what is a collaborative robot?

in rethinking robotics by Jeff Green

Traditional industrial robots operate behind cages or barriers to prevent injury, while a collaborative robot works side by side with human co-workers.

Before we get into collaborative robots, let’s spend a second on their predecessors. If you’ve seen a photo or video of a hulking, robotic arm performing an assembly or welding task at a manufacturing plant, working without a human nearby, then you’re familiar with traditional industrial robots.

Collaborative robots (also known as cobots) on the other hand, are safe to work near and take on the dull, repetitive tasks people just don’t want to do.

For instance, can you imagine working an eight hour shift putting packages of toothpaste into boxes for shipping or inspecting thousands of plastic parts for defects?

A collaborative robot can take on some of the tedious and repetitive work involved in packaging jobs.

People are much better suited for higher skilled work, while cobots take on these boring, and often dangerous, types of manual labor. However, one thing collaborative and industrial robots have in common: they both provide an extra measure of consistency and reliability that can often escape the human eye.

But let’s dig back into a few of the basics of what makes a robot collaborative:

  • Works safely alongside people (no safety cages required)
  • Fast to deploy
  • Easy to use and can be trained by non-technical staff
  • Flexible enough to be rapidly redeployed
  • Low cost, allowing a return on investment in a matter of months

Please note that not all collaborative robots are created equally. While most can be used in a safe way, not all are easy to use and ROI can vary. But the attributes listed above are true for Rethink Robotics’ cobots.

Next, watch how easy it is to train a collaborative robot in this video. Also, check out the rest of the Rethink blog and subscribe above for alerts sent directly to your inbox.



About the Author

Jeff Green

I'm Jeff Green, senior content and social media strategist at Rethink Robotics. When I'm not socializing Sawyer and Baxter, our smart, collaborative robots, I'm usually caught up in the home tornado, also known as my three kids. Love them, my wife, old-school Chinese food, movies, and of course game-changing technology.

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