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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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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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KUKA Launches KR IONTEC For The Medium Payload Category

KUKA Launches KR IONTEC For The Medium Payload Category

KUKA is launching the successor to the KR 60-3—the KR IONTEC, setting new standards in terms of flexibility in the medium payload category. It is designed for operation in conventional and digital production worlds and stands out in particular for its large work envelope.

Utmost flexibility and cells with a small footprint

The KR IONTEC can be used in any installation position – on the floor, on the wall or inclined. The option of converting the payload capacity of the installed robot from 30 to up to 70 kg also makes it extremely flexible. Furthermore, with a maximum reach of 3,100 mm, the new KR IONTEC has the largest work envelope in its class. Thanks to its long reach, the ability to work particularly close to the robot itself and the enlarged workspace beneath the robot, the KR IONTEC optimally exploits its work envelope. The reduced space requirements of the robot, with a 30 percent smaller footprint and a 10 percent more streamlined disruptive contour, additionally enable a more compact cell design.

“Powerful, slim, flexible – and fit for the digital production world of the future: With the new KR IONTEC, we are delivering exactly what the market expects from a robot in the medium payload category. And even more,” says Gustavo Moscardo, Chief Sales Officer of KUKA Robotics.

Best values for total cost of ownership (TCO)

The KR IONTEC features the lowest maintenance requirements in its class. The maintenance costs are reduced, for example, by the fact that the robot requires fewer spare parts and that, on average, an oil change is only necessary after every 20,000 hours of operation. Due to the reduced energy consumption, resulting from the improved drive technology and decreased weight of the robot, the running costs are also lower. The new KR IONTEC excels in terms of TCO and life cycle efficiency. Technical availability is over 99 percent and the mean time between failures is around 400,000 hours of operation.

Ready for the production world of the future

The KR IONTEC is ready to use in both conventional and digital production worlds and is equipped with various Motion Modes. These software add-ons can be used to adapt the robot flexibly to different production processes at the press of a button, so to speak: Performance Mode ensures high performance, dynamics and efficiency as standard. Path Mode enables exact continuous-path motion at all velocities with absolute accuracy and precision. Dynamic Mode can be used to minimise cycle times. For Asia Pacific countries, delivery of the first models is scheduled from June onwards.

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Global Robotics Technology Market To Top $170B By 2027

Global Robotics Technology Market to Top $170B by 2027

The global robotics technology industry was estimated at $62.75 billion in 2019, and is expected to hit $170.08 billion by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to a new report by Allied Market Research.

The rise in need for automation and safety in organizations, availability of affordable and energy efficient robots, increase in deployment of robots in several industries, and surge in labour and energy costs are driving the growth of the global robotics technology market. On the other hand, high implementation costs and lack of awareness about automation among the SMEs impede the growth to certain extent. However, growth in adoption of robotics technology across the world is projected to create multiple opportunities in the industry.

READ: Nissan Teaches Robots To Make Replacement Parts For Cars

READ: oshiba Spot Welding Inspection Robots Revolutionises The Automotive Industry

COVID-19 Scenario

Due to the global lockdown, there has been a lack of demand for automated machines from the construction, automotive, and many more other industries which, in turn, has impacted the robotics technology market badly. Also, disruptions in the supply chain have curtailed down the growth to some extent.

However, with several relaxations coming up over the restrictions, the market is expected to make up the blocks soon.

Hardware Segment to Lead the Trail

Based on component, the hardware segment contributed to nearly three-fourths of the global robotics technology market share in 2019, and is expected to retain its dominance by the end of 2027, owing to the fact that hardware components are cheaper than software modules and are also faster to deploy.

The service segment, on the other hand, would grow at the fastest CAGR of 16.7 percent throughout the forecast period. Rise in need of different services such as managed services and professional services propel the growth of the segment.

READ: Collaborative Robotics Market Value To Reach $9.7 Billion By 2025

READ: Collaborative Robots And The 4 Cardinal Questions For Successful Adoption

Manufacturing Segment to Dominate End-application

Based on application, the manufacturing segment accounted for more than three-fourths of the global robotics technology market revenue in 2019, and is anticipated to rule the roost by 2027. This is attributed to high labour costs, new safety regulations, and stringent emission norms issued by several government bodies.

Simultaneously, the aerospace & defence segment would portray the fastest CAGR of 16.7 percent during the study period. Increased rate of unmanned systems, high-end technological advancement, and surge in government expenditure fuel the segment growth.

Asia-Pacific to Maintain Top Status Until 2027

Based on geography, Asia-Pacific held the major share in 2019, generating more than two-thirds of the global robotics technology market. The same region would also manifest the fastest CAGR of 14.4 percent till 2027.

The rise in growth in automation and intensive R&D in a number of countries including Japan, China, India, Australia, and Taiwan is driving the market growth. Meanwhile, North America is anticipated to portray the CAGR of 13.3 percent from 2020 to 2027.

 

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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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Industrial Control Robotics⁠—The Next Great Leap In Manufacturing And Automation

Industrial Control Robotics⁠—The Next Great Leap In Manufacturing And Automation

The industrial control robotics systems are designed for performing, controlling, and monitoring a wide range of industrial operations and automated processes. The objective is to improve the overall quality, reliability, and precision of these industrial and automated processes.

Some of the leading companies in the global industrial control robotics market include names such as Schneider Electric SA, Emerson Electric Company, Honeywell International Incorporation, Siemens, and Mitsubishi Electric Factory among others.

READ: Automotive, Electrical/Electronics Industries Driving Global Industrial Robotics Market

In December 2017, Yokogawa announced that the company has been successful in developing a control system virtualisation platform and N-IO standard field enclosure that will help them to control multiple virtual devices that are on a single server.

There are multiple micro as well as macroeconomic factors that are influencing the development of the global industrial control robotics market. The growth of the market is primarily driven by the growing adoption of industrial control systems by several organisations from different industrial verticals. The main reason behind this growing rate of adoption is the objective to enhance their ability to achieve higher energy optimisation during the process of manufacturing.

READ: Collaborative Robotics Market Value To Reach $9.7 Billion By 2025

The industrial control robotics market has been receiving extensive demand from multiple end-use industries such as semiconductors, electronics, utility, and automotive among others. This growing demand is because of the ability to control the automated and interlinked processes. This too has been helping the overall development of the global industrial control robotics market.

Another important factor that has been favoring the rapid growth of the global industrial control robotics market is the growing adoption of industrial automation across the globe. More and more industries are now trying their hand in industrial IoT and thus are helping to push the development of the global market.

READ: How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, and Europe are the five key regions of geographical segmentation of the global industrial control robotics market. Currently, the global industrial Robotics market is being dominated by the regional segment of North America.

The presence of several leading players of the industry is one of the key reasons behind the development of the regional sector. Moreover, increasing automation and easy access to the latest technology are some of the other factors that are helping to drive the growth of the industrial control Robotics market in North America.

By Transparency Market Research

 

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Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

Industrial Robots: Robot Investment Reaches Record US$16.5 Billion

The World Robotics report shows an annual global sales of robots value of 16.5 billion USD in 2018 – a new record. 422,000 units were shipped globally in 2018 – an increase of six percent compared to the previous year. IFR forecasts shipments in 2019 will recede from the record level in 2018, but expects an average growth of 12 percent per year from 2020 to 2022.

“We saw a dynamic performance in 2018 with a new sales record, even as the main customers for robots – the automotive and electrical-electronics industry – had a difficult year,” says Junji Tsuda, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

“The US-China trade conflict imposes uncertainty to the global economy – customers tend to postpone investments. But it is exciting, that the mark of 400,000 robot installations per year has been passed for the first time. The IFR´s longer term outlook shows that the ongoing automation trend and continued technical improvements will result in double digit growth – with an estimate of about 584,000 units in 2022.”

Asia is the world’s largest industrial robot market. In 2018, there was a mixed picture for the three largest Asian markets: Installations in China and the Republic of Korea declined, while Japan increased considerably. In total, Asia grew by one percent. Robot installations in the second largest market, Europe, increased by 14 percent and reached a new peak for the sixth year in a row. In the Americas, the growth rate reached 20 percent more than the year before which also marks a new record level for the sixth year in a row.

The automotive industry remains the largest adopter of robots globally with a share of almost 30 percent of the total supply (2018). Investments in new car production capacities and in modernization have driven the demand for robots. On the other hand, robot installations in the electrical/electronics industry declined by 14 percent from their peak level of about 122,000 units in 2017 to 105,000 units in 2018. The global demand for electronic devices and components substantially decreased in 2018.

Furthermore, the metal and machinery industry established itself as the third largest customer industry. Installations accounted for 10 percent of total demand in 2018. Both producers of metal products (without automotive parts) and producers of industrial machinery, have bought substantial amounts of robots in recent years.

 

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Putting Automation In The Hands Of The People With Collaborative Robots

Putting Automation in the Hands of the People with Collaborative Robots

Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics. Article by Andie Zhang, ABB.

Collaborative robots (cobots) have been changing the rules of the industrial world over the past decade. With sensors and built-in safety functions, these dexterous industrial robots can work safely alongside humans, enabling greater flexibility in a wide range of industries around the world.

Technologies such as ABB’s SafeMove2 can make any connected industrial robot a collaborative one, which allow the cobots to be installed without the need for physical barriers such as fences and cages that have traditionally been a requirement for generations of industrial robots. Working with collaborative robots is more than just the robot themselves. It is about the application which can take place at many levels, with incremental benefits at each.

One such way is the ability for cobot to co-exist safely with humans on the same fenceless factory floor, which significantly reduces the space taken up by the robot. The feature is ideal for applications like palletising where the robot can maximise productivity without compromising on safety.

Another way cobots can maximise flexibility and efficiency is by synchronised collaboration where the human and the robot work together in a planned but more intermittent manner, for tasks such as machine tending that require some amount of human interaction along with the robot’s speed and precision. Finally, the highest level of collaboration is for the robot and human to co-operate with each other to share workspaces and tasks continuously. This is especially useful for small parts assembly lines.

Collaborative robots also provide manufacturers with the flexibility to manage the shift to low-volume/high-mix production. Collaborative robots add agility to change between products and introduce new products faster. The people on the production line contribute their unique problem-solving capabilities, insights and adaptability to change, while robots bring tireless precision and endurance for repetitive tasks.

Going large by going small

The global market for collaborative robots is estimated to be valued at $12.3 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

But where is that potential stemming from? One key driver for growth is the development of collaborative robots for workplaces outside large manufacturing environments. While robotic automation technology has evolved significantly over the years to meet the growing demands for high volume industrial production, it has also evolved to create smaller collaborative robots such as YuMi, which is designed to fit easily into existing production lines to increase productivity while working safely alongside people.

The inherent qualities of collaborative robots make them ideal automation solutions that can be game changers for smaller manufacturers by helping them boost productivity, reduce operating costs and even improve the safety and retention rate of employees. At the outset, collaborative robot installation is far cheaper than large industrial ones because of their smaller size and fewer peripheral equipment. This means that the investment needed for a robotic work cell can go down from over $200,000 to under $50,000.

Putting Automation in the Hands of the People with Collaborative RobotsRobots that create better work environment

Another attractive proposition to make the case for cobots is the lack of labour that is prevalent in most markets. The current generation of working people who have grown up in the digital world, are more qualified than their predecessors and do not want to spend hours performing dirty, dull, dangerous and repetitive tasks such as picking and placing products from bins, tending to machines or packaging finished goods. Also, with shorter product lifecycles, small manufacturers who operate in high labour cost countries and are closer to their end customers cannot simply outsource labour to low-cost countries like large corporations do. In these conditions, collaborative robots are ideal as they not only reduce the need for manual labour, but can work tirelessly and with higher quality, allowing their human co-workers to perform more stimulating work that can lead to higher job satisfaction.

By automating monotonous and often more tasking jobs, manufacturers can also improve the safety of their employees. For instance, Anodica, an Italian family-run business that makes high-end metal handles, knobs and trimmings for appliance and automotive industries use YuMi, a dual-armed collaborative robot from ABB, to assemble their products together with an operator. The robot cell was designed anthropometrically around the operator so that all activities are ergonomically managed. By doing this, the company helps employees avoid short- and long-term injuries related to working in a factory.

Hit the ground running

In the past, setting up an industrial robot could take days if not weeks, disrupting ongoing work that can lead to bottlenecks in production. On the contrary, the plug-and-play qualities of modern cobots such as the YuMi means that they can be installed much more quickly, leading to minimal interference with production processes. Also, their small footprint and features that make them easily movable make cobots suitable for automating existing production lines.

Technological advancements have made collaborative robots far more intuitive than their conventional counterparts. Features such as lead-through programming and user-friendly touch screen interface allow operators with no programming experience to quickly program the robot. Software simulation tools such as RobotStudio offered by ABB allows operators to program the robot and simulate the application on a computer without shutting down production. This helps speed up the time taken to get the robot running, which is especially useful for organisations that have short product cycles. Moreover, digital twin technology can be used to develop a complete and operational virtual representation of a robot on which diagnostics, prediction and simulation can be run to optimise the machine even before it is set up.

Full flexibility for all

Robotic automation in the traditional sense can be challenging for small manufacturers who make high-mix, low-volume products. Collaborative robots, which are more dexterous than fixed automation, offer much-needed flexibility to production. Their lightweight and easy-to-use features means cobots can be moved around a factory floor to perform different tasks.

Today, large corporations are also enjoying the benefits of cobots being able to work in close proximity with humans. For example, the automotive industry, which has a high degree of automation in areas like the body shop and paint shop, can use cobots to automate the final trim and assembly of vehicles. Here, the robots work closely with humans who add finishing touches to the vehicle while robots perform more repetitive tasks.

Suppliers to the automotive industry, like France-based Faurecia Group, which makes interior components, are also using collaborative robots like ABB’s YuMi to maintain flexibility and increase productivity at their plant in Caligny.

Where from here?

The future of collaborative robotics lies in developing enhanced software features such as cloud connectivity and machine learning that increase their functionalities and make them even safer and easier to use. Software features like ABB’s SafeMove2 ensure that industrial robots are also able to work collaboratively and safety with humans, while QuickMove and TrueMove guarantee superior motion control. Adding more intelligence to robots through artificial intelligence will take the advantages of collaborative robotic automation to the next level.

Whether it is to help humans build automobiles on a production line or assemble intricate parts at a family-run business, collaborative robots represent a paradigm shift not only in automation but also in work dynamics.

 

Read more:

How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity
Collaborative Robot Market To Exceed US$11 Billion By 2030
Metal Removal? There’s A Robot For That!
The Role Of Machine Vision In IIot

 

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How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

How Industrial Robots Increase Sawing Productivity

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. Article by KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG.

More and more metalworking companies are now relying on integrated automation in their production. And the same thing is happening when it comes to sawing technology. The use of industrial robots offers great potential for handling the sawn sections: The mechanical helpers can take on numerous tasks, from picking to deburring, weighing, centring and marking to sorting and stacking. This provides more flexibility and performance in production, better working conditions and significantly lower operating costs.

Across all sectors, the demands placed on metalworking companies are steadily increasing: They must have a high production flexibility from batch size one to large-scale production, process more and more different materials and dimensions—in excellent quality and at the lowest possible cost. Those who want to be permanently successful in the ever tougher international competition must organise all their production processes in a variable and efficient, but also efficient way.

Countless Uses for Robots

Sawing technology plays a key role in metal processing and offers many opportunities for optimisation. More and more operators of sawing systems are intelligently linking their work processes and automating them with robot support. The benefits are obvious: Industrial robots are fast, reliable and precise, and if necessary, they can work 24 hours a day without human intervention. They don’t get tired or fall ill, and they can handle a wide range of tasks when equipped with the necessary tools. “Our robots help us with a number of handling and conveying tasks and efficiently perform many machining steps,” says Volker Bühler, group manager for robotics at the sawing and storage technology specialist KASTO.

Automation starts right with material feeding. The material to be cut is conveyed to the machine by means of suitable equipment, for example roller conveyors or magazines, thus sparing workers the effort of lifting and carrying, and reducing the risk of injuries. Depending on how it is equipped, the sawing machine itself can also run attended. Material is fed to it automatically, and an intelligent machine control system sets all parameters, such as cutting length and cutting speed, based on the job data. State-of-the-art production saws can thus carry out a variety of jobs in sequence, with different materials and diameters, and operate autonomously for long periods.

Removal, Machining, Stacking—Automatic from Start to Finish

Industrial robots also have considerable potential when it comes to handling and processing finished cut parts. For example, they can remove them from the machine, thus relieving workers of this repetitive task. When equipped with appropriate tools, robots can also perform tasks like deburring, chamfering, marking, centring or measuring workpieces. Cut parts can be weighed, sorted by size or job, and stacked on pallets or placed in containers. The parts can also be transferred directly to a driverless transport system. “For complex processes involving various work steps, we also use combinations of different robots and clamping devices,” explains Bühler.

When large quantities of material are sawed with only a few different component geometries, it is relatively easy to automate the downstream processes. The situation is different with custom sawing involving diverse materials and dimensions.

“The greater the variety, the harder it is to cover all the possibilities,” says Bühler. The choice of robot tools is an important factor. A robot must be able to deal with all the objects it encounters while using as few aids as possible. This reduces procurement costs, minimises idle times and increases productivity. Users have a choice of mechanical, magnetic or vacuum-operated grippers. The grippers should be as compact as possible to give the robot easy access to the cut parts.

Sawing Technology on Course to Industry 4.0

With the help of the right components, sawing can be combined with other automated operations to create complex, highly integrated systems that are seamlessly connected in a continuous material flow. This includes upstream storage as well as downstream handling and processing. For example, KASTO implements combined storage and sawing systems for its customers in which all storage, handling, sawing, marking, palletising and bundling processes are completely automated—from storage of the raw material to retrieval of the cut parts. The control software can be linked to existing ERP systems like SAP for greater transparency and efficiency. Sawing can be integrated with other processes like turning or milling in digitised, self-configured production systems such as envisioned in Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

Automated sawing technology offers significant advantages to users. Many processes can run unattended and much faster, which increases productivity and reduces the need for personnel. It is easier to make up the difference when employees are ill, and robots can keep working even during breaks or after shifts. The result is lower personnel costs and greater flexibility in terms of capacity utilisation.

Companies can react more easily to order peaks and dramatically reduce idle times. This can make a big difference economically.

“We’ve calculated that, depending on the shift model, an investment in an industrial robot with a machine like our KASTOvariospeed saw pays for itself in less than a year,” says Bühler. “When you consider that systems like this are used for more than ten years on average, users can reduce their operating costs for a very long time.”

Benefits for Both Users and Customers

Robot technology also helps to improve working conditions. It relieves employees of heavy, tiring and monotonous tasks. The risk of accidents and injuries is reduced. Moreover, the cut parts are of better quality, because robots machine them with equal precision, sort them reliably and stack them neatly. This provides benefits not only for operators of automatic sawing facilities, but also for their customers.

 

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