WHAT ARE COBOTS?
Cobots, the robots that will revolutionise your daily routine
Robots and humans can work together like colleagues thanks to the boom in collaborative robots. The use of cobots in industry is changing production processes because unlike industrial robots, they work efficiently, safely and skilfully with other employees on all types of tasks.
Cobots share jobs with operators, collaborating, manoeuvring and interacting with them. They are not intended to replace humans, rather to become their bodyguards. These machines release operators from dangerous, repetitive and burdensome tasks, reducing absence due to illness and occupational illnesses. They also have sensors that detect human presence and react, for example by slowing down to protect humans from injury. These lightweight devices — some of which weigh less than 10 kilos — are easy to transport to any point in the production chain.
THE BOOM IN COLLABORATIVE ROBOTS
Collaborative robots, known by the abbreviation cobots, are nothing new. They first appeared at the end of the 1990s as the result of a research project, but now, almost a quarter of a century later, they are finding their way into companies, large and small, to transform the productive model and play a role in the great 4.0 Industrial Revolution.
Cobots are a technological marvel. They have artificial vision to detect and interact with workers and accessories that enable them to perform numerous tasks. The main ones are polishing, laboratory tests, machine supervision, injection moulding, packaging, quality control, assembly, bolting, adhesion, welding, etc. If we want a robot to collaborate with a person, it needs to learn with the person and be able to change its behaviour. That's where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning come in.
WHAT MAKES ROBOTS DIFFERENT TO COBOTS
Cobots, as we have seen, are used to perform high precision tasks which are tiring for human operators, leading to mistakes. This frees humans up to focus on added value tasks to offer clients better services. This is just one of the many benefits of using collaborative rather than traditional robots:
Traditional robots are installed in fixed positions, while cobots can be moved about easily to the most suitable position to meet the company's needs.
Traditional robots are built to do just one task, while cobots can perform different functions.
Traditional robots replace workers in the workplace, while cobots cooperate with workers in their daily work.
The cost of traditional robots is very high and it takes years to amortise the investment. In contrast cobots are cheaper to buy and pay for themselves more quickly.
Traditional robots are enclosed in cages for safety reasons, while cobots work alongside operators with no danger.
THE STRONG POINTS OF COBOTS
They become part of the
They do not replace human labour, but work alongside operators.
They learn new tasks easily
Thanks to technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, they never stop learning.
They can be moved
Their size and weight make them easy to position at any point in the production chain.
They boost productivity
They are complementary to the operator and help to optimise and modernise the production process.
They reduce costs
They are less expensive and pay for themselves more quickly than traditional industrial robots.
They never injure operators
They have sensors that slow them down in case of risk to humans, among other features.
They take over dangerous tasks
Releasing workers from this type of work reduces sick leave and occupational illness.
THE GROWTH OF COBOTS
Cobots are the fastest growing segment in industrial automation. According to data released by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA), by 2025 their numbers are expected to increase tenfold and they will account for 34% of all industrial robot sales. Daniel Frisch, sales manager at Universal Robots, one of the main manufacturers, says that cobots are increasingly affordable and are drastically reducing the automation barrier, reaching areas hitherto considered complex or costly.
The International Robotics Federation (IRF) calculates that in 2019 there will be 2.6 million robots in operation, most of them in the automotive, electronics, chemical and plastics industries. The market demands more and more products tailored to meet customer requirements. This is where cobots become great allies, since one of their main virtues is that they can manufacture short series of numerous parts.