Collaborative Robot Applications: Uses in Different Industries

What is a Cobot?

“Cobot” is just shorthand for “collaborative robot,” which is an enhanced robotic arm integrated with intelligent features that allow it to interact directly with and operate harmoniously alongside humans.

Cobots are a significant part of Industry 4.0 — not just as a product of this fourth industrial revolution, but as a key player in its environment.

Cobots possess the following characteristics:

Connective

They link with other cobots and computer systems, giving you a streamlined automation process.

Smart

They possess features like built-in vision and image processing, which allows the machines to identify objects and read barcodes.

Safe

They have sensors that cease all movement to avoid accidental collision with humans and machines alike.

Flexible

Collaborative robot manufacturers like Techman Robot make room for changing needs. Our cobot’s end effectors are flexible, and allow users to apply to a variety of applications.

The best part about this intelligent technology is it can accommodate small-scale operations, as well as large-scale manufacturing. Hence, it is applicable across a broad range of industries and can be applied to enterprises of any size.

What Are Cobots Used For?

Cobot technology is still on its way to becoming employed widely. Yet, industries have already discovered a plethora of applications for it, ranging from simple fetching and carrying actions to tasks that require more precision and power, like cutting and welding.

At Techman Robot Inc., we design and build hardware and software that offers clients a vast library of collaborative robot applications.

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Applications by Industry

Manufacturing

Factories that manufacture cars, electronics, heavy machinery, appliances, even non-electronic products like furniture, toys, and clothing (manufactories that engage in mass production) can all benefit from the precision and speed of smart and automated payload arms. Traditional manufacturers that handle metals, plastics, and electronics can streamline their assembly lines and get work done faster without compromising product quality.

Agriculture

Collaborative robots in greenhouses are an example of how the technology can be scaled down to suit an enterprise’s needs. Greenhouse growers need automatons capable of high-precision tasks, such as picking delicate plants and repotting tiny seedlings.

Foodservice

Mass-produced pastry products and wrapped food can regain a “personal touch” with cobot integration. It reduces the “factory-like” environment of the assembly line as bakers, cooks, and chefs can work sequentially or in tandem with the machines. Cobots are also making their way into the fast-food industry. Robotic arms flipping burgers, frying fries, and whipping up concoctions in a coffee shop or bar could eventually become a common sight.

Pharmaceutical

Companies have long taken advantage of computer-automated machines to perform repetitive tasks that require immense precision and control. It’s possible, however, to achieve higher efficiency and lower error rates (while maintaining workplace sterility in areas like research and testing, as well as marking and packing) with cobot integration.

Warehousing

The smart features that make cobots safe around humans is proving useful in warehouses, especially with regards to e-commerce distribution and fulfillment. Amazon’s Kiva bots have demonstrated to great effect how cobots can fill the gaps in worker output, which in turn boosts the overall efficiency and accuracy of a warehouse operation. As collaborative robots like our TM Series become more accessible to the market, more storage and distribution companies can enjoy these benefits (and their operations wouldn’t have to be as massive as Amazon’s, too).

Education

In an interesting twist of fate, robots are now helping today’s students learn robotics and programming faster than ever. Cobots are affordable enough that schools aiming to advance students in these fields of study can acquire them. They are also excellent for lead-through programming, a mode that “teaches” the robot a sequence of movements or tasks by physically or remotely guiding the machine through the motions. The cobot robot then stores the position data and executes it on command, showing students how to operate a robot even with limited coding knowledge. Seeing how robots respond to their commands can excite and inspire students to learn to program at depth.

Entertainment

A less-known use of cobot nowadays is in the entertainment industry. Cobots are used in filming to carry cameras that are too heavy for humans to handle. They are also great for situations where filming spaces are too tight for a traditional crane. Cinema robots can film precise shots at high speeds and through a complex series of camera angles and motions.

Applications by Type of Collaboration

Thanks to their flexibility as programmable hardware, cobots can be integrated into any stage of a manufacturing process or assembly line. They could be stationed at the beginning (e.g., transporting and cutting of raw materials) middle (e.g., assembly, product processing), or end (e.g., boxing, wrapping, labeling). Cobots can also be present in all segments of the production process, moving right beside human workers and supervisors.

We can, therefore, identify four types of collaborations that are possible through cobots.

1. Parallel

In this set-up, cobots are at work in one assembly line; human workers are at another. It’s no different from the computer-automated machines of the third industrial revolution; only this time, there is no need to isolate the machines in enclosed cells or rooms. The cobots are safe to work around with, especially since their and the workers’ paths do not intersect. Factories can save on square footage and overhead costs on top of the expected advantages offered by collaborative robots.

2. Sequential

Cobots and humans are made to work in one assembly line, but their tasks still do not intersect or overlap. Sequential collaboration means one performs a task first then passes the output to the next station in the assembly line. Humans and machines share the workspace, and they are now more dependent on one another.

3. Interactive

This is a rare form of cobot-human collaboration because both are working on the same part or segment of the production process at the same time. For instance, the machine could hold two pieces in place while a worker seals the joints or adds components best handled by human hands. Interactive collaboration is also partly sequential: the cobot or the worker has to stay immobile to allow the other to perform his/her or its task.

4. Responsive

The highest form of collaboration which requires complex robotics, responsive collaborations also put the cobot and the worker in the same space at the same time. Here’s the catch: both respond to one another’s movements in real-time. The majority of our industries are still unable to execute this type of cobot-human collaboration, but it is something they can aim for.

The Future for Cobots— Will You Be a Part of It?

We are still working our way up to seeing cobots manning a Starbucks counter or handing out our takeout at a drive-through. Yet, this is the future that visionaries expect to see soon. Markets and Markets, a global authority on industry reports and research, predicts that the collaborative robot market will grow from $710 million in 2018 to over $12 billion by 2025. This suggests a broader use for cobots, and not just in the industries that are already utilizing them.

Your business enterprise might eventually contribute to this estimate, but why wait for 2025 when you can start now? The earlier you integrate cobots into your processes, the quicker you can raise your efficiency and fulfillment volumes. Cobot integration will also be instrumental in elevating your workers’ skills. They can graduate from tasks that are menial and repetitive to ones that require critical thinking and demand higher accountability.

In maximizing the collaborative robot applications, you can meet your business goals and promote upskilling across the board.