History of FANUC Robots
FANUC is the top robotic manufacturer in the world. With over 600,000 industrial robots installed to date, they have become known as the industry leader with their signature yellow robots. However, they did not get their start in industrial robot manufacturing. FANUC first set out to develop numerically controlled machines which eventually lead to their expansion into robotic automation.
Early YearsFANUC was founded in 1956 in Japan by Dr. Seiuemon Inaba who was the first to develop the idea of numerically controlled machines. In fact, the name FANUC stands for Fuji Automatic Numerical Control. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s FANUC focused solely on producing NC machines for manufacturing automation.
In 1972, FANUC developed the computer numerical control (CNC) machine. 1974 was the beginning of FANUC robots as they developed and installed the first FANUC robots in their factories in Japan. Throughout the rest of the 1970s, FANUC expanded their operations into Europe and developed their ROBOCUT and ROBODRILL products.
Expansion into AmericaIn 1982, FANUC entered into a partnership with General Motors Corporation to form the GMFANUC Robotics Corporation. The purpose of this partnership was so FANUC could expand its operations into the USA. The GMFANUC Robotics Corporation was headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and began manufacturing industrial robots. This partnership would be the launching point of FANUC’s dominance in the robotics industry.
In 1992 GMFANUC Robotics Corporation underwent restructuring. The result of this restructuring was the formation of the FANUC Robotics Corporation with its subsidiaries being FANUC Robotics North America and FANUC Robotics Europe. Also in 1992, FANUC developed a prototype of the first intelligent robot. FANUC would eventually productize its intelligent robot in 1999.
Industrial Robot SuccessDespite FANUC having been around since the 1950s and establishing a robotics division in the 1980s, most of their industrial robot success did not come about until the 2000s. This time period is when FANUC really began developing their innovative robot lines, robotic controllers, and robotic software.
FANUC has developed articulated robots for automating just about any production related application. The FANUC Arcmate 120ic from their Arc Mate series is one of their most popular arc welding robots. These FANUC welding robots are capable of all types of welding automation including plasma welding and laser welding. During the mid-2000s, FANUC launched what has become their most successful robot series, the R-2000 series. The R-2000 series features the FANUC R2000ib/165F and the R-2000ib/125L, both of which earned FANUC the reputation of producing the strongest and most reliable 6-axis robots. Factory robots from this series can perform automated material handling and spot welding applications.
In 2009, FANUC took their innovations a step further with the release of their delta robot series, featuring the FANUC M-1ia. These robots would become known as FANUC’s spider robots due to their unique parallel link design. The delta series was designed for super-fast light weight robotic picking, automated packaging, and robotic assembly. These robots were further enhanced by the integration of robotic vision systems.
In 2013, FANUC Robotics Corporation was reorganized into FANUC America Corporation. In 2015, FANUC reached a major milestone with a robot volume over 400,000 units. Also in 2015, they launched their first collaborative robot, the CR-15iA. This was the first FANUC robot capable of working alongside humans without barriers due to its enhanced safety sensors, rounded edges, and soft exterior covering. A few years later, FANUC become the first manufacturer to dedicate an entire series to cobots.