GlobTalk / Men and robots, expelled from the factory. But for the robot to recycle is easier …

For an elderly worker, finding a new job after losing their job is a very difficult undertaking. For an old mechatronic worker, an industrial robot used to be clear, however, there is no problem. Indeed, there are those who, not finding any in Italy, go to look for them as far as Japan and then relocate them to a new factory.

Our consumption of automata continues to grow. In 2007, Italian companies bought them for 555 million euros, an increase of around 10% compared to 2006; but these official figures do not take into account the hundreds of robots expelled from the factory which, after a period of reconditioning and training, find their place in the new robotic solutions created by system integrators. There is a small company in the sector, Erregi 2 Industriale of Padua, which has specialized precisely in this outplacement activity.

In a large warehouse it has accumulated over 800, all branded by the most famous international manufacturers, such as Kuka, ABB, Motoman, Fanuc, and to relocate them more quickly worldwide, it has also opened a dedicated website,

Who are the new employers of older mechatronic workers? In Italy it is mainly small businesses and artisans who invest in new processing, welding and assembly islands, but want to save on the cost of innovation and with a used robot they are able to reduce the overall cost. An automaton with 10-15 years of work in the departments of a large international company in the automotive sector, is worth from 15 thousand to 30 thousand euros depending on the size and capabilities, less than half of a corresponding new model. Of course, it will have a shorter life ahead of it and will probably be subject to ailments resulting from usury, but for a small business that wants to produce more by spending less and recovering its investment faster, that’s fine. Proof of this is that the Padua-based company sold 120 last year and demand is constantly growing.

But how is it possible that a hi-tech tool like the robot is so long-lived in a world where computers are already thrown away after only two or three years? The reason for this apparent contradiction was clearly indicated by Bill Gates in a speech on the hi tech revolution that awaits us published by Scientific America in January 2007 in which he spoke about current robots and the robotics industry, comparing them to mainframes and the IBM of 80s.

The automata of today are in practice the same as those of 20 years ago and do almost the same things because the industry that builds and uses them has not yet given itself an adequate vision of their possible development. Without a vision of the future, Bill Gates’ speech suggests, the present does not change. A present in which old robots find work more easily because they are called to always do the same things in factories that are always the same, and their career is likely to last longer than that of real-life workers. by Carlo Arcari Taken from “IlSole24ore” and published on