As automation technology advances, more options become available to engineers looking for the perfect solution for their application. While more choices are a good thing, it often makes designing an automation solution a bit tricky. In the area of robotic systems and solutions, one of the big decisions engineers need to make is between using cobots or traditional industrial robots.
What’s the Difference Between Cobots and Industrial Robots?
The main difference between cobots and industrial robots comes down to how human workers interact with them. Once programmed, traditional industrial robots operate independently of human workers, often replacing them on the assembly line or other applicable areas. Cobots are designed to work closely, often side by side, with human workers in a controlled setting.
From an autonomy standpoint, industrial robots can be programmed to operate on three axes and can be fixed in place or used as a mobile solution. Most industrial robots can automate a wide range of processes, and many robots can work in conjunction with one another to fully automate large-scale, complex tasks. Cobots are designed to precisely mimic human tasks while working alongside human counterparts. Their programming makes them a safer option because they are designed to reduce injury by performing risky tasks and stopping if a human approaches or makes contact with the machine.
The Pros of Cobots
- Able to work closely alongside human workers
- Can be easily programmed, installed and integrated into a process
- Often do not require safety cells or areas, which can reduce costs and downtime during installation
- Can be more flexible when it comes to programming
The Cons of Cobots
- Are not always the safest option. Risk assessments are required
- Operate more slowly than traditional robots, often stopping for human workers
- Have a limited reach, payload and accuracy
- Workers may still be required to complete tasks
- Not suited to wet/harsh environments
The Pros of Traditional Robots
- High speed, precision, payload and accuracy
- Can be used in harsh environments (hot, heavy, hazardous, wet)
- Full automation is achievable with multiple robots
- Programming is extremely flexible, allowing the robots to be integrated into many environments and applications
- Can also be used collaboratively with necessary risk assessments. However, the use of safety switches, relays and other automation safety products may be required
- Programming has become much more intuitive and easier as technology advances
The Cons of Traditional Robots
- Fixed work cells and safety measures often result in having to change facility layouts, which can temporarily stop production and increase costs
- Can be difficult to change processes and applications
- Workers may require help programming more complex procedures
Different Applications Require Different Solutions
Are cobots or industrial robots right for your facility? That depends on the environment, the application and many other factors.
Traditional robots are ideal for high-volume applications where speed and accuracy are important to achieving maximum ROI. They are also effective as replacements for human workers in environments that are dangerous or pose significant risks to human health and wellbeing. Cobots offer a lower cost of entry and do not normally require significant changes to a facility’s layout.
There are a few other considerations that can help you make a decision:
- How important is speed and production volume?
- Do you need to eliminate human workers from a production environment?
- Are applications fixed or subject to change? How often?
- Are there space limitations in your facility?
- Will you be scaling production anytime in the near future?
- What are the environmental conditions the robot will be used in?
There are plenty of other questions to ask and things to consider. To make the process easier, contact AMMC and let us know how we can help with your automation needs.