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Factory automation

Five Key Trends for Tomorrow’s Industrial Robots

Dec. 13, 2021
As global robotics installations rise, the need for power, high-speed data transmission and connectivity intensifies.

According to the World Robotics 2021 Report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the current growth for industrial robotics is anticipated to continue in 2022 and 2023, with more than 500,000 units installed per year worldwide by 2024. Here are five key robotics trends and technologies that are advancing the adoption of industrial robots and shaping industries around the globe.

Trend 1: High-Speed Data Transmission

The advances of Industry 4.0 are built on the ability to turn huge amounts of data into insights and intelligence. This requires manufacturers and robotics OEMs to identify the best ways to increase data transmission capabilities on the factory floor—including selecting between wired and wireless data transmission.

Wireless technology (Wi-Fi and 5G), however, may not deliver the durability and reliability needed in the factory, and connection can be impacted by electromagnetic and radio interference. Thus, manufacturers have relied on wired connections. Rugged RJ45 industrial connectors have been a mainstay for years, but new offerings in hybrid, single-pair ethernet (SPE) are making it possible to transmit high-speed data and more power via a single cable and connection.

Wired technology for data transmission in robotics offers the secure, real-time communication a robot needs to react immediately on the assembly line. In the future, there will be a place for both wireless and wired technology, including applications where both are required.

Trend 2: Miniaturization

Packing greater capabilities into ever-smaller components has driven incredible innovations and efficiencies in industrial manufacturing. The increase in mobile robots (AGVs and AMRs) and cobots especially has made miniaturization an important element in the design of every element of the industrial robotics package—from relays and sensors to circuit boards and connectors.    

Smaller and lighter relays and lower energy consumption are essential in the age of Industry 4.0. So too are compact, lightweight circuit boards. But smaller devices mean higher density, making heat dissipation critical.

In these early days of IIoT, compact interconnectivity between devices, components, control systems and the cloud requires a solution tailored to the application, ensuring the seamless real-time communication needed to drive machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Trend 3: Modular, Mobile Connectivity

In the smart manufacturing world of the not-so-distant future, production will run on a modularized system of workstations and production cells, rather than static assembly lines. To meet customization demands, manufacturers are turning to flexible and adaptable AGVs and AMRs. Working alongside cobots, they can enable a production line in which different tasks take place within different cells, or robots that pivot between workstations as needed.

Interconnectivity between devices makes it all possible but depends on a reliable stream of real-time communication. By definition, a modular design is flexible, therefore the connectivity solutions must be as transposable as the manufacturing system itself. Today’s modular connectors are engineered for secure and reliable input/output connections. Many offer a unique locking system that prevents both mis-mating and accidental unplugging, whether from shock or vibration. The best offer compact, one-piece construction with preloaded contacts, delivering a space-saving, quick-to-install solution that gives engineers increased design flexibility.

Trend 4: Rugged, Robust Connectivity

In the factory, dozens of complex processes are happening every second. A single broken connection can bring a production line to a grinding halt. So rugged and robust connectivity solutions are a must.

Customers expect “rugged” connectors to be mechanically sturdy and tough, able to withstand the uncompromising vibration, shock, electromagnetic interference and dust of the industrial environment. Manufacturers don’t want to even think about them, until it’s time to decommission the line.

Reliable data connectivity is also critical. With the increasing quantity of data, as well as volume of data being transmitted between devices, sensors and components, manufacturers need connections that can consistently handle the constant stream of high-speed data transmission.

Trend 5: Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE)

In an industry that prides itself on efficiency, single-pair ethernet has clear appeal. SPE requires just one cable pair, instead of four pairs. By reducing the number of wires required from eight to two, SPE technology reduces costs, increases design flexibility and improves reliability. Plus, with the advent of hybrid SPE, manufacturers can transmit data and power through a single cable and connector, driving even more optimization while saving space.

Thanks to the SPE standard for hybrid interfaces, manufacturers can confidently invest in transitioning to SPE and more simply connect field-level devices to the network. Within the industrial network, SPE provides the infrastructure to transmit data seamlessly between all devices and sensors on the network to the cloud. And within the robots and cobots themselves, SPE makes it easier to pull increasing quantities of data and electricity from the base of the robot to the end of the arm and gripper without losing power, signal or data.

This article was submitted by TE Connectivity

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