what in the world is a collaborative robot? (part 3 of 3)

in rethinking robotics by Eric Foellmer

In my third and final blog in this series, I’ll cover what I think needs to happen before collaborative robots become an automation solution of choice among manufacturers everywhere, as well as where I think we’ll start to see the most collaborative robots being adopted in the coming decade.    Click here if you missed part 1 or part 2 of this three part blog series.

give-a-handWhat needs to happen before collaborative robots become a staple of manufacturing environments?

First and foremost, there needs to be a greater awareness and better understanding of how collaborative robots operate.  When people generally picture an industrial robot, they think of a very high speed machine moving with incredible precision or lifting very heavy objects.  But collaborative robots are different products, with different skill sets.  Because they are designed to be safe, collaborative robots don’t operate with the same ultra-high speed of their industrial counterparts.   They don’t generate the torque necessary to lift large, heavy objects.  They are different robots, with different benefits, performing different functions in a plant.  As they continue to be more readily adopted throughout the manufacturing world, and their safety, flexibility and rapid ROI become more well understood, you’ll continue to see a lot more of these types of robots showing up on production lines everywhere.

In what industries will collaborative robots be most heavily adopted in the next decade?  

There are many industries (such as automotive) that are already very heavily automated with traditional industrial robotics.  Collaborative robots won’t be displacing any of those systems anytime soon.  I anticipate that industries and companies in which automation is less prevalent today (due to the expense, danger and inflexibility of traditional automation) will be the ones that see the largest influx of collaborative robotics over the next decade. 

Companies like job shops and contract packagers / manufacturers, in industries relying heavily on off-shore labor today, will stand to benefit greatly from these technologies as they look to once again tighten their supply chain and become more competitive on a global scale.   Plus, larger manufacturers who are looking to close their innovation loop and protect IP by keeping their ideation, design, manufacturing and service lifecycles in-house, will likely continue to take a hard look at the real benefits of collaborative robot technologies as well.

Overall, it’s a very exciting time to be part of this industry.


About the Author

Eric Foellmer

As Rethink Robotics’ Manager of Product Marketing and Marketing Communications, Eric’s job is to tell the company's remarkable story to the world – through our website, sales tools, videos, and the many events where Baxter and Sawyer are featured. When he’s not hanging out with robots, he enjoys hanging out with his family, surfing iTunes, playing golf or watching the Red Sox.

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