Cobots: Who They are and What They Do?
Cobots: Who They are and What They Do?

Cobots: Who They are and What They Do?


Nowadays, robots have exited the league of extraordinary things in our lives. Whether it be an industrial machine or a walking dog, most people have already given in to the idea of automatized units entering the day-to-day life to make it better. After the manufacturing automatization in the 20th century, the subject in the spotlight for the next stage will be a collaborative robot. Such a device is lighter and more agile, thus allowing it to interact closer with a human. Many monotonous and repetitive tasks are not conducted by the robot, though still under the vigilance of a person.

What is Cobot?

Cobot robot stands for a collaborative robot. The concept is a new one, it appeared just recently and is actively taking over all the human activity fields. More precisely, it is an automated mechanism interacting with a human to perform a certain kind of work or manufacture products. Just as their ancestors — industrial robots, cobots are set in motion by a manipulator and programmed control devices. The program creates manipulatory actions and sets the necessary movements for a cobot using the executive parts of the mechanism of a manipulator. Collaborative robots are implemented on production sites when a certain task cannot be fully automated due to whatever peculiarities it has.

Photo of Cobot robot and a human on production place

These machines may look fascinating, however, they have a range of advantages and shortcomings to look for.

Here are some of the strong sides of cobots:
● Cobots don’t require any special programming
● The price on the human-friendly helpers is usually around $30 000 or even below and they also can be rented
● Cobots are great at routine processes such as loading and unloading objects, spraying paint or bending wire, etc.

And some of the weak sides:
● Cobots still can’t solve problems including object recognition;
● These robots are usually unable to lift more than several kilos at a time, so heavier objects are out of their league;
● They do their job in a rather slow manner in order to not outpace humans.
● It is hard to predict at the moment how long such an assistant will serve its duty because the technology is quite recent which means that there is no history to fall back on the guessing.

Overall, cobots are much more practical in use than industrial robots. You won’t need to allot a special place on a site for the robot, which is convenient and saves a lot of space. They work slower than normal industrial robots, which means productivity is falling behind the level of big automated mechanisms. Despite that, this robot is a valuable fellow-helper. In tandem with people and an industrial machine, it will have a high productivity rate and become an effective device on site.

Collaborative Robotics

Company Universal Robots was the initiator of the modern-day collaborative robot definition. They were the ones to make this technological breakthrough in 2008 — the invention of the first collaborative robot in the exact same form as it is now more than 10 years later. It is an independent unit that can conduct its work obligations in the close proximity with human-workers and is safe to be nearby. The very first model had low carrying capacity (up to 5 kilos), though it was more than enough for most of the operations this cobot had to carry out.

Universal Robots UR5 equipped with Schunk grippers on Messe fair in Hannover, Germany

The key clients of Universal Robots would be small enterprises with mostly conveyor production. Industrial robots were too expensive and just inaccessible for private businesses that are not yet of such a financial scope. Especially so, if we consider the fact that those robots require a lot of free area for dislocation, which would inevitably limit the mobility of the production and necessitate additional manufacturing grounds to be acquired.

It wasn’t long until the collaborative products have allured the attention of all those people looking for an ultimate solution.

And it is no wonder because these robots display some really good qualities:

● The prices on them can start at as low as $20 000.
● They sure have a fast payback too, about 6 to 12 months for the whole assets return.
● Easy to install — a list of instructions and about 1,5 hours of time and you will have one of these robots ready to be set into action in the workspace.
● Easy to program — no complications there.
● And most of all is the safety of the robots that they are best known for. A range of intellectual solutions has made it possible for them to immediately stop in their tracks at contact with a human however insignificant it could be.

Biggest Robot in the World

You would have often heard “robots are conquering the world”. Some are afraid that soon robots will reach the extent of gaining complete independence from humans and stop listening to them. Of course, this sounds more like the plot of some sci-fi movie than the course of events in real-life — even though many robotics enthusiasts around the globe are working hard to make a massive walking robot like one of those from the futuristic horror movies.

A bright example of a more recent giant cyborg is the robot weighing 5 tonnes and reaching 8,5 meters in height created by Japanese engineer Masaaki Nagumo from the company that builds agribots. This huge robot is not just a motionless pile of metal, it has a range of functions such as moving its legs and hands and firing pistols given it by its creator. The engineer was inspired to set about building this machine by one of the characters from the Japanese anime Mobile Suit Gundam. It took him six years of hard work to finish his brainchild and when he was done there were no limits to his delight.

An even bigger robot was released to ride the planet delivering ore completely automatically without any human interaction along the way. The robotic train developed by an Australian company in 2019 is the world’s first fully automatic train operating on its own with no machinists or any other personnel. The railroad itself is located in the distant region of Australia named Pilbara, which is why the company needed some kind of autopiloting transport there. Later, though it doesn’t resemble humans, the train has been mentioned as the biggest robot in the world for its ability to perform work without intervention from the side.

Lifting Robot

Among the numerous models in modern cobotics, those that can paint, grind, cut, draw, saw with thread and carve something out of wood, one specific type of robot is more important than the others — lifting cobot. It is arguably the most popular kind of collaborative robots at the moment. Mechanisms such as this can appear not only on production sites but also in everyday life.

Robot-lifters is an intellectual solution combining in itself both enormous power and utmost precision. These machines are able to perform set tasks with fascinating accuracy. Using such cobot can considerably reduce the amount of unpleasant heavy manual work. They will not only enhance the quality of the working conditions but also decrease the risks of spine traumas among the loaders. Collaborative robots in manufacturing make many diverse work processes faster and easier, which in turn also saves production resources.

The cobots are often used not only in manufacturing where they work with heavy objects all day long but also on the building sites, warehouses and may even be helpful around the house. These miniature ladder lifters can serve a good help to the handicapped people or just lift some weights up the staircase in the houses not arranged with elevators.

Cooperative Robots

All in all, the way that collaborative robot manufacturers have covered so far is pretty amazing and the industry is growing quickly. These new industrial robots are equipped with some serious hi-tec visions. Their eyes can perfectly discern objects and prevent unplanned contact with humans or their surroundings. They are designed to work in close proximity with humans and not on some specially allotted fenced areas.

Here is for some interesting statistics: in the year 2025, the overall value of the collaborative robots on the world’s market is going to be around $12 billion. Due to the increase in interest and so the investment flow to automate working processes, this industry is predicted to have a significant future.

The sensitivity of cobots is allowing to use them in different fields of manufacturing for example product packaging. That is why collaborative systems attract the attention of both small to medium-sized businesses.

Robotic hand with a butterfly on it.

The success of collaborative robot companies is often linked to the long-awaited possibility of implementing the human-cobot tandem. This working scheme provides great productivity and quality of work. A cobot serves as a multifunctional instrument to a human in this alliance. The robotic helper is perfectly fitted for repetitive tasks, which makes it ideal for routine and hard work — what humans find difficult; this fellow finds it easy. Besides that, the implementation of the cobots won’t take any working places away from workers but will open a company new paths of development to embark on. However, the main requirement for a cobot remains the safety of use — no one wants to be hurt by a robot. Though it isn’t a problem with cobots, it is indeed more likely for a robot to get damaged by a human and not vice versa.

Conclusion

People face robotics every day in modern reality. No one is surprised at the thought of most of the routine jobs being done by machines. Automatic devices are doing a major share of the production site works — they pack, stamp, transport, build and help with montage. Developers continuously trying to come up with new ideas of convenient appliances to make life easier and more comfortable for people. Collaborative robots are not tightly interconnected with the way of life of a modern human. They not only perform certain functions but work together with people, allowing us to do what we do with less effort and more results.

Anna Sapiga

AZ Engineer


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