On the sofa with… Jon Oñativia, Head of Flexible Manufacturing Robotics de TECNALIA

Advanced Manufacturing Madrid – What’s the latest in robotics right now?

Jon Oñativia – The latest in the media are the robots presented by Elon Musk, which have disappointed us a little. But well, if we think of instructional robotics, we all think of Boston Dynamics robots, robots that are capable of imitating the movement of a human being.

AMM – How does Spain’s current situation in robotics compare with that of our neighbours?

J. Oñativia – Spain’s situation is quite interesting because different factors come together. On the one hand, we have a very important productive fabric, which means that there is a very significant presence of robots in the industrial sector. Therefore, when we look at the number of robots per inhabitant and the number of robots per worker, Spain is very well placed.

On the other hand, we have very large and well-known robot-producing companies, as well as small companies that are positioning themselves very strongly and are developing very innovative projects in the field of industrial robotics.

AMM – What do you think will be the most important developments in five years’ time?

J. Oñativia – In robotics they are happening a bit like what we have seen in the last two decades with mobile telephony, now we all have a smart phone that is more powerful than the computers we had a few years ago, and that allow us to connect to the internet instantly, make video calls, move around the city… This seems natural to us now, but if they told us 20 years ago we wouldn’t have believed it.

I believe that we will soon see a very similar revolution in robotics. We have been hearing about robotics for many years, but it is going to start appearing in all sectors. It’s already very present in logistics warehouses, but we’re going to start seeing it in cities as well. We’re going to start to see autonomous robots popping up in cities, from restaurants to hospitals.

AMM – In your talk you talked about the relationship between the operator and the robot. How is this relationship going to change in the short term?

J. Oñativia – We are going to see two developments in the field of robotics. One is the more traditional industrial robotics, which will continue to be implemented in processes that do not require an operator. But then we are going to see the collaborative robotics that will go hand in hand with the operator in the plant, which we have not yet seen. These projects are still prototypes, but we are very close to it becoming a reality.

AMM – When we talk about robotics, we always think of large companies in very specific sectors. What about SMEs? What role do you think robots will play in the world of small and medium-sized companies?

J. Oñativia – Robotics in the world of SMEs is going to be increasingly important. In recent years, the more traditional robotics that we have known demanded more investment, which was a barrier for those companies that could not make such powerful investments, but with this revolution that we are talking about, I think that the use of robots is going to become more democratic. We will see developments that we are not able to imagine today.

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