This Emerging Trend Means You Don’t Need to Buy a Robot

Robot rental trend

Want to try robotics but can’t afford a robot yet? This emerging trend could be for you! Get the benefits of robotics without the big investment.

Robots are an incredible way to boost productivity and product quality in your business. All over the world, businesses are adopting robotic automation and sales of industrial robots have doubled over the past 5 years.

But, what if you haven’t got the resources to buy a robot just now?

What if you can’t afford the high initial investment?

Does that mean you can’t try out robotics?

A rising trend has been gaining traction over the last few years. It allows you to “dip your toe” into robotics without the big financial risks. You no longer have to go all out and buy a complete robotic system before you are sure it’s the right solution for you and your business.

This trend also goes hand-in-hand with offline programming which reduces the financial risk even further by allowing you to test different robot models before you spend a cent.

What is this emerging trend?

Robotics as a Service, also known as RaaS.

What is Robotics as a Service?

Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is a variation on the increasingly popular business model “Anything as a Service” (or XaaS).

What is Anything as a Service?

There is a growing trend throughout the modern world for “As a Service” businesses. This refers to a business model whereby a company’s product is rented out to the customer on a subscription basis rather than simply being sold on a unit basis. This allows the company to provide ongoing updates, maintenance, and support to their customers, which might not be feasible with the traditional business model.

XaaS is most common for digital products and cloud computing services. However, we’re starting to see it more and more being used in businesses where physical products are involved… including robotics.

What RaaS Is

As a recent industry insight from the RIA explained, Robotics as Service is basically just another way of saying “rent a robot.” This is nothing new. It has been happening for several years now. The difference now is how popular it has become.

RaaS companies rent out a robot to you on a flexible basis, allowing you to try out robotics in your business with very little financial risk and often no minimum contract. Some companies even allow you to later purchase the robot if you decide that it is beneficial to your business in the long term — offset by the rental cost that you’ve already invested.

Depending on the rental company, you can also receive help with cell design, safety measures, and integration.

What RaaS Isn’t

The term “Robot as a Service” shouldn’t be confused with rental of “software robots” — an entirely different type of product with exactly the same name. Confusing, right?

Over the last few years, the term “robot” has been somewhat hijacked by companies and the media to refer to “software robots.” These are entirely software-based programs which can autonomously carry out tasks in the virtual world in a similar way that real robots carry out tasks in the physical world.

Just to be clear, we’re talking about the rental of physical robots.

How Robotics as a Service Works

In some ways, RaaS works in a similar manner to rentals in any other domain.

It all begins when you decide that you need extra capacity in part of your process. You think that a robot could be a good way to boost your capacity in the short term. So, you contact the RaaS company and they help you to decide which robot could work for you. They deliver the robot, you integrate it into your process, and soon you’re up and running.

Of course, there are certain aspects which make RaaS a bit different from other rentals. These include:

  • Safety equipment — Industrial robots require some sort of safety fencing and/or safety sensing. Collaborative robots sometimes do not require this as they are designed to align with safety standards.
  • Risk assessment — All robotic equipment requires a risk assessment to ensure that it aligns with the relevant safety standards before it can be used.
  • Integration — Robots usually require other technology before they can be used. At the very least, the robot will need an end effector.
  • Programming — Of course, robots need to be programmed before they can carry out any task.

The RaaS company will usually provide all the necessary technology required to run the robot for your application. They may provide programming services to get you up and running, or they might leave programming up to you.

How Offline Programming Reduces Your Risk Further

One potential difficulty with renting a robot relates to programming, which can be problematic, especially if you use the manufacturer’s programming language.

Let’s imagine that you rent a robot via a RaaS company. Either you decide to develop the robot program yourself — which requires a significant time investment — or you get the rental company to develop the program for you — which requires both a time and financial investment.

What happens when you end the rental? (perhaps because the rush of product orders has slowed down and you don’t need the robot any more).

The robot program that you developed now becomes a sunk cost, right? You can only use that program again if you rent exactly the same robot cell in the future for exactly the same task. What if you want to use a different robot the next time?

But, it doesn’t have to be like this. With robot-agnostic offline programming software, like RoboDK, you can develop the program for one robot and adapt it for a new robot fairly quickly. Also, it puts all the programming power into your hands so that you don’t need to rely on the RaaS company for the programming.

How to Test Your Application Without Spending a Cent

RaaS is a great way to “dip your toe” into robotics without having to make a huge investment. It’s a growing trend and it’s likely to become even more popular in the coming years.

However, you don’t even need to rent a robot to start testing your robot application for yourself. Check out this article to find out how you can test your application for free with RoboDK before you invest even a cent.

How do you think RaaS could work for your business? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or in the RoboDK Forum.

Alex Owen-Hill

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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