From connected robots to connected components — Modularity has arrived
Some companies are struggling to make profit out of robotics while others make millions by selling components
Building robots with compatible components in a plug-and-play mode is the dream of everyone in the robotics industry, however robotics integrators are still reinventing the wheel when building robots always starting from scratch.
We’ve seen recently how the industry moved from mass manufacturing to mass customization and similar advances that different technologies allowed us to reach. Robotics is the latest trend suffering changes of paradigm yearly; prices of hardware dropping dramatically, AI evolving yearly, etc. Now is the turn of modularity in robotics.
“The dream of every roboticist is to pick up different components from different manufacturers, plug them together and spend the time on the real added value: The final application and know-how applied to the robot”
What all the companies are looking for, but not all of them defined how to tackle in a standardized way is the modularity for robot parts. This is, producing modular components able to work under a common infrastructure where they can be plugged easily and come up to an integrated solution in a smaller amount of time than usual.
“More than 80% of the time is normally allocated in the robot construction while less than 20% set in the application, the real added value. At all lights, this doesn’t scale.”
AI techniques, robotic adaptive systems and collaborative robots (the three next big steps in robotics) are demanding modularity for the integration of all of them into the different environments and subsystems that new markets are providing. Good example is how a single robot is moved between different work spaces nowadays into the same manufacturing line accomplishing different tasks, same as human swifts.
Thereby, allowing companies and developers to focus on what they are experts on, normally the application or “behavior of the robot”, would make the whole industry to advance at the expected speed we’re used to.
“As manufacturing moves from mass production to mass customization, the flexibility to efficiently change and adapt production becomes critical,” explains Gustavo Sepulveda, Robotics General Manager for ABB, Inc.
Thus, modularization of robot modules for their construction becomes critical. Now in addition to the previous information..
“Electronics will be the biggest robot user by number of robots in 2020.” explains Stefan Lampa, CEO at KUKA Roboter GmbH
..any questions so far?
What makes it possible?
Modularization in robotics involves not only software stacks in different containers or “docks”, but also including hardware modularization. Only this way we will reach a real standardized and modular infrastructure to build robots and systems accordingly.
But.. Where do I find a standardized and modular infrastructure for robots construction?
“Well, welcome to the H-ROS world, the Hardware Robot Operating System.”
Simple, easy, fast.
In a nutshell, this software and hardware stack allows different components from different manufacturers to interoperate together. Pick up components, build your robot and configure it ONCE, no need to deal with individual interfaces.
“But how do we modularize hardware parts smartly?? “
Great question.. We need to provide intelligence to every component individually if we want to create real smart&modular robot parts.. don’t we??
Therefore maybe a compatible and standard small piece of brain should be added? Has this been done before??
Generating disruption, the H-ROS System On Module
A small board that could be embedded into every robot part and component (no matter how small this is) should be added to this configuration in order to make every component stable, compatible and smart.
This would make a disruption in terms of how we create robots nowadays. Imagine that every single part of the robot was smart; This means it has processing power, communication protocols, publishes information and real time data to the system, can be managed individually, etc.
We would have then real modular and smart components.
This is exactly what the SoM is already providing, bringing thereby computing on the edge for every robot part.
This is providing..
Because modular robot parts are highly adaptable and almost plug-and-play, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be eager to adopt this technology.
This goes in addition to the analysts expectation for this segment to live a massive growth in the next few years.
“The reduction of the development time and the complexity in robots construction is key for a market that’s not growing as fast as it was expected just a few years ago.”
The bottle neck in robotics nowadays remains on this integration complexity, which is avoiding products to be released on time, or even worse, to be multiple times more expensive than expected. This is the reason why amazing robotics companies are moved out from bigger robotic divisions, given the fact that they’re not able to bring an affordable product in less than 8 years.
Let’s go faster to the future we’re all envisioning..
Or even better, a real one: