For most people, any talk of automation immediately brings to mind images from sci-fi films where the frightening common factor is always that machines would take over the work of human beings and later start to control them. The picture is always unsettling and does not paint in the reality about the immense help that automation, artificial intelligence and robotics that modern science and technology aims to do and has already done to a large extent. The very goal of honest scientific research is to improve life in every possible way – and that is what automation is for. It frees up time and effort and performs dangerous tasks that had been risky for humans. Machines, therefore, are not monsters. They are our friends. Automation means labour as well as risk saving when (often) strenuous and exacting work gets done with no or minimal human intervention.
An important case in point is the key activity in achieving high quality of the final product of industries. For this, the sampling and preparation processes are most important. The traditional methods of manual processing have shown up a number of limitations. This system can never achieve total accuracy in terms of process controls.
In this regard, Gemini Sampling Solutions has been creating manufacturing and design systems that does not rely on human involvement in these critical processes. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and ‘Cobotics’ are new technologies being explored and analyzed for integration into Gemini’s systems.
Gemini’s initiative would also address the need for social distancing that has to be maintained in the time of pandemics, like the world is going though now. Workers would be able to operate Gemini’s equipment and systems from safe and sanitized environs.
The ‘Lights Out’ Concept
The emergent concept in modern manufacturing is “lights out”—where manufacturing activities and material flows are handled entirely automatically. The original reasons, which brought automation and robotics to the workplace, are same as what drives the new wave of automation: to free human workers from dirty, dull, or dangerous jobs; to improve quality by eliminating errors and reducing variability; and to cut manufacturing costs by replacing increasingly expensive people with ever-cheaper machines. But there is one significant difference. Today’s most advanced automation systems have additional capabilities, enabling their use in environments that have not been suitable for automation up to now. This allows the capture of entirely new sources of value in manufacturing, which were untapped before.
Robots are getting smarter, day by day. Earlier, robots blindly followed the same path, according to patterns of work pre-set for them. Later developments used lasers or vision systems to detect the orientation of parts and materials.
The latest generations of robots can take feed from several sources, integrate information from multiple sensors and adapt their movements in real time. This allows them, for example, to use force feedback to mimic the skill of a craftsman in grinding or polishing applications. They can also make use of more powerful computer technology and big data–style analysis. For instance, they can use spectral analysis to check the quality of a weld as it is being made, dramatically reducing the amount of post-manufacture inspection required.
Robots take on new roles:
Today, these factors are helping to boost robot adoption in the kinds of applications they already excelled in: repetitive, high-volume production activities. Two factors are at play here. Even as robots are being able to perform more complex automated functions, the costs of installing modern robots and automated mechanisms are decreasing. Now it is likely that the types of operations already using robots and automation would use even more of them.
Moreover, in the next five to ten years, more fundamental changes in the kinds of tasks robots do, would take place making them technically more capable and economically more viable in commercial and industrial operations.
Adoption of Robots in India during Covid 19
The world changed overnight, with the onset of the current pandemic and India had to change along with other countries. Some of these changes are still taking place and will evolve further in the coming months.
The adoption of robots to treat Covid-19 patients is expected to grown in India due to shortage of PPE or personal protective equipment. Universal Robots has also seen demand for ‘Cobots’ or collaborative robots for manufacturing high quality face masks. Doctors are exploring the possibility of using domestic cobots for the home that can be used to remotely test patients for the virus to lower risks for health care workers.
A Jaipur-based hospital advises on how to deploy robot to deliver food and medicines to Covid -19 patients. The interactive humanoid robot is deployed at AIIMS who has camera and sensors to detect obstacles and can monitor and interact with patients and other robots is deployed to disinfect the floor surface using sodium hypochlorite solutions. Both are autonomously operational and perform tasks without human intervention.
Robots in the Medical Industry
The Medical Industry is in the forefront of embracing cobots, for all possible applications. Cobots allows for safe interaction with humans. In Wuhan, multiple robots have been deployed for a variety of tasks covering almost everything. Although Robotic technology is currently expensive for wider adoption across all types of health care settings, it is expected to find increasing use in countries such as India due to a shortage of healthcare professions. In this situation, hygiene will be very critical at hospitals and at all levels of medical intervention. The desired level of hygiene cannot be managed without automation.
In reality, companies that invest in automating processes now are likely to come out of this global situation faster and perhaps stronger. They would be reaping the benefits in the near future as well. Robots are not useful only because robots they can’t fall sick or be afraid in difficult situations, but also because the future of work is changing.
The era of robots or, more precisely, automation, is a trend that was already sounding alarm bells for labour advocates. The future has been brought forward by Covid-19. Nascent signs from the order books of industry giants like Fanuc Corp., Keyence Corp. and Harmonic Drive Systems Inc. point to businesses wanting to get their operations up and running – increasingly, without humans.
The present situation may aggravate the activists but there is urgent need for aggressive automation now – and these causes cannot be denied.Yet, all these developments do not spell the end of productive human labor. There are newer tasks that the current situation has given rise to. Human intervention is still the best bet we have in the jobs that are not repetitive, or immediately dangerous, or can be performed with set array of instruction to work on a pattern of information under given conditions. The age of the robots does not mean the era of the humans is over.