There are many pros and cons to using industrial cobots (collaborative robot) over traditional industrial robots, but some companies have limited options when it comes to choosing. There are times when the only solution in an assembly line or application is a cobot because of footprint, safety, or operator interaction. How do you know if a cobot is necessary or more suited for your automation solution? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some scenarios where cobots are the better (or only) choice.
Where Close Human Interaction is Essential
Traditional industrial robots excel at repetitive tasks quickly, but there are some tasks that require human intervention, where 100% automation simply is not possible. In this scenario, a cobot is more useful than a robot because they can be programmed to interact with humans without ceasing to function. Traditional industrial robots generally have hard guarding or safety features (through relays, switches, curtains, etc.) that either do not allow operators to be nearby or automatically cause the robot to stop when a person gets too close. Cobots can interact with human counterparts, making processes that require human workers much more efficient.
As a safety precaution, most cobots come equipped with both area guarding and contact-stop technology that causes the robot to slow down of an operator is in the work zone or stop when it hits an object (e.g. a person working alongside it).
Assembly Lines with Constantly Changing Parts
Industrial robots specialize in building and assembling large quantities of the same product within a short period of time. Once the parameters for the production run are set, the process is initiated and runs tirelessly until it is completed. This is fine for when production runs are large, but for companies that specialize in slower, smaller runs that are customized based on each customer’s needs, cobots working alongside human counterparts are ideal. In this scenario, the cobot can handle the repetitive and labor intensive parts of the process while the human would handle the more complex parts of the process that include switching out fixturing and jigs, making changes based on custom orders and inspection.
When safety is a concern, production runs are small, and frequent changes or interaction are important, cobots are usually the best solution.
What’s Right for Your Environment?
If you have an assembly line or automation application that works with human counterparts, difficult to guard, has lower volume runs, and that has frequent subtle changes, cobots are likely the best option. They tend to be lower cost, often easier to deploy, and work in limited areas. They are also flexible in programming, allowing them to be deployed in a variety of scenarios.