Collaborative robots enable new ways for people to work alongside robots. Collaborative robots typically entail a six- or seven-axis robot arm with power- and force-limited manipulators. Unlike large industrial robots that must be fenced off from humans during operations, a collaborative robot, or cobot, may feature moving parts and sensors that limit torque and resistance. This creates an inherently safer robot that can be customized and automated for human-robot collaboration.
The Collaborative Robot Laboratory at Southwest Research Institute opens new opportunities for our customers and industry consortia to develop agile, mobile, automated capabilities for leading collaborative robot platforms. We develop software, perception, and automation technology that solves technical challenges in manufacturing and assembly where there is inherently a benefit to humans and robots being in proximity. The facility features a flex-lab with collaborative robot workstations in addition to meeting rooms where we host training and industry events.
Collaborative Robots in Manufacturing
SwRI works with industry partners, including ROS-Industrial and Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, to develop enabling technologies for collaborative robots in manufacturing. Some applications may provide input information or lead to development of new ways to enable humans to train robots on specific tasks. These approaches are equally applicable to traditional industrial robots and are an extension of what has been thought of as a collaborative robotic application. Laboratory project examples and capabilities include the following:
- Collaborative robot force control capability
- Cobot cable management
- Robotic prepreg composite layup
- Mixed reality for robotic teaching
- Teach through demonstration
- Responding to human markings
- Robot welding and sanding
- Perception and advanced vision
- Robot risk and safety assessments
Safety note: when equipped for these types of activities, the collaborative robot presents potential safety risks so additional safety measures must be evaluated.