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How to Decide Which Collaborative Robot Solution Is Right for Your Plant

Mariane Davids
by Mariane Davids. Last updated on May 22, 2017 9:18 AM
Posted on May 22, 2017 9:15 AM. 3 min read time

Collaborative robots are changing the playing field for manufacturing companies. Huge brands like Ford and Volkswagen are bringing these types of cobots into the fold and experiencing amazing gains as a result.

As more and more small and medium-sized businesses embrace these types of robots, it’s becoming paramount that they understand which type of solution is best for their individual needs.

ford-cobot.jpg

Pinpoint Critical Opportunities

Before you decide which type of cobots are going to fit best in your manufacturing plant, you should first look at the system you have in place and find the critical point in that process that a collaborative solution can directly improve.

Most plan manager just look for something to automate, but doing this won’t yield positive results as it’s not targeting the factor that limits current output metrics. This is why it’s important to look at a critical path analysis and find that point in the process.

If you’re trying to simply increase output, making improvements or automating random parts of the overall system won’t change the fact that the critical point isn’t being addressed, and ultimately won’t improve your key metrics.

In addition to an analysis, you should also employ a system wide planner to monitor the pieces of the overall system. They will ensure that all the pieces of the process like the supplier, people, robots, and everything else are working together and optimizing their time for the best results.

Once you’ve established the point where cobots can alleviate a critical bottleneck in your process, you can start looking at the options to best automate that part of your manufacturing process.

Know the Various Types of Collaborative Robots

When it comes to collaborative robots, the general consensus is they are designed to automatically perform a mundane or simple task consistently. This frees up the human to do more complex work and ultimately optimizes production.

Most people think that collaborative robots are inherently safe. While it's true that they can be, there are four types of collaborative robots, and three of them can be used with classical fenced industrial robots. 

Here are four types of robotics that can be implemented onto your plant’s floor:

1. Safety Monitored Stop

This type of cobot is a simple design that is used when working with a human. The robot will bring parts to the person and free them up to perform tasks that require more complexity or precision. This type of robot is similar to a fenced robot, but it also includes safety features like a laser scanner that can detect the presence of a person.

If an employee enters the zone, the robot ceases operation so the person can make modifications to its routine or change an aspect of it. Then, the press of a button turns it on again. This robot type is used when large or heavy operations need a human counterpart.

2. Speed and Separation Monitoring

Our next type of cobot is one that works more closely with human counterparts. This robot constantly monitors the area around it and adjusts speed to account for nearby humans. It can also stop entirely if the person is too close.

There are three zones that the robot uses to measure this. It will be full speed in the green zone, reduced speed in the yellow zone, and fully stopped when the person is in the red zone. It is an excellent safety feature that doesn't sacrifice productivity. 

The ability to change speed is what makes this one more suitable for human/robot collaboration.

3. Power and Force Limiting

These robots are designed with constant collaboration in mind. They lack sharp corners, exposed motors, or even pinch points. They have force monitoring devices and padded outer shells to lower risk of injury should they collide. They work directly alongside their human counterparts and usually handle smaller applications.

4. Hand Guiding

Hand guided robots are exciting because they can be taught a path and positions. To do this, the human uses a sensor on the wrist of the robot  and places it in a specific mode. This mode's name varies from brand-to-brand, but it's commonly known as record mode, or anti-gravity mode. 

These types of robots are defined in the latest versions of the ISO/TS-15066 and equivalent documents. 

Final Thoughts

Collaborative robots come in a wide variety of types, but knowing where you need them, and how you want them to interact with their human counterparts can give you the tools you need to make an informed decision.

How do you plan to integrate collaborative robots into your manufacturing plant? Let us know in the comments!

collaborative robots in global companies

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Mariane Davids
Written by Mariane Davids
Mariane Davids is a social media marketer with over a decade of experience in the industry. She's now bringing her decade of experience to others so they can better connect with their communities.
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