I have been working with cobots for years: as a student before, then as a research engineer and now as a startup founder. I think that collaborative robots will really be one of the most innovative elements in future factories. However, I am also persuaded that the values that cobots are more ready to apport in today’s industry are quite different from the ones you read in the first line of homepages in cobots suppliers’ website.
That’s why I am listing here 3 main benefits of collaborative robots you should think about:
1. Employes will prefer cobots with respect to usual industrial robots.
During my working experience in industrial robotics, I met a lot of people with smart ideas and with a genuine passion for their job. One of them was a guy that was directing the “research and development” sector of a manufacturing company. He had this wonderful ideas: he stopped making his experiments and research in a laboratory or in some hidden room. He was testing the brand new cobot he wanted to introduce in its production chain directly in the factory among operator! People were working as they always did being able to check what that guy and its cobot were doing, and asking a question about what was happening. They were every day less suspicious about that small robot they will have to work within a few months, being able to watch it, touch it and being involved in the testing phase since the beginning. I think this is a wonderful example of a practice that collaborative robots are already allowing in today’s factories.
2. No barriers not only means people can easily interact with the cobot but also…
Let’s be honest. Cobots are probably ready for coexisting with people but many steps need still to be done before they will be efficient for actually collaborating with people in a natural way on the same task at the same time. That’s why I think that, up to now, the real advantage of avoiding safety barriers is not the possibility for people to interact with the device. Of course, there is an economic benefit, since the investment required by the necessity of purchasing safety barriers and sensor usually triples the price of classic industrial robots, but this is not the only advantage.
What I think could really be revolutionary is the needing of almost no space in the factory for a cobot installation. Let’s think about SMEs, with limited spaces in their plants, wishing to automate a specific task in their productive chain. They will be able to install a small cobot on small support next to a conveyor belt, other machines or a corridor where people usually walks without any changes in the surrounding environment. Moreover, SMEs will probably need a cobot to work half a day on a task, then move it in another area and having it working on a different task. Cobot market will grow and collaborative robots will spread, and I think that they can really become a symbol of automation SMEs.
3. Through cooperating to collaborating.
In between of coexisting and collaborate there is what we usually call cooperating. People and cobot can work together without working on the same part of a task at the same task. Let’s imagine for example collaborative robots moving some components from a bin to a desk where an operator is supposed to assemble them. They are not working “together” on the same task part but we can say that they are cooperating to a specific result. You probably don’t know but this practice will improve the operator’s productivity up to the 80%, dictating him the timing of the operation. Quite impressive isn’t it?
So these were 3 benefits of cobotics you probably never thought about. And what about you? Let us know which are the main advantages you experience working with collaborative robots!