Types of collaborative robots

Technology is evolving every day due to the frequent changes in rules and trends of performing tasks. Most industries have acknowledged this and are utilizing technology in different ways.  Robots have been adopted heavily in industries however due to the need of a robot that can interactively work with humans for more productivity, a cobot is in existence.

A cobot is a collaborative robot that has been designed and programmed in a way that it can work alongside humans and interact with them. Usually, the two team up to accomplish desired results that they would not have achieved on their own.

There are four main types of collaborative robots. Their variation depends on the features chosen during their manufacturing.

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Main types of cobots’ features

  • Safety monitored stop

A cobot with this feature is used in cases where human interaction with it is very minimal and infrequent. This feature of collaboration uses a traditional industrial robot together with safety precautions or devices. For instance; use of laser scanner to detect the entrance of an employee in the restricted area, usually in the pre- determined safety zone.

An instance where this collaboration is used is when a large industrial robot is required in the manufacturing process especially when heavy loads are used in the process and a human is required to perform a secondary operation on the same load.

In this case when the employee enters the restricted area, the safety device detects the change and the robot automatically stops all its movement. The employee can then resume its operation by pressing a button.

This clearly shows that this cobot is more efficient when there is less interruptions by humans.

  • Hand guiding

This feature allows the programmer to hand guide the robot to the desired path or position. For instance, in the pick and place applications. This collaboration utilizes regular industrial robots, however, a device is added to its fly. This device detects the force the user is applying to the robot during its operation. When reprogrammed, the new paths and positions can be quickly ‘taught’ hence reducing the cobot’s down time.

Nevertheless, this collaboration applies only when the robot is performing this particular action, therefore when the robot is in its regular operations, safe guarding measures and logic should still be in place.

  • Speed and separation monitoring

This feature utilizes the traditional industrial robots however its work space is constantly monitored by lasers or vision systems that detect the position of the employees from the robot. The cobot functions within its pre-designed safety zones. These safety zones determine how it will respond to its proximity with the human.

When the employee enters a certain safety zone, the cobot’s speed slows down to a safe speed, when the employee gets closer to it, it automatically slows even more or stops until the employee leaves this zone. Additionally, in this collaboration, the cobot resumes its operation automatically compared to the safety monitored stop that will require the operator to press a button or send a signal for it to resume.

This therefore means that this collaboration can be used in situations where the employees are frequently interacting with the robot also due to its safe running speed aspect.

  • Power and force limiting

This is the most collaborative robot as compared to those mentioned earlier. This is because it does not utilize the traditional industrial robots and does not have any additional safety devices such as lasers, vision systems or fencing. The collaboration aspect is done during its manufacturing as it does not have sharp corners, pinch points or exposed motors.

These cobots have sensitive force monitoring devices that assist it to feel abnormal forces in its path. It is programmed to stop once it detects these forces. In addition, in the event of collision on a wider surface, these cobots are padded to drive away the force. A reason why they are usually rounder.

In conclusion, it is evident that collaborative robots provide a safer working environment for employers. However, it is important to conduct a risk assessment before putting the cobots in to use. This ensures that all possible risks are on check and proper measures have been taken to mitigate those risks.

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