Talking Collaborative Robots
Posted on Nov 03, 2015 7:00 AM. 3 min read time
On October 28th 2015, Robotik, a robotic integration company from Quebec, put together a conference on collaborative robots. Robotik is a division of Tactic Sampling Product. They invited people from the manufacturing industry to participate in a conference that would address the subject of collaborative robots. It is always fun to talk about how collaborative robots are entering the manufacturing industry with people who actually have hands on experience with industrial robots and automation. After all, it will be these people who will end up carving the path for collaborative robots in manufacturing.
A Green Fanuc near you
The first presenter at the conference was Mr. Martin Noel, our district manager here in Quebec for Fanuc Robotics. Everyone who was used to Martin’s yellow presentations in the past were surprised to see some green on his slides. Martin was presenting the CR35iA collaborative robot from Fanuc. The key point highlighted by Martin was that it was the same reliable Fanuc industrial robot with some add-ons to make it collaborative. So you can use the same spare parts that you are using on your industrial Fanuc, you program the robot the same way you are used to programming your Fanuc robots and it has a 35 kg payload, which is a lot more than other collaborative robots like Universal Robots, or ABB’s Yumi. The robot is capable of monitoring forces applied through one (huge) force torque sensor located below the robot's base. This is a different approach from other companies that usually monitor forces individually on each axis. Of course, the standard question asked was: Why is it green? Martin's answer was simple, it is really a doppelganger of a standard Fanuc industrial robot; so you need a clear way to differentiate it for your own safety.
Robotiq and OUR vision of collaborative robots
We were the second presenter. As we discussed over lunch with the other presenters and sponsors, I noticed that the people around the table were not yet great believers in collaborative robotics. So our goal was to change their understanding of cobots and help them see where collaborative robots fit in manufacturing. I would say that the main point of our presentation was to recognize collaborative robots as tools, rather than fully automated systems. Think about a LEAN manufacturing plant: there is a stand in the middle of the production floor where the operator has to go to perform a certain operations with specific tools. Well, this stand could be a collaborative robot where the operator brings one part for the robot to perform a certain job on it. The operator then removes the finished part that has been worked on by the robot and simply moves to the next step in the production process. The Franke case study from UR illustrates my point!
Still need safety features? Well, let's talk about it!
Then the final presenter was Omron. Why Omron in a collaborative robot workshop? Well, it turns out that their products, such as the safety area scanner, are really nice tools to make your collaborative robot application safer, especially when it comes to speed and separation monitoring. Even if a robot is described as collaborative, this does not mean that your application is safe. You always have to complete a risk assessment for each application and Omron's products are often great add-ons that make your applications fully collaborative and safe.
People believe that collaborative robots are the future, but I think they are already here! The world is still moving forward and the collaborative robots of the future are more likely to be similar to those in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.