What Are Cobots (Collaborative Robots)?
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are versatile, scaled-down industrial robots designed to work safely alongside humans. You might think of a cobot as a hardworking, extremely efficient coworker.
Cobots can perform high-precision tasks that robots traditionally could not do, and they are easy to program. Employees can learn how to operate and work with a cobot quickly and without special training. These affordable robots offer countless benefits for manufacturers, from improving worker safety to boosting productivity. Manufacturers in various industries currently use cobots for automating the following tasks:
- Metal fabrication
- CNC machining
- Loading and unloading
- Testing and inspection
- Molding operations
Manufacturers around the world are embracing the use of robots to accelerate production and improve the work environment. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), there are 74 robot units per 10,000 employees on average, globally. Industrial robots, such as cobots, are here to stay. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) predicts the industrial robot market will experience over 13% annual growth by 2021.
Cobots are a major component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To keep up with competitors and enjoy a high return on investment (ROI), it’s worth considering cobots and what they can do for your company. We’ll explain the benefits of cobots, how they differ from traditional industrial robots, the different types of cobots and what the future holds. If you have questions about any of the types of industrial robots we offer at RG Group, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to assist you.
What’s the Difference Between Industrial Robots and Cobots?
Unlike traditional industrial robots, which are kept separate from workers for safety reasons, cobots are designed to work alongside humans safely. They can be placed in smaller spaces, such as next to humans in an assembly line, and they offer flexible solutions for manufacturers and workers. Cobots are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and come with safety features to meet your production needs while keeping employees out of harm’s way.
Overall, cobots differ from traditional industrial robots in that they are:
- Lighter weight
- More streamlined
- Have a softer touch
- Safe around coworkers
- Easier to use
- More affordable
- Easier to maintain
What Are the Benefits of Cobots in Manufacturing?
Those who work in the manufacturing industry may be afraid that cobots are going to replace humans and eliminate manufacturing jobs. According to a 2016 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only about 9% of jobs are automatable. It’s important for supervisors and employees to understand that cobots are designed to assist humans and make their work more satisfying –– not replace them. Cobots exist to complete boring, repetitive and hazardous tasks so human workers can put their skills and talents to better use. When cobots and humans form a team, everyone benefits. Here are reasons to welcome cobots into your facility:
- Easy to use: Cobots are engineered to be user-friendly. Therefore, manufacturers do not need to spend time or money learning and teaching complicated programming. You can integrate a cobot quickly, and you can expect to see positive results fast.
- Increase worker satisfaction: Cobots make the perfect coworkers. They are built to do jobs that are dangerous or dull. Meanwhile, human workers can use their time and energy to complete more rewarding tasks.
- Improve safety: Cobots complete repetitive tasks that could lead to strains or injuries in humans. Cobots also handle hazardous materials and chemicals, so humans don’t have to. Lastly, cobots are safe to share a workspace with because they are equipped with advanced safety features.
- Reduce error: Cobots complete tasks that are prone to human error, and consistently deliver quality results. By performing with high accuracy and consistency, manufacturers can expect waste reduction when they use cobots. For example, a cobot can inspect auto parts for defects for hours on end without making a mistake, whereas a human would become tired after time and likely to miss a defective part.
- Boost production: When employees wish they have a helping hand, cobots come to the rescue. Cobots are five times faster than humans and won’t make mistakes. Also, cobots don’t need breaks, vacations or sick time. They can work 24/7, which allows you to produce more at a higher speed and meet your customers’ demands.
- Boost performance: Humans and cobots make an excellent team. According to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), humans and robots work faster and more efficiently when they work together rather than alone. Researchers found that workers reduced idle time by 85% when they worked with robots.
- Affordable: You don’t have to spend money to add more floor space to make room for cobots. Cobots fit seamlessly into your existing layout and take up about as much room as a human. Also, they’ll work for you around the clock and ask for little in return. For example, if you lease a Doosan M1013 for $712 a month, and if the cobot works 744 hours a month, that’s equivalent to paying the cobot $0.95 an hour. Overall, cobots are a smart investment.
- Save money: With cobots, you’ll save money in dozens of ways. First, you’ll experience greater efficiency, which means fewer operating costs. You’ll also have fewer errors to pay for, and you’ll reduce insurance costs and the cost of workplace injuries. Lastly, you can reduce the number of employees needed to complete unskilled tasks.
- Competitive edge: With a higher output, consistent quality and lower overhead costs, you’ll zip past competitors with cobots on the team.
- Mobility: Cobots are lightweight and easy to move, so you can put them to work anywhere in the facility without needing to change the layout.
What Are the Types of Cobots?
- Speed and separation monitoring
- Safety-rated monitored stop
- Power and force limiting
Manufacturers may focus on power and force limiting operation. Power and force limited application allows collaboration between humans and robots because cobots in this category are equipped with sensors that prevent injury. At RG Group, we’ve partnered with some of the best names in the industry to supply customers with the highest quality cobots. Here are the different types of cobots we currently offer. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, contact us. We’ll find a solution for your automation needs.
1. Doosan Robotics
Doosan Robotics created cobots that are highly intuitive, efficient and easy to use. Doosan cobots feature a range of accessories to maximize production and meet your unique specifications. With Doosan cobots, you can expect superior performance with complex tasks, the best collision sensitivity in the industry and high precision. Employees will appreciate the user-friendly, lightweight touchscreen control when it’s time to put a Doosan cobot to work. At RG Group, we carry four different models:
- M0609: The M0609 Doosan Collaborative Robot is designed to perform repetitive tasks in limited spaces at high speeds.
- M1013: The M1013 is the standard model and offers great versatility and can be used for any application.
- M1509: If you need to give workers a break from physically demanding work, consider the M1509. This model is perfect for working alongside humans to handle heavier objects.
- M0617: Do you need a cobot with a long reach? Consider the M0617, which features the industry’s largest reach radius of 1.7 meters. The M0617 model is the most efficient Doosan cobot for handling long-range tasks or operating multiple tasks.
2. MIR Cobots
If you need a versatile cobot that can zoom around the warehouse to transport heavy pallets without colliding into objects or workers, consider Mobile Industrial Robot (MIR) cobots. You can program MIR cobots to transport heavy loads or collect and deliver carts wherever you need them to go. MIRs are easy to program, so you can change routes or layout whenever you need to, and quickly reprogram your MIR to adjust to the change. Simply communicate with MIRs and tell them where to go via your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Another bonus of bringing a MIR cobot onto the team is you no longer have to ask employees to transport pallets. Instead, you can ask human workers to complete more fulfilling tasks that boost production.
MIR cobots move products from the assembly lines immediately to optimize workflow. With 360-degree visual protection, MIRs move along safely. Lastly, they can be equipped with various tools such as pallet lifts or robot arms to perform an array of tasks efficiently. The different models carry loads ranging from 220 pounds to 2,200 pounds.
3. OnRobot Robotics
For automated end-of-arm tooling solutions, consider OnRobot. OnRobot offers state-of-the-art gripping and sensing technologies. Convenient to program and install, OnRobot boosts efficiency whether you need automated assembly, surface finishing, machine tending or other collaborative applications. At RG Group, you’ll find the following OnRobot models:
- RG2 and RG6 Collaborative Grippers: The RG2 and RG6 Collaborative Grippers do not need external cables and feature dual grippers and customizable fingertips. These end-of-arm tools offer lightning-speed installation and easy programming to reduce deployment time by 30%. You can apply OnRobot grippers in machine tending, packaging and palletizing, assembly, pick and place and more.
- Hex Force/Torque (F/T) Sensor: The Hex F/T Sensor adds the sense of touch to your robot. Featuring an intuitive user interface, OnRobot sensors do not require programming skills, and can be quickly attached to most industrial robot arms. Use the Hex F/T Sensor to assist with tasks such as assembly, surface finishing, quality testing and inspections.
- RG2-FT Gripper: The RG2-FT Gripper features force and torque sensors at the fingertips. These intelligent grippers detect the risk of slipping before it happens and enable precise machine tending, assembly jobs and more. The RG2-FT Gripper is your go-to end-of-arm tool if you wish to automate high-precision assembly tasks.
- Gecko Gripper: The Gecko Gripper attaches to flat solid or porous objects and picks them up without an air system. Featuring instantaneous and precise gripping, the Gecko Gripper is ideal for pick and place applications.
- VG10 Vacuum Gripper: The VG10 Vacuum Gripper doesn’t need external cables or an air supply to handle a variety of objects. Featuring a dual grip with individual vacuum channels, you can have the VG10 working in your production line straight out of the box in less than 30 minutes.
- Quick Changer: The Quick Changer is an easy-to-use locking mechanism that enables fast and simple change of tools. Featuring the lowest weight and height in its class, the OnRobot Quick Changer is the perfect accessory for cobots.
4. FANUC Robotics
FANUC is an automation company that specializes in creating innovative robotic arms for manufacturers. With over 100 models of robots, FANUC has just about every kind of robotic technology, including cobots, needed to complete any manufacturing task. The CR-35iA is FANUC’s collaborative robot designed to work safely next to humans in a shared workspace. The CR-35iA stops what it’s doing if it comes into contact with its human operator, and is designed to be as precise and reliable as all of FANUC’s industrial robots. Consider incorporating the CR-35iA to automate your assembly line.
What Is the Future of Cobots in Manufacturing?
Cobots have a bright future in the world of manufacturing. Cobots are lightweight, flexible, mobile and can work next to humans safely. For these reasons, and because the global economy is becoming more competitive, we can assume cobots are here to stay. Also, considering how affordable cobots are compared to larger robots and the numerous benefits they offer, we can expect to see them continue to grow in popularity.
Companies are willing to invest in robotics that increase productivity and quality while cutting operating costs. In 2018, for example, the Robotic Industries Association reported record levels of robots, or over 10,000 robots, shipped to North America. Globally, robot sales are expected to grow over the next decade into the billions.
Why Choose RG Group for Industrial Robots and Cobots?
If you work in manufacturing and are looking to increase your ROI, consider incorporating industrial robots into your workforce. No matter what industry you work in, you face tough competition across the globe. Industrial robots and cobots speed up production without sacrificing quality or accuracy –– all while reducing the need to hire more workers. What more could a company ask for?
Nevertheless, purchasing cobots for your business is still a big investment. You need a company you can trust to supply you with state-of-the-art technology and exceptional customer support. We’re here to help you get business rolling.
At RG Group, we’ve been experts in the motion control and fluid handling industries for more than half a century. As a designer, manufacturer, seller and servicer of motion control solutions, we understand what it takes to integrate advanced robots into your facility successfully. We are solution-driven innovators with a passion for applying the latest technologies to help our customers succeed. We distribute products from names like Doosan and MIR, and we can also create robotics to meet your needs. Our in-house engineers are ready to provide custom cost-saving solutions and work with you through projects from beginning to end. No matter what type of automation you need, we’ll help you bring your business into the future and give you a sharp competitive edge. For more information, contact us today!