Manufacturers may be allowing office workers to do their jobs remotely, but the workers on the line have to be physically present to do their work — right? An article in Industry Week says otherwise. Pointing to robot-assisted surgery, they suggest that the technology needed to operate robots remotely is now available. Remote factory work, then, could be a realistic option.
Robot-assisted surgery might not be the best example. This technology allows surgeons to performs operations at a distance from patients. This can mean operating in a more physically comfortable position, keeping steadier hands and increased energy during operations.
But it was initially thought of as a way to save lives on the battlefield. This idea has come up again, and it may soon be possible to fulfill that dream. Back when the idea first came up, however, there was simply too much lag time between the surgeon and the patient. Communication between the surgeon and his or her tools seemed fast, but it wasn’t nearly fast enough.
This could be a problem for remote-controlled robots. A working industrial robot can do a whole lot of damage in a second or two.
Automation has safety features built in that cause machines to stop automatically when that’s the best option. It might make engineers throw up their hands (and even curse a little) when it happens, but it prevents damage to machines and human beings.
Remote access to workstations can allow machine operators to run their machines from a distance. Add virtual reality and super-fast communication speeds, and the possibilities are enticing.
The cost might have seemed prohibitive before the pandemic, but things have changed. Shutting down a factory for weeks or months on end, or completely refiguring the plant for social distancing — either of those options could end up costing more than perfecting remote access.
Rexroth has been forward-looking from the start, and is poised to help ,manufacturers make the jump. Check out the IoT Gateway as a starting point.
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