Cobots are changing the game for Manufacturing and Machine Tenders

What is a cobot?

Simply put, cobots or collaborative robots are robots that are designed to work with humans. Cobots are unique in that they are able to learn multiple tasks to assist their human counterparts where the traditional robot is built and programmed to be not only stationary but also autonomous. These lower power robots are able to learn the majority of their tasks through demonstration and reinforcement learning thanks to multiple advances in robotic automation. The benefit of these lower powered robots is the increase in safety features that comes with collaborative robots. Cobots are the ideal solution for most small to mid-sized businesses looking to automate some of their production as they take up considerably less space but can also work in a variety of different capacities, they also help decrease workplace accidents as the robots are designed to be safe to be in close proximity with humans. They are essentially an extension of the employee giving them an extra set of arms to be able to complete the task.

Upgraded for safety

Cobots are different than your traditional robot due to the core standard ISO/TS 15066. Cobots have a variety of features that contribute to them being safe to work in tandem with humans.

Some of these features include:

  • Power, force, and torque limits — Simply put, these cobots are limited by power. They are able to apply a certain amount of force but should it for any reason exceed the limit the cobot is built to immediately stop.
  • Speed limits — The speed limit is important as humans work side by side with these cobots. By limiting the speed, the cobot cannot move fast enough that an collision with a human going full speed can cause harm. This means even though they are capable of moving fast, most cobots are designed to move slowly.
  • Safety-rated stop modes — Cobots have several triggers that may induce a stop mode to be employed. An “emergency stop” will only happen during an emergency. A “protective stop” can be employed from a variety of different interactions such as if a person enters the cobots workspace.
  • Ergonomic design — Collisions aren’t the only potential danger with robots. Cobots are also designed to be ergonomic to avoid any kind of injury occurring from a person’s arm or hand being caught between the cobot’s joints.
  • Redundant internal checks – The cobot is set up with various internal systems that will simultaneously disable power to the motor while also enabling the joint brakes if the case of a control error or failure is detected.

How can cobots they help machine tenders?

Machine tending is quickly becoming a popular application for collaborative robots(cobots) to perform. These cobots are used as an accessory to the CNC machine and assist in making sure the production of the materials run around the clock by decreasing the cycle time. One of the functions these cobots do this is by continuously removing the parts from the work area. Adding cobots to your machine tending process can be repeated endlessly as long as the cobot continues to receive raw parts.

Two things to consider when selecting your cobot:

  • Payload: This is fairly simple to determine. First you identify your tool and the heaviest raw part you want your cobot to be able to carry. This helps you determine your overall payload by multiplying the volume (L x W x H) by the density (g/mm^3). It is best to add 20% to this number in order to reach maximum acceleration and avoid an error while running the program.
  • Reach: Measuring the distance between the where the robot will retrieve the part and the machine is critical in determining the reach your robot will need. To find the maximum reach your robot will take the previous total distance and divide it by two. Keep in mind, if you need a larger reach, your payload will also increase.

Who else can benefit from cobots?

Thanks to their flexibility and the fact that you can teach a collaborative robot anything, they can be used anywhere. There are several industries where cobots are ideally suited and have already been successfully integrated.

  • Food industry – robotics in the food industry has always been a little challenging due to the robots having to work with the food directly. Cobots with their smaller frames and new gripper technology make this a lot more beneficial.
  • Plastics industry – the plastics industry has always been difficult due to the sheer amount of the large variety of products in small quantities. Cobots’ adaptability has revolutionized production for this industry.
  • Packaging industry – cobots are perfect for this industry as they are able to learn a variety of different tasks such as placing the products in boxes. Their power and ability to do repetitive tasks that are physically demanding make them the perfect candidate for stacking boxes. This leads to not only better productivity but happier employees.
  • Electronics industry – this industry has a lot of small products that are very fragile and require extra care. Cobots are equipped with various sensors that allow them to help automate testing or quality control but also be able to handle products carefully enough to package without damaging the product.
  • Pharmaceutical industry – the reduction of risk for this industry is the biggest reason to automate. When working with pharmaceuticals it is important to keep the margin of error low. By cobots being able to perform the same operation frequently and with near 100% accuracy this industry is a perfect fit for automation.
  • Automotive industry – the automotive industry is no stranger to robotic automation. An increasing demand for customization with vehicles has had cobots making an entrance into more and more factories.
  • Metal industry – Here we are back to having a large variety of products with small numbers. This is of course a perfect production environment for a cobot. Not only can they perform machine tending tasks they can also perform tasks related to welding, soldering or loading CNC machines and press brakes

Finding the right cobot for your business can be a difficult task. That is where FanucWorld can help. Not only do we have dedicated and consultative account managers and customer service representatives, we also have one of the largest inventory of robot parts in the US to keep your Fanuc robot in peak performance. To start your automation journey, fill out our request for quote form here.

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