In a previous blog, we explored the top 5 advantages for industrial robots, but now the spotlight turns to collaborative robots. Although newer to the market, the usage of collaborative robots has been growing rapidly and infringing on some applications or tasks that had been solely reserved for industrial robots in the past. In this article, we will concentrate on the top 5 advantages collaborative robots have over industrial robots.
#1: Safe Design (Eliminates Injury Potential)
With an inherently safe design, collaborative robots eliminate pinch points at the joints and have smooth, rounded edges to prevent any bodily injury if a collision with a human were to occur. Contrastingly, industrial robots have many potential pinch points, leading to the requirement of having machine guarding or hard guarding to prevent humans from being able to work in the same space without removing power or stopping the robot.
#2: Force Limiting (Able to Interact with Humans)
With sensors in every joint/arm, collaborative robots can easily sense contact force and limit the amount of force applied in case of a collision with a human. This allows humans to safely work side-by-side with a collaborative robot, as long as the system is designed with collaborative safety principles. For more information on collaborative safety principles, look at the following international safety regulations: ISO/TS 15066, ISO 10218-1:2011, and ISO 13849-1:2015. It is important to note, all designs should have a safety risk assessment to make sure the collaborative robot is deployed safely, and the overall automation design is considered collaborative and safe.
#3: Hand-Guided Teaching (Flexible Automation)
By being able to put a collaborative robot in free-wheeling mode and move it around by hand to teach points, technicians, maintenance and assembly personnel can avoid having to fully understand robot coordinate systems and user frames to modify or reprogram a robot. This allows the collaborative robot to be used more like a tool for production workers than a piece of equipment they simply tend to. The Omron TM collaborative robot boasts a couple more features that make it even more flexible. It has built-in intelligent vision as well as the TMLandmark which automatically calibrates the cobot to its workspace. Having capital investments that are this flexible really helps boost the ROI for a company considering robotic automation.
#4: Size & Weight (Less Space & Easy Mounting)
Collaborative robots are typically smaller and lighter than industrial robots. Additionally, since they are able to work in the same space as humans, it allows manufacturers to save space especially because there is no physical hard guarding needed. Additionally, cobots can be easily mounted in just about any orientation and even on other automation equipment, such as mobile robots.
#5: Intuitive Programming (Easy-to-Use/Deploy)
Combined with hand-guided teaching which we discussed earlier, cobots typically have simpler programming environments that are tailored towards new or novice users. This makes them quick and easy to deploy into an application for any experience level. The counterpoint to this is that they are not quite as capable, but for the features they have, and the applications typically deployed, collaborative robots can be very easy to get up and running.
Although cobots do have some nice advantages, they also come with some considerations and limitations. Some of these are that they are much slower in collaborative mode, have limited payloads and reach with not as many arms to select from, and a lower mean time between failure(MTBF). Typical applications for cobots include machine tending, light pick and place or pick and pack, assembly, vision inspection, kitting and sorting of parts, screw driving, and more.
Mechatronic Solutions provides high quality automation technology products, solutions, and services to companies across nearly all industries in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and North Dakota. We take a consultative approach to helping customers reach their goals for successful automation projects. If you're interested in learning more about how robots can benefit your operations or would like to schedule a free demo, contact us today!