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what is a collaborative robot? it’s basically a pc with arms.

in rethinking robotics by Jim Lawton

In the first segment of my video series I described roles cobots are playing on the factory floor and the types of dull and dangerous jobs they’re taking on – those which human workers don’t want to do. Now let’s get into a couple of the differences between a smart, collaborative robot and the traditional, industrial type, starting with ease of use. First of all, cobots don’t require hundreds of hours of programming. In fact, smart, collaborative robots are trained by demonstration, and that’s something that can be done in a matter of minutes.

Next is versatility. While a traditional robot is usually bolted to the floor and performs the same job over and over again for months, if not years, cobots might be working on one task for a few hours and then they’re easily switched over to an entirely different task for the rest of the day. So, in a way, cobots are like PCs with arms. In fact, if you look under the chest plate of a Baxter or Sawyer robot, what’s on the inside is a computer. But back to versatility…a PC is perfect for a word processing project and then with just a couple of clicks they’re helping you create a presentation. The same goes for cobots. One moment they’re on a line packing raw materials and later that day they’re using an embedded camera to test and inspect parts, which is quite different from their industrial predecessors. They’re flexible. Kind of like a PC with arms.

Watch the two minute clip above and hear what else Jim has to say, at the most recent Supply Chain Insights Global Summit. And for more headlines, videos and news about collaborative robots and manufacturing automation, check out the rest of the Rethink Robotics blog or drop by Cobot Central.

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About the Author

Jim Lawton

Jim had a choice upon graduating from Tufts University – chase a dream as a concert pianist or become part of the inaugural Leaders for Manufacturing Program at MIT. He chose the latter– dedicating his career to developing and delivering innovative solutions that improve the business of manufacturing. Internally at HP, and then at breakthrough start-ups in e-commerce, inventory optimization and supply chain risk management, Jim’s never once looked back. His charter today: capture the power of data and analytics to push the standard for world-class manufacturing higher—once again.



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