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Advanced Automation in the Manufacturing Industry

Recently more robotic systems are entering an environment that was previously occupied by humans. In the manufacturing industry, there continues to be a growing need to integrate robots into the workforce so as to take advantage of the diverse strengths of both humans and robots to ensure that the tasks are completed within a single shift.  

A collaborative robot is a robot designed by Universal Robots which works in tandem with a human worker. Both the cobot and a human worker are able to produce the end result better and faster than either could do when working alone.

Cobot use in the Manufacturing Industry

The manufacturing environment has a wide range of applications for the robots depending on the task since there are applications that are suitable for workers to perform manually while in other applications overall automation is the best. However, cobots are practical for such tasks that fall in between. In such situations, the worker needs to see, feel and react as needed, but the cobot will handle the physically taxing motions.  

A collaborative robot isable to detect non-standard activity at the workplace and limit its force thus allowing close cooperation between workers and robots without their physical separation. This is made possible by Universal Robots since they fit all cobots with force sensors in their joints to stop its motion in case of an collision thereby allowing it to operate at full speed without the risk of human injury.

There are other two ways of making cobots safe around workers;

The first one;

If it makes contact with a human the cobot immediatelystopfor the worker to feels a gentle nudge however this approach is limited to the maximum weight the robot can handle as well as its speed. When it’s moving a heavy load at high speed it may cause harm upon contact even if the cobot stops without delay.

The second one

In a faster and busy environment the sensor-based approach is much better. Traditionally, physical barriers like cages were used to stop the robot when a human worker is within its striking distance.

Modern sensors can now sense the presence of a person and their location as well. In the case of a robot assembly, the cobot will operate at its full speed when the worker is in not near but will completely stop when the worker gets too close. One can also program the robot to move away from the worker or change its path to go around the worker.

Cobots are able to do anything from moving pieces into milling machines, loading six-packs of beer into crates as well as moving a circuit board and inserting it into a casing a few feet away. A factory worker is able to make his/her job much easier by programing a robotthe different ways of performing a task thus enabling them to improve their work environment.

For instance, by placing the cobot in front of a CNC machine, there is no need for a complex machine interface. The staff just teaches the cobot on how to push the cycle-start button and open the machine door. This eliminates much of the wiring and input/output work that usually comes with most robot installations. A lot of the tasks usually done by a machine operator can be learned simply by dragging the robot’s arm through the desired motions and directing it on when to open and close its gripper.

Once the collaborative robot learns the workers’ job habits, it can be programmed to identify that same person, and initialize the appropriate task plan. Employees wear radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to enable the robots to identify those individual workers.

Final Remarks

Since the cobots are affordable, highly adaptable, and almost plug-and-play even the small and medium-sized manufacturers are now eager to take on this technology, and some analysts expect that this segment of robotics will experience a substantial growth.

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