December 19, 2023
The 2023 International Robot Exhibition (iREX 2023) was held for four days from November 29 to December 2 at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto-ku, Tokyo. Against the backdrop of a labor shortage in the industry, the exhibition attracted more than 148,000 visitors, higher than the previous exhibition in 2019, which was held before the pandemic. Many exhibitors showcased their latest products, systems, and technologies, surprising visitors with unprecedented offerings.
iREX is one of the largest robotics trade shows in the world, bringing together the latest solutions. This year’s show was particularly exciting, with the largest number of exhibitors to date and more visitors than at the previous show in 2019, which was held before the pandemic. The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, Yasutoshi Nishimura, also visited the exhibition, reflecting the growing public interest in robotics due to the labor shortage. Many companies related to robotics and automation presented new products and technologies at the exhibition.
FANUC prominently promoted its new “R-50iA/R-50iA Mate” robot control system at its booth. The most significant feature of this product is that it has received third-party certification based on the international cybersecurity standards “IEC62443-4-1” and “IEC62443-4-2”. “Although our products have always been highly secure, the third-party certification makes the use of Internet of Things (IoT) functions even more reliable for our users. This is the first time in the world that a robot has received this certification,” said Kiyonori Inaba, Executive Managing Officer of FANUC.
Yaskawa Electric launched its next-generation robot, “MOTOMAN NEXT,” and made a strong showing at its booth. MOTOMAN NEXT is autonomous, meaning that it can adapt to its surrounding environment and make its own decisions when instructed to perform a task. “We wanted to be able to complete a task with a single work instruction,” said Manabu Okahisa, GM, Robotics Division of Yaskawa Electric.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries exhibited a visual inspection system. By integrally controlling the line scanner from the robot controller, the system can scan curved surfaces without stopping. Cycle time can be reduced to one-tenth and start-up time to one-sixth. “Since this is patented technology, only we can offer it,” confidently explained the Robot Division sales department.
NACHI-FUJIKOSHI exhibited about 50 robots in its booth, highlighting its product line and the diversity of its applications. The new “MZ-12W”, a new product in the MZ series, was incorporated into a demonstration system for transporting substrates for the electrical and electronics industries. The MZ-12W has a unique structure at its base that enables flexible movement, such as when removing a board from a rack.
Kyocera promoted its “Kyocera Robotic Services,” in which the company’s engineers provide continuous support from pre-installation verification of robots to actual operation. The service supports the efficient operation of robots by utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud services. Many visitors stopped to take a look at the fine-parts picking system, which is under development with a target launch date of 2025. Using a proprietary high-performance camera, the company has demonstrated the ability to pick nuts as small as 3 mm in diameter, stacked in pieces, while detecting the front and back.
SHIBAURA MACHINE exhibited its “Logi Robo Series” system for in-plant logistics. The company demonstrated a series of processes from depalletizing corrugated cartons from the pallet to unpacking the cartons by cutting the tape on top of the cartons. The person in charge of the operation emphasized, “Cartons come in different sizes, and each time the size changes, it is usually difficult to automate the process because it requires program changes, etc. But the Logi Robo series can handle a wide range of sizes with little effort”.
For logistics applications, THK proposed its “MLS Series” cylindrical coordinate robots, which have a columnar linear axis that moves the arm up and down. At the iREX 2023, the company introduced a model with a maximum payload of 100 kg for the first time. The 100 kg payload model was placed on top of the company’s robot’s traveling axis to extend its range of motion. Two pallets can be palletized or depalletized side by side.
Mujin (Tokyo, Japan, CEO: Issei Takino) exhibited for the first time in Japan its “TruckBot,” a debunker robot that unloads containers onto trucks and trailers. It autonomously calculates the most efficient routes and movements to achieve high productivity and is capable of unloading up to 1,000 cases per hour.
Daido (Nagoya, Japan, President: Sadao Yamada) exhibited an automated production line consisting of a small cutting machine from FANUC and a coordinate measuring machine from Mitutoyo (Kanagawa, Japan, President: Yoshiaki Numata). Measurement is accomplished without a fixture while the robot grips the workpiece, and even inter-process transfer is automated using “SIGNAS,” THK’s transfer robot system.
YAMAZEN stood out by proposing a unique approach to the use of robots. A collaborative robot is placed on a rack, and an automatic guided vehicle lifts and carries the rack as needed. This method has the advantage that one robot can be used in multiple locations and processes.
In addition to the above, many other companies presented their solutions for automation and labor savings at the iREX 2023.
Edited by: Yuya Sone
Staff Editor, SEISANZAI Japan