As technology improves, robots are playing an increasingly
important part in our economy. Robots are now able to perform
complicated tasks such as surgery, military reconnaissance, and
combat, and they are even replacing human labor in manufacturing
plants at a faster rate than ever before. With so much promise
surrounding the robotics field recently, we'll look at how robots
are transforming the areas of auto manufacturing and healthcare
at a breakneck pace today.
The business of making cars
No industry has changed more over the past 100 years because of
robots than the auto manufacturing business. In fact, the auto
industry accounted for nearly 40% of worldwide robot sales last
year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
Today, industrial robots work alongside humans on hundreds of
automobile assembly lines around the world. These autonomous
machines help companies save time and money by automating tasks
like welding, foundry, and laser applications.
National Geographic documentary
, over 500 robots work tirelessly to crank out more than 1,000
cars per day at one of
manufacturing plants in Alabama. Robots have become key to the
auto industry because they make the process of producing cars
faster, safer, and more efficient. Thanks to robots, automakers
from Hyundai to
are able to build multiple vehicle models on a single
assembly line. That's because industrial grade robots like those
are capable of executing multiple tasks including welding,
bolting, or transporting parts. In turn, this multitasking helps
auto companies significantly increase production times.
A robotic assembly line in use at Tesla's Fremont factory.
Source: Tesla Motors.
Tesla recently added robots to its new production line, and
management expects the new bots to help boost the company's
production by as much as 55% to more than 35,000 vehicles this
year. While that might not seem like a lot compared to Hyundai,
it's a feat that wouldn't be possible without advanced
Robotic stamping stations at Tesla's Fremont facility.
Source: Tesla Motors.
BMW, meanwhile, is putting lightweight robots to work
alongside human workers on its assembly line at its plant in
Spartanburg in the U.S. In the past, industrial robots were
confined to cages in order to protect workers from potential
injuries. Today, BMW uses robots made by
, a company based in Denmark, to fit doors with sound and
Thanks to its "collaborative" bots, Universal Robots has seen
its sales surge more than 40-fold since 2010, according to the
Financial Times. Now that the auto industry has proven robots can
work collaboratively with human workers, this creates a massive
opportunity for service bots in other fields, such as
Automatons in healthcare
Robotics are revolutionizing the healthcare industry in ways once
relegated to science fiction. Automatons like the da Vinci
Surgical System by
have already changed the operating room by enabling surgeons to
operate on patients using robotic arms. But the future of
robotics in healthcare is increasingly becoming more
service-based. Think delivery bots in hospitals or remote access
robots capable of administering elderly care.
The International Federation of Robotics believes that by
2016, robots will have made valuable inroads into service
industries like healthcare, where "an aging population will
require support services, for which human care givers will be too
few in number to provide."
is already on this path thanks to its RP-VITA, or Remote Presence
Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant. This portable bot
enables doctors to diagnose patients remotely without having to
physically be in the room with them.
iRobot's and InTouch Health's RP-VITA device. Source:
iRobot teamed up with InTouch Health to create the
RP-VITA, and the duo got FDA approval for its telemedicine bots
in 2012. This was a smart move for iRobot considering the global
market for telepresence robots is expected to top $13 billion by
2017, according to ABI Research. The company leases its RP-Vita
system to hospitals and healthcare professionals for around
$5,000 per month, according to a report from CBS.
We are still in the early stages of service robots in the
healthcare space, but iRobot seems to be a key player in this
emerging space, particularly as its RP-VITA tech is the first to
use autonomous navigation technology. In fact, only 1,000
hospitals in the U.S. and abroad were using InTouch telemedicine
robots as of November 2013. The American Telemedicine Association
reports that more than half of all U.S. hospitals are now using
telemedicine devices like those made by iRobot.
In addition to telemedicine devices, there are also robots in
hospitals today that carry out other services such as safely
transporting controlled substances or medicines to different
areas of the hospital. The bottom line is this: Intelligent
hospital systems are here to stay. The presence of robots in
healthcare will only grow in the years ahead, as robotics make it
easier, faster and safer for doctors and health professionals to
diagnose and administer care to patients worldwide.
A future of machines
Robots have been transforming the automotive industry for decades
now, but only recently are they making inroads into other
industries such as healthcare and services. This trend will only
grow in the years to come as robotics technology continues to
improve at a breakneck pace.
From robots to technologically advanced wearables: Why
Apple's next smart device may shock you
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early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the
the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million
of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small
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Rise of the Robots: 2 Industries Increasingly
Turning to Robotics for Innovation
originally appeared on Fool.com.
owns shares of iRobot and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool
recommends BMW, Intuitive Surgical, iRobot, and Tesla Motors. The
Motley Fool owns shares of Intuitive Surgical and Tesla Motors.
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