We’re back on our travels this month. We packed our passport and headed up the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. Destination: Lithuania. The largest of the three Baltic states by land area, Lithuania has one of EU’s smaller populations, with a little more than 2.7 million people. Once Europe’s largest country, history and geography later led to several centuries of domination by powerful neighbours. Modern-day Lithuania regained independence when it broke away from the Soviet Union in 1990. In the current century, Lithuania has strengthened its ties with global and European institutions, successively joining the WTO, NATO, the EU, the Schengen zone, the euro zone and the OECD. Today, Lithuania has an advanced economy with a well-developed robotics sector. 

Made in Lithuania: a youthful robotics sector with bold ambitions 

Despite its relative youth compared to global robotics developments in recent decades, the Lithuanian robotics, automation and AI sector is ambitious and hungry. Lately it has experienced a renaissance during the period of COVID-19. This has accelerated the implementation of robotics solutions in Lithuanian industry and has doubled or in some cases even tripled the turnovers of robotic companies.  

Increased demand both locally and internationally suggests that Lithuanian hi-tech companies are proving to be ahead of the curve with their solutions. In seeking to offer the same or even higher levels of hi-tech engineering and expertise than longer established competitors in the market, Lithuanian robotics companies have also shown themselves to be a lot more flexible in adapting needed solutions for the manufacturing or service industries. Autonomous mobile robots that transport the goods inside factories or automated cross-docking warehouses, quality control, disinfection robots, an ever-growing demand for industrial robots and their flexibility – these are just a few solutions from Lithuania’s robotics sector that have drawn the attention of big global companies.   

Regarding density levels for robots in the manufacturing industry, the global average of robots per 10,000 manufacturing employees is 126, while the Lithuanian average is around 20 industrial robots (figure derived indirectly from other data sources and not yet specifically measured). The situation has changed significantly in recent years – the Lithuanian government is working hard on prioritising robotics, automation and AI as key sectors in the economy’s sustained growth and global competitiveness. 

There are already positive signs – according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR, of which the Lithuanian Robotics Association is also a member) in 2020 around 350 industrial robots were installed in Eastern European countries (Baltic states, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus) out of which the leader is Lithuania with more than 100 new robots being installed during 2020. 

Success stories 

It is important to note that a couple of Lithuanian robotics companies made a real breakthrough with their state-of-the art products. Elinta Robotics is a company of robotics and computer vision innovators that focuses on Industry 4.0 developments and helps industries adapt to these challenges by automating manufacturing processes in Lithuania and abroad. SmartPeek is a specialized modular quality control system designed for use in the furniture production line. This automatic image processing system guarantees continuous inspection of every surface of each furniture part – 30 details in one minute. Depending on the demands of the client it can vary from the simple system, checking the drilled holes on one side of the board to the extensive system controlling the dimensions and quality of every surface of the board. 

Another hi-tech company Rubedos recently developed an application for Boston Dynamics Spot robot to disinfect train carriages with an ultraviolet device, which is mounted on the ‘back’ of the robot dog. Another project that will soon be in the spotlight is a collaboration with a blue-chip business in the courier services industry to automate the courier freight cross-docking using self-driving forklift trucks. These will fundamentally change the need for hand pallet truck drivers (by retraining them for other operations) at the logistics giant’s warehouse in Rotterdam. 

The robots developed by Factobotics, a company working in robotics for seven years, are intended for various industries – light industry, furniture manufacturing, metal processing – as well as several new products under development in the adaptive services sector. Not only is equipment being developed to be capable of performing individual production operations, but also intelligent robots that can replace a person working as a machine tool operator. The company is currently developing a device that can determine in real time whether the varnish covering the furniture panel has hardened and is no longer harmless to the consumer. Factobotics develops standardized robotic solutions and has spun-off two product companies for the metal industry: RoboBend and Flexy Weld. 

Robobend is the world’s first standardized bending robot cell. It replaces and automates the process of operating the bending machines used in almost all metal processing companies around the world – the application’s scope is 1.5 million bending machines globally. This is something already identified by many companies as a “would like to automate” process. Robobend has designed a robot compatible with any existing press brakes on the market and solves the problem of finding qualified machine operators. The robot provides higher capacity for the company’s machines and lowers production costs while consistently delivering high quality. 

One of Factobotics’ other projects is Flexy Weld, a company that manufactures robotized flexible welding cells for SMEs, enabling them to install welding robots cells without jeopardising their need for production flexibility. The solution is based on the hexapods that work as flexible fixtures. It’s digitised and enables a fast shift between production orders. 

Robotics, artificial intelligence and photonics are among the key enabling technologies which are on the priority list to continue the digitization of Lithuanian industry, which also aims to become a testbed for new cutting-edge technological solutions created across Europe, Japan and USA, first deployed in Lithuanian industry for demonstration purposes, then spread across all of Europe and beyond. In the upcoming years Lithuanian robotics is ready to create more high value-added businesses, hi-tech, top-quality products with a proud brand ‘Made in Lithuania’. 

This article was written for the euRobotics newsletter by Natalja Chrustaliova, Communications Manager, Lithuanian Robotics Association  

Contact and more info: info@ltrobotics.eu   https://www.ltrobotics.eu