German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel looked into the future during a recent visit to Hannover Messe, the world's largest industrial show for automation and Industry 4.0.
Dr Merkel joined Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to check out the latest technology offered by motion plastics specialist igus, a standout exhibitor at this year's show in Germany.
Her main focus of interest was of course cost-effective "robotics made in Germany".
At their display, igus demonstrated how a service robot arm could soon be drying the dishes and laying the table.
"When she returns to private life, we would like the chancellor to have the same service that she had during her time in office,” said igus CEO Frank Blase. “This will give her more time for other things such as writing books on politics or science.”
Mr Blasé said robots of this kind would be ready for mass production in one or two years – and they will be affordable.
"In at least two years, the kitchen robot must be able to do Dr Merkel's housework."
Service robotics will play an important role in the future of the industry, he said.
And igus is using Hannover Messe to start talking to customers from the world of household appliances.
High performance motion plastics
To make household robots affordable, igus GmbH bases its gearboxes, articulated joints and connecting components on its 50 years of pioneering work in the area of motion plastics technologies.
These are lubrication-free and maintenance-free, high-performance plastics developed independently by the company. The products that are created are cost-effective and, at the same time, extremely durable.
Located at Lind, in Cologne, the family-run company has 4,150 employees with an annual turnover of 748 million euros (A$1.1 billion) and is one of the world's leading manufacturers of energy chain systems and polymer plain bearings.
Dr Merkel and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with CEO Frank Blase at the igus stand at Hannover Messe
Every year, igus makes inroads into new areas of industry. The company's most recent innovations were 3D printing for wearing parts with a service life that can be calculated online, and lubrication-free ball bearings made of high-performance plastics.
According to a study of RWTH Aachen University in Germany, an annual saving of more than 35 million metric tonnes of lubricating oil can be achieved if lubricants are dispensed with.
At the same time, around 50 per cent less energy is needed for the manufacture of polymers than for steel and 70 per cent less than for aluminium.
High-performance plastics become high-tech components
Motion plastics are increasingly becoming high-tech components.
"Smart plastics" is what igus calls products that monitor themselves during use and tell the customer how long they will continue to last.
Before a product is actually used, the customer can carry out a simulation online to find the solution with the best price/service life ratio.
Enormous investments in digitisation are now being made to help the company to participate in the robot industry.
In conjunction with 16 other industrial partners taking part in Hannover Messe last week, igus presented RBTX.com, the world's first robotics platform which brings suppliers and users of low-cost robotics together.
Users can put together an automation solution online that matches their requirements and budget.
Suppliers of robotics components are given the opportunity to market their products to a larger public in a new marketplace. igus is betting on the dynamism of the robot community for the joint development of new low-cost concepts.
The igus components are available from Treotham Automation in Australia.
Treotham Automation Pty Ltd
1300 65 75 64