Getting the Most from a Collaborative Robot Project

Industrial Robot-Cobot in the workplace

Although many experts state that collaborative robots are user friendly, it doesn’t mean that you can purchase one, plug it in and watch it perform miracles. While collaborative robots, also called cobots, are indeed less complicated than traditional industrial robots, to reap all the benefits a collaborative robot has to offer, it is essential that the selected model meets the specifications of the application,

that integration is properly performed and that training is available for the employees who will be collaborating with the automation. Without these measures, a collaborative robot project may not provide the anticipated efficiencies. However, working with an experienced distributor will ensure that you get the most from investment in a collaborative robot.

Collaborative Robot Basics

Unlike traditional industrial robots, cobots are specifically designed to work collaboratively with human employees in shared workspaces to enhance the efficiency of industrial operations. To ensure that cobots interact with their human coworkers in a safe way, they feature advanced technologies, such as:

  • Monitored standstill: Collaborative robots feature sensors in the safety control system that allow them to detect obstacles and stop to avoid collision.
  • Speed and separation monitoring: This safety function allows operators and robots to work in the same area while maintaining a safe distance. If sensors detect that a human worker is too close, the cobot will be commanded to slow down or stop.
  • Power and force limiting technology: This feature controls and reduces force and torque in order to prevent injury if a cobot accidentally makes contact with an operator.

Collaborative robots also offer some features that make them easier to operate, including:

Intuitive programmingUser-friendly intuitive collaborative robot programming interfaces require minimal technical experience, enabling faster deployment and reduced training time for operators.
Hand-guided controlsThis feature allows the operator to manually control or move the cobot for its next task via hand-operated control devices. Hand-guided controls are often used to teach the robot the motion tasks needed to complete the work.
FlexibilityBecause they are designed to work near humans, cobots may not require safety barriers, cages or fencing, making them more cost effective and flexible as they can be moved around the facility with minimal infrastructure changes. Due to the physical flexibility of a cobot, simplicity of programming and hand-guided control functionality, cobots can be easily adapted to perform different functions, making them a great choice for manufacturers that have small-batch production, frequent product changes or customized products.

The safety, simplicity and cost effectiveness of collaborative robots make them a suitable automation technology for manufacturers of every size where they can provide a wealth of benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency/productivity: Collaborative robots are built for speed and accuracy, allowing cobots to perform tasks faster than human workers. They are also rockstars when it comes to performing repetitive and mundane operations – ones that typically bore or fatigue human workers – in a fast, accurate manner, which helps increase productivity and throughput and reduce the chance of human error and injury.
  • Higher levels of product quality: Cobots can be equipped with specialized end of arm tooling and machine vision systems that allow them to perform assembly, inspection, pick-and-place and other activities precisely and without errors. This precision and repeatability reduces scrap and waste and ensures consistent product quality.
  • Safety improvements: Since collaborative robots often handle tasks such as lifting, bending and twisting that result in fatigue and repetitive motion injuries for human operators, using cobots often reduces injuries, improves safety and reduces the costs of worker’s compensation claims, medical bills and insurance.
  • Enhanced workforce: Because cobots are not intended to replace human workers, but rather work with them, they can help reduce worker fatigue and allow existing workers to concentrate on tasks that require problem solving or higher-level thinking, providing more value to the company and increasing worker satisfaction.

How to Get the Most from a Cobot Project

As stated above, collaborative robots are less complex, more cost effective and more flexible than traditional industrial robots, which allows them to provide increased efficiencies, greater productivity and higher levels of quality, safety and worker satisfaction to the organization. However, to achieve these benefits it’s important that a risk assessment be performed, the selected cobot is suitable for the task, that integration with existing infrastructure is properly performed and that training is available, which is where the assistance of an experienced distributor is helpful.

Because not all tasks suit collaborative robots and because there are a variety of cobots available for purchase, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced distributor when selecting a cobot. They can also assist with considerations such as scalability and future adaptability, ensuring that the chosen cobot can accommodate anticipated changes in production requirements. An experienced distributor can also aid with selection of end of arm tooling to confirm that the collaborative robot will properly manipulate the parts and perform the designated activities.

Cobots must be thoughtfully integrated into existing infrastructure and operations in order to collaborate effectively and efficiently. This may include redesigning processes and programming to ensure seamless interaction between human workers, production machinery or other robots. Experienced distributors can assist with this process. Finally, training the existing workforce to operate and collaborate with the cobot is essential to achieving the highest possible levels of efficiency, productivity and workforce acceptance. Workers will need to develop new skills to interact with and program the cobot. Distributors should provide this crucial training.

As an experienced distributor, JHFOSTER specializes in bringing safe and flexible collaborative robots to manufacturers of all sizes. With the assistance of JHFOSTER, simple collaborative robot cells can be operational in under a day. Further, robotic accessories such as adaptive grippers, vacuum tool end effectors, vision systems, force torque sensors and software are available through JHFOSTER to ensure that form meets function so that users receive the optimal experience and that the collaborative robot functions reliably. A state-of-the-art training facility offers technology training to familiarize operators with programming, accessories, safety features and operation of the collaborative robot. Contact JHFOSTER today to learn more.