Robotics in Industry 4.0

Manvir Singh: Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, India
Dr. Amandeep Singh, Dr. J Ramkumar: Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India


Back in the history of industrial robotics, during the stage of Robotics 1.0, robots barely had a perception of their surroundings so waypoint teaching was heavily relied on to perform repetitive, boring, and labor-intensive tasks. This stage typically happened from the 1960s to the 1980s. The key technologies in this stage were servo motors, controllers, and motor drives. The control schemes of the earliest porotypes such as Verst ran from Am and Animatefrom Animation were similar to numerical control machines, though configured with different mechanical components.
In the era of Robotics 2.0, thanks to the massive adaption of information acquisition and computing technology, automatic systems with feedback boosted the development of industrial robots for more manufacturing applications. This stage majorly occurred between the 1990s and 2000s. The key technologies in this stage were force/torque sensor, vision system, Ethernet, embedded and real-time systems, data acquisition, and single processing.
Currently, Robotics 3.0 and its enabling technologies are dominating with the further explorations and integrations of large-scale real-time image recognition, scene understanding, vocal communication, deep learning, human-robot natural interaction, radio-frequency identification, system interoperability, and Robot Operating System (ROS). Thanks to Robotics 3.0, custom and cloud manufacturing are widely accepted and become prosperous. As shown in Fig. 1, this stage is called 'Big Bang' because of numerous enabling technologies including but not limited to human-robot natural interaction based on natural language processing [4], deep learning for scene understanding [5], digital twinning for cyber-physical systems [6], massive adoption for Raspberry Pi as embedded single board computer, industrial collaborative robotic cyber-physical systems [8-9], safe human-robot collaboration, human-friendly cognitive robot, etc.
The stage generally starts in the 2010s and it is expected to transfer to Robotics 4.0 in the early 2020s. In this stage, the disruptive technologies include but are not limited to the internet of robots, Brain-on-Cloud (BoC), Artificial Intelligence of Things (IoT), home robot assistants, deployment of 5G for robots, deep learning, and integrations of robot cognitive skills will be seamlessly integrated to meet both industrial and societal needs. Fig. 1 shows the roadmap of robot evolutions for past, present, and future prediction.

Figure 1 Robot evolutions

Types of Robots in Industry 4.0:

Mobile robots are collaborative and the purpose of designing is to design to work safely with a human side. There are two types of mobile robotics: Autonomous and Non-Autonomous as shown in Fig. 3

Figure 2 Main features from robotics 1.0 to 4.0
Figure 3 Types of mobile robots

Practically, the majority of robots are semi-autonomous robots. All robots are autonomous to several degrees of functionality. But they need commands for special cases either from some external control system or from some human expert.

Autonomous Mobile Robots:

These mobile robots do not need external guidance and can explore their environment on their own. Some of the popular autonomous robots are Pet Robots, Game Bot, Delivery robots, Space Robots, etc.

Non-Autonomous Mobile Robots:

These mobile robots need some guidance system to move. These are also known as controlled robots. For Example, a car manufacturing robot knows how to place the part in the assembly line but needs guidance to know exactly when and where to fix that part in an assembly line.

A collaborative robot (COBOT) is a robot that can learn many tasks so it can help humans in many ways. The main purpose of a collaborative robot is the action of working with someone to create or produce something. At a BMW car plant in South Carolina engineers found how a lightweight robot arm can be fitted with a door panel and help in lifting door panels. There are mainly four types of collaborative robots. These are classified based on their safety and programming features. Moreover, classification is done based on how they provide an abstraction to human workers to encounter potentially dangerous tasks. Each of these robots is also differed in the technological way to provide a safe operating space for humans. Thus, they are best suited for different environments. COBOTS are used in the Manufacturing industry and healthcare. The main collaborative robot manufacturers include KUKA, Rethink Robotics, and Franka.

Major Types of Collaborative Robots According to ISO 10218 part 1 and part 2 four types of collaborative robots areas are listed below:

1. Safety Monitored Stop:

These collaborative robots are designed for applications where minimum interaction is required between robots and human workers. Ideally, these types of robots are designed with a series of sensors that stop robotic operations as soon as a human enters the work environment.

2. Speed and Separation robots:

They use more advanced vision systems as compared to safety monitored stop collaborative robots. The advanced vision system enables collaborative robots to identify the human worker and accordingly slows down the operations. Moreover, as the human worker gets too closer; the collaborative robots stop the operations immediately.

3. Power and Force Limiting collaborative robots:

They are designed with a series of intelligent collision sensors and are built with rounded corners instead of sharpened corners. The intelligent collision sensors quickly detect the human worker's contact and stop operation. It also has a feature force limitation that ensures no injury even in case of any collision.

4. Hand Guiding:

As the name suggests these Robots can simply be reprogrammed for new tasks by an operator itself by guiding the collaborative robot arm by hand. This allows quick reprogramming with minimum time and also reduces the requirement of a systems specialized programmer with robotic knowledge

Application of Robotics in Industry 4.0:

The Industrial Revolution will add a new standard of living for the coming centuries and will increase the economic growth of the world. In Industry 4.0, robots and humans will work for hand in hand, using smart sensor human-machine interfaces on interlinking tasks. Autonomous robots are the best example across manufacturing industries. There are many applications of Robotics to Industry 4.0 discussed as follows:

1. In Manufacturing:

There are many challenges related to labor. Main are running costs and lack of skills. One solution to this problem is Automation. For instance, some automotive work currently requires heavy lifting in that case a robotic device can be used to relieve a worker from physically demanding tasks. An embodiment of Industry 4.0. Is the "Smart factory" - A smart factory is a manufacturing plant that's not only automated but all the pieces of equipment are digitally interconnected within one system. Such a factory enables the monitoring and controlling of all the physical processes in real-time. Robot-based inspection systems are used in vision systems, allowing for flaw detection in various parts, and guaranteeing the correct part assembly. The vision system inspects and finds a part accurately.

2. Autonomous Vehicles:

The population is increasing and the number of road accidents is increasing day by day. The concern is how to reduce the number of accidents on road. Autonomous vehicles are used in many fields like manufacturing, mining, agriculture, logistics, transport, etc. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are used to transport material to a warehouse. In a fourth industrial revolution, AGVs are shifting from automation to intelligence.

3. In Health Care:

Robotics is used in healthcare (as shown in Fig. 4) to compound drugs, which helps to improve operator safety, cost, and quality. Before any physical action takes place the fusion of emerging technologies will allow you to train operators and optimize production. Having error-free robots means the robots which perform erring tasks such as aseptic fill-finish, where human error can ruin an expensive batch of drugs, is good. AURA Robot is designed starting from a traditional robot, in which standard state machines are still present, but automatic and remote modes are subdivided in others three non-selectable states: when the robot is in automatic or remote mode, the laser scanner. Robots are Performing accurate surgery and making them less costly for their patients. Another Major advantage of robots is that they can work with chemicals that are harmful to humans as well as provide greater efficiency in operations.

Figure 4 Robots in Healthcare

4. In Packaging:

A new generation of robotic systems and improvements in data flow means package production can integrate and connect key processes packaging production requires design, production, distribution, maintenance - all into a single integrated approach, rather than relying on separate pieces of automation. The most important impacts of the latest robotic platforms will be felt in converting and distribution. Food packaging is one of the robotic applications which is used in the food industry. Robots in Food Packaging Industry will increase productivity and it will be easy to handle products, pick and place items, packing and palletizing will become efficient. Robots are programmed to fill the exact amount of food in packaging modules, whereas, same is not possible if human employees are assigned the job. Thus, efficiency and productivity will increase.

Figure 5 Robots in Packaging

5. In Mining:

Mining Industry is also using robotics and current technology. Robot-operated drills are used to drill deeper into the earth. Robots can be used to get detailed information inside mine. Autonomous vehicles combined with drones are used to inspect oil and gas lines indisputable areas to use autonomous mining equipment. Indeed, Schlumberger is currently using an autonomous underwater vehicle to use an autonomous underwater vehicles to inspect sub-sea conditions requiring no local team support.

6. Military and Public safety Industry:

Due to rapid changes in technology Military Industry and Public Safety Industry also changed. Drones are used in Military Industry and robots are used in battlefield support, conducting surveys, and used for guard duty as shown in Fig.6. These robots are equipped with an adequate amount of battel material and are able to sense the environment, thus can attack. In the public safety industry, remote-controlled drones are used to provide real-time analysis of situations and monitor dangerous situations. Robots are also used for monitoring risk assessment.

Figure 6 Robots in Military

7. Supermarkets and Malls:

Walmart is using automated technology and robots to order their products online when the products are out of stock and robots mopping up floors. The machines are using sensors to scan for people. Robots can be used as in-store shopping assistants which help customers to find their products, and retrieve the products that are placed on shelves in customer is unable to reach as shown in Fig. 7.

Figure 7 Robots in Supermarkets

8. Agriculture:

In agriculture, Self-driving tractors are used which provide guidance on fertilizer application sensors used can tell the different data on soil conditions and how to maintain planted crops as shown in Fig. 8

Figure 8 Robots in Agriculture

9. 3D Printing and Furniture World:

Ashley furniture is using robotics and 3-D technology to expand furniture production in a low labor market; instead of collecting the many small parts necessary to equip robots with the right tools to make a certain kind of furniture, Ashley has created those parts in-house in real-time and upgraded to 3D Printing.

10. Robots in Music:

Georgia Institute of Technology has built a four-armed robot called 'Shimon' that is able to listen to music. It can further extemporize and play with the human musicians in concert. Gil Weinberg, the lead researcher at Georgia Tech's Center for music technology, and his team have demonstrated their 12 years of research work as 'Shimon'. Their main aim was to augment the inventive capabilities of humans with robotics. Shimon thus built can learn from music theory and musical notes and styles. It can add elements to musical performances and can play chord structure that is impossible for humans to play.

Challenges in Robotic Automation:

There are many challenges to robotic automation.

1. Employee Skillset and Training:

Proper certifications, training, and education are required for any new system installed. For a robotic environment, proper experience and training are required so employees will have to be hired who have good knowledge and certification in this field.

2. Safety Measures:

Safety is the foremost issue. The manufacturer must ensure compliance before robots get installed and provide a safe environment to their workers.

3. Budgeting:

There's a lot of upfront investment associated with robots, although prices are dropping. It is not possible for everyone to spend too much.

4. Managing Product Workflow:

Product workflow is important. Productivity depends on orientation and movement of parts, speed, etc.

5. Demand:

An increase in smart technologies will increase demand for complex products. Manufacturers said that today car buyer wants car model built to their own specification.

6. Balance Repetition and automation:

With variation in demand, it is a challenge for manufacturers to balance repetition and automation and maintain a high-quality product. In production, it is important to check that every tool operates in the right way and at right time.

Pros of Robotics Automation:

1. Decreased Production Costs:

With the use of Robotics speed increases which impacts production.

2. No Time Waste:

Robots will work at speed without break, sleep and will give better output than human workers

3. Reliability and Quality improvement:

In industry precision and accuracy play an important role. Some products are manufactured with the same process and same specification every time. So, robotics will improve precision and accuracy.

4. Reduced Waste:

Robots work with accuracy and it will reduce the cost of waste.

5. Increased Safety:

Some parts are dangerous to work or pick upon. Safety will be increased using this.

6. Savings:

Quality and customer satisfaction play a significant role. An increase in both will return more customers and more business.

7. Multiple Application:

Robots can perform multiple operations simultaneously which will affect business.


Industry 4.0 is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (fourth Industrial Revolution). Here, all the equipment, devices, and computers are connected to manufacturing processes. It provides an environment that is rich enough for big data analysis and self-correcting procedures with an open era for many other possibilities. With the help of sensors, smart machines and products can communicate and learn from each other and all this together is leading to Intelligent factories. Robotics and human cooperation in the industry of the future will help in making complex decisions in advance possible by understanding the risk in advance Another key feature is their ability to control cooperatively each other. Now the most important question is whether Robotics will replace humans or take all jobs away from humans. Humans have great knowledge they can do precision handling and have a sense of touch. Robots can do repeated tasks with efficiency, speed, and reliability. Industry 4.0 and robotic technology both are our future and together result in customer satisfaction, efficiency, and reliability of the product. Then the answer is that it is not possible because for robotics to be fully functional it requires the installation of navigation devices, elevators, trained people, automatic doors, etc. Further, it is not possible for everyone to afford this. The whole process is too much costly. So, robotics will not replace human contact 100%.