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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
AUG 03, 2018
Robot or Cobot?
— a machine, especially one that is programmable by a computer, capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Robots can be guided by external controls or the control may be embedded in them.
— Collaborate Robot— a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots that are designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance. Collaborative robots are complex machines that work hand in hand with humans. In a shared process, the cobots support and relieve the human operator. Limited robots work directly with human workers to execute tasks that are too hard on their bodies. This is particularly ideal for lifting heavy weights or doing repetitive movements.
Continuous advances in critical control technologies are driving the move to cobots. These improvements include:
Machine learning algorithms
Since the introduction of the first commercial cobots in 2011, significant advances have improved their capacities, acceptance, cost and use. Cobots can be purchased for as low as $15,000 and have little additional expenses— such as end of arm tooling.
Cobots have several unique features that allow them to work and interact with humans that typical robots do not.
Force and power limitations
Cobots use force sensors in their joints and articulating arms. When a sensor senses an unexpected force in direction or pressure, the cobot immediately stops. This action limits applied force and reduces/eliminates kinetic energy. The cobot can run at full speed and stop immediately.
Machine visioning has improved to the point where the machine can sense abnormal conditions in their work environment and appropriately stop when conditions are out of the normal expectation.
Laser motion sensing
This feature enhances the machine vision and improves the cobot’s ability to learn the surrounding environment.
Rounded designs and impact absorbing finishes
A sleek design eliminates blunt force strikes and allows impact to spread forces over larger areas.
Passive compliance allows cobots to submit to abnormal external forces. In a collision, the cobot’s joints pivot away from the force to eliminate injury or damage.
Cobots are becoming one the fastest growing market segments in industrial robotics automation. The US growth is expected to move from 11,500 units in 2017 to 134,000 units in 2025. This growth is projected to occur in smaller, mid-size as well as larger manufacturers.
Cobot v. Robot Projected Growth
Cobots are just one element of the “smart factories” of the future that drive to integrate connectivity, digital data, the internet of machines and machine learning/artificial intelligence.
A couple of speed bumps still need to be addressed for continued growth. The roadblocks are common to many developing technologies. These challenges include the acceptance/refinement of safety guidelines (ISO-TS-15066), the development of IT tools for deployment planning and continued improvements in internet security.