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Automate Dances To A New Tune | Issue 07 | June 2019

  • By Georgie Davey

The Global Robo Expo, which is held every year in Spain, was an interesting show in many ways.

It’s certainly not what you would call on the main route of robotic exhibitions and nothing like the size of Automate.

Indeed, when I arrived at the windy venue on the outskirts of Madrid in early May, it looked like a ghost town. Okay, I had arrived at 9.30am when the doors opened at 10am and okay, I first wandered into the wrong exhibition (on plastics, not robots) and got thrown out, but it looked like it would be me and a couple of cleaners trawling through the 100 odd booths.

I needn’t have worried, things got busier over the next few hours and it quickly became apparent that the footfall, although not massive, seemed to be of a high quality. Booths were busy and there were plenty of handshakes.

Which was a good thing, because the robot industry seems particularly keen on marketing their wares via trade shows, perhaps unsure, in a still developing industry, how to promote their message in other forms of media. I guess the trade show format offers comfort in the fact that there is something physical to demo, and you will get people come and talk to you.

What was very interesting was a separate piece of real estate within the show that was an initiative from Universal Robots. It was labelled WeAreCobots. The area, of around 800 square metres, was made up of 25 UR partners, and was, said UR: “…born with the aim of making known the possibilities offered by the collaboration between humans and robots in the work processes, as well as analyzing future trends and the latest innovations in this field.”

Word was that it was also a positioning statement. Competition is getting greater within the cobot space, more players want to play and that is driving down prices, and quality. There is a worry that in the rush for sales, certain cobot accessory companies are not maintaining quality standards and if a cobot fails because of poor end- of-arm tooling for example, then the whole piece of kit gets the blame. WeAreCobots could be the way UR and its partners make a serious statement about the quality of their products and services to the fledgling cobot market.

Which makes for a fascinating story as the market develops from niche to mainstream.

As always, any thoughts, give me a shout.

All the best,
Neil Martin

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