In manufacturing, advanced robotics are helping Singapore move up the value chain, free-up resources and enable workers to take on more productive and complex jobs.
Manufacturing currently accounts for nearly one fifth of Singapore's GDP. Robots and AI tools are expected to sustain and grow this through efficiently taking on undesirable job functions - like tedious production line assembly, or the investigation of hazardous environments.
British manufacturer Rolls Royce worked collaboratively with some of the very best minds in the city to create intelligent electrical power system that can predict and prevent faults.
Since then, it has now set up an Advanced Technology Centre based in Singapore that will continue to deliver cutting-edge innovations including robotic solutions that could see the elimination of health, safety and environmental concerns when it comes to manufacturing.
The company’s pièce de résistance is a 38-kilogram robot by the name of YuMi® which ABB says will transform small part assembly automation, providing greater precision and efficiently during the manufacturing process.
The industrial robot is built with dual-arms designed to be as dexterous as a human, and even resembling the anatomy of a human through its magnesium skeleton enveloped in soft padding.
Unlike conventional industrial robots, this is a machine built for safety. Its padding allows it to absorb the force of any unexpected impact. If there is a collision with a co-worker, YuMi can stop moving within milliseconds.
YuMi® (a play on the words “you” and “me”) is the best example of man and machine truly working together.
In remanufacturing, Singapore is leading global developments through Singapore’s newly established National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC).
NAMIC was created to help companies develop their capabilities in 3D printing and has developed prototypes that can print anything from bone and dental implants to aeroplane maintenance parts - all available at the press of a button.
NAMIC has even achieved things once only thought possible in science fiction – and successfully printed customised tissue implants for patients. The implications of this breakthrough have the power to revolutionise the global healthcare industry as we know it.
Singapore is best placed to continue its trajectory of delivering advanced robotic solutions through the establishment of the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC). This is Asia’s first centre for testing and developing new manufacturing technologies. The public-private collaboration aims to increase the adoption of advanced processes and robotics across industries, with the goal to revolutionise and evolve existing practices, whilst setting new benchmarks both regionally and globally.
But the country’s robot revolution is not only pushing the boundaries of advanced manufacturing, but also transforming other areas too…
In what is believed to be a world first, Singapore’s hospitals are increasingly using robotic systems to choose, assemble and deliver patient’s medication. The trailblazing automated bottle dispensing system relies on robots reading barcodes to prepare the medicine.
Not only does this ensure there are no mistakes made with prescriptions, but it is also highly efficient, reducing patient waiting time and saving over 8,760 hours of manpower a year.
At Nanyang Technological University (NTU), some of the planet’s brightest minds have transformed the humble beetle into a remote-controlled cyborg. Tiny electrodes are being implanted into beetle’s muscles, which scientists are able to control using wireless receivers and transmitters.
This radical technology has revolutionary implications. The hope is that one day these robo-bugs will be able to assist in search and rescue efforts in remote locations and even act as an alternative to drones.
Singapore is fast becoming one of the first places on earth where people do not think twice when confronted by a robot. For example, guests at the new Philippe Starck-designed hotel, M Social are met by a robotic butler. Using driverless technology, the robot known as AURA is delivering patrons their bottled water, fresh towels and toiletries.
Elsewhere in the city, the Park Avenue Rochester hotel is also investing in robots, which will one day even deliver guests their food orders and luggage.
All this innovation and smart technology means that industry leaders are gravitating to Singapore as a mecca for showcasing hi-tech advancements. In November 2016, the city hosted the first Singapore International Robo Expo (SIRE) with 2,000 participants from 26 countries to see the latest robotic developments.
This year the city will host more global gatherings with a technological slant including Inside 3D Printing Singapore in collaboration with the world’s largest professional 3D printing experts Inside 3D Printing in New York, and Manufacturing Technology Asia (MTA) which is focused on delivering advanced technologies for high-value manufacturers.
This is only the beginning of Singapore’s robotic revolution. Massive investment in the coming years can only mean that its technological capability continues to streak ahead of other nations. This effort will consolidate the city-state’s position as a true tech leader across the region, stimulating new ideas and pioneering groundbreaking solutions that are set to transform and robotise tomorrow’s world.