Foxconn has been in the news lately plagued with the problems with human operators – under-aged workers, working condition and suicides. These will be a problem for any company and this situation will get worst as the cost of living in China is increasing. They decided to solve this problem by introducing robots into their lines. But rather than purchasing the robots from current manufacturers of robot, they have decided to start building robots themselves.
The robot in the picture is called the Foxbot and about 10,000 have been manufactured and deployed since 2011. These robots are pretty low cost priced at around $20k. According to International Federation of Robotics, there was a total sales of 160,000 robots in 2011. Their goal is to deploy 1 million robots by 2014 is 5 times that deployment. That’s an amazing feat by far and certainly good news for all robotists today. There’s going to be a growing demand for robots and all robotics related technologies in the near future.
Industrial robotics has changes the way it looks. Baxter is the much awaited robot developed by Rethink Robotics. It a lower cost robot that will be easier to deploy and more flexible than the robots that are now in the market. This configuration is not new as we have seen this in the past. Foxconn has plans to launch a similar robot in coming years and the Yaskawa Robot, not to mention the ones found in the research labs.
At USD22,000, this is not a large investment for companies if it doesn’t require a drastic change to the existing workflow. It will be interesting to see how intelligence and perception will enable Baxter to work with the people around him. This is how they plan to reduce the accuracy and precision required by industrial robots. Brooks has a lot of experience in dealing with this aspect of robotics – Behavioral robotics. With the revolution on the software side with Willow Garage’s Robot Operating System (ROS) and the other projects at the Open Source Robotics Foundation, it’s going to see how this non-proprietary “robot intelligence” will push robots into our daily lives.
Rethink hopes to target the small-scale manufacturers where flexibility matters, where they are still reliant on their human workforce. With it’s current price tag and ease of implement, the barriers for entry is greatly reduced. The Baxtor is a made in USA robot. Various parts have been optimised to reduce the cost of the robot by looking into novel methods of manufacturing the parts.