Collaborative robots: Tips and advice for beginners

Rick Lingle in Robotics on July 26, 2016

A collaborative robot can do anything a human can do—and with a one-month ROI. This and other insights, advice and best practices for using cobots in packaging and other applications were shared in a recent webinar.


In a July 21 webinar from Design News entitled Getting started with collaborative robots, presenter Etienne Samson, technical support manager, Robotiq, dispensed practical advice for beginning users of collaborative robots (cobots). “Collaborative robots are trendy,” said Samson. “Medium and small-size operations are looking to increase productivity and reduce costs.”

Automation is one strategy to do this while cobots are but one tactic to implement that strategy.

“A collaborative robot is a classic industrial robot, but is intrinsically safe,” offered Samson by way of definition. “[Cobots] are teachable and easy to use for people not experts in industrial robots, which [often are housed] in big cages for safety.”

One factoid I found especially interesting: A 12-month return-on-investment is standard for all robots, though the ROI is shrinking to close to a month for a cobot.

He noted that the Top 3 Applications for Cobots are Machine tending; packaging; and material handling.

In a live poll taken during the webinar, 49% of attendees stated that, yes, they plan to implement a collaborative robot.

In another live poll (above),  about 10% of attendees who selected applications they would like to automate indicated that would be for packaging.

“Packaging applications are for redundant end of line pick-and-place operations and often used in conjunction with a vision system,” said Samson.

Other related applications of interest included machine loading/unloading and pick-and-place. Combined, these three segments of interest were selected by a tidy 50.0% of participants.


If a human can do it, so can a cobot


Samson outlined the limitations of cobots that include reach, payload and precision. “Cobots can do anything a human can do,” he said. “If the task is too fast for a human, then it’s too fast for a cobot and the user would need a hard (industrial) robot.

“They can go in any location where human workers are; cobot are especially suitable for doing tedious, boring jobs. Ideal operations are those where work is sporadic and there are idle machines from time to time that could be tended by robots working two or three shifts daily.

“If you remove tedious tasks, everyone will be happy [with a cobot install].”


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