Robots in industrial production can help human employees lighten their workload and – indirectly – even protect them. item America is exploring these and other benefits of human-robot collaboration.
Although it’s nearly impossible to imagine our modern everyday lives without technical equipment, humans and machines are still often seen as rivals; however, this ‘either/or’ mindset fails to consider the valuable third option of collaboration that has become ever more important in the face of digitalization and Industry 4.0.
We’re talking about human-robot collaboration.
Closer examination reveals the huge potential of this simple approach. It combines the experience, judgement, and flexibility of humans with the strength, stamina, and precision of robots, taking the strain off employees and boosting production efficiency. One feature of human-robot collaboration is the fact that there is no safety barrier separating the two as they work. Instead, they occupy the same workspace and process the same components. The whole setup is generally implemented using special lightweight robots known as collaborative robots, or simply: cobots.
The Benefits of Cobots: Less Monotony, Fewer Errors, High Reliability
Unlike industrial robots, which are generally designed for specific tasks, cobots are all-around performers. Their form and function are reminiscent of a human arm. The benefits of cobots, therefore, include the relatively small space they require and their versatility. They are capable of many different tasks. Primarily, these are the monotonous, repetitive tasks that bore human staff members in the long term and make them become tired quickly, leading to high error rates.
Cobots can assist in this case, as demonstrated by an example from Miami. Creating Revolutions was tackling a two-digit error rate in the production of a special pager device for the hotel and hospitality sector. Having transferred a small number of selected worksteps – ones that require a huge amount of precision – to cobots, the error rate plummeted to less than one percent.
When humans and robots work in close proximity to one another, special measures and precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of staff members. DIN ISO/TS 15066 in Germany and the American National Standards Institute’s RIA TR R15.606-2016 sets out the relevant safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and working environments.
Among other things, this defines the maximum amount of force a robot can bring to bear on contact with a human. These forces must therefore be limited to a safe level.
To meet these requirements, cobots need suitable sensors that use ultrasonic and radar technology, for example, to detect people and obstacles in their environment. Some cobots are even equipped with a touch-sensitive surface that enables them to ‘feel’ contact with people and immediately cease any movement that might be underway. Machine structures and robot stands, as well as the safety and guarding system by item, provide the boundaries and structures that protect team members.
When it comes to human-robot collaboration, the safety of the human members of staff has top priority.
How can human-robot collaboration help with ergonomics and efficiency? Read more and download the free item Robotics case study here.