Cobots Collaborative work with robots

Imagine the following scenario: instead of taking our place, robots work by our side. What sounds pretty futuristic is now a reality when cobots, i.e. collaborative robots, become part of the workforce. If you can design your workflow in such a way that it uses and combines the best properties of humans and robots, there are many advantages that we would like to briefly introduce to you here.

EXTRA: Artificial intelligence: advantages and disadvantages of robots at work

What is a cobot?

Cobots belong to the latest generation of robot systems and are designed to work alongside humans. Thanks to the further development of sensors and image processing technology, these robots no longer have to be secured by protective devices. With earlier generations of industrial robots, people in the workplace had to be protected from the fast movements and the heavy mass.

Improvements in computing power and robot technology, as well as a lower price tag averaging $ 24,000, make the robot a real option for small and medium-sized businesses. Now such companies can finally enjoy the advantages of advanced robotics and thus be supported in competition with larger manufacturers.

Human and robot collaboration vs conventional automation. #technology #cobots #cobotics #robots #innovation #automation pic.twitter.com/XQw0fnbAHv

– KUKA UK (@KUKA_UK) August 27, 2019

Cobots are:

  • Easy to program: No programming knowledge is required to quickly set up and operate cobots. The technology is often plug and play or very easy to program using a tablet or by adjusting the robot’s arms.
  • Quick to set up: In contrast to conventional industrial robots, which take weeks to start up, the set-up time for most robots is only a few hours.
  • Flexible: Traditional robots are often screwed into the floor and used for a specific application. Cobots are flexible and mobile, do not take up a lot of space and are very easy to reuse to support new and multiple applications.
  • Safe: Robots do not need safety cages to protect your employees in the workplace when they are working. They can sense obstacles and adjust their speed or drive backwards to avoid hitting people (or other obstacles).

How are robots used in the company?

The more dirty, boring and dangerous tasks robots can take over from humans, the more opportunities humans have to assume higher-level or creative functions. Here are a few examples of how cobots are used:

1. Hand guidance:

Similar to a conventional industrial robot, a hand-guided robot has an additional pressure-sensitive device at the end of its arm. In this way, the human operator can teach the robot how to hold an object or how fast to move something so that nothing is damaged.

2. Power and force limitation:

If a power- and force-limiting cobot senses something unusual in its path, it can stop any movement or, if necessary, move backwards to prevent an impact. These robots are designed to work with people on a regular basis.

3. Safety-monitored stop:

This process allows a cobot to work independently, but when a human needs to intervene, the robot detects the human presence and stops all movements until the worker has left the safety zone.

4. Speed ​​and separation monitoring:

Similar to the safety-related stop, the cobot works in a safety zone. Instead of stopping when he realizes someone has entered the safety zone, he can slow down his work and track the location of the person. If the person gets too close, he will stop doing his job.

Book tip: Introduction to human-robot collaboration

How medium-sized companies can produce at Chinese production costs and reduce their shortage of personnel

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Cobots in action

Although cobots could be the workforce of the future, at this point in time they still make a rather small contribution to the annual turnover of industrial robots. Multiple companies benefit from improved efficiency, lower costs. By working with cobots, this has allowed them to remove the boring, dirty, and dangerous tasks people have to do. Here are a few examples of companies currently using these robots:

  • Ford Fiesta plant: In Cologne, Ford factory workers and robots work together on their assembly lines to install shock absorbers.
  • Amazon warehouse: Robots bring shelves to Amazon employees to prepare for shipping. Now that robots are in action, it only takes 15 minutes to complete a job that used to take an hour.
  • Online supermarket Ocado: Here the robots are used in a similar way to Amazon. The UK online shop’s human order pickers take orders and stay where they are while the robots move to collect the products.

Businesses are turning to this technology to keep up with the competition in response to the skills shortage as the baby boomer generation gradually retires and labor costs rise. Robots made by companies like Rethink Robotics, Kuka, and Universal Robots hope to find solutions to these labor and cost problems. We can assume that interest in robots will continue and that the people of tomorrow, who work with robot colleagues, will become the standard for better performance.

EXTRA: Hotel of the future: Amazon rival opens robot hotel

Bernard Marr has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We have translated it for you so that we can exchange ideas with our readers on relevant topics!

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