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The concept of collaborative robots is not that old. In fact, the collaborative robots (or cobots) began to catch up with the robotic market in 2017. According to BIS Research, “By 2021 it is expected that the market for collaborative robots will grow to about a turnover of $ 2 billion and the number of 150,000 units”. Several industries are looking at cobots as a way of joining a new automation revolution.

One reason of the success of Cobots is that they can function in areas that were accessible in the past to humans only. Their design has obligatorybuilt-in safety features, such as collision detection and force feedback. This makes cobots safe to work near people. There are many applications of cobots and the most common are:

1). Pick and Place Operation

To take an object in one place and shift it to another is one of the most repetitive tasks executed by a working person today. The usual nature of the task can often lead to errors, while repeated physical movements can lead to deformation or injury. Pick and Place robots are a good start for those users who use cobots for the first time. Cobots can be  applied everywhere, where the workpiece has to be taken and placed in another place. This may include a packing function or a sorting function from a tray or conveyor; later versions often require advanced machine vision systems and efficient brushless servomotors. Typical selection and placement functions require a finite manipulator that can capture an object. This can be either a mechanical grip or a grip using a vacuum bowl.

2). Engineering

At present, the factory cycle still requires that a person constantly monitors a CNC machine, a blowing machine or other similar devices during a shift.  An operator always has to be ready to meet the needs of the production process and mechanisms. This can be a tool change or a raw material replacement. These processes are long and tiring for a person. Collaborative robots not only free the operator, but can boost productivity as one cobot can serve during the shift several machines. These types of industrial collaborative robots may require a machine-specific input / output (I / O) interface. I / O equipment indicates to the robot the next cycle or when the material needs to be replenished or replaced.

3). Palletizing and Packaging

Another taskfor collaborative robots can be packaging and loading products on pallets.

Items must be properly prepared for shipment before leaving the factory walls. This may include shrink wrapping, assembling and loading into boxes, sorting or placing boxes on a pallet for shipment. These tasks are repeated and associated with light loads, which makes them ideal for cobots.  Application of cobots in the packaging undustry requires tracking of the conveyor in order to synchronize the movement of the robot and conveyor. Irregularly shaped products may require a machine vision system.

4). Contact Tasks

The contact task requires direct contact of the tool with the workpiece.  Bonding, feeding, or welding. Each of these tasks requires that the tool repeatedly moves along a fixed path. Training new employees in this area can take a long time. Using cobots, you can program the desired operation algorithm and not waste time training employees, which is quite significant, especially if the technological process will change. The collaborative robot also solves the problem of employee fatigue (prolonged monotonous labor). 

The advantage of many collaborative robot systems is the ease of programming, either using specialized control panels or using traditional CAM/ CAD programming. It provides the opportunity for anyone with welding experience to program the cobot. The I/O interface assists sustain a constant TCP speed. This ensures a constant flow of material for robots. In  these case, the working tools are unique because they must contain a sealant, welding torch, glue or solder paste.

5). Final Processing

Finishing work may include grinding, polishing, and deburring.  The final processing tasks done by people require a hand tool and a lot of effort. In fact, the vibration of the instrument can cause injury to the manipulator. To combat with the situation a cobot is used which provides the effort, repetition and accuracy necessary for finishing work. The robot can be trained manually or using computer programming methods. Collaborative robots that have power control can help make the robot more reliable. This allows the robot to deal with various sizes of parts. This is achieved using force measurement sensors either through a working tool, or calculated by mathematical formulas by the control system.

6). Quality Checking

Another important task that can be performed with the help of a robot is to check the quality of parts.

The process usually includes a complete check of finished parts, taking high-quality images for systems with precise machining of components, as well as verification of mechanical engineering output using CAD models. Installing several high-resolution cameras on cobot can automate the process for quicker results. The check can also be recorded in digital form, after which the process of comparison with the computer model (quality standard) will take place. The use of collaborative robots for testing can lead to better control, which will lead to higher quality of shipped products. Monitoring may require working tools with high-resolution cameras, specialized systems, and software.

These are only 6 cobots’ industrial applications listed here. But as long as cobots are smart, friendly, and delicate mechanisms, it won’t be a big surprise, if in the nearest future they will assist us not on the workplace only but in our households as well.