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Industrial Robots VS Cobots – Which Is Right For You?
August 21, 2020 Blog

 

By: Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots

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. 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).

At Singapore based Clearpack, a leading packaging automation solutions provider, cobots working alongside humans are part of the production line. Clearpack designed a safe, compact and easy-to-use palletising solution comprising of UR10 cobot. With the right application and a proper design of accessories, the team was able to put together a system without the need of a safety guard (upon risk assessment). Safety guards are typically required when deploying bulky traditional industrial robots, resulting in additional costs for the installation and factory layout changes. The UR10 cobot helped numerous Clearpack customers in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector to optimise their warehouse space and enjoy a fast return on investment (ROI) on their investment.

 

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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