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Originally smaller and lighter than industrial robot arms, collaborative robots are growing in size and capability. Universal Robots A/S yesterday announced that it has accelerated production timelines for its UR20 cobot, which has a 1,750 mm (5.7 ft.) reach and 20 kg (44 lb.) payload capacity. The company said the UR20 “has has quickly become the go-to choice for manufacturers seeking a long-reach, heavy-payload cobot, prompting Universal Robots to double production capacity to meet customer needs.”
“We are thrilled by the tremendous response to the UR20. The rapid adoption by manufacturers speaks volumes about the impact this cobot is having on the industry,” stated Bryan Bird, president of Americas at Universal Robots, in a press release. “In response to the demand, we have made the strategic decision to ramp up production faster than initially anticipated.”
The global market for collaborative robots could expand from $1.2 billion in 2023 to $6.8 billion by 2029 at a compound annual growth rate CAGR) of 34.3%, predicted Markets and Markets. The research firm cited increased demand in the e-commerce and logistics industries.
The rise of “smart factories” will also contribute to demand for cobots, noted Research and Markets. It forecast a CAGR of 26.12%, from $1.6 billion in 2023.
At the open house of its U.S. headquarters in Boston last week, Universal Robots and partners including Robotiq and Cobot Systems demonstrated applications such as palletizing and laser welding, respectively.
Mill and dairy use UR20 to free up labor
Universal Robots said the UR20 is the first in its “next generation of industrial cobots designed to take performance to new heights while embracing the UR hallmarks of versatility, usability, and small footprints.” The company said its latest system, which it unveiled last year, is designed to handle more tasks, fit more applications, and assist in more environments than its previous models.
Businesses that have integrated the UR20 into their manufacturing processes include Bob’s Red Mill. The historic whole grain manufacturer said it wanted to use collaborative robots for palletizing for many years, but it could not find a system meeting its speed, payload or reach requirements until the UR20.
Bob’s Red Mill said it now uses the UR20 to meet required cycle times, freeing up four operators while helping propel company growth.
“We had been eyeing UR cobots for a long time,” said Nick Chow, engineering and fabrication manager at Bob’s Red Mill. “We appreciate the simplicity, their track record, and the out-of-the-box features.”
Ornua Ingredients, part of Irish Dairy co-operative Ornua, has deployed the UR20 cobot in end-of-line palletizing, which it said was one of its most labor-intensive operations.
“We looked at palletizing as the first area to deploy automation due to the number of human resources we required,” observed Jack Cotton, continuous improvement lead at Ornua.
“When we learned about what the UR20 could do, we were excited by the capabilities, both in terms of the capacity it could lift and the arm reach, which were perfect for the delicate products we required support for,” he said. “The benefits of its deployment have been nothing short of brilliant, with increases in consistency and productivity boosts very clear to see.”
Universal Robots said it can still fulfill 2023 orders
Even as it ramps up UR20 production, Universal Robots said it has the capacity to fulfill fourth-quarter 2023 orders. The company encouraged manufacturers to take advantage of end-of-year tax incentives by submitting their cobot orders promptly.
“We understand the urgency for businesses to optimize their operations and take advantage of available tax incentives,” added Bird. “By doubling UR20 production ahead of schedule, we aim to ensure that our customers can access the benefits of collaborative automation without delay.”
Universal Robots also recommended that manufacturers interested in integrating the UR20 into their operations contact it to discuss their specific automation needs and explore the possibilities offered by the UR20 cobot.
Founded in 2005, Universal Robots’ product portfolio includes cobots with a range of reaches and payloads and said it has sold more than 75,000 systems worldwide. The Odense, Denmark-based unit of Teradyne Inc. has built an ecosystem of partners providing software and hardware accessories for its collaborative robot arms.