The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) just rolled out new research confirming record growth in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology for the first half of 2017.
This happens when wage and benefit requirements rise as capital costs (robots/automation) fall rapidly:
“Wendy’s plans to install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 of its stores — about 16 percent of its locations — by the end of the year.”
FedEx is looking at everything – replacing drivers with autonomous delivery trucks and small robots, integration with Google Echo and Amazon Alexa to request package delivery via voice command, using “platooned” semi-automated truck caravans to reduce the number of drivers and reduce fuel consumption, and more:
The shipping giant is investing in autonomous trucks, and is interested in delivery robots and an Alexa app.
Last night I had a bizarre dream. In my dream (really, I had this dream), Amazon had located package warehouses near trauma centers. After helicopters delivered trauma patients, they were then picking up and carrying packages by air on their return trip to their operation base generating a little revenue on the otherwise non revenue part of the flight.
Yes, probably a silly dream, but who knows?
Apple’s main manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is planning to eliminate human workers from its Chinese factories in three phases —something already complete at some locations, a manager with Foxconn’s Automation Technology Development Committee revealed on Friday.
Automated systems are now cheaper than workers….in China.
Robotics systems are thus becoming an economically viable alternative to human labor in more and more industries. A human welder today earns around $25 per hour (including benefits), while the equivalent operating cost per hour for a robot is around $8 when installation, maintenance, and the operating costs of all hardware, software, and peripherals are amortized over a five-year depreciation period. In 15 years, that gap will widen even more dramatically. The operating cost per hour for a robot doing similar welding tasks could plunge to as little as $2 when improvements in its performance are factored in.
Emphasis added by me.
Materials science engineers have developed a “metallic glass” gear system that operates at very low temperatures, without lubrication, and provides high strength.
“Metallic glass” has the strength of a metal but sigh the amorphous structure of a glass. Further, parts made from the materials can be injected molded, similar to how plastic parts are made.
Applications include many kinds of robotics, and especially space systems that must operate in extreme temperature conditions.
Source: Metallic glass gears make for graceful robots — ScienceDaily
‘Some polymer fiber materials, including highly oriented nylon, have an unusual property: When heated, “they shrink in length but expand in diameter,” Mirvakili says, and this property has been harnessed to make some linear actuator devices. But to turn that linear shrinking motion into bending typically requires a mechanism such as a pulley and a takeup reel, adding extra size, complexity, and expense. The MIT team’s advance was to directly harness the motion without requiring extra mechanical parts.’