Should co-robot do it?
Co-robotic is an important part of industry 4.0 and the smart manufacturing initiative. These next-generation machines have attracted many engineers who can control forces and work safely alongside people on the assembly line without traditional safety guards.
Since co-robot first appeared a decade ago, they have transformed many factory floors and made it easier for small manufacturers to automate. The technology has also enabled many companies to move production to the United States and implement a low-volume, high-mix production strategy.
"For some reason, today's co-robot are particularly compelling," said EsbenOstergaard, global robotics' chief technology officer, who pioneered the collaborative system in 2008. "Co-robot work with, rather than replace, people, especially in the absence of manufacturing workers, which is a particularly valuable and sensitive issue.
"We want to return control of factory automation to the operator," explains Ostergaard, who recently won the robot industry association's 2018 ingerborg award for his contributions to industrial automation. "We want to give them a tool to do their job more effectively, not replace people. We want to remove them from working like robots and become robots
Programmers also handle more value-added tasks.
"Doing this is probably the best long-term result that can be achieved with co-robot," Ostergaard said. "This redeployment of human creativity, coupled with the repeatability of robots, addresses market development and customer requirements that require a high degree of product personalization. It's a qualitative change, both for the product and for the people who make it."
"Co-robot open the door for manufacturers who have been worried about automated assembly lines in the past," added ChrisBlanchette, executive sales director at FANUCAmericaCorp., which offers five models of Co-robot. "It ultimately adds the value of automation to a lot of companies."
"Operators can be trained for just a few hours to install a collaboration machine that is light enough to be redeployed around the plant multiple times a day and can operate without fencing or protection." "Said DanielMoore, technical support. Engineers from general robotics. "Functionally, every weakness or difficulty of traditional robots can be eliminated by a change of focus."
"In the past, a lot of people have been intimidated by robots," said MattFitzgerald, vice President of product at RethinkRoboticsInc. "the company launched Baxter in 2012." Today, advanced technology makes it easier for everyone, especially small manufacturers, to use robots. The collaboration machine is flexible, easy to use and safe to operate."
Co-robot are expected to continue to improve quality, efficiency and cost. However, as with any automation tool, their overall effectiveness depends on selecting the right application and planning ahead.
Despite the hype, Co-robot have pros and cons that manufacturing engineers must carefully consider. The technology is exciting, but not ideal for some types of applications. For example, limited payload capacity and slower operating speed are two disadvantages.
According to the international federation of robotics, demand for Co-robot is growing by 60 percent every year. By 2025, Co-robot are expected to account for 34 per cent of all robot sales, up from less than 5 per cent today.
ASSEMBLY's 2018 industry status study confirms this trend. More than a third (38%) of assemblers plan to deploy Co-robot within the next 12 months. That's an increase of 7 percent from 2017 and 12 percent from 2016.
Because they are flexible and require few security barriers, various manufacturers are using the next generation of Co-robot. These machines are especially suitable for smaller companies. For example, 21% of respondents working for a manufacturer with fewer than 50 employees plan to deploy the technology in the next 12 months. That's 8 percent higher than in 2017.
"Small and midsize manufacturers are driving the demand for Co-robot," says research analyst rick whitton of abi research c. "This is driven by the need for manufacturing solutions, which do not include large-scale investment in fixed assets, automation or large arms. These tasks include machine maintenance, quality control and lighting assembly."
Whitton believes that smaller manufacturers need flexible automation solutions that can be easily and quickly adapted to meet changing needs. "They need systems that can be programmed easily and quickly and that can support many types of automated tasks," he says. "Co-robot are a perfect fit."
Over the next seven years, Whitton predicts, shipments of Co-robot will grow 50 percent, while shipments of traditional industrial robots will grow 12 percent. And global revenue from these machines will grow from $292 million today to more than $1 billion by 2025.
The growing demand is driven by shorter product lifecycles and the increasing use of low-volume, high-mix manufacturing plans instead of high-volume, low-mix production.
"Manufacturers need more flexible automation solutions to adapt to the speed and efficiency of the market," said NicolasDeKeijser, assembly and test line manager at ABBRobotics. "Manufacturing is becoming more and more specialized and less and less predictable, which is very difficult to automate.
"Collaborative automation allows people and robots to work together, making manufacturing more flexible while maintaining safety and productivity," explains DeKeijser. "It allows humans and robots to work together on tasks that previously required safety fences and cages, thus increasing manufacturing flexibility."
This challenges previous concepts about what types of assembly tasks can be automated.
"In the past, assembling a large number of bespoke products often meant tedious, delicate and repetitive work," says DeKeijser. "With Co-robot, such as our YuMi[machine], people are able to focus on more meaningful cognitive tasks, while robots provide relentless precision and endurance.
"YuMi can be installed on any workstation in the factory and can be redeployed according to production needs without being restricted by traditional safety barriers," DeKeijser said. "This increases manufacturing flexibility and agility, allowing for more frequent conversions."
Co-robot are on the rise in industries and applications that used to rely on manual assembly lines.
"Many companies are trying to expand some of their product lines through automation," Blanchette said. "They want to address certain areas where there might be ergonomic problems or quality issues. They can add Co-robot without changing the configuration of their assembly lines."
Universal part processing applications are ideal for Co-robot. Tedious work, such as sorting parts or loading presses, is a good starting point.
"Any assembly task that requires three hands would be appropriate," Blanchette explained, "with a collaborative robot acting as a human assistant." "For example, when people connect components together with a screwdriver, the machine may hold the heavier parts.
"In short life cycle applications, Co-robot enable manufacturers to switch to new products very quickly," Blanchette said. "We are also seeing an increase in demand for Co-robot among companies in areas with high turnover rates and severe Labour shortages."
Low barriers to entry also attract many types of manufacturers.
"We've seen an increase in demand from contract manufacturers, especially in China and Mexico," said SamirPatel, director of product and application engineering at kawasaki robotics USA. The flexibility of Co-robot is popular among electronics manufacturers that need manufacturers. Redeploy machines elsewhere in the plant.
"For example, a company that wants to switch from one PCB style or size to another simply holds our DuAro in place and rolls it to the next assembly line," Patel explains. "They are able to use the same robot on the assembly line and then easily reuse it on the inspection line later in the day, where the robot can load and unload PCBS in the inspection machine.
"We've also seen this in applications where our Co-robot assemble gears for computer printers and small fan assemblies for cooling electronics," Patel added. Robots work side by side with humans, helping them repeat difficult tasks.
"The repeatability of our two-arm collaboration machine is close to that of a six-axis robot," Patel said. "We decided to solve this problem when designing the robot. This makes the machine particularly suitable for screw-driven applications, such as assembling tablets.
"In one application, one arm of the machine is used as a fastener, and the other is inserted and fixed with a small 3mm screw that needs to be precisely positioned," Patel said. "Our robots are also used to attach PCBS to the chassis. One arm moves the PCB to the case, while the other arm inserts each screw and holds it in place with an automatic screwdriver."
Cobots have also been used as mobile robot systems that can be moved around assembly lines and filled in anywhere, anytime. That's the strategy StaubliCorp. 's electric-connector factory in Allschwil, Switzerland, recently adopted, with its assembly lines equipped with fully automated and manual workstations.
The HelMo mobile platform is equipped with the StaubliTX2 cooperative robot, which has a maximum payload capacity of 15 kg and a range of 1,200 mm. If in direct contact with a person, the contact sensitive surface will immediately stop moving. Autonomous robots navigate independently to their assigned workplaces, slowing them down or stopping when humans get too close.
HelMo positions itself precisely to within 0.1 mm and calibrates its position through three measurement points permanently installed on the workstation. It connects itself to a fixed power outlet via a multicoupler to provide power and compressed air, and then begins switching.
"Today, machines may have connector housings and contact pins; "Tomorrow, it may be at another stage in the assembly process," says oliver cremoux, business development manager at StaubliCorp. HelMo is no longer seen as a robot, but as an assistant flexible enough to help when needed.
"The purpose is... Deploy robots as flexible alternatives to improve the availability of hybrid assembly lines or respond to peak demand, "explains Cremoux.