Robots are no longer something that only exists in science fiction. They are quickly becoming a part of everyday life and can be found in many different industries including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and more. Collaborative robots (also known as cobots) are good examples of this. As their name suggests, collaborative robots work side by side with humans within the same workspace without needing to be separated or caged off.
This enables them to reduce human labor costs and improve production output. How do these types of robots differ? Which one is right for your particular business?
Demographics of Collaborative Robots
Collaborative robots are used across a wide range of industries and business types, but they tend to show up in larger numbers in manufacturing and warehousing facilities. They tend to be more popular among smaller businesses because they don’t need to be serviced as often. Such businesses need to know where to buy a collaborative robot from as they pose less of a financial burden on companies with limited resources.
Although collaborative robots are primarily used in facilities that produce parts or products for end-users like homes or businesses, they can also be found across many different types of facilities. They are suitable for use at airports because aircraft fabrication and assembly facilities often need to comply with strict safety requirements. They can also be found at recycling centers, where the task of separating recyclable materials from garbage is difficult for humans but suitable for collaborative robotic arms.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of collaborative robots on the market today.
Power and Force Limiting
The first type of collaborative robot is known as a power and force limiting robot. These robots are designed to work alongside humans without the need for any fencing or caging. This means that they can not only share the same workplace with humans but also be programmed by them; changing tasks do not require any kind of reprogramming. These types of robots are great for small businesses because they do not require any special installation or extensive knowledge.
Force limiting collaborative robots use either force control or torque sensing to physically limit the amount of power that the robot exerts on an object, allowing it to work side by side with humans without injuring anyone. Force limiting systems don’t prevent collisions, but they do prevent damage.
Force limiting collaborative robots can usually handle payloads of up to 3kg (6.6 pounds) and only exert enough force to lightly hold an object in place without causing damage. To make sure that the robot is not exerting too much force, these cobots use either force control sensors or torque sensors.
Safety Monitored Stop System
Safety monitored stop systems are known as SSR, or Safety Stop and Robot. This is a more complex type of collaborative robot that allows for higher payloads and forces. They can range anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds (4.5 – 18kg) and deliver enough force and torque to perform tasks like loading and unloading, but only when the person working with the robot follows specific safety protocols.
These robots use a variety of different sensors including force and torque sensors, cameras, and proximity detectors to make sure that the user is following all safety guidelines before allowing the device to do any work. This type of collaborative robot usually has an assortment of force limiting systems such as gripper retraction and deceleration, deceleration torque limiting, and safety-rated brakes.
Speed and Separation Monitoring
A speed and separation monitoring cobot is a more specialized version of the safety monitored stop system. This type of collaborative robot is designed to work with heavier payloads, but only in specific circumstances. They must be pre-emptively programmed to work properly and rely heavily on proximity sensors and cameras to make sure that they don’t collide with humans.
Thes robot use force limiting systems such as deceleration and gripper retraction. They are also equipped with different speed limits, both high and low. The more specialized version, like the speed and separation monitoring collaborative robot, also uses an assortment of torque limiting systems known as safety-rated brakes.
Hand guiding collaborative robots are capable of high precision motions, but only when being directed by the human operator. It uses force limiting features to prevent it from damaging objects or injuring people. They are able to perform tasks that require high levels of accuracy, such as picking up fragile objects and placing them in specific places.
These types of collaborative robots are lightweight and easy to program. They can be brought into an existing production line or used on a standalone basis, making them ideal for small businesses that need something more advanced than power and force limiting cobots but do not want the expense and complexity associated with safety monitored stop and speed and separation monitoring systems.
Benefits of Collaborative Robots
In general, collaborative robots provide a number of benefits to small businesses. They are easy to program and do not need any special installation or extensive knowledge. These types of cobots also do not require safety fencing or other expensive equipment that’s normally required for industrial robotics applications.
Additionally, robotic arms can offer a number of different speeds and forces, depending on the model, making them capable of performing all sorts of different tasks. They are also very flexible, which means they can be used alongside humans without putting anyone in danger.
When it comes to safety, collaborative robots are one of the best options available because they work with people instead of replacing them. Collaborative robots are not designed to do the work of employees, but instead to assist them so that they can get more done in a day. This results in increased productivity, greater output, and allows for businesses to develop new products without investing too heavily into capital expenditures like machinery or equipment.
Disadvantages of Collaborative Robots
While collaborative robots are extremely versatile and can handle a wide variety of tasks, there are some disadvantages associated with their use. For example, if the collaborative robotic arm is not programmed properly or used in an industrial setting, it could cause damage to existing equipment or products being manufactured. Additionally, because these cobots function differently than industrial robotics arms, they may require extensive training before workers can get comfortable with them.
Collaborative robots are a cost-effective and versatile option for many different types of businesses. They can be used in warehouses or manufacturing facilities, but they also work well at airports and recycling centers because these tasks require rigid safety standards.