Collaborative Robot Safety

Jun 9, 2018

Collaborative robots are becoming more enticing to manufacturers as they the perfect bridge for manual work and automation. These collaborative robots provide increased productivity and added value while also being incredibly safe. There are a variety of factors that help provide a safe environment for the workers who interact with them such as vision and sensors.

Collaborative robot safety

Col­lab­o­ra­tive robots (cobots) arrived on the mar­ket in 2008 and are expect­ed to con­tin­ue grow at explo­sive rates. They pro­vide the oper­a­tor with direct access and inter­ac­tion dur­ing oper­a­tional con­di­tions. This union of man and machine on the pro­duc­tion line com­ple­ments the spe­cif­ic and unique abil­i­ties of each, while also pro­vid­ing increased flex­i­bil­i­ty and productivity.

Cobots also open the work area with the removal of safe­ty bar­ri­ers such as fenc­ing, scan­ners, and light cur­tains in order to enable human and robots to work more close­ly togeth­er. This will help to improve appli­ca­tion func­tion­al­i­ty and cut down on the amount of space nec­es­sary for a robot­ic unit.

Fur­ther­more, col­lab­o­ra­tive robots are becom­ing cheap­er while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly advanc­ing in their capa­bil­i­ty and ease of inte­gra­tion. Auto­mat­ed pro­duc­tion lines are quick­ly real­iz­ing that inte­grat­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive robots along­side their indus­tri­al robots will help them stay com­pet­i­tive on a glob­al level. 


So how do we ensure that the cobots are safe with such close inter­ac­tion with humans? 

The intro­duc­tion of a tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion for col­lab­o­ra­tive robots, ISO/TS 15066: 2016, cre­at­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty for safe human and robot sys­tem inter­ac­tion in indus­tri­al set­tings. ISO/TS 15066 pro­vides spe­cif­ic, data-dri­ven safe­ty guid­ance to help eval­u­ate and con­trol risks. It’s basic premise is if there were any acci­den­tal con­tact between man and machine, no pain or injury should result.

These reg­u­la­tions com­bined with quick­ly advanc­ing tech­nol­o­gy cre­ates the per­fect team of pow­er, pre­ci­sion and human’s unique prob­lem-solv­ing abil­i­ty. ISO/TS 15066 will help to pro­vide mea­sures of safe­ty dur­ing the devel­op­ment and use of col­lab­o­ra­tive robot systems.

Set­ting the Foun­da­tion with ISO/TS 15066

When design­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive work space, ISO/TS 15066 pro­vides guide­lines that include: Def­i­n­i­tions, Impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics of safe­ty con­trol sys­tems, Fac­tors to be con­sid­ered in the design of col­lab­o­ra­tive robot sys­tems, Built-in safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems and their effec­tive use, and Guid­ance on imple­ment­ing the fol­low­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive tech­niques: safe­ty-rat­ed mon­i­tored stop; hand guid­ing; speed and sep­a­ra­tion mon­i­tor­ing; pow­er and force limiting.

Stud­ies were con­duct­ed on pain thresh­olds for dif­fer­ent parts of the human body which helps to imple­ment col­lab­o­ra­tive pow­er and force-lim­it­ed robot appli­ca­tions. Cobots can detect non­stan­dard activ­i­ty and lim­it its force accord­ing­ly using the force sen­sors in their joints. This pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty for robots to oper­ate at full speed with­out any appre­hen­sion of human injury.

They rely on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to make sense of the envi­ron­ment with machine vision or sen­sor sys­tems. The sens­es often involve a sin­gle visu­al sen­sor such as a cam­era, laser, or infrared sen­sor that con­stant­ly con­duct a speed and sep­a­ra­tion mon­i­tor­ing. They can detect their 360-degree envi­ron­ment and slow down or stop once the work­er is in a cer­tain area or space.

Human and robot sys­tem col­lab­o­ra­tion safe­ty is fur­ther enhanced through speed and sep­a­ra­tion mon­i­tor­ing tech­niques. There is a min­i­mum required safe­ty dis­tance and max­i­mum allowed speed between the robot sys­tem and the per­son. This spec­i­fi­ca­tion has required inno­va­tion in improved motion con­trol, devel­op­ment of new robot cov­er­ing mate­ri­als, and bet­ter sensors.

Fur­ther­more, sharp edges and pro­tru­sions must be min­i­mized on the entire sys­tem to avoid injury if a col­li­sion were to occur if the robot sys­tem was acci­den­tal­ly impact­ed by a human.


Col­lab­o­ra­tive robots are key play­ers in a wide range of appli­ca­tions such as pack­ing, qual­i­ty test­ing, mate­r­i­al han­dling, machine tend­ing, assem­bly, weld­ing, and oth­ers. The mate­r­i­al han­dling indus­try is see­ing the fastest inte­gra­tion of col­lab­o­ra­tive robots.

Solu­tions using Cobots

Col­lab­o­ra­tive robots are reduc­ing ini­tial inte­gra­tion time as the quick­ly advanc­ing tech­nol­o­gy is cre­at­ing a quick­er and eas­i­er-to-pro­gram robot. This also enables them to be moved from one work assign­ment to anoth­er with great ease. For instance, a cobot can be fit­ted with suc­tion cups for the unpack­ing of infant for­mu­la and then a few hours lat­er be switched to work­ing with box­es of spaghetti.

These col­lab­o­ra­tive robots can also accom­plish tasks such as lift­ing and hold­ing a part while it is being installed or worked on by a human work­er. A work­er on an assem­bly line can increase his/​her effi­cien­cy by teach­ing the cobot dif­fer­ent ways to con­duct the job.

Human work­ers can also guide robots and resolve tech­ni­cal hic­cups that would nor­mal­ly stop oper­a­tions, enabling a faster and bet­ter end result. They can con­tin­ue to con­trol and mon­i­tor the pro­duc­tion process while enabling the robot to per­form phys­i­cal­ly stren­u­ous work and reduce the risk of injury. 

Cobots tru­ly pro­vide the per­fect solu­tion for tasks that require a com­bi­na­tion of man­u­al work and automa­tion where it is impor­tant for a work­er to see, feel, and react as need­ed while the cobot han­dles the phys­i­cal­ly tax­ing work. 

Con­tact Robots​.com

These col­lab­o­ra­tive robots are very effi­cient and user-friend­ly, and pro­vide a great val­ue to replace the bor­ing and repet­i­tive tasks while also pro­vid­ing for a very nice return on invest­ment. The man­u­fac­tur­ing par­a­digm is shift­ing, prov­ing that man­u­fac­tur­ers are desir­ing the added flex­i­bil­i­ty and ease that col­lab­o­ra­tive robots can offer.

If you are inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about col­lab­o­ra­tive robots, then con­tact Robots​.com experts. We are inte­gra­tors for a vari­ety of robots for Fanuc, Motoman, Uni­ver­sal Robots, KUKA, and ABB. Our staff will work with you to help you design and build the best robot­ic sys­tem for you and your facility.

Sources: https://​www​.iso​.org/​n​e​w​s​/​2016​/​03​/​R​e​f​2057​.html

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