In recent years, collaborative robots (cobots) have begun to lead the growth of the robot market. According to research data from BIS Research, by 2021, the market sales of collaborative robots will reach 150,000 units, and sales are expected to increase to US$2 billion. Some industries are beginning to introduce collaborative robots as a way to find a new automated future.
There is a clear contrast between collaborative robots designed to work with humans and traditional industrial robots. Fixed traditional industrial robots need to keep a distance from humans when they work independently. Due to the inherent safety of collaborative robots, such as the application of force feedback and collision detection, the safety of humans and collaborative robots working side by side will be guaranteed, while collaborative robots equipped with sensors and safety functions that limit force and power enable robots to interact with humans. Collaboration between them becomes possible, thereby shortening the production process, increasing productivity, reducing the error rate, and making human work more efficient and valuable, but it does not replace humans. It can be said that the reason why collaborative robots stand out is that they can play a role in work areas that were originally completed by humans.
In manufacturing, productivity is the key to success. And the more the productivity increases, the higher the profit of the enterprise, this is the unchanging criterion. In recent years, more and more people choose collaborative robots. Here are 7 reasons why manufacturers should consider investing in collaborative robots.
1. Collaborative robots are easy to program. Some new collaborative robots are designed to be user-friendly and easy to program, thus eliminating the need for engineers to implement them. Some even have a manual guidance function. The collaborative robot can learn things through examples and guide them according to a series of actions required to complete their programming tasks.
2. The set-up time is short, and the longer it takes to set up automation, the more expensive the initial investment. Staff training, production shutdowns, and the high cost of having to hire external service providers may extend the return on investment time. For small and medium-sized companies, these may cause big problems.
This is taken into consideration when designing collaborative robots, and it needs to have out-of-the-box functions. The pre-programmed software allows users to install the robot themselves, so users can set it up in less than 30 minutes. In addition, the flexibility brought by the short set-up time of collaborative robots improves productivity and return on investment.
3. Collaborative robots can be used in different applications. One of the main selling points of collaborative robots is flexibility. Programming collaborative robots for new tasks is simple and does not require external service personnel. This introduces versatility into the production line, and it is easy to set up collaborative robots to perform a series of different tasks on the same day, or specify working dates for certain tasks.
Collaborative robots can be easily integrated into agile systems because they allow users to quickly respond to design changes and reset the collaborative robot accordingly. Collaborative robots on the current market can play many roles, usually service roles and industrial roles. Service-oriented collaborative robots are used to provide information, transport goods or provide security protection in public places. Industrial collaborative robots have a variety of applications, including but not limited to pick and place, packaging and palletizing, assembly, machine maintenance, surface finishing, and quality testing and inspection.
Why develop collaborative robots, because they have these advantages
4. Consistent results, robots will never get tired, so their results are more consistent and accurate compared with the results made by humans doing the same work. This makes them particularly suitable for monotonous tasks, because they can perform simple actions repeatedly without reducing the quality of work. As long as it is set up, the collaborative robot can perform the same task with the same ability.
5. Positive impact on employees. Manufacturing workers generally worry that they will be replaced by robots. After all, they have the advantages of being faster, more precise and never getting tired. But the fact is that the probability of this happening is too low. Especially in companies with high mixing volume and small batch production, because generally speaking, the traditional industrial robots used are high-cost and low-flexibility. And this also opened the door to what is now called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Information technology is used in intelligent manufacturing, so that manpower and collaborative robots can collaborate without reducing the size of personnel. Workers are not replaced by machines. Instead, by using collaborative robots, workers can eliminate repetitive processes and reduce their time, so they can handle more complex tasks, thereby improving the workers' daily experience. Collaborative robots can support the work of human employees, take over dangerous, dirty, and boring tasks, thereby creating a safer and more pleasant workspace environment.
6. Improve productivity and optimize processes. In the process of cobots taking over human employees, it is difficult for employees to concentrate on or maintain performance at a consistent level for a long time, while the accuracy of robots reduces the possibility of malfunctions and product defects to almost zero. Quickly change the tasks to be performed by collaborative robots, which helps workers optimize production lines and cut costs while maintaining high standards of product quality.
7. Fast investment payback period, the cost of collaborative robots is lower than that of industrial robots, and which application to use and the length of time of use also determine that collaborative robots can recover their investment costs in just 200-300 days. Universal Robots (Universal Robots) is one of the leading manufacturers of collaborative robots. The company recently released a white paper listing the most common application scenarios of collaborative robots.
For workers, manual picking and placing should be one of the most repetitive tasks today. The boring operation can easily lead to worker errors, and the highly repetitive body movements can easily lead to physical fatigue and injury. Starting from pick and place tasks, the application of collaborative robots is a good start to reduce workers' repetitive work. The pick and place task refers to picking and placing the workpiece in another location. In actual production, this operation can be used to pick up items from pallets or conveyor belts for packaging or sorting. Picking up from the conveyor belt also requires advanced vision system support. Pick-and-place collaborative robots need an end effector to grab objects, which can be fixtures or vacuum suction devices
Equipment care requires workers to stand for a long time in front of CNC machine tools, injection molding machines or other similar equipment to always pay attention to the operating needs of the machine, such as changing tools or supplementing raw materials. This process is time-consuming and extremely tedious for the operator. In this case, the use of collaborative robots not only frees up employees, but also a collaborative robot can maintain multiple machines, which improves productivity. Nursing collaborative robots require specific equipment-specific I/O docking hardware. These hardware prompts when the robot enters the next cycle of production or when it needs to replenish raw materials.
Product packaging and palletizing belong to a sub-category of the pick and place category. Before the product leaves the factory floor, proper preparations must be made for transportation, including shrink packaging, box assembly and loading, box organization, and pallet placement for shipment. This type of work has a high repetition rate and contains some small loads, which is very suitable for replacing manual tasks with collaborative robots. Rapid product replacement is the key to the business of mass production enterprises with mixed high and low production volumes. This application requires the use of conveyor tracking to synchronize the movement of the robot and the conveyor. For products with inconsistent appearance, the application also needs to incorporate a vision system.
Machining operations refer to any operations that require the use of tools to manipulate workpieces. Collaborative robots are often used in gluing, distribution and welding processes. Each of these processing tasks requires the use of tools to repeatedly complete a fixed path. These tasks require a lot of time for training if new employees are used to meet the requirements of the finished product. After using a collaborative robot, it can be copied to other robots after programming on one robot. The collaborative robot also solves the problems of accuracy and repetitive operations completed by workers. Traditional welding robot systems usually require operators to have very professional robot programming and welding knowledge.
Manual finishing operations must use hand tools and the operation process is usually very laborious. The vibration generated by the tool may also cause injury to the operator. Collaborative robots can provide the strength, repeatability and precision required for finishing. The types of finishing that the robot can complete include polishing, grinding, and deburring. The robot can teach the robot to complete the corresponding actions by manual teaching or computer programming. The force control system of the collaborative robot makes the robot more durable. Through the end effector or the built-in force sensing device, the finishing of parts of different sizes can be realized.
Finally, collaborative robots can also perform quality inspection on parts. This process usually includes comprehensive inspection of finished parts, high-resolution image inspection of precision machined parts, and comparison and confirmation of parts and CAD models. Fixing multiple high-resolution cameras on the collaborative robot can automate the quality inspection process and obtain the inspection results quickly. Using collaborative robots for inspection can obtain high-quality inspections and more accurate production batches. To complete the inspection, an end effector with a high-resolution camera, a vision system and software are required.