A new wave of robots: updating traditional robotics

A new wave of robots: updating traditional robotics
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Dr Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, the Research Director at IDTechEx explains how a new wave of intelligent robots will update traditional robotics and transform the industry.

When we imagine robots we often inadvertently picture a car production line in which an army of robotic arms is carrying out repetitive tasks in well-controlled robot-only environments. This is traditional robotics.

Traditional robotics boosts productivity in key industries such as automotive, electronics, and chemical production. They are still the bread and butter of robotic companies. But they are being complemented, and will eventually be surpassed, by a wave of ‘new’ robots that will take automation outside the predictable confines of factories.

These new robots will be mobile, collaborative and/or more intelligent. They are exiting factories to diffuse into more aspects of life. This is a transformational change. Indeed, as our leading report suggests, new robots will grow to make up 40 and 50% of the overall robotic market in 2026 and 2030. This is from a low base today and in spite the fact that the entire robotic market itself will likely grow 3.2-fold in a decade particularly thanks to increased adoption of automation in China.

To learn about the details of this transformational change read our report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players. It analyses all the key sectors of new and traditional robotics including industrial robotic arms (in China and the rest of the world), collaborative robotic arms, medical arms, cleaning robots (vacuum, pool, window, etc), agricultural robots (autonomous tractors, agrobots, picking robots, etc), logistic/warehouse robots (AGC/Vs, AMRs, etc) and so on. In total, it provides short, medium- and long-term forecasts for 46 robotic sectors whilst offering technology roadmaps as well as overviews of key players and innovators.

Traditional robotics: significant growth still to come

Traditional robotics is still the bread and butter of the industry. As we have written previously, the rise of demand in China has put the market for industrial robotic arms in a super growth cycle, at least temporarily doing away with its usual cyclic behaviour.

The robotic density of China, i.e., number of robots per 10k employed persons, is still low compared to countries such as Germany, Korea and Japan. In fact, it is still below the world average, suggesting that there is much further room for sustained demand. In the report, we have modelled the rise of China based on the past historical behaviour of Japan, giving very interesting insights to our customers.

Despite this growth potential, the industry is actively seeking new significant opportunities. The industry, of course, wants new markets beyond factories. It also wants to weave itself off, by diversification, from the generally cyclical behaviour of industrial robotic arm industry. Furthermore, the incumbents want to ensure that they can retain technological and product leadership as local supply chains catch up in competency. This means investing in new robotics.

Clearly, these obvious motivations have always been present. Therefore, you might ask what it is different this time? The difference is that capturing automation opportunities outside well-ordered factories are becoming technologically and commercially viable thanks to long-term technology development trends (see this article for a more detailed answer).

Robots: exiting factories

Indeed, the process of exiting factories has already begun in earnest. There are many emerging new robots outside factories in homes, agricultural fields, shopping malls, office spaces, warehouses and so on.

The full IDTechEx report provides provide broad outlines of some specific sectors beyond factories: home or commercial space cleaning, agriculture, and warehouse/logistics. The purpose is to demonstrate that robotics is much more than just industrial arms in factories and that indeed the main growth and innovation opportunities lies outside factory robots. These opportunities may appear niche or nascent at first. However, it is our view that they will represent a transformational innovation frontier for decades to come.

The time to plan is now

In conclusion, automation is coming outside factories, bringing robots to new environments and tasks. This transformation of traditional robotics has already begun and will last for decades to come. It will represent an enormous transfer of wage income to robotic capital and services. As such, it will be an exciting opportunity for innovation and new product as well as business model development.

At first, these new robots might feel outside the core competency or interest of incumbent suppliers too tied to industrial arms, and the initial market sizes might seem too small for large players tempting them to adopt a wait-and-see strategy.

However, the traditional robotics transformation is in our view a long-term opportunity that cannot be missed. The commercialization process has begun therefore now is the time to learn about what the future may hold and to plan ahead. For this, we recommend our report New Robotics and Drones 2018-2038: Technologies, Forecasts, Players.

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