It’s been 60 years since the first industrial robot, Unimate, was invented. The robotics industry grew and products are improved through years, however, industrial robots’ inability to coexist with humans in the same work environment made them surround by guardrails, away from people, for safety purposes.
A robot that can operate directly alongside and interact with its co-workers opens up a huge number of new possibilities for task automation. In this article, we’ll explain cobots, their application areas & case studies.
What are collaborative robots?
Collaborative robots also referred to as cobots or co-robots, are robots or robot-like equipment that designed to safely work directly alongside human workers to complete a task that cannot be fully automated.
Why are collaborative robots are important?
Though interest in cobots is increasing, cobots are still a small percentage of entire robotics industry. According to Loup Ventures, global robotics spending will reach $13 billion in 2025. Though collaborative robots only make up about 3% of all robot sales, this number is expected to jump to 34% in 2025. Reasons for this are:
- Most complex processes involve repetitive, object-oriented tasks that are suitable for cobots. Unlike humans, cobots don’t get tired and can work 24/7 without making careless errors. This improves business productivity.
- Cobots are cheaper than industrial robots. Cobots rely on a smaller number of cheap hardware components and embedded sensors. They also do not need enclosures, reducing the need for manufacturing space.
- The flexibility and re-programmability of cobots make them more investment-worthy since they have various applications.
Differences between cobots vs industrial robots
Critical difference is that cobots can safely collaborate with humans. Industrial robots lack the intelligence to work alongside humans. They work fast in pre-defined patterns and lack awareness about humans. Therefore, they are kept in cages in industrial environments to protect human workers.
Collaborative robot examples/ use cases/ applications
Cobots can perform many roles across various industries. Collaborative robots can handle many tasks in production process such as packing of commodities, assembly, machine tending, palletizing. Comprehensive cobot application list is:
- Pick & Place involves tasks where an object needs to be displaced or re-oriented
- Machine tending is loading and/or unloading of a given machine with parts or material. A cobot can help load machines such as computer numerical control (CNC), injection molding, press brakes, metal stamping presses.
- Process tasks: When cobots are equipped with end-effector tools, they are able to perform tasks such as gluing, drilling, welding.
- Finishing tasks like polishing, grinding and deburring requires a force across the product’s surface to remove a certain amount of material. With cobots’ internal force sensing capabilities or a wrist-mounted external force torque sensor, companies eliminate the risk of applying too much force that will defect the product.
- Quality inspection: When cobots are equipped with machine vision, they are able to capture, analyze and interpret images that doesn’t comply with company’s quality requirements.
- Packaging & Palletizing: Packaging process involves three steps. These processes are time-intensive and repetitive, therefore suitable for cobots so that humans can shift their time to more value added tasks. These three processes are:
- Picking and placing the product into a shrink-wrapping machine
- Waiting for the product to be packaged
- Placing packaged goods onto a pallet that will be shipped to the customer.
- Medical/lab cobots: This is an healthcare and research specific use case where cobots help professionals with pick up & place tasks.
Collaborative Robot Case Studies
|BWIndustrie||France||Universal Robots||Metal and machining||-Machine Tending|
|-ROI of the installations is less than 12 months
-The company has increased its turnover by 70% to reach 5.6 million euros annually.
|AGH University of Science and Technology||Poland||Universal Robots||Scientific & Research||-Quality Inspection|
|ALPHA Corporation||Japan||Universal Robots||Automotive||-Material Handling|
|Productivity of the automobile key molding process has improved by 20%|
|ASSA ABLOY||New Zealand||Universal Robots||Furniture and Equipment||-Material Handling|
|Improvement in product quality and consistency in assembly process|
|The University Hospital in Aalborg||Denmark||KUKA||Healthcare||-Quality Inspection||- Lab technicians now have more time to analyze the blood samples and also to spend with patients.
-Cobots reduced the potential sources of error
|BMW||Germany||KUKA||Automotive/ Manufacturing||-Assembly of the front axle drive||-Front axle transmission assembly is now completed in less than half a minute|
|Fitzpatrick Manufacturing Co||United States||Rethink Robotics||Manufacturing||-Pick & Place|
-Co-Packing & End-of-Line Packaging
|Strausak||Switzerland||STÄUBLI||Manufacturing||-Machine Tending||-Performance and autonomy gains
-Time savings with high-speed robot arm and fast load/unload times
-Greater flexibility with wide range of motion
-Easy operator access/no additional floor space with integration into U-Grind machine enclosure
List of top collaborative robot companies
|Company||Solution Name||Founded||City, Country||Company Size (# of employees)||Total Funding|
|ABB||IRB 14000 YuMi||1988||Zürich, Switzerland||10.001+||$2.7M|
|AUBO Robotics||i5||2014||Knoxville, United States||11-50||$9M|
|Denso Wave||Cobotta||1976||Kariya, Japan||10.001+||-|
|1896||Seoul, South Korea||5.001-10.000||-|
|1972||Oshino, Yamanashi, Japan||1.001-5.000||-|
|1952||Seoul, South Korea||v||-|
|Kassow robots||KR810 - KR1205||2014||Copenhagen, Denmark||11-50||-|
|Kinova||Gen 3||2006||Boisbriand, Canada||51-200||$25M|
|Kuka||LBR iiwa 7 R800 - 14 R820||1898||Augsburg, Germany||1.001-5.000||-|
|MRK Systeme||KR 5 SI||2004||Augsburg, Germany||1-10||-|
|2004||CA 94538, United States||11-50||-|
|Productive Robotics||OB7||2010||Santa Barbara, United States||11-50||-|
|Rethink Robotics||Sawyer||2008||Bochum, Germany||11-50||$149M|
|Siasun Robot & Automation||SCR5||2000||Shenyang, China||501-1.000||-|
TX2-60 - 60L
TX2-90 - 90L - 90XL
TX2touch-60 - 60L
TX2touch-90 - 90L - 90XL
|Universal Robots||UR3 - UR5 - UR10|
e-Series UR3 - UR5 - UR10
|Yaskawa Motoman||HC10||1989||Ohio, United States||501-1.000||-|
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