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Seven trends of logistics robots in 2018

Release time:2018-08-01 Browse:733

Trend 1: The operation of logistics robots is becoming more flexible

The "flexibility" here is relative to the manufacturing process. In the production line, the manufacturing process cannot be easily changed, so the action of the industrial robot is relatively fixed and highly reproducible. However, in the field of logistics, there may be many kinds of paths from the point A to the point B, and the uncertainty is large.

Moreover, in the process of completing the path from point A to point B, obstacles may also be encountered: on the one hand, there may be other robots moving, and on the other hand, there may be accidents such as people walking. This versatile "flexible" process puts higher demands on robots.

Trend 2: The interaction between robots and the surrounding environment is increasing

The new generation of robots not only moves on the plane, but also recognizes and interacts with more elements in the environment. A typical example is the robot taking the elevator, as shown in Figure 2: The service robot in a hotel can interact with the elevator by transmitting a wireless signal, enter the interior and select the correct floor to deliver the item to the designated floor room. The author observes that the function of “passing the elevator” has become the standard for more and more robot brands.

Trend 3: Laser navigation technology is becoming more popular

Since robots need to be flexible and interact with external objects, they must first be “visible” and correctly identify the surrounding environment. Under this demand, laser navigation technology is on the rise. Before the advent of this technology, logistics robots mainly walked along fixed paths (for example, guided by magnetic rails buried in the ground), but this obviously lacks flexibility; robots can also calibrate themselves by relying on a large number of QR codes laid on the ground. The location, but this is a higher environmental requirement, and the QR code is also prone to wear.

Laser navigation technology can be subdivided into laser bezel navigation and SLAM navigation. The laser baffle navigation needs to set up a reflector in the surrounding environment to assist the laser positioning, so the navigation effect will be affected by the obstacle blocking the laser. SLAM (Simultaneous Locating and Mapping) refers to mapping a map while positioning itself while traveling. It does not need to install a large number of hardware facilities in the surrounding environment. It only needs the laser that comes with the robot to launch in all directions. It can draw out the surrounding environment by reflection and draw it in real time (see the lower part of Figure 3). This technology has been applied to a variety of logistics robots and unmanned vehicles.

Trend 4: The three technologies of Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robots are increasingly integrated

It can be seen from the previous trends that modern logistics robot equipment needs to have three capabilities: “state awareness” (the state of the robot itself and its surroundings), “real-time decision making” (how to operate in a specific scenario), “accurate execution” " (According to the results of the decision to make precise actions).

Correspondingly, Internet of Things technology, artificial intelligence technology and robot technology correspond to the three aspects of “perception”, “decision decision” and “execution”. The future high-performance robotic equipment must not be pure hardware, but a combination of the above three technologies, allowing data to flow freely, allowing the algorithm to command hardware to maximize performance.


IoT, AI and robotics are increasingly integrated

Trend 5: The overall prosperity of the robot industry is not high, but the next breakthrough point is

Specifically: After a few years of enthusiasm, the industry and capital have begun to take a more rational attitude towards robots, no longer "barbaric growth." Such an atmosphere may be more conducive to the company's painstaking research, to create products and technologies that truly meet the needs of customers.

On the other hand, industry experts believe that artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies may usher in an inflection point around 2020-2030: natural language processing, cognitive reasoning, blockchain and other technologies are expected to overcome the difficulties in current applications (performance bottlenecks, security Problems, etc., and the cost of technologies such as 5G will also be reduced, reaching a range that can be commercialized. This allows people to get the help of IoT/AI/Machine technology at a lower cost, thus truly promoting the popularization of smart devices and ushering in the next peak of robotics applications.

Trend 6: Robots are increasingly showing industry-specific features

Logistics robots such as AGV can be used in many industries. But success in an industry may not be easily replicated in other areas. We have observed that the current use of logistics robots is still in several representative fields such as automobiles, electronics, and e-commerce, and does not fully occupy the industrial market.

There are two main reasons for this: 1) "Machine substitution" needs to be demonstrated from an economic point of view, so it usually happens when the profit is high (there are free money to buy a robot) or the labor cost is too high (the company has the motivation to buy The field of robots). Such conditions are not met by any industry. 2) The robotic operating environment of each industry has its own characteristics. For example, the medical device field faces strict compliance review, and there are many extra large pieces/heavy pieces in the field of engineering machinery. This makes it necessary for the company to re-customize the product every time it enters a new industry field, which poses a big challenge to the company's technical capabilities.

Therefore, there are big differences in the development stages of robot products in various fields. The “Gartner Curve” in the figure below depicts the technical maturity of different robots for reference (the farther to the right, the higher the maturity).


Different types/industry robots are at different stages of development. Source: Gartner Inc.

Trend 7: China's domestic robot manufacturers rise rapidly

Under the strong market demand, Chinese robot manufacturers are developing rapidly in the fields of logistics and so on. In the fields of drones, handling robots, etc., domestic production has already reached the top in the world. Products such as AGV made in China have won internationally recognized awards such as the Red Dot Design Award, and have attracted worldwide attention at internationally renowned exhibitions such as Hannover Industrial Exhibition. In industries with high requirements such as automobiles, well-known manufacturers have also deployed Chinese-made robots in their factories.

It is true that Chinese robotics companies still have a gap in technological strength and foreign top giants, and the situation of core components relying on imports has not been fundamentally changed. However, through exchanges with domestic manufacturers, we can feel the enthusiasm for tackling difficulties, and see their deep efforts in the industry to develop new products. The author is daring to predict that in the wave of new equipment of "Internet of Things + AI + Robot", there will be a place for Chinese local enterprises, and they will send stronger and stronger voices to the world.


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