For most people, the name of George Devol says nothing, but for those like me who have had the fortune to make a passion for robotics their job, it could be defined our “guru”.
George Devol in 1954 register the patent “US Patent 2,988,237” which consisted in the draft of what would have been after a few years UNIMATE, the first robot installed in a factory, precisely at the General Motors plant in Ewing, New Jersey. Together with the most famous Joseph Engelberger, in 1962 they founded UNIMATION, the first robot manufacturer in the world.
UNIMATE was an innovative machine, but if we compare it with current industrial robots, we can say that in 50 years robotics is one of the sectors that has most evolved.
In this incredible competition started in the 70s / 80s, five manufacturing companies stood out and practically monopolized the robotics market, leaving little space for other competitors.
Kawasaki Robotics, based in Kobe, assembles its first robot in 1969, acquiring the license to manufacture the UNIMATE robot in Japan.
In 1981 product its first electric robots and began the expansion in USA and Europe in the 90s. There are more than 180,000 Kawasaki robots installed worldwide.
DuAro, the double-arm SCARA-type collaborative robot that works in synergy with operators is particularly popular in the industry.
FANUC Corp., a Japanese company based in Minamitsuru-gun, was born in 1972 from the separation of Fujitsu’s Computing Control division.
A simple and intuitive programming system combined with a very wide range of products, make FANUC one of the best brands in the world, with more than 500,000 units sold in its history.
It is also one of the main robot suppliers in the US market.
Japanese company based in Kitakyūshū, Yaskawa launched its first fully electric industrial robot, the Motoman L10 in 1977. It was the first to implement multi-ARM, the ability to control multiple robots with a single cabinet. In 2009 he launched his 13-axis dual ARM robot, SDA10.
Its robots still retain the YASKAWA / MOTOMAN name. They specialize in spot and arc welding systems, are present with offices in 28 countries, boasting the impressive number of over 400,000 robots sold worldwide.
KUKA, based in Augsburg in Germany, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial robots. Founded in 1898, in 2016 the Chinese holding company Midea Group acquired KUKA for the amount of 5 billion dollars.
KUKA was the first company in the world to build an electrically controlled six-axis anthropomorphic robot, the FAMULUS in 1973. It offers robots of different sizes and load capacities, up to 1000 kg.
In 1996 he decided to use Windows as the base for the operating system of his robots going against the current compared to other manufacturers who used an internally developed system.
KUKA has also been a pioneer in making itself known also outside the industry, inserting its products in Hollywood films and creating attractions for the public, such as “RoboCoaster®”.
The Swiss-Swedish group, based in Zurich in Switzerland, is the largest manufacturer of industrial robots in the world. ABB was born in 1988 from the merger of ASEA and Brown, Boveri & Cie. ASEA developed the first fully electric robot controlled by an Intel 4004 microprocessor in 1975, the ASEA IRB6.
ABB offers robotic solutions for all industrial sectors, has offices in 5 continents and exceeds 400,000 robots installed worldwide.
As you may have noticed, there are no US manufacturers mentioned, in fact although the first robot was designed and built in the USA, UNIMATION was sold to Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1983 and subsequently to the Swiss Stäubli in 1988.
Robotics continues to evolve and increase its sales and turnover numbers, according to a study published in 2018, for every 10,000 employees there are 74 robots installed worldwide, with a growth of 12% compared to the previous year.
In a short time, all companies will be automated, the most forward-looking companies will be able to anticipate the times and understand that one of the secrets of success is to innovate.