Advanced technology in robotics increases rapidly, with their capabilities, potential, versatility, functionalities, and flexibility getting better. Many companies no longer limit robots to work in selected areas of operation because of the recent advancement in robotics. Leading the change is the collaborative robot designed to provide multipurpose solutions.
Using robots dates back many decades ago. A robot comes with many benefits, such as eliminating the most common issues that humans go through while working. The issues include distraction, tiredness, boredom due to doing the same jobs repeatedly, and even making the workspaces safer and better for humans. Now, we have the collaborative robot, which is a better version of the ordinary robot.
Collaborative robots started overtaking the robotic market in the mid-2000s, with leading manufacturing companies such as Universal Robots being among those spearheading their production. Cobots can address many of the manufacturers’ most pressing issues quickly without adding to the company expenditure. The rapid evolvement of the cobots keeps up with the demands for more solutions needing robotics.
Common applications of Collaborative Robots
Designed to work safely alongside humans, collaborative robots are extremely flexible, versatile, and have different applications across many industries. The following six are the main applications for cobot’s deployments.
1. Pick and Place
Pick and the place is one of the most repetitive tasks for humans in any manufacturing process. The process involves picking a workpiece and placing it in another location. Pick and the place is also a mundane task that requires concentration, precision, and accuracy. The repeated physical motions required by humans can easily lead to boredom, injuries, straining of some body parts, and mistakes.
Using cobots prevents the common issues that humans make while performing the applications of the process. The robots can identify even the smallest part and transfer it to its rightful position with great accuracy and precision. Pick and place cobots have sensors and end-effectors or grippers that grasp the objects without any struggle.
2. Packaging and Palletizing
Packaging and palletizing is a subset of pick and place, and it takes place before the products leave the production floor and before shipping them to their respective destinations. The process includes assembling the boxes or cartons, shrink-wrapping, collating the boxes, loading and placing the packages onto a pallet before getting them ready for shipping.
The process is labor-intensive and repetitive for humans, but cobots handle all the processes efficiently and without slowing down. The payloads are small, making the process ideal for collaborative robots. The packaging and palletizing process require conveyor tracking, rapid product changeover, and a vision system, especially for products without a uniform shape.
3. Machine Tending
Machine tending is one of the most common applications for robots in many industries. It is the process of loading raw materials into a CNC machine and unloading the finished parts from the machine. Machine tending is common in the following applications.
- Milling and turning
- Injection molds
- Trimming, forging, stamping, and punching
- Compression molds
The process is long and tiring for a human, as it requires one to stand over or in front of a CNC machine or any other similar machine to ensure that all the operation needs go well. Cobots are the ideal tools for this process because they can tend to multiple machines and free humans to carry out other tasks.
With more output, the cobots lead to increased productivity and a cut on company expenses. Some of the requirements that a machine and tending cobot need include input and output interfacing hardware with specifications compatible with the machine. The purpose of the input and output hardware is to alert the robot on the next cycle or replenish material.
4. Process Tasks
Process tasks include welding, dispensing, and gluing, and it involves a tool interacting with a workpiece and moving it through a fixed path. Each of the process tasks is also intensive, and they take a toll on the human staff. Many of the tasks are repetitive, and they require one to be alert for accuracy and precision.
Training new employees for the tasks also takes lots of company time and resources because many variables need controlling before attaining quality finish. A collaborative robot makes all the processes straightforward, fast and frees humans from the repetitive nature of the tasks. The accessories the cobots need for the process tasks are an end-effector such as a sealant, a welding torch, solder paste dispenser, or glue.
It also needs programming software to help maintain consistency. If there are several rapidly changing parts, the robot might need CAD/CAM programming third-party software packages. Using the standard programming packages allows anyone with experience on any process tasks to program the cobot.
5. Finishing Tasks
Another process that cobots are good for is for finishing tasks. The tasks, like many other processes, are labor-intensive and highly repetitive if performed by humans. They also require large amounts of force using manual tools. The manual tools produce lots of vibration, which is both uncomfortable and risky.
If something goes wrong, they can cause injuries to the person operating the tool. Finishing tasks include deburring, polishing, and grinding. Using a cobot minimizes the issues and improves accuracy with the necessary repetition and force. During the finishing task, the accessories you need for the cobot are an end effector designed manually for general or robotic uses.
Cobot will also need programming, making navigating along a fixed path more straightforward and a force-torque sensor if the task requires force control.
6. Quality Inspection
Our list’s last collaborative robot application is the quality inspection that involves a full inspection of all the finished products. It is one of the most sensitive processes, as it requires using high-resolution images for quality verification. The application is especially suitable for verifying the quality of products resulting from a process engineering process.
Using cobots makes the process easy to tackle as you can mount cameras into the cobots, automate the whole process for faster quality inspection results. Using cobots also provides you with more accuracy and higher quality inspection. The cobot accessories for this application are vision systems, an end effector, programming, and an external jig.
Wrapping it up
The demand for cobots keeps going up. Many companies across all manufacturing sectors choose them over traditional robots. Cobot manufacturers, designers, and programmers have a hand in helping with research and production facilities to ensure the collaborative robots have all the applications needed to work alongside humans on the above tasks and many more.