An industrial robot is a robot system used for manufacturing. Industrial robots are automated, programmable and capable of movement on two or more axes. Typical applications of robots include welding, painting, assembly, pick and place for printed circuit boards, packaging and labeling, product inspection, and testing; all accomplished with high endurance, speed, and precision. They can help in material handling and provide interfaces.
Robotics deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots coupled with computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. Very often the design of a given robotic system brings together principles of electronic engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science (artificial intelligence in particular). Since the turn of the 20th century, research into the functionality and potential uses of robots has seen a lot of action. Given the rapid pace of technological advances, the research, design, and building of new robots have begun to serve various practical purposes – domestically, commercially and militarily. Today, many robots do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, mines and exploring shipwrecks.
Problem and Implication:
The problems faced are given below:
Humanity vs AI problem: Artificially intelligent bots are becoming better and better at modelling human conversation and relationships. As this sector grows, they’ll be less and less differences between the way bots and humans interact. In this sector, this isn’t a problem but if the way the human mind works is still under research how can we fully understand and create bot that will be like us? This reality scares a bunch of us.
Lack of young minds: Innovation lies in the minds of the younger generation. The lesser the roles that are given to them, the slower the growth in this sector.
Inequality: As this sector grows, more jobs would be taken over by the bots that are being created. In the technical sense of things, this is a good thing but this also means that more people would have to be laid off from their positions in companies. The solution to this problem is still farfetched making it linger on the minds of the populace.
Security: Any technology can be used in a bad way and bots are no exception. This applies not only to robots produced to replace human soldiers, or autonomous weapons, but to AI systems that can cause damage if used maliciously. Security seems to be the major issue when dealing with this sector. Improper use of this technology can cause harm to the world’s populace.
850+ companies in the sector, 167 funded in last 5 years, $462M invested in 2016. Innovation Works, SOSV, High-Tech Gründerfonds, ABB & Eclipse VC are the most active investors.
Healthcare: Robotic systems to help in surgery, rehabilitation and other healthcare activities. There have been 54 companies founded in the last 7 years with an overall funding amount of $1356M. There are 5 subsectors here:
Surgery: Remotely controlled noninvasive surgical systems
Rehabilitation: Robots used in rehabilitation of patients.
Laboratory Automation: Robots that help in automating laboratory activities.
Pharmacy Automation: Robots that help in automated dispensing in pharmacies.
Simulation Training: Robots providing simulation training of surgery.
Logistics: Robotic solutions related to automation of logistics and warehouse operations. There have been 44 companies founded in the last 8 years with an overall funding amount of $216M. There are 3 subsectors here:
Warehouse Automation: Robots used in warehouses that help in order fulfilment.
Internal Logistics: Robots that solve internal logistics problems in commercial institutions
Last Mile Delivery: Robots that perform last mile delivery operations.
Manufacturing: Robots designed to automate factory and manufacturing operations. There have been 62 companies founded in the last 8 years with an overall funding amount of $243M. There are 5 subsectors here:
Material Handling: Robots used in material handling activities
Multi-Utility Robots: Robots used to perform a host of industrial activities
Welding: Robots used in welding activities.
Quality Control: Robotic technology used in quality check activities.
Painting: Robots used in painting activities.
Military: Robotics solutions with military applications such as reconnaissance, explosive ordnance disposal etc. There have been 29 companies founded in the last 8 years with an overall funding amount of $92M. There is only 1 subsector here:
Unmanned Vehicle Systems: Unmanned robotic platforms used for military operations.
Maritime: Robots with marine applications such as ocean monitoring, weather data collection, ocean debris collection etc. There have been 55 companies founded in the last 8 years with an overall funding amount of $65.4M in the 2013-2016 business year.
There are 2 subsectors here:
Automated Underwater Vehicles: Robotic technology applied to underwater vehicles.
Unmanned Surface Vehicles: Robotic technology applied to unmanned surface vessels.
Some interesting companies are:
Rethink Robotics (2008, Boston): Develops Baxter, a collaborative robot for manufacturing sector. Having Goldman Sachs, Highland Capital Partners, Charles River Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Sigma Partners, Bezos Expeditions, Sigma Prime Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, Adveq, Wellington Management, and GE Ventures as investors with a funding amount of $113.5 M.
Auris Surgical Robotics (2009, San Carlos): Robotic surgical system for ophthalmology. Having
Highland Capital Partners, Lux Capital, NaviMed Capital, Mithril, Korea Investment Partners as investors with funding amount of $233.11 M
Industrial robots are becoming smaller and cheaper, and manufacturers are buying them at a record pace, according to new sales figures. If the biased opinions of anti AI fanatics are kept aside, we would be able to fully understand and tap into the usefulness they have to offer. This sector promises a lot for a lot of other sectors, thus making it a profitable venture for investors.
Tracxn Report, February 2017.