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Thursday, August 30, 2012

All Time High Robot Market 2011: $25.5 billion

2011 was the most successful year for industrial robots since 1961, according to latest statistics from the International Federation of Robotics, IFR. Robot supplies increased by 38% to 166,028 units, by far the highest level ever recorded for one year. The value of sales surged by 46% to US$8.5 billion, a new record. Including the cost of software, peripherals and systems engineering the actual worldwide market value for robotic systems in 2011 is estimated to be $25.5 billion.
In 2011, Japan was again the biggest robot market in the world. Robot supplies to Japan continued to recover and increased by 27% to almost 28,000 units. The automotive industry and most of all other sectors were increasing robot investments above average. Robot sales increased by 9% to 25,500 units in the Republic of Korea. After the huge investments of the electrical/electronics industry in 2010 - when Korea had topped the list - the increase was only moderately in 2011. In the United States robot shipments increased by 43% to a new peak level of 20,555 units in 2011 compared to 2010. The necessary modernization of the production facilities in the United States is gaining momentum. In 2011, 22,600 industrial robots were sold to the People?s Republic of China, 51% more than in 2010.
19,500 new industrial robots were supplied to Germany, the biggest robot market in Europe - 39% more than in 2010. After the strong recovery in 2010, this is by far the highest number ever recorded for one year and it is about 45% of the total supply to Europe. The automotive industry, food and beverage industry and the metal and machinery industry increased robot orders above average.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cyberdyne Starts Clinical Testing in Sweden

Credit: Cyberdyne
Japanese Cyberdyne Inc., a robotics start-up that is affiliated with Daiwa House Industry Co, will start a partnership with Swedish Dandery Hospital for clinical testing before the launch of its "Robot Suit HAL" (Hybrid Assistive Limb) in Sweden.
The first cooperation talks started in 2009, when founder and inventor Prof. Sankai, Tsukuba University, visited Sweden for consultation and demonstration. See report here.
Cyberdyne established its first European subsidiary 2009 in Denmark to establish a consortium to win government approval for HAL suits as health care equipment and for the leasing of HAL suits. The project was funded by ABT fund of Denmark Government (a fund for projects on labour saving technology).
HAL is a cyborg-type robot that can supplement, expand or improve physical capability. When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneurons, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence. At this moment, very weak biosignals can be detected on the surface of the skin. "HAL" catches these signals through a sensor attached on the skin of the wearer. Based on the signals obtained, the power unit is controlled to move the joint in unison with the wearer's muscle movement, enabling HAL to support the wearer's daily activities.

Honda launches robotic lawn mower

Credit: Honda, Miimo 
Japanese Honda has announced plans to enter the fast-growing European robotic lawn mower market with the introduction of Honda Miimo, its first commercial robotic product for domestic use.
Honda Miimo operates a ‘continuous cutting' system, typically mowing just 2-3mm of grass at a time, several times each week. It cuts in a random pattern, meaning less stress on the grass, more healthy growth and reduced moss and weeds. Unlike a traditional lawn mower it doesn't need to collect cuttings, as the clippings it creates are so small that they are dispersed into the lawn root system, breaking down quickly to act as a natural fertiliser which improves the health and quality of the grass.
Honda Miimo will be available in two models, 300 and 500, offering a maximum perimeter cut of 300m and 500m respectively. Honda Miimo 500 will mow up to a total lawn size of 3,000 square metres, around half the size of a typical football pitch, making it suitable for a wide variety of gardens.
Honda Miimo will be manufactured by Honda France Manufacturing in Orlean. It will be available across Europe in early 2013 targeting 4,000 unit sales a year. The robotic lawn mower will be prized about €2100 ($2600).
New Business Model
The Miimo will be sold as a full service package by Honda Lawn & Garden Authorized dealers. Upon purchase, the dealer installs the docking station, which acts as both the charging point and signal generator. A boundary wire is connected to the docking station, then routed around the perimeter of the garden to define the mowing area. Honda Miimo is then programmed to cut to a schedule convenient to the customer, via its inbuilt timer and calendar. Then, at the end of the season the Honda Authorized Dealer collects it for winter maintenance, and, in some countries, winter storage.
Miimo goes on sale in early 2013

Monday, August 06, 2012

Telerobotics Triumph: Curiosity on Mars

Credit: NASA. The black-and-white, 512 by 512 pixel image,
taken by Curiosity's rear-left Hazcam
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles (about five kilometers) tall inside Gale Crater, 96 miles (nearly 155 kilometers) 7in diameter. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical ingredients for life. The mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL, a division of Caltech.
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