in order to make your business more competitive–more successful?

Back to today’s buzz words (marketing words?) of the year. Really, these reflect technologies and sometimes strategies that are worthless unless applied to make your business stronger.

Let us not lose sight of the goal!

Manufacturers Wish For Open Additive Manufacturing Ecosystems

Vision Inspection Powered by AI

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is not necessarily the dystopian technology portrayed in books and movies. Although neither artificial or intelligent, AI can be a powerful tool in the engineer’s kit.

Recently Carl Palme of Neurala chatted with me introducing the company and what it means by AI in its vision systems. We both have some sheet metal work in our backgrounds, so we found common cause with one of the powerful applications—finding small surface anomalies.

There is also company news. In short:

  • IHI Corporation Selects Neurala to Enable Industrial Visual Inspection and Analysis Powered by AI
  • One of the Largest Global Heavy-Industry Manufacturers Partners With Leader in Automated Visual Inspections to Build Vision AI-Powered Industrial Solutions

AI-powered visual inspection pioneer Neurala announced a partnership with IHI, one of the largest manufacturers in the world.

IHI is a leading producer of aircraft engines and turbochargers for vehicles and industrial machines, along with additional transport-related machinery and more. Neurala’s automated visual inspection platform will be deployed as a key component of IHI’s workflow, improving manufacturing optimization and enabling more efficient industrial inspections.

“Automation is an area of critical focus as we further strengthen our reputation as the leading manufacturer of transport-related machinery worldwide,” said Ms. Nobuko Mizumoto, Director of IHI Corporation. “Today, we are collecting data on our workflow that needs to be carefully analyzed. AI-assisted data analysis is the future of manufacturing processes, and Neurala has the industrial and manufacturing inspection expertise we require in an AI solution. As we lead IHI into Industry 4.0, we are proud to partner with Neurala to deploy a reliable AI that can function in settings that are subjective and change rapidly, without requiring any downtime on our production lines.”

IHI will leverage Neurala’s automated visual inspection platform to review product and workflow processes, cementing its reputation as a leader in safety and efficiency. AI-powered inspections allow manufacturers to accelerate new initiatives without sacrificing a gold standard of quality workmanship. IHI will use Neurala’s Brain Builder, the first cost-effective AI tool that allows users to build, deploy and analyze custom vision AI solutions with instant feedback on performance. Brain Builder simplifies the process and reduces the time to deployment in subjective settings, using on-the-fly learning to increase accuracy as the user adds data.

“We are thrilled to partner with IHI as we illustrate the critical role AI will play in manufacturing, improving efficiency in a field in which optimization is essential,” said Massimiliano Versace, co-founder and CEO of Neurala. “We look forward to building upon our strong presence in the APAC region through an industry leader like IHI. IHI selected Neurala to bolster its offerings as the industrial sector continues to evolve; our partnership will demonstrate the value of implementing AI to solve challenges of visual inspection on factory floors and to improve automation.”

Neurala is the company behind Brain Builder: a SaaS platform that dramatically reduces the time, cost and skills required to build and maintain production-quality custom vision AI solutions. Founded in 2006, Neurala’s research team invented Lifelong-DNN (L-DNN) technology, which reduces the data requirements for AI model development and enables continuous learning in the cloud or at the edge. Now, with customers in the industrial, drone, robotics, and smart devices verticals, Neurala’s technology has been deployed on 53 million devices globally.

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