While the many benefits that robots can bring in manufacturing applications are widely understood, misconceptions around complexity have deterred many UK manufacturing companies from investing in robotic automation. Julian Ware, for ABB Robotics, looks at how developments in software are helping to address this issue to make robots as easy to use as possible.
After many years of the UK lagging behind other industrialised countries when it comes to using robots in manufacturing applications, there are encouraging signs that things are starting to change. In a recent survey of 250 UK manufacturing companies by ABB, 73% of respondents said they would be looking to invest in robotic automation within the next decade to improve their competitiveness.
While the benefits that robots can bring in manufacturing applications are widely understood, persistent concerns around perceived complexity have hampered their uptake in the UK. One reason for this is a lack of skilled programmers able to program and look after robots. Asked which factors had stopped them from investing in robots, 72% of respondents in our survey identified a lack of experience and in-house technical staff to program and support robots.
For robot suppliers like ourselves, the challenge is, therefore, to help make robots as easy to use as possible, reducing the time and effort needed by our customers to be able to confidently deploy them on their factory floors.
The wonderful world of Wizard
One way we’re doing this is through our Wizard Easy Programming software, an intuitive and easy robot graphical programming interface that requires no programming skills or specialised training. Available for our single-arm YuMi, GoFa and SWIFTI collaborative robots and our IRB 1100 industrial robot, Wizard Easy Programming enables first-time users to program industrial robots and cobots in minutes with no coding skills.
Wizard Easy Programming is set to unleash the magic of robotic automation by removing the need for programming specialist resources that has always hindered the uptake of robots. By eliminating the learning curve, the technology will lower the barriers to entry, allowing more businesses to switch to robots and enabling robot users to quickly create a robot application without major upfront investment in dedicated programmers, saving time and money.
See it, try it, buy it
Software is also providing the answer for helping companies that don’t know where to start when it comes to introducing robots onto their factory floors. One example is our RobotStudio offline programming tool, which enables complete robot solutions, from standalone robots through to complete cells, to be built in a virtual environment.
The benefits of this approach can be taken one step further with digital twinning software such as ABB’s PickMaster Twin for picking and packing lines. With PickMaster Twin, users can create a complete digital model of their application, including robots, conveyors and other equipment, which can be fed with real-time data from the physical application.
Originally introduced in response to the restrictions on movement arising from COVID-19, our virtual training courses are now a mainstay of our training program, extending the reach of our established physical training courses run at our Milton Keynes training centre.
Grow with robots
The advances covered in this article, together with the expanded range of robots for every application, provide a realistic opportunity for companies of all sizes and levels of experience to grow their capabilities with robotic automation. With the benefits of simplified operation combined with an expanding range of robot options ranging from portable cobots through to fast picking delta robots and large industrial robots able to handle payloads up to 1,000kg, it is becoming easier than ever for UK companies to catch up with their automated international competitors.