Collaborative Automation

Collaborative Automation

Traditional automation often involves implementing controlled devices or machines, such as industrial robots, to automatically execute manufacturing applications. The goal of traditional automation is to eliminate the need for human involvement as much as possible. Automating with the ABB IRB 2400 or the FANUC M-710ic/50 allows for this to be accomplished. However, traditional industrial automation leaves out a large portion of manufacturers as not every operation can be completely automated with robots and other machinery. There are many productions that require human workers to carry out certain tasks. Fortunately, the development of cobots has brought about a new form of automation and that is collaborative automation.

For collaborative automation instead of automating with traditional industrial robot arm, the FANUC CR-15ia and other cobots are used. Cobots are small, compact robots built with numerous safety features including force limitation, sensors, rounded exteriors, and no pinch points. Their enhanced safety features allow them to operate along side or work collaboratively with humans. Unlike traditional robot manipulators, cobots do not require safety barriers. They can safely interact with workers without posing additional safety risks. With traditional automation robotic manipulators must be surrounded by barriers or fencing to protect workers.

Another feature of collaborative automation is it is intuitive. Collaborative robots have little to no learning curve, allowing anyone form the novice to the seasoned robot expert to program and use them. Cobots feature hand guidance programming also known as lead through programming. To program the Universal UR5 all users need to do is guide its industrial robotic arm through the steps of the desired application. The UR5 will then be able to replicate the exact steps to execute the application. Other types of industrial robots typically are programmed through a teach pendant or offline software. Both of these programming options have become more user-friendly than the robotic programming of the past but they require more of a learning curve than lead through programming.

Collaborative automation also allows for flexible redeployments which is ideal for manufacturers with short or variable production runs. Collaborative robots can be setup and running immediately out of the box. They do not require complex integrations or the installation of multiple pieces of equipment. Their intuitive programming allows new applications or program changes to be completed within just minutes. Short changeover times means the Universal UR10 can be reassigned applications quickly. Cobot users do not have to worry about downtime due to reprogramming. Their light mass and compact size also allows for them to be easily moved around production floors to fill in where needed.

When to Consider Collaborative Automation

Collaborative automation should be considered for applications in which only a portion can be completed with an articulated robots, productions with frequent changes, or for repetitive tasks that are also hazardous. Since cobots can work collaboratively with humans they are perfect for assisting with processes that cannot be fully automated. Their quick redeployments mean they can easily adapt to product or process changes without increasing idle time. Tasks that are highly repetitive and hazardous are also ideal for cobots. This many include lifting heavy parts. The FANUC Cr-35ia can lift parts for workers, reducing worker injuries while improving productivity.

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