Robotic Technologies to Yield Humanitarian and Economic Benefits

Robotic Technologies to Yield Humanitarian and Economic Benefits

Simon Yu, President, Arrow Electronics [ARW (NYSE)]

Simon Yu, President, Arrow Electronics [ARW (NYSE)]

From robotic prosthetic arms to service robots to autonomous vehicles, advanced technologies are rapidly evolving to deliver better customer experience, increase efficiency, improve lives and communities. At Arrow Electronics, we are consistently seeking ways to help innovators and engineers make, create, and manage the technology that not only delivers economic value but also benefits humanity.

At one of the most iconic international tech expos, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in January this year, Arrow showcases a number of very interesting solutions which our engineers helped develop at our booth in the Eureka Park. These solutions included 3D Time-of-Flight platform with depth mapping applications in advanced driver-assistance systems for autonomous vehicles, measurement and machine vision for industrial robotics and geomorphological studies for Earth as well as extraterrestrial missions Another solution is an AI-based visual analytics tool with custom applications in retail and health care. We were also proud to unveil the latest version of a 3D-printed robotic prosthetic arm by our startup customer Unlimited Tomorrow. Unlimited Tomorrow, a US-based startup is using the newest technologies such as 3D scanning, 3D printing, and machine learning to make the next generation of artificial limbs at the lowest cost possible. While the average prosthetic costs anywhere from $ 30,000 to $ 80,000, Unlimited Tomorrow aims to reduce the cost to $ 5,000 using 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques.

Create, make and manage life-changing technology

Easton LaChappelle is the founder and CEO of Unlimited Tomorrow. His vision is to “create intelligent prosthetics that bring down the barriers between amputees and the lives they want to live.” He started at age 14 with a robotic hand built out of LEGOs, fishing line, electrical tubing, motors from model airplanes. By age 16, LaChappelle printed a robotic hand, powered by a windshield-wiper motor and controlled by brainwaves from an EEG headset. He submitted the project in a science fair, where he met a young girl with a limited-motion prosthetic arm that cost US$80,000. This encounter inspired LaChappelle that a new approach was necessary for building prosthetics. With the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing techniques, coupled with intelligent design, Unlimited Tomorrow is now able to produce these next-generation devices at a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics. Prosthetics are custom designed for each, with the shape, weight, skin tone, movement, and form all modeled to a recipient's own body. The arm is built with equipped with muscle sensors and an AI control system that senses and retains the intelligence of muscle movements, essentially getting smarter the longer it’s worn. This technology can be ejected and inserted in a newly printed arm, allowing the prosthetic to scale and grow alongside the user. To make its wireless-charging robotic prosthetics fit perfectly, the opposing limb is scanned to construct a mirror image and better estimate the missing limb. The arms include magnetic fingernails that can be painted as well as offer haptic feedback to give users a sense of touch. Arrow serves as Unlimited Tomorrow’s exclusive electronics component supplier and has contributed in the funding to distribute 100 free robotic prosthetics for those in need. Unlimited Tomorrow is also part of Arrow’s Certification Program, which provides the start-up with an expert who guides the design to production and organizes resources as needed. Arrow’s input has informed prototype and board development as well as component selection.

The rise of the robotics industry in Asia

In Asia, there is a rising demand for logistics and industrial robots. According to a report by the International Federation of Robotics in 2018, China overtook Japan to become the world's biggest market for industrial robots as sales of devices reached 36,560 units, of which a quarter (9,000) were bought from domestic suppliers. Shenzhen, a major city in the Guangdong province, has already begun this transformation. Shenzhen was ranked China’s most competitive city and the sixth most competitive in the world in 2018. It has become the epicenter for technology enterprises and young startups to establish and expand their businesses. Not only is the Shenzhen market lucrative for entrepreneurs, but crucially, it offers the talent, and technological resources are needed to support and attract investment. Last year, the output value of service robots in Shenzhen increased 21.79 percent year-on-year to about 34 billion yuan ($ 5.06 billion).

Despite increasing automation, the sheer size of China’s workforce means that the impact on the number of robots per 10,000 workers, or density automation usage, remains relatively low. Only 68 robots are used per 10,000 industrial workers in China, compared to 631 bots for every 10,000 workers in South Korea, which is the global leader in automation. Even the US’s robot density is double that of China’s.

Syrius Robotics – on a fast-track

For young startups, technological resources are core to building and scaling a business in the digital ag, and access to them is therefore fundamental. However, companies often face technical resource constraints due to limited technology capabilities and tremendous pressure when it comes to timely delivery of products Without advanced technology capabilities, it is almost impossible for companies to compete in the global market.

Adam Jiang, the founder of Syrius Robotics (Syrius), is on a fast-track to developing a new generation of logistics robots that are more agile, intelligen, and cost-efficient. The company was founded in May 2018 in Shenzhen, China. It took Syriusonly six months to design the first model of their invention, Syrius AMR (Autonomous Mobile Robot), an AI-enabled robot used in the logistics sector for zoptimizing the sorting process in electronic commercial warehouses . There is significant engineering work that went into the design of this product - everything from advanced software and multi-sensor fusion algorithms, a well-orchestrated set of sensors and actuators for good human-machine interaction, powered by Nvidia’s intelligent machine platform, to a robust framework for rapid delivery of sensor data and commands and a real-time operating system for safe operation. Syrius aims to market this robot at a fraction of the cost compared to automated guided vehicles that are commonly used in the logistics industry. Syrius has been working with one of the biggest logistic companies in China to integrate the robots into two model warehouses for further testing and optimization.

Arrow’s engineering team has been working closely with Syrius to assist them with optimizing product design for the production-ready stage as they continue to scale and expand. We strive to enable as many established enterprises and emerging tech startups as possible to tap into our global innovation ecosystem value chain to solve complex engineering problems, remove time-to-market barriers, and accelerate their idea-to-prototype-to-production journey. As a global technology solutions provider, Arrow is committed to making our best-in-class engineering resources, technological expertise, and supply chain capabilities, and a vast global network of technology ecosystem partners more accessible than ever to help innovators and engineers to create, make and manage the technology of tomorrow.

Making the benefits of technology more broadly accessible in the mass market ought to be as much a part of the product design as the technology itself. We enjoy collaborating with incredible entrepreneurs like Easton and Adam as they bring their technology products to life. We look forward to helping them extend the impact of their inventions in the community and the world.

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