When the Unimate robot was introduced to the automotive industry in the 1960s, humans were forced to stay clear of it during operation because if the robot hit a human at full speed, the human could be injured or even killed. This standard for safety continued until 2013, when the standard changed to allow for human-robot collaboration, due to new technology available – technology that would allow a human to interact with a robot without the fear of injury. Since the change in the standard, companies are developing more and more collaboration robots to work in factories worldwide.
How is this safe? With collaboration robots, as soon as something approaches and enters the robot’s zone, it slows its motion down significantly. If the robot and a human worker are interacting for a task like assembly, and the human attempts to interact with the robot while it is in motion, this is a violation of the robot’s safety sensors. The robot will stop automatically. This keeps the human safe during interaction, and if they enter the robot’s zone during operation.
One company bringing collaboration robotics to the forefront is Universal Robots. They have developed an entire line of robots that are easy to use, easy to program, have no pinch points, and are safe for humans to interact with for many different tasks. By designing collaboration robots of this caliber, companies like Universal Robots are able to streamline industrial automation for their customers, giving them a third, or even fourth, hand on the production line during tasks.
How is a third hand helpful? According to Keith Wanner, President of RobotWorx, it is difficult to automate a line 100 percent because of costs, technology limits, non-precise parts, random runs, etc. “It’s better for humans to do some of the operations,” Wanner stated.
One example of this would be food packaging. Think of it this way -- If you are working on a vegetable or fruit processing line, a robot may be able to pick up a piece of produce and put it in the correct box or container, but the robot lacks the senses to see if the produce is good or bad. With a human working alongside the robot, the human can use their senses to inspect the food. Then, the robot can package the food, and another human down the line can inspect the packaging. By working hand in hand this way, the work gets done in a more efficient, streamlined manner, while dodging the cost of automating the entire line – something that may be completely unfeasible for the company.
With companies finding more and more ways to use collaboration in their robot lines, clients are going to be able to automate their production in new and exciting ways – safely lending a hand and streamlining productivity for their factories.
Are you interested in learning more about collaboration robots? RobotWorx is a certified integrator for some of the major manufacturers, including FANUC, Motoman, ABB, KUKA, and Universal Robots. If interested in any of these, contact RobotWorx online or give them a call today at 740-251-4312.