SMBs are increasingly under pressure to react to fluctuations in demand as quickly as possible. However, a scalable production that can be flexibly expanded from two to three shifts, can hardly be realized with purely human resources. Robotic automation capabilities can help companies become more flexible and productive.
Becoming more and more popular as an automation solution are collaborative robots or cobots. Manufacturers across many industries are already using cobots, and the market is growing rapidly with a broad range of sales and deployment projections from analysts published on what seems like a daily basis. Regardless of the numbers, the future for collaborative robots – and the manufacturers who take advantage of them – is extremely bright.
But what makes cobots collaborative?
Not all robots, which are called collaborative, are actually suitable for interacting with humans. In this video you can see the perfect interaction between a human and robot: In the production plant of a plastic blow molding manufacturer, a cobot takes bottles from a conveyor belt and places them into a custom bin. It is trained to turn to another picking area as soon as the container is half full. Then, the lightweight cobot selects a carton divider, places it in the bin and fills it with a second layer of bottles. After completion, an employee provides the cobot with a new bin and the process starts again.
The video shows what the collaboration between cobots and humans can look like. No protective fence is necessary to shield the collaborative robot from its human colleague. This makes cobots like Sawyer a powerful and productive tool for manufacturers of all sizes. They can be used for a wide variety of tasks in every phase of the production line. Sawyer’s integrated vision system ensures, for example, that the cobot can detect parts on an assembly line and then pick them up. A potential risk of damage is eliminated by built-in force sensors in each of its seven joints and enables controlled and safe depositing of parts.
The increasing use of collaborative robots has many industry experts forecasting rapid and significant growth continuing into the foreseeable future. Not surprising, as the technological development and the associated added value that cobots offer in terms of cost efficiency, quality improvement, return on investment and relief of employees from dangerous or monotonous activities speaks for itself.
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About the Author
Darius Wilke, Director European Business, leitet seit August 2016 das Europageschäft von Rethink Robotics und verantwortet die Expansionspläne und deren Umsetzung im europäischen Markt. In diesem Zeitraum entwickelte er Europa zu der am schnellsten wachsenden Region des Cobot-Lösungsanbieters. Dank seiner umfangreichen Managementerfahrung ist er sowohl mit der strategischen Planung als auch der praktischen Umsetzung verschiedenster Geschäftsvorhaben vertraut.