Spanish electronics manufacturer P4Q has increased its production throughput by deploying a smart, adaptable robot on its factory floor.
Sawyer from Rethink Robotics is being used by P4Q at its factory in Alonsotegi, south west of Bilbao, to test printed circuit boards, resulting in better quality and improved overall production output by 25 percent.
The high costs and safety concerns associated with traditional caged robots had previously deterred P4Q from automating more of its factor for many years, but so-called ‘collaborative robot’ Sawyer offered a lower cost, safer and more adaptable alternative. After purchasing the ‘cobot’ from Rethink, PQ4 claims it was able to deploy it “in just a few hours.”
“Automating critical tasks in our production process has long been a priority, but we struggled to do it affordably,” said Alejandro Caballero, operations manager at P4Q Electronics. Sawyer, he added, has given the organization “competitive advantage beyond what we expected.”
Read more: IIoT and the rise of the cobots
Sawyer’s growing ‘To Do’ list
P4Q’s portfolio of products includes train control and power systems, solar tracking controllers, LED applications for the automotive industry and controllers for wind turbines, among others.
Now, the company says it’s considering using the robot for additional tasks, including inspecting parts, taking photos for quality insurance, picking and placing, and line loading and unloading.
It’s also hiring additional staff, with the specific remit of finding new uses for collaborative robots in the company’s manufacturing operations.
Hot competition for cobots
Competition in the global market for collaborative robots is hotting up, according to a report released this week by Transparency Market Research. Analysts there reckon that, in 2015, it was worth $10.3 billion, but is set to rise to $95 billion by 2024.
A key driver of this growth, they say, is the ability of collaborative robots to work safely alongside human colleagues.
Based on application, the global collaborative robots market can be segmented into assembly welding, machine tending, material handling, quality testing, and packaging, among others. Among these, the segment of material handling is expected to dominate the global market for collaborative robots over the years ahead with a share of around 24 percent occupied over the forecast period.
While the best known players here currently are Rethink Robotics and Universal Robots, TMR’s analysts say that vendors such as Robert Bosch, Kawasaki, Heavy Industries, Kuka and ABB, more traditionally associated with larger, older generation robots, are all likely to launch new products over the coming years.