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The Evolution of Collaborative Robot Technology and Applications

The Evolution of Collaborative Robot Technology and Applications

Collaborative robots (cobots) are robots specifically designed to work directly with humans within clearly defined workspaces. They promote safety and efficiency in facilities worldwide because of their ability to work closely with humans while minimizing the risk of injury. Many industries, from manufacturing to healthcare and even entertainment, use them to automate processes while safely working alongside humans.

A Short History of Collaborative Robots

The history of these types of robots goes back further than many people may believe. From the very first cobot to the more modern collaborative robots manufactured by companies like Yaskawa and Omron, there have been many iterations over the years. Early collaboration ideas were famously brought into the public eye in 1966 when the Unimate Robot, one of the first robotic arms, made an appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Although this was the first time the general public  was exposed to this type of technology, robotic arms like these were already installed in production lines across the world.

Invented by George Devol, who patented his idea for a “Programmed Article Transfer” in 1961, these types of robots are used globally to create everything from cars to smaller products. The first commercially-ready arm was installed at the General Motors plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey. It weighed 4,000 lbs. and cost $25,000.

Why You Should Implement Human Collaborative (HC) Robots

The combination of human workers with HC robots combines the best of robotic automation and human capabilities; humans are proficient at cognition and adapting to change while robots are proficient at speed and efficiency. When working together, human and HC robot collaboration allows for the optimal performance of repetitive tasks that involve handling, assembly, etc.

Fixing the Largest Problem of Working with Robots

Since the dawn of human/robot interaction, there has always been one giant concern: safety. In the past, robots were not exceptionally safe to work alongside. New and advanced technology has changed that.

Modern HC robots are equipped with several safety measures:

  1. Safety-rated monitored stop applications: the robots automatically stop and remain stopped when human workers enter the collaborative space to change fixtures, adjust parts, or perform other tasks.
  2. Hand guidance: humans can easily teach robots new maneuvers without the knowledge of complex programming.
  3. Speed and separation monitoring: the robot’s speed of motion can be set to change based on the distance between the human operator and the robot.
  4. Power and force safety applications: allows the robot and human to work in the same space together. If human error occurs and the operator accidentally touches the robot, the robot will automatically stop.

Most modern HC robots can be programmed to act and react based on the movements of the operator. They also have both autonomous and collaborative phases that offer flexible adaption to particular tasks. Finally, users can also opt to use the voice interpretation capabilities of HC robots to issue verbal commands that allow for hands-free operation.

Options for HC Robots

There are a lot of options when it comes to the sizes and capabilities of HC robots, and AMMC can help you find the right product for your desired application. No matter what you build, move, guide, etc. there is a robot that can help. Contact AMMC today to learn more about your options for collaborative robots.