Your New Employee Called Robot
Are autonomous mobile robots an invention from which we will only benefit in the future? No, they are rather an invention that the packaging industry, for example, can and should use already in the here and now! After all, AMRs make daily tasks such as materials transport and machine loading more flexible, more efficient and more time-saving.
The fact that autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) are constantly evolving and can be found in more and more areas of work has now become part of everyday life. Regardless of whether a company is looking for flexibility, an increase in production or improving efficiency, robots are seen as an active support and are therefore becoming increasingly important.
An autonomous robot is a robot able to perform tasks without external influence and used in many different ways: For example, they can obtain information about the environment, work without human intervention for a certain period of time, move completely or partially without human assistance in an operating environment, and avoid harmful or dangerous situations for people or products. That is why autonomous robotics, which is usually regarded as a subfield of artificial intelligence, robotics and information technology, is attractive for almost all branches of industry – and thus of course also for the printing and packaging sector.
Robots Revolutionise the Packaging Sector
Especially in the packaging industry, robot technology has become indispensable as we have already described in several articles. In tasks such as materials transport or machine loading, for instance, robots are ”workers” that increase efficiency in the long term. Since the AMR’s size and strength can be tailored to specific needs, they can easily navigate through narrow spaces or handle the loading of heavy goods, for example. This is as obvious as the fact that these technologies also help to optimise material flow and packaging processes. Robots have the ability to move around a factory site without any problems and thus not only work productively but also save time. This is possible thanks to the so-called omnidirectional wheel and their connection to a factory’s data pool. The omnidirectional wheel enables the mobile robots to move in any direction and thus work flexibly, while having access to all the necessary information gives them a better insight and understanding of all possible processes
But these obvious features are by far not all, there are further convincing advantages: When working together with humans, mobile robots can reduce repetitive stress injuries and fatigue-related human error, thereby increasing workplace safety.
Artificially Intelligent AMR
However, what makes AMR particularly interesting for the packaging industry is when it’s combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI). This option enables robots to predict and redirect blocked or heavily frequented areas in advance. This pays off because packaging companies are often faced with the challenge of transporting material to and from machines efficiently and flexibly. For example, if they use a combination of sensors and software for navigation, they can be independent of fixed routes.
Admittedly, the linked AI must continue to improve in order to take full advantage of AMR. This requires certainly even better sensor technology to identify, evaluate and assess the constantly changing environments in which AMR operate.
Improvements in AI would also be worthwhile if they could “teach” the AMR more natural behavior and interaction, so that a simpler exchange is possible and acceptance on the part of the employees increases, which in turn facilitates collaboration and thereby affects efficiency once again.
Actually, we would certainly not have to add anything now, but we can:
- Robotic technology today is more affordable than before.
- Robot grippers handle products more gently.
- Robots can be easily cleaned and washed.
What Requirements Do Robots Need?
At this point, there is of course still an important question left unanswered, as long as you do not yet use robot technology: What is required for its introduction? In today’s industrial landscape, also known as ”Industry 4.0”, AMR need to be closely linked to other technologies of a company like, for instance, in networked supply chains that combine robots with manufacturing execution systems and picking systems. But that would already be the ideal case. Actually you don’t have to think that big from the beginning. Collaborative robot (cobot) arms, for instance, can offer all the advantages of advanced robot automation without incurring high additional costs.
All in all, it can be summarised that autonomous mobile robots already offer many opportunities for industrial applications. As our application scenarios illustrate, they work efficiently and flexibly, can make work much easier as well as they also ensure occupational safety and quality assurance. However, since this is still a fairly new technological development, there is much more to come.
What do you think about autonomous mobile robots? Have you had any experience with them in your daily work? Tell us about it in the comments!