Competition Rises in Claim for Cobot Top Dog, Report Says

Universal Robots remains the top maker of cobots.

September 05, 2019      

For the past several years, the collaborative robotics market, aka cobots, has been dominated by Universal Robots. In its latest report assessing the competitive marketplace for industrial collaborative robotics, research firm ABI Research said Universal is still a clear forerunner in the space, particularly in implementation.

The company said that there are more than 50 manufacturers of cobots worldwide, “but only a handful of these companies have so far deployed cobots on any meaningful level of scale.” Tens of thousands of cobots have been sold so far, earning $500 million in annual revenue globally. The company analyzed and ranked 12 collaborative robot vendors in the industry as part of its Industrial Collaborative Robots Competitive Assessment, including:

  • ABB
  • Aubo Robotics
  • Automata
  • Doosan Robotics
  • FANUC
  • Franka Emika
  • Kuka AG
  • Precise Automation
  • Productive Robotics
  • Techman Robot
  • Universal Robots
  • Yaskawa Motoman

The company said innovation criteria for the assessment included payload, software, ergonomics and human-machine interaction, experimentation, and safety. For implementation criteria, the assessment looked at units and revenue, cost and ROI, partnerships, value-added service, and the number of employees.

Rian Whitton ABI Research exoskeleton market

Rian Whitton, ABI Research

“Market leaders in cobots generally have well-developed cobot rosters, in many cases backed up by an ecosystem platform that integrates applications, accessories, and end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) solutions in with the base hardware,” said Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. With 37,000 cobots sold so far, Universal Robots leads (at Robotiq’s user conference this week, a Universal official said they were close to deploying 40,000), followed by Taiwanese provider Techman with 10,000, and Korea-based Doosan with more than 2,000. Precise Automation, which uses an advanced direct drive solution to develop faster collaborative robots, was cited as the most innovative of the 12 providers, just edging out Universal Robots, which claimed the overall top spot due to their significant lead in implementation.

ABI said several companies that are too young to challenge the dominant parties in the cobot market are still developing new and disruptive technology that could let them “rise to prominence in the years to come.” The company cited California-based Productive Robotics as an example. The cobots include an arm with built-in vision, seven axes for more flexibility, a long reach, and very affordable price point. ABI said the company has yet to deploy at scale, however.

Another example, Automata, is a British company that develops a desktop cobot that costs less than $7,000, which significantly lowers the barriers to entry for smaller companies. The company champions the use of open-source middleware like the Robot Operating System (ROS) to program cobots for industrial use cases. Germany-based Franka Emika and Chinese-American provider Aubo Robotics also represent relatively new entrants to the market that are building on the success of Universal Robots and are beginning to compete with them, ABI said.

The research firm said major industrial robotics providers have been less successful at marketing their own cobot lines, or gaining market traction relative to pure cobot developers. “In part, this is down to focus,” the firm said. “While collaborative robots are valuable, they generally suit deployments and use-cases with smaller shipments and a wider variety of small and large end users. For industrial players like ABB, FANUC, Kuka AG and Yaskawa Motoman, their client base tends to be large industrial players who buy fixed automation solutions through bulk orders.” In addition, all four of these companies are competing extensively for greater shipment figures in China, where the cobot opportunity is much less apparent than in Europe or North America.

“Though many of the cobots deployed by these companies are impressive, and they have a lot of software services, the high cost and lack of easy use among their systems largely defeat the current value proposition of cobots, making them the laggards in this competitive assessment.” said Whitton.

Looking to the future, Whitton said larger industrial players are likely to improve their relative position, as future growth in cobots rests on scaling up and large deployments. “Universal Robots, though likely to remain the market leader for the foreseeable future, will be increasingly competing on an even footing with near-peer cobot developers, who are already developing second-generation cobots with significant hardware improvements,” said Whitton. “Meanwhile, some more innovative companies will be able to accelerate adoption through price decreases, improved flexibility, and common platforms to retrofit collaborative capability on industrial robots.”

ABI’s report is part of the company’s Industrial Solution, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Click here for more information on the report.