U.K. lagging in use of robots

  • 14-Oct-2008 03:00 EDT

Robots have much smaller footprints today than years ago, according to Kuka, and the cost of hardware relative to the cost of labor has declined.

The U.K. has one of the lowest ratios of robots per employees in the world, according to Kuka Automation + Robotics. At 40 robots per 10,000 employees, it trails by a large degree countries such as Japan (320 per 10,000) and Germany (250 per 10,000).

Kuka brought this message to the right audience at the Farnborough Airshow in the U.K. earlier this year. Incorporating more robotics into their operations is an imperative for aerospace companies that hope to remain competitive, it said. And there has never been a better time to invest in them, according to Kuka, because they are more flexible and reliable than ever.

“There are no barriers to automation, especially as improved software, vision systems, and mobility mean the latest generation of robots and systems are even more flexible,” said Gary Tayler, Kuka Aerospace Sales Manager. “The trend toward shorter product life cycles has dictated better flexibility for equipment. In response, manufacturers such as Kuka have developed robots that can be reprogrammed and redeployed any number of times. Emerging technologies such as adaptive control also make it possible to use six-axis robots for drilling and machining processes that were previously the domain of CNC machines.”

Kuka estimates that with the price of robots falling and their performance increasing, the cost of a robot today is about a quarter of what it cost 20 years ago. Also, it says, the cost of hardware relative to the cost of labor has declined. And robots have smaller footprints today, taking up less floor space.

The company claims it is the largest supplier of industrial robots and automated production systems in the U.K. and has announced that it will contribute “a substantial figure” over the next three years to the Next Generation Composite Wing Project. That £100 million project is one of the most significant research projects launched in the U.K. in the past several decades, according to the company. It brings together 16 British companies and organizations, which fund the project on a roughly equal basis with various U.K. government agencies.

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