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Robot Use Expanding and Adapting

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Robots are proliferating in the manufacturing industry, and they are now being used to perform non-traditional applications in unstructured spaces. This growth is being propelled by new open source operating systems and increased flexibility in robot capabilities, according to Paul Evans, Director of Production and Simulation at the Southwest Research Institute.

Traditionally, robots were most often used for welding and coating applications, Evans explained when he joined IMTS TV. Now, the use of robots is expanding rapidly into new spaces. For instance, Evans noted, robots can be found performing one-off tasks and working in high-mix, low-volume applications. Modern robots also feature more intuitive user interfaces and are better able to work alongside humans.

Evans also highlighted a pronounced growth in robot sales in the material handling area. Robots are now being used specifically to handle parts in unstructured spaces. Significant advances in robotics means that robots are capable of working in spaces where parts are not hard fixtured or where there is variability in what part will be going through the process next. Newer robots are also able to better manipulate parts and themselves—all while avoiding obstacles in a dynamically changing workplace.

Ultimately, flexibility is key, Evans concluded. The increased flexibility of robots means manufacturers have more options for humans and robots to work alongside each other cooperatively. With more options for using both robot and human resources, manufacturers can focus on improving their processes and enhancing their bottom lines.

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