Service robots don’t get the same kind of pop culture spotlight as humanoid robots and powerful industrial robots — but analysts agree that there are actually substantial opportunities in service robotics. In 2020, ABI Research forecast that the market for domestic robots would grow at 13% each year from 2019 to 2024, and reach volumes of 90.4 million units in 2025.
These useful yet prosaic robots handle chores such as cleaning floors and mowing lawns, gathering items from warehouse shelves for dispatch, making deliveries in highly structured environments, and assisting with repetitive tasks in process industries. Another type of service robot–– the collaborative robot or “cobot” — harnesses mechanical power and human intelligence in a shared working environment, although ensuring safe cooperation remains a serious design challenge.
According to recent ABI research, the market for mobile robots, such as the automated guided vehicles used in warehouses, is expected to grow 47% a year over the same period, to volumes of 2.4 million units in 2025. Meanwhile shipments of cobots, standing at 15,000 units a year in 2019, are expected to grow 48% a year to 171,000 units in 2025.
Addressing this market opportunity will be a challenge. Progress in robotics involves solving many hard problems at once, and then bringing those solutions together in a way that avoids creating new issues during their integration. For example, as robots start being woven into the fabric of Industry 4.0 implementations, they need to be given more intelligence and better communications to ensure that they can operate effectively within such collaborative contexts.
These robots will also need high levels of security, to protect the integrity of their communications and to ensure that they cannot be exploited by hackers. In all cases, and especially for cobots, ensuring both human and robot safety is paramount. A collision between a robot and a human could be a disaster. A collision between a robot and other robots or its environment may just be very costly — in terms of damaged equipment, lost productivity, and reduced confidence in automation.
Infineon offers many technologies that are particularly relevant to service robot development, including a wide range of motor-control devices, parts for battery-charging and power-supply systems, battery-management devices, human/machine interfaces controllers, and security and authentication systems. It also has experience in other relevant areas, such as application-specific microcontroller design, many sensing technologies, multiple connectivity options, and a variety of relevant memory types. In each area, Infineon has deep experience in applying the technologies, which customers can take advantage of to accelerate their design cycles.
In motor control, Infineon has an extensive portfolio of relevant parts and experience. It has four groups of microcontrollers that are uniquely suited for motor control applications: the PSoC™, XMC™, TRAVEO™ II and AURIX™ families. Each has its advantages. For example, Infineon offers highly advanced and flexible peripheral sets , along with software libraries for its XMC family that support simple-to-complex motor control needs. The PSoC™ family of microcontrollers have embedded flash and SRAM but rely on customers to write their own motor-control software. Parts in the AURIX™ family can have up to six processor cores and run at more than 300MHz. And members of the TRAVEO™ II family include a hardware security module, error-checking and correcting memory support, and functional safety qualification up to ASIL-B level.