Robot revolution

Robot revolution

A worker is controlling Robert Bosch’s APAS robot during a task.
A worker is controlling Robert Bosch’s APAS robot during a task.

No longer the preserve of sci-fi flicks and playtime, lifelike machines have gone mainstream

Robots in the present day are not just toys for children or imaginative machinery on film; they’ve become key contributors to everyday life.

Various robots are available in stores at affordable price tags for consumers. Robot vacuum cleaners are a well-developed example and a fixture in many Thai residences.

Soon we’ll see robots assisting customers on store shelves, delivering documents at the office or offering friendly companionship.

Robotics is a key megatrend affecting human beings in many personal and business aspects.

Thai startup Robot Maker, a provider of vacuum robots, has found success by matching products to local people’s behaviour.

“The target buyers of vacuum robots are those who don’t have time for cleaning their residences and those who want to save time on cleaning duties,” says Thammasorn Meerat, Robot Maker’s co-founder and managing director.

Robot Maker entered the market in 2013.

Mr Thammasorn said there are at least seven brands of vacuum robot in Thailand.

The company is the No.4 seller of smart home appliances and hopes to reach the top spot in the next three years.

“The challenge for gadget startups is the fast-growing technology space that owners have to compete in, so research and development activities are very important matters,” Mr Thammasorn said. “In the next 3-5 years, vacuum robots and other automatic home appliances will capture average growth of 30-40% a year.”

Robot Maker has five partners for cooperation on R&D, plus a team with a background in robotics and engineering to devise prototypes for new products.

Mr Thammasorn said robotic home appliances are increasingly equipped with Internet of Things and artificial intelligence support.

Robert Bosch Ltd, a German auto parts maker and industrial services firm, says the rise of robotics under the Industry 4.0 initiative will make work easier and better for workers in offices and factories.

“Bosch recognised the potential of Industry 4.0 and robotics early on, given that intelligent machines can assist people in their work,” said Joseph Hong, managing director of Bosch’s Thai unit.

“Robots can weld, glue, assemble and move goods around the factory, and they can react flexibly to people, are able to learn from them.”

Robots are also ideal for carrying out monotonous tasks and ergonomically difficult sequences of movement. It all adds up to better workflow and increased productivity for the industrial and commercial sectors, Mr Hong said.

“The positive impact of robots is in improved productivity, and they can recognise workers, avoid collisions,” he said. 

Bosch has develop a human-machine collaboration called APAS, allowing humans and machines to work side by side without the need for a safety barrier.

An APAS robot is engineered with comprehensive safety technology to automatically stop without contact when a worker comes too close. 

“So APAS is a technological flagship that has applications in a huge variety of industrial sectors, while Bosch is evaluating the collected data and findings and using them to continuously develop technical assistants,” Mr Hong said.

Cited figures from the World Robotics Report, a new record high of 381,000 units are shipped globally in 2017, up by 30% in a previous year. Bosch expects demand to keep rising for robots used in industry.

Bosch also has expertise in the related fields of mechatronics, sensors, partially automated driving and safety technology.

“Bosch’s foundations benefit synergies between robotics and automated driving to tap growth opportunities that are particularly relevant for Thailand and the Asia-Pacific region as well,” Mr Hong said.

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