Industrial Robots: The Next Big Idea?
To the general population, the word "robot" conjures images of R2D2, RoboCop, and the Roomba vacuuming robot. Developers of commercial robots struggle to find the next "need to have" robotic application. The goal of these researchers and developers is to create a robot that provides a service that consumers find vital to their well-being, like the Internet. If a company could develop a robotic application that changed consumers' lives the way the Internet did, they would create a niche market for themselves and dozens of other companies. Could a robotic application like that even be developed? What is the next big idea?
Perhaps the idea has already been developed and is affecting consumers every day, but in a more indirect and behind-the-scenes way. Ninety percent of robots are industrial robots. The automotive industry employs more than half of the industrial robots in use today. These robots perform arc welding, dispensing, material handling, palletizing, and numerous other applications. Instead of vacuuming a consumer's carpet, a robot is building their car. While it is possible to live without a car, many people would not want to, just as many would not want to live without the Internet or cell phones. In essence, industrial robots have provided an answer to the developers' question.
Just as with many consumer robots, industrial robots can be purchased used. Used robots are popular among manufacturers due to lower prices and equivalent functioning compared with new robots. Refurbished robots provide manufacturers with cost-effective ways to continue building products that are vital to consumers' lives.