The automatica trade show takes place every two years in Munich, Gemany. It is considered a leading marketplace for automated production. More than 46,000 visitors (+ 7% 2016) visited this year, and 890 exhibitors from 29 countries (+ 7% 2016) exhibited their automation and robotics products, showing a clear increase compared to the numbers of the last event 2 years ago. This shows how strong the robotics industry is becoming and how much it is driving automation in all sectors of industry and digitization. Collaborative robots (Cobots), service robots and digitization in production were the defining topics of automatica.
Collaborative robots (Cobots)
There clearly is a hype around Cobots; almost every company deals with this topic. For me, the question remains how long this hype will continue. As Cobots work in direct contact with people, they are inherently much slower than "pure industrial robots in cages". When asking various manufacturers where they see the best applications and the largest growth markets for their Cobots, the answer was almost always the same. Suppliers see their Cobots in the assembly and final assembly especially in the automotive and electrical industry. Currently, I see limited potential for the application of Cobots in other sectors.
The Association International Federation of Robots (IFR) sees great potential in Cobots. According to IFR, Cobots currently account for around 3% of the world market in robotics, but their recent study estimates that this number will rise to 34% by 2025. An ambitious prognosis.
The Cobot market is certainly a growth market, but I am convinced that a consolidation will soon take place among the many innovative Cobot manufacturers. The next automotica in 2 years will show if I am right with this prediction and how many of this year’s companies will still be exhibiting at the next event.
Asian robotics manufacturers
It was also noticeable that more and more Asian, most notably Chinese robotics manufacturers, are also looking at the European market and suppliers. Examples are HIT Robot Group and SIASUN, both offering a very wide range of robots. According to the companies they invest heavily in R&D and maintain very close cooperation with Chinese universities. Through in-house developments they try to emancipate themselves from the established manufacturers, same as other Chinese companies do in various sectors. The fact that Asian robotics companies still have a tough time in Europe, became clear by the restrained reaction of the visitors. The consensus of many conversations I had with visitors shows that their attitude towards these manufacturers is rather skeptical and mistrusting, but it also resonates more and more curiosity and recognition in light of the rapid progress of these companies.
Integration of robotics
The full-automation companies were also represented. For the first time, Siemens was on site with its own booth and showed, for example, possibilities for a better integration of robotics with production lines and machinery.
The topic of integration and interdisciplinary cooperation of different departments and industries, such as IT and OT, robotics and mechanical engineering will also be a topic of the soon to take place ABM, the international exhibition for metalworking in Stuttgart, Germany, 18.-22. September 2018. I'm excited to find out what we will get to see there.