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Why Use Collaborative Robots (Cobots) Over Conventional Industrial Robots?

Peter Farkas, VP at AUBO Robotics, speaks with SMEs every day. If he had to condense for an SME the essentials of whether to buy a cobot over a conventional industrial robot, what would he say?

“Robot buying decisions will be less about the type of robot and more about the application being automated and return on investment.
The combination of new technologies such as AI, advanced software, and hardware are blurring the lines
between cobots and conventional industrial robots.”
—Peter Farkas, AUBO Robotics (Cobot)- VP International Sales and Marketing

The simple answer is to use both and add Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC) to supercharge productivity.

Whether industrial or collaborative robots are considered for automation projects, one type fits all is not the answer, and now the lines are blurred more than ever.

Plant managers are faced with selecting the best technology to improve production in the manufacturing plant they run and it’s not always easy or apparent to pick the correct type of robot to invest in.

An excellent place to start is to look at payload, safety requirements, programming expertise, consider the production speed, and volume rates when deciding between cobots and traditional industrial robots.

Cobots are best suited for high mix, low volume production, while conventional robots are meant for low mix, high volume production. Using the best of all three maximizes flexibility in production demands is the most cost-effective choice.

What is very clear to many manufacturing companies is that to keep competitive, they must be agile to respond to the ebb and flow in production requirements, add the new requirements of mass customization and it turns into a scheduling ordeal.

Some other pressures on manufacturing include idle equipment, increased labor cost, and shortages, unreliable workforce as well as worker health issues that arise from low-force movements such as twisting, pinching, and flexing performed repeatedly over long periods as these movements can cause repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Large manufacturers will have to adapt and leverage AI to optimize machine learning as well as monitor the overall operating environment with new protocols such as OPC UA. The operational and production data is monitored and collected using a PC and an Ethernet connection to collect a variety of data points. These two new technologies, integrated with the manufacturing process, will create a continuous feedback loop and remove bottleneck without human adjustments.

Manufacturers compete via productivity, flexibility, and agility and need to react to high and low market demands without hiring new workers. The proof is in the numbers, the International Federation of Robotics predicts that the next year 2020, over 1.7 million new robots will be installed in factories worldwide. The collaborative robot segment of the industrial robotics market is forecast to reach $5 billion in revenue by 2027 and accounting for 30% of the total robot market.

Robots are a vital element to achieve such competitiveness, especially if they can share the workspace with humans on the shop-floor, making a co-working partnership via (HRC) type robotics or cobotics.

The best way to implement robots is by taking the best traits of humans and robots, then exploiting the dexterity of humans and the capacity of robots to produce flexible and repetitive work.

Cobots are becoming more popular because they are easier to deploy with many of the same benefits as industrial robots but are less expensive in many ways for all manufacturing companies, regardless of size.

Industrial robots are heavy, permanently mounted, and are designed for high-volume, high-speed production; this makes them hard to redeploy and inflexible for multiple applications. The large mass of the arm and speed of the robot movements make it must be caged for safety.

Machine builders and integrators often do the conception of design, programming, installation, and commission the system for production run as well as integrating them with other production equipment. These characteristics make traditional industrial robots best suited for production processes that will continue unchanged for years, where the return on investment (ROI) will also take many years to be recouped often costing upwards of $120,000.00 for a small system.

Collaborative robots or cobots offer many benefits over industrial robots yielding a hybrid workforce of collaborative environments for humans and robots to improve efficiencies and remove non-value-added operations. Cobots reduce the added costs associated with traditional robots like; difficult programming, long set-up, caged work cells, and long ROI.

Cobots are lightweight, easy to move from one work cell to another, and don’t require hard-wiring since this robot plug into the wall outlet.

The average price of a 5 Kg payload lightweight collaborative robot is $20,000 and with some end of arm tooling a cell can be up and running for under $30,000, this makes the ROI fast and affordable even for small manufacturers that run small-batches with high mix runs to help them compete regardless of the size of the manufacturer.

Robot buying decisions will be less about the type of robot and more about the application being automated and return on investment. The combination of new technologies such as AI, advanced software, and hardware are blurring the lines between cobots and conventional industrial robots.

The fact is that large companies are now outpacing small to medium manufacturers in purchasing cobots and implement them alongside the existing legacy equipment to take advantage of both types of robot technologies.

The low cost of collaborative robotics helps companies to gain a competitive advantage in a manufacturing environment while reducing repetitive tasks as well as the 4D’s (dirty, dull, delicate and dangerous) with a quick ROI. Workers will not miss the 4D’s, but management needs to shift the workers’ mindset from losing the old job to learning a new job skill. Existing workers will adapt quickly when passion is shared to embrace new technology effectively, ensuring a successful project.

See full article here: Why Use Collaborative Robots Over Conventional Industrial Robots?

To find out more about collaborative robots and specifications, visit the AUBO Robotics website.