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Cobots Explained

WHAT IS A COBOT?

A cobot, or collaborative robot, is a robot intended for direct human robot interaction within a shared space, or where humans and robots are in close proximity. Cobot applications contrast with traditional industrial robotic applications in which robots are isolated from human contact. Cobot safety may rely on lightweight construction materials, rounded edges, and inherent limitation of speed and force, or on sensors and software that ensures safe behavior.

HOW DO COBOTS WORK?

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), a global industry association of robot manufacturers and national robot associations, recognizes two main groups of robots – 1) industrial robots used in automation (in an industrial environment) and 2) service robots for domestic and professional use. Service robots could be considered cobots as they are intended to work alongside humans. Industrial robots have traditionally worked separately from humans behind fences or other protective barriers, but cobots remove that separation.

WHAT ARE COBOTS USED FOR?

Cobots have a multitude of uses within industrial manufacturing and warehousing/logistics. Typically, the tasks these robots perform are considered repetitive, mundane, and often dangerous. Handling, assembly, labeling, case packing, case erecting, and food packaging just to name a few applications they’re used for.

WHY ARE COBOTS USED?

A cobot is designed to work with people and not to replace people. Cobots are also called people-focused robots and can help people to make and refine the work they do easier. Dirty, unsafe, boring, monotonous, or repetitive tasks can be performed by the robot so that employees can concentrate on other higher-skilled tasks within an industrial manufacturing setting.

HOW “COLLABORATIVE” ARE COBOTS?

In a word, very! While manufacturing may have been the jumping off point for cobots, the sky’s the limit in terms of capabilities. Expect to see more cobots entering the “entry-level position” aspect of business & industry in a major way. Food service & bartending, as an example, could be greatly enhanced on an efficiency level. 

HOW DO COBOTS IMPROVE OUR PRODUCTION AND FACILITY?

In addition to the aforementioned safety & efficiency features it brings to industrial manufacturing and warehousing facilities, an element of cobots not yet discussed is the ability to gain back valuable real estate on your production floor. With a cobot’s purpose being to work alongside people, this eliminates the need for safety fencing around that robotic cell. Additionally, cobots have the capability to be outfitted with vision, scanners, and other safety features outside of what’s been previously discussed. All around, there are more gains than losses with integrating cobot automation.

WHO MANUFACTURES COBOTS?

While many robotic manufacturers make cobots, FANUC has recently taken collaborative robots to a new level. They’ve expanded their product offering from 2 to 5 cobots with various payload & capability enhancements. 

HOW DO I KNOW COBOTS ARE THE RIGHT FIT FOR MY FACILITY?

The best way to assess which type of robots are best for your production (industrial robots, collaborative robots, autonomous mobile robots) is to have your production assessed by experts aka automation integrators. They’ll be able to evaluate your current process to see how robotic automation can help and which type of robots best fit. Perrysburg OH’s RōBEX is a prime example of the type of integrator you may be seeking out. As a Certified Systems Integrator of FANUC’s robotic line, they’ve been able to utilize cobots in various industries to improve that company’s overall production efficiencies including the use of different types of robots working together (cobots and autonomous mobile robots as an example). 

If you’d like to speak with RōBEX about your cobot needs, contact them today! 

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