New Study Shows U.S. is World Leader in Robotics Automation - With $732 Billion of Robots

A new study from Redwood Software and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) finds that the U.S. is the world leader in robotics automation investment, with an estimated robotics stock of $732 billion* - larger than the economy of Switzerland, which stood at $446 billion* in 2015. 

U.S. investment in robotics was $86 billion in 2015, up from less than $40 billion in 2009, when investment hit a low following the financial crisis, and more than 15 times higher than the OECD average. Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. investments in robotics rose 30%. 
"The U.S. is the world leader in robotics investment, and spending has recovered quickly since the financial crisis in 2009," said David Whitaker, Managing Economist at CEBR. "The sheer size of the economy and its large base of production in the automotive and electronic sectors make it a natural candidate for increased automation."   Full Press Release:

ABB sells its first ever robot manufactured in the US to Hitachi Powdered Metals USA

ABB has sold its first robot manufactured in the United States. The IRB 2600 robot is the first to be produced at the ABB Auburn Hills, Michigan facility, and was sold by ABB Value Provider, CIM SYSTEMS, INC. to Hitachi Powdered Metals USA.  

The compact robot, which is painted with special commemorative red, white and blue paint, will be used for material handling of in-process engine component parts at the Hitachi Greensburg, Indiana facility.  It is the 180th ABB robot at the Hitachi plant, which installed its first ABB robot in 2005. 

“The sale of ABB’s first robot produced in the US to Hitachi is a tremendous milestone in the development of our manufacturing presence in the Americas,”  Full News Release:

Grocery 4.0: Ocado reshapes retail with robotics and automation

Jon Excell for The Engineer:  Online grocer Ocado is establishing a reputation as a major technology player. Jon Excell reports

If prompted to name a UK company at the cutting edge of robotics and automation, few of us would cite one of the country’s best-known grocery retailers.

But, as The Engineer learned on a recent visit to one of its key facilities, online supermarket Ocado is establishing a reputation as a major technology player: harnessing and developing machine-learning systems, Internet of Things concepts and robotic hardware to a degree that leaves many traditional engineering businesses in the shade.  Full Article:

Rise of the Robots

If manufacturers are going to flourish in America, they’ll need to buy a lot more robots. Here are six ways to play this hot trend.

Jack Hough for Barron's:  For long-term investors, robots could be one key to securing healthy corporate profit growth, and stock returns, even as wages rise. There are specific opportunities, too. Japan’s Fanuc (ticker: 6954.Japan) is far and away the U.S. market leader in industrial robots, and it’s quickly ramping up production. Its shares have been outperforming, and they could offer 20% more upside over the next year. Germany’s Kuka (KU2.Germany), which sold a majority stake last year to China’s appliance giant, Midea Group (000333.China), has similar return potential. Other stocks with high exposure to industrial robotics and factory automation include Rockwell Automation (ROK), Switzerland’s ABB(ABB), and Yaskawa Electric (6506.Japan). And for one-stop shoppers, there’s the Robo Global Robotics & Automation Index exchange-traded fund (ROBO), which tracks 85 stocks, charges annual expenses of 0.95%, and has returned 37% over the past year.  Cont'd...

ST Robotics Offers New Super-Fast Robot Arm

The ST R17HS uses state-of-the-art brushless servomotors and boasts an effective reach of 750mm, a repeatability of 0.2 mm and a maximum speed after acceleration of 480 deg/sec in the robot's waist, elbow, hand and wrist, with a shoulder speed of 300 deg/sec. 
"The R17HS is the result of years of development that puts us ahead of the field," said David Sands, President and CEO of ST Robotics. "Customers are finding it useful for high throughput production as well as testing applications requiring fast motion of test devices."   Full Press Release:

Rethink Robotics Releases Intera 5: A New Approach to Automation

Rethink Robotics announced Intera® 5, a first-of-its-kind software platform that connects everything from a single robot controller, extending the smart, flexible power of Rethink Robotics' Sawyer™ to the entire work cell and simplifying automation with unparalleled ease of deployment. 
Built on the backbone of the industry's best train-by-demonstration software that powers the world's fastest-to-deploy robots, Intera 5 is paving the way for connected manufacturing environments and helping companies build factories of the future. Intera 5 fundamentally changes the need for integration, making it substantially easier and more affordable, allowing manufacturers to deploy full work cell automation in a matter of hours, not weeks. 
Intera 5 is much more than the latest version of Rethink Robotics' software; it's a new way to approach automation that allows manufacturers to control the robots, orchestrate the work cell and collect data.   Full Press Release:

Japan's Rust Belt Counting on Robonomics to Run Assembly Lines

Yoshiaki Nohara, Toru Fujioka, and Daniel Moss for Bloomberg:  A withering factory town in Japan’s Rust Belt is looking for revival through a dose of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s "robot revolution."

Kadoma’s population has declined 13 percent as the nation ages, prompting mergers among elementary schools and emergency services departments. Factories can’t find enough people to run assembly lines, further threatening an industrial base that includes titan Panasonic Corp. and smaller businesses like Izumo Co., a maker of industrial rubber.

Yet Izumo President Tsutomu Otsubo doesn’t believe the solution involves finding more people. He’d rather find more machines to do the work so his company can capitalize on Abe’s plan to quadruple Japan’s robotics sector into a 2.4 trillion yen ($20 billion) industry by 2020.  Cont'd...

BERNSTEIN: China's insane spending on robotics is fundamentally changing capitalism

Oscar Williams-Grut for Business Insider:  Analysts at global investment manager Bernstein believe the "age of industrialization is coming to an end," with robots set to destroy manufacturing jobs globally.

That may not sound seismic. After all, the industrial revolution happened hundreds of years ago and manufacturing jobs have been the minority of all jobs in the West for decades. But Bernstein is arguing that the nature of capitalism is undergoing a fundamental change.

Analysts Michael W. Parker and Alberto Moel argue that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the foundational textbooks of economics, is becoming redundant because of two trends: the rise of robotics and China's modernising economy.  Cont'd...

Robotics startup Exotec raises $3.5 million to help warehouses pack and dispatch goods using mini robots

Paul Sawers for Venture Beat:  A French robotics startup has raised €3.3 million ($3.5 million) to build and grow a fleet of mobile robots that help warehouses prepare orders for delivery.

The company was founded in 2015 by former GE Healthcare software architect Renaud Heitz and BA Systèmes technical director Romain Moulin,  and Exotec Solutions (“Exotec”) robots have already been tested across a number of industries. With $3.5 million more in its coffers, the company expects to launch its first robot — called Exo — into the wild in early 2017. The most recent round was raised from 360 Capital Partners, Breega Capital, and a handful of its existing investors.

The miniature robots are being targeted at any logistics operator that relies on humans to traverse large warehouses picking items off shelves, and it promises to cut employees’ average daily distance covered from 15km to 4km per day and to “[double] the productivity” of each worker. The robots are controlled by what the company calls a “centralized intelligence system,” which liaises between the humans and the robots on the ground.  Cont'd...

Meet the robot whisperer who trains "big, monstrous, industrial robots" to follow her every command

Charlotte Whistlecroft for DigitalSpy:  If you think you're happy with your job, Madeline Gannon will definitely make you question your life, as this woman has managed to train giant robots to do things for her.

Nope, we're not joking - the founder of the Madlab Research Studio created "big, monstrous, industrial robots" and then tamed then, and she even has a nickname to prove it: The Robot Whisperer.

Which is all pretty impressive, if not terrifying, stuff.

Speaking at the WIRED Next Generation event in London, Madeline passed on her robot-taming skills to the audience of 12-18 year olds and shared her passion for turning 6-foot-tall factory line robots into tools any human can communicate with.  Cont'd...

Foxconn reaches 40,000 robots of original 1 million robot automation goal

From Next Big Future:  In 2011, Foxconn had announced a plan to replace 500,000 mainland Chinese workers with 1 million robots over the next 3-5 years. 
Foxconn is the company that builds Apple's iPhone and iPad hardware and many of the android smartphones as well.
Foxconn, has so far installed 40,000 production robots across China as it looks to minimize the number of people it employs.
With the exception of some components like servo motors and speed reducers, the robots are being built entirely in-house, Foxconn's Dai Chia-peng told Taiwan's Central News Agency, as quoted by DigiTimes. It's unclear how many of the so-called "Foxbots" are being used to manufacture Apple products.
The machines are, however, said to be operating an industrial facility in Zhengzhou, a tablet plant in Chengdu, and computer/peripherals plants in Kunshan and Jiashan.   Cont'd...

Japanese Robotics Giant Gives Its Arms Some Brains

Will Knight for MIT Technology Review:  The big, dumb, monotonous industrial robots found in many factories could soon be quite a bit smarter, thanks to the introduction of machine-learning skills that are moving out of research labs at a fast pace. Fanuc, one of the world’s largest makers of industrial robots, announced that it will work with Nvidia, a Silicon Valley chipmaker that specializes in artificial intelligence, to add learning capabilities to its products.

The deal is important because it shows how recent advances in AI are poised to overhaul the manufacturing industry. Today’s industrial bots are typically programmed to do a single job very precisely and accurately. But each time a production run changes, the robots then need to be reprogrammed from scratch, which takes time and technical expertise.  Cont'd...

Google Canceled the Launch of a Robotic Arm After it Failed the 'Toothbrush Test'

Mark Bergen for Bloomberg:  Google published research this week detailing how its software enables robots to learn from one another. To demonstrate, the company’s scientists showed videos featuring robotic arms whirling inside its labs.

Google’s robotics group built those machines and wanted to sell them to manufacturers, warehouse operators and others. However, executives at Google parent Alphabet Inc. nixed the plan because it failed Chief Executive Officer Larry Page’s "toothbrush test," a requirement that the company only ship products used daily by billions of people, according to people familiar with the situation.  Cont'd...

Could the future of pizza be in the hands of robots?

CARTER EVANS for CBS:   In this emerging age of drone deliveries, anddriverless cars​, technology now brings us -- robo-pizza. 

Silicon Valley is at the forefront of reinventing the pie. The kitchen at Zume Pizza is where technology and culinary arts collide.

Humans and robots work side-by-side at Zume Pizza in Mountain View, California.

Veteran restaurateur Julia Collins founded the delivery-only pizza company with Alex Garden, the former president of online gaming company, Zynga.

“I saw an opportunity to go after the $40 billion domestic delivery pizza market,” Garden said.   Cont'd...

Robot Sews First Complete Garment

From Sewbo:  Sewbo Inc. on Thursday announced that it has achieved the long-sought goal of automated sewing, by using an industrial robot to sew together a T-shirt. This milestone represents the first time that a robot has been used to sew an entire article of clothing.

Despite widespread use in other industries, automation has failed to find a place in apparel manufacturing due to robots’ inability to handle limp, flexible fabrics. Sewbo avoids these hurdles by temporarily stiffening fabrics, making it easy for conventional robots to build clothes as if they were made from sheet metal. Afterwards, the process is reversed to produce soft, fully assembled garments.

“Our technology will allow manufacturers to create higher-quality clothing at lower costs in less time than ever before,” said Jonathan Zornow, the technology’s inventor. “Avoiding labor issues and shortening supply chains will help reduce the complexity and headaches surrounding today’s intricate global supply network. And digital manufacturing will revolutionize fashion, even down to how we buy our clothes by allowing easy and affordable customization for everyone.”

Sewbo performed their feat using an off-the-shelf industrial robot, which they taught to operate a consumer sewing machine. Having successfully proved its core concept, Sewbo is now expanding its team and working towards commercializing its technology... (company webpage, MIT article)

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Next Generation of Precision Motion Controllers - V3.0

Next Generation of Precision Motion Controllers - V3.0

MICROMO launches the new MC3/MCS motion control family. The new high performance, intelligent controllers are optimized for use with FAULHABER motors, offer electronics for simple operation with state-of-the-art interfaces for multi-axis applications, and provide a motion control system solution with the most compact integration into industrial grade housing.