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By Ben Carlson
2019 hailed in another record year for industrial robots with growth remaining positive over the last 8 years, (2010-2018). In a report from the International Federation of Robotics, it shows a robust automation and robotics industry globally. Segmentally, the industry has seen the most substantial growth in the plastic and chemical product industry and the food and beverage industry, with percentage growth at 30% and 64%, respectively.
The automotive market remained active in the US, with changing operational dynamics across the sector. As part of IFR’s analysis, they show a reduction in the total number of domestic robot sales while still maintaining sales growth of 9% in 2018. The US automotive market employment still grew at a healthy 22% from 2013-2018 to over 1 million jobs. OEM suppliers invested less in automation over the past decade than parts suppliers who are ordering 2/3rds of all industrial robots in the sector at nearly or above 15,000 new robots year over year.
Emerging technologies in the electronics industry are promoting growth of an average 15% year over year with the development of new production facilities for lithium-ion batteries, chips, and sensors. In 2018, nearly 6,700 robot installations supported the growth of chip and sensor manufacturers.
Changing dynamics in industrial manufacturing is allowing for more precise and efficient production of repeatable parts. Robot density was measured globally by IFR, and they found the US density per 10,000 employees to be 200, ranking number seven.  The US remains far behind the top three leading automation countries, with Korea boasting 710 robots per 10k. Singapore follows closely at 658 robots, and Germany falls short in third place at 322. The density of industrial robotics remains high in the US and is seeing double-digit growth in the marketplace.  As new technology develops around existing industries, the metric of robot density shows a polarizing approach to disruptive manufacturing. Rapid Axis specializes in providing just-in-time high fidelity robotics components to spur on growth in this sector. In a global economy, engineering decisions set out to reduce waste and improve production capabilities. Rapid Axis machined parts provide prototyping and production deployment schedules faster, more accurate, and lower cost than traditional machine shop production facilities. Rapid deployment of robotics assets is a core need for growing robotics manufacturers. Rapid Axis support and engineering teams work within federal, state, and corporate frameworks to maintain quality and proprietary intellectual property for their stakeholders.
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Machined components for industrial robotics are highly complex assemblies often engineered to seven axes and require precision engineering and production. In short-run production cycles, the development time of robotics machinery significantly reduces by utilizing Rapid Axis’ short lead times. Components seen in robotic machinery are typically utilizing aluminum, stainless, and titanium metals, which Rapid Axis readily utilizes for robotics assemblies.
Automated industrial robotics systems often require HSE enclosures and are required to maintain a safe distance from human interference and must abide by OSHA standards when installed. Rapid Axis creates robotics enclosures engineered to allow a full range of motion in a safe environment for all stakeholders in the production line. Integrated robotics support from Rapid Axis allows development engineers to produce repeatable and dependable materials suited for their market. Industrial automation engineers have used robotic assistance to automate production, material handling, and packaging of large volume runs. Automated machine tooling, interchange, and loading are all completed with machine-assisted production. The increased production run time with robotics flows toward an increase in productivity associated KPI’s.
Rapid Axis uniquely utilizes urethane casting to produce short-run production models of components with low volume production runs of up to 500 robotic units. In the industry of IoT or, internet of things, connectivity is playing an increasing role in connecting humans and machines for a host of production benefits. In healthcare, physical therapy and manual manipulation of joints provide benefits with robotic help. By incorporating robotics assistance in therapeutic exercises, patients can monitor movements in a calibrated and trackable way. This therapy allows care providers access to real-time data on the progress of their patients. Robotics engineers often utilize urethane castings for prototype models and low production run orders. Urethane castings are a cost-effective and high-quality component that embeds in a variety of components for machinery. Unlike more costly injection molded parts with machined molds, urethane casting production utilizes lower-cost silicone molds. These high-fidelity molds are then poured and cooled to produce low-cost and high-quality molded components. As a lower-cost option to the hard tooling of injection molding, urethane cast parts are an excellent option for reducing lead times and development cycles.
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Industrial robotics utilizes urethane cast parts in a variety of products. Rapid Axis supports robotics components with several options of overmolding. Overmolding is a process in which two dissimilar materials mechanically or chemically bond through the additive manufacturing process perfected at Rapid Axis.
Overmolding uses four typical applications. Plastic and Plastic overmolding process is wherein two different plastics mold together; however, plastic compatibility is not available for all formulations. Rapid Axis can assist in selecting appropriate substrate and overmolded polymers. Manufacturers supply compatibility information in their released documentation. Rubber and plastics can be molded together with rubber over rigid plastic, which provides grip for robotic maneuverability. Some components use molded plastics over metal, which can provide a mechanical bond to the metal substrate. Machined metal parts from Rapid Axis can go through a post-processing application of overmolding. Designs for plastics or rubber over metal not only need to rely on the chemical bond of the molding process but also provide mechanical interlocking incorporated in the substrate to ensure longevity while reducing the possibility of failure. Robotics utilizing overmolding for mechanical reasons are also utilizing the process for aesthetics. Rapid Axis’ post-processing of cast urethane parts includes painting and color options for casting materials. Other properties of overmolded robotics parts provide flexible components attached to mechanical connections. These flexible components may have embedded sensitive sensors that track and drive machine decisions made by these robotic assistants.
Some human-robotic collaborative robots are capable of a seventh rotational axis, which allows skilled workers assistance in repetitive and precision application of robotic assistance for healthcare, warehousing, manufacturing, and tech. Rapid Axis’ capability to overmold parts reduces production time for the assembly of these robotics. Companies utilizing Rapid Axis’ prototyping support offer a decrease in the use of adhesives and fasteners with bonded urethane components, which can reach production milestones faster and produce a robotic assembly of high-fidelity and lower cost to market. Cast urethane from Rapid Axis is a crucial component in warehousing robotics enclosures for its durability and rapid production. As warehouses scale inventory and see a reduction in human labor forces, robotics continue to offer inventory management systems with smart robots trained to read barcodes and assist with personal data gathering, interaction, and interpretation.
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While the growth of the global robotics market continues its upward trend, collaborative robots are becoming more prevalent in a wide array of markets as the development of emerging solutions continues. Human collaborative robots like those supported by Rapid Axis prototyping with 3D printed parts, machined enclosures and housings make up a small, (3.2%) of the total market for industrial robots. In 2018, HCRs showed an annual growth of 23%.  Overall, the market for collaborative industrial robots continues to strengthen, and the race for overall market share pushes forward as industrial robots become more ubiquitous in production facilities. Estimates of the overall collaborative robotics market, which includes software and tooling, may rise from a 2019 value of $1 billion to $24 billion in the next decade, and show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.6%  Anticipation of overall market share for collaborative industrial robots may rise to 30%. The market share battle amongst industrial robots continues to be defined by a host of competitive metrics. Re-tooling and rapid deployment of robotics components are vital in maintaining a flexible industrial robotic fleet. As demands for Lean manufacturing increase the need for the redeployment of modified and improved assets, Rapid Axis serves to produce customized machined components with last-minute production runs of critical components in the industrial robot service industry. With U.S. market growth at 20% in 2018, markets continue the upward trend sustained for the past 8 years. Worldwide, industrial robot installations exceeded 400,000 units in 2018, and estimates grow to 584,000 units annually installed globally by 2022. 
Rapid Axis’ quick turnaround and engineering technologies assist in the rapid growth of the robotics service industry. As global robotics makers race to compete in the market and solve complex mechanical production issues, suppliers continue to rely on Rapid Axis for their role in developing and producing high-quality components for the robotics market. Rapid Axis supplies machined parts, cast urethane, and 3D printed materials for a host of developers in robotic tooling, machinery, and enclosures. The rapidly growing demand for manufacturing solutions, as well as human interactive and responsive robotics continues to disrupt industries in every niche sector in which it’s introduced. The future of industrial robotics is a growing and exciting new paradigm of problem-solving in a complex and dynamic world. Industrial robot development and deployment increase the density of robotics in the modern workplace, and the US is showing significant progress in keeping up with global trends. Rapid Axis continues to supply machined, printed, and cast components at the highest level for market leaders and innovators in the disruptive and highly sought after deployment of industrial robotics.