A collaborative robot, also identified as a cobot, is a machine that you can guide to execute various tasks to assist manual operators. In retrospect, mechanical robots are tuned to repetitively execute just one task, work alone and stay immobile.
Advances in tech, including cognitive computing, machine vision, and touch sensitivity, enable small and low-power robots to recognize their environs and execute various kinds of tasks in close proximity to manual operators without causing harm.
When a collaborative robot is working alongside manual operators, it can rapidly learn the roles it’s supposed to execute through support learning or demonstration. Unfortunately, today, many robots in production lines are mechanical; they are large and expensive to maintain.
Cobots were built to precisely address this issue. These machines are smaller, and they don’t require eye-watering upkeep costs. This means even smaller businesses can purchase them. Let’s take a look at the ancestries of cobots and the types of cobots available today.
What Is the Origin of Collaborative Robots?
Collaborative robots were developed in 1996 owing to an initiative that started two years prior. Prasad Akella, an operative of General Motors (GM) who worked in the Robotics Center, was actively looking for a means by which robots and operators could coexist in the workplace.
Two professors allied to Northwestern University, Michael Peshkin and J. Edward Colgate, continued Akella’s search. They eventually were able to build a collaborative robot and patented it a year later.
The first collaborative robot had no inherent power source that could move independently. To guarantee safety, manual operators were charged with controlling the power of the robot. Back then, these machines weren’t known as cobots but rather IADs (intelligent assist devices).
Peshkin and Colgate would go on to build their own business called Cobotics. This organization was the first to produce cobots for the manufacturing industry commercially. Also, these machines were used in the automotive industry for assembly tasks.
In 2003, Cobotics was purchased by Stanley Assembly Tech. From this point, many organizations have gone ahead to build different kinds of collaborative robots to meet the booming demand for these machines in various industries.
The Kinds of Collaborative Robots Available Today Include: Safety Monitored Stop Cobot
This kind of collaborative robot is often used for tasks with little or no human contact with the machine. For example, safety monitored stop cobots have various safety sensors that perceive when a manual operator approaches the machine’s work jurisdiction.
Once the collaborative robot detects a manual operator within its jurisdiction, the cobot will instantly cease operations. This allows the manual operator to exit the work area or perform the task that took them there initially. Once the operator has completed their task, the machine can be rebooted by simply clicking a button.
Power and Force Limiting Cobot
These machines are probably what people perceive when they hear the word collaborative robot. Power and force limiting cobots are explicitly designed to enable coexistence with manual operators without the need for extra safety measures.
To further boost safety, these machines are built without exposed running parts, sharp corners, or tweak points. In addition, these robots have inherent collision monitors that enable the device to detect possible collisions and stop instantly in a crash with a manual operator.
Speed and Separation Cobots
These robots are better suited for tasks that have interaction with manual operators. Speed and separation cobots typically have in-built vision frameworks which monitor the machine’s work jurisdiction. The jurisdiction is composed of two zones namely the stop and warning zone.
When a manual operator approaches the warning zone, the machine will tone down the speed to one that’s considered safe for operators. In contrast, when the operator approaches the stop zone, the collaborative robot will halt instantly. When the operator exits its jurisdiction, the machine will reboot and continue performing the set tasks.
All in all, collaborative robots are better in almost every sense when compared to their larger counterparts. As illustrated above, you have several cobots to choose from depending on the company’s operations, specifically if they are to work alongside manual operators.