This is the second post in a series about collaborative robots, also called cobots. Our first post explained that cobots are industrial robots designed to be safer to use near humans and more easily programed to complete simple tasks by a worker who is not a robotics expert. In this second post, we look in detail at cobot safety and ease of use.
Collaborative robot, or cobot, has become something of a buzzword in the automation industry. The popularity of cobots has created an explosion of new models from all the major robot manufacturers as well as many industry newcomers. If you are new to the field, it can be challenging to know which model to pick or even determine if a cobot is the right solution.
Typically, robots are not in service long enough to require “major” upgrades. In a typical robot’s service life, there may be some software updates and improvements to the end of arm tooling (EOAT) but no major changes. In contrast, some of the robots we have developed, operate effectively for decades. There are key lessons to be learned when planning for an extended robot life cycle with upgrades and retrofits that must be planned to keep the systems healthy and happy.
Southwest Research Institute has been developing Scan-N-PlanTM technologies for many years with applications in painting, sanding, grit blasting, grinding, chemical depaint, and laser ablation. Scan-N-Plan, a suite of ROS-Industrial tools, enables real-time robot trajectory planning from 3D scan data.
Economic impacts from the pandemic and ongoing digital trends are expected to accelerate the adoption of digital manufacturing, also known as smart manufacturing. This means more U.S. companies will embrace “Industry 4.0” technologies that support agile workflows with robotics, automation, data analytics, and additive manufacturing.
The typical person probably doesn’t wake up in the morning with an idea to build a 20-ton robot, standing five stories, wielding a 20 kW laser, and yet we did exactly that with the Laser Coating Removal Robot (LCR). This post, unfortunately, will not discuss the enormous robots you see in sci-fi movies. Instead, it covers large-scale industrial robots intentionally designed for manufacturing, construction, and other large workspace applications.
Taking on the task of deploying a custom robotic workcell can be daunting for the most seasoned robotics engineers, let alone teams that don’t use robots on a daily basis. This is reflected in what we hear from industry peers, customers, integrators, and collaborators.
Universities, startups and R&D organizations are facilitating the rapid evolution of industrial automation and robotics with innovative prototypes and emerging technologies. These new and exciting capabilities are gaining footing in manufacturing and industry, but a gap has emerged in system sustainability, not to mention broader adoption across the industrial domain: workforce development.
SwRI’s robotics and automation group is divided into a few “program areas,” or technology focuses, typically centered around a market segment. One of these program areas is titled “Intelligent Machines.” To the casual observer, Intelligent Machines could mean anything from the computer you are reading this article on to the microwave you reheated your leftovers in for lunch, which are machines that have some level of intelligence.
Many industrial processes, such as sanding or mechanical assembly, require a force applied and/or monitored to execute the process. This can be accomplished either through built-in compliance in the interaction between the tool on the robot and the part being worked on or through a rigid interaction and a controlled force being applied by the robot itself.