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Industrial Robots VS Cobots—Which Is Right For You?

Industrial Robots VS Cobots—Which Is Right For You?

Industrial robots have offered benefits to many organisations ever since it was first introduced, but collaborative robots (cobots) have been a game-changing force recently. Article by Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots.

Cobots made automation accessible and affordable for many organisations for whom traditional robotics were out of reach. But automating appropriately means evaluating your specific situation to make the best choice. The industry is changing rapidly, and new robotic capabilities are blurring the lines between collaborative and industrial robots. Now, manufacturers must determine whether an industrial robot or cobot is best suited for the job.

Robots and cobots: The key differences

The simplest way to understand how cobots and industrial robots differ is that cobots are designed to work alongside human employees, while industrial robots do work in place of those employees. A cobot can assist employees with work that may be too dangerous, strenuous, or tedious for them to accomplish on their own, creating a safer, more efficient workplace without eliminating factory jobs involved in the actual fabrication of a product. By contrast, industrial robots are used to automate the manufacturing process almost entirely without human help on the manufacturing floor. This, in turn, frees up employees for more meaningful tasks that are less mundane and are less prone to repetitive motion injuries.

Cobots are also easily programmable as compared to industrial robots because of cobots “learning” capability on the job. A factory worker can re-program a cobot simply by moving the arm along the desired trajectory. From there, the cobot will “remember” the new movement and be able to repeat it on its own. Industrial robots cannot be so easily reprogrammed and require a programmer to write new code for any changes in the process to be implemented.

Industrial robots can handle heavier, larger materials like those used in automotive manufacturing, but also require safety cages to keep humans out of the workspace. However, cobots are designed to work in close proximity to humans, they are safe enough to function around people and do not require the same kinds of safety infrastructure industrial robots do (upon risk assessment).

Common Manufacturing Industry Misconceptions

Robots have a lot going for them in terms of reducing safety risks to employees, improving efficiency, and cutting overhead costs, but unfortunately, there are several misunderstandings about the best solution to incorporate robotics. For example, purchasers occasionally expect their cobots to replace low-skilled factory workers entirely or take on heavy manufacturing tasks best suited for an industrial robot. Cobots are specifically designed to work in conjunction with human workers and perform best as a minimally disruptive solution to safety concerns and efficiency inhibitors. Cobots have so much greater potential to revolutionise manufacturing when implemented correctly.

Another area that brings confusion is in regard to customisation options and costs. Cobots and industrial robots can both be customised, but due to their size and differences in capacity and application, one should not expect the cost or engineering required for both machines to be analogous. Some cobot brands have customisable pre-engineered designs that reduce the cost and time necessary for tailoring an automated solution to the application, however, some operations will inevitably benefit more from greater levels of customisation. Industrial robots are also available in both custom and standard models depending on the application, and these larger and more complex robots have a proportionate cost associated with them. Cost and the necessary engineering involved is entirely dependent on the needs of the customer, and being open to a wide array of solutions is the best approach to robotics.

Robotics is a considerable investment for businesses. There are arguments for both industrial robots and cobots. Although the truth is that there is a steady shift from robots to cobots, but both machines remain significant in different factory floors. Manufacturers need to understand the differences between both machines and select one based on their application needs. There is space on the market for both robots and cobots but the power lies in one’s requirement.

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5 Reasons Why You Need Collaborative Automation For Today’s World

5 Reasons Why You Need Collaborative Automation For Today’s World

The benefits of collaborative automation are undisputed – more profitability, productivity, flexibility, higher quality and even more employee satisfaction. Given the current economic landscape, manufacturers need these advantages now more than ever. Collaborative robots (cobots) are a proven, valuable and accessible solution for manufacturers of any size. The following are the reasons why one should increase automation in their factory.

  1. Cobots ease labour shortages

The top challenge manufacturers face is the gap between the demand and availability of workers. Unfortunately, the labour shortages will only get worse in the coming years. Research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that over the next 10 years starting from 2020, manufacturers will need to add approximately 4.6 million manufacturing jobs – 2.4 of which may go unfilled.

Cobots can help ease the burden by filling the labour gaps. Cobots can be programmed, operated and maintained by existing employees, regardless of the team’s previous robotics or automation experience. By providing manufacturers with an easy way to automate the dirty, dangerous, dull and repetitive jobs, organisations can shift existing employees to new and more valuable roles, which increases employee satisfaction and builds morale and loyalty. Extensive automation can ease recruitment and retention by creating new technical roles with better pay, opportunities and working conditions.

  1. Accessible and flexible

Unlike costly industrial robots, cobots are affordable, versatile and easy to integrate into work processes without the need for major renovations or costly installation projects. Cobots can make companies of any size – and in any location – competitive by providing the flexibility they need to compete, grow and profit in any economic climate. Collaborative automation equips organisations to easily to scale up or down, increase productivity in warehouses and expand into new markets more quickly.

  1. Financial competitive advantage

In addition to labour shortages, today’s manufacturers face intense economic and political uncertainty. Adding to the complexity, today’s consumers increasingly demand higher quality products and real-time availability – at lower costs. These pressures make running a profitable production line more challenging than ever before.

Financially, collaborative automation has a direct impact on profits. Further, cobots play an important role in improving product quality by reducing human error commonly associated with dull, repetitive and dangerous tasks, ensuring consistency and accuracy, and enhancing the ability to create more complex goods – which satisfies customer demand for higher-quality goods at lower costs. At the same time, with the right configuration, a cobot can produce finished goods at a much faster rate than handcrafting or assembly lines.

  1. An affordable option

Few would argue with the benefits of collaborative automation. A small and mid-sized manufacturer might have doubts to afford a solution with all the pressures facing in their factory and the looming economic uncertainty.

UR Financial Services offers a fast and low-risk model to maximise productivity, profitability and ROI without a significant cash outlay. Through a partnership with DLL, we offer flexible payment plans that accommodate cash flow, seasonal fluctuations and shifts in capacity, so you can focus on growing and running your business. This programme provides the ultimate financial flexibility.

  1. Financially supported by Government in Singapore

Singapore companies especially SMEs who have a tight budget and cash flows can grow their businesses and solidify their foundations with the EDG grant in Singapore. The Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) supports companies’ usage of automation and technology which results in tangible benefits and significant growth.

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is plausible that this is just the start of the process for collaborative robots. In the long run, with a rapid increase in automation capabilities, cobots will become the powerful workhorses of the factory. This is the perfect time to deploy cobots in your industry and stay ahead of competitors

Article by Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots

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Doosan Robotics Launches New Cobots Including Support For Machine Tools

Doosan Robotics Launches New Cobots Including Support For Machine Tools

Doosan Robotics Inc. is introducing six new collaborative robots (cobots), diversifying its innovative product offerings. The new lineup includes four models from the A-SERIES and two from the H-SERIES, adding to the company’s selection of innovative, future-proof cobots.

The A-SERIES, which has achieved the industry’s best speed and affordability, is comprised of four models, A0509, A0509s, A0912 and A0912s, and offers payload range of 5kg to 9kg. Each model features safety algorithms that protect workers, and meets the highest level of safety standards set by an accredited international testing & certification organisation TÜV SÜD. The equipped mountable force torque sensors enable the A-SERIES cobots to provide versatility required by many applications such as polishing and assembly.

The H-SERIES models offer 1.7m reach and up to 25kg payload, marking the heaviest payload among currently available cobots in the market. Comprised of two selections, H2017 and H2515, this high-power lineup weigh only 75 kg, only half of other comparable robots with the same payload. Equipped with six torque sensors on all six axes, the H-SERIES provides the dexterity and flexibility required in variety of applications, in particular logistics and automotive.

“The new A-SERIES and H-SERIES will set a new standard with distinctive advantages such as best-in-class speed, superior performance and outstanding price competitiveness,” said Sangchul Kwak, CEO of Doosan Robotics. “Doosan Robotics will lead the growth of the smart factory industry in the post-pandemic era and drive the momentum of new vertical markets in service, logistics and manufacturing.”

 

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Industry 5.0: The Future Of Manufacturing In 2035

Industry 5.0: The Future Of Manufacturing In 2035

The Factory of 2035 will look vastly different than the factory of today. Ever since the first Industrial Revolution when mechanisation, water, and steam power started to automate work previously carried out manually, more work has been taken on by machines. Each technological advancement – from computers and robotics to the Internet – has brought about additional automation. Advancement in technologies will remain significant, but the trend of “human touch” will also be in demand in Factory of 2035.

People, machines and fear

Today, internet-enabled “Industry 4.0” – including the robots that form a growing part of its connected technologies – has given rise to new fears that technology is replacing human workers. Representing Industry 4.0 as they do, robots are also bearing the brunt of the latest “technology is replacing us” myths. People have misconceptions that automation technologies and robots threaten people’s livelihoods. Automation does not replace jobs, in fact, it creates new jobs.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article on automated tasks, 20 percent and 80 percent of a given job can involve automatable tasks, but no jobs are 100 percent automatable. This means that even with all the advancements, robots will not replace humans entirely. The fact is that robots help to increase productivity and companies are in the position to employ more people. Hence, robots will create jobs instead of eliminating them.

A new type of factory

The promise of the latest industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, is not just complete factory automation. Manufacturers move towards “light out factory” setups where they can produce goods people demand quickly, with consistently high quality, at unprecedented low cost, and with little human intervention. However, when the ‘lights out factory’ has started to gain traction in actual manufacturing setups, different global consumer trend has emerged – The return of human touch in Industry 5.0.

Mass demand for the human touch, or what is often described as “mass personalisation,” will never be met by large scale lights-out type manufacturing nor by traditional craftspeople working in their own small shops. Today, people want to experience the human touch in mass-manufactured goods. The type of factory needed to produce such goods at a scale and cost that makes production economically feasible will depend on technology. It is not the technology operating without human involvement in a lights-out factory. It will be the technology that collaborates with workers and, where the human touch is involved, serves as a tool that enables the workers to contribute the value they add to the product.

A new type of worker

The workers who will be needed in these new setups are workers who have particular value to add to the product. They must have expertise in an area that is required to give the product the degree of human touch the market demands of it. They may practice a craft or use a discerning eye or other senses to assess work and make adjustments. They may have a special understanding of materials and manufacturing processes. They may be experts in the practice of creativity. What will not be needed are workers who spend their days performing boring, repetitive tasks, or dangerous work. Robots and other machinery can and will do this work better. The days of the old-school line worker will be over.

The factory job in 2035

In 2035, Industry 4.0 and lights-out factories will be a vital part of product manufacturing. The world needs millions of products that do not require any human touch in order to be valuable. There will also be many more Industry 5.0 factories in 2035, and these factories will employ workers, with uniquely human skills. Requiring uniquely human talents like creativity, artistry, materials and process understanding, discerning tastes, understanding of various customs, and complex judgement, these jobs will be nothing like the factory jobs we think of today. It will be jobs that defy the definition of work as “doing things I don’t like to do”, instead, people will love their jobs. These jobs and trends will help humanise labour and make the world a better place to work.

In the current global age, Industry 4.0 is a marriage of IT and manufacturing operations. We have seen the maturation of digital technologies in the manufacturing industry. The smart factories of 2035 will accommodate the new collaborative model. The collaboration between man and machines, in which robots do the strenuous and repetitive work while humans act as the “creative architects”. Human creativity and smart technologies will become a decisive force in 2035.

By: Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots

 

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Collaborative Robots And The 4 Cardinal Questions For Successful Adoption

Collaborative Robots And The 4 Cardinal Questions For Successful Adoption

Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. Here are four key questions when considering where cobots can be put to work in your facility. Article by Darrell Adams, Universal Robots.

According to ASEAN Key Figures 2019 by the ASEAN Secretariat, manufacturing by foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was 35.6 percent and contributed 36.6 percent to the region’s GDP. While manufacturing remain a key contributor to many of ASEAN’s member nations, there is an impetus to move up the manufacturing food chain for higher value manufacturing. High value manufacturing demand more investments, not only in automation and digitalisation, but also in skilled labour. All these investments are draining on small, medium and even larger sized manufacturers in this region due to cashflow. The manufacturing hub of ASEAN is also eroded by LATAM (Latin America) and the rising South Asia and Africa. 

Small and mid-sized manufacturers can be especially hard hit by sudden changes such as economic volatility, intense competitive pressure, seasonal demands or even an unexpected global crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. When labour requirements increase or decrease drastically, having the ability to ramp up production when demand is high and remain sustainable during downtime is crucial.

For these companies, having a workforce supported by collaborative robots or cobots, would be a dream come true.

Cobots are the best assistants in the Industry 4.0 wave

Cobots are part of the Industry 4.0 revolution we are deeply entrenched now. With the notion of Industry 4.0, we are now experiencing the emergence of what some practitioners and researchers term “operator 4.0”. This means that with an advanced technological revolution in manufacturing, human operators must also rise up to meet the exacting demands of such an advanced manufacturing paradigm. With industrial robots and cobots, human operators need to be able to program such machines, and work with them.

Made to be affordable and easy to program even for small batch production runs, cobots today are smart and agile tools for small medium and large companies to quickly adapt to fast changing economic situations and labour demands.

Unlike traditional robot automation which requires difficult programming, long set-up time, and takes up valuable space, cobots can be easily programmed by workers in the production line for simple tasks without expertise in robotics or programming. For more complex applications, certified system integrators and authorised training centres will guide the team through the initial installation, and workers handle the day-to-day operation afterwards. Cobots are also safe to be placed next to humans without the need for much space or a cage. A risk assessment by experts will be made prior to deploying without fencing, to ensure the placement complies with safety standards.

Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. And cobots are symbiotic with human operators and do NOT replace them. This means that cobots will not replace humans, but supplement and assist them. Cobots have even made themselves into integrative and assistive technologies for surgeons in operating rooms.

However, most small and mid-sized manufacturers, do not have an army of automation engineers to manage this process, hence what I hear most often is “How can I get started?” Each company is, of course, different, but there are some key questions that manufacturers can ask themselves when considering where cobots can be put to work.

  1. Which employees are not smiling due to menial and repetitive tasks?

If a person’s expression or body language reflects boredom, frustration or apathy, it is a good bet that you are not taking advantage of the full potential they have to add real value to your process.

PT JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN) is part of the JVCKENWOOD Group, a global leader in electronic and entertainment products. JEIN manufactures over 400,000 products each month to serve global customers. Turnaround time (time taken for a product to be produced) needs to be fast, with minimal defects, to consistently meet this production target. 

When JEIN added seven units of Universal Robots’ UR3 cobots to increase productivity and achieve consistent output quality, it proved to be a game changing move.

The adoption of cobots lessened the burden on workers to perform menial and repetitive tasks, including separating cut pieces of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and attaching a glass display on the car stereo units. The cobots also stabilised takt time, the cycle time of a specific process, while reducing the time per task by half.

“Through the adoption of cobots, we were able to improve production efficiency and our output quality is now more stable. With the move towards automation, our manpower can be redeployed to other processes. We have been able to reduce operational costs by more than USD 80,000 yearly,” said Agustinus Simanullang, General Manager, Engineering Division at JEIN.

  1. What tasks are clearly too simple for people to be wasted on?

Think things like putting parts into a box, transferring parts from one line to another, inserting screws, or loading and unloading of a rotary indexing table. If a cobot can do it, why wouldn’t you give the person something more valuable to do?

In Taiwan, with the help of Universal Robots cobots, BTC Mold, an injection moulding company saved over 35 percent of labour cost, solved a serious manpower shortage, and significantly reduced the risk of occupational hazard in the factory. Instead of repeatedly bending down to pack the finished products, causing employees to develop pain in their joints and waists over time, the cobots help do away with these repetitive tasks, and reduced the employees’ risks of occupational hazard caused by extensive period of hard labour.

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Automation And Digitalisation Pave The Way Forward For Smart Metal Industries

Automation And Digitalisation Pave The Way Forward For Smart Metal Industries

High precision robots working in a digitally driven factories are creating new avenues of growth for the sector. Article by Jorge Isla, ABB.

The standardised design of the FlexArc gives manufacturers the flexibility to shift the welding robot systems between cells without having to make major modifications.

As one of the most versatile and yet demanding parts of manufacturing, metal working has been preordained to undergo every technological advancement that transpires in the industrial world. The needs of the metalworking sector are as diverse as the end customers they serve. Be it a small job shop, a large automotive supplier or a foundry, metal working is a process that requires flawless execution even in harsh working conditions.

Today, trends such as the growing demand for tailor-made goods, continued globalisation that has led to a crowded market, and the everlasting pursuit for quality and efficiency, pose significant challenges to the current structure of the metalworking industry. Organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve have to pull all stops to ensure that their equipment and practices are capable enough to handle the many challenges that they encounter in this diverse industry. Automation in the form of robots and machining tools, when enhanced by digitalisation, offer the best way to improve productivity while maintaining a high level of flexibility to meet the needs of end customers. 

A significant factor that contests the efficacy of a factory that we are seeing today is ability to manufacture a wide variety of parts while maintaining the capacity to constantly introduce new variants to the process without having to disrupt the normal workflow in the factory. Achieving this requires a two-pronged approach to enhance both the hardware and the overall production process.

Forging flexibility with robots

Collaborative robots are adept at adding flexibility to assembly processes that need to make small lots of highly individualized products, in short cycles.

A sure shot way to increase the flexibility of the metal working process is through robotic automation. The range of robots for metal working have not been as comprehensive as they are today. From simple material handling tasks such as shifting parts to and from the conveyor system to sophisticated robotic welding cells that perform multiple complex tasks, robots have proven to significantly improve uptime, productivity and consistency. 

In the era of mass customisation, hard automation processes that execute only specific tasks offer very little in the way of agility to perform quick changeovers. On the other hand, flexible automation, typically in the form of a robot with “arms” that are capable of six axis movements with interchangeable grippers can perform a variety of tasks and are exceptional at handling large product mixes.  

The IRB 14000 single and dual- arm robots from ABB are highly collaborative machines and one of the latest technologies in flexible automation. Popularly called YuMi, these robots come with the added benefits of being able to safely and seamlessly work closely with human operators and enable greater space savings as they do not require large fences or cabins. The small size, but highly dexterous robot is well-suited for picking and placing tasks as it does for a leading French automotive interior parts supplier. The dual-armed YuMi robot is installed in the small space between two simultaneously running conveyor systems where its job is to fit plates on pump handles that are used to adjust the height of vehicle seats. The plug-and-produce concept of the YuMi allows it to work well in unstructured environments. 

Automation can also enhance the ability for manufacturers to perform tasks for various end customers using the same assets. Take for instance a Polish company that makes exhaust systems for the automotive industry. A significant variable in the company’s operations is that it does not have guaranteed quantity demands from end customers. To mitigate some of this uncertainty, the company installed a range of ABB’s FlexArcs at its factory in Poland. The FlexArc is a complete welding solution that features welding robots enabled with superior motion control software, positioners and other welding equipment, all built on a common platform. 

What makes the FlexArc ideal for the company is that one welding cell can be easily adapted for other products. Depending on the forecast by the end customer, the company can set up the welding process and use as many or as few FlexArcs that they would need. The flexibility of the FlexArc allows the company to use the same jig to make products for different customers with minimum changes to the design, which otherwise is an expensive and often lengthy process. Ultimately, along with increased productivity and superior weld quality that the welding cell offers, it also enables the company to quickly respond to the changing demands of its customers. 

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Trumpf Enters The World Of Automated Arc Welding

Trumpf Enters The World Of Automated Arc Welding

Trumpf has released its first automated arc welding system. The TruArc Weld 1000 comes with a collaborative robot known as a “cobot”. After the operator has manually guided it over a component, the cobot then automatically carries out the weld. It is significantly more efficient than would be possible manually. With the new system, Trumpf is responding to the increasing lack of skilled workers and helps fabricators get started with automated welding. CE-compliant and approved by TÜV Austria, the TruArc Weld 1000 meets the very highest safety standards.

Unlike conventional industrial robots, operators can interact with the cobot, guiding it over the part by hand. A built-in sensor ensures it responds smoothly. Trumpf has equipped the cobot with an operating unit. This lets users store the weld path’s start and end points as well as intermediate waypoints in order to create the program. Furthermore, the cobot control system includes templates for welding programs and parameters that cover scenarios such as different sheet thicknesses. Combined with the operating unit on the welding torch, this greatly simplifies the task of programming the robot. This enables users to program and weld with the TruArc Weld 1000 within minutes. Next to no previous experience is needed handling the system.

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Small batches, great results

The TruArc Weld 1000 offers an automated alternative for many parts that users would normally weld by hand. Thanks to the rapid programming, fabricators have an affordable means of tackling short production runs and one-off pieces, even if the parts only require a short weld seam. The TruArc Weld 1000 produces reproducibly straight and even seams, prevents spatter and offers very high machining quality.

Inside the TruArc Weld 1000 is a partition that can be raised and lowered. This allows users to divide up the working area and choose between welding one large part (single-station operation) or several smaller ones (two-station operation). In single-station operation, the robot can weld parts measuring up to 2000 x 600 x 600 millimeters. Other ratios of width to length are also possible depending on part dimensions. In two-station operation, the TruArc Weld 1000 can process smaller parts measuring up to 600 x 600 x 600 millimeters. To ensure it can easily reach both stations, the robot travels between two positions along a linear axis. While it is busy welding on one side, the operator can use the time to set up a part on the other side. The robot program can be transferred automatically from one station to the other.

Ready to go with no training required

Customers can carry out commissioning of the CE-compliant TruArc Weld 1000 themselves within a few hours using the dedicated video tutorials. From the wire coil to the welding parameters, the system comes with everything you need to get started with the welding process. No classroom training is required for machine operators. The video tutorials contain all the information required to quickly learn how to operate and program the machine.

 

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Impact Of COVID-19 And How The Crisis Is Shaping Universal Robots

Impact of COVID-19 And How The Crisis Is Shaping Universal Robots

In this Q&A, Martin Kjærbo, Universal Robot’s (UR) VP of Operations and Supply Chain, discusses how Universal Robots as a manufacturer is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, what the new challenges are, and how the crisis will shape Universal Robots going forward.

Martin Kjærbo

What are the changes in the way UR operations are run after the pandemic?

We started to closely follow the developments in China in early January and began to prepare for the spread of the virus to possibly impact the rest of the world markets we operate in. When stay-at-home orders emerged in numerous countries, we were prepared to adapt quickly.

Right now, all of our employees not directly involved in the physical production of our robots work from home. This means all admin, sales, management and R&D groups work remotely and stay in contact during daily, online meetings—this is the case both at our headquarters in Denmark and at our 27 offices around the world.

Many of our R&D engineers have been able to set up labs in their own garages. We sent robots home with them and it’s a setup that has actually worked surprisingly well, especially since they are also able to use and collaborate through some of the UR+ simulation software tools available. It has been a great experience to see just how quickly employees have adjusted.

Engineers at Universal Robots have been able to take the UR cobots home with them to continue research and development remotely

How has your supply chain been impacted and what have you done to mitigate this?

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a major shakeup, no doubt about it. This is a time when the robustness of our supply chain is seriously challenged. Fortunately, we already had a dual-source supply chain in place, which meant that when China started shutting down, we weren’t as vulnerable and had options to get the same parts elsewhere. With China now opening back up and much of Europe still shut down, we’re seeing that same dual-sourcing strategy work the other way around. As a result, we have not had any disruptions to operations and our production capacity remains intact. Getting to this point, redirecting the supply chain, has definitely taken an unfathomable amount of agility and due diligence.

We are constantly trying to look further ahead now, getting purchase orders out for raw material earlier, and closely examining not just our own suppliers but also taking a look at their second-, third- and fourth-tier suppliers to make sure they can deliver as well. As a result, we have not had to re-engineer any of our robot models

Did you have to restructure your production line to minimise contagion risks?

On our production lines in Denmark, where all manufacturing of our robots is carried out, we have changed from one- to two-shift operation to physically spread our workforce out more. We adhere to the recommended two-meter (six feet) distancing regulations in between people, and have added hand sanitation stations basically everywhere you look. All staff members also wear gloves on the production lines. Wearing face masks is not part of the official recommendations in Denmark at this point, but should this become necessary, we do have masks ready to dispense.

Spreading the workforce out over two shifts also means less people in the cafeteria at the same time. At headquarters, we ask production staff to break in small groups, all meals are pre-plated with disposable cutlery, the buffet is gone to avoid cross-contamination. To underscore the social distancing during breaks as well, we removed half of the chairs in the cafeteria.

How do you communicate necessary production changes to your workforce, and how are they handling it?

We have had an amazing reaction from our employees; there’s definitely a heightened sense that we’re all in this together. There’s been an incredible amount of helpfulness, they all want to see our company through this. Many of the production adjustments have come directly from employees, suggesting how we can do this work task more efficiently, how do we clean this item, new ways to meet regulations, etc.

Going to a two-shift operation went very smoothly. Many of our employees who now have their children at home during the day welcomed working at night so they are able to spend more of the daytime hours with their kids.

Are you relying more on automation now than before?

We take our own medicine, so to say. On our assembly line, we have UR cobots assembling UR cobots. In a time like this, we of course closely examine each and every production task to see where we can alleviate employees and have the cobots take over even more tasks, adding even more automation on the line. That’s an ongoing process that has been accelerated by the pandemic. I think a lot of our customers are currently going through those same progressions, as they start realising how cobots can help free up personnel

Adding cobots to a production line has long helped many UR customers address labor shortages, essentially by spreading out employees and have them collaborate with cobots as seen here at SHAD in Spain where cobots work in tandem with operators in the assembly of motorcycle accessories.

How do you make sure your products reach the end customers on time?

Before the borders started shutting down, we began shipping our finished goods stock out to warehouses in the U.S., Malaysia, China and the Netherlands, as we anticipated the shutdown to impact freight as well. This has fortunately not happened to the extent that we feared, but there’s been quite a few logistics headaches as flights canceled. We recently had a large order on a flight out of Copenhagen cancel that we transported to Stockholm by truck and then were able to get on a plane out of there instead. There are issues like this that we constantly have to maneuver, but so far, we have not had any delays in getting the robots out to customers on time.

At our Danish headquarters, we keep the robots in two different warehouses, so in case there’s a coronavirus outbreak from one warehouse, we can ship from the other. This has fortunately not happened.

How do you think this crisis will shape your company going forward? What are some of the lessons learned?

I think one of the most significant lessons is the importance of dual-sourcing your supply chain and staying in very close contact with each and every supplier. I cannot emphasise this enough. We have an availability forecast on every single part number, we know our weak parts and make sure there are always back-up plans in place to secure those.

Will the way you operate your business change in the long term as well?

I think we will emerge from this forever changed. On the bright side, this has been a big wake-up call that has spurred an amazing amount of production adaptability and increased focus on securing healthy work environments. Our new sanitation stations are not going anywhere, even when the virus subsides.

On the other hand, it saddens me that the interpersonal relations will most likely not go back to the way we used to interact: the handshake, the friendly hug. I’m not sure when we will be able to communicate that way again and that saddens me. Hopefully one day, this will be possible again.

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OnRobot Launches Three-Finger Electric Gripper For Handling Of Cylindrical Objects

OnRobot Launches Three-Finger Electric Gripper For Handling Of Cylindrical Objects

OnRobot has released its compact, large-stroke 3FG15 three-finger gripper. The 3FG15 makes previously hard-to-automate precision handling of cylindrical parts easy to program and deploy, and provides flexibility for a wide range of part sizes.

READ: OnRobot Launches Compact Gecko Gripper For Small-Footprint Applications

“Our new 3FG15 three-finger gripper was developed as a response to existing pneumatic three-finger grippers that are bulkier and less flexible,” says CEO of OnRobot, Enrico Krog Iversen. “We have long defined the market for electric parallel grippers with the RG2 and RG6 series, and we look forward to addressing new market segments and applications with a new three-finger gripper that allows users to deploy applications faster even with highly accurate, fixed positioning.”

The 3FG15 gripper has a maximum stroke of 150mm that can easily handle multiple processes. The innovative three-finger design with a 15 kg (33 lb) payload provides a strong, stable grip for both form fit (internal) or friction fit (external) gripping, adding flexibility to any implementation.

READ: Onrobot Eyes Automation Potential In Southeast Asia With New Singapore Office

EoAT Market Gains Traction in Asia

According to Global Market Insights, the global robot EoAT market was worth more than USD 2.5 billion in 2018, with a projected CAGR of 14 per cent from 2019 to 2025. Key factors driving growth include increasing adoption of robots to perform applications such as machine tending, welding and others[1].

The EoAT market in Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, (APEJ) has been growing exponentially as developing countries transform their industrial landscape with new technologies. In 2018, APEJ EoAT sales accounted for over 51 per cent of the global market[2]. This trend is similar in Southeast Asia which is seeing rapid growth of factory automation.[3]

James Taylor, General Manager, APAC at OnRobot, said: “Southeast Asia continues to be an important market for OnRobot as we see growing investment in robotic automation and greater push by governments to encourage adoption. We are expanding our portfolio of products to provide manufacturers a wide range of automation solutions that not only offers flexibility and increased production efficiency, but also easy deployment and a quick return on investment”.

READ: Flexible Gripping Delivers the Future of Automation Today

Ideal for CNC machine tending

The gripper’s design, specifically developed for machine-tending tasks, automatically centers workpieces, resulting in a strong, stable grip and precise placement in machine chucks. With a gripping force from 10 N to 240 N, the 3FG15 competes with much less flexible finger grippers.

The gripper is also ideal for packaging and palletising applications, and is seamlessly compatible with any major collaborative or light industrial robot arm through OnRobot’s new award-winning One System Solution, the platform that provides a unified mechanical and electrical interface between the robot arms and any OnRobot end-of-arm tooling (EoAT).

[1] https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/robot-end-effector-market

[2] https://circuitdigest.com/article/robotic-end-of-arm-tools-tighten-their-grip-over-automation-setup

[3] http://www.kake.com/story/41055079/robotic-gripper-market-is-anticipated-to-grow-at-a-cagr-of-10-during-the-forecast-period-of-2019-to-2029-future-market-insights

 

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Universal Robots Declares “National Cobot Awareness Month” In January

Universal Robots Declares “National Cobot Awareness Month” In January

Universal Robots has declared January to be “National Cobot Awareness Month”, prompting manufacturers to discover cobots as the solution to hiring woes and productivity goals—all with a jump-start on return of investment before year-end.

Collaborative robots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, with the yearly revenue for cobot arms expected to reach $11.8 billion by 2030, up from $1.9 billion in 2018 according to newly released analysis from ABI Research.

January is traditionally a month for new hope and new energy to meet life and business goals. But for manufacturers facing a new year with the lowest unemployment rate in more than five decades, it can be a tough time to expect workers to come back with enthusiasm from holiday celebrations to dull and menial tasks. That makes January an ideal time for National Cobot Awareness Month, says Stu Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots (UR) Americas division.

“It’s been more than 10 years since Universal Robots sold the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot, but the cobot market is still largely untapped. By making January National Cobot Awareness Month, we want to send a signal to manufacturers that cobots are here to solve the monotonous tasks they simply can’t staff. With an average payback period of only six to eight months due to increased productivity, quality, and consistency, they can make their investment back and then some before year end if they start now,” said Shepherd.

While cobots’ built-in safety systems that allow them to work side-by-side with employees was the defining feature of collaborative robots, UR has expanded that definition to include user-friendliness, simple set-up, flexibility for easy re-deployment, and affordability. Today, UR cobots allow employees to move from repetitive, low-value tasks to higher-value activities that increase productivity and quality as well as work conditions.

 

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