Collaborative robots have been in every industrialist, publication, and thought leader’s lips for the past few years. They are being touted as the future of manufacturing, service, and the drivers of automation in industry 4.0. Why all the fuss about collaborative robots? We take an overview of the Cobot industry, their promise, and some of the ideologies fueling their rapid adoption in major industries around the world.
Collaborative Robotics Is More Accessible and Open
One of the main ideologies fueling the interest in collaborative robotics is their accessibility and open approach to applications and technology development. Collaborative robots are smaller, cheaper, and easier to program as compared to traditional robots. This is why SMEs are finding it easier to integrate them into their businesses. In addition to that, some Cobot manufacturers have chosen an open approach to the programming and technology development aspect of the Cobot arms and peripherals they produce. This is making it easier for people to find more ways to apply them to their processes.
Today’s Manufacturing Processes Favor Collaboration
Manufacturing processes in today’s environment require a lot of design and management to come up with products that are right for prevailing market trends. This calls for a lot of changes in the production line and redeployment that is timely and less disruptive to current manufacturing processes. Traditional industrial robots end up suffering in this fast-changing environment as they are not built that way. Today’s automation also calls for a lot of human-robot collaboration to make product customization and refinement a possibility.
Furthermore, the Line Between Traditional Industrial Robotics and Cobot applications is Blurring. With more and more industries deploying collaborative robots on factory floors, Cobots actually taking market share from traditional industrial robots. This is especially true for companies that do not want to replace human workers with machines or those dealing with bespoke handmade products.
According to Robotics.org, almost ninety percent of physical tasks in manufacturing plants cannot be handled by traditional industrial robots. Heavy industrial robots aren’t suited for these dynamic environments that require real-time decision making. Collaborative robots are more suited for most physical tasks on the factory floor as they work alongside human operators. For instance, palletizing robots need to be able to adapt to changing spatial and physical requirements on the fly.
Collaborative Robots Can Work Autonomously
Many people tend to associate collaborative robots with interaction and human-robot coordination. While Cobots are built to be collaborative by nature, their implementation in the real world is not restricted to collaboration. Cobots can be deployed to work together with a human, on their own or as part of a robot team. This versatility is what makes them attractive to those looking for an automation solution flexible enough to fit their current environment.
Redeployment and reprogramming are much easier with modern collaborative robot arms as compared to traditional industrial robots. Given that needs are always changing, companies will always find a new application area for their Cobots by redeploying or reprogramming. Take note that redeployment can be as simple as changing a peripheral or the EOAT.
Safety with Collaborative Robots
Safety is also one of the hottest topics fueling the Cobot debate today. Collaborative robots are built to be safe by nature. They have limitations when it comes to speed and force applied when working alongside humans. Some are equipped with smart sensors to detect when a human is too close to their operational area so as to avoid injury through impact. However. Some experts have argued that Collaborative robots don’t need to guarantee safety, especially when deployed in potentially hazardous situations such as welding and palletizing.
Based on what we have seen so far, collaborative robots hold so much promise going forward. This will better as more and more industries find new applications for the technology. One thing remains clear, collaborative robots are here to stay.