Until now, industrial robots always worked separately from humans in specially safeguarded protected spaces. Smart manufacturing has broken down this barrier with a new generation of collaborative industrial robots.
Collaborative robots sometimes also known as “cobots" for short, are the robots that are capable of human-robot collaboration (HRC) and work hand in hand with their human colleagues. Human-robot collaboration is thus combining the best of two worlds: humans with their superior creativity and cognitive abilities and the robot with its greater repeatability, strength and precision.
In this way, the robot becomes the third arm of the human operator. This new form of collaboration opens up previously inconceivable possibilities for the smart factory of the future. As collaborative robots operate without physical safeguards, they have to permanently calculate the risk of colliding with humans, constantly checking this via the robot controller.
Collaborative robots works hand in hand with the operator, thereby enabling him to work more efficiently, more ergonomically, more precisely and with greater concentration. As a robot that can genuinely be deployed universally, it is defining new standards on the road to the fourth industrial revolution. Collaborative robots can be programmed onsite by the employees and can be quickly re-tasked to do multiple jobs quickly. They are lightweight and can be moved around easily in the production facility.
Collaborative robot have integrated sensors, passive compliance or over current detection as safety features. The integrated sensors will feel external forces and, if this force is too high, the robot will stop its movement. Passive compliance is produced by mechanical components. If an external force acts on a joint, this joint will submit itself to this force. So, in case of a collision, the joint will move in the opposite direction avoiding any injury. Also, an over current can be detected when a collision occurs. This is another safety feature, because the software can generate a security stop when it detects a current spike.
Some of the applications of collaborative robots can be:
Vision based quality inspection
Pick and place
Operating hand tools