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Latest Industrial Robots Trends in 2024

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Industrial robot

The global inventory of operating robots reached a new record of approximately 3.9 million units. This demand is driven by several exciting technological innovations. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has latest reported the top five automation trends for 2024.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

There is a growing trend towards the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in robotics and automation. The emergence of generative AI opens up new solutions. This subset of AI specializes in creating something new from what has been learned through training and has been popularised through tools such as ChatGPT.
Robot manufacturers are developing interfaces powered by generative AI that allow users to program robots more intuitively using natural language rather than code. Workers will no longer need specialized programming skills to select and adjust the robot’s movements.

Another example is predictive AI, which analyses robot performance data to determine the future state of equipment. Predictive maintenance can save manufacturers money on machine downtime. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, unplanned downtime costs an estimated $130 million per hour in the automotive parts industry. This demonstrates the huge cost-saving potential of predictive maintenance.

Machine learning algorithms can also analyze data from multiple robots performing the same process for optimization. In general, the more data a machine learning algorithm provides, the better it performs.

Collaborative Robots Expand Into New Applications

Human-robot collaboration continues to be one of the major trends in robotics. Rapid advances in sensors, vision technologies, and intelligent grippers enable robots to respond to changes in the environment in real-time so that they can work safely alongside human workers.

Collaborative robotics applications provide human workers with a new tool that eases their burden and support. They can assist with tasks that require heavy lifting, repetitive motions, or working in hazardous environments. The range of collaborative robotics applications offered by robot manufacturers continues to expand.

The most recent market development is the increase in collaborative robot welding applications, which is due to the shortage of skilled welders. This demand suggests that automation does not lead to labor shortages, but rather provides a solution to them. Collaborative robots will therefore complement, rather than replace, investments in traditional industrial robots, which operate at much faster speeds and are therefore still important for increasing productivity in response to low product margins.

New competitors are also entering the collaborative robotics-focused market. Mobile manipulators, which are a combination of collaborative robotic arms and mobile robots (AMRs), offer new use cases that could significantly expand the demand for collaborative robots.

Mobile Robots

Mobile manipulators are automating material handling tasks in industries such as automotive, logistics, or aerospace. They combine the mobility of a robotic platform with the dexterity of a robotic arm. This allows them to navigate complex environments and manipulate objects, which is crucial for applications in manufacturing. Equipped with sensors and cameras, these robots perform inspection and maintenance tasks on machinery and equipment. One of the significant advantages of mobile robots is their ability to collaborate and support human workers. Shortage of skilled labor and lack of employees applying for factory jobs may increase the demand.

Digital Twin

Digital twin technology is increasingly used as a tool to optimize the performance of physical systems by creating virtual copies. As robots become more digitally integrated in factories, digital twins can use their real-world operational data to run simulations and predict possible outcomes.

Since the digital twin robot is purely a computer model, it can be stress-tested and modified without compromising safety and at the same time saving costs. All experiments can be checked before touching the physical world itself. Digital twins bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

Humanoid Robots

Robotics is witnessing significant advances in humanoid robots designed to perform a variety of tasks in a variety of environments. The humanoid design with two arms and two legs allows the robot to be used flexibly in work environments created for humans. As such, it can be easily integrated into existing warehouse processes and infrastructure.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) recently announced China’s goal of mass-producing humanoid robots by 2025. It is expected that humanoid robots could be another disruptive technology, similar to computers or smartphones, that could change the way we produce goods and the way humans live.
The potential impact of human robots on a wide range of industries makes them an exciting area for development, but their mass-market adoption remains a complex challenge. Cost is a key factor, and success will depend on their return on investment compared to established robotic solutions such as mobile manipulators.

Marina Bill, President of the International Federation of Robotics, said: “These five complementary automation trends for 2024 show that robotics is a multidisciplinary field where technologies are converging to create intelligent solutions for a wide range of tasks. These advances continue to shape the converging industrial and service robotics industries and the future of work.”

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