Strange, but somehow not too much while spoiling us the news from the field of robotics from such "advanced points" as Skolkovo or Rusnano. But this only convinces us that many times voiced by many authors of the Military Review, doubts about their effectiveness are still valid.
The volume of annual global supplies of industrial robots, thousand units
Since the topic of industrial robotics is close to me, we’ll try to figure out what the situation in the industry really is and what its prospects are in Russia and in the world. This article does not plan to consider robotics in the service sector, unmanned vehicles or the robotics of specific industries such as programming. Only industry.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the annual increase in the global market for industrial robots is about 15-20%. At the same time, the volume of introduced robotic systems varies greatly between different countries of the world. The Russian Federation (RF) is currently one of the countries with the least number of industrial robots deployed, approximately 3 robots for 10 000 people
Robot density. The number of industrial robots on 10 thousand workers employed in industry
At the moment, the sales level, respectively, and the market capacity of industrial robots in Russia is approximately 500-700 units per year. For comparison: the market of industrial robots in China is about 50 000 units per year. Is the difference tangible? And this despite the huge number of able-bodied people in China, which is almost an order of magnitude higher than that in the Russian Federation.
The most popular areas on the world market are the areas of robotics is the microelectronic and automotive industries.
Segmentation of the global market for industrial robots
The structure of the Russian market is different from the world. First of all, robotic systems for welding and cutting metals are in demand, they account for about 80% of implementations. In second place is the developing segment - the movement and stacking of goods, which is in demand in the food and pharmaceutical industries. To a lesser extent, milling, painting, measuring and other types of robotic systems are in demand.
The largest global manufacturers of industrial robots are companies:
- KUKA (Germany);
- FANUC (Japan);
- ABB (Sweden);
- Kawasaki (Japan);
- Motoman / Yaskawa (Japan, USA);
- OTC Daihen (Japan);
- Panasonic (Japan).
The leaders of the Russian market of industrial robotics are the German company KUKA and the Japanese company FANUC, which together occupy about 90% of the market. Companies actively working to expand market share in Russia are ABB, Kawasaki, Motoman / Yaskawa.
KUKA range of robots
The PRC is making significant efforts to create its own industrial robots, but at the moment, Chinese industrial robots are only beginning to appear on the international, including the Russian, market. This emphasizes that the creation of industrial robots is an extremely difficult task. Here, precision mechanics capable of operating in harsh operating conditions 24 hours a day 365 days a year, and a powerful industrial computer as a "brain", and sophisticated control algorithms.
Despite the fact that the share of Chinese robots on the market is still small, it is likely to increase as Chinese manufacturers have an aggressive pricing policy, the cost of their products is often 2-3 times lower than the cost of competitors. Currently, consumers are confused by potential quality problems, the limited range of products offered and the lack of integrator companies for Chinese industrial robots.
There are currently no domestic manufacturers of six-axis industrial robots in Russia. Several enterprises produce the so-called Cartesian robots and delta robots. Both of them can perform some tasks in certain areas of industry, but they will not become a full-fledged replacement for six or more axial robots.
Descartes robot ARKODIM of ARKODIM-Pro company and Delta robot Hexapod of Eidos-Robotekhnika company
Stand with industrial robot ARKODIM
The work of the Hexapod delta robot
How do industrial robots get to the consumer?
Most manufacturers of industrial robots do not independently install them to the end customer. Why is this happening? An industrial robot is essentially a “hand”. It is necessary to put a tool in this hand, to train it to perform this or that work. This is done by specialized integrator companies. The tasks of integrators in some cases are not much easier than the production of robots themselves. In fact, the integrator must link the industrial robot itself or several robots into a single production complex, the necessary auxiliary equipment - a welding machine, grippers and gripper change systems, milling equipment, painting, measuring or other, which will be required to solve customer problems. The cost of robots themselves can be about 30-50% of the cost of the final solution - a robotic technological complex (RTK), which includes additional equipment, specialized equipment, writing a program code for the complex and much more.
In Russia, there are about 50 integrator companies. Some integrators choose a narrow specialization, for example, sell paint RTK, or RTK for the food industry. Others work in several industries simultaneously.
A non-trivial task is cutting pork carcasses with the German robot KUKA, such tasks are most often solved by integrators with a narrow specialization in this field
The largest integrators often work with one robot manufacturer, since there are certain differences in the software of industrial robots of various manufacturers. This makes it difficult for new ones to enter the market, including the creation of domestic manufacturers of industrial robots, since they will need to attract or create integrators to promote their products.
Industrial robots are used in various fields of human activity, the scope of their application is almost limitless and limited only by the imagination of the manufacturer and integrator.
The most famous area of application of industrial robots, repeatedly covered in the press, is the production of cars. Creating an automobile production line based on industrial robots is an extremely difficult engineering task. In Russia, such lines are purchased in whole or created by foreign integrators.
First, the integrator develops the 3D model of the complex using special software, and then in the process of development this model is gradually embodied in the metal
As mentioned earlier, in Russia welding RTKs are most in demand. It can be either simple welding complexes or complex welding and assembly complexes, where at the input there is a set of parts, and at the output there is a finished product. Similar equipment can be surfaced - restoration of worn products.
Above is a simple single-zone RTK for welding the walls of containers, below is a multi-zone RTK in which several products can be processed simultaneously
Simulation of a dual-zone welding and assembly RTK for the manufacture of door leafs
A difficult technical task - search and welding of a tube plate by a robot
The use of robots on painting lines, plasma spraying lines, allows to achieve high uniformity of coating.
RTKs are gradually becoming widespread for handling cargo: sorting, packaging, stacking. Such RTKs were most widely used in the food industry, in car glass and sheet glass manufacturers, in pharmaceuticals and in the production of building materials.
Laying bricks in stacks of a specific configuration, depending on the type of brick
Robot in a pharmaceutical factory
RTKs can perform milling and plumbing of products, holding both the tool and the products in specialized grips (the tool in this case can be fixed permanently). Using the tool / gripper change system, the tool / gripper required for a particular type of machining can be selected.
RTK for metalwork of parts with change of capture of products
One of the most important tasks is the integration of industrial robots with machine tools. This can be work with a bending machine or feeding / removing products. The use of robots allows you to give old equipment new properties, significantly improve its performance.
This is just a very brief listing of the uses of RTK in industry. Robots can work both completely autonomously and interacting with humans. The carrying capacity of modern industrial robots is from several kilograms to several tons, the maximum axial speed is about 180 degrees per second, which allows for the highest performance of the RTK.
Why are robots in demand in industry?
Each enterprise has its own path to acquiring RTK. First of all, this, of course, is the highest performance on the same type of operations provided by modern RTKs, which a person cannot compare with. High productivity is a direct way to gaining advantages over competitors. The high initial cost of the RTK is offset by the absence of the need to pay robots salaries, processing and social benefits, the absence of holidays, maternity, hospital and other expenses. Technologically developed industrial enterprises initially lay down the cost of the RTK in the cost of a series of products, and write off the RTK at the end of the production, for example, of a particular car model. In other words, productivity is a key criterion for introducing industrial robots.
Another important factor is the quality of work, and, more importantly, stable quality. The robot does not get tired, so the quality of painting the car body or the assembly of an electronic device will be the same at the beginning and at the end of the shift. In Russia, and, possibly, in other countries, there is a problem of weekends and holidays, after which the quality of products often starts to limp, this is if employees generally went to work.
An equally important reason is the lack of qualified personnel. For example, the above example of welding a tube plate requires high qualification from the welder and his responsible attitude to work. Nobody wants to be left without heating in the winter because the seams in the boiler burst. The problem of the lack of highly professional and responsible workers is one of the key in modern production. Often a strange situation arises: there seems to be workers, but in fact there is no one to work with, because their qualifications are insufficient, and employees do not want to raise them. Remember the problem of welding long seams for the latest submarines. After the dashing 90s professional welders left for Gazprom, huge efforts were spent to restore competencies and train new workers.
Safety is the most important factor, unless, of course, the company offers a wooden leg and a parrot as compensation for workers injured in production. In modern companies, safety requirements are one of the defining ones, and industrial accidents hurt the top management's wallet.
An example is the cutting of large glass. The significant weight and size of the glass, for example, for glazing supermarkets, makes their movement by people extremely difficult and dangerous. In case the glass breaks, nearby people can be killed or mutilated. For the robot, this task is not difficult.
Tasks such as painting or coating involve personnel staying in toxic fumes, dust or suspended matter. This significantly increases wage costs due to harmful production conditions. Also, robots are used to work with molten metal, work in conditions of high and low ambient temperatures, toxic atmosphere and a number of other negative factors.
The flip side is the cleanliness of the robots themselves, especially in the special stainless steel design. A certified robot in food or pharmaceutical manufacturing, electronics manufacturing, pollutes the environment much less than humans, no matter how strange it sounds. The robot does not need overalls, masks, easier ventilation and the like, which greatly simplifies the certification process and the subsequent operation of the enterprise.
Unemployment as a result of robotization
Will large-scale robotization of industry lead to unemployment and a social explosion? To begin, let's see what happens if you abandon robotization.
For example, there are two dairy factories. Initially, both plants use human labor. In the process of modernization, one plant installed robotic processing, packaging and shipping lines, the second continues to use human labor. 100 people will remain at the first plant, 1000 at the second.
Very soon, perhaps immediately, the products of the first plant will become cheaper than the second, since its cost will initially be calculated taking into account the depreciation of the robotic production line. The cost of production of the second plant will gradually increase due to the growth of salaries and social benefits. None of the consumers will vote in rubles / dollars / euros for goods made precisely by human hands, they will choose a cheaper and better one. Especially if one of the negligent workers violates sanitary requirements, and consumers are poisoned by spoiled yoghurts.
As a result, after some time 100 people will continue to work at the first plant, and no one will work at the second plant, since it will go bankrupt. Here is a good example of an alternative to robotics. And yes, you have to understand that a bankrupt dairy won't pay taxes to the budget, unlike a robotic one.
A far-fetched situation? Not at all. Most major dairy producers are already robotic. The rest either occupy specific limited areas of the market, or eventually go broke and be swallowed up.
It's not about whether it is good or bad, but that it is inevitable. Consumers themselves will choose robotics, preferring better and cheaper cars, electronics and household appliances. The excavator has deprived thousands and millions of people of work with shovels, CNC machines have reduced the need for turners and milling machines. In the short term, construction 3D printers can drastically reduce the need for skilled builders and guest workers. In this sense, robotization is no different from any advanced technology that changes the life of society.
Suppose we close the country for robots, proclaim the era of socialism and a working man. In this case, the whole country will become unprofitable, for some time it will still move forward, but much slower than the competing countries, and ultimately it (the country) will inevitably collapse for the simple reason that people will look and compare the standard of living "Here" and "there."
Alternatives and consequences
Then how can society adapt to the automation and robotization of industry?
Most likely, several stages await us. At first, while robotization will affect a small part of the population, the movement of labor resources is possible within individual enterprises. For example, the introduction of a welding RTK will increase the productivity, increase the volume of manufactured products and transfer the welder to those areas where automation is impossible or unprofitable (there are almost always such areas). Or the company may organize training courses to change the specialization of employees who have lost their jobs as a result of robotization. That is, you will have to study and retrain in any case who want to get the specialty of an 2 turner and live with it until retirement, at best, waiting for unemployment benefits or very low-paid vacancies that do not require qualifications.
At the next stage, with an increase in the volume of robotization, decisions on job creation and retraining of citizens at the regional level may already be required. The base of needs of enterprises will be needed to ensure the rapid movement of labor between enterprises in the region.
And finally, at a certain stage of industrial robotization, the principle of basic unconditional income can be realized, which guarantees citizens a certain minimum amount of earnings, providing an initial standard of living. In the future, it can be increased due to the implementation of social work, public service or commercial activities. It sounds fantastic, almost like communism, however, even now such an opportunity is already being considered by some countries (a referendum was held in Switzerland on this issue), and years through 30-50, when robotics become a global phenomenon, unconditional basic income may not be a good wish but an objective necessity.
Where will all this money come from? From the taxes of those same robotic enterprises. High taxation for companies modeled on some European countries is most likely inevitable. Will corporations do this? The question will be between the lack of markets and a social explosion or high taxes and basic unconditional income, one way or another, you have to make a choice.
For humanity as a whole, global robotics and the introduction of basic unconditional income will mean another round of natural selection, when some will choose the path of passive degradation, while others will use the free time for personal growth, training and self-development.