Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Cobots and Industrial Automation
Collaborative robots, also called cobots, allow workers to work side-by-side with them, as opposed to traditional robots which must be located in a secured, closed area for safety reasons. Cobots eliminate the need for costly fences, do not use valuable shop floor space nor reduce access to equipment. Cobots can be used to execute repetitive tasks that until now were still handled by humans; using grippers, cameras, and sensors, they can locate, pick and place parts, then count and inspect them. Some key applications include: machine tending, picking and placing, packing and palletizing, assembly, quality inspection, polishing, welding, gluing.
For example, Trelleborg uses 42 UR machine tending cobots to improve price-competitive production. Cobots also helped Trelleborg increase product quality: products are now more uniform from a quality perspective, thanks to automation, which results in increased demand from customers which led to hiring of 50 new employees (source accessed on 2017 Jun13: https://www.universal-robots.com/case-stories/trelleborg-sealing-solutions/).
Cobots can also help preserve workers’ mental and physical health by taking care of repetitive and dangerous tasks.
Cobots are normally trained by demonstration supported by a user-friendly touch interface, which means that there is no need to develop and maintain extensive sets of robotic programs. Furthermore, the maintenance of cobots is usually minimal.
Thanks to productivity gains and reduced human labor costs, cobots can help maintain manufacturing jobs in developed countries or even bring back outsourced facilities to their original location (reshoring). Because of their ease of use and flexibility, cobots can support the trend for massive personalization, along with technologies such as additive manufacturing.