ARM: Increasing U.S. Robotics CompetitivenessKen Thayer | October 24, 2018
As the role of robots increases, so does the need to share knowledge to drive innovation and lead the future of American manufacturing.
Headquartered in Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) is a public-private partnership aimed at increasing U.S. global manufacturing competitiveness by accelerating the advancement of transformative robotic technologies and education. ARM brings together experts from industry, government and academia totaling more than 160 member organizations.
All of these members have one goal in common — to grow U.S. manufacturing and to accelerate the growth of robotics to provide a competitive advantage.
Robot usage has been steadily increasing and robot global density is accelerating. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), robot density jumped from 66 units per 10,000 employees in 2015 to 74 in 2017. A study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that robots will perform more than half of all work tasks by 2025. Industries such as aerospace are struggling to keep up with demand and are turning to robots to speed up production.
Industry 4.0 is the name given to the current increase in automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. According to ARM, adaptive skills required for Industry 4.0 are significantly higher in a number of important areas. The rapid increase of robot use in industry combined with the requirement for adaptive abilities has led to a growing skills gap.
Although training exists, some experts say that even more is required. One way that educators are addressing this issue is by introducing primary school students as young as pre-kindergarten to robot curriculums. High school robotics clubs, such as Dean Kamen’s FIRST Robotics, allow students to build robots for regional and national competitions. Universities and colleges offer advanced robotics courses and robotic engineering degrees. Courses for robotic technicians teach workers how to build, install, test and maintain robots and offer salaries from $30,000 to $60,000 or more.
While the education system is adapting to address these adaptive skills through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs, gaps for some of these skills exist for older or displaced workers. ARM is addressing these Education & Workforce Development (EWD) needs at all levels of education, from students and young adults to displaced workers.
According to ARM, several challenges exist with respect to EWD. They have categorized them into six bullet points.
- U.S. Education is insufficient for advanced manufacturing careers
- There is a negative perception concerning robotics careers and manufacturing
- Subject matter experts (SME) have limited resources to prepare talent
- The manufacturing workforce is not prepared for continual re-skilling
- There is little coordination between initiatives in advanced manufacturing
- A regional skills gap exists for manufacturing
ARM aims to build their Educational Partner Network and to inform, educate and support SMEs through their increasing member network involved in EWD. Additionally, ARM’s mission is to train, certify and offer internships to both students and educators.
One of the main operational functions of ARM is projects. The process begins with a Project Call, which identifies a unique challenge in technology or education/workforce development. Project Call proposals are reviewed by government sponsors, ARM technical staff, the Technical Advisory Committee and other members with key expertise relevant to the project. Many of these project proposals move to the next stage, which features a more detailed final review. If selected, the proposals then go to the contract negotiation stage.
A sampling of selected projects includes:
- Collaborative Robotics to Foster Innovation in Seafood Handling (FISH)
- Advanced Robotic Grinding System for Metal Parts
- SMART — Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Robotics Training
Project topics are determined based on member feedback and have included a diverse list of robotic applications such as these eight areas of focus from Spring 2018:
- Identifying and packing objects
- Unloading and unpacking objects
- Transport and delivery through a complex, crowded floor
- Inspection of non-standard materials
- Tracking and traceability of components
- Surface treatments
- Manipulating compliant materials
- Software interoperability
Industry sectors defined by ARM members include aerospace, automotive, electronics, textiles and other growth sectors. Manufacturing operational aims (MOAs) include versatile, multi-task robotic systems, rapid deployment and repurposing of robots, collaborative robots and cost-effective solutions.
The goal is to deliver technologies ready for commercialization in the following areas:
- Human-robot interaction
- Scheduling, learning and control
- Dexterous manipulation
- Mobility and navigation
- Perception and sensing
- Testing, verification and validation
- Mechanism design
ARM offers several membership levels for both industry and academia or non-profit organizations.
ARM’s organization includes a network of eight regional collaboratives, covering all 50 states, with the goal of providing networking opportunities integrating local industry, government, academia, technology companies and nonprofits. Among the goals is to promote strategic alliances among member organizations, strengthen local industry, enhance business practices and develop human capital.
The list of members reads like a who’s who of key robotic industry and engineering university players. A partial list of members from various leadership councils and committees includes:
Other members are from a diverse group of companies and educational institutes, such as Carnegie Mellon University, Fuzehub, IAM Robotics, Mass Robotics, The Culinary Institute of America, RE2 Robotics, Arconic and IEEE GlobalSpec.
With backing from the U.S. government, top industry and academic leaders, ARM is determined to assert U.S. leadership in advanced robotics manufacturing. Empowering American workers to compete with lower-wage earners in other parts of the world and breaking down technical, operational and economic barriers will lead to the creation and sustenance of valuable robotics manufacturing jobs in the United States.
For additional information, visit the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) website.