The use of robots in the manufacturing sector has existed for quite some time since Unimate, the first industrial robot, received its initial patent in 1961. Unfortunately, small and medium-sized firms rarely had access to these robots due to the high cost and need for large spaces when adopting robots in the workplace.
For instance, they required safety cages and experienced personnel to operate them, which resulted in additional expenses, not forgetting that they were quite expensive to purchase. However, modern robots are now considered crucial automation tools, allowing smaller businesses to compete with the bigger firms.
Collaborative robots, the new model of robots, are revolutionizing the robotics sector. According to the Robotics Industries Association, a collaborative robot (often just referred to as a cobot), is specifically made to work alongside human staff in a designated workspace.
What Manufacturers Can Gain from the Use of Collaborative Robots
Collaborative robots provide high-tech arms equipped with cameras, motion sensors, and varying reaches and payloads for every busy factory worker who wishes they had an extra arm. This collaborative robot technology can imitate various arm movements necessary to carry out repetitive jobs, such as examining minor auto parts or wheel hub assemblies, unlike the traditional robots.
Employees are liberated from tedious duties by collaborative robots, allowing them to concentrate on activities that require complex and specialized skills. For instance, three workers who were previously tasked with examining a single bin can now be assigned tasks like operating a forklift or checking the output quality, allowing them to utilize their creativity rather than their hands only.
Cobots’ mobility, which enables them to fit into practically any workspace, is another advantage. Most collaborative robot devices weigh less than 80 pounds, making them flexible and easy to handle. One can repurpose them in different applications without disrupting the production layouts while using less power to operate than traditional robots.
It makes them perfect for short changeovers and modest jobs since the industrial robot can complete repetitive operations with an extremely high level of consistency while maintaining the required quality level.
Many collaborative robots have cameras incorporated to allow them to monitor their surroundings. The camera and collaborative robot’s coordinate system must have an interface to work effectively. The application of human detection and tracking by cameras and algorithms enhances safety and overall human-robot interaction.
Programming collaborative robots to carry out plenty of manufacturing operations are now possible, resulting in a reduced chance for human error during production. Universal Robots has developed cutting-edge interfaces that use augmented and virtual reality, enabling people without prior experience in robot operations to program and operate the cobots.
A Faster Return on Investment (ROI)
Since programming and safety guarding are not required, collaborative robots are not expensive to maintain. When extensively put to use, they also have a short payback period of less than a year, making them an ideal robotic automation choice for small and medium-sized businesses.
Four Manufacturing Sectors Benefiting From the Use of Collaborative Robots with Universal Robots
Integration of Collaborative Robots in Welding
One of the most crucial jobs in most industrial production processes is welding which is also labor intensive. However, many skilled employees are retiring and not being replaced fast enough to meet the demand.
Danish robotics manufacturer Universal Robots is often considered a pioneer and thought leader in the industry, and they are working with reputable businesses around the world to provide and innovate great features to their cobot models.
Universal Robots have so far developed a SnapWeld collaborative robot welding package, which includes an interactive welding cobot. The robot is simple to integrate into manual welding booths, eliminating the need for additional robotic cells. The set consists of a Profax wire feeder and a water-cooled torch with a torch bracket, wires, and hoses that can weld up to 600 amps, perfectly fitted for specific jobs.
Metal and Machining
Cobots are valuable in the metal and machining industries. A classic example of a company in this sector that uses cobots is the Danish Stantraek Company. The company increased its output and greatly boosted its revenue after acquiring two UR5 robots.
The company now has a competitive advantage over its rivals without hiring more people, lowering costs, with just twenty-eight employees and two collaborative robots. One of their UR5 robots can successfully package 300 items in a box per hour. As a result, their production level has significantly improved, ensuring a quick return on investment.
The industry can also accomplish the intended results thanks to the deployment of cobots from Universal Robots. LEAX is an example of a business that uses these collaborative robots. The Swedish automobile manufacturer produces drill bits, industrial gearboxes, input and output shafts, driving shafts, main shafts, and other parts for heavy vehicles.
They rely on collaborative robots to accomplish a quick and accurate execution in the production stages since they manufacture various products that demand different output volumes, some of which require up to 100,000 units. They successfully optimized their production after buying three UR10 robots for changing bits and loading or unloading. The robots are adaptable and can complete other duties even when the company opts to stop producing a given product.
Plastic and Polymers Production
The production of plastic and polymers necessitates a high degree of flexibility due to the variety of materials that call for different processing and temperature ranges. Since there are various plastics and polymers and many ways to manufacture them, the production process often changes.
However, due to their versatile nature, collaborative robots are currently used in various operation processes of plastic and polymers production, including de-gating, PCB loading or unloading, picking, and palletizing items.
The robots enhance workers’ safety by protecting those working on the production lines from sharp items like plastic shavings. They also enable workers to develop their production skills in other tasks by performing repetitive tasks which do not require specialized skills.
Collaborative robots continue to be an essential way for companies to stand out from their competitors. The adoption of cobot use is making manufacturing companies more flexible and responsive to their respective market needs. It is also an advantage for the final consumer since they get high-quality products.