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Fanuc offers small manufacturers robots without the fuss

App-controlled devices lower the bar for adopting industrial automation

Fanuc's CRX robots are easy to install, program and operate with a tablet.

TOKYO -- Factory automation is no longer the sole preserve of big manufacturers thanks to Fanuc's new robotic arms that can be controlled with tablet apps.

The lightweight CRX Series machines are easier to install and program than conventional models, as they do not require dedicated controllers. The equipment runs on apps developed by Fanuc, which says it has significantly lowered the hurdles for smaller manufacturers to bring robots into their plants.

"We have designed our products so as to appeal to even those companies that have never used industrial robots," said a representative of the Japanese company. Fanuc plans to start shipments in June.

The new machines are part of the company's drive to promote what it calls collaborative robots, which do not require special safety barriers as they are designed to work alongside people.

While Fanuc robots are usually yellow, its collaborative models come in green and white. "We have tried to come up with a pleasing design to people around them," said Chairman Yoshiharu Inaba.

White CRX machines were first unveiled at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo late last month.

As various Japanese industries are facing serious labor shortages, "half of robots will be eventually replaced by collaborative models," Inaba predicted.

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