Integration of robots, IoT, AI needed to maximize smart production synergy, says industry expert
Only through close integration of robots, Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) applications can the manufacturing sector manage to achieve maximum smart production synergy highlighted in the upcoming era of Industry 4.0, according to an industry expert.
Ren C Luo, a professor at the National Taiwan University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and concurrently CTO of Taiwan’s largest machine tool maker Fair Friend Group, made the statement at a forum on “Smart Production and Robot Applications" held July 12 alongside the 2017 Kunshan Electrical, Electronic & Equipment Exposition (KE Show) and the Kunshan Intelligent Automation and Robotics Exposition that are running in China in tandem through July 14.
Luo said that more efforts should be made to establish communication standards for robots, so that they can easily combine IoT and AI to maximize production efficiency.
With robots getting increasingly smart through constant machine learning, the era of human-robot collaboration is coming, Luo said. Nevertheless, he added, it’s highly imperative to secure interconnectivity among different brands of robots and equipment through common standards.
Service-oriented robots to outpace industrial robots
For the moment, up to 70% of robots in the global markets are dedicated to industrial uses. But along with the rapid AI development, Luo claimed, the development of service-oriented robots will outpace that of industrial robots in the near future.
Speaking at the same forum, Tsai Feng-chun, chairman of Taiwan-based robot maker Shang Ye Enterprise, said that the emergence of IoT applications has created innovative operating modes for transportation, education, tourism, and technology development, and therefore his company is devoted to developing a variety of robots to meet diverse needs of customers.
Tsai continued that his company is pursuing the eventual goal of making its robots simultaneously applicable to both industrial and service sectors after incorporating IoT and AI technologies.
Meanwhile, Peter Tsai, president of Taiwan-based industrial controller maker Syntec Technology, opined that small-volume and large-variety production of personalized products will gradually gain momentum with the advent of the era of Industry 4.0.
Mass customized production to become dominant
But Tsai also stressed that after manufacturing intelligence is brought into full play in the Industry 4.0 era, mass customized production of personalized products will become a dominant trend, and small manufacturers are likely to be elbowed out of the market after large-sized ones are able to take small-volume production orders.
In addition, he warned, some undesirable after-effects such as a surplus of production capacity may emerge along with a significant boost in production efficiency.
Most participants in the forum shared the view that whether in the Industry 4.0 era or in the Made in China 2025 Program, those who can achieve a quicker integration of robots, IoT and AI for smart manufacturing can enjoy preemptive business opportunities in this regard.
As part of its efforts in promoting smart manufacturing, the Kunshan city government has reportedly earmarked CNY5 billion (US$737.3 million) as seed funds for investing in some high-tech sectors, including smart production, semiconductor and biomedicine.