A cobot, also known as a collaborative robot, is a robot that is created to have direct interaction with humans and work together in a shared space. They are created for supporting and relieving human operators. Cobot is different from the traditional industrial robots which are isolated and working on their own or with their fellow robots without interaction with humans. This is because industrial robots are operated at a fast pace and they may harm humans if staying too near to them. Industrial robots are large, expensive, lack of flexibility, and require complex programming. In contrast, collaborative robots are designed to work hand-in-hand with the workers. They are not designed to replace humans in the production line. The cobots focus on repetitive tasks and assist workers on the tasks that required problem-solving and creativity from humans. Since cobots are working next to humans, they move at a controlled speed and are equipped with sensors to detect human movement. They are programmed to stop immediately when a person has contact with them. Their size is smaller, lightweight, and easy to assemble. They can be deployed in a tight space and are easy to move to different places to perform various tasks safely. Cobots are usually designed in the form of an arm that provides the worker extra hand for handling the task.
Advantages of Collaborative Robots
- Cobots possess a high sensitivity to the environment and people around them, and so human safety is highly guaranteed when working with cobots. This has allowed you to run the cobot at full speed without the worry of potential danger.
- Unlike traditional robots that required time and knowledge to program their action and usually only can perform a single action, cobots are easier to program with user-friendly software and mobile application. They are more flexible, can learn new actions, and add new tasks easily. You also can set the required position and save it for the next operation. They can perform multiple different tasks without changing your production layout.
- Cobots are able to perform the task accurately at the same pace and force. They also can perform the same task for up to 40 hours and it is more practical to hire a cobot during peak moments.
Common Applications of Collaborative Robots
Cobots are widely used in different industries and available in various types of models to perform various applications that range from light duty to heavy duty. Common industries such as metal, food & beverages, automotive, packaging, plastic, healthcare, and electronics used cobots widely for their operation. Here we will discuss some common applications of cobots:
Cobots are popular to be used for moving materials or transferring items within the building. For instance, many e-commerce companies implement cobots to sense the item’s fragility and transfer the item from one place to another place. These cobots are equipped with gripper or suction cups that can be used for loading items, forming cartons, or sealing boxes. They pick different items, pack in specific cartons, and then palletize them at the speed and working hours that help you to improve the production goals. Additionally, cobots can be used for heavy lifting with the pre-programmed route. This eliminates the requirements for people to carry heavy items and reduce the use of other conventional equipment likes forklift.
It usually involves the assembly of items together to form the final product during the manufacturing prociess. The overall process can be time-consuming and boring for humans. Cobot automation can be used for assembling different items together. They help humans to assemble items correctly, eliminate mistakes that could be done by humans, and reduce the cycle time. Cobots are also able to handle the intricate parts that may not be handled well by human hands.
For a manufacturing company, product quality is very important at ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction. However, quality control inspections performed by humans may not be consistent and prone to error. Human is easy to lose focus and feel tired after several hours of inspection and staring at the product continuously for a long time. There are also chances that some cracks or blemishes on the products may not be captured by human eyes. In this case, cobots can be a good choice for performing the inspection tasks as they can scan the items consistently and provide a high level of accuracy. They can discover the smallest defects easily and are able to operate for long hours without affecting the working performance.
Force control sensors are part of the safety features that are equipped in the cobots. These sensors are suitable to be used for automating finishing applications such as sanding, polishing, grinding, etc. They have a great sense to determine the required amount of forces for the finishing and ensure that the entire process is performed accurately to avoid any defects.
The flexibility and safety of the cobots have made them become more popular in recent years and widely applied across different businesses and industries. The market for collaborative robots is growing quickly and we will see more collaborations and interaction between man and machine in the future. It is important for manufacturing companies to start implementing collaborative robots in the production lines to achieve better efficiency and product quality.
Photo credit: Media from Wix; safetyandhealthmagazine, wiredworkers, howtorobot, industrywired