Authors: Ioanna Matouli, Researcher and Dr. Jovana, Milenkovic, R&D Manager, Atlantis Engineering S.A.
The application of new and cutting-edge technologies in the field of manufacturing, service and communications is gaining ground more and more. The main principle of the fourth industrial evolution is the organizational efficiency. Undoubtedly, Robotics is one of the innovative technologies used in the Industry 4.0, offering a wide range of competencies in the industrial sector. Automation systems have been improved by this technology, which also performs repetitive tasks precisely and more affordably . The number of robots delivered and produced by various renowned international producers has reached a record during the past five years, according to the worldwide market . The total robot market is around 45 billion €, and the key clients are mainly from China, South Korea, Japan, the USA and Germany.
In the plastics sector, robots have been in use for a long time. They were already being utilized in major manufacturing facilities in the 1980s for operations including material handling, machining, and glueing . Nowadays, the use of robots is seen in the majority of industrial plastics. Even the smallest plastics companies are in a period of transformation from manual work to establishing the use of robotic systems, recognizing the benefits of this technology . One of the benefits of using robotic systems in plastics manufacturing is providing flexibility in minimal spaces in contrast to the human, the robot occupies much less volume minimizing factory space and maximizing the output. Robots can position themselves at various angles, and some of them have many joints to operate with. Another advantage of using robots is the prevention of workplace injuries and hazards. During the execution of hard works such as welding and blowing, the pressure on human posture might be intolerable. Six-axis robots, the industry standard, are programmed to move in the x, y, and z axes, precisely imitating the movements of the human arm while moving more quickly, which makes them perfect for taking over production lines. Also, applying robots improves the work quality as numerous robots seen in manufacturing processes are capable of tracking human hand movements and then rapidly mimicking them. Last but not least, utilizing robots lends a competitive edge. The companies that use large-scale robots typically outperform the ones that do not due to reduced labor costs, increased production speed, and low error rates.
However, as with every new innovative technology, in addition to advantages, industrial robots also present disadvantages that should be mentioned. The capital cost should be taken into account as industrial robot implementation might be expensive initially, but the results are impressive, and the ROI (return on Investment) is good. Another point is the expertise. Industrial robots are excellent at completing numerous jobs, but they also take a lot of training and skill to set up initially, just like any other type of technology. An incredibly crucial component is the support package that automation companies offer. To lessen dependency on automation businesses, experts can be trained to program the robots; nevertheless, the original integration of the robot will still require the help of skilled automation companies . Of course, the biggest argument commonly made against the deployment of robots in the manufacturing sector is the loss of jobs. All levels of industry workers, from entry-level to veteran, are concerned about the security of their employment status and the possibility that a robot may take their position. Because an industrial takeover by robots is imminent, this industry is more affected by the fear than others .
Conclusively, the use of robots is part of the Industry 4.0 and promises to offer many benefits to the manufacturing process in general. Job loss is a potential threat and we should not lose sight of the fact that automation and other similar technologies are only instruments to be used to improve human life and livelihood.
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